§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [THIRD 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 of 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. Speaker—I never rose in this House under a more painful sense of responsibility than I do this evening. It will be my duty to justify the conduct of a Department, one of the most important in the State, which I have the honour to represent—I fear very unworthily—in this House, and to vindicate the character of a statesman who has taken his place in history among those who have toiled most successfully in the cause of human freedom, and who has conferred eminent services on his country. Sir, I think it must be apparent to every Gentleman who has listened to this debate, that the attacks which have been made upon the Government have been mainly, if not exclusively, directed against the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office. I think I shall be able to show that he has been greatly misrepresented and wrongfully accused; that the extracts which have been brought forward are, I had almost said, to use the words of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, garbled extracts, falsified extracts of despatches. ["Oh, oh!"] I trust hon. Gentlemen will wait until I can prove what I have said. ["Oh, oh!"] I have merely repeated words which have been used in this debate, and if I fail to prove what I have said I shall be open to the censure of the House. In order to do this I shall have to trespass somewhat at length on the patience of the House; but of this I am certain—that in an assembly of this kind, composed of Gentlemen of the highest character and honour, there is not a man who would not give me fair play and allow me to do the best I can to justify my noble Friend, and to show that the accusations are falsely brought against him. 954 At the same time, I give it to be understood that when I have said that these attacks have been directed against the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, and that I should vindicate his character, this is a constitutional country, and the noble Lord is not individually responsible. The despatches which he has written are the despatches of the Government, and the responsibility is shared, and willingly shared, by all the Members of the Administration. I fear I must go back a little in time in order to explain clearly the history of the Danish Question; for if hon. Members will permit me to say so, the case has never yet been fairly put before the House and the country. In the discharge of this duty I shall be saved some trouble, because the other evening the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire gave to the House a very able, clear, and impartial statement of the early part of these transactions; and if I refer to them at all it is to fill up one or two voids, in order that the House may have a clear understanding of what has really taken place. If hon. Members will turn to the papers which have been laid upon the table, they will see that as early as April, 1848, Prussia suggested that England should mediate between Denmark and the German Powers, who were then unhappily at war on account of the affairs of the Duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. On the 11th of April, Lord Palmerston announced his readiness to accept the office of mediator, "if the friendly intervention of this Government were agreeable to all parties concerned." There is a letter, also published among those papers, to which I wish to call attention, as showing how this mediation originated, and how much it was pressed on Her Majesty's Government. The letter is from M. Orla Lehman to Count Reventlow, and is dated April 6, 1848. It states that "It is evident that mediation can only be confided to, and can only be carried out, by England." In consequence of this urgent request of the belligerents Lord Palmerston undertook mediation, and succeeded in restoring peace between them. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer read the other evening an eloquent testimony from Denmark to the services which Lord Palmerston rendered to her by putting an end to the war. I will not trouble the House by reading despatches from Stockholm, Berlin, and Vienna, all bearing similar 955 testimony to the services of the British Government, and expressing gratitude to Lord Palmerston for his successful endeavours in restoring peace. In consequence of this peace, a Protocol was signed in London on the 4th of July, 1850. I desire to call the particular attention of the House to this document, and to the Secret Article to which I shall also refer, for two reasons; first, because when they were signed by Austria and Prussia, those Powers were still the mandatories of the Diet for the settlement of the question in dispute between Germany and Denmark; and, secondly, because they were signed before those promises were made by Denmark upon the fulfilment of which, it has since been contended, the Treaty of 1852 was conditional. The first Article declares the unanimous desire of the seven Powers, Austria, Denmark, France, England, Prussia, Russia, and Sweden, that the possessions actually united under the Crown of Denmark should be maintained in their integrity. The second recognizes the wisdom of the King of Denmark in determining to regulate the order of succession in his Royal House in a manner to facilitate an arrangement by which the integrity of Denmark might remain intact. It will be observed, that although the Prussian representative is declared to have been present at the Conference of the 4th of July, his initials are not affixed to the Protocol. But it will be seen that on the 2nd of July there had been signed at Berlin a Secret Article of the Treaty concluded that day by which Prussia engaged herself to take part in the negotiations to be commenced by the King of Denmark, for the purpose of regulating the order of succession in the States then united under his sceptre; in fact, agreeing in substance with the Protocol of London signed on the 4th July. The words of this Secret Article are—Sa Majesté le Roi de Prusse s'engage â prendre part aux négotiations dont Sa Majesté le Roi de Danemark prendre l'initiative â l'effet de régler l'ordre de Succession dans les Etats râunis sous le sâeptre de Sa Majesté Danoise. Le présent Article Secret sera ratifié en môme temps que le Protocole signé ce jour, et lea ratifications en seront échangées simultanément.Fait â Berlin, ce 2 Juillet, 1850.
§ (Signé) WESTMORLAND.
§ T. PECHLIN.
§ H. C. REEDTZ.
§ A. W. SCHEEL.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
rose to Order. The hon. Member was quoting 956 from a document not on the table of the House.
It is well known, for it has been before the public again and again. I believe that with that secret Article there is a curious secret history connected. If I am rightly informed, the Prussian Minister at that time in England, Baron Bunsen, was a violent Schleswig-Holsteiner, and, as it was apprehended by the Prussian Government that he would make many difficulties in carrying out his instructions, there was signed at Berlin this Secret Article, in conformity with the Protocol of London, on which the Treaty of London was afterwards founded. The second Article of the Protocol, as I have said, bore testimony to the wisdom of the King of Denmark in desiring to settle the succession, but no person was designated in the Protocol as his successor to the Crown in default of direct issue. There was no candidate who was specially favoured by the British Government, nor, as far as I am aware, by any other Power. All they desired was that some person whose claims to the succession were considered to be the best founded should be recognized by the King in a legal manner, and should be accepted by the Danish people and by the inhabitants of the Duchies as his successor, in the event of the failure of direct issue. The Treaty of 1852, which was entered into in accordance with this Protocol, was negotiated by Lord Malmesbury—and I was surprised to hear it stated in this House that, though that noble Lord signed the treaty when he came into office, he did so merely as a matter of form, as the treaty was in such an advanced stage that he could not avoid signing it. So far was that from being the case, that Lord Malmesbury carried on difficult negotiations in reference to it with much ability, received on its conclusion the thanks of the several parties to it; and in a despatch expressed his own satisfaction with its contents and his approval of its object. The treaty, be it remembered, was not a treaty of guarantee. It imposed no obligation on this country, except that of recognizing the person who should be chosen in a legal and constitutional manner as the successor of the then reigning King of Denmark. After it had been concluded it was officially communicated to the various German States which form the Confederation, and adhered to formally by all of them, except Bavaria and five of the 957 smaller States. This treaty has been condemned on principle. It is said that such treaties for the regulation of a disputed Succession are bad and that this country should not enter into them. Now, whether that treaty was founded on a vicious principle or not, this is certain—that it was not entered into, as it has been asserted, with the object of handing over, against their will, any people to those who had no right to be placed over them, or of depriving any one of his just rights; but that it was entered into solely in the interest of peace. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire very ably described what such a treaty regulating a Succession really was; how important such a treaty has frequently been to the peace of Europe, and how often disputed Successions have led to calamitous wars on the Continent. This treaty was made to prevent such wars. It had been seen that on a recent occasion the Duchies had been incited to rise, and had been the cause of a war between Denmark and Germany; in the case of a disputed Succession they might rise again and cause even a European war. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) chiefly condemned the treaty because it violated the principle of nationalities by placing a German population under Danish rule. He was loud in his praise of what he termed this new principle of nationalities—a principle to which, he declared, our foreign policy should now be made to conform, and which, to use his own words, was the "loadstone of peoples, bringing together those of the same language and religion." There are certain cases in which I might assent to that doctrine. I need scarcely mention the case of Italy. But we must beware how we push this doctrine to what may be considered its logical and inevitable conclusion. It would then become of a most dangerous nature—dangerous alike to the freedom and civilization of mankind. Let me ask the House to consider for one moment what would be its effect in Europe? There is a country which, though small, has been almost the cradle of liberty, where the sacred flame of freedom has been kept alive for a thousand years, where some of the greatest men of days gone by and of our own time have found a refuge from oppression and a home in which, unfettered and beyond the reach of persecution, they have uttered, in the sublimest accents, some of the loftiest doctrines ever taught 958 to the human race—I speak of Switzerland. What, let me ask, would become of her if this doctrine of nationalities is to be carried out? Switzerland would have to be divided according to the languages and races of her population into three parts. One would have to be given to France, one to Italy, and one to some part of Germany, to Prussia, or to Austria. Would the carrying out of this new and favourite doctrine of nationalities be advantageous to this small, but free, and happy country, and would it, by destroying her, add to the liberty and civilization of Europe? There are few, I think, who would venture to assert that it would. You may say that we do not ask for the application of this principle of nationalities unless the wishes of the people are first consulted. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgewater (Mr. King-lake) although he supports the cause of Holstein and Sehleswig, would not be the advocate for such appeals to their populations; for who has denounced with more bitter irony, and more withering sarcasm, the new-fangled doctrine of the plebiscite, and has shown more conclusively that under the pretence of consulting the wishes of a people it can be made the surest instrument of their oppression. Would you apply this doctrine of nationalities and of the plebiscite to Holland, and deprive her of Luxemburg and Limburg? The King of Holland is a member of the Germanic Confederation in virtue of being ruler over those territories. His turn may come next, and his spoliation may be justified by what has taken place in Holstein and Sehleswig. Indeed, there is scarcely a country in Europe which would not be dismembered if you were to carry out this doctrine, and infinite confusion and general war would be the inevitable consequences. Recollect, too, that this nationality doctrine might be made the means of great wrong. In this case of Sehleswig-Holstein nearly one-half, if not wholly one-half, of Sehleswig is inhabited by a Danish population, and if the Danes are not to rule over Germans, why should Germans rule over Danes? Moreover, if this doctrine is to be acted upon by the Great Powers, there would, probably, be soon nothing left but three or four great military despotisms in Europe, and I doubt whether the extinction of all the small States would be advantageous to the happiness and freedom of mankind and to its general civilization. The balance of 959 power was devised to prevent that result; and, instead of being an unreal figment, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) and those who think with him declare, it was a great manifestation of political wisdom, arising from an earnest desire to preserve and protect human liberty. On the other side of the Atlantic, this very principle of the balance of power has been laid down, though under another name. But no States in the world, are, perhaps, more interested in preserving the balance of power than the small States of Germany. Their independence is preserved by it, and they may rue the day when it is overthrown. In assisting to bring about this result, they may find that they have forged the instrument for their own destruction.
But to return to the Treaty of 1852. The principal objection to the validity of that treaty, as it affects Germany, is founded upon the fact that the Diet of the Germanic Confederation was no party to it; that it was never submitted to that body, nor ratified by it. It is therefore asserted that the Confederation is not bound by it. I will only glance at the dangerous, I may almost say immoral doctrine, that whilst the German States may have entered singly, and as independent States, into a treaty, or may have accepted it, as in the case of the Treaty of 1852, they are at liberty to repudiate its engagements when acting in the aggregate, and forming the Germanic Confederation. It is scarcely necessary to point out the results of such a doctrine, if it were admitted, in the relations of those States with other countries. It is evident that treaties and engagements made with them might only be binding so long as it suited their convenience, and no independent Power would consequently treat with them. But whether the Diet can put forward any just claim to be consulted on such a matter as a treaty of succession; whether it has any competency to deal with a change in the succession in the case of States forming part of the Confederation; and whether it was necessary to communicate the Treaty of 1852 to it at all; are questions upon which the opinions of those best informed are so much at variance that it is impossible to come to any positive decision. Lord Granville was desirous of submitting the Treaty to the Diet. Lord Malmesbury, on the other hand, thought that it was only advisable to notify it to the Diet after it had been concluded. Prus- 960 sia was altogether opposed to its communication. The Russian Government maintained that the Diet had no power whatever to interfere in such a question as a change of succession; and certainly in the case of Austria, when the late Emperor abdicated and the Crown was settled on the present occupant of the Throne, passing over the next heir, that body had not been consulted. In order to effect the change in the succession, the King of Denmark had two steps to take—first, to abolish the Lex Regia by constitutional means, so as to exclude the female line; and secondly, to obtain the renunciation of those who stood between him and the successor that he might name. He obtained the sanction of the Danish Parliament to the first, but it is asserted that as he did not submit the law which changed the succession to the States of Schleswig and Holstein, and did not obtain their sanction to it, that law was invalid. This depends upon the authority and constitution of those States—a very complicated question, into which it is not now necessary to enter. As regards the renunciation of the Duke of Augustenburg, it will be remembered that, in consideration of a certain sum of money paid to him, he gave his Princely word of honour, for himself and his family, not to disturb the peace of Denmark, and not to oppose the measures taken, or to be taken, to change the succession to the territories then under the sceptre of the King, or the eventual organization of the Danish Monarchy. It has been said in Germany that that Princely word of honour meant nothing—we have heard strange things of this kind recently from Germany—that it did not bind the heir, who protested; and that the sum of money paid, to the Duke of Augustenburg was in compensation for his estates. But those estates had been forfeited for treason to his lawful Sovereign; and it must be borne in mind that his son and next heir, the present pretender, although of age when his father made the renunciation, did not protest until six years after; and when the discontent which prevailed in the Duchies, produced to a great extent by the intrigues of his friends and partizans, encouraged him to hope for a rising in his favour. But who carried on the negotiations for this renunciation? Who settled with the Duke of Augustenburg the amount of compensation to be paid to him? Whose name is affixed to the documents which contain this agreement? Who was surety for the fulfilment 961 of this Princely word of honour? Why, M. de Bismark, who is now the first to throw over these solemn engagements and to support the pretensions of the Prince of Augustenburg. And who went out of his way to praise the wisdom of the Treaty of 1852, and to declare that it was a fresh security for the peace of Europe? Why, Herr von Beust, who, as the leader of the popular party in Germany, is now foremost in denouncing it and violating its provisions.
Between 1850, when the Protocol was signed, and 1852, the date of the Treaty, Denmark had made certain promises to Austria and Prussia as mandatories of the Diet, and at the same time Austria and Prussia had made certain promises to Denmark. These engagements were contained in official documents and despatches which passed between these Powers, and not in any formal treaty; but were, nevertheless, unquestionably engagements which the Danish Government was in honour bound to fulfil. They chiefly related to the good government of the Duchies, and to a promise on the part of Denmark, that she would not incorporate, nor take any measures which might tend to incorporate, Schleswig. But it is altogether incorrect to assert, as it is asserted by Austria and Prussia, that the Treaty of 1852, changing the succession, rested upon those promises. As I have shown, the Protocol of July, 1850, was signed before those promises were made; and, therefore, it is not fair to say that the change in the order of succession was agreed to in consequence of them. There can be no doubt, however, that the King of Denmark was bound to fulfil, to the utmost of his power, the engagements into which he had entered. For four or five years, nevertheless, after the peace, there is no denying that they were not fulfilled, and that the Duchies were not well governed. There was, I am sorry to say, a great deal of petty and vexatious oppression, and just that kind of impression which tells more than any other on people like the inhabitants of the Duchies —interference with the education of their children, interference with their language, putting over them men whose tongue they did not understand, and so on. We constantly called on the King of Denmark to fulfil the promises he had made, as we were, indeed, morally obliged to do, as the peace we had been instrumental in bringing about was founded upon them. In 1855, the King gave a Constitution to Denmark, 962 which, he believed, virtually carried out his engagements as regards the relative positions to be held by the Kingdom proper and the Duchies. I will not now enter into the question as to how far it did or did not accomplish that object; but I believe that it is generally agreed that in certain respects it did not. When Lord Malmesbury came into the Foreign Office, he found the controversy between Germany and Denmark on the Schleswig-Holstein question at its height. Earl Russell has been accused of inordinate activity in this matter. Well, Lord Malmesbury was in office from February 26, 1858, to June 18, 1859—little more than a year—and during that time I find that he carried on a correspondence on this subject which now fills seven large folio volumes in the Foreign Office. I have here a quantity of extracts from these despatches.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
Sir, I rise to Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to despatches which are not on the table, and his extracts from which we are unable to verify. That is, I submit, contrary to the practice of the House.
I have expressed my willingness to lay all these despatches on the table. I beg to ask, Sir, whether in that case I may not refer to them?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The despatches should be laid on the table before the hon. Gentleman can quote from them.
I appeal to this side of the House, whether it is fair that I should be prevented from reading any of these despatches. ["Oh!" "Hear, hear!"] At least I may be permitted to say that there are in the Foreign Office seven large folio volumes of despatches, in which Lord Malmesbury uses terms almost identical with those afterwards employed by Earl Russell. Notwithstanding what, to use a word much in fashion just now, I may call his threats, Lord Malmesbury failed in obtaining the repeal of the Constitution of 1855. Earl Russell, on entering office, therefore succeeded to a damnosa hœreditas, and found himself in the very midst of the Schleswig-Holstein controversy. He learnt that Lord Malmesbury had been pressing Denmark to repeal the Constitution of 1855, and the German Powers not to act harshly or hastily towards Denmark, warning them that if they did so, serious complications might arise in Europe, into which England might be drawn. I do not blame Lord Malmesbury for having done this. No English 963 Minister could have withdrawn from a position which he was morally bound to accept; and if he had, he would have justly met with the reprobation of this country and of Europe. War was actually threatened at that time. An execution had, during the period when, if I am not mistaken, Lord Malmesbury was in office, been voted by the Diet. Lord Russell at once attempted to bring matters to a peaceable conclusion, and, if possible, to prevent hostilities. For this purpose he made proposals in 1860, 1861, and 1862, to the contending parties. Now, it has been said, over and over again, that Lord Russell meddled unnecessarily and alone. I have shown that he only carried on the negotiations to which he succeeded on entering the Foreign Office. Let me now read an extract or two to prove that in every proposal he made, in every step he took, he acted with the most entire concurrence of France, that Power having, in each case, been consulted, and having given her entire approval. In the end of 1860, Lord Russell submitted to the French Government a proposal he was about to make to Denmark and Germany. Here is the answer of the French Government, as conveyed in Lord Cowley's despatch dated December 28, 1860 —In compliance with the instructions contained in your Lordship's despatch of the 12th inst., I communicated to M. Thouvenel the substance of the instructions enclosed in that despatch to Mr. Paget and to Mr. Lowther, respecting the question of the Danish Duchies; and his Excellency has since informed me that he concurs entirely in your Lordship's views, which are those which the Imperial Government has advocated since the commencement of this vexed question."—Correspondence, 1860–1, p. 108.In 1861 another communication, containing fresh suggestions for a settlement of the dispute between Denmark and Germany, was made to the French Government, and its reception may be gathered from the following extract from a despatch written by my noble Friend to Lord Cowley on the 27th of February, 1861:—You will endeavour to agree with M. Thouvenel as to the instructions to be given to the English and French Ministers at Copenhagen, and send an identical telegram to Mr. Paget, so that Her Majesty's Government and the French Government may express the same opinion. I am glad M. Thouvenel concurs in the views of Her Majesty's Government."—Correspondence, 1860–1, p. 148.All attempts at a satisfactory arrangement having, however, failed—chiefly, it must be admitted, through the neglect of 964 Denmark to fulfil her engagements—and the danger of war being imminent, Lord Russell on the 24th of September, 1862, made a further proposal to the contending parties. The despatch in which it is contained has been called "the Gotha despatch," the implication being that it was written at Gotha and under the influence of the German Powers. "What are the facts? That despatch was determined upon in this country before Lord Russell went to Gotha. Lord Russell, when on his way to Germany in attendance upon the Queen, sent for Mr. Paget to meet him at Brussels to communicate his views to him; but the despatch itself was signed when Lord Russell had returned to London, and was not even dated, as it has been asserted, from Gotha. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to the papers for 1863 they will find proofs of what I have stated in the following passage in one of Lord Russell's despatches to Mr. Paget, dated January 21, 1863:—In the middle of the summer of 1862 it appeared to Her Majesty's Government that the negotiation, instead of producing a settlement, had tended more and more towards bitterness and strife, leading probably in the end to a rupture. You may remember that in speaking to you at Brussels in the beginning of September, when I was proceeding to Germany, in attendance upon Her Majesty, I pointed out to you this state of things, and gave you an outline of the mode of settlement which had occurred to me. That mode of settlement was developed in my despatch of September 24, which you were charged to take to Copenhagen on your return to that Capital." —Correspondence, 1863, p. 363.I trust that this is a sufficient answer to the accusation that Lord Russell wrote the despatch in question under the dictation or pressure of the German Powers. This is an instance of how statements which have no foundation whatever may become current, and may almost find their way into history. Lord Russell's despatch was very severely condemned in England. It was, I believe, chiefly owing to the outcry in the public journals and among certain people in this country that Denmark was induced not to accept the arrangement suggested by Her Majesty's Government. If, however, the House and the country will now look back with calmness and impartiality upon Lord Russell's proposal, it must, I think, be admitted that it showed great wisdom. It was accepted by France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, the Duchies, and the Diet. It satisfied everybody except Denmark, and what is very important, if it had 965 been accepted it would have put an end to I the question of the Succession. Had Den mark agreed to it, she might at this moment have been in quiet possession of the Duchies, and I cannot but think that it was a great calamity for Denmark that she rejected it. It may not have been the very best arrangement for her, but a statesman is bound to look not to what is best, but; to what is practicable; and that at such a time Lord Russell should have devised a practicable solution of a question which had defied the most experienced politicians of Europe, a solution which every one now admits would have put an end to this unhappy question, is a striking testimony to his wisdom as a statesman. Why did Den-mark object to that proposal? She objected to it because she thought that it would prevent her from incorporating Schleswig, and because it divided that Duchy too much from her. It is perfectly true that, the proposed arrangement did give a certain autonomy to Schleswig; but still it bound Schleswig to Denmark. If, accepting that proposal, Denmark had ruled the Duchies wisely and well, had increased their prosperity, had rendered their happiness a contrast to the condition of neighbouring States, had given them a degree of freedom which their inhabitants might have compared with the oppression exercised not far off—if Denmark had acted thus, I believe that a community of interests would have been ultimately established, and that a time would have come when there would have been a real and solid union between the Kingdom and the Duchies. That opportunity was unfortunately allowed to pass away. Had it been seized these unhappy disputes would, I doubt not, never have arisen.
I could quote other papers to show that what England did between that period and the time when the statement, now celebrated, of the noble Lord at the head of the Government was made in the following year, was in complete accord with Prance; but I am ashamed to trouble the House with so many extracts from despatches. In July of last year a question was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham as to the course the Government were about to take with regard to the Danish Question. The noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) gave an answer which has been quoted over and over again, but which has, I think, been entirely misunderstood. The noble Lord said that in a certain event Denmark would not be left 966 alone, but he did not mean in saying so that England alone would stand by or fight for Denmark, and no impartial man who reads the sentence previous to that which contains these words, and will consider the context, would venture to say that his words will bear this meaning. As the hon. Member for Horsham referred to this the other night, I am anxious that there should be no misapprehension about the matter, and I shall therefore read the words to the House. The noble Lord said—We concur entirely with him, and I am satisfied, with all reasonable men in Europe, including those in France and Russia, in desiring that the independence, the integrity, and the rights of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced —I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend."—[3 Hansard, clxxii. 1252,]It is thus evident that the noble Lord spoke of France and Russia in connection with this country, as being prepared to help Denmark if any attempt were made to destroy her independence and integrity. But let the House go a step further and see what was going on in that month of July. A negotiation was then on foot between Sweden and Denmark for armed assistance to be given by Sweden to Denmark. A draft treaty for this purpose had been actually sent to Copenhagen, and it was only upon the death of the King that the idea of a treaty between the two Powers was given up. Therefore there was at that time every reason to believe that Sweden would have assisted Denmark in resisting any attempt to invade the Danish territory. There was, moreover, no question at that time of a disputed succession, nor any pretence for an invasion of Denmark by Austria and Prussia. If they had then invaded Denmark without the shadow of a plea to justify such a step, it would have been a wanton act of aggression, and I will venture to say that England, France, and Russia might have given their aid to Denmark without the propriety and justice of such assistance being questioned. The noble Lord's statement is therefore perfectly consistent with what has since taken place, and cannot by any impartial man be construed into an assertion that we were prepared, alone and single-handed, and under any circumstances, to give material aid to Denmark.
967 I have been anxious to pick out from these papers all that may be construed into a threat. The charge brought against my noble Friend is that he has continually made use of threatening language towards Germany. Let us see what truth there is in this accusation. If the House will turn to the blue-books they will find an identic despatch from Earl Russell to Lord Bloom-field and Sir Andrew Buchanan, dated May 27, 1863. These are the words of the despatch—Her Majesty's Government have heard with much concern that it is in contemplation to consider in the Diet at Frankfort, of a Federal Execution in Holstein. Without discussing the declaration of the King of Denmark, of the 30th of March, they instruct you to say that it is very desirable not to add to the existing complications and dangers of Europe. Austria and Prussia declined in 1861 to negotiate on the affairs of Holstein "without arranging those of Schleswig. But the affairs of Schleswig are matters of international concern, and should be discussed with the utmost calmness and deliberation by the Powers of Europe, and cannot be decided by the Diet of Frankfort."—No. 2, 73.That is the first despatch which speaks of complications and of dangers to Europe, or of the affairs of Schleswig being matters of international concern. That is the first despatch which can be perverted into a threat, and I wish to point out to the House how careful Earl Russell was to prevent it being construed as anything of the kind. In July, 1863, Mr. Corbett, writing to Earl Russell, asks permission to give a copy of this despatch to the Danish Minister at Frankfort. What was Earl Russell's reply? "Why, that no copy was to be given, and the reason of this refusal is obvious. Earl Russell did not wish the Danish Government to think that any language which might be construed into a threat had been held to Prussia and Austria. I now come to a despatch which has been mentioned more than once in the course of this debate— namely, the despatch of July 31, 1863. That despatch was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks as containing a threat on the part of Earl Russell to Germany; but the right hon. Gentleman, as in many other instances, left out a material paragraph in it which serves to qualify and explain other parts of it—that which relates to Sweden. Earl Russell said—These matters are becoming serious. There can be little doubt that Denmark will regard the advance of German troops into Holstein as a hostile invasion, and not as a Federal Execution. It is also clear that she will be supported by Sweden." —No. 2, 114.968 That paragraph the right hon. Gentleman left out. The despatch goes on to say—You will communicate these views to Count Rechberg, and tell him that if Germany persists in confounding Schleswig and Holstein, other Powers of Europe may confound Holstein with Schleswig, and deny the right of Germany to interfere with the one any more than she has with the other, except as a European Power.Such a pretension might be as dangerous to the independence and integrity of Germany as the invasion of Schleswig might be to the independence and integrity of Denmark. The calm consideration of the existing difficulties will, it is to be hoped, induce Austria to consult the European Towers before she impels the Diet to a definitive resolution."—Correspondence, 1864, No. 2, 114.It is evident from the context that Earl Russell alluded mainly to Sweden, who was prepared to go to war at that time. That despatch, which I will call the second threatening despatch, was communicated to the French Government, and what was the answer? Our Ambassador writes—Paris, Aug. 1, 1863.I have communicated to M. Drouyn de Lhuys, as authorized by your Lordship's telegram, your despatch of the 31st ult. to Lord Bloomfield, on the present phase of the question relating to the Danish Duchies. His Excellency expressed his approbation of your Lordship's wise advice, and said he would write in a similar sense,"—No. 2, 115.Therefore that threat, if it is to be considered as a threat, was not only entirely approved by France, but actually adopted by her. I now come to the third threat, which is contained in a Foreign Office despatch of the 31st of August, 1863—I have caused M. de Katte to be informed that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of making any communication to the Danish Government, after the reception which was given to my suggestion of last year; but that if Austria and Prussia persist in advising the Confederation to make a Federal Execution now, they will do so against the advice already given by Her Majesty's Government, and must be responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be."—No. 2, 123.Here I omit a paragraph. The despatch proceeds—But if the Diet take steps for a still further object, and invade Holstein for the purpose of compelling the King of Denmark to acknowledge certain rights, which the German Confederation claim as belonging to Schleswig by virtue of the arrangements of 1851–2, the Diet will be entering upon a grave European question, as to which they have no exclusive competency of decision, and on which it belongs quite as much to every other European Government to form an opinion and to pronounce a judgment."—No. 2, 123.That is the third threat, and the despatch containing it was communicated to Paris. If hon. Members will turn to the 969 blue-book, they will see what France says of it. Lord Cowley writes to Lord Russell—Although not specially instructed to show M. Drouyn de Lhuys your Lordship's despatch of the 31st ult. to Mr. Lowther, stating that, in reply to a question of the Prussian Chargé d'Affaires, your Lordship had desired that gentleman to be informed that Her Majesty's Government had no intention of making any further communication to the Danish Government in order to persuade that Government to come to an understanding with the Diet, and giving the views of her Majesty's Government upon the general position of the Holstein question, I thought it advisable to read it to his Excellency. M. Drouyn de Lhuys said that he coincided in all your Lordship's opinions as expressed in that despatch. He had more than once sent instructions in a similar sense both to Vienna and to Berlin, and he would repeat them if on reference he found that the dates of the last were not very recent."—No. 2, 125.Therefore threat number three as well as threat number two was approved, and even used by France. I now come to the despatch of the 18th of September, which was quoted—or rather misquoted—by the right hon. Member for Bucks. It is from Mr. Grey to Lord Russell, and contains these words—The second mode of proceeding suggested by your Lordship—namely, 'to remind Austria, Prussia, and the German Diet that any acts on their part tending to weaken the integrity and independence of Denmark would be at variance with the 'Treaty of the 8th May, 1852'— would be in a great measure analogous to the course pursued by Great Britain and France in the Polish Question. He had no inclination (and he frankly avowed that he should so speak to the Emperor) to place France in the same position with reference to Germany as she had been placed with regard to Russia. The formal notes addressed by the three Powers to Russia had received an answer which literally meant nothing, and the position in which those three great Powers were now placed was anything but dignified, and if England and France were to address such a reminder as that proposed to Austria, Prussia, and the German Confederation, they must be prepared to go further, and to adopt a course of action more in accordance with the dignity of two great Powers than they were now doing in the Polish Question.—No. 2, 131.Then, as the House will remember, the right hon. Gentleman skipped a passage. Hon. Gentlemen will observe by turning to the despatch from Lord Russell to Mr. Grey, dated the 16th of September, which on being communicated to the French Government led to the reply I am now quoting, that it merely contained suggestions as to what might be done, not actual proposals to take any particular course. As it is important to bear this in mind, I will read the passage I refer to— 970If the Government of the Emperor of the French are of opinion that any benefit would be likely to follow from an offer of good offices on the part of Great Britain and France, Her Majesty's Government would be ready to take that course. If, however, the Government of France would consider such a step as likely to be unavailing, the two Powers might remind Austria, Prussia, and the German Diet, that any act on their part tending to weaken the integrity and independence of Denmark would be at variance with the Treaty of the 8th of May, 1852."—No. 2, 130.Now, the passage in the despatch of the 18th, which the right hon. Gentleman abstained from reading was this—France was not, his Excellency said, by any means indifferent to the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Denmark, and it was not from any indifference that he disapproved your Lordship's suggestion. He had already represented to the German Powers, that if they invaded Holstein for the purpose of effecting a revolt in Schleswig, or if they went further and invaded Schleswig itself, they would be infringing on the rights of an independent Sovereign, and entering upon a grave question affecting the balance of power in Europe, to which France could not remain indifferent."—No. 2, 131.What did Lord Russell do on receiving this answer from Paris? Did he make either of the proposals he had suggested? Did he use his own words? No; but in writing to the Diet he adopted the very words which had been employed by M. Thouvenel, and those are the words which Lord Russell has been denounced for using, as implying a threat to Germany from which England could not with honour retreat! If the House turns to the papers, it will see the despatch written to Sir Alexander Malet on the receipt of that answer from Paris. It says—Her Majesty could not see with indifference a military occupation of Holstein, which is only to cease upon terms injuriously affecting the constitution of the whole Danish monarchy. Her, Majesty's Government could not recognize this I military occupation as a legitimate exercise of the powers of the Confederation, or admit that it could properly be called a Federal Execution. Her Majesty's Government could not be indifferent to the bearing of such an act upon Denmark and upon European interests. Her Majesty's Government therefore earnestly entreat the German Diet to pause, and to submit the question in dispute between Germany and Denmark to the mediation of other Powers unconcerned in the controversy, but deeply concerned in the maintenance of the peace of Europe and the independence of Denmark."—No. 2, 145.Thus it will be seen that Lord Russell actually uses the very words suggested by the French Minister.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us what he calls misquoting a despatch?
§ MR. LAYARD
I say that a despatch is misquoted when two sentences are read which have no relation to each other, and when the intervening sentence which connects them, and either alters or modifies their meaning, is left out. I will not trouble the House with what Russia has done in this matter, because nobody has ventured to assert that Russia has not acted cordially throughout these negotiations with Her Majesty's Government, and has not approved everything they have done. I come, therefore, to the next stage of the question; and here I have to notice another misquotation. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) the other evening accused the Government of having lost a golden opportunity for making peace, because Prussia had suggested both arbitration and mediation to Her Majesty's Government, who might have proposed either to Denmark and to the Diet, but failed to do so, and were therefore responsible for the effusion of blood that had afterwards taken place.
I will not stop to point out the apparent inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen opposite in first condemning the Government for mediating at all in this Danish Question, and then denouncing them for refusing to mediate. What I wish to do is to show how despatches have been misquoted to support these accusations. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to page 219 of the Danish papers they will find a despatch from Lord Russell to Sir Andrew Buchanan, dated November 9, 1863. Her Majesty's Government had already in the month of October proposed mediation to the Diet, and the Diet, acting under the influence of the smaller German States, had declined to accept it. M. de Bismark now suggested arbitration. He did not, as the noble Lord said, ask Her Majesty's Government to propose it; but Sir Andrew Buchanan justly replied that no Power could accept arbitration where its independence was in question. (No. 3, 174.) M. de Bismark then proposed that Her Majesty's Government should again offer mediation to the Diet. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford stated that Her Majesty's Government refused to make that offer of mediation as recommended by Prussia, and quoted in support of his assertion the following extract from a despatch from Lord Russell dated November 9, 1863, in answer to the Prussian suggestion:— 972As 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, 193.Here the noble Lord the Member for Stamford stopped at a semicolon, and read no more. Let hon. Members read on and tell me whether that was not a misquotation. The despatch continues—Although if the Governments of Austria and Prussia were to unite in inviting them to do so, and would undertake to support with all their influence at Frankfort a proposal which Her Majesty's Government might then make to the Diet, Her Majesty's Government, in their anxiety to spare no effort to avert from Germany the consequences which perseverance in her present course in regard to Holstein threatens to bring upon her, would not be indisposed to make a further attempt."—No. 3, 199.I ask, then, is it creditable thus to road to a semicolon in a despatch and leave out the remainder of the sentence, which so greatly affects the sense of that which precedes? If the noble Lord had left off at a full stop it might have been bad enough, but to stop short at a semicolon was intolerable. Her Majesty's Government said they would be willing to renew their offer of mediation if Austria, Prussia, and the smaller German States would guarantee that that offer would be accepted, but they would not go to the Diet and expose themselves to a second refusal. And was not Earl Russell perfectly justified and perfectly right in making this condition? Have you not condemned him in no measured terms for making offers which were not accepted? I ask then, again, is it fair to attempt to mislead the House by such misquotations? The proposal of Count von Bismark was made on the 5th November; the late King of Denmark died on the 15th. There was no time to bring about that mediation; if the German Powers had guaranteed that it would have been accepted, Lord Russell would, in the interests of peace, have proposed it, but the death of the King changed the whole state of things. It was now too late, for the unhappy question of the Succession had arisen. It is well known that intriguers and plotters in the Duchies were ready to get up a revolution when the King died. A rising did take place. The Prince of Augusten burg put forward his claim to succeed to the Duchies as Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, his father actually renouncing his own renunciation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham- 973 shire stated that although Earl Russell had been intermeddling up to this point, had been holding out all these threats, of which we have heard so much, and doing all this mischief, when the moment came at which he might have been useful and might have prevented war by persuading the new King not to sign the Constitution, he maintained a selfish silence, spoke not a word, and allowed the King to take that step which afterwards led to so much disaster. The right hon. Gentleman told us he had studied the blue-books, He may have done so with great advantage to himself, but certainly not with much advantage to this House, if we are to accept as genuine the information be has given it. "Why, the first step which Her Majesty's Government took on the accession of the new King was to advise him to avail himself of his position not to sign the Constitution. Sir Augustus Paget gave a reason for the King's adoption of a different course which I think was conclusive—namely, that Christian IX., being a German and suspected of German tendencies, and not having been much connected with Denmark, it would have been almost risking the loss of his throne to have declined to sign the Constitution which was loudly called for by the whole Danish people, and that consequently he had no alternative but to sign it. France and Russia gave precisely the same advice as we did. The Federal Execution, which had been impending for some years, was now enforced. The Federal troops entered Holstein on the 24th of December. The allegation is that Earl Russell protested against the Federal Execution, and threatened all sorts of things if it were carried out. Lord Derby said that at the meeting of his party. ["Oh!" and cries of "Private."] I name what was published in your own organs. ["No!"] I saw it in the newspapers, "Who published it?"] I saw it stated in one of your own organs. ["No, no!"] I saw it stated in the newspapers that Lord Derby said, that upon every step taken by the Diet and the German Powers Earl Russell threatened, and threatened in vain; that when the Diet proceeded to carry out Execution he threatened, and that the threat was treated with contempt; that he again threatened with the same result when the armies of the German Powers crossed the Eider, and when they entered Jutland. This is entirely at variance with fact. Earl Russell always admitted that as Holstein was a part of the German Confederation, the 974 Diet had a legitimate authority over it; but he also maintained that the Diet had no right to send troops into Holstein on the pretence of Federal Execution, and then by bringing pressure to bear upon Denmark to attempt to alter the constitution of the whole kingdom, for they would then trench upon international ground, and the question would be altogether altered in its character. It was only when the Diet changed Execution into Occupation, and countenanced the proceedings of the Prince of Augustenburg, that Earl Russell pointed out that its course was illegal and unjustifiable. It has been asserted that after the Diet, supported by Austria and Prussia, had taken these violent proceedings, Earl Russell weakened the position of Denmark and lessened her means of defence by seducing her into negotiations and Conferences. Now, is not this accusation against Earl Russell as devoid of foundation as others to which I have referred r Did he first suggest or press Conferences and mediation? Let hon. Members see what M. Hall, the Danish Prime Minister, wrote to Sir Augustus Paget, on November 20, 1863—The King's Government cannot therefore do otherwise than call Lord Russell's attention to the opportunity which there would be, in our opinion, for reserving our question for that Congress [the one proposed by the Emperor of the French]; or, if the meeting should not take place, for a special Conference of the Powers who signed the Treaty of London. Should obstacles, however, interfere with the collective action of the Powers, the King's Government will always be fortunate in being able to count upon the powerful mediation of Great Britain."—No, 3, 236.So that here was M. Hall actually writing at that time asking for a Conference, and, if that could not be obtained, suggesting the continued mediation of England. The next accusation made by the right hon. Gentleman against my noble Friend is, that he launched a special Envoy, Lord Wodehouse, upon Copenhagen, still further to injure unhappy Denmark by his fatal advice. Who first proposed the sending of this special Envoy? Russia, who said the moment was come to see whether anything could be done at Copenhagen, and who thought it would be well that the opportunity should be taken of the accession of Christian IX. to send special Envoys, who, while expressing congratulations to the new King, would urge him to repeal the Constitution and to make those concessions which Germany had a right to ask. Earl Russell willingly accepted this suggestion, hoping that it might conduce to 975 peace; and the same desire which he had always shown to consult and act in concert with France, led him to communicate Lord "Wodehouse's instructions to the French Government. And what did France say to them? Lord Cowley, writing to Earl Russell from Paris, on December 14,1863, observes—His Excellency (the French Minister) said that your Lordship's arguments appeared to him to be very conclusive, and the course which you proposed to pursue the right one. He had himself long ago insisted on the necessity of obtaining some more defined statement of the demands of Germany on Denmark, and until that should be effected, he felt it to be impossible to do more than to recommend moderation and prudence to the Danish Government."—No. 3, 379.Lord Wodehouse was instructed to proceed to Berlin to endeavour to obtain a distinct statement of the demands of Austria and Prussia upon Denmark—a statement which had hitherto not been given— and then to go to Copenhagen, where he was to urge the King to repeal the obnoxious Constitution, as a first step towards satisfying Germany. Thus, all the Powers—not England alone—endeavoured to prevail upon Denmark to repeal the Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman accused Earl Russell of having called upon the King to do an illegal and unconstitutional act. He said, my noble Friend called upon the King to repeal the whole of the Constitution, which was about the same as if, after the Reform Bill had passed, the Sovereign of England had been recommended to repeal that law without consulting Parliament. I took down the words at the time.
§ MR. DISRAELI
What I said was, that it was as if the Sovereign had called Parliament together for the purpose of repealing the Act.
§ MR. LAYARD
Surely the right hon. Gentleman said he had called on the King to make a coup d'état. ["No, no!"] But what were Earl Russell's instructions to Lord Wodehouse? They were dated December 17, 1863, and will be found at page 385 of the papers. They contain these words—The new Constitution, therefore, being without the requisite sanction of the Duchy of Schleswig, and being contrary to the engagement of the Crown of Denmark, ought, as far as Schleswig is concerned [not, be it observed, "the whole constitution"], to be repealed. How this is to be done it belongs to the King of Denmark, his Ministers and his Parliament, to decide. It is the wish of Her Majesty's Government that it should be done in the manner most suitable to the dignity and character of Denmark as a free and independent State."—No. 3, 385.976 Are not these words an ample answer to the accusations of the right hon. Gentleman? The French Government gave similar instructions, and acted, through their Minister, in cordial harmony with Her Majesty's Government. Lord Cowley, writing to Earl Russell, December 24, 1863, p. 424, said—In the meantime the French Minister at Copenhagen was, his Excellency said, instructed to give a general support to the counsels tendered by England and Russia to Denmark, although he had not been furnished with as detailed instructions as those given to Lord Wodehouse by Her Majesty's Government."—No. 4, 424.So that, here again, the French and English Governments were acting entirely in concert; and this was after the period when it is alleged that the conduct of my noble Friend had produced a divergence of opinion between them. A threat to Germany is said to be contained in these words of a despatch of Earl Russell to Sir Andrew Buchanan, dated December 24, 1863 —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 Schleswig, Her Majesty's Government would maintain an attitude of neutrality between Germany and Denmark."—No. 4, 413.Why was this written? Because there was every reason to believe that France at that time held the same language as ourselves. I must here point out another instance of misquotation — another instance rather of the suppressio veri. Lord Wodehouse had reported that General Fleury had stated to the Danish Minister that under no circumstances would France give material aid to Denmark. The extract from the despatch with these words was read to the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) and the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald), as a proof that at that time France was not prepared, under any circumstances, to go to war for Denmark, and that, unlike England, who was misleading the Danish people, she in a straightforward manner told Denmark so. But they took care not to notice a subsequent despatch, which qualified Lord Wodehouse's statement. Lord Cowley inquired of M. Drouyn de Lhuys whether General Fleury had made this statement, and he wrote the following despatch to Earl Russell on the subject:—I said to-day to M. Drouyn de Lhuys that I had heard a report that General Fleury had in- 977 formed the Danish Government that were a war to break out between Denmark and Germany the Danish Government must not expect assistance from France. Was this true? I asked. M. Drouyn de Lhuys replied that the instructions given to General Fleury prescribed to him to conform his mission as much as possible to the conveyance of complimentary messages from the Emperor. Should he be obliged—and it was hardly to be avoided—to speak on political matters, he was to advise all possible concessions for the maintenance of peace. It might be that with a view of furthering this pacific policy, the General had stated that the support of France must not be expected in the event of war, but he (M. Drouyn de Lhuys) was positive that no declaration had been made by the General which did not leave the Emperor free to take any course which events might render expedient."—No. 4, 443.Is not that precisely what we had said? Was not the language held by Her Majesty's Government exactly in the same spirit? We will not bind ourselves to an absolute neutrality, we declared; we must see what events will bring forth, and it will then be time to decide; we cannot now pledge ourselves to any definite course. At that time we were right to hold that I language; it was entirely in conformity with the position which France had taken up, and was such as became an independent European Power.
Now I come to one of the most important parts of this correspondence, and one which has furnished some of the most violent, and I will venture to say some of the most unjust, accusations against Earl Russell. I anxiously desire the hon. Members for Rochdale and Birmingham (Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright) to attend to me I for a moment, because I think they have misunderstood, the country has misunderstood, and the House has misunderstood, the despatch I am about to refer to. In January, the Government had every reason to believe, as I have shown, that France considered herself still bound by the Treaty of 1852, and that she was not committed to a policy of inaction in the Danish Question. An invasion of Denmark by Germany being then imminent, Her Majesty's Government thought the time was come to! ask France and the other Powers, parties to the Treaty of 1852, whether they were' or were not prepared toConcert and co-operate with Her Majesty's Government for the purpose of maintaining the engagements of the Treaty of May, 1852, and especially of upholding the integrity of the Danish Monarchy.Now this despatch was called by my hon. Friend (Mr. Cobden) "a war despatch;" he said it was an invitation to France to 978 join England in going to war, and that France had saved us from war by declining to accede to our proposal. My impression as to the reasons for which that despatch was written, and as to the object Lord Russell had in view in writing it, has been confirmed by my noble Friend, with whom I have talked the matter over in order to be perfectly clear on the subject, and I confidently declare that that despatch was eminently a peace despatch. No step was ever taken more in the interest of peace, and that was the object of Lord Russell in writing it. It has been called an invitation to France and Russia to join us in giving material aid to Denmark; but what is the truth? To whom was that despatch addressed? Not to France and Russia only, but to Austria, Prussia, and Sweden as well—in fact, to all the Powers that signed the Treaty of 1852. [See Danish Papers, p. 563.]
Earl Russell's argument was this: The time is now come to understand distinctly what these Powers are prepared to do. The German Diet wishes to bring about an illegal occupation of Schleswig, and to dispute that right of Succession which the treaty pledged the parties to it, and the German Powers, who subsequently adhered to it, to respect. Are the parties to that treaty prepared to give material aid to Denmark to resist that attack upon her integrity, and to maintain the order of Succession to which they are pledged? Could England call upon Austria and Prussia to make war on Austria and Prussia? If the Powers who signed the treaty say, we do not intend to give material aid to Denmark, then England is released from any obligation to do so under that treaty. Why should she give material aid when five other Powers, under precisely the same obligations as herself, consider that they are not called upon to give it, or refuse to give it? If, on the other hand, France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden consent to give such material aid, the question is at an end, for in the face of such a coalition it is impossible that Germany should persevere in the attempt to dismember Denmark. It has been said in this debate that if England, France, and Russia acted together, war would be impossible. What then would the chances of war have been if England, France, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden had acted together? France asked for explanations as to the meaning of Her Majesty's Government in asking for the concert and 979 co-operation of the parties to the Treaty of 1852; Russia and Austria asked for similar explanations. The same explanations were given to all. We answered, what we mean is this:—If Germany persists in the execution of her plan for the dismemberment of the Danish Monarchy, are you prepared, as parties to the Treaty of 1852, to give, if necessary, material aid to Denmark? They all replied, no. I defy any hon. Member to show one word written by Earl Russell from that moment which could bear the construction of a threat to Germany, or one word to encourage Denmark to believe that she might receive material aid from this country. If there ever was a peace despatch, I say it was this. The noble Earl wrote it with that view. I have refreshed my memory on the subject, as I have just stated, by conversation with my noble Friend within the last few hours, and that is his conviction now, as it was then— that if we could have come to such an understanding with all the Great Powers of Europe it would have been impossible for Germany to have made war on Den mark. Instead of being condemned, my noble Friend ought to receive the thanks of the country, and especially of my hon. Friends the Members for Rochdale and Birmingham, for writing that despatch, as it released us from any obligation to go to war on behalf of Denmark, and enabled us, at least, to remain at peace.
The last threat, if threat it can be called, is contained in Earl Russell's despatch to Lord Bloomfield, dated January 20, 1864; the answer from France declining to give material aid not having been received, be it remembered, until the 26th. It contains these words—Count Apponyi and Count Bernstorff, in an interview I had with them on the 18th inst., contended, with an ominous identity of expression, that if the Danes resisted the occupation of Schleswig by the forces of Austria and Prussia, war must ensue; and that war would cancel all treaties, and sweep away the Treaty of London of May, 1852, together with other engagements. The primary intention of using this language seemed to be to induce Great Britain to persuade Denmark to admit the peaceable occupation of the Duchy of Schleswig. It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to take any such course, and it is highly probable that resistance will be offered by the Danes to the occupation of Schleswig. But you will take care to remark to Count Rechberg, on every suitable occasion, that a war in Schleswig would not relieve Austria and Prussia from the obligations contracted towards England, France, Russia, Sweden, and other Powers of Europe, by the Treaty of London; that the Diet 980 has no authority whatever to dispose of the Duchy of Holstein, or to oppose the succession of the King of Denmark; that the occupation of Holstein rested upon assumed Federal grounds, affecting the King of Denmark as the lawful heir of the late King in the Duchy of Holstein, and was an acknowledgment of King Christian as Duke of Holstein; that the proposed occupation of Schleswig relates not to Federal grounds, but to the international obligations contracted by the late King, and which have devolved upon the present King as his lawful successor; that to convert these several occupations into a claim to dispose of the two Duchies to a rival claimant would amount to an international aggression, and involve a breach of faith which might entail upon Europe the most wide-spread calamities.—No. 4, 571.Can this language be called a threat; is it not rather a warning, and a prediction which has already been in part fulfilled? But how was that despatch received by Count Rechberg? Did he resent it as a threat? On the contrary; on the 21st of January, Lord Bloomfield writes—Count Rechberg does not hesitate to admit the justice of the reasoning in your Lordship's despatch [the one I have just quoted]; but he said that, after long and patient negotiations with Denmark, Germany could hardly be accused of haste in adopting the late decisions."—No. 4, 597.It has been asserted that throughout these negotiations Denmark was led by Earl Russell to expect material aid from England, and that, relying upon these expectations, she resisted Germany and was betrayed. In replying to this accusation, I must refer to something which occurred in another place. In a debate on the 5th of February, 1864, Earl Russell said (I quote his words), "The Danish Minister has repeatedly said to me, 'We expect no material aid from this country; all we expect is sympathy.'" After what the Speaker has ruled I am prevented from quoting a despatch which I had intended to read to the House; but I may state that I have a despatch which shows that Sir Augustus Paget told M. Monrad in direct words, that Denmark must not expect England to give her material aid. The reason why that despatch has not been laid upon the table is partly this—it relates a conversation with Bishop Monrad, in which he went fully into the means of Denmark for defending herself, and it would have been manifestly unfair to Denmark if we had given that despatch and allowed her enemies to know what her resources and her plans were. The date of that despatch is February 22, 1864. But there is a despatch which has been published—a despatch of the 9th of March, 1864, from Lord Russell to Sir 981 Augustus Paget, in which the former observes—I must request you, before you require on the 12th instant that the answer should be given on that day, to state to M. Monrad and M. Quaade the very great imprudence, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, of throwing away a fair chance of settling a question in regard to which the whole of the Powers of Germany are ready to contend in arms against Denmark; and neither France, nor Great Britain, nor Russia, nor Sweden are ready in present circumstances to fight in her support."—No. 5, 780.So I say that no word has ever been uttered or written by Earl Russell to lead Denmark to believe that she would receive material support from this country, and that any assertion to the contrary is unfounded. I may be permitted to remind the House that even the definite proposal for the Conference—that Conference which has been so much condemned, and which hon. Members declare they foresaw would come to nothing—came from Prussia, for it was made on the 16th December by M. de Bismark, who suggested that it should be held at Paris. We were quite willing that it should be held there or elsewhere. Our only object was to find the means of preserving peace. The events which took place at and during the Conference are so well known, and are so recent, that I do not wish to trouble the House with a relation of them; but I must mention two or three facts connected with it which have been misunderstood or misrepresented. In the first place, Lord Russell has been accused of proposing an armistice before the Conference, thereby placing Denmark in a false position. Did not Franco cordially support us in that proposal? If hon. Gentlemen will turn to a despatch from Lord Cowley, dated the 11th of February, they will find that M. de Talleyrand had been instructed to give his energetic support to his British colleague in proposing this armistice. It has also been said, and it has been made another matter of accusation against the Government, that they went into the Conference without a basis. But whose fault was that? Was it the fault of the British Government? They proposed basis after basis, but either the German Powers or Denmark would not accept them. We were not responsible for the refusal of other Powers, and when they declined to accept each basis which we proposed ought we to have given up all requisitions, and to have made no further attempts to preserve peace? I think Earl Russell 982 is entitled to great credit for persevering in his attempts, never allowing himself to be baffled, and saying, when he could not get an armistice or any definite basis, "Still let us have a Conference; let us do what we can to restore peace." Frame agreed with us in that view, Russia agreed in that view, and if hon. Gentlemen will turn to the Correspondence relating to the Conference recently laid upon the table, they will see that the Conference was urged upon the Government by no Power more strongly than by Austria and Prussia. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Member for Horsham have said that the Government went into the Conference declaring that their policy was to maintain the independence and integrity of Denmark, and that they came out of it having sacrificed both. That was not so. The Government expressly declared that the only thing to which they were pledged was the endeavour to restore peace between the belligerents, and if hon. Gentlemen will refer to almost the last page of the blue-book they will find a despatch from Earl Russell to Sir Augustus Paget of the 21st of March, by which it appears that even Denmark admitted that she went into the Conference without any engagements, not even insisting as a basis upon the arrangements of 1852. Earl Russell's words are—Her Majesty's Government are glad to find from these despatches, as well as from M. Quaade's despatch of the 18th instant to the Danish Minister in London, of which a copy is inclosed in your despatch of that date, that the Danish Government accept the proposal for a Conference which you were instructed to make to them, and do not insist upon the formal recognition, by the Governments of Austria and Prussia, of the arrangements of 1851 and 1852, as the basis on which the Conference is to deliberate." —No. 5, S18.The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) declared that the statement made by my noble Friend, that Russia had been consulted before he proposed the line of the Schlei and the Dannewirke, was untrue, as the Protocols showed that that proposal had been made without its having been submitted to the Ambassador of Russia. That was made a grave matter of complaint against my noble Friend, but if hon. Gentlemen will turn to the Protocols of the Conference they will find that Lord Clarendon, in two Protocols, those of the 9th and the 11th, distinctly states that that proposal was not the mere proposal of Her Majesty's Government, but was a proposal made with the concur- 983 rence of the neutral Powers; and he expressly declares—That the line was proposed by Earl Russell in his capacity of President of the Conference, on the result of the previous understanding which had been come to by the Representatives of the neutral Powers.I have, further, Earl Russell's authority to state that Baron Brunnow was consulted before the proposal was brought forward, and expressed his willingness to support it, declaring, however, that his Government went into the Conference upon the basis of the Treaty of 1852; that Russia had always held the same language; but if it were found necessary to abandon that treaty, then he would support the line of the Schlei. Earl Russell has been further accused of breaking a distinct promise he had made to Denmark, that he would make no other proposal in the Conference than the line of the Schlei. But what Earl Russell did promise was, that he would propose no other line, not that he would make no further proposal, and the distinction is very evident. He is now accused of violating his promise, because he—speaking in the name of the neutral Powers—proposed arbitration. Was that breaking his promise? The arbitrator might have decided upon this very line of the Schlei. There was no pledge as to any line. What, let me ask, would this House and the country have said if Earl Russell had answered, "I will make no new proposal; I will adhere to the line of the Schlei; and if Germany will not have it, I will withdraw and will let the war be renewed." I say that the proposal of arbitration was a step in favour of peace, and might have been accepted without committing Denmark or any of the parties to the Conference to any particular line. Unfortunately, that proposal was refused by both parties—altogether by Denmark, virtually by Austria and Prussia, and it fell to the ground. Such, then, was the end of the Conference. But here I must again refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald), and I will venture to say that never has there been a speech delivered in this House in which dates have been given with a more uncompromising disregard for what they really are than in the speech of that hon. Member. I think I shall be able to show the House that that is so. The hon. Gentleman declared that, almost within twenty-four hours, he had himself heard Earl Russell, in the other House, say that he had 984 again made an offer to France to unite with us in going to war for Denmark, and that that offer had been refused. ["No!"] You must not contradict me, for it will be in the recollection of the House that I objected to this statement at the very moment it was made. Indeed, I owe the hon. Gentleman an apology for having interrupted him. I said that such was not the case, upon which the hon. Member replied—Yes; I heard Earl Russell say that the French Government had again declined to go to war for Denmark; and would anybody believe that such a statement would have been made by France otherwise than in answer to a question from our Government?This was altogether a different statement, but I have to assure the House that there is no foundation whatever for that inference. When the Conference closed, the French Emperor thought it expedient to explain the conduct he had pursued during the negotiations, and to state upon what grounds he had refused to give material support to Denmark. The statement which he has made to Her Majesty's Government is no answer to any question asked by them, but has been made freely and spontaneously by the Emperor himself.
I think I have now shown the House that Earl Russell cannot be accused of using threats; that the language he has employed has invariably been approved and even adopted by France; that he has not been unnecessarily meddling; that he has supported the honour of his country, and that throughout these most difficult and delicate negotiations he has shown an ardent desire to maintain peace. I come now to another important matter. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) opposite has asserted that the change of language which, according to him, took place on the part of France in the autumn of last year, was due to two things — first, to the manner in which France had been treated by England upon the Polish Question; and next, to the answer Earl Russell had given to the Emperor's proposal for a Congress. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud has successfully grappled with the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon the question of Poland. He said, very justly and truly, that, as to Poland, it was not Her Majesty's Government who were to be blamed, because their policy upon that question had been forced upon them by the House of Commons; and he reminded the House that a Resolution in stronger language than any used by Earl Russell 985 had been moved by the hon. Member for the King's County in these words—Humbly to submit to Her Majesty that these facts demand the interposition of England in vindication of her own public faith and solemn engagements."That Resolution, which meant scarcely anything short of war, was virtually forced," said the right hon. Member for Stroud, "upon my noble Friend at the head of the Government, and accepted by the House;" the Government acting, to a great extent, as it were, in conformity with the decision of the House. In answer to that statement, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. FitzGerald said—The House will be astonished to hear what I have to state to it. The Motion of my hon. Friend (Mr. Hennessy) was made on the 27th of February. 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 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.Every one of these statements was received with the usual volley of cheers. "Will the House believe that there is not one part of the hon. Gentleman's statement which is correct; that it is a complete and absolute mystification from beginning to end; that one of these despatches, that of February 27, is entirely the creation of his own brain, and does not exist at all; and that the other two have really little to do with the matter? Now, I ask the attention of the House to this, because it shows how matters have been misrepresented. The despatch of February 18, which has been so much "complained" of, is addressed to Sir Andrew Buchanan, and it simply instructs him to procure a copy of the military Convention between Russia and Prussia, for the suppression of the Polish insurrection. The despatch of February 21, which is described as a condemnation of the conduct of Russia, merely assents to the views of France respecting this military Convention, and says there is no difference of opinion between the two Governments on the subject. As I said before, the despatch of February 27 does not exist. The debate on Poland took place on the 27th of February, 1863, I 986 have read to the House the words of the Motion which was then brought forward. On the 2nd of March, Lord Russell wrote to Lord Napier, not in the strong terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for King's County, but in the spirit of the Address moved by the hon. Member. ["No!"] "Who ventures to say "No!" Will hon. Gentlemen turn to the papers? If there is any doubt on the subject let me read the despatches themselves—In reply to your despatch of the 16th instant, mentioning the nomination of Commissioners for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the military conventions between Russia and Prussia for the suppression of this insurrection in Poland, I have to instruct you to endeavour to procure and transmit to Her Majesty's Government a copy of the Convention in question.That is the first of those "important" despatches; it bears date February 18, and is addressed to Sir Andrew Buchanan. The second, which is dated February 21, is addressed to Lord Cowley, and is in these terms—The French Ambassador has just called upon me to say that the Government of the Emperor, although not in possession of the text of the Convention between Russia and Prussia, know enough of its purport to form an opinion unfavourable to the prudence and opportuneness of that Convention. The French Government consider that the Government of the King of Prussia have by their conduct revived the Polish Question. They consider this measure all the more imprudent, inasmuch as the Polish Provinces of Prussia are represented as perfectly tranquil. The French Government consider, also, that the Government of Russia should be advised to appease irritation, and calm the discontent prevailing by measures of conciliation and mildness. The French Ambassador has no orders to propose any concert with the British Government, but he is instructed to ask whether the views which he had explained were conformable to those entertained by Her Majesty's Government. I informed him that Her Majesty's Government entertained precisely the views which he had explained on the part of his Government.This is the despatch which the hon. Gentleman has described as the "condemnation by Lord Bussell of the conduct of Russia." As to the despatch of the 27th of February, in which Lord Russell sought for concert and harmonious action with the Emperor of the French, as I have already stated, there is no such despatch in existence. It is a pure invention of the hon. Gentleman's, both as regards substance and date. But now I come to the despatch of the 2nd of March, which was written after the debate to which the right hon. Member for Stroud alluded, and which was the first communication made 987 by Lord Russell to the Russian Government. It is addressed to Lord Napier, and contains these words—Great Britain, therefore, as a party to the Treaty of 1815, and as a Power deeply interested in the tranquillity of Europe, deems itself entitled to express its opinion upon the events now taking place, and is anxious to do so in the most friendly spirit towards Russia, and with a sincere desire to promote the interest of all the parties concerned. Why should not His Imperial Majesty, whose benevolence is generally and cheerfully acknowledged, put an end at once to this bloody conflict by proclaiming mercifully an immediate and unconditional amnesty to his revolted Polish subjects, and at the same time announce his intention to replace without delay his Kingdom of Poland in possession of the political and civil privileges which were granted to it by the Emperor Alexander I., in execution of the stipulations of the Treaty of 1815? If this were done, a National Diet and a National Administration would, in all probability, content the Poles and satisfy European opinion.Now, this is an interposition of England justified by the engagements existing between herself and Russia, and virtually carries out in moderate and seemly language the Resolution submitted to the House by the hon. Member for King's County. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that I have used strong language in saying that despatches have been misquoted. I will leave them to determine what terms should be used with regard to the statements and quotations of the hon. Member for Horsham. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) was perfectly justified in drawing the inference that Her Majesty's Government had been encouraged to interfere more actively than they might otherwise have done in the Polish Question by the Motion of the hon. Member for the King's County, and by the language used on that occasion by Members on both sides of the House. But before I draw the attention of the House to what took place on the occasion of that debate, let me remind them of a statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) on that occasion—that he had that morning seen a most distinguished Polish patriot, who had been led to believe that something was about to be done for Poland at last. Sir, I know well who that Polish patriot was, and I am quite willing to admit that he is a distinguished man who has laboured long and ardently in the cause of his country. But what I wish to know is why, at that particular moment, was he invited to see the right hon. Gentleman 988 and the hon. Gentleman opposite; why were hopes then held out to him, as I know they were held out, that something was about to be done for his unfortunate country, and that the Conservative party were prepared to support an energetic Polish policy? I think I know why this was done. It was because hon. Gentlemen opposite believed that, by getting the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) to bring forward his Motion, and by supporting it with strong speeches, they might commit and embarrass Her Majesty's Ministers. They knew that, with the feelings entertained towards Poland by a large number of Members on this side of the House, the Government could not resist that Motion. And what was the Resolution of the hon. Member for the King's County but a Resolution which pointed to war. It was, in fact, a war Resolution. Yet, what was the language of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) with regard to it—I will venture to give him (Mr. Hennessy) this advice, either to proceed with his Address, or, yielding to what I think is the general feeling of the House, and for the sake of unanimity, to withdraw it, but not on account of false scruples to consent to have the Address which he has proposed in a very spirited manner, and which very effectively represents his sentiments, emasculated in its language or changed in its expressions." [3 Hansard, clxix, 942.]Such were the words of the right hon. Gentleman, who was afraid that the strength and spirit of the Resolution should be weakened by the alteration of a single word. He was for it pur et simple. [Mr. DISRAELI: I recommended its withdrawal.] Several hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, such as the Member for Horsham and the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, supported the Resolution with equal warmth, and, if possible, went further in urging a war policy upon the Government. Now, let us see what subsequently happened after the Government, acting upon what appeared to be the unanimous opinion of the House, addressed remonstrances to Russia. The hon. Member for the King's County later in the Session asked for a day to renew his Motion in favour of Poland. The Government gave the 22nd of June for that purpose, and my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) was quite prepared to accept the discussion on that day. One or two hon. Gentlemen, without communicating with the noble Lord, rose in their places and deprecated a debate on the subject. The 989 hon. Member for King's County, however, resolved to proceed with his Motion. A division took place, but I have searched in vain in the division list for the names of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Member for Horsham. Where were they? To use a term which has now become almost classical, they had "skedaddled." They left the hon. Gentleman the Member for the King's County to his fate, and after his Motion had been rejected returned to the House to offer some lame excuse for their absence. They had in February supported the hon. Member for the King's County in order to embarrass the Government, by inducing them to believe that a vigorous policy would receive their support; and being in June under the impression that the Government were fairly committed to such a policy, they betrayed the hon. Member (Mr. Hennessy) and the distinguished Polish patriot who had seen the hon. Member for Horsham in the early part of the year, and who had been then led to hope for such vigorous and effective assistance from the Conservative party. Their object had been gained. They had embarrassed the Government, and when they found the country was not for war, they were the foremost to denounce us for having followed the very policy they had a few months before so eloquently advocated.
The second reason assigned for the Emperor of the French refusing to act any further with us in mediating between Denmark and Germany, and in supporting Denmark is, that the answer of my noble Friend to the invitation to the Congress was couched in unbecoming and offensive terms. Now, I will not dwell upon the words used with reference to that invitation by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), which have been quoted more than once in this debate—that it was an adroit manœuvre, and ask whether that explanation of the proposal of the Emperor was more courteous than the reply of my noble Friend. But let me ask the House what the Emperor of the French must think when he finds the right hon. Gentleman, who affects to be His Majesty's peculiar friend, declaring before the world that he, the Emperor of the French, had abandoned an old and faithful ally—an ally which had fought and bled for the founder of his dynasty; that he suffered her to be outraged and despoiled; that he quietly looked on whilst solemn treaties were violated; that 990 he permitted the peace of Europe to be broken; and all this out of mere personal pique towards Earl Russell, because he had returned a straightforward and honest answer to his letter? Why, Sir, I will venture to say that any language, however discourteous, which could have been held to the Emperor of the French, would have been infinitely less displeasing, less painful to him, than the language of the right hon. Gentleman—language which affects his honour as a Sovereign and his character as a man. The Emperor of the French had reasons, and weighty reasons, for not taking any step which might have involved him in war with the whole of Germany. He frankly stated those reasons to us, and we have no right to question his motives, or to pretend to be a better judge of the interests of France than he is himself.
Sir, I have listened in vain to the speeches delivered by Gentlemen on the other side for any indication of the policy they would have pursued had they occupied our places, or are prepared to pursue if they succeed to them. They have condemned indiscriminately every act of Ministers, but they have failed to point out in a single case any alternative. We have certainly heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) something about the "honour of England and the peace of the world." But the House and the country will not be satisfied with these vague words. They will want to know definitely, before condemning Her Majesty's Ministers, what policy the hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to adopt in the place of that pursued by the Government. As the speeches we have heard here throw no light on this subject, I must look abroad and amongst those who may have some right to offer an opinion on these matters, and endeavour to ascertain what suggestions may have been made by those who are not members of the Opposition in this House. I find, then, that two courses have been proposed which Her Majesty's Government might have adopted. One suggestion is that of Lord Grey, whom I have heard described in this House as one of the greatest statesmen of the time. It is this—that Her Majesty's Government ought to have sent 25,000 or 30,000 men in January last to the Dannewerke. The Germans, he declares, would then have seen that England was in earnest, and would not have ventured to cross the Eider. The other suggestion is, 991 that we should have persevered in what, to use the phrase of the teetotallers, I may term "total abstinence." Now, as regards the first suggestion, let me ask if any reasonable man would have ventured in January last to advise the Government to throw 25,000 or 30,000 men into the Dannewerke in the midst of a northern winter, with the sea ice-bound or stormbound, with the works themselves very inadequately prepared for defence, and in the excited state of the German people then bent upon war? The proposal would have been really too chimerical to admit of serious discussion. As regards the second suggestion, could we, let me ask, have abstained altogether from interference and mediation? There was no part of the able speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) which appeared to me to deserve greater consideration than the distinction he drew between mediation or friendly intervention, and unnecessary interference in the affairs of a country. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his definition of those terms. To unnecessary interference in the affairs of other countries I am as much opposed as any man in this House can be; as much opposed as my hon. Friends the Members for Rochdale and Birmingham (Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright). But mediation to maintain peace, intervention in the interest of peace, is a duty imposed upon every civilized nation; and any Government which, having the opportunity and the power of preventing war, or of restoring peace, refused to mediate or to intervene, would deserve not the praise, but the execration of mankind.
Whilst condemning so sweepingly the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this Danish Question, hon. Gentlemen opposite have permitted that policy to be persevered in, and have not until in these last days of the Session ventured to call upon the House of Commons to pronounce an opinion upon the subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) challenged them on this point. The excuse was furnished by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) with his usual accuracy as to facts and dates. The other side having been asked for their policy, they answered that they were not bound to furnish a policy to the Government. But, replied my right hon. Friend, at any rate if you so completely disapprove the policy of the Government, why did you not bring forward a Motion 992 condemning it earlier in the Session? Why did you not do so before the meeting of the Conference, the assembling of which you now denounce? The ready answer of the hon. Member for Horsham is, "How could the House have pronounced an opinion upon the policy of the Government when the material papers upon which such an opinion could be founded were only presented to the House at the end of March?" Now, the most material papers, and the only papers delivered in March, were those which contained the despatch addressed to the Powers parties to the Treaty of 1852, asking whether they would concert and co-operate with us in supporting Denmark. I might allude to the fact that the distinguished organ of the hon. Gentleman's party, The Morning Herald, which seems to have the means of obtaining very early and exclusive information of what is taking place in the French Foreign Office, mentioned the fact of the existence of that despatch in the month of January, a few days after it had been communicated to the French Government. ["Oh!"] However, as any allusion to this delicate subject seems to disquiet hon. Gentlemen opposite, I will not dwell upon it. But what will the House say when I state, that the only papers delivered in March—the papers which contained this important despatch, upon which the policy of Her Majesty's Government may be said to have turned, and which has been assailed more than any other step taken by my hon. Friend at the head of the Foreign Office—were presented on the 1st of March, and were in the hands of Members on the following day or the day after. So that hon. Members opposite had ample time for preparing and bringing forward any Motion on the policy of the Government, with a full knowledge of what that policy was, long before the meeting of the Conference on the 20th April. [An hon. MEMBER: When were they printed?] The Correspondence only ended in February. It was presented at the end of the month, and in the hands of Members on the 1st or 2nd of March. ["No, no!"] Although hon. Gentlemen opposite have not ventured to propose a policy different from that pursued by Her Majesty's Government, yet we may perhaps gather from some of their speeches what they would have done had they been in our places. Not from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) who brought forward 993 this Resolution. He is far too great a master of artifice—far too deeply versed in the mysteries of politics to commit himself to anything whatever, or to show his cards. But there may be some around him who may say what they really feel, and have not the art of the right hon. Gentleman to conceal their thoughts. Let us see what may have fallen from some of them. I think I am in the recollection of the House when I say that the speaker on the other side who received the loudest and most enthusiastic cheers in this debate—cheers that were taken up again and again by the sweet voice of the hon. Member for Knaresborough, to be re-echoed as they died away by the deep utterances of the Member for Wicklow—was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). I will not venture to ask whether we may accept this demonstration as any confirmation of certain rumours which have of late been floating about in the political world; but certain it is that the right hon. Gentleman was most vociferously cheered by those seated behind him. He began his speech by declaring that he was no party man. And yet those hon. Gentlemen who thus cheered are not altogether innocent of the suspicion of being party men. He then told us that he was about to give us an after-dinner speech which he had delivered nearly three years ago. He need scarcely have particularly mentioned this fact, as his speech smacked most unmistakably of "after dinner." There was a great deal in it about "humiliation," "degradation," and every other kind of "ation,"—big words, it appeared to me, strung together without any very apparent connection or definite meaning. The right hon. Gentleman having completely exhausted his own stores of eloquence, was compelled to search about him to cull the sweets of English literature in order to find terms sufficiently strong to express all his contempt for, and indignation at, Her Majesty's Government. He could discover nothing that came nearer to his standard of eloquence than an extract from The Standard. At least, I presume, from its choice expressions and its refined sentiments, it could only have been taken from that eminent journal. One of the select passages quoted by the right hon. Gentleman was that the British Government "were branded as big-mouthed bullies, who sneaked off at the first show of danger." After he had thoroughly, and 994 to his heart's content, denounced the policy of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman then told us what he would have done. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) quoted one passage, but omitted a very material part of it, to which I wish to call the particular attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire was so much alarmed at the indiscretion of his right hon. Friend, that he immediately put up the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour Fitz Gerald) to deny the correctness of the words quoted by the Member for Bradford. But I happened to have made a note at the time of the principal words used—expressly those relating to a treaty by which it appears we promised to protect Denmark. The right hon. Gentleman's words were—I emphatically declare that you have tarnished the honour of the country. I appeal to every Englishman, let his party be what it may, whether he has not felt the deepest humiliation at seeing a small country, which we have promised to protect, overwhelmed by stronger Powers.Here the hon. Member for Bradford stopped in his quotation. But what were the words which followed, and which are even more remarkable and more decisive than those I have quoted—If such a thing had occurred in common life, the greatest coward in the world would have rushed forward to protect the weak against the strong without even asking what the cause of quarrel was.After making two or three other observations, the right hon. Gentleman added—I see no reason why the Foreign Minister should not be guided in the affairs of his office by exactly the same principles.I ask the House whether these words do not mean a war policy, and a war policy of the most dangerous kind, because founded upon mere sentiment and not upon right? Forsooth, if we see a small country attacked by a great country, we must rush into war in defence of the small country without stopping to inquire whether it is in the right or in the wrong! And such was the announcement of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman (General Peel), which was so loudly cheered by hon. Members around him—fur more loudly and enthusiastically cheered than the guarded speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire.
But who was next put up by Gentlemen opposite to advocate a peace policy, and to denounce the Government for hav- 995 ing been too warlike? Why, of all men in the world, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil).
If any Member of this House has exhausted words of violence in denouncing the Government for their pacific and cowardly conduct, has asked for war with Germany, with the United States, and I know not with what other country, it is the noble Lord. Why, he is the very Mars of the Opposition gods who are seeking to scale Olympus. The noble Lord is a man of remarkable power, and if he did not show a want of generosity and of fairness to his political opponents, which even exceeds the privileges of a partizan, he would occupy a very high position in this House. The time may come when he may attain that position, to which his abilities undoubtedly entitle him. I regret, therefore, that he should have felt compelled, by the exigencies of his party, to make the speech we heard from him the other evening. I need scarcely ask the House whether he ever made so bad a speech before. It was the very worst I have ever heard from him. And why was this so? Because he appeared, for the first time, as the advocate for peace, and had to support a cause to which his own sentiments and opinions were entirely opposed.
I was surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) declare that he had no preference for either party—those who sit on this side of the House, and those who sit on the other; that they were both equally bad, and that he was only disposed to tolerate the present Government because he did not wish to expose the country to the inconvenience of a change. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald) warned us that the hon. Member for Rochdale could put an end to us at once if he chose, and plaintively remonstrated with him for inconsistency in condemning Her Majesty's Government and yet giving them his vote. The hon. Gentleman may remember an historical anecdote which may illustrate this apparent anomaly. James on one occasion said to Charles II, "Be warned, brother; it is said that there are those who seek to assassinate you." "Brother," Charles replied, "I much doubt whether there be any to be found who would kill me to put you in my place." Bad as we are said to be, I doubt whether there be any one, even my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, who would wish to see the hon. Member and 996 his friends in our places. But I confess to have heard with no little astonishment his declaration that there was no difference between the two parties in this House. I should have least expected this assertion from him. In the course of his able speech he pointed out how the prosperity and wealth of England had been developed of late years. Our trade, he said, had increased more during the last twenty-five years than it had during the previous 1,000. Let me appeal to my hon. Friend, who after all wishes to be an impartial though a severe critic, and ask him whether those who sit around me have not had some share in promoting the prosperity and wealth of the country—whether they have not been the means of giving to it some beneficent legislation—whether they have not been the instruments of making treaties with foreign nations which have conduced to this result, availing themselves for the purpose of his abilities and experience? But still more, have not hon. Gentlemen opposite advocated a policy with regard to the United States which is altogether at variance with the opinions and sentiments of my hon. Friend? Have not Her Majesty's Government preserved peace with the United States, in spite of the taunts of those hon. Gentlemen; and should we not have been at war at this moment with the United States if we had yielded to their counsels and their menaces? But if my hon. Friend feels no satisfaction in the past policy of Her Majesty's Government, has he no fear as to the policy of the hon. Gentlemen opposite in the future if they should succeed in their attempt to overthrow the Government and should come into power? As regards the policy hitherto pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers in the Danish Question there would be no change, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have declared that they are prepared to follow the same policy. ["No!"] They now cry "No!" but I understood them to say very clearly that they had no objection to our policy, which has been a peace policy, but that they object to the manner in which it has been carried out. Let it, therefore, now be understood by the country, that hon. Members opposite would reverse our policy. But there is even a more important question. How are hon. Gentlemen opposite committed as regards the United States of America? It is, I believe, not right to see, or at least to draw attention to what passes in this 997 House beyond the immediate floor upon which we are assembled; otherwise I might point to the anxious and eager faces of those who have been listening to this debate—of those who are eagerly watching for its result, hoping that it may end in the overthrow of the Government. And why? I will tell you. The very moment you come into office the attempt will be made to send rams out of Liverpool and to embroil this country in a quarrel with the United States. You have committed yourselves upon this subject. You have maintained in this House and against the Government—you have endeavoured even to carry a Resolution against us in support of your opinion—the right of Con federate agents to fit out rams and ships of war in our harbours to wage war against the United States. It may be very distasteful to you at this moment to be reminded of these things, but neither the House nor the country has forgotten them. It is remembered that the highest legal authority on your side of the House, a Gentleman who would be your Attorney General, if he would not hold even higher office, has committed himself in debate to an opinion, that the fitting out at Liver-pool of the rams which we stopped and prevented, was legal, and that our con duct was illegal and unconstitutional. You say that this is not the question. I contend that when you declare that your Resolutions mean a general Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government, that their conduct in this important question, involving peace or war with the United States, is a part of that question.
What great crime, let me ask, has Earl Russell committed that, because of him the House should be called upon to eject the Ministry, and put hon. Gentlemen opposite in their places, and that this vast risk to the peace of the country that I have pointed out should be incurred? I do not contend that mistakes may not have been committed in this Danish matter. Let me admit, for the sake of argument, that they have been; and let me ask any man who has had either, in public or private life, to carry through long, arduous, and anxious negotiations, whether he could look back and say that one thing might not have been left undone, or that another might not have been better done? My noble Friend (Earl Russell) during these most difficult and delicate negotiations, which have unfortunately ended in the breaking up of the Confer- 998 ence, has had, I will boldly say, but one object in view—to preserve the peace of Europe by inculcating justice and moderation upon those who sought to appeal to arms, and by endeavouring to maintain the faith of solemn treaties and engagements. If any mistakes have been made, they are infinitesimally small when compared with the great end which my noble Friend has laboured most earnestly, most loyally, most indefatigably to attain. It is infinitely to his credit that he has never been discouraged, that, he has never quailed before difficulties which would have appalled most men, and that under the most adverse circumstances he has never abandoned the attempt to preserve Europe and his country from the horrors of war. Even admitting that, as you assert, mistakes have been committed, do mistakes, let me ask, lower the influence of a great country in the councils of the world? Is it by striving to maintain peace, is it by inculcating moderation, is it by declaring our respect for treaties, is it by warning those who are about to break them of the fatal results of violating solemn engagements, that that influence is lowered? No, Sir, the influence of England could be lowered by no such means. But I will tell you what is likely to lower it. It is such speeches as we have heard in the course of this debate from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, speeches which tell foreign Governments and foreign peoples that our country is humiliated and degraded; it is, to use a homely yet expressive phrase, by fouling our own nest; it is by proclaiming to the world that an English Minister and an English Ministry can be both dishonourable and cowardly, that you can lower the character of England and destroy her just influence in the councils of Europe. Condemn the Ministry if you will, but I entreat you do not degrade the country. You say that such is your object, that you do not mean this Resolution to be anything more than a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. If that be the case, why do you not withdraw it, and propose such a form of words as will express your meaning without touching the honour of the country? Remember that this Resolution, declaring that the just influence of England has been lowered, will, if carried, be branded to all time upon the records of the British Parliament. Remember that it will be there to tell posterity, that through the conduct of my noble Friend 999 this country has been so humiliated. And yet, that the just influence of England has been lowered I utterly deny; and no man who holds dear the honour of his country, and knows the position she holds in the world, will venture to assert it. I look forward, therefore, with confidence to the verdict of the House and of the country upon this issue. I cannot believe that after the statements I have made, that after I have shown how Earl Russell has been misrepresented and misunderstood, how unjustly he has been accused and how grievously maligned, the House and the country will condemn a statesman and a Minister who has laboured beyond all other men, in truthfulness and sincerity, in spite of taunts and threats, and has laboured successfully during a period of almost unparalleled difficulty and danger, to secure for his country the inestimable blessings of peace.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I do not wonder that the House—or at least a part of it—should have received with cheers the first defence that has been made for the despatches of the Government. ["Oh, oh!"] I repeat it—the first defence that has been made throughout this debate of the despatches of the Government. It might be supposed from the speech of the hon. Gentleman, that the whole world has been under a delusion as to the conduct of the Foreign Secretary, that there has been no feeling either in England or in Europe that this country has directed against other nations threats which it had no intention of enforcing—indeed, according to the hon. Member, they were not meant as threats, though they bore that appearance in order to influence the conduct of foreign Governments.
The hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by going back to a very early period of these transactions. In that I do not intend to imitate him. The hon. Gentleman went back to what took place in 1848 and 1853; but it seems to me I should not advance the cause which I am about to defend if I were to enter upon the transactions of that early period. The time from which, as it appears to me, the real question at issue between us lies is September, 1862. The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office at that time wrote a despatch—I care not where it was written—which for the first time gave Germany to understand that England was about to take her side in the contest 1000 which had been going on so long with respect to Schleswig-Holstein. From the 24th of September, 1862, dates the beginning of the renewed agitation throughout Germany, when the Germans supposed that England was about to support them. But the noble Lord was not content with that interference, by which he created a new idea of the policy of England. A little later he gave encouragement to Denmark, and offered her advice as to the course she should take, not only after but before the Patent of March was decreed. This is shown to be the interpretation which was put upon it by the Danish Minister. You will find that M. Hall attributes to the noble Lord the advice under which the King acted when the letters Patent were issued, the words, "earnestly advised." The hon. Gentleman has made grave charges against my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) with respect to the extracts from the despatches; but I tell him that those charges are utterly unfounded. ["Oh, oh!"] The Chancellor of the Exchequer sneers; but I say that a quotation is not garbled when the page of the book in which the quotation is found is mentioned, and while the right hon. Gentleman opposite held the book in his hand at the same moment. If there was any passage which he wished to have read, and he did not say so at the time, it must have been that with that subtlety and cunning for which he is distinguished, he intentionally let slip the opportunity for the purpose of subsequently making this charge of misquotation. ["Oh, oh! "and Cheers,] The right hon. Gentleman, using language which was not borne out by fact, spoke of "falsified extracts;" but the extracts were perfectly correct, they were complete in themselves, and I venture to say that no man can prove that the passages cited by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the other day, and those which have been quoted by the hon. Member today, have the slightest effect in weakening the force of the quotations used by my right hon. Friend. The extracts quoted by my right hon. Friend gave the whole tenor of what was done, and I will before I sit down prove that that is the case. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Layard) wished to quote some despatches which were not before us. He spoke of seven folio volumes in his possession, to which he was anxious to refer. But I do not think there has been any want of papers. We have received not only the papers which really bear upon 1001 the subject, but even extracts from newspapers, despatches from every petty State in Germany, everything in short which tends to embarrass and confuse; in fact, such a mass of papers is before us as renders it very difficult for any man to make a selection. With respect to the tenor and bearing of these papers, I need not appeal to the opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House; for while the hon. Gentleman taunted us with the tone of the speeches made on this side, he took good care not to allude to the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen on the other side. What did the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) say of the diplomacy of the Government? He said that our diplomacy was "an anarchy" and disgraced us in Europe; that we could not at this time approach a foreign country on a question of foreign polities without being looked upon with a want of consideration and a mistrust. And then nothing could exceed the strength of the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). He said there was not a State in Europe—east, west, north, or south—in which the lost influence of England was not regarded with sorrow, derision, or contempt.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Yes, but then followed the words, "that we had taught the Germans that we were a nation of bullies, who were willing always to bully, but would never fight."
§ MR. HORSMAN
I did not use those words. The word "bully" never came out of my mouth. ["Oh, oh!"] ["Yes, yes."]
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I do not wish to put words which he did not use into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth, but I am quoting from a report which I believe to be correct. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman while he spoke was much cheered from certain quarters. I was myself struck by the enthusiastic cheers with which the conclusion of his speech was received by hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the Ministers. And yet he treated those Ministers as a master treats a spaniel in disgrace; he flogged them unmercifully, but they cheered him after all, because he ended by promising them that which they believe the best of all things—his vote. Having got a promise of his vote they had got everything they required. The right 1002 hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) told us that we on this side were responsible, and that we had let the time pass by in which we ought to have interfered. The right hon. Gentleman, with a sort of dignified humility which was almost touching, said, "I, even I, the great censor of both sides of the House, have neglected my duty. I, too, have been negligent of my duty; we have all been negligent; let us all forget what we have done; let us forget how much evil has been committed in consequence, and give Ministers all the benefit of the past." But the right hon. Gentleman says that even he was silent. Why, Sir, never was a Gentleman more fitted to bring forward a question of the kind. He could compromise no party, because he has none to compromise. He could compromise no other Gentleman but himself, for a more independent or isolated Gentleman never existed in the House of Commons. But the right hon. Gentleman dictated to Europe what was the right course, for he put a Motion on the paper on this subject as far back as the 12th April; but from that until the present time he has never brought it forward. Was it owing to the forbearance of the right hon. Gentleman that he has not attacked the Government? Not at all. The right hon. Gentleman has given the House abundant evidence of his powers of attack on other occasions. Any one who remembers the bitter language which has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman when attacking the occupants of the Treasury Benches, knows that he is not shy of attacking under certain circumstances. But this Motion of his was to the effect that we were bound by the Treaty of 1852, and that Her Majesty ought not to be advised to give her sanction to anything that would compromise the integrity of Denmark without it being made known to Parliament. But what is the right hon. Gentleman going to do? Having regretted in his Motion the violation of the Treaty of 1852, which was to have maintained the integrity of Denmark, he is now going to vote for the Government which has abandoned the integrity of Denmark. He told us that we had plenty of opportunities for bringing forward the subject, and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Layard), though I called his attention to the mistake, stated that the papers had been delivered by the beginning of March; and yet the noble Lord, under whom he serves, on the 18th day of March gave as a reason for having a Motion on the subject put off 1003 that the papers had not been laid upon the table. I called the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the subject, and gave him the opportunity of correcting himself; but he would not be corrected—he persisted that we had all the papers in our possession on the 1st of March. The facts are that, on the 18th of March, Lord Ellenborough wished to bring forward a Motion on the subject of Denmark; and what did Earl Russell say? He said, "I trust that the noble Earl, on grounds of public policy, will postpone this Motion until all the papers have been laid upon the table."
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The hon. Gentleman has used language, with respect to Gentlemen on this side of the House, that does no credit either to him or the Government he represents; and now, when the hon. Gentleman is convicted of a misstatement which has been made in the hearing of the House, he gets up and interrupts, though my Friends sat still when he made a calumnious statement—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. LAYARD
I rise to Order. I move that the words just used by the hon. Gentleman be taken down. I refer to the words, "calumnious statement." ["Order!" "Chair!"]
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I rise to Order. ["Oh, oh!" "Chair, chair!"] I apprehend that it is a fundamental rule governing the debates in this House, that motives shall not be imputed to Members. I appeal to you, Sir, whether, when one Member imputes to another that he has made a calumnious statement, it does not imply that he made this statement with the motive of distorting the truth? [Lord cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. DISRAELI
I rise to speak to the point of Order. Having listened to this debate, I understood that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs charged Gentlemen on this side of the House with falsification; and Gentlemen on this side of the House, though conscious that they did not merit the charge, yet not wishing to disturb the order of the debate, were content to remain quiet until the proper time should arrive to repel the charge in terms befitting the accusation, and to ex- 1004 press with respect to the imputation that sense which every English gentleman would feel. I maintain, therefore, that the opinion you, Sir, have given is really the proper one in the position in which the House is placed; and that the hon. Gentleman near me was perfectly justified in using the term to which exception is taken after so unparliamentary and so indecorous an expression had fallen from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
[who was received with loud cries of "Order!" and "Chair, chair!"] said, considering, Sir, that when the right hon. Gentleman rose to address the House there was immediate silence on this side, I trust I shall be permitted to say what I have to say in peace, so long as I confine myself to the question of Order. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), as I understood him, founds his justification of what has just taken place in point of Order upon an allegation made by him, that my hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) bad charged Gentlemen opposite with falsification. In the first place, I am not aware that that is the case ["Oh, oh!"]—that the allegation is correct in point of fact ["Oh, oh!"]; but permit me to say that if disorderly words were used—which I do not admit, because I am not conscious of it—by my hon. Friend (Mr. Layard), it was the duty of Gentlemen who thought them disorderly to do that which was done by my hon. Friend (Mr. Layard), to call the attention of the House and the Chair to the matter at the moment when the words were spoken. But I apprehend that I am safe in laying it down that a breach of order, much less a mere allegation of a breach of order, committed by one speaker, will not justify a subsequent speaker in violating order. ["Oh, oh!"] I hope it will be clearly understood ["Order!" "Chair!"] whether the imputation of calumnious statement is or is not to be henceforward within the liberty of Parliamentary discussion. ["Oh, oh!"]
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I think it right, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, to state that I myself heard—and I must say heard with feelings of deep indignation—the word "falsification" from the lips of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and at the time I said across the House that the word was too bad. I say that if the hon. Gentleman is to be allowed to accuse us on this side of falsification, we have a right to call that 1005 word calumnious. After hearing all that has passed, I believe that the Speaker has ruled most properly.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I rise to speak to Order, and to make a respectful and moderate appeal to the House. I do so, Sir, in support of your just authority. After you were appealed to by an hon. Member in this House, and after you had laid down the law as you did in your usual straightforward manner, I put it to the House whether we are not imperilling our just influence in the affairs of Europe and this country if, when you have given your decision that a speaker, on whatever side of the House he may be, is perfectly in order, any other Member is to get up and dispute your decision, and endeavour to overrule it. Such, Sir, is not my idea of the way of preserving order, and I am surprised that the Leader of this House should endeavour to bring your authority into discredit. ["Cheers" and "Order! "]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am sure that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) would be the last man in this House to impute motives to any man. Certainly, the debate has been a very warm and exciting one; but it would be putting the House in a false position if heated language on one side is to be a justification for language passing the bounds of order on the other. Undoubtedly, any words imputing motives to an hon. Member are contrary to the rules of this House. What has passed in explanation of this matter has, in some degree, altered the case. I mean, it is now alleged that language which rather passes the ordinary rules of debate has been used in consequence of similar language having been used previously. The debate has certainly been a heated one, but I confess, as it was going on, there did not appear to me any necessity for interposition on my part. I trust that the hon. Member for Leominster did not intend to impute motives, which would be of an un-Parliamentary nature by his statement. It did not appear to me to be necessary under the circumstances that I should interfere. However, after what has occurred, I trust the House will return to a calmer spirit, and that no exciting language will be used on any side which passes the proper bounds of debate.
§ MR. LAYARD
(who was imperfectly heard) was understood to say—I wish to express regret to my hon. Friend if I have occasioned any misunderstanding. I did not use the word "falsification" as my own 1006 word, but as quoting the expression of my right hon. Friend ["The Chancellor of the Exchequer"]. If the hon. Member took that as an accusation on my part, I beg to offer him my assurance that it was no expression on my part.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I wish to speak upon another point of Order. ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member for Leominster a few minutes ago holding in his hands the Motion of which I gave notice in March ["Order!" "Chair!"], has incorrectly described it. Let him read the exact terms of my Motion.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I trust that neither now nor on any other occasion shall I be wanting in respect to the Chair, and to the character and dignity of this House, but I cannot help saying that, on the first night of the debate, language was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[cheers.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
rose to Order. The hon. Gentleman had no right to refer to what had been said on a former occasion. [Cries of "Same Debate!"]
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I have only to observe that, without imputing motives either to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to the hon. Gentleman opposite, what I meant to say, and should still say if the charge had not been retracted, is that to accuse this side of the House of falsifying anything is a calumny, by whomsoever it be uttered. I repeat that in saying so I do not impute motives. It is not necessary. A calumny may be uttered for various reasons without the person who does it being at all influenced by a desire to depreciate or injure any one. The statement made was one which wounds the honour of Gentlemen on this side of the House. The hon. Gentleman had no need to apologize to me; I ask for no apology. I do not attribute either to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, or to the Under Secretary, anything wilful, nor anything except that in the heat of debate they used words which wound the honour and feelings of Gentlemen on this side of the House.
I will now, Sir, endeavour to resume my remarks at the point where I left off. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) has called me to order because I did not read in full all his Resolution. I should have been very glad to read it all if I had not been unwilling to detain the House. [Mr. HORSMAN: Read the last paragraph.] I will do so; it is as follows:— 1007In the opinion of the House, Her Majesty ought not to be advised to give Her assent to any new engagements affecting the integrity and independence of Denmark until these engagements have been made known to Parliament.I believe I read that already, or stated the substance to the House. Well, I was about to say that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had stated that the House was in possession of the papers on this subject on the 1st of March. [Mr. LAYARD: I said they were presented then.] And the right hon. Gentleman opposite had asserted that there was no objection on that side to the discussion taking place at any period. It has been made a taunt to hon. Gentlemen on this side, that they did not use the opportunities offered during the Session of bringing this question before the House. Before Easter, however, the Government deprecated any such discussion. Let us see what Lord Russell said on this subject. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said that a discussion at that time would be liable to misapprehension by the parties engaged in the war, and might "tend to the public injury, and prevent the success of the negotiations" then going on. That was on the 18th March. In consequence of that declaration, Lord Ellenborough did not proceed with his Motion, although he said he did not agree with Earl Russell's reasons. During the recess, we received a further instalment of papers; and on the 4th of April the House resumed. On the 19th of April, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) brought forward his Motion in regard to Denmark, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks has been called to account for moving the Previous Question on that occasion. But what did the hon. Member the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs say then? Why, he objected to the subject being discussed within a few hours of the meeting of the Conference, and said that the debate ought to have been avoided at a time when he was tongue-tied, although, under other circumstances, he should have been aide to give an answer to the hon. Member for Liskeard. Moreover, the noble Lord at the head of the Government acknowledged that there was a great deal of weight and justice in the reasons alleged by my right hon. Friend for not proceeding with the debate. Let us not then be told that we have condoned these things, and have become responsible for them. It is clear that the Government, who themselves 1008 deprecated discussion, have no right to complain of us for following a similar course; above all, let not the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), who has himself neglected his duty, tell us that we ought to have brought on a discussion. What we did we did at the request of the Government. Even within the last few days, did we not hear Earl Russell say that much credit was due to Lord Derby for his forbearance in abstaining from discussion while the negotiations were going on? But did the Opposition neglect their duty in respect of these things? I say no. Did they not continually keep the question before the House? Did they not persistently endeavour to obtain information as to the state of affairs? It has been said that we ought to have known what was taking place, for there was such and such a thing in the newspapers. There were, however, no documents, or but incomplete ones, on the table to which we could refer, and I say that the House would have been placed in an utterly false position if they had attempted to deal with such a question, merely upon information derived from the newspapers. We are all sufficiently acquainted with the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the answers he has given to several questions on this subject during the Session, to know very well what he would have said if the foreign policy of the Government had been criticized on the strength of unofficial statements in the public journals. This is really the first opportunity we have had of raising the question. When the Government desired to go into the Conference we refrained from interference. We gave them every opportunity of carrying the negotiations to a successful close. It was our desire that the dispute might be brought to a peaceful and honourable termination, and that an European war should, if possible, be averted. No one, Sir, would have rejoiced more than I should if the Government had been able, by means of the Conference, to bring the question to a satisfactory conclusion. At length we are in possession of the papers, and the negotiations are over, and at once we ask for the opinions of the House. We are told, however, that we must not merely discuss the past, but that we must deal with the future. To-night we have had a good illustration of our means of framing a policy. The hon. Gentleman opposite has just told us that there are seven folio 1009 volumes of despatches, full of matter so important that he was anxious to quote some of them—and yet we have never seen any of them. All the despatches and every kind of information in extenso are in the hands of the Government, but the papers before us constitute only the Ministerial case. These papers, these mere extracts, tell us all which cannot be concealed; but they form, as I say, merely the case for the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers are in possession of information infinitely beyond what any one of us can have; and we, the Opposition, are therefore justified in declining to propound a policy for the future when we have not at our command the materials on which it can alone be based.
Then, we have been asked why we do not bring forward a Vote of Want of Confidence. The hon. Member (Mr. Layard) must have an odd notion of what is a Vote of Want of Confidence if he thinks this is not one. What is our address? We say the Government have mismanaged affairs, impaired the honour of the country, failed to carry out their own avowed policy, and reduced England to a position where her influence is ineffectual to maintain peace. Does not that mean we have had enough of your maladministration, and would be rid of you? If that is not a Vote of Want of Confidence, then I do not know what is. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Layard) quoted a passage from the speech of the gallant General near me (General Peel), which was so justly applauded the other evening; but the extract conveyed very little of the sense of that speech. I appeal to the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Rochdale and Birmingham, who were present when it was delivered, whether the tone and spirit of that speech were not on the side of peace, and whether, if a similar spirit governed our foreign policy, it would not be a guarantee for the maintenance of the peace of Europe? In reviewing the course of the debate it is rather curious that the hon. Gentleman should have omitted all mention of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). Did not the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) say he agreed with much that fell from the gallant General, but that he was ready to endorse every word spoken by the noble Lord? What was the effect of these speeches? In these speeches the Government were told that they had discredited England by 1010 their foreign policy, because they had threatened and had not carried out their threats, they had promised and not fulfilled their promises, they had given advice, had seen it accepted, and had then deserted those who took it. These things were said in these two speeches, and these two speeches received the assent of the hon. Member for Bradford. But did not the hon. Member for Bradford, and also the hon. Member for Rochdale, also condemn in strong terms the policy of the Government? So did the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and so did the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck.) The watchful "Tear'em," to use the hon. and learned Gentleman's description of himself, always looking after British honour, sprung upon the Foreign Secretary, tore from him every rag of reputation, and exposed him in all his nakedness to the House and the country. The hon. and learned Gentleman criticized the conduct of the Government with a contempt and bitterness which were rather inconsistent with his announcement that he intended to vote with them. Yet I hardly wonder at it. Fourteen years ago the busy watchdog was the means of saving the noble Lord at the head of the Government from an awkward dilemma, and he has not forgotten his old master. He may snarl and bite at the heels of the bad company among which he sees the noble Lord, but he is ready to follow him into the division lobby, grumbling, barking, and snapping, as he does so, while the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) sneaks in behind. It is not only admitted by all the unofficial speakers who have taken part in this debate that England occupiers an embarrassing position, but a similar impression prevails throughout the Continent of Europe, Who is it who has brought her to such a position, and how did the Government find her when they entered office? According to their own statement, up to the middle of last year we were in union with France and Russia, and on friendly terms with every part of the Continent; and we know what was the case when it was found, on the meeting of Parliament this year, that Her Majesty's Government were unable to give in the Royal Speech the usual assurances of friendly relations with Foreign Powers. We say you have failed in the preservation of peace by your constant meddling. I have 1011 already said that the meddling began early. In September the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary wrote one letter, in November another, and on the 1st of April M. Hall sent him the decree which had been passed on the 30th of March. Accompanying that decree M. Hall sent a statement describing the circumstances under which it was passed, and the noble Lord has never dissented from that statement. What does M. Hall say? I hope some hon. Member will take a copy of the blue-book in his hand and see that I do not omit anything in the quotations I am about to make. M. Hall speaks of the decree as an act which Lord Russell had originally advised, and he then goes on to say—His Lordship will see by this document that, having decided on taking the step which had been so earnestly suggested to us, the King's Government has done it frankly and without reservation.Now what was the first step to be taken in order to enable the Danes to come to terms? It was the repeal of this very decree which had been passed at the earnest suggestion of Lord Russell. Is not that one of the things for which the hon. Member for Rochdale denounced the Government—namely, their meddling in the affairs of foreign States, and their constant advice as to what form of Constitution is best suited to the subjects of another country? [Mr. LAYARD intimated dissent.] The hon. Member for Southwark appears to dissent from this statement, and implies that I am stating something that is inaccurate. Now, the first despatch from Lord Russell after the receipt of that from M. Hall is on the 22nd of April, when the noble Lord wrote to Sir Augustus Paget—I am informed that the French Minister at Copenhagen will be instructed to press upon the Danish Government the expediency, more especially at the present time, of acting with the greatest prudence and caution in regard to the Holstein question."—No. 2, 18.There is not one word by which the noble Lord refuses to acknowledge what had been done, although M. Hall had stated in plain terms, that the noble Lord had advised and suggested the decree. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, may be fairly accused of having caused Denmark to commit a fatal error.
The hon. Gentleman has called our attention to different despatches which were written in the course of last summer—on the 31st of July, the 31st of August, and 1012 the 18th of September, and I think the House, notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's denial, will be of opinion that the passages which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, and which occur in all those despatches, such as they are, are all of them threats. The hon. Gentleman says—Upon the 18th of January, 1864, we knew that France would not give material assistance to Denmark, and from that time I defy any man to find one word in the despatches threatening Germany.Then up to that time he does not deny that there were plenty of threatening words. When the hon. Member says that after the 18th of January no threatening language was used, he must necessarily mean that the language employed before was of a different character. But if the hon. Gentleman makes such a denial, such is not the general opinion of Europe. I find in these blue-books a letter of the 13th of February, which shows how lately threats were employed, and that is long after the period when the hon. Gentleman tells us the noble Lord ceased to use threats. That letter contains an official statement that up to the last moment the English Government had done their utmost by means of strong representations, and even by "direct threats," to prevent the German Powers from making any serious onward movement in their enterprise. It is plain, therefore, if no threats were used, that Germany, Denmark, and the unofficial speakers on the Ministerial side of the House have all misconceived the meaning and object of the despatches.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was a mistake to suppose that France and Russia had ever ceased to act cordially with us; and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Layard) has repeated to-night that France and Russia have acted cordially with us throughout. Then how does it happen that a better conclusion has not been arrived at? But how is that statement reconcilable with what the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said in the January of this year? The noble Lord, with that sanguine feeling which makes difficulties so light to him, stated on the 9th of January this year that "the difficulties in the way of the settlement of the differences between Germany and Denmark were much less grave than they were supposed to be;" and he added that if France, Great Britain, Russia, and Sweden were to act cordially and strenuously 1013 together, Germany and Denmark might be reconciled on terms honourable to all parties. After that admission I wonder at the boldness with which the hon. Member opposite has said that there has been no coldness on the part of France and Russia. Yet the Continent of Europe saw your isolation, and the despatches sent home to the noble Lord by our Ministers at foreign Courts ought to have been a warning to him. Over and over again Sir Alexander Malet told him what the real state of English influence on the Continent was. Our Minister at Frankfort at first naturally thought that the strong despatches of the noble Lord were likely to have a considerable effect upon the Diet; and on the 1st of October, referring to the vote which was to be taken upon that day, he said there could be no doubt that the language held by the noble Lord would produce a salutary effect. Sir Alexander Malet said—I fully expect that the vote will be taken to-day, as the members of the Diet all have their instructions, and there is not time to ask for fresh ones from their Governments. There can, however, be no doubt that the language held by your Lordship will cause all the forms of delay which the Diet's rules allowed to be observed; and though irritation will be felt at the intervention, especially by the smaller States, I am convinced that a great and salutary effect will be produced."—No. 3, 148,But on the same day—the 1st of October—Sir Alexander Malet wrote another letter to the noble Lord, in which he said—I have just learnt that the Diet's vote on the report on the Danish Duchies has taken place. The three weeks allowed to Denmark for notifying compliance with the demands of the Diet thus voted will reckon from the date of the communication of the protocol to the States directed to enforce the execution."—No. 3, 149.So much for the effect of English diplomacy at that period. But what was it later? On the 8th of January in this year, Sir Alexander Malet, wiser after the experience of October the 1st, again wrote to the noble Lord, stating—I am bound to say that there is a wonderful indifference to our representations, while they are at the same time resented as interfering with a cherished project. There is an absolute persuasion that England will not interfere materially, and our counsels, regarded as unfriendly, have no weight."—No. 4, 416.It was Germany that you were threatening' but you did not tell your threats to Denmark. You only gave her promises and advice. Are we not, then, to say that the just influence of England has been lowered, 1014 and that our advice had no weight whatever in inducing the Diet to pause? They passed their vote on the very day they received our remonstrances. Nor did Austria and Prussia attach more importance to our counsels than the Diet. There is a very remarkable despatch from Sir Andrew Buchanan to Lord Russell, on the 14th of December, 1863, in which he says—I regret also, with reference to the representations which I have made by your Lordship's order to M. de Bismark during the last fortnight, on other subjects connected with the question, that I have failed in obtaining a compliance with the wishes of Her Majesty's Government. I was instructed to suggest that time should be allowed Lord Wodehouse to negotiate with the Danish Government before the Federal Execution is carried into effect The Execution will take place in six days after his Lordship's arrival at Copenhagen. I was instructed to express the hope of Her Majesty's Government that no disputed territory on the frontier or at Rendshurg would be occupied. Rendsburg will be occupied, with the exception of that portion which is on the north bank of the Eider. I was instructed to state that the Execution should only take place for Federal obligations violated. The Execution will take place (I am willing, however, to admit, on grounds of expediency, to avoid a question of serious domestic embarrassment in Germany) in virtue of a decree of the German Diet, against which Her Majesty's Government have formally remonstrated at Frankfort, by a despatch communicated officially to the Governments of Austria and Prussia."—No. 4, 391.What do you see there? Prussia treats you with the utmost contempt. On every one of the propositions which you make to her she immediately announces that she does not mean to act, and she tells you she is going to do as she pleases. But England had a policy. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary in one of his letters, dated December 1, lays it down that England's policy is "to advise." It has been said that be would be prepared to take the command of the Channel fleet at a moment's notice, and so he actually undertakes to advise how Federal Execution should be carried out, and what the German troops should do. On the 1st December he writes that the line of policy of Her Majesty's Government is toAdvise Austria, Prussia, and the other Powers who signed the Treaty of London, to adhere to their engagements, and to advise Denmark to observe all the engagements she has taken to Germany."—No. 3, 293.On the 8th of the same month, the noble Lord, writing to Lord Bloomfield, observes—As the Diet seems determined to proceed with the proposed Execution in Holstein, Her Majesty's Government consider it to be of great importance 1015 that the objects of that measure should be distinctly defined, and that it should be strictly limited to the enforcement within the Duchy of Holstein of the rights which the German Confederation alleges to have been disregarded by the Danish Government. In conformity with this principle, the Federal commanders should be strictly prohibited from extending the Execution to any parts of the frontier in respect to which any doubt may exist as to whether it belongs to the Duchy of Holstein; and that, more particularly at Rendsburg, no doubtful or mixed territory should be occupied by the Federal troops. In the same manner the Federal commanders should be enjoined to repress any attempt to throw off the authority of the King-Duke, who at the present time is in de facto possession of the Duchy, and not to sanction or allow insurrectionary cries to be raised with a view of exciting the population to renounce their allegiance,"—No. 3, 443.I refer to that to show what the Government were doing. They were meddling with everything that was being done; and if France or Russia gave a cold acquiescence in their proceedings, that does not relieve them of the responsibility due to the prominent part they played. We have heard a good deal of a celebrated iron-clad in America; but the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary is the political "Monitor" of Europe. He seems to be impervious to shot and shell in a diplomatic contest; and while everybody in Europe is wondering how he can have the audacity to expose himself after the fearful battering he has received, out he sallies with the same self-complacent demeanour as ever, as if utterly insensible to all the attacks which have ripped open his plates and left him a sheer wreck.
With respect to the despatch of September, relating that General Fleury declared on the part of France that no material assistance would be given to Denmark, it is said that a letter was immediately sent to Paris by Her Majesty's Government, to ascertain whether General Fleury had spoken according to instructions, and that M. Drouyn de Lhuys stated that no statement had been made by France which would not leave France perfectly free. But all that that amounts to is that France declared her policy while she reserved her liberty to take what course she pleased, just as she had reserved it on a later occasion, when, as you admit, she finally declined to interfere by arms. In what sense does that qualify the facts stated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), or diminish the force of the expressions of General Fleury, which the French Government never denied, but rather confirmed? M. Drouyn de Lhuys plainly showed, at 1016 that time as on others, that France was unwilling to be a coadjutor in anything that would involve going to war on behalf of Denmark. And what did France say about the proposal of the Conference? Why, that if all the other Powers went into the Conference she would not decline to go into it too, although she thought it would be quite useless. Does such a frigid, formal acquiescence as that imply her cordial concurrence in the proposal, or show that it was her proposal as much as Her Majesty's Government's? I say it was very well known what France would do; and Russia, too, never held out any prospect that she would interfere by force.
It is denied that threats were used towards the German Powers, but the statement that after a certain time there were no more threats is an admission that there had been threats previously. A despatch communicated to Earl Russell a statement from M, Bille, that it was understood at Frankfort that, in case an attack was made on Jutland, Denmark would not be left without support. That despatch was answered by Earl Russell, but he did not deny its effect. ["Hear!"] I am not aware of any passage in which Earl Russell says that the statement, as made by M. Bille, was unfounded. The hon. Attorney General seems to dispute this, and will have an opportunity of setting me right if I have failed to observe the comment of Earl Russell. But we were told that, after the 8th of January, there was nothing to show that the Government threatened or were inclined in any way for war. Now, there is a despatch from Earl Russell to Lord Napier on the 10th of February, which shows that when it was written the Government had not made up their minds that they would not go to war alone for Denmark. He says—With respect to the two questions put by Prince Gortschakoff, and reported in your despatch of the 26th ultimo, in regard to 'concert' and 'co-operation,' the Prince must see that it would be premature to pretend to answer them at present. The very object of the 'concert' proposed would be to settle the nature and extent of the material assistance to be afforded in order to maintain the integrity of Denmark. With regard to the second question, likewise, it must result from the communications received whether Her Majesty's Government would only act with all the other Powers, or with some of them or alone."—No. 5, 674.Therefore, at that date, the Government were instructing their Minister at St. Petersburg as though they were then still in doubt whether they would not take 1017 action, even alone, on behalf of Denmark. But I will go further and turn from the despatches to a speech of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, made in another place. On the 8th of March last questions were put, as to the intentions of the Government respecting the fleet; and the noble Lord replied, "that they would not make war when the safety and the interests, the integrity, and independence of Denmark could be secured otherwise, but that they would not neglect any means by which the safety and independence of Denmark could be secured." And how did he interpret his "any means?" Why, he said that the fleet, with a view to have that fleet at command, had been directed to rendezvous at one of the home ports, so that it might be within reach, if it were necessary, to give it any orders; and the noble Lord added that he "certainly did not think that the Austrians or Prussians would venture to encounter our squadron." Now, has that language meaning, or has it not? I ask any hon. Gentleman to look the matter honestly in the face, and to say whether the Government at that time had made up their mind to go to war for Denmark or not?
Then, again, what happened at the very conclusion of the Conference? Prance retired, and Russia retired, and there was no question then raised in anybody's mind whether either of those Powers was going to interfere. But what was the state of feeling in regard to England? Why one of breathless suspense. All Europe watched to see whether we would interfere. If the Government had given no reason for the supposition that they were about to interfere, do you believe that Europe would have looked on in such expectancy? If they had come to the resolution not to go to war, why did they hold so many and such protracted Cabinet Councils, and why was Europe kept so long in suspense? And when the hon. Gentleman talked of material concert and co-operation in the interests of peace, was there ever anything so childish, was there ever such a solemn mockery as to address their requests for such concert to Austria and Prussia as well as Prance and Russia when those Powers were actually on the march, and when they were engaged in a formidable war to crush Denmark? The Government have addressed themselves to France and Russia but in vain. They threatened on the 8th of March, and they held long consultations at the end of the Confer- 1018 ence. But that is not all. This great peace Administration, who are to get up a cry that the Opposition are for war, and that they are for peace, have gone still further. The noble Lord at the head of the Government—I admit, with faltering accents and a hesitation not at all common to him—spoke only the other day of eventualities in which England might still be called upon to act; and that he spoke the sentiment of the Cabinet was proved by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary using almost the same language on the same day in another place. Therefore you have no guarantee, after all, for their peace policy. Throughout the whole of these transactions they have acted with doubt and vacillation, whether from embarrassments and divisions in the Cabinet I know not. I cannot join with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in seeking to dissever the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary from his Colleagues, because I hold his acts to be administrative acts for which the Government are responsible. The noble Viscount at once repudiated, and justly, any such individual responsibility in his noble Colleague, and in the same constitutional spirit I hold the Cabinet, of course, responsible for all that has taken place.
I have adverted to the facts of this case. I have shown that advice was tendered to Denmark from one end of these proceedings to the other. But I now want to call attention to the mode in which that advice was given and the hopes held out. I have shown what was the opinion of Europe and Germany on that point, and I think it may be inferred what was the opinion in Denmark. When Sir Augustus Paget, on the part of the Foreign Secretary, urged Denmark to revoke the patent, suggesting that Earl Russell had "good reasons" for pressing it, that was a suggestion that England was interested in the cause of Denmark, and that Denmark would gain by following her advice. And when, on the 23rd of February in the present year, Sir Augustus Paget at length announced to Bishop Monrad that England would not interfere, what did the Danish Minister say? Denmark had repealed the patent; she had allowed the execution in Holstein, she had offered to repeal the November Constitution—she had taken all these steps in deference to the pressing advice of the noble Lord. It has been said this was in agreement with the neutral Powers; but when the Danish Minister went on to say 1019 that he hoped the noble Earl appreciated the steps Denmark had taken on "the pressing advice of the British Government," not mentioning any other Power, what did the noble Earl say? He admits generally the truth of the assertion, though he adds that the steps were not taken with the promptitude necessary to make them successful. When, then. Sir Augustus Paget told the Danish Minister that nothing was to be expected from England, the Danish Minister said, "under these circumstances he trusted that at least the British Government would abstain from urging negotiations or interfering with the policy which the Danish Government was now determined to pursue." That language showed what had been earlier the expectations of Denmark. Denmark said, "Interfere with us no more—if you won't give us assistance, don't importune us with your advice." It would have been far better if that state of things had occurred sooner. It would have been far better if, when it was ascertained that the treaty was repudiated, Denmark had been left to settle her own business with Germany. Had that been done they would have left to Denmark the responsibility of acting, and would not have embarrassed themselves by the advice they had given.
We now come to the question of the Conference. I cannot help thinking that all mankind with M. Drouyn do Lhuys foresaw the issue. The war had began. Parties were exasperated, and it was impossible to conciliate them. The Conference was called together, no doubt, in the interests of peace. I wish from my heart it bad succeeded; but when you go into a Conference without a policy and without concert you are almost sure to fail. You began by discarding the treaty which was the whole object of your policy. Denmark yielded at your instance to a suspension of hostilities: an opportunity was thus given for Germanizing the provinces which were undisputedly Danish; and Denmark, in order to bring everything to a conclusion, agrees to your ultimatum and makes it hers. She agrees to a particular line. If things had so ended, Denmark would have gone out of the Conference in union with the neutral Powers; but you proposed something else; you proposed an arbitration, when you knew Denmark would not accede to it. The Danish Minister distinctly states that their ultimatum was agreed to on the distinct understanding, arranged with Lord Russell, that it 1020 was to be the last proposal made on the part of England. Well, the Conference ends. Russia and France retire with honour. There is no imputation against them, they always said they were not bound to take up arms under the Treaty of 1852; but the Government of Peace tells us we must yet wait to see whether they will interfere or no. Let me, rather out of place, correct one statement of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who said there was no threat with regard to the invasion of Holstein: that was an error. Lord Russell, in his despatch of November 23, stated that England could not interfere in case of a purely Federal execution, but foreseeing that the execution might be changed into an occupation, he said that if the German troops entered Holstein on international grounds, Her Majesty's Government might be obliged to interfere. This in diplomatic language is about as strong a threat as could possibly be used.
What, then, is the present position of affairs? The Government have presented these papers, and beg us not to pronounce an opinion on them. They put before us their past policy, and they tell us it is unfair to express any opinion in regard to it, and that we ought to state our own policy for the future. The hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) moves an Amendment which avoids the sense and pith of the Motion of my right hon. Friend: it might be put as a rider to that Motion, but it is no real Amendment to it. It is true that England is at peace, but it was not the object of the Conference to maintain England at peace. It is the peace of Europe, the integrity and independence of Denmark which you have failed to preserve. That was the object of your policy, and after all your advice, threats, and promises, having failed in your object, you attempt to ride off on the pretence that England is at peace. Why, England would still have been at peace, her peace would never have been endangered if there had been no mischievous meddling on your part in the North of Europe. You have lost all your alliances. You have dispersed, sent to the winds all the friendships England had in Europe. The Speech from the Throne was an admission that we had no friends in Europe, Denmark has been defrauded (for the noble Foreign Secretary has termed the occupation of Holstein "a fraud") of one of the provinces that belonged to her. France, it is said, hears us no malice, but because 1021 you deserted her in the Congress and on other occasions, from a warm ally she has become a cold associate; she has ceased to trust you and to act with you; and when the hon. Gentleman opposite quotes the approval of the French Minister to some of the despatches of the noble Lord, it is to the advice given that that approval is accorded, not to the threats used Russia is distrustful and suspicions; she remembers your conduct with regard to Poland; she dreads having any communication, concert, or co-operation with you. How does Germany feel? I will take the description of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that an Englishman is discredited in Germany, that he cannot go anywhere in Germany without feeling that his country is looked upon with coldness, and almost with contempt. They say, "You have used threats, and you have not fulfilled them, and we do not believe in your influence." Then, as to the rest of Europe, it stands amazed at the position of England in these transactions; England, which used to be the bulwark of peace, but which now only utters brave words, while she is ready to swallow the leek whenever any great Power turns round and demands it. Then, as to loss of the influence of England, is it not true that that influence has been diminished? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a last resort, pointed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and said "Look here at the man who has directed the foreign policy of England for so many years—the man who forms the stability of our Ministry—can such a man have been guilty of the offences against England with which you charge us?" The right hon. Gentleman once held very different language concerning the noble Lord. As to this very question I do not know whether in the Cabinet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has succeeded, like the Old Man of the Sea, in getting upon the noble I Lord's shoulders and in riding him for his own purposes, but certainly he has very I much changed his opinion of the noble Lord. When we had the great Pacifico debate the Chancellor of the Exchequer used these words—A sentiment exists to the effect that the noble Lord, notwithstanding his distinguished abilities, is not altogether as prudent as he is able in the management of the foreign affairs of the country. There prevails an opinion or a suspicion that during the time when the administration of affairs has been in the hands of the noble Lord, the country 1022 was apt to be too commonly near the verge of war."—[3 Hansard, cxii. 548.]In the hands of the noble Lord on this occasion the country has been brought to the verge of war; the Government admit it. The noble Lord told us in a most solemn tone, that when the Conference came to an end, the Government had to consider with great care what their duty was, and what their policy should be. So much for the Government then. Are they going to meet this question boldly as a Vote of Want of Confidence, or are they going to ride off with the miserable Amendment, that they are now at peace when they might have been at peace without committing all these blunders? I say their conduct has diminished the chances of peace. England, as I have said, ought to be the bulwark of peace. All the considerations which were detailed at such length by the noble Lord in another place, and here by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, all those considerations should have operated upon their minds during the course of the negotiations as much as at the close. It is true that England is vulnerable upon many points, that her soldiers are scattered over many countries, that her ships are sailing upon every sea; but these things were as true in 1863 when you were threatening, as they were in 1864 when you are declining to act. I say that these facts point to the conclusion that the position of England, free from Continental complications and embarrassments, fits her for being the mediator of Europe. They point out that, having nothing to gain from the oppression of the smaller States, nor from the damage of the larger, she is qualified to occupy a position of dignified neutrality, a position in which she can wield more influence than she could ever gain by war. She may gain a crown of glory by war, but she can more certainly gain that crown by being instrumental in the preservation of peace; but she cannot maintain peace when she mixes up her advice with threats and promises and takes steps which complicate her position and disqualify her from exercising that impartial influence which her character as a neutral should confer upon her. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), agreeing with all that had been said upon the policy of the Ministry which he undertook to support, tried to get a cheer from his own side by taunting Members on this side with subserviency to France. There is a great difference between un- 1023 worthy subserviency and friendly courtesy. We may occupy a dignified position towards all other nations, and may hold out to them the hand of friendship, saying, "In your embarrassments come to us for mediation, but not for the sword." I do not mean to say that England is to abandon all interest in the affairs on the Continent; I agree with Mr. Canning, that she is too great to do that; but when she is able, as in this case she would have been able, to maintain the position of neutral, she occupies the proud position of the best mediator in Europe.
Then comes the last statement of humiliating the country in the eyes of Europe. We are told that if the country is humiliated we ought not to say so, because we shall be damaging the country when we seek to attack the Government. The humiliation of the country consists in the opinions of those other countries with which she would have influence, and if we ascertain that in every part of Europe, I might almost say of the whole world, that influence is gone, and that, therefore, she is humiliated, are we not to say that you who have brought her into that position are the culprits, and should be condemned as such by the House of Commons? You cannot cure a wound without laying it bare. We cannot get rid of the evils which we see to exist, without telling the country what they are. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that we should at all times speak openly upon national affairs; shall we hesitate now, when the opinion of Europe is so strongly expressed; shall we hesitate to say so, and to endeavour to relieve ourselves from the reproach which our Ministers have brought upon us?
I thank the House for the courtesy with which it has listened to me. I will only add that I deeply regret that England should occupy a position of such powerlessness. I do not mean that she is unarmed for war, but that she is powerless for good—that she should occupy so isolated a position in the councils of Europe. Seeing that she has been brought into that position, we boldly declare that you—the Government—are responsible for it. Throughout the Session we have made menaces and threats which we now fulfil. We strike the blow which we threatened, and we are ready to take the responsibility of the consequences.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I must apologize to the hon. Member for interrupting him when he quoted me as saying that we had 1024 shown the Germans that we were a set of bullies. I knew that in reference to Danish affairs I never had such sentiments in my mind, that I never expressed them, and I am sure that it was not imputed to me in The Times. I have had the reports examined, and I find that I did in an early part of my speech, referring to Poland, use expressions to the effect that last year with respect to Poland we had taught the Germans that we could be bullies when we could not act.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
* said, on Monday night my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) assigned, as a main reason for proposing his Amendment, that he could not, consistently with his opinions, vote directly for or against the Resolution proposed by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). My difficulties are even greater. I am unable entirely to agree either with the right hon. Gentleman or with the Government; still less can I vote for my hon. Friend's Amendment. I trust, therefore, that the House will allow me to state my grounds for the course which, after much consideration, I have determined to pursue.
I so far concur with the Government, as to think that they were perfectly right in inviting, at the beginning of this year, the cooperation of France and Russia, in order to resist the German invasion of Schleswig. But then I would venture to recal to recollection, what some of those who have spoken on behalf of Ministers have seemed half inclined to forget, that that invitation necessarily implied an opinion that the threatened invasion was an act of high-handed injustice. If it was not unjust, the Government were no more entitled to resist it in combination with another power than to resist it alone. If it was unjust—if, when it was about to take place, the Danes had put themselves so far in the right as to put Germany completely in the wrong, of what use is it to travel back beyond that point, and to endeavour to console the country for the subsequent failure of the attempts to protect Denmark, by imputing to her some prior acts of supposed perversity and wrong? I agree, however, as I have said, with the Government, in thinking that their readiness to concur with France or Russia, in resisting the invasion of Schleswig, deserves approval. I am willing too to concede (though this appears to me to admit of more question) that they judged well in not actively interfering, unless in concert 1025 with France or Russia. But then comes the question whether, if this was to be our policy—to resist in combination with France or Russia, but not to resist alone—that policy has been properly and skilfully carried into effect? And it is upon this question that, notwithstanding my general confidence in the Government, I am forced to coincide in part in the views of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. Some of those views seem to me, indeed, to be influenced by the natural exaggeration of party feeling. But I find myself unable to avoid the conclusions, first, that Her Majesty's Government have, I will not say made promises to Denmark, but allowed her to entertain expectations, which they have not fulfilled; and secondly, that, without having assured themselves of the aid either of France or Russia, they held out to Germany distinct threats, which, unless with the help of one of those empires, they were not prepared to carry into effect.
And, first, let me say a word or two as to the expectations which the Danes were permitted to entertain. If a great power undertake to advise a weak one, confronted by overwhelming strength, she thereby implies her intention to support that weak power, unless she take care distinctly to guard herself against such a presumption. Now, I find no such care taken in the early part of these despatches. Nay, more, I think that some of them state conversations that were rather likely to encourage the Danish hopes of active assistance. And it should be remembered, that any expressions having that tendency were sure to be understood in their widest sense by those to whom they were addressed. In March, indeed, Earl Russell wrote a despatch (No. 1140), which has been quoted by the Under Secretary of State, and in which Denmark was warned not to rely on our help. But if we did not intend active interference, prudence required that such warnings should have been much earlier given. Then, as to the threats held out to Germany, the case against the Government is stronger still. I will not again cite despatches which have been already cited, nor even read any additional ones which I consider important; but will content myself with giving the dates, and referring to the most essential passages, so that hon. Members, who feel inclined to do so, may verify what I say. The despatch addressed by Earl Russell to' Sir Andrew Buchanan on December 24th 1026 (No. 500), that written by Sir A. Buchanan on January 2nd (No. 606), Lord Russell's reply, dated the 6th (No. 620), and his despatch to Lord Bloomfield, dated 14th January (No. 696), contain, and not in isolated passages merely, clear threats of war. On January 6th, Earl Russell said, that by the invasion of Schleswig, without giving Denmark time to repeal the Constitution, "the relations between Prussia and England might be endangered." I am not deeply versed in diplomatic phrases; but I ask those who are, whether it be possible to threaten hostilities in terms much less obscure? Then again, on the 14th of January, Earl Russell states a conversation between him and Count Bernstorff, in which the probability of dangers to Europe if Germany and England should become enemies was adverted to, and in which Earl Russell said that, for some time past,Great Britain had warned Austria of these dangers; that Prussia and Germany had likewise been warned; but that the voice of England was unheeded, and that little time was now left for counsel, wisdom, and moderation, tie hoped it would not be thrown away."—No. 4, 535.Can there be a plainer threat of armed interference? But then it is contended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that when these threats were uttered, England had reason to expect the support of France. Neither by him, however, nor by the Under Secretary of State, can I find that any document has been cited in proof of this position, except Mr. Grey's despatch of the 18th of September (No. 126), and Sir Henry Howard's of the 17th of February (No. 984). Now, for the purpose of supporting this argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, one of these despatches is (whatever may be its contents) distressingly too early, and the other provokingly too late. The real effect of M. Drouyn d'Lhuys' conversation with Mr. Grey, reported in the despatch of the 18th of September, has been much disputed between the right hon. Member for Bucking-shire and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I need not enlarge upon it. I will merely remark that, whatever might otherwise have been the fair inference from what was said by the French Minister, it appears to me impossible to maintain that a conversation, in the very conclusion of which he stated that he "desired to preserve entire liberty for France in this matter," can be understood as imposing on that country the slightest liability to render us active assistance. But even supposing that 1027 any such promise had then been made, how can the Queen's Government maintain that they were entitled to attach any weight to it after the death of King Frederick VII.? They have argued that the declaration mode last summer by the Prime Minister, that if the integrity of Denmark were attacked, he was convinced that she would not stand alone, ought not to have been relied on by the Danes, because, by the subsequent death of the King, the whole state of things was so completely altered. I think there is great weight in this argument. But then it must follow, by parity of reasoning, that the English Government were not entitled to rely on any promise of assistance made by the French (if they had indeed made any) previously to the accession of King Christian.
Then, as to the French despatch of the 12th of February, referred to in Sir Henry Howard's letter of the 17th—this is just as much too late. The despatch, as stated by Sir Henry Howard, is indeed a singular one. It seems strange that France should have used to Hanover a phrase so ominous as "not remaining indifferent," if she did not address similar language to the other German powers. On the other hand, if she did, it seems strange that there should not be a trace of it throughout these papers. My own conjecture is, that Sir Henry Howard, who does not appear to have had any copy of the despatch, did not remember it quite correctly, and being accustomed to such expressions as "not remaining indifferent" in English despatches, unconsciously transferred the phrase to a French one. Assuming, however, that his recollection was accurate, it is impossible that the menaces addressed by England to Germany, in December and January, can have proceeded on a French despatch of the February following. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, is said to be bad logic; but ante hoc, ergo non propter hoc, is logic perfectly irrefragable. I am, therefore, reluctantly compelled to arrive at the conclusion that Her Majesty's Government, without having assurances of support from cither France or Russia, uttered distinct and repeated threats to Germany, to which they were not prepared to give effect unless with the assistance of one of those powers. And I cannot deny that such a course must have lowered the influence of this country.
I now turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgewater, who, being quite satisfied with the attitude, so agreeable to the German powers, which has lately been 1028 assumed by Ministers, attempts to offer some consolation or excuse for what he can scarcely help regarding as their previous errors. He tells us that what has lately taken place is entirely consistent with the principle of non-intervention. Why, Sir, what can my hon. Friend mean? He said, and I believe quite accurately, that by nonintervention is to be understood abstinence from interference in the internal concerns of an independent state. But is that what we have recently seen? On the contrary, as has sometimes been said with reference to reciprocity, the non-intervention we have just witnessed is non-intervention all on one side. In despatches of last December and February, from our Ambassadors at Berlin and Vienna (Nos. 372 and 1007), we find distinct admissions by the Prussian Minister that the present King of Denmark would, but for German sympathisers, have maintained his authority even in Holstein, and by Count Rechberg, that there was great indifference in Schleswig as to the prince in whose hands the governing power should be placed, and that little would have been heard there respecting the Prince of Augustenburg but for the cries in his favour got up by the agitators of small German powers, following in the rear of the advancing army. We have here the clearest evidence that in Schleswig, and even in Holstein, the Danish Government would have remained undisturbed if it had not been overthrown by the armies of Germany. This, then, has been an intervention on the part of strong states against a weak one, and has been successful, because it has not been resisted by any strong power on the other side. Such a result may be very satisfactory to my hon. Friend; but it is the very reverse of a triumph of the principle of non-intervention. Then, again, the hon. Member for Bridgewater tries to comfort us by the reflection, that all the advice we gave to Denmark has increased her moral strength. I should like him, however, to tell us of what use her moral strength has been to her in staying the aggressions, or moderating the demands of her German foes, when they had once ascertained that those demands and aggressions were not to be resisted by any material force coming to the aid of the unhappy Danes. On the whole then, Sir, I con find in such topics as these no consolation for our present position; and I am driven to conclude, that if I were absolutely compelled to give a direct affirmative or nega- 1029 tive to the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, I could not say "no" to that Resolution.
But then an Amendment is announced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-water, whom, although from his Amendment itself I differ as widely as possible, I shall hail, when he moves it, as a temporary ally, and almost as a deliverer. He will deliver me from the necessity of voting directly for or against the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution. When the Amendment of the hon. Member for North War wickshire shall have been disposed of, nod that of the Member for Bridgewater shall have been moved, the first question which you, Sir, will have to put will be, not whether the House will affirm or negative the paragraph of censure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, but whether that paragraph shall stand part of the Question. In other words, the House will have to determine in the first instance, not whether the course of negotiation pursued by the Government has been censurable, but whether the House desire to pronounce any judgment on that subject. On that question I think I shall be free to vote in the negative, and I will shortly state why I am inclined to do so. In order to prevent my vote from being misunderstood, I have been compelled to confide to you, in all the privacy of debate, my opinion of the Danish policy of Her Majesty's Government. But by thus stating my opinion, I do not directly contribute to transfer power to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, as I should do if I voted for a paragraph of censure being submitted to the House. I am, for obvious reasons, very desirous to avoid taking any part in bringing about such a transfer. As to internal affairs, I agree much more nearly with the present Ministers than with those who would be likely to succeed them. As to foreign affairs— if I look to the subject now before the House — no policy has been, or, we are told, can be, announced by the Opposition. I am willing to believe, as they assure us, that this silence is unavoidable. But then it forces me to look to past experience, in forming a conjecture whether anything would be gained by a change of the Government. And the following is the comparison which experience leads me to form. Since the present Government came into office they have had to conduct important negotiations connected with the affairs of four foreign countries—Italy, Poland, the United States of America, and Denmark. 1030 As to two, Italy and America, they have, as it seems to me, managed these negotiations with admirable ability and success; as to the other two, Poland and Denmark, unsatisfactorily and unsuccessfully. Now, if I am to judge from the past, my conjecture is, that if all these affairs had been in the hands of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, their policy would thus far have been more consistent, that it would have been everywhere marked by equal unskilfulness and failure. For these reasons, Sir, I have determined to avail myself of the forms of the House, and, though I could not directly negative the paragraph of censure, to vote that it shall not stand part of the Question.
And now, Sir, let me in a few words ask the House to consider whether, if it he determined that that paragraph shall not stand part of the Question, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bridgewater ought to be substituted —a point which it will be impossible calmly to consider in the excitement consequent on the first division? To that Amendment I am entirely opposed. I think that the concluding observations made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on Monday week—to the effect that if Copenhagen were about to be attacked, and King Christian were in danger of being made prisoner, it might be necessary to reconsider the course to be taken by this country—were generally distasteful to the House. Hon. Members may have had different reasons for disliking the purport of those observations; but I believe I am not wrong in saying that the prevailing impression was, that either such contingencies should not have been contemplated at all, or it should have been stated, that if they arose, England would be prepared for action. The Amendment, however, appears to me to go further than those observations of the noble Lord. The effect of its adoption would, I apprehend, be, so to bind the Government to neutrality, that they could not depart from it even if the contingencies referred to arose. And this I cannot believe to be intended by the House of Commons. But even if it is intended, can anything be more undignified than the language of the Amendment? We are asked to express satisfaction. Satisfaction! Can any ten men in the House, or in the country, feel satisfaction at what has occurred? In a publication, forming a portion of the foreign press, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred—in the French Chari- 1031 vari — I am told that a series of woodcuts has lately appeared, intended to cast ridicule on England, and that one of these represents a Dane sinking into the water, whilst an English sailor on the shore says, "I cannot help, the place looks rather dangerous." If I did not know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgewater was serious, I should suppose that, not content with the powers of the Charivari, he desired to add to its ridicule of England a touch of satire of his own. Now— when that gallant little nation, for which, during the past year, we have written and talked so much, and have done nothing, appears to be finally going down in the deep waters of destruction—my hon. Friend proposes in effect, that this prominent assembly of Englishmen should say to the country, "At this conjuncture, when those unlucky fellows are drowning, we learn with satisfaction that we are not to be called on to make a single effective effort to save them."
To such a point I trust that the House of Commons has not yet come. I earnestly trust that whatever may be done as to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, the House will not adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bridgewater.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had no desire to sneak into the lobby with anybody, but wished to state the grounds upon which he proposed to give his vote on the Motion before the House. The House must have been a good deal struck with the contrast which the present discussion had offered to many others which had preceded it, from the large amount of interest which it had excited. A great many attempts had been made during former Sessions and during the present Session to get up party discussions and party divisions; but they had always signally failed, and the comparatively small numbers that could be mustered for these occasions, had shown that the influence of party had pretty nearly ceased to exist in that House. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentleman said "No, no!" but he wished they would let him finish his sentence. The result of what had taken place on every previous occasion had shown that neither the party attacking the Government, nor the Government attempting to defend themselves, had been able on a mere party question to assemble around them more than a very small number of supporters. For the accuracy of that statement he would appeal to the division lists, and he ventured to say that no hon. Member pre- 1032 sent would dispute the fact. He apprehended there would be little difficulty in tracing the cause of that state of things. It arose chiefly from the fact that for some years past principle had been utterly sacrificed to party feeling, until we had arrived at that pass that distinction of principle could hardly be said to exist, and distinction of party had been almost obliterated. And why had that been the case? There were various reasons, but two of them were so obvious that he could not refrain from mentioning them. They had seen—many of them with great regret—Members on both sides of the House, who professed to be the steadfast and zealous supporters of the Protestant Church, coalescing for party objects with that Ultramontane party whose only object was the downfall of that Church—they had seen men on both sides of the House who professed to have the honour and interest of the country at heart, coalescing with Gentlemen below the gangway on the other side for the same party objects, and attempting to carry out a policy the result of which would be the destruction of the character and the annihilation of the interests of the country. When they saw such proceedings carried on by men who ought to occupy influential positions in that House, they could not wonder at the fact that those who by courtesy were called leaders of party should find themselves, whenever a question of mere party conflict arose, entirely unsupported. He almost entirely agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). That hon. and gallant Member had disclaimed all intention of entering into the question before the House with any party view; and if he (Mr. Bentinck) were to enter into the discussion in a spirit of party—supposing the result likely to be fatal to Her Majesty's Government—he confessed he should feel very much in the position of one about to witness a public execution, and who, although thoroughly convinced of the justice of the sentence about to be inflicted, yet felt that his sympathies between the culprit and the executioner were somewhere on a par: and for this reason, that the executioner had formerly been the associate of the culprit. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes, yes"—that he had on more than one occasion turned king's evidence, and had now been admitted to the high and distinguished post of being the finisher of the law upon his former associates. Having disclaimed any party feeling in the matter, he must 1033 now be allowed to say that, during the debates, he had heard a great deal which, upon reflection, he thought all must regret. It might be the lamentable consequences of a debate of this kind, but he confessed his great regret at hearing Members of the House of Commons indulging in violent ebullitions of feeling on the German or on the Danish side. In his opinion, both parties were in the wrong; but he believed the national feeling of the people of England to be enlisted with a gallant people who were fighting against such enormous odds. Beyond that, he contended that the House of Commons ought not to look at the question either in a Danish or German point of view—they ought to confine themselves to the honour and interest of England. And he would venture further to say that, in the present complication of European affairs, there was quite sufficient to occupy the attention of Parliament without indulging in vague and absurd theories of national sentimentality in favour of foreign nations. Now, with respect to the Motion before the House. The speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon was the only speech which he had listened to with pleasure. It was an honest, straightforward, and gallant speech, and void of that circumlocution and special pleading which was too apt to disfigure the speeches delivered in that House. His hon. and gallant Friend said he entirely endorsed the Motion now under discussion. So far as the truth of the Motion went he entirely agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend. But he must go a little further. The Motion was no doubt indisputable, but it was a truism, and nothing more than a truism, and under present circumstances it became a platitude. And for this reason — that it did not touch the really grave part of the offence of the Government in this case. He would endeavour to show the House why in his opinion the words of the Motion entirely failed to convey those charges which he was prepared to prefer against the Government. He agreed with the Motion in stating that the diplomatic conduct of the Government had been most unfortunate. He believed that by their vacillating policy they had lowered the country in the estimation of Europe, and thus decreased the power of England to mediate between other countries. But that was the minor part of the question. It was a trifle to what the Government had done, which was not touched upon by the rose water Motion 1034 before the House. It would be a work of supererrogation to remind the House of the remarkable speech made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government at the close of the last Session, when he told the House and the country that in certain contingencies Denmark would not stand alone. That was a most remarkable and most significant speech coming from the Prime Minister, and could admit of no misconstruction. It could only mean that, under certain circumstances, this country would take a part in European hostilities. It was followed up in August by the despatches of Earl Russell, which were of a most warlike tendency. And what had happened since that time? The Government, at the commencement of the Session, introduced Estimates for the army and navy, which, so far from providing for the possible contingency of war, contemplated a reduction in both services. That in itself was a blot on the course of Her Majesty's Government which no argument could get over. It would be idle to attempt to prove that a Government which talked of war and prepared for peace was not doing its duty. But there was a great deal more to complain of than that. Remonstrances were made at the time. He could not say when or where they took place, but they took place somewhere or other—in some part of Great Britain. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. H. Baillie), in a debate to which it would be irregular to refer more particularly, called the attention of the country to the fact that we were at that moment 20,000 men short of the number of troops required for our colonial reliefs in time of peace. He himself (Mr. Bentinck) took occasion to endorse that statement; no answer was elicited from those who could give an official answer. He asked if it was to be tolerated that the Government of this country should induce that House not only to pass Estimates lower than last year, but lower than were considered necessary in a time of peace. That was not all. Within the last few weeks the noble Lord at the head of the Government had told them that contingencies might arise—which contingencies, from present appearances, might occur in the next fortnight — which might induce the Government to alter their pacific intentions, and declare to the House a warlike policy. He should have thought with the possibility—not to say the probability of such contingencies—the Government would have asked the House to give 1035 them the means of supporting such a policy if they should find it necessary to resort to it; but he could not understand the conduct of a Government which said they might be called upon to go to war in a few days, and yet continued to rest on peace Estimates. But there was something even more than that. When he read the language of the noble Earl in another place, which was unnecessarily offensive — language imputing falsification to the Government of a great country—(an expression of of which they had heard something that night)—he had said to himself it was impossible after that language that the noble Lord at the head of the Government could refrain from asking for an immediate addition to our naval and military armaments. There had, however, been no such announcement, and, therefore, he was prepared on that account to find fault with the conduct of the Government. They seemed to have an infatuation. He could not possibly understand a Government continually proclaiming the probability of war, at the same time using the most irritating language, and sitting down quietly content to leave the country to trust entirely to defences which it was admitted were hardly adequate for a time of peace. That was his grievance against the conduct of the Government. He had, however, another complaint. He was not a strong partisan, but he should be glad to see any discussion or the result of any division in that House which would have the effect of putting a stop to what, for some years past, had been called the Liberal foreign policy of this country. It appeared to him that the Liberal foreign policy of this country had been the curse of Europe. He was sorry that the name of the noble Viscount, towards whom he did not wish to use an un courteous word, bad been so mixed up in it; but his opinion was that that policy had produced more mischief in Europe than anything else during the last fifty years. It was a policy that commenced in anarchy and ended in despotism. He would gladly see the foreign policy of this country transferred from the hands of the noble Earl who now conducted the foreign affairs of this country to the hands of the noble Earl who preceded him in office. He believed that Lord Malmesbury had conducted the foreign relations of this country with the greatest possible ability He had conducted them in a manner that was conducive to his own honour and the advantage of the country; and he thought 1036 that little justice had been done him either by his friends or his opponents. Both parties had used him ill. [Lord JOHN MANNERS: No.] The noble Lord might say No, but did he remember a certain despatch that was laid on the table of the House? He would, however, not pursue that subject. In the course of the peroration delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, he made allusion to those bygone days when England was able to cope successfully with the world in arms, and he stated his belief that England was able to do so still. He, with the right hon. Gentleman, looked back with pleasure to those days, and he agreed that England was able to do as much again; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot to mention that in those days the country was ruled by men who never allowed themselves to prefer the interests of party to the honour of the country; and be forgot to mention that when England was great and controlled the destinies of Europe, they never heard of that wretched, sordid, petty-fogging, petty penny-wise-and-pound-foolish policy of which the right hon. Gentleman and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were the great promoters. England still retained her energy and had greater means than she ever had. There were two lessons which he trusted that those hon. Gentlemen who sat on the front benches on opposite sides would learn from that discussion—the one was that in future neither the House nor the country would tolerate that course of aberration from public morality—that practice of preferring expediency to principle, which had so much characterized both parties of late years; and the other was that the House and the country were determined at no time and under no circumstances to allow any men to hold the reins of government who would not, without reference to party or party arrangements, maintain this country in a position which would enable her at all times to defend her honour and her best and truest interests. Having said thus much, he wished to advert to a subject which, though of a character which was not usually introduced into debates of the House, he thought it right to mention. It was a subject which probably was not very well understood by the public, but which was perfectly familiar to those whom he addressed; nor did he propose to dwell on it for more than a single moment. He had said that he intended to give his vote in no party spirit, but, in 1037 consequence of a rumour which had prevailed during the last two or three days, he was anxious to guard himself against the contingency of being hereafter told that he had been caught in a trap. The rumour to which he referred was—and he begged those hon. Gentlemen to whom it particularly related not to suppose that he meant to say anything personally discourteous to them—that a compact or arrangement had been entered into on some ground or other, which, not being a party to the compact, he was unable to state, by means of which a certain number of those who were called the Ultramontane Roman Catholic Members had been induced under severe pressure to pledge themselves to give their votes against the Government. ["Oh, oh!" and Cheers.] That interruption confirmed the rumour that that party had been induced by some very pressing reasons from some very high authority—he was now speaking of those who under ordinary circumstances voted with the Government—had been induced, under certain circumstances, to pledge themselves to give their vote against the Government. He was merely speaking of the rumour that had been circulated that certain Members against their own inclination had pledged themselves to vote in accordance with some arrangement, or agreement, or compact, whatever it was, with certain high parties. All he wished to say was, that he did not believe the rumour, but if he did believe it, notwithstanding all the misdeeds of Her Majesty's Ministers, and though they were as black ten thousand times as any man on the Opposition side of the House could paint them, sooner than be in a majority composed in the manner which he had indicated, he would gladly record his vote with the Government. He asked for no indignant denial of the truth of the rumour. It was a mere rumour, and he had adverted to it as such, that the Ultramontane party were to vote as he had stated. He referred to it, as he had before said, in order that he might not be hereafter open to the charge of having been caught in a trap; and he was well aware that the division lists which would be published in the course of two or three days would best vouch for the truth or falsehood of the report. If those lists should show that it was founded in reality, he, for one, should not envy the position of those who were parties to such a coalition.
§ MR. COGAN
said, that the insinuation 1038 or charge in the latter portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, conveyed in sentence so complicated and involved that it was difficult to say what it really meant, was as unworthy of him as it was of the House of Commons. To presume to cast censure on any body of men in the House in the way which the hon. Gentleman had done, and on mere vague rumour to imply that they meant to give their votes from any other than right motives, was, in his opinion, to pursue a most unjustifiable course. He demanded from the hon. Member as a matter of right that he should name his authority for the imputation which he had made, in order that it might be traced to its base fountain head; and if he did not produce his authority, then must the report on which he based his remarks be regarded as mere idle wind. For his own part, he would say that he recognized no distinction between Protestant and Catholic as a Member of that House. He was a Roman Catholic, and was proud of his religion; but he had entered the House of Commons as a political man and a British subject, and he thought it unworthy of any hon. Gentleman to class its Members according to their religious denominations. Upon one side of the House sat those who were called Conservatives, and upon the other those who were termed—sometimes not with perfect truth—Liberals. He was one of those who was proud to be classed in the ranks of the Liberal party. For upwards of twelve years he had held that position, he hoped with honour, and he could not listen to the taunts of the hon. Gentleman without expressing his indignant denial of their justice. The course which the hon. Gentleman had taken rendered it incumbent on him, as a matter of justice to himself, to state his reasons for the vote which he was about to give; for on the present occasion he feared he must sever himself, for the first time, from many of the Friends with whom he had been united in political action for several years. He was prepared, however, to vindicate the step which he was about to take on the broad principle of political right, and he trusted his own character, humble though his position in that House might be, was a sufficient denial of the charge to which on mere rumour the hon. Member for Norfolk had not hesitated to give publicity. He should give the vote he intended to give on this Motion from a conviction that the conduct of the Government had been most 1039 blameable throughout a large portion of these negotiations. That was the sole consideration that influenced his vote. But to pass from this personal matter to the important question before the House, he would observe that, while he believed the conduct of Denmark towards the Duchies to have been characterized by much wrong, he did not think that was the point at issue that evening. He denied that the question of peace or war was in any respect raised by the Motion, for there was no man in that House insane enough to say that the country should be plunged into the horrors of war for such a quarrel as that in the North of Europe; but the ground of complaint was, that though war had not been resorted to, the honour of the country had not been sustained. With regard to a question of peace or war, he believed that the Government were the parties most likely to lead the country into war, for they thought that they ought to have gone to war; and it was only owing to the Emperor of the French that this country was now at peace. The disastrous policy of the Government would have plunged the country into war, from which it was only saved by being plunged into dishonour. False hopes had been raised and vain threats had been used, and the consequence was that this country had been humiliated, had lost her just influence, and had become a bye-word among nations. He was not one of those who admired the foreign policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but, at any rate, when that noble Lord was Foreign Minister the name of England was feared and respected; but the noble Earl now at the head of the Foreign Office had rendered England neither feared nor loved. It was cruel kindness of the Prime Minister to have placed the noble Earl in a position for which he was constitutionally unfitted; but he would not say that that was done for the purpose of paying off old scores. The late Sidney Smith said of the noble Earl, that at one hour's notice he would take the command of the Channel fleet, but by the cruel kindness of the noble Lord he was placed in a position where it might be said of him—I, demens, et sævas curre per AlpesUt pueris placeas et declamatio fias.In Italy, in Poland, in Russia, in China, and in Brazil, the noble Earl had been getting the country into difficulty and danger. He believed that Lord Derby's 1040 words "meddle and muddle" aptly described the noble Earl's policy; and it would have been well if the noble Earl's diplomacy, which was inaugurated at Vienna, had ended there, and had not descended to the miserable "decline and fall" witnessed at the Conference in London. It appeared to him that some remarkable fallacies had been uttered in the course of the debate. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had charged the House with forcing the Government into a course of intervention in the affairs of Poland. The Government, however, ought to be responsible for their own policy, and it was a new doctrine that they were to accept a Resolution from the House for fear of being beaten by a majority and losing their places. The next strange doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) was, that he not only charged the House with complicity, but he said that the responsibility was thereby thrown upon its Members and not upon the Government. So puerile and absurd a doctrine he had never before heard in that House. It was the duty of a Government to act on their own opinion; and, if necessary, to appeal to the country. With regard to the hon. Member for Rochdale, he could see no consistency between the opinions expressed by that hon. Member and the vote he intended to give. The hon. Gentleman said: You Gentlemen on the opposite side are making a great mistake; the noble Lord at the head of the Government will carry out your policy better than Lord Derby; he has greatly demoralized the liberal party; leave him where he is, and when he has demoralized it thoroughly he will leave you the residuary legatee of its miserable remains. Would the hon. Member vote for sustaining in power a Government which would still further demoralize the Liberal party, which was already greatly demoralized? Would the noble dog "Tear'em," as the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) was called by the hon. Member for Leominster, vote for a Government and a party in whose faces terror and pallor were depicted when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a Reform speech that let in a new ray of hope for the working men of this country? He had heard them asking each other what was to be done, and whether the Government could exist after that revolutionary speech. He would not dwell upon the conduct of the Government in Ireland, because it was not exactly ad rem. But in 1041 a word he condemned the Government for sending to Ireland as Chief Secretary the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tarn worth (Sir Robert Peel). It was an outrage and an insult to the Irish people to send to that country a person of the known opinions and previous political career of the right hon. Gentleman. He believed that if they disapproved of the policy of the Government in regard to Denmark, they certainly had no right to sustain them on the Ministerial benches. But then he was met with the cry, "Will you let in the Tories?" He had great respect for those hon. Gentlemen, but he did not wish to do that, and he would always do all he could to keep them out of office, and would always support the Liberal party. ["Oh, oh!"] For those reasons he should now vote against the present Government, and by so doing he hoped to purify the Liberal party. He believed that if the Government should be defeated they would be more consolidated hereafter, and that it would not be that heterogeneous party in future which for a long time it had been. He believed that by defeating the Government they would be doing the greatest service to the Liberal party, and for that he had the authority of the noble Premier himself, for did he not on a former occasion put out of office Earl Russell and let in the Tories? Therefore he should not vole for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite for the purpose of sustaining his views, but for the purpose of ultimately benefiting the Liberal party. He contended that he was taking the constitutional course, for the conduct of the Government in the management of foreign affairs he had no confidence in, and he stated that after they had had a long trial he thought it was better that they should be sent back to their constituents, in order that they might say whether the House had acted rightly or not. He confessed that he never had given a vote with a stronger feeling of its propriety, and although it was painful to him to sever himself from those with whom he usually acted in that House, yet he did so from a sense of duty, and duty alone.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
said, that it must have been a great treat to the Government to have received that night both the speech and vote of an independent Member, for up to that moment almost every Member who had spoken in that debate had condemned the policy of the Government, though some of them had promised to ad- 1042 here to the Government in recording their votes. Even for their votes, however, the Government no doubt would be very grateful, for they would be sure to want every one of them. The right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had denounced in the strongest terms the policy of the Government, but he had denounced still more the policy of the Opposition. It was not for him (Mr. Peacocke) to defend the line pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, for when on a former occasion the right hon. Gentleman moved "The previous Question," he (Mr. Peacocke) opposed him; and he believed that the country was of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman was then more intent on the dismemberment of the Government than on securing the integrity of Denmark. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) enlarged on the strong ties by which we were bound to support Denmark; but the right hon. Gentleman did not follow up his speech logically by announcing that it was his intention to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said that much as he disliked the Government, he disliked the Opposition more. He did not know on what grounds the hon. and learned Gentleman founded his opposition to Members on those benches, but he would only say, "Try them." Five years had elapsed since 1859, and if hon. Gentlemen here should be distasteful to the hon. and learned Gentleman he might exercise his influence to displace them. He thought it would be good for those who sat on the Ministerial benches to experience the invigorating air of opposition. There was something enervating in occupying the Treasury bench— it was like the climate of India, which rendered it necessary for sojourners in that country to take an occasional journey home; and so he observed that too long a continuance in office caused lassitude and weakness, and he thought the foreign policy of the Government showed signs of this. They had heard hard words lately from the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) and from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs with reference to the German Powers; but in the December of last year Earl Russell highly praised the conduct of Austria and Prussia for the efforts they had made. He thought that such vacillation showed the necessity of a change of Government. The only independent 1043 Member who had offered a defence of the Government was the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and he excused this weakness and vacillation of the Government on the ground that it only represented the state of feeling of the country. He (Mr. Peacocke) did not hold it to be the duty of the Government to catch at every straw wafted by popular opinion. If it reflected every passing phase of public opinion it ceased to be a Government. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) had vindicated the policy of the Government at great length. But what was the object with which the Government entered the Conference? It was to preserve the Treaty of 1852, and the promise made in consequence of it. The conduct of the Government had been most inconsistent. A proposition had been made by the German Powers to preserve a personal union, by which separate Parliaments might be held for the different provinces, though they might be united under the government of one crowned Head. The Government, however, opposed the personal union, and proposed the separation of Holstein and part of Schleswig under a foreign prince. Earl Russell suggested that the populations should be consulted as to the authority under which they would place themselves. He was surprised to hear Her Majesty's Government advocating the principle of nationality. A more dangerous policy was never advocated by a Minister of the Crown, and it was especially dangerous to a country like this. They had been told the other day that Wales greatly hated them, and that if a plebiscite were taken in Ireland she would not remain under the sway of England. Nor had France, which advocated this principle on this occasion, always been faithful to that principle, for it was not by appeals to nationality that she had added Lorraine and Alsace to her territory. For assenting to such a principle a British Minister richly deserved the censure of a British Parliament, and on that ground he should support the Resolution which had been placed in the hands of the Speaker.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, the House will naturally, on an occasion of this sort, look with some anxiety for an explanation of the reasons why the conduct of the Government is disapproved, and of the different course of action by which the grounds of censure might have been obviated. It is the penalty of want of success that everybody immediately sets 1044 to work to consider how success might have been attained; but we may at least derive some instruction from the wonderful diversity and contrariety of opinion manifested in this debate, among those who censure the policy of the Government, as to the course which ought to have been pursued. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), who always speaks with great authority here, thinks, for instance, that our entire system of foreign policy, from beginning to end, is a mistake; that the just influence of which the Motion speaks ought not to exist or to be exercised; that we ought simply to abstain from all interference of any kind, whether remonstrance, expostulation, or advice, in regard to the affairs of friendly foreign countries; that we ought, in short, to hold our hands and remain only spectators of the course of events, sheltering ourselves in our insular situation, and separating ourselves from all the doings of the world. At all events, although every opinion of the hon. Gentleman is supported by powerful arguments and is entitled to consideration, I may assume that those who intend to vote for the Motion are not prepared to do so on the grounds which he has laid down. The "just influence" in question is evidently an influence of the very kind which he repudiates. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the intervention of one country in the affairs of another should be limited carefully and cautiously, so as not to involve the interposing country unnecessarily in her neighbour's disputes. Yet, when that doctrine is carried to the extreme length to which it seems to be carried by the hon. Gentleman, it produces an Utopian set of ideas, totally incompatible with the relations which this country maintains with other countries — relations of duty, interest, and necessity. The hon. Gentleman's policy is, therefore impracticable, and, if practicable, would be hardly generous or honourable. When listening to the views of the hon. Member I could not help being reminded of a ludicrous passage in a play of Dryden's which amused me when a schoolboy. The state of the world as it now exists, with England having a footing in every country, and the world as it would be if the policy of the hon. Member could be realized, really brought to my mind two of the most absurd lines which that great poet ever wrote. Introducing in one of his plays the hero and heroine in a most interesting spot in a previously undiscovered part of America, he says— 1045'"Twould seem the old world, retiring from the view,Came here in silence and brought forth a new.It would really be necessary that some such operation should be performed before England, the greatest of commercial nations, having wherever the sun rises or sets an interest in the world, could retire altogether from the affairs of the universe, and separate herself wholly from all concern in those events in other nations by which the peace of the world may be maintained or disturbed.
Then, Sir, we have the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. I must admit that, however votes may be given, hon. Members on both sides have been very free in their comments of the conduct of the Government. Yet, when I observe the criticisms so various, I cannot but think that if we could take the sense of the House on each one of them separately we should probably find each particular view in a considerable minority. The remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) were bold and decided. He would cast to the winds all engagements of Denmark to Germany, and would look at the question in the abstract. It is very inconvenient that there should be separate constitutions for Schleswig Holstein and Denmark, and he would have them united under one consolidated form of government. The notion of nationality, the hon. and learned Gentleman says, is absurd—no nation acts on it. Therefore, if I understand him rightly, he thinks the Government ought to have been prepared to support Denmark in disavowing all hoi engagements with Germany, and to have aided her, under those circumstances, if necessary, by arms. That is not a view which I should say the House would be disposed to endorse.
Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) holds that we ought to have taken the line of modifying the Treaty of 1852; in other words, that we should have divested our selves of our right to insist upon the engagements undertaken by that treaty, which alone introduce us as mediator, adviser, and negotiator in the matter, and then to have assumed the decided attitude of a partizan. No other speaker of influence, however, has expressed that opinion in the course of the discussion. I come now to the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon 1046 (General Peel) and of my noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil). I was very anxious to discover whether there was any principle in the Motion, except that of turning out the Government. It was, therefore, a great relief to me to hear my noble Friend the Member for Stamford explain the principle which he conceived to be involved in the Motion, and I believe it was much the same as that expressed by the gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon. That principle is, that we are never to take any part whatever in foreign affairs, in the shape either of remonstrance or advice, unless we are going to fight. ["Oh!"] My noble Friend said distinctly in substance that that was the principle he understood to be involved in the Motion— by "going to fight" I mean, of course, "prepared to fight." It is a very serious doctrine to advance, that you are never to negotiate except with your hand on the hilt of your sword; that you are either to abstain from the language of just remonstrance and expostulation with a foreign country—to refrain from urging your just claims on Foreign Powers—or else to do so on the understanding that if you fail to carry your point you intend to go to war. I hope no vote of the House of Commons will give countenance to that doctrine. I hope it will not be acted upon by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they come into office, for if ever they venture to speak out in a free and open manner to any foreign nation it will, on their own showing, be at once interpreted as a threat or a menace of war. ["Oh!"] We know, however, well enough that you never mean to act on it. If you were in power, you would do as your predecessors—even those of your own party—have always done. You would negotiate—you would offer mediation—you would come forward as having an interest in maintaining the faith of treaties; you would say that there is a grave responsibility in these things, and that this country cannot look on with indifference. But how would you reconcile such conduct with the principle yon have expressed in this debate? How can you hold such language to Foreign Powers—or, if you did, will they not look to these debates and see how you have taught them to interpret it? The truth is, you do not mean anything of the sort; and if you were in place you would have acted exactly as we have done.
1047 Now, what is the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion, and followed, I think, by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald)? The main point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech seemed to me to be that, although we pursued a right policy down to the time when the proposal of a General Congress was made by the French Emperor, everything was marred by the manner in which Lord Russell declined that proposal. The right hon. Gentleman does not think that the proposal of a Congress ought to have been accepted; but he thinks that if you had used guarded language—if you had only wrapped up your meaning in some plausible but specious terms—if you had only pretended to accept when you were declining, and suggested and insinuated instead of frankly and honestly stating your reasons for taking the course you did —then it would have been all right; the Emperor of the French would have been your good friend as much as before; he would not have changed his entire foreign policy merely to exhibit his pique against this Government, and you would not have been placed in the painful predicament in which you found yourselves. I cannot help thinking that the views brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman will not meet with the acceptance of this House. If what was done was right, the country will not, I think, blame Lord Russell for doing what was right in a direct, open, and straightforward way; nor will they readily believe that the motives imputed to him could have determined the policy of so sagacious a Sovereign as the Emperor of the French. We had no motive for interfering at all in those matters, except our regard for the common interests of Europe—the maintenance of peace, the maintenance of justice and right; and I do not know anywhere any page of history in which one could meet with a better exposition of the policy which ought to govern this country in such a case than is to be found in two passages in Lord Russell's despatches. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) quoted one of them, and I think he said it was the only one he found satisfactory. On the 1st of December, 1863, writing to Sir Andrew Buchanan, Earl Russell says—I have to state to you that the line of policy to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government in the questions at issue between Denmark and Ger- 1048 many is perfectly clear. That policy is to advise Austria, Prussia, and the other Powers who signed the Treaty of London to adhere to their engagements, and to advise Denmark to observe all the engagements which she has taken to Germany.—No. 3, 293.But it may be said, "What had you to do with the matter at all?" I would answer that question by another passage written by the same noble Lord. If it does not appeal to the common sense and right feeling of Englishmen I do not know what would. This passage occurs in a despatch of the 31st of December, addressed to all the Powers, and proposing a Conference, with a maintenance, in the meantime, of the status quo. Earl Russell says—Thus much Her Majesty's Government consider themselves entitled to ask in behalf of the peace of Europe. They are not interested for Denmark otherwise than as one of the independent monarchies of Europe; but they are interested for European peace. They, therefore, entreat the Sovereigns and their Cabinets to consider how difficult it may be to compose differences once delivered over to the bloody arbitrament of war. Who shall say how far such a war may extend, what aspirations it may excite, what regions may be visited by its devastations. It matters comparatively little in itself whether a Prince of the House of Glucksburg or a Prince of the House of Augustenburg should reign in Holstein or in Schleswig. Under either Prince the liberties and privileges of his subjects may be adequately secured. But it matters much that the faith of treaties should be maintained, that right and possession should be respected, and that the flames of war should not be spread over Europe by questions which a calm and timely exercise of justice and reason might bring to a peaceful solution."—No. 4, 464.Is not that good sense? Is not that good policy on the part of England? I do not think there can be a doubt on that point; and should the House come to the conclusion that all the noble Earl did was in the interest of that policy, if there has been failure, either such failure has been incident to the fallibility of man, or to the impossibility of controlling other Powers; in either case I do not think a just and generous House of Commons will ever pronounce a vote of condemnation.
Sir, let me now come to the charges made against Her Majesty's Government. They are threefold—that they have meddled, that they have menaced, and that they have promised—the two latter more particularly, menaced where they were not prepared to act, and promised where they have not performed. First, as to the meddling. I have already disposed of that charge—it is easy to use a word—and in reference to what my hon. Friend the 1049 Member for Rochdale said on this point I would observe that his objection applies equally to all the cases in which negotiations have been undertaken by the country since the beginning of the century. You must make out that either there has been interference where we should not have interfered, or interference to a point beyond that to which it ought to have been carried. In this case I say that neither proposition can be sustained. What would the House, what would the country have said, if we had done nothing but stand by in silence, without so much as endeavouring to do anything by negotiations or re-monstrance, to prevent the violation of the Treaty of 1852, and the dismemberment of the Danish Power? But I pass, from that charge to one better understood, that of menacing. Does the House really mean to say that in a case of this kind, where a great wrong is perpetrated, where treaties are violated, where the peace of Europe is in danger, you are to dip your pen in rose water and veil your thoughts in some superfine language? If there were here words of contumely, words of insult—if there were a needless demonstration of warlike intentions — I could understand the use of the word menaces by way of a charge against the Government; but if I am told it is menacing to remind Powers that they are bound by treaties—that they are bound by obligations—if it is menacing to say most serious consequences will or may result from a particular cause — if it is menacing to say the peace of Europe is endangered—if it is menacing to say we and other great Powers cannot be indifferent—if it is menacing to say we look upon this in a serious light—then all I can say is that either you are bound to abdicate the function of negotiating in such matters at all, or you are bound to do that which in the course of this debate has been called using menaces. The passages referred to in support of this charge are not menaces. They are merely enunciations of honest truth; merely timely warnings of mischief and danger—mischief and danger as much to those who receive the warning as to those in whose behalf it is given. I should like to ask whether those notifications of danger were not true, even if it had been manifest from the beginning—if it had been declared from the beginning—that in no possible event would this country go to war? I should be glad to know, refraining from war as we are, and looking on as we do, sad 1050 spectators of what is going on, whether dangers have not resulted to Austria and Prussia from the course which against our remonstrances those Powers have taken? Is there the same good understanding as before between Austria and Prussia and the other Powers of Europe, ourselves included? Have we not been told by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and apparently with the approval of great part of the House, that after what has taken place Austria and Prussia are not to reckon on the sympathy of the other nations of Europe; that if the day of retribution should come they cannot any longer reckon on the feeling, sympathy, or willingness to help, as far as help can be given, which they might otherwise have counted on in England? Is the loss of that sympathy and that support nothing? And would it have been right to allow that danger to occur without words of warning, without some words of expostulation? Have we been allies of Austria and Prussia for centuries, and connected with them by other ties not to be forgotten, are we to hold our peace while they do a great wrong which is to sever them from us, perhaps for ever—to cut them off from our friendship, sympathy, and help; and are we to be told that if we do not intend to go to war in this particular quarrel it is not right for us to say, "You must take the consequences if you do this, and those consequences may be serious?" I say that if from the beginning of this affair the result might have been foreseen, still it would have been our duty to speak the language of warning and remonstrance, to speak the words of honest truth, and not to mind what censure a critic, even so tender and mealy-mouthed a critic as my noble Friend the Member for Stamford, might cast on what he might please to call the incivility and menacing character of such warnings.
Now for the promises. What are the promises? I want to know what is meant by those who talk of promises? Is it meant that in a matter of this kind a nation is bound, before she interferes by good offices and mediation, to make up her mind in all the contingencies of unforeseen circumstances that she will or will not go to war; and that unless she so makes up her mind she is bound not to do anything to encourage a hope in the mind of the nation with whom she sympathizes? I apprehend that such a doctrine was never held in the history of the world. It is as new as many others of the doctrines put forward in the 1051 course of this debate. There is no case in history where negotiations have been carried on with a view to help a friendly country in difficulties, in which the effect has not necessarily been to raise some hopes or expectations of material aid in case of circumstances arising which should make it necessary. I have been very much struck by the contrast between the accusation made against the Government for not speaking out in the cause of Denmark, and the observations that have been made on the same point regarding the conduct of the Government in respect to Poland It is said that the Government ought in some early stage of the negotiations to have told the Danes, that they would not under any circumstances go to war. Hon. Gentlemen opposite took a very strong course with respect to Poland, and al most compelled Her Majesty's Government to address strong remonstrances to Russia; but the hon. Member for Horsham says that we spoilt all the effect of those remonstrances by stating, through the mouth of Earl Russell, that we would not go to war for Poland. In this case, on the other hand, the Government are charged with misconduct, because they did not inform the Danish Government that they did not intend to go to war for Denmark. In Poland we spoilt everything by saying that we should not go to war, and in this case we spoilt everything by not saying so. I put it to the common sense of the House whether a great nation engaged in negotiations of this sort, endeavouring to do good and preserve peace, would be likely to further that object if she were to fetter herself by declarations and engagements that under no circumstances would she go to war? No one could tell what circumstances might arise to justify war, and if you wished to destroy the effect of your representations, the best course to take would be to say, "Now, mind, in no possible circumstances shall we back them up by having recourse to arms." Such a course was never taken before; no critics of a Government have ever recommended such a course; and except for the purpose of finding some ground for cavil, I do not think such an argument would have been brought forward now. The House will excuse me if I feel anxious to guard as much as I can the acts of the Government, so far as they may be thought capable of affecting the honour of the country, from all possible doubt and uncertainty. There is one point which does touch the honour of the coun- 1052 try, and that is the accusation against the Government of having given promises which we did not perform, and having held out expectations to Denmark which we have failed to carry out. I say that nothing of the kind was done. Our conduct throughout was similar to that of our Allies, and we were as cautious and as reserved in not encouraging expectations of material aid as any other Power. The House will recollect the difficulties and dangers under which these negotiations were undertaken. The Danes and the Germans were almost equally responsible in the first instance for these difficulties and dangers which beset the question. The Danes were anxious to get rid of engagements, perhaps unwisely entered into, with regard to separate constitutions for Schleswig, Holstein, and Denmark, and their policy was directed to the incorporation of Schleswig, and such arrangements in reference to Holstein as would interfere as little as possible with the Royal authority and power. It was very natural that Denmark should take that course; but it was a course opposed to her engagements; and the departure of Denmark from those engagements tended directly to endanger the peace of Europe. The Germans, on the other hand, were equally ready to avail themselves of any opening arising out of the affairs of Holstein or Schleswig to encroach upon the rights of Denmark in Schleswig, and our policy was to endeavour to induce both parties to fulfil their engagements. There was, therefore, considerable difficulty arising out of the attitude of both parties. That the Danes were presuming upon their position, and relied upon the European embarrassments that would arise to prevent war, is apparent from a very able despatch early in this Correspondence from Mr. Lytton. I do not know whether he is connected with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire [An hon. MEMBER: His son]; but it does appear to me that he is worthy to be related to so distinguished a person. He has written despatches which display remarkable ability, and in one of them there is a passage which I cannot help thinking must show the House the difficulties with regard to Denmark with which the Government had to deal. The despatch is dated the 11th of March, 1863, and Mr. Lytton expresses his feelings thus—It cannot, I think, be otherwise than a matter for unmitigated regret to all who are sincerely 1053 interested in maintaining the dignity and independence of the Danish monarchy, that the present Cabinet of Copenhagen should have so pertinaciously resisted every friendly suggestion for the peaceful termination of a state of things of which the continuance is not less undignified than dangerous.…I cannot, however, entirely resist nor disguise my general impression, that the apparent languor with which the Danish Government continues to follow, with only fretful protest or grudging submission, that stream of events which seems now to be hurrying this country into open conflict with the Federal Power, is, in a great measure, caused by the conviction that Denmark is a geographical necessity in Western Europe, and that, in the event of renewed hostilities with Germany, England or France, or both those Powers together, will be compelled to defend in arms the integrity of the monarchy."—No. 2, 22.That is a passage well worthy the attention of the House, because it enables the House to see that long before there was any pretence for saying that the language or conduct of this country had held out expectations to Denmark, Denmark was herself speculating upon the position she occupied, and upon the necessity which France and England might be under of assisting her in the event of a war with Germany.
Sir, I pass on now to the point of time which has been so much adverted to in the course of this debate—namely, the speech made by my noble Friend the First Minister, in which he referred to the possibility of Denmark, in the event of war, not being left to act alone. The House has already been reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) of the exact circumstances under which that statement was made. The Swedish Minister, Count Manderstrom, had intimated that Sweden would interfere in favour of Denmark, and the Swedish Government were actually at that time negotiating a defensive treaty. It was to that principally that the speech of the noble Lord referred. In a despatch writ ten on the 21st of July, Lord Bloomfield was directed to communicate to the Court of Vienna that it was clear Denmark would be supported by Sweden, and Lord Bloom-field made that communication on the 6th of August. Therefore it was quite true that at that time there was at least one Power which was likely to intervene in case of war. I was astonished in the course of the able speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy)—a speech to which we all listened with great pleasure — to hear my hon. Friend say that Russia at all events had 1054 not on any occasion shown a disposition to aid Denmark, or to induce her to suppose that she would. So far from that being the case, on the 12th of September, 1863, a despatch was written by Prince Gortschak off to Baron Brunnow, in which Russia offered her co-operation. The despatch says —Germany is not ignorant that the Schleswig question partakes of an international character; and that the non-German Powers, Russia, France, and England, have an equal interest in the maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Danish Monarchy. … If the Cabinet of London thought fit, on its part, to re-assure the Danish Government on the result in the event of war, its representative at Copenhagen would meet with the most sincere co-operation on the part of the Baron de Nicolay."—No. 2, 133.What could be more expressive than that? On the 3rd of September M. Hall, the Danish Minister, wilting to M. de Bille, expressly stated that she placed her reliance on the North. The despatch is well worth the attention of the House. M. Hall says—Our line of conduct has long been decided upon, and I have every reason to hope that we S shall not be left to our own resources in a struggle in which not only the fate of Denmark, but also the most sacred interests of the entire North, are I involved."—No. 2, 127."The entire North;" says M. Hall, and therefore the reliance of Denmark was upon the interests of the North—namely, of Russia and Sweden. The Danish Minister himself says, "We shall not be left to our own resources," and in making that statement he is not looking to England but to other Powers. What was the attitude of England at that time? It was most cautious and reserved. I have already told the House what the communications were which were made by Sweden to this country in order to enlist this country on behalf of Denmark; and no doubt everything that passed between our Government and Sweden would be immediately communicated to Denmark. And what was it that passed? What was the language of Earl Russell when the Swedish Minister addressed himself to him? It was the first of several passages which distinctly disprove the allegation that we even left ourselves in a condition to be misunderstood on the matter. Earl Russell's conversation with Count Wachmeister, as reported by the Count to his Government, was as follows: —Earl Russell expressed the difficulty of saying I precisely what steps would have to be taken by other Governments were the Germanic Confedera- 1055 tion to invade Schleswig; and said that Don-mark's chief and immediate object ought to be the thorough fulfilment of her engagements respecting that Duchy.Therefore, when England was invited by Sweden to concur with her, the answer returned was that it was impossible to say beforehand what this country would do; and the only advice given was that Denmark should fulfil her own engagements. Upon a later occasion—the 25th of September, 1863—Earl Russell had a further conversation with the Swedish Minister, when he stated,That Her Majesty's Government set the highest value on the independence and integrity of Denmark, and were ready to offer their good offices to the two parties about to contend in arms. Her Majesty's Government would be ready to do so in conjunction with France or alone. But the course which Her Majesty might be advised to take with regard to these matters, if the good offices of Her Majesty's Government should be unsuccessful, must be the subject of future consideration and decision,"—No. 2, 137.Was there anything to mislead there? Was it possible to misunderstand that declaration? The House has heard so much as to the course which has been taken by France, that it is not necessary to refer to the despatches on the subject. It is, however, somewhat singular that hon. Gentlemen opposite should find that the very same language has so different a meaning in the mouth of France from that which it has in the mouth of England. When the British Government say that we cannot look with indifference upon the invasion of Schleswig, hon. Gentlemen opposite regard it as a menace and a threat of going to war; but when France says so, the declaration is regarded in a very different manner; it means that she is perfectly peaceable and by no means disposed to go to war. If you try by that test all the language in these documents which is called the language of menace, you will find that every single expression was echoed, assented to, and repeated both by France and Russia.
I now bring the House to the month of October, and what was the attitude of this country then? On the 14th of October a conversation occurred between Sir Augustus Paget and M. Hall, and the grounds on which Denmark then looked for support in the event of war were not stated by M. Hall to be founded on any expectation of aid held out by the Government of this country. Two conversations are reported. In the first M. Hall spoke in a tone of much decision and confidence;— 1056His Excellency went on to observe that, although a war with Germany would undoubtedly be a misfortune now as at any time, the present moment was perhaps as favourable for Denmark, and as unfavourable for Germany, as any that would occur; that it was impossible for Denmark to live under a continual menace of hostilities; that Sweden was with her; that the public feeling of England, France, and Europe in general was roused in favour of Denmark at this moment. If, therefore, the question must be settled by an appeal to arms, it had better be so now; and he felt convinced, he said, that Denmark and Sweden would not stand alone."—No. 3, 159.On what was that expectation founded? On the public feeling of England, France, and Europe generally. I ask the House to consider the meaning of the public feeling of England. Does that mean the official action of the Government? Does it mean the menaces, the threats, and the promises which are pretended to be found in these papers? No; it means the feeling exhibited in the country, the sympathy entertained by the people of England for Denmark, the sympathy entertained for the wronged and oppressed, and for the cause of justice and right. But it is not confined to England; it extends to France, and to Europe at large. Down to that time, at all events, that was the only ground of Denmark's expectations; and we are perfectly clear of having held out to her hopes of aid in any way. I trust the House will permit me to call its particular attention to a matter which seems to me to have been a little too much overlooked in this debate. On the 14th of October, Sir Augustus Paget had a conversation with M. Hall, which is reported in these papers. On that occasion, M. Hall wanted, on certain terms, to obtain a formal promise of support from England; and this is what took place. We were pressing for the revocation of the Patent of the 30th of March. M. Hall, upon this, replied that—There was one other condition on which the Patent could be withdrawn—namely, that England and France would give to the Danish Government a formal promise to support them against any further demands of Germany.What did Sir Augustus Paget say to that? His words are—I said I did not think much would be obtained by forwarding this message; but I suggested, as an idea of my own—though, in doing so, I was taking a great responsibility on myself—that the Danish Government might state to the Diet at the time of withdrawing the Patent that they would only enter into negotiations with Germany on matters which would embrace the other portions of the monarchy, on condition that all the Powers who signed the Convention of London should take part in them.That was a plain intimation that M. Hall 1057 was not to look for any distinct engagement from this country. At the same time it shows that Denmark was always well aware that England was not likely to enter into any engagement singly, for England and France were coupled by her, and it was from both those Powers together that she sought the promise of help. Our Government had held out no promise, and bound themselves by no obligation, express or implied, down to that time.
On the death of Frederick VII. matters became more complicated. M. Hall had been playing a high game. I was astonished to hear that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) imagines that the Patent of March was issued by M, Hall in conformity with the advice of Lord Russell. I suppose the hon. Gentleman is aware of Lord Russell's despatch on that subject to the Danish Government, and I suppose he has also read the Patent. If so, he must know that the Patent deviated in the most important particulars from the essence of Lord Russell's advice; and offended, in a manner which is undeniable and undenied, against the engagements which Denmark had entered into with Germany. Therefore, it is a most extraordinary thing that the words of M. Hall, which are shown to have been insincere and preposterous, should be taken by the hon. Member as evidence that the Patent was in conformity with Lord Russell's counsels. M. Hall heaped up difficulties for his country, first in issuing the Patent, and afterwards in persisting with the new Constitution, which brought on a crisis. We are accused of interfering with our advice and of having urged Denmark to do a great many things which she otherwise would not have done; and it is said that since she followed our advice we were bound to support her by arms. But what was the nature of our advice? I could understand that if we had advised her to go to war, and to take steps calculated to embroil her with other nations, then we might be bound to support her against her enemies. But our advice to her went entirely in the opposite direction. We advised her to do nothing but to remove obstacles to peace, to keep her engagements, and when she had broken those engagements, to return to their fulfilment. We advised her to abstain from opposing Federal Execution because she would bring on war upon herself. In every part of that advice the other Powers concurred with us, although it is said that those other Powers differed 1058 from us only in not intending to go to war. Whether or not they or we intended to go to war, we gave Denmark right advice, and the only advice which could possibly extricate her from her difficulties; and how can it fairly be contended that we engaged to defend her by giving her advice of that character, by following which she might avoid war, and in offering which the other Powers, who are now said to stand in so honourable a position, concurred? I hope the House will bear with me while I endeavour to come to close quarters on another point which has been a good deal dwelt upon. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire adverted to certain conversations which took place in the months of November and December last between M. Hall and Lord Wodehouse, and said expressions were used in the course of those conversations which must have been calculated to create the belief that England even single-handed would assist Denmark. My noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) also referred particularly to one of those conversations, and said that language was used in it which could not be explained away. He said, "You cannot say the effect of that conversation was not to give Denmark to understand that she was to look for assistance from England, even though England might stand alone." I join issue with the noble Lord on that. I say not only was that not the meaning of the conversation, and it could not have been so understood at the time, but, what is more, that it was not so understood in fact. This I am prepared to prove from the papers. The House will recollect that the conversation occurred on the 20th of December, 1863, and arose thus: — Lord Wodehouse went to see M. Hall on that day—the very day before the Rigsraad was dissolved. Did he go alone? My noble Friend the Member for Stamford, in his excessive zeal to find something to criminate the Government, fastens on this interview as if it furnished proof of an engagement at least morally binding on England separately. But Lord Wodehouse did not go alone. He went with M. d'Ewers, the Russian Minister, and the representation then made was the joint representation of England and Russia; and it was also in substance backed by France. Well, the Russian and English Ministers both conjointly urged on M. Hall the revocation of the Constitution. M. Hall asked, "What would Denmark gain by following our advice?" Lord Wodehouse suggested that 1059 the question was rather what she would lose if the Constitution was not revoked.I entreated his Excellency to weigh well the gravity of the dangers which threatened Denmark. General Fleury 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 on her own responsibility. Surely there was nothing inconsistent with the honour of Denmark in yielding to the united counsels of England, France, and Russia?But did it stop there? The Russian Minister took up the conversation—M. d'Ewers said that M. Hall would do the Russian Government the justice to admit that they had never varied in their language. They had constantly warned the Danish Government against the hazardous policy which they were pursuing. He pointed out forcibly the perilous situation in which Denmark was placed, and concluded by saying that he was instructed to declare in explicit terms that Russia must leave to Denmark the responsibility of the consequences which might ensue from the rejection of our advice." —No. 4, 418.This is the one passage singled out by my noble Friend as an example of the advice given by England separately. The Rigsraad was dissolved the next day, and the consent to convene it again was not given till the 23rd of January. It was quite clear, therefore, that if there had been anything like the holding out of the prospect of assistance upon terms, the terms were rejected, and nothing followed from them. But the matter does not stop even there. The noble Lord forgot that there were two other interviews on the same day, all to back up the same advice. The same day General Fleury had an interview with M. Hall, and stated to Lord Wodehouse and M. d'Ewers in the ante-room, that he was about to support the advice they had offered. So that France, Russia, and England were here acting together. Sir Augustus Paget also went in afterwards to back it up; and what followed? My noble Friend could not have read this despatch, because with his candour he would have seen that Denmark did not understand the conversation in the sense which he put upon it. After the conversation with Lord Wodehouse was over, Sir Augustus Paget tried what he could do, and urged the same arguments; and M. Hall said that even if he could succeed in getting the proposition adopted, which he thought an impossibility, he could not see of what advantage it would be to Denmark. He added these important words:—"There 1060 is no promise of support to Denmark if Germany should continue her aggressions. These are the conversations to which the noble Lord alluded, and I must say I think Denmark is the best interpreter of her own understanding. M. Hall expressly states that there was no promise of support. What we said was "You will put yourself morally in the right; judge for yourself how far in these circumstances there may or may not be a prospect of material aid." These, I think, are the only conversations to which the noble Lord adverted. There were earlier conversations, in December, 1863. Earl Russell was then advising that Federal Execution should not be resisted. What did he say? Did he give that advice in the tone of one who was going to give material aid? On the contrary, he merely expressed his personal opinion that that course would be for the advantage of Denmark.
Now, I want the House to consider whether this country has not been better than its word in this matter. We proposed no assistance; but we were quite prepared, if the object could have been accomplished, to take our part in maintaining the independence and integrity of Denmark. We invited the five Powers to act in concert. What was the history of that part of the transaction? It was not a step unadvisedly or inconsiderately taken, Sir Andrew Buchanan had suggested that the probable effect of a joint representation would be to put an end to the whole affair; and upon that suggestion it was a becoming course for us to see whether that joint representation could be made. Accordingly, Earl Russell on the 18th of January sent a despatch to the five Powers, in which he asked their concert and co-operation. That despatch, as explained by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State, was addressed to all the Powers who, as parties to the Treaty of 1852, were bound together by a common tie. If France and Russia had concurred with England, no doubt peace would have been effectually maintained. Surely that was a very proper course for England to take. England was anxious to stop this war and prevent this wrong; she used her good offices, she persevered in the midst of many obstacles, she exhausted all available means, she offered mediation which was declined, she was prepared to join the great Powers in effective intervention; France and Russia would not concur, and England could do no more than she 1061 has done. It would be a most serious imputation if it could be made good that we had held out to Denmark expectations of aid which we had not given; but I must say I do not think that these arguments are much believed in by those on the other side of the House who use them; and I will tell the House why—if they were believed, this is not the Motion which would be made. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really believed that England had given a pledge on her honour and good faith to sustain Denmark, would not they—would not the country—say the honour of England must be redeemed—the engagements of England must be fulfilled—we must give the aid which was promised? I cannot understand how hon. Gentlemen opposite, having had the despatches which raised these questions before them since the 3rd of March, should have been content to watch the course of events to see what might happen—to see what line the Government would take—to see how the Conference would end, and what the country would think of the result—and then come down to the House and move a Resolution of this character. Can there be doubt, that if they were for peace, and thought we were holding language which might involve us in discredit if we did not go to war, they would long ago have let us know their minds upon that subject? Can there be a doubt, if they had now considered that the honour of the country was pledged, that they would have come forward with a Resolution to redeem that honour and fulfil the pledge that had been given? It is because they know that no such engagements were made that they seek to censure us, not for not going to war, but for compromising, as they will have it, the interests of peace. I think that a very lame and impotent conclusion of such arguments.
But, Sir, although the conduct of the Government may be called in question, before the other nations of the world, Eng land is responsible for all the engagements that have been made by her Government; the country would be bound by those engagements, and must perform them; and it is not by heaping vituperation and abuse on the present Ministry—it is not by displacing the Government, that you can get rid of any such engagements. The truth is, there are no such engagements, and this Resolution is merely brought forward to serve party purposes. A new light has broken in upon the hon. Gentlemen in the 1062 course of these transactions, and this is supposed to be a convenient opportunity to displace a Government, and therefore this Motion is made. For that purpose we are told of dishonour to the country, of bad faith, and of breaches of engagements, which, if broken at all, the breach must be visited, not upon one particular set of men sitting upon these benches, but upon the nation. Surely, that is not a course worthy of a great party in this country. Surely they cannot have reflected on the effect, on the character and position of this country on the minds of Foreign Powers, of thus casting imputations of dishonour and bad faith on Ministers who are not the Ministers of a party, but the Ministers of the Queen. It is not, I believe, a course which this House will endorse or approve; but of this I am sure, that it will be a far more honourable and satisfactory thing to us, even if we should fall after having done our best to preserve the honour of Europe, to serve the interests of our Allies, and to maintain the faith of treaties, than it will be to hon. Gentlemen opposite to succeed to power at the expense of their country's good name, and without having any different policy of their own to advocate by availing themselves of the chapter of accidents. I have seen with surprise the different tone which is adopted by hon. Gentlemen towards our own country, from that adopted towards France, Russia, and other Powers. Not a representation was made, no advice was given by us which was not given by them; and, before January, Russia and France had declared that under certain circumstances they might be induced to take part with Denmark against Germany. Those Powers have seen their own reasons for not adhering to that intention. We, too, were willing to accede to it if they would have aided us. We did all we could for Denmark short of going to war alone and lighting up the flames of war and bringing about a convulsion in Europe, which no one would desire to see, and which it was our object to prevent. If we had had the assistance of Russia and France in stopping the war, we would have acted; and the only cause why we did not act was because Russia and France, for their own reasons, declined to give any aid. And yet the conduct of France and Russia has been held up as just and honourable, while the conduct of our own Government has been attacked and reprobated. It is perhaps well for France and Russia that they have not 1063 blue-hooks or published despatches, and that all the secrets of their negotiations are not laid open for Parliamentary discussion. In those countries there might be found some parties equally patriotic with the hon. Members opposite, who might suggest a reverse of the picture. Parliamentary government has inestimable advantages, for the sake of which one may put up with some inconveniences; but if any reasons could be found under any circumstances for thinking that Parliamentary government laboured under disadvantages as compared with Despotic government, they would be found in discussions like the present. The history of important negotiations, conducted honestly and in good faith, has been laid before the country. They have not been successful from causes beyond our control; the negotiations did not rest with us, but were shared in by other nations; but because an effect may be produced upon the position of political parties in this House, we are told, while Russia is justified, while France is praised, that the honour of England has been sacrificed, and the just influence of the country has been diminished. I believe that the honour of the country does not stand upon so slender a foundation. I believe the way to support the influence of the country is to do right, to give good advice to others, to act rightly, to keep to our engagements, and not to enter upon useless and unnecessary wars. Whatever may be at the present time the opinion of the House, I feel confident that the verdict of posterity will not endorse these imputations upon the Government, and, through it, upon the nation which in these transactions it has represented.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Sir, there are two facts which have presented themselves in the course of this debate. We are now approaching the close of the third night of the debate, and as far as I know only one independent Member has been found to vindicate the policy of the Government. The other fact is, that the hope of external aid in debate having failed, recourse has been had to extreme audacity on the part of the Treasury Bench. When the other night the Chancellor of the Exchequer denied that England had lost any prestige or moral power, and alluded to the ribald trash of some obscure French journals as the only quarters where such suggestions would be found, I thought the statement approached the sublime of audacity. When, too, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asserted that from the moment 1064 that the Government discovered that France and Russia intended not to cooperate with us in giving material aid to Denmark, no further menace or threat could be imputed to our Government—I thought that too was a bold and audacious statement. I own that when I heard the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs quote the Despatch of January, which has been so often referred to as a despatch calculated to light up the flames of war, and assure the House that that despatch was written with the direct intention of enabling England to back out of every warlike promise, and that it was addressed to Austria, Prussia, Sweden, and France, in order to clear the ground so as to enable England to release herself from her engagements—I thought that, too, was a bold and audacious statement. But I must say that the hon. and learned Attorney General has improved upon those statements, for he has referred to that very despatch, not in the same sense as the Under Secretary of State did—not to prove that England intended to back out of her warlike promises—but to show that she had magnanimously done more than she had promised to do. What the aid given to Denmark consisted in the hon. and learned Gentleman did not say. I am incapable of understanding what good Denmark could derive from that despatch if no material assistance was to be given. But the hon. and learned Attorney General, finding fault with the terms of the Address which is proposed, says that the only policy he can extract from it is, that under no circumstances for the future ought England to interfere in any European quarrel by giving advice. I think he has failed to understand the language of the Motion, and the policy of those who support it. What we say is this—It is not right for England to hold out threats upon the one hand, or to give encouragement, direct or indirect, on the other, unless she is prepared to carry out those threats or to fulfil those promises. We heard in the very temperate observations of the hon. Member for the County of Kildare (Mr. Cogan) some reference to the general political aspect of the question. He spoke as a Liberal Member and as a Reformer—and I am thereby reminded of the circumstances under which this Motion has been brought before the House. It is now five years since the noble Lord opposite came into office upon the faith of doing two things—that he would carry a democratic Reform Bill, and that 1065 he would raise the name and fame of England to a pitch which it had never reached under the wise, moderate, but firm management of Lord Derby. With the first of these considerations we are not now concerned; but with respect to the latter, the country—nay, the whole Empire—is entitled to ask how have these boastful pledges been redeemed by those who were so ready to censure, to condemn, if not to impeach the Government of Lord Derby for not going to war single-handed against France on account of some Portuguese vessel, whose very name, I doubt not, all have forgotten. I would ask, how has the honour and character of England been upheld by them in these transactions? The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us we must not refer to foreign newspapers. But, go to what source you will, from every foreign newspaper, from every foreign capital where the unfortunate Englishman— the Civis Romanus of former times—hap pens to reside, from every foreign Court to which you address your sterile complaints and unavailing supplications, and you will receive a complete, if not a satisfactory, answer. At home, in every place where men congregate, there is but one answer to that question. The very Speech put into the mouth of the Royal Commissioners at the opening of the Session admitted that whereas in 1859, when you succeeded to the management of affairs, you found England on friendly terms with all the Powers of Europe, in 1864 she stands in a position of impotent isolation. In this situation of affairs the House of Commons, the grand inquest of the nation, is called upon to decide the question—How you have conducted the negotiations arising out of the Treaty of 1852? And here I may say that considering the place in which that treaty was signed—considering that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was the real author of the treaty—considering the facility with which, if needs be, England might have interfered, otherwise than diplomatically, to carry out the objects of the treaty—considering, lastly, the promises and declarations made by England —it might have been antecedently expected that when England condescended to beseech and implore the German Powers to respect their obligations under the treaty, some deference would have been shown to her wishes. Why was it otherwise? Why did not only great Powers like Prussia and Austria reject your advice, but why did small States like Wurtemburg and Saxony 1066 rebuke your interference? Sad and startling as the effect might be, the cause is not far to seek. During great part of the last century the foreign policy of this country was administered by two very different but equally remarkable men—Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Chatham. Sir Robert Walpole's system was that of peace—his enemies said (and that at last proved fatal to him),"peace at any price. "Aided by a good understanding with an equally pacific Minister in France, he for many years carried out his policy and maintained peace. But what was Sir Robert Walpole's language to foreign Powers? Was it haughty, dictatorial, insulting, menacing? No! His language reflected his policy, and Sir Robert Walpole descends to posterity with all his faults as a great and consistent Minister. Lord Chatham's mind was cast in another mould —No joys to him pacific sceptres yield—War sounds the trump—he rushes to the field.But his contemporaries recognized in him the man of vigorous language and of equally vigorous action; and posterity has ratified the eulogies of his contemporaries. It has been reserved for Lord Russell to combine in a Mezentian alliance a parody of the language of Chatham with an exaggeration of the policy of Walpole. I know it is said, and most justly, that we are not concerned with Lord Russell alone, but with the whole Government of which he is a Member. I fully admit this; and far be it from me to follow the example set by the noble Earl himself in 1855 and endeavour to make one Colleague responsible for the faults of the Administration. But I think Lord Russell is responsible in 1864 for one great source of weakness which was wanting in 1855. I mean that system of bombast and bluster which has never save in one instance been followed by vigorous action, and which has become the laughing-stock of Europe. Can we forget the vehement and pertinacious denunciations of the French Emperor and the French Government uttered in this House upon the annexation of Savoy and Nice, when the noble Lord electrified the House and the country by declaring that we must henceforward turn to other alliances? Well, Savoy and Nice now form part of the French empire; but where are those other allies? "Conspicuous by their absence." Again, can we forget that despatch in which the noble Earl threatened Italy with the vengeance of England if she presumed to encroach upon the territories 1067 of the Church? Yet all the Papal territory that is not defended by French arms is now Italian soil. Can we forget the importunity with which the noble Lord beset the French Government to abandon their protectorate of Rome? Yet the Papal rule in Rome is still supported by French bayonets, and the invitation to Malta is not yet accepted. But above and beyond all this is the rash individuality of the noble Lord, conspicuous in the causes which led to the collapse of his Polish policy. We have heard tonight from the Under Secretary of State, that he is in possession of what he calls the secret history of the failure of his Polish policy. What the secret history may be I cannot profess to understand, and to do the hon. Gentleman justice he did not give us any proof of the truth of his marvellous statement; but I think, without diving into these hidden events, we cannot forget how in the speech made last September by the noble Lord to the farmers of a Highland valley—a speech containing threats and insults addressed now to all the Radicals, and now to all the Russias—we cannot forget how the noble Earl arrogating to himself the Power claimed by Mediaeval Popes, proceeded from his chair in Blairgowrie to depose the Emperor Alexander and release his Polish subjects from their allegiance; and more than that—how, animated by the discriminating applause of his Highland hearers he proceeded to put his threats into execution—on paper, and fired off his memorable despatch to St. Petersburg. A single hint, however, from the Minister of the Sovereign about to be deposed was sufficient to convince the noble Earl or his Colleagues of his imprudence, and induce him to withdraw the inky thunderbolt, and substitute in its place a mere blank cartridge. After all those proofs of the impotence of the noble Lord's most vehement language and most determined threats, can we wonder that Germany, when she had to consider the probability of England opposing her in this matter of I Schleswig-Holstein, came, on very good grounds, to the conviction that from England, as at present governed, she had no-thing worse to fear than a shower of acrid despatches and a few bouncing speeches? It is remarkable from the papers laid on the table, how soon this conviction entered the minds of those who were managing the affairs of Germany. I will not dwell on despatches which have been already quoted, but there is a letter from Sir Alexander Malet very early in 1863, in which he points out 1068 that the threats employed by Her Majesty's Government—for threats he held them to be—had produced a very small effect indeed upon the minds of those who then guided the councils of Frankfort. But, Sir, I have said that I think it unfair to charge the noble Earl alone with the failure of those negotiations; and I must say that, having been in the House on the memorable July morning last year, when the First Minister of the Crown made the declaration to which so much reference has been made, I cannot acquit him of singular blindness as to the dangers which Europe was even then running from this quarrel between Germany and Denmark. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) then called attention in very emphatic terms to the dangerous condition of that question, and the noble Lord having uttered that which has been so often quoted in this House, proceeded to say—I do not myself anticipate any immediate danger or, indeed, any of that remote danger which the hon. Gentleman seems to think imperils the peace of Europe arising out of the Danish and Holstein question,"—[3 Hansard, clxxii. 1252.]The noble Lord made this statement, that he was conscious of no danger near or remote on the 23rd of July, many weeks after warnings of the most serious character had been received from Foreign Courts and from our own Ministers abroad as to the imminent danger which existed. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) himself quoted a warning which had been received from Sweden. Sir Alexander Malet some weeks before had written a very forcible paper, and the French Government in the month of May called serious attention to the threatening aspect of the question. And yet, in spite of all these warnings, the noble Lord could rise in his place towards the end of July, and say that he saw no danger, however remote, to the peace of Europe from this complicated question! I know the apologists of the noble Lord who manages the affairs of the Foreign Office say—What could he do yoked in that unfortunate coalition with men nearly all of whom he had deserted or denounced in turn—how could he be expected to carry on these great negotiations successfully, remembering that ten years ago, under very similar circumstances, a coalition drifted into war with Russia? I admit that similar causes have led to a similar failure, and I say that now it is the duty of the House to judge the conduct of the Government, and, if it finds 1069 the charge brought against them has been proved, not upon any of the considerations that have been urged by the hon. and learned Attorney General or the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to forbear giving a plain and straightforward verdict. We are told that the dignity of the country will suffer if the House of Commons give emphasis to that which is admitted to be the universal sentiment of the country. On the contrary, I think that if the House of Commons fails to record its verdict, and takes refuge behind any screen which may be conveniently raised, the House will fail in the discharge of one of its most important and sacred duties. The time has come when the House must express an opinion as to the conduct of the Government, and say whether that conduct has been characterized by all that weakness, all that vacillation, all that indecision which would justly call for condemnation on its part. Two courses were open to the Government. They might have said, with France, "We will not interfere to protect Denmark from Germany;" or, by a bold and vigorous policy in the outset, they might have stifled this iniquitous aggression in the bud. But they did neither one nor the other. "Letting I dare not wait upon I would," they failed to intimidate Germany, and they still more lamentably failed to support that unfortunate country, of which they professed themselves to be the friends. We have been told, indeed, that no promises were made to Denmark, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night asserted that after England discovered that no material assistance was to be expected from the other neutral Powers the English Government made use of no threats to Germany. But I say that long after that discovery was made recourse was had to the most important and the most determined threat that could be offered—the Channel Fleet was summoned to the Downs. No threat uttered after January! No promise held out to Denmark! Why, what was the language in one House of the noble Earl himself, and in the other of the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty? The noble Earl, in language which has been already quoted, explained the meaning of that striking event, and the Secretary to the Admiralty, whose statement, I am bound to say, produced far more commotion than the speech of the noble Earl, said, in answer to a Question put by my right hem. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington)— 1070The Channel squadron was now in the Downs. The ships were very nearly completely supplied, and were perfectly ready to proceed to any part of the world in twenty-four hours. With respect to the iron ships, although they had not been docked since their return from their winter I cruise, yet they had all been docked within a few months."—[3 Hansard, clxxiv. 1979.]That was on the 2nd of May, 1864. Remembering the language held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I feel some I scruple in reading a quotation from an English journal; but in a City Article of The Times of May 4, I find the following statement descriptive of the effect produced by these announcements:—The English funds this morning opened at a decline of a quarter per cent from the low prices of Saturday, and subsequently experienced a further fall. … The intimation that it will probably be found necessary to employ the British fleet to arrest the Prussians in their career of dishonesty contributed to the general heaviness, but at the same time there was a universal feeling of satisfaction that this method of dealing with offenders who have shown themselves totally incapable of being touched by any moral considerations has at length been resolved upon.That statement appeared in the City Article of The Times newspaper of May 4, and I think, after that, it will require considerable boldness in any Member of Her Majesty's Government to assert that this summoning of the Channel Fleet to the Downs and the warlike intimations which followed that proceeding in both Houses of Parliament were, in reality, neither a threat to Prussia, nor—what in my mind is still more important—an encouragement to Denmark. How is it possible for us to shut our eyes to the fact that hasty orders were given for 70-pounders to be rifled, and that every effort was made to get the fleet into readiness to sail at a moment's notice? We know that until the Conference closed its sittings what I must now call a desponding hope was entertained by the Danes, that the encouragement given would be realized, and that they would see at last the long-promised Channel Fleet making its appearance in the Baltic. It is said, "You condemn the policy of the Government; but would you advise the Government, laying aside mere harmless, discreditable bluster, to proceed to action, when this would probably lead you into conflict with 44,000,000" of—I think I have heard them called—"insane Germans?" My answer to that hypothetical question consists, in the first place, of a denial of the hypothesis on which 1071 it is founded. I do not believe that if some months ago you had evinced a firm and determined policy you would have had to war with these 44,000,000 of what you are pleased to term "insane Germans." I would illustrate that position by referring to the one single act of vigour performed by Her Majesty's Government since they came into office—an act for which I suppose they have already asked pardon in the proper quarter, and of which I doubt not they are now most heartily ashamed—I mean their conduct in the affair of the Trent. There you had to deal with some 22,000,000 of what I suppose you would call equally insane Americans. But the result of the firm, definite, decided policy pursued in that case shows that a firm and definite policy leads not to war, but to peace. Now that the Americans have discovered the impotence of your threats, I fear we may live to rue the complacency with which throughout these dreary negotiations the noble Lord ate the leek proffered by Germany. At this time of night I could not presume to continue the observations which naturally occur to me; but I would sum up by saying that it appears to me the Government have neither known how to maintain the peace of Europe, nor how to vindicate the dignity of England. It seems to me that the one has been and is still imperilled, and the other tarnished, in the keeping of Her Majesty's Government. I own that I have perused these documents with pain and with regret, and that their perusal binds me to support the Address proposed by my right hon. Friend. That Address, I believe, expresses accurately the opinion of England; and of this I am quite certain—that those weary, dreary, hopeless, helpless pages through which we have waded do not express the spirit, the intention, and the mind of England. That spirit, I believe, to be as high, that intention as noble, and that mind as chivalrous as ever. Remove from the posts which they acquired on conditions they have not fulfilled, the authors of her present humiliation, and England will regain her pristine fame, and name, and power, become once more the moral bulwark of the oppressed against the oppressor, and resume her wonted influence for good in the Council Chambers of Europe.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. ONSLOW,
in rising to second the Motion for the adjournment, said, that hav- 1072 ing carefully perused all the documents connected with the question, he desired to express his admiration of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in having through a course of long, laborious, and difficult negotiations, steered Great Britain with consummate skill. They might possibly have employed a little threatening language, but the object they had had in view was one dear to the hearts of all Englishmen, the establishment of peace. Though the Conference and the proposal to settle the Danish difficulty by arbitration had both failed, yet the efforts of Her Majesty's Government were, in his opinion, well worthy the confidence of the House; and so long as the country was blessed with a Liberal Government, and so long as these Gentlemen sat on the Ministerial bench, the honour of England was secure. It was "all bosh" to talk of the decline of our prestige and power, for if the country were at all hated on the Continent that feeling only arose from the envy with which foreigners regarded our wealth, happiness, and power. It was well known that all the countries which had desired our injury had been disappointed and sold. He denied that the question was one of peace or war, because he was convinced that it was simply one of power and place.
§ MR. HENNESSY
Sir, before this debate is adjourned, I trust I may be allowed to call the attention of the House to a circumstance which may, at all events, have the effect of inducing the members of Her Majesty's Government in future to pay the deference which I think is due to the Chair. I find that the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, on the 27th of April, 1855, in addressing this House used the following words:—"Every reasonable man must have been convinced that the charges made by the hon. Member were false and calumnious." Who was the Member referred to by the noble Viscount? The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Sir, the noble Viscount was called to order by an hon. Member who then sat below the gangway. Your predecessor decided the noble Viscount was in order, and yet we have to-night been witnesses of an extraordinary scene in which the noble Viscount took a conspicuous part. [Cries of "Read, read."]MR. OTWAY rose to order. He respectfully submitted the noble Viscount had used words which were altogether un-Parliamentary when he charged another Member with stating that which was false and calumnious.1073Mr. SPEAKER: What I understood the noble Viscount to say was, that the charges made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) were false and calumnious. [Cheers."]VISCOUNT PALMERSTON: Sir, I repeat what I was about to say. [Loud cheering.] The charges were utterly false and calumnious.
§ MR. HENNESSY
And yet, Sir, the same noble Viscount who used that language in the House towards the hon. Member for Southwark rose to-night, not only to call to order an hon. Gentleman who used a similar, and, indeed, identical phrase, but actually to call into question the decision of the Speaker of the House of Commons.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I apprehend that upon the occasion quoted by the hon. Gentleman I applied those terms not to my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, but to the charges which had been made by some other person. [Cries of "No, no!"] However, I should in any case, Sir, defer to your decision. I rise chiefly for the purpose of asking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, whether it be the intention of himself and those who act with him to bring this debate to a termination to-morrow? I think it is desirable to know whether it is to end tomorrow night, or whether it is to be continued on Monday? If, as I understand, it is the intention to finish the debate to-morrow, as by the forms of the House the Committee of Supply is the first of the Orders of the Day, and as it is competent for hon. Members to make preliminary Motions upon that Motion, I hope hon. Members who have notices on the paper will consent to their postponement, and allow the House to go into Committee of supply as a matter of form, so that the debate may be proceeded with early in the evening.
§ MR. DISRAELI
As far as I have been able to collect the general feeling of the House on both sides, I believe it is their wish that the debate should be concluded to-morrow. That is the general understanding.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.