§ MR. LAING
took this opportunity of putting the Question which stood in his name to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Having a lively recollection that this country drifted into the Russian war chiefly owing to a want of frank communication between the Government and Parliament of the time in the earlier stages of diplomatic negotiations, he thought the House would be neglecting its duty if it did not obtain from Her Majesty's Government some definite assurance as to the course they intended to pursue with regard to our foreign relations in the present critical state of Continental affairs. On the other hand, having a confident feeling that the assurance they would receive from the noble Lord would be satisfactory, he wished to avoid, if possible, making any form of Motion in the shape of an Address or Resolution which might have the effect of hampering the 1218 Government in any of its negotiations with foreign Powers, a result which be would be the very last to bring about. He felt the more confident that the assurance the House would receive from the noble Lord would be satisfactory, inasmuch as the country had had already some intimation that the Government intended to adopt a general policy of non-intervention. Both the noble Earl at the head of the Government, in another place, and the noble Lord opposite (the Secretary for Foreign Affairs), in addressing his constituents, had defined the meaning they attached to a policy of non-intervention in terms in which he (Mr. Laing) cordially concurred. He agreed with those noble Lords that a policy of non-intervention did not mean a policy of peace at any price under any circumstances, but a sensible determination not unnecessarily to mix ourselves up in foreign complications, a resolution which it was practicable for an insular nation like this to carry out. Notwithstanding all he had heard that night, he believed the British nation to be sufficiently strong not to feel nervous or alarmed at any complications that might occur on the Continent, as long as she could keep herself from becoming a party to them. If her honour or her interests were touched, of course this country would know how to defend them, but as long as these were unassailed it was her policy to propagate her ideas rather by commerce and by civilization than by the sword. He was glad to find that the noble Lords added to their admirable enunciation of the principles of non-intervention the very important supplement that if we do not mean to interfere by force we should abstain as far as possible from proffering useless advice, and thus avoid mixing ourselves up in affairs which we did not intend to carry into execution—or, in other words, that "we should not bark when we don't intend to bite." By following that course the country would avoid the difficulties which beset her in connection with Poland and Denmark, as her interference on behalf of those countries only brought additional disaster upon those whom she wished to befriend, and some degree of discredit on ourselves. The general principles of nonintervention having been so fully assented to, all that remained for the House to do was to ask for some assurance that those principles would be kept in view and would be practically applied to existing circumstances. He thought it might safely be 1219 assumed that after the experience this country had had, and after so full a recognition of the principles of non-intervention by that House and by the country generally, no Government would willingly and with its eyes open, adopt a policy of intervention, and if, unfortunately, we did find ourselves entangled in foreign complications, the danger would approach in some insidious form which we should believe we had no reason to dread. He thought the most dangerous form in which intervention could be disguised was that of mediation. He did not mean to say that under no possible or conceivable circumstances were we to offer to mediate between contending countries, but merely that we should beware of it as being intervention in its most seductive form. The natural and humane desire participated in by all to stop the effusion of blood and a wish to keep up the influence of the country in Europe, combined with the traditions and pre-possessions of the Foreign Office, which taught that the honour of the country was lost if we did not exchange a certain amount of correspondence with other countries whenever a fresh settlement took place in Europe, rendered that office peculiarly inclined to offer the mediation of this country in cases of foreign disputes. Whilst mediation presented itself in that seductive form it was clear that in the great majority of cases it was open to the greatest possible dangers. Mediation might answer very well in cases where a quarrel arose out of a point of honour, or where no great interest was at stake, in such a case, for instance, as in the trumpery dispute which took place some time since between this country and Brazil in consequence of the arrest of two of our midshipmen when in plain clothes; but where great national interests and principles were at stake, it was scarcely possible to conceive that active mediation might not become intervention on one side or the other. Proposals of mediation had recently been before the world which it was apparent, if carried out and acted upon, would have been tantamount to the most direct and active intervention in the present quarrel, on one side or the other. Another great danger to be apprehended from forcible and threatening mediation on the part of some great neutral Power was the tendency it had to patch up a hollow peace, and thus, in the desire to avoid the effusion of blood at the moment, the belligerent Powers were left in a position which rendered a future war at no very distant 1220 period almost inevitable. Thus, even unarmed mediation was often calculated to involve the country tendering it in great and unforeseen complications. He need not go very far back in the past to find instances in illustration of his remarks. Had this country, in its anxiety to stop the effusion of blood, offered mediation after the battle of Solferino, in the Italian war of 1859, how greatly we should have been involved in the present complication! We should have been obliged to become parties to the Treaty of Zurich, and have been entangled in the question of the annexation of Savoy and Nice in a manner which might have endangered our friendly relations in quarters in which it was most important for us to preserve them. Again, take the case of the American war. If we had mediated between North and South, what complications, embarrassments, and difficulties any such mediation would have given rise to! Having pointed out the probable results of mediation, he would proceed to apply the principles he had laid down to the present aspect of affairs, and he believed that there never was a juncture at which they applied with greater force. What was the question really at issue in the war on the Continent? He thought that war was a most remarkable instance of the way in which Providence frequently overruled events for great purposes. Out of an almost imperceptible quarrel, out of a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, had sprung a disastrous war, in which were involved the largest and widest questions affecting nationalities and the territory of Empires. The questions at issue in the present war evidently were, whether we should have an independent Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic, and whether they should have an united Germany, constituted as one great political body. He had never, at least in the House of Commons, been disposed to regard the question of nationalities as one of sentiment. Not that he was indifferent to these great movements—not that individually be did not feel a strong sympathy with the countrymen of Dante and Michael Angelo, of Göethe and Schiller, and wish that they could have the same national unity as more favourable circumstances had secured for the countrymen of Shakespeare and Milton. But sympathy was out of place in the expression of opinion in the House of Commons. What they had to look to was the solid and substantial political interest of those countries with regard to the state of Con- 1221 tinental politics. Now, the interest of this country with regard to Continental politics was, in the first place, that there should be a steady and effectual balance of power in Europe; and, in the next place, that this balance of power should be so arranged in respect of territorial limits and nationalities as to afford fair hope of a permanent and stable settlement in Europe. He did not use this phrase, "the balance of power," in the old sense of perpetual interference with every little change that took place upon the Continent. The distinctive characteristic of modern European civilization was the establishment of several independent families of nations. There was not, as in the Roman Empire or in China, one great stereotyped system, but several independent national existences had sprung into being, each with a life of its own, and each independent of the other. Our greatest wars had been in aid of European Confederations against some attempt by one aggressive Power to establish an overwhelming preponderance in Europe. Such were the wars in which we took part against Philip II., Louis Quatorze, and Napoleon. England always headed the combination of independent States which warred to vindicate the system of independent nations. Our interest, therefore, was for the establishment of such a broad, substantial balance of power, and such an adjustment of the nations, that no one Government should find, in the divisions and the weakness of its neighbours, a temptation to go beyond its own territory, and aspire for more than its own proper share of influence in the Councils of Europe. That was the object sought for by the Treaties of 1815, but no one who had watched the history of Europe since that time could say that that settlement had been either a satisfactory or a permanent one. He had heard those treaties commended on the ground that, though they might have violated the rights of nations and the principles of justice, at any rate they had given us half a century of peace. But the assertion was quite inaccurate. From 1815 down to 1830 they gave us, indeed, a precarious peace, because the great military States which formed the Holy Alliance were then all-powerful in Europe. But that short and uneasy peace was interrupted by a war in Spain, the suppression of a constitutional movement in Naples, and the crushing out of all the aspirations of the great German nation for constitutional freedom. Since that period 1222 there had been two great European revolutions, a succession of wars, and finally, what was almost worse than war, an armed peace, which was ruinous to the resources of almost every country in Europe, and was fast leading them to the verge of bankruptcy. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, gave a very striking and instructive picture of the result of this system upon the National Debt of various European countries. From his statement it appeared that the National Debt of nine of the principal countries of Europe had accumulated by no less a sum than £1,500,000,000; that the great bulk of this debt had accumulated in time of peace; and that six of those countries had managed to increase their debts during peace at the rate of £61,000,000 a year. He (Mr. Laing) once had occasion to go into some statistical calculations of the amount expended during the ten years preceding 1863 either in war or by exaggerated armaments beyond the scale of former years, due to the apprehension of war, and he found that the sum thus spent during these ten years was not less than £1,000,000,000. That expenditure had been going on at an accelerated pace of late; and, with the solitary exception of England, he believed it had led all the countries of Europe into a condition from which there was no outlet but that of financial bankruptcy or such a settlement of the affairs of Europe as would justify moderate armaments and reduced expenditure. Again, looking at the question as one not of money but of life, it would be found according to the statistical researches of a learned German, that between 1815 and 1864 no fewer than 2,225,000 persons had lost their lives in war, and these were Europeans, for the calculation did not include Asiatics and others who had perished by war during the same period. He simply mentioned these facts to show that there now existed in Europe what might be called an unstable equilibrium. It was a state of things in which the resources of peace were wasted in war, or the preparations for war, and which had now become almost intolerable. The reason why the Treaties of 1815 had failed to secure an effectual settlement of Europe was not hard to find. Those treaties were founded on artificial as against natural rights; they were founded on the claims of princes as against those of peoples; and they ignored altogether the principle of 1223 nationalities. He knew that some Gentlemen thought that the question of nationalities was a very disagreeable one, and that nationalities were very unreasonable for not allowing themselves to be entirely suppressed—a result which would certainly save a great deal of trouble. But the prominence of the nationality question now-a-days was, to a great extent, the inevitable result of modern progress and civilization. You could not extend education and the press, you could not introduce railways, steamboats, telegraphs, and cheap postage into a country without bringing together people who spoke a common language or felt that they had common interests and ought to be a common nation. Another reason why the feeling of nationality in modern times had become stronger than before was that, owing to the improved modern armaments, small States could no longer maintain a position of secure independence. They had now lost much of their relative importance. The days had gone by when a handful of brave men under a Leonidas or a Miltiades could resist the wealth and resources of a Persian Empire. However great their valour, Armstrong guns, shot, and shell, would clear them all away. For the solid independence of any people it was necessary that they should be formed into a considerable political State. Now, the present great Continental struggle raised in the broadest way the question of a new European settlement, based on nationalities, and the mediation of any neutral Power not implicated which tended to an imperfect settlement of this question, smothering it up and putting it out of sight for the moment, would produce results diametrically opposed to those which we ought to desire. It was infinitely better that the feeling which, right or wrong, had been raised in Italy and Germany should be so settled by Italians and Germans themselves as to give hopes of a lasting peace hereafter. Well, everything indicated that, if there was no interference by other Powers with the natural course of events, the result would be the establishment of a great independent Italy and Germany. Viewing this result by the practical tests which he had tried to apply, it would, in his opinion, be one eminently favourable to the interests of Great Britain. With regard to the balance of power, was it not notorious in history that the effacement of Germany, owing to the duality of Austria and Prussia, and the division 1224 into small and insignificant kingdoms had been the cause of the greatest wars which had been witnessed in Europe? The Thirty Years' War, the War of the Succession, the Seven Years' War, all originated in that specific cause, and were wars fought between the two factions into which Germany had been split. Even the Continental wars in which England was engaged were brought about indirectly by the powerless, because divided, condition of Germany, which led certain European States to entertain schemes of aggrandizement and ambition that would never have been entertained if Germany had been strong and united. In considering the balance of power it was not unimportant to remember that the North of Germany, which would constitute one strong political body, would be, like ourselves, a Protestant Power. Happily, the days were over when war was waged for religion. Still, taking a comprehensive view of the situation of Europe and the prospects of a substantial and permanent balance of power, it was important that since two of the great Continental States, France and Austria, and several of the States next in rank, such as Italy and Spain, Bavaria and Belgium, were Catholic, we should not remain the only great Protestant Power in Europe. More especially would that be desirable as the other Protestant Powers which used to form a counterpoise to the Catholic Sovereigns bad, owing to various circumstances, lost their relative importance. Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the great Protestant Powers leagued with us on former occasions, were no longer of the same weight in the scale of politics; while a great North German Power, being Protestant, would, with ourselves, establish a very fair equilibrium, religious as well as political. With regard to Italy, and speaking with a view only to the balance of power, he held that the creation of as many independent Powers as possible in the Mediterranean—a sea in which we should never claim a preponderance—would be greatly for the benefit of this country. In that point of view he looked upon the establishment of the Italian kingdom as favourable to the balance of power. Then nothing could tend to promote the prospects of a permanent and stable equilibrium in which we might hope to see disarmaments effected more than the establishment of these great nationalities. Germany and Italy, if once constituted great nations, must be Conservative. It was hardly within 1225 the scope of imagination to conceive Italy crossing the Alps to attack 35,000,000 of Frenchmen or 45,000,000 of Germans. The Germans, on the other hand, would form a complete nationality, and would have no motive for passing beyond their own frontiers to win territory inhabited by people of a different race. The Germans were like ourselves a sober and peace-loving people, and, however warlike on a great occasion, more likely to prosecute the pursuits of peaceful industry than of grasping ambition. If, therefore, those nationalities were established, we might fairly look forward to the time when the equilibrium in the politics of Europe would enable us to escape from a false position to reduce our excessive armaments, to avoid panics, and to enjoy a real instead of an armed peace. Our interest in such a state of things was by no means a selfish one, because, if we felt the pressure in a slight degree other countries, such as France, Russia, and Spain, felt it in a much greater. These nations had a vital interest in such a settlement of Europe as might enable us to turn our swords into pruning-hooks, and permanently to cultivate the arts of peace. Finally, a real settlement of the great question now raised might, not by the intervention of Foreign Powers, but by the action of the parties themselves, prove to be for the true interest of that Power which might at first sight seem to suffer by it—namely, Austria. Her true position lay towards the East. Any one who knew anything about the condition of the Austrian Empire must be aware what a vast fertile territory spread out in Hungary and along the valley of the Danube. There was to be found ample scope for creating an Empire greater than already existed within Austrian limits. The true mission of Austria was in the cultivation of those vast regions which had been wasted by the protracted wars between Turkey and Christendom. Nothing could be more injurious to her interests than the establishment of peace through the intervention of a Power induced to interfere by the cession of Venetia. But that was a question for Austria, not for us. His great object in asking the present question was to obtain in that House an official assurance somewhat in the nature of that given unofficially by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary to his constituents the other day. He would not ask or expect the Government to give any absolute pledge under no circumstances whatever to be 1226 parties to any scheme of mediation. But the House might receive an assurance that nothing in the nature of armed mediation would be assented to by the Government without consulting the House of Commons. The House ought also to be assured that any scheme of mediation on which they might embark should be accompanied by such reservations made to foreign Powers as might leave the Government free, if at any time they found themselves drawn into a position where more active intervention on their part might possibly be sought. [Lord STANLEY: Hear, hear!] In giving that assurance the Government would not diminish the real weight of this country in any negotiations. On the contrary, if beyond all reasonable expectations any contingency should arise out of the present state of European politics in which the interests of England were really affected, if Her Majesty's Government called Parliament together without regarding any inconvenience which might arise from the season of the year, and stated frankly the reasons which led them to the conclusion that active intervention was demanded, then he felt persuaded that Parliament and the country would be disposed to go with them hand in hand in taking whatever steps might be necessary for vindicating the interests of this country. The old martial spirit of England was far from being extinct if solid reasons could be shown for a just and necessary war, and we were just as ready to go into it heartily—Parliament, Government, and people, all united—as we were determined to carry out the principles of non-intervention as long as we did not feel an imperative necessity calling on us to depart from them. It was with that view that he begged to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he can give the House an assurance that no step will be taken which might commit this country to any intervention in the war now proceeding on the Continent without giving Parliament a previous opportunity of expressing its opinion as to the policy of such intervention?
§ MR. HORSMAN
It may be for the convenience of the House, as the noble Lord to whom my hon. Friend has addressed this question cannot rise to speak a second time, that I should now introduce the subject which stands in my name on the paper. It is only the consideration that it is for the general convenience that 1227 the discussion on foreign affairs should be continuous and uninterrupted that I am induced to interpose between the House and the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin), who has a Motion to make of great interest to other hon. Members as well as to himself. I beg, therefore, to tender my acknowledgments to my hon. Friend for allowing me to rise before him. I have been anxious to put certain questions to the noble Lord, because I feel that this is a very critical moment in Continental Councils, and that the war which is now raging in Central Europe may either be brought to an early and durable peace, or may be so dealt with by other Powers as to acquire larger dimensions, and involve all Europe in its flames. England is as yet neutral, but she is not unconcerned, and if this war spread, she may be more than interested, she may be materially affected. It is for that reason that I feel that on this occasion it is desirable to have some discussion, because one of those contingencies which my hon. Friend regards with so much alarm has already occurred—the intervention of England has already or is about to be invoked by one of the neutral Powers, and when the diplomacy of England is called into action it is the duty of Parliament to express its sentiments, and, if need be, to extract the sentiments of the Government. I am anxious to extract its sentiments because the incidents of this war have been so rapid that they have absolutely confounded the Councils of the neutral Powers, and while they are doubting and hesitating I feel that a timely declaration of the views of the English Cabinet, especially if found to be in accordance with the sentiments of Parliament, may go far towards confirming hesitating Councils and promoting that which we all desire—the re-establishment of peace. Now, there has been a great and unlooked-for change in the situation since the discussion raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) on the impending war about five or six weeks ago. Sir, we felt, at that time, that Prussia and Italy were the aggressors and peace-breaking Powers, and there was a universal sympathy with Austria, because she was the Power in whose moderation and forbearance we discerned a sincere desire for the preservation of the general peace. There was a sympathy with Austria, because—and it is an honour to us rather than a reproach—that in every Continental struggle, when opposing principles 1228 are at stake, Englishmen will have their sympathies, and those sympathies will find a voice in the House of Commons, and more especially as we know that foreign Powers will construe the diplomacy of England by the utterances in Parliament. I say, therefore, that when this German-Italian question was last before the House my sympathy as between Austria and Italy was, as it always has been, entirely on the side of Italy, and as between Austria and Prussia—Prussia represented by Count Bismarck—my sympathies were wholly on the aide of Austria. It was impossible for the friends of Italy not to regret, and, to some extent, to blame the determination of Italy to attack Austria, and so to precipitate a sanguinary war; but, at the same time, we could not be blind to the fact that the relations between Austria and Italy were rather those of an armed truce than a settled peace. Austria has never recognized the kingdom of Italy. Austria was one of the great obstacles to the evacuation of Rome. It was Austria that compelled Italy to keep up her great armaments, which exhausted her resources, and impoverished finance, and it was, in fact, the strong and irresistible crush of public feeling against Austria that drove on the King of Italy and his Ministers to make that attack which we all deprecated. But, as regards Prussia, there was no such excuse. On the part of Prussia it seemed to be a deliberate and wanton aggression, without cause and without excuse, and by a Minister whom we then regarded as rash and reckless, and who had shown himself the enemy of liberty at home and of national rights abroad. And therefore the general opinion of Englishmen at that time might have been summed up in one sentence—a hearty desire that the war might be limited to a short campaign, at the termination of which we might see Italy in possession of Venice and au Austrian army quartered at Berlin. But all this is now changed. Events have falsified every calculation. A campaign of ten days paved the way for greater changes in Europe than had been made since 1815. Germany was revolutionized in a shorter time than we took in England to construct a Cabinet, and Austria, defeated and helpless, retiring from Italy, flying from Germany, and trembling for her capital, addressed herself to France, and appealed for her interposition. And France, to the astonishment of all the world, and probably to no one more than her Emperor, unheeded by Prussia, re- 1229 buffed by Italy, turned to England and asked for her co-operation to save Austria by staying the progress of the victorious armies that had routed and were pursuing her. Now, Sir, I think we have reason to be well pleased that the Emperor of the French has addressed—if he has yet addressed—this invitation to England. I know it must place our Government in a position of great difficulty, and, as regards the Emperor of the French, in a position of great delicacy; but I have no doubts as to the result. I believe we shall find the Emperor of the French at this conjuncture a man of great sagacity and moderation, and I place great confidence in the noble Lord who is intrusted with the administration of our foreign affairs. I read with great pleasure the speech which the noble Lord lately addressed to his constituents at Lynn, in which he stated his views of the relations and duties of England to foreign Powers. And I saw with pleasure that the noble Lord in his first official utterances was at pains to repudiate all sympathy with those who maintain that England has no concern in Continental affairs. That doctrine of non-intervention to which my hon. Friend has just alluded debars us, and very properly, from all interference with the internal affairs of other States, and where English interests are not concerned we are equally bound to abstain from all interference, unasked, with their external relations. But the interests of England are, however, so varied and widespread, and so easily affected by troubles in all quarters of the globe, that I hold it to be the first duty of an English Minister to study to maintain the influence of England at the highest point in every Cabinet of Europe, and, remembering that England is a great Power, and with a responsibility equal to her power, our Minister should be ready—nay anxious, to cooperate, in all times and all places, in every work by which he can promote the interests of liberty and progress combined with peace. I must presume that the Emperor of the French is addressing himself to England for a no less worthy object, and with the knowledge that the co-operation of England can only be given by a strict adherence to English policy. Now, I do not know—and if I did know, I should not put the question to the noble Lord—the precise nature of the communications that have passed between France and England. Some weeks ago it was stated in journals which are understood 1230 to speak with authority that a joint note had been addressed by France, Russia, and England to the belligerent Powers. But as there has been no confirmation of this statement I suppose it was unfounded. Nor has it transpired on either side of the Channel that there has been any official invitation addressed by one Government to the other. I should rather suppose that there have been certain preliminary communications, and that, in fact, the Emperor of the French has sounded the English Cabinet to know how far and for what purpose they might accept an invitation to a joint action, and probably, if these communications are still going on, it will add rather to the interest and utility of the present discussion. My hon. Friend has some idea of mediation, and one of the rumours is that France has invited England to join her in a friendly mediation. If so, I can anticipate the answer of the noble Lord—that a friendly mediation in the midst of a war is a call on the victorious Power to desist. Again, it has been said that the Emperor of the French was meditating an armed mediation. But our Foreign Minister would of course tell him that an armed intervention by France at the present moment would be giving the signal for a European war. And therefore I assume that the Emperor of the French would not seek the co-operation of England unless he had determined to abjure all such designs. But, for some purpose or other, the joint action of England will be invited by France, and whether that invitation has been received or is only on its way, there are two questions which will present themselves to the mind of the English Minister. First, are the relations of England to the belligerent Powers the same as those of France? And secondly, are England's views of policy as regards those Powers identical with those of France? Now, both these questions must at the first blush be answered in the negative, although I am prepared to hear that the British Cabinet has received such assurances from France as will greatly modify the situation—and first, as to our relations with those Powers; they are very different from those of France. France, by accepting Venetia, has departed from her neutrality. Austria's object in ceding Venetia was to release the Austro-Italian army, and enable it to reinforce Benedek, and thus, by accepting that cession, the Emperor of the French did, in effect, send a reinforcement of 150,000 men to the 1231 relief of Austria. In so doing he abandoned his neutrality, and became the ally of Austria and the enemy of Italy, and therefore it would be impossible for England to act with him or to recognize him as a neutral Power. But, on the other hand, our Government may have received, and I hope they have received, assurances from the Emperor of the French that he has only received Venetia in trust, and that he intends to transfer it to Italy without conditions; and, if so, one great source of difficulty will be removed. Then, as to our views of policy towards the belligerent Powers, are they the same as those of France? Unfortunately, there is a still greater divergency, because the policy of France has been avowedly and ostentatiously the policy of intervention, which England repudiates and condemns, and the intervention of France has been for purposes the very opposite of that which England desires. In Italy, the policy of England has been to promote the freedom, independence, and unity of Italy. But the policy of France has been to keep Italy unsettled, divided, and dependent. Again, England would desire to see in Germany a free, well-governed, and strong Power—compact, progressive, and weighty in European Councils. But France has always been partial to weak neighbours, against whom she could protect herself by enlarging her boundaries and rectifying her frontiers, and she has had a particular predilection for a weak and divided Germany. And, therefore, it would appear that unless the Emperor of the French were prepared to review his policy, it would be very difficult for the two Governments to act together for a common object. I hope the Emperor of the French is prepared to review his policy, and to bring it into accord with the policy of England. What course is it open to the two Governments to pursue? Prussia and Italy never rejected an armistice. They were ready to accept it on condition that the bases of peace were defined beforehand. As regards Austria those conditions were two. Italy requires that Venetia should be surrendered to her by Austria without conditions; and Prussia requires that Austria should cease to be a member of the Germanic Confederation. Austria has but to accept these two conditions and peace is secured to her at once, and the integrity of her Empire is preserved without the intervention of a foreign Power. Are they unreasonable conditions? Let us see. The surrender of Venetia has 1232 already taken place, and its passing by a fiction into the hands of France, instead of into those of Italy, makes no difference at all in the situation of Austria. France had no right to accept Venetia for herself, because it was no longer Austria's to give away. Austria only pretended to give it, because she knew she could not hold it. It seems to have been mistaken policy on the part of France to accept it, seeing the irritation her acceptance has caused among the Italians. At any rate, we must assume France only holds Venetia in trust for Italy, and that it is entirely lost to Austria. Then as to Austria remaining a member of the Germanic Confederation, that is purely a German question, and we cannot see in what way either France or England has a right to interfere in it. The war has been waged for supremacy in Germany. The long rivalry between the two chief Powers had wasted and weakened Germany, and their incessant intrigues for leadership had harassed and demoralized the smaller States. The experience of one terrible week has destroyed the prestige of Austria and given to Prussia a predominance which she is determined to maintain. Since 1815, no Power in Europe has made such solid progress as Prussia, and none has receded so rapidly and hopelessly as Austria; and the war has only developed the contrast between a fresh, hopeful, and progressive Power, and one that is decrepid and decayed. It is idle to tell us that Prussia owes her success to the needle-gun. Was it the needle-gun that enabled her to overrun Saxony and penetrate the passes of Bohemia without meeting a foe? Was it the needle-gun that enabled her commanders, with a smaller army, to concentrate a larger force on the critical field that decided the war? Prussia has been victorious because she has abler Ministers as well as better generals. The headship of Germany has passed to Prussia because she was enabled to give to the German people assurance of a Power capable of securing the unity and the headship they had long desired; and the King of Prussia, now at the head of 30,000,000 Germane, has a right to warn off foreign Powers from interfering in German affairs, and to say that the map of Germany shall not be recast in Paris, and the Italians have a right to say that the boundaries of Italy shall not be dictated by France. Whether it was prudent in them to say so is another thing; whether it was wise in them—whether it was safe in them to 1233 brave France by so unflinching and uncompromising an attitude is a question they had, no doubt, well considered. But it is evident these two Powers are both in earnest. Prussia has been chafing under the insecurity of her frontier from an encroaching neighbour, and Italy has been smouldering under a hard taskmaster, so they have both determined to cut the knot. Prussia will not discuss with France her position in Germany, and Italy will not barter Venetia at the price of Italian territory, and there is no doubt that they have both reason and justice on their side. The Emperor of the French is too wise a monarch not to admit it; he knows he has no right whatever to interfere either in Italy or Germany. He is the man above all others who will be quick to appreciate the change. He has no longer to deal with Sovereigns and their Ministers, but with enthusiastic populations fighting for nationality and determined to achieve it. Whether Austria is to remain a member of the German Confederation, as I have already said, is entirely a German question, to be settled without reference to France or any other Power. The Emperor of the French, at an earlier stage and in a very different state of things, did express a very strong opinion that Austria should remain a great German Power; but events have been too rapid and too strong for him. Austria has ceased to be a great German Power. When she was routed and driven from Germany by a Power with less than half her population, and had to call in a stranger to protect her, then her fall from the station of a great German Power was an accomplished fact, which neither diplomatic phrases nor fiction could disguise, and which no human authority could revoke. It is evident that Prussia will not consent to restore Austria to her place in Germany, and the German people will not permit it. What is France to do? Does Austria really think that France will attempt to restore Austria to her place in Germany by force? Does she think that France could do it if she attempted? I will not say that the Emperor of the French is too wise to attempt it, but I believe he is far too wise to wish it. I said at the outset that I did not sympathize at the beginning of this war with Prussia as represented by Count Bismarck. I felt it to be, as I believe almost every man felt it to be, a very bad war, waged, as it appeared to me, by an absolute and unscrupulous Minister, with an oppressed 1234 and discontented population and reluctant army. But now, as events have gone on to develop more completely his real character and policy, it is impossible to deny that Count Bismarck is showing himself a man of rare powers, and of a high purpose, and that he is achieving a great work, in which I, for one, wish him God speed. He is regenerating Germany, he is crowning the edifice in Italy, he is driving Austria to seek real power in the contraction and consolidation of the Empire. The Emperor of the French sees this, and he knows England sees it; and he knows, as we all know, that when 30,000,000 of Germans are determined to unite themselves under one head all the Emperors in the world are powerless to prevent it. I hope and believe that the Emperor of the French, more than any other ruler in Europe, is interested in the maintenance of peace, who is prepared to accept accomplished facts; I hope his addressing himself to the Government of England is evidence of that. I rejoice, therefore, that he has addressed, or is about to address, to England an invitation to co-operate with him. I trust he will be met cordially by the British Government, and that the good offices of the two Governments will be joined to press upon Austria, in the most earnest and friendly spirit, the wisdom of her also accepting accomplished facts, and terminating a war which she can have no interest to prolong. I have heard one objection made—that the aggrandizement of Prussia will destroy that to which my hon. Friend referred, the European equilibrium. I might attach importance to this objection if I knew where the European equilibrium was to be found. I have made the attempt, but I have never been able to discover it. I see Russia, a colossal Power, overshadowing her neighbours on -one side; I see France, the overruling Continental Power, disquieting her neighbours on the other; but I do not see where the balance is to be found. Austria and Prussia, since 1815, have figured as second-rate precarious despotisms; the petty Sovereigns of Germany have been so many tolerated nonentities; Italy has been treated as a vassal of France. Now we are about to see all these elements of weakness—this anomalous aggregation of palsied protectorates moulded into force under three strong Powers—Italy, shaking off her dependence on France, and walking in her own strength; Austria, driven to abandon her obsolete policy, and seek her 1235 safety and her strength in the good government of her dominions and the prosperity and love of her people; and Prussia at the head of Germany, an intellectual and aspiring nation, awaking from a long lethargy, and working out its political freedom with new national life, a new great Power in Europe, and a new guarantee for the peace of Europe. This is the consummation to be desired by the English Ministry. It is worth the highest ambition of the greatest Minister; it is one which I trust the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) will use his utmost efforts, in co-operation with the Emperor of the French, to promote; it is a consummation which will redound to the lasting honour of the noble Lord if he contributes to accomplish it. I conclude by asking the noble Lord whether the Government of England has received an invitation from that of France to address any joint communication to the belligerents; and, if so, whether the English Government has expressed its readiness to concur with that of France in recommending Austria to accept the two conditions proposed by Prussia and Italy as to the surrender of Venetia, and Austria ceasing to be a member of the Germanic Confederation?
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
had listened with admiration to the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, although he had heard much of what he had said with great regret. The right hon. Gentleman had stigmatized the war as unjust and aggressive, and had said that he should like to see the Austrian army at Berlin. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman was, nevertheless, so much influenced by the power of success — by that power which so often made the difference between a hero and a scoundrel, that he actually concluded his speech with a panegyric upon Prussia and a bitter invective against Austria, not the less bitter because accompanied by friendly observations which only served to make the bitterness more disagreeable. Now, he would venture to say that whatever might be the political opinions of the people of this country, he believed that there was no Englishman who did not regard with reverence, and admiration the heroic conduct of Austria. [" Oh, oh !"] An hon. Member bad cried " Oh, oh !" Well, for his own part, all he would say was that he was ashamed of him. He maintained that a person who could not 1236 respect valour, military prowess, and the endurance of misfortune and defeat with undoubted pluck and undiminished resistance, and who could receive an expression of respect for those qualities with a cry of " Oh, oh!" did not deserve any observation which he could address to him. At this moment, Austria presented what in ancient times was said to be a spectacle worthy of God—namely, the spectacle of a just man suffering under undeserved misfortune. However, he would dwell no longer upon that subject, because he thought it was one on which there could not possibly be two opinions; but he must make a few remarks upon the extraordinary position in which France was placed at the present moment. For some time past, the Emperor of the French had held himself out to be the arbiter of the destinies of Europe. He had held, or at least had professed to hold, with regard to the condition of Europe, the position of a political Jupiter, who, by his mere will, could influence human affairs. Now, what had happened with regard to the present war? Look at the famous speech at Auxerre and the other oracular utterances which had amazed and astonished politicians, and upon which no one, even at the present day, could put an intelligible construction. All those utterances had been addressed to the world for the purpose of impressing it with the belief that the Emperor of the French had the whole situation in his hands. And what had occurred? Austria suffered a great, and, he feared, to a great extent, a decisive, defeat. What happened next? There appeared in the Moniteur a statement to the effect that the Emperor of Austria, having satisfied his military honour in Italy, and concurring in the opinions expressed by the Emperor Napoleon's letter of the 11th of June to his Minister of Foreign Affairs, had ceded Venetia to France and referred all the matters in dispute to the mediation of the Emperor Napoleon. Well, Venetia having been ceded to the Emperor of the French, became, in fact, French territory, and the Emperor of the French accepted the office of mediator. But the Prussians told him to mind his own business, and in reality treated him with contempt. The Italians, too, continued their operations—which, by the way, had been singularly unsuccessful — and continued to invade Venetia, which, by the cession, had become French territory, so that the Emperor of the French was completely re- 1237 jected and snubbed by both parties. All Europe waited to see what would happen. Everybody supposed that the Emperor of the French would have intimated to the authorities at Florence that they were not to advance on Venetia, and that he would have done something with the view of stopping Prussia. But nothing of the sort happened, for the Emperor accepted the rebuff in the face of all Europe, and the whole thing came to a standstill. In fact the Emperor of the French had been completely defeated, and there was no doubt that he had succeeded in taking the famous step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some persons said there was a conspiracy between the Emperor Napoleon, Prussia, and Italy, but for his part he could scarcely believe it, nor indeed would it be proper in the British House of Commons to utter such an opinion with regard to a great neighbouring Power. Such an opinion, however, had been uttered elsewhere, and there could be no doubt whatever that there was a conspiracy between Prussia and Italy. Well, about a week ago a speech was delivered by Prince Napoleon, who was the nearest relation of the Emperor, there being but one line between him and the Imperial Throne. The policy proclaimed by the Prince was this. He remarked that—The French Empire was, in point of fact, the triumph of modern democracy; the triumph of the Revolution, which had been retarded for fifteen years by the Restoration, and by Parliamentary Liberalism, but which now moves on, in spite of impediments to arrest its course. People have been too hesitating and too prudent hitherto. They should have allied themselves with Prussia and Italy a year ago. The time is, however, now come when the banner of the Revolution, or, which is the same thing, the banner of the Empire, must be unfurled. The programme of this revolution is the struggle against Catholicism, which must be carried on; the constitution of the great national unities on the ruins of factitious States and of the treaties which founded them; democracy triumphant, founded on universal suffrage, but which needs for at least a century to be directed by the strong hands of Cæars — Imperial France on the summit of this European situation; war, a long war, as the condition and the instrument of this policy. The first obstacle to this policy is Austria; but this obstacle must be overcome. Austria is the most powerful support of Catholicism in the world. She represents the Federal form as opposed to the principle of united nationalities. She aims at the triumph at Vienna, Pesth, and Frankfort of Liberal and Parliamentary institutions as opposed to democracy. She is the last refuge of Catholicism and feudality; she must, therefore, be beaten down and stamped out.1238 It was a significant fact that immediately after that speech had been delivered Prince Napoleon had been sent to Italy as the ambassador and representative of the French. This, then, was in the first place a religious war — a war against one particular phase of Christianity —namely, Catholicism; and in the second place it was a war on the part of democracy against Parliamentary Government, or what the Prince termed Parliamentary Liberalism. Now, he believed that those hon. Gentlemen who were most opposed to Catholicism would not join in a religious war against any phase of Christianity, and that no Member of that House would wish to see democracy, based on universal suffrage, triumphing over Parliamentary Liberalism. This led him to the doctrine of non-intervention, which had been so eloquently advocated by the hon. Gentleman who commenced this debate. He did not want to see England plunge into any war on the Continent in which neither her interests nor her honour were involved; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the time might come when this country might be included in that denunciation of " Parliamentary Liberalism," and when she might be called upon by two great foreign nations to subscribe to the principle of " democracy founded on universal suffrage," and to conform herself to the rule which appeared to be laid down by the French Emperor, and to which Austria was made to succumb. He understood the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last to concur in the exclusion of Austria from the Germanic Confederation, for that was one of the principles contended for by Prussia. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to talk of nationalities and the other principles he had enunciated, but the real grounds on which Austria was attacked, and one which it was sought to blot her out of the map, or, at least, to shut her out of the Germanic Confederation, were those which he was describing. That was avowed by Prussia herself, and he said it was a thing which England ought to discountenance. Whatever diplomatic action she took, he trusted that she would set her face against principles which were inconsistent with the peace of nations and with her own Constitution, that Her Majesty's Government would have their eyes open to that union—perhaps he might call it that conspiracy between France and Prus- 1239 sia and the Government of Florence —undoubtedly he might call it that conspiracy between Prussia and the Government of Florence; and that they would not sanction the oppression of Austria, but would hold the scales even and maintain the rights of our ancient ally, Austria, and recognize the wonderful valour and heroism displayed by her. The outrageous and unprincipled conduct of Bismarck had been truly stigmatized. It had been justly laid down by the greatest writers on International Law that in carrying on a war it was necessary to consider all through it the purpose and cause of that war, and that when a belligerent had obtained the object of the struggle and an idemnification for the loss which had been inflicted upon him by his enemy, he ought to desist from the contest and rest satisfied. How did that apply to the case of Prussia? The object of the war in which she engaged was the vindication of her right to the Elbe Duchies. Whether it was a just cause of war or not, it was a fair cause of war; but Prussia, having been successful by means of the needle-gun, not so much by her military skill or valour, as by the ingenuity of the gunmaker—had pushed her advantage and practised a system of utter buccaneering. Talk of Germany and Fatherland! Prussia had been devastating and overturning Fatherland, imprisoning princes and forcing their troops into capitulations. She had acted on a system of complete and lawless buccaneering. And here he must say a great deal of blame attached to the late Government and the Government of Lord Palmerston. It was they who overthrew those principles of public law on which the peace of civilized nations rested. It was they who first established the principle that a country was to get whatever it could, by fair means or foul—that what it got even by perfidy and violence it was to keep, and that it was to be applauded for getting it. Those principles they first encouraged in the person of Count Cavour, and now M. Bismarck was following in the footsteps of Count Cavour, and because he was more powerful, was prosecuting his designs more effectually. The result was the unexampled state of things now witnessed on the Continent—countries being attacked without any cause of war at all, and wholesale devastation, butchery, and violence being rampant in Central Europe. The Governments of Lord 1240 Russell and Lord Palmerston looked only to success, and they had really demoralized European politics. They had done all they could to subvert those principles on which statesmen used, at least, if only for decency's sake, to pretend to act. They had openly flung aside those principles—they had told nations and Governments that they need not mind right and wrong—that as long as they were successful, that was all that was required; and that in that career of buccaneering, while they were successful they should have the support of the British Government. It was non-intervention, it was true, because our Government never actually used violence in carrying out their policy, although they sent a fleet to support the landing of Garibaldi in Sicily, and they employed underhand arts of every sort. He said that for whatever confusion and bloodshed had occurred in Europe within the last month the Governments of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell were responsible. The late Government must, he maintained, be held to a great extent responsible for the misery and misfortune which had attended the recent wars on the Continent. He understood that an appeal had been made in another place to Lord Derby with respect to the present state of affairs on the Continent, and that the noble Earl very justly replied that he had only very recently come into office, and that events which everybody regretted had been caused by the policy of his predecessors, for which he was not responsible, adding that it was too late to call upon the present Government now to take any action in the matter. He trusted, however, that the noble Earl and his Colleagues would be actuated by more generous sentiments than those whom they succeeded, and that they would not be led away by that enthusiasm for success by which the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to be influenced. He hoped they would do everything in their power to bring about an honourable peace, taking into their consideration the interests and rights of our ancient ally, Austria, and not giving their sanction to any proposal for excluding her from the German Confederation, while they resisted the outrageous pretensions of Prussia and declined to fall in with the views of France, which appeared to be founded on some agreement between that country, Prussia, and Italy, for the purpose of making a profit out of the misfortunes and troubles of Europe. He trusted also that the Government would take care not to forget what was done to 1241 Italy The Italians, as they were called—[A laugh]—he did not admit that the Government at Florence constituted the Italian people—had not earned the cession of Venetia, by any successes of their own. If they acquired that province it would be only by means of corrupt bargain and conspiracy with Prussia, at the head of whose affairs was a Minister who had violated public right, and who had completely snubbed the Parliament of his own country. The Government would not, he hoped, lose sight of the claims of the South of Italy to have its own autonomy and independence. The South had not because of the lawless aggression of the North forfeited its ancient right to be governed by its own princes, He did not mean to contend that the Government should interfere to effect those objects by force of arms; but the moral influence of England ought, he maintained, to be exercised for the righteous purposes which he had indicated, and not to promote revolution.
It appears to me that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has been somewhat severe and unsparing in his denunciations. He has been so liberal in pouring them forth against those with whom I have had the honour to act in particular, that I hope the House will not deem me otherwise if I make some comments upon his speech. My hon. Friend has delivered a tirade against the Emperor of the French of such a nature and character that I cannot help thinking intelligent Frenchmen, when they read the report of what has fallen from him in the columns of the English newspapers, will regard his remarks with somewhat of the same feeling with which we peruse the speeches of the Marquis de Boissy. It is, Sir, with no resentment and with no sentiment of displeasure, but still with considerable amazement, that I find a Member of the legislative body go so far as my hon. Friend has just done in the exercise of his deliberative faculties. The hon. Baronet has denounced the Emperor of the French, Count Bismarck, Count Cavour—but it seems there are men who are even worse than those distinguished personages in his estimation. They are, according to him, but secondary representatives of the true principle of evil, which, in his opinion, has resided all the time with the late Government. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Hear, hear !] My hon. Friend, I may observe in passing, has one faculty which is truly admirable, and that is 1242 the power of giving utterance to accusations in themselves the most violent and invective the most severe with a degree of good humour which is absolutely surprising. I only wish my hon. Friend had exhibited that unbounded good humour on the present occasion more fully towards us and towards that country of which he never speaks but to malign her—I mean Italy. When my hon. Friend came to that part of his speech in which, addressing Her Majesty's Government, he appealed to them not to forget what was due to Italy, I thought to myself—recollecting all that has happened—that I was about to witness the strangest of metamorphoses, the hon. Member for Dundalk raising up his voice on behalf of that country. I almost expected for a moment that he was about to advocate her claims, struck with admiration of the endurance under defeat, and the great fortitude displayed by the Italians in their early struggles. The hon. Gentleman has not, however, one grain of admiration, or pity, or sympathy to spare for Italy. When he came to explain what was, in his opinion, due to her, he at once destroyed all ground upon which a charge of inconsistency against him could be founded. That which, according to him, we owe her is that the influence of the English Government should be used to tear her to pieces; to undo, as far as it lies in our power to accomplish that end—I thank God it is neither within our power nor will —one of the noblest works of recent times —the gathering together the fragments of an ancient and distinguished Empire, and the making a country which was formerly the battle-field of contending States in Europe, assume a form of solid unity, and give promise that it would ere long become itself one of the great pillars of European order. I, for one, am satisfied that Her Majesty's Government will not forget what is due to Italy, but then I feel assured they will remember it in a sense the very opposite of that which my hon. Friend has indicated. The hon. Gentleman undertook at the commencement of his speech to declare what the sentiments were of the people of England on this subject, and all through his remarks he urged as an argument against the adoption of a particular course that the English people would be sure not to support it. It is something quite new to find my hon. Friend constituting himself the representative of the people of England on questions of foreign policy, and I am bound to 1243 say that I should have thought his inspiration would have been drawn from some more distant quarter. The hon. Gentleman accuses my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud of being a sharer in that capital sin, which he also lays to the charge of the late Lord Palmerston, admiration of success. Now, it is due to the memory of Lord Palmerston, who was certainly the animating spirit of the late Government in its Italian policy, to remember that his attachment to the cause of Italy did not begin on the occasion of Italian success. It began in times when Italy was trodden under foot, not merely by the iron despotism of the petty Governments which were scattered here and there over her surface, but by the force of that great Power which stood behind every one of them, and had entered with them into a secret network of treaties. My hon. Friend has spoken of conspiracies, but there indeed was a conspiracy binding these States not to give liberty to their subjects, and it was when that state of things of which the hon. Gentleman is so warm and enthusiastic an admirer and which he so severely denounces us for having contributed to overturn, prevailed—it was in the very spring tide of that condition of her affairs that Lord Palmerston attached himself to the cause of Italy. I think, too, the hon. Baronet was scarcely fair in charging the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) with having made a speech tonight which was prompted by no other sentiment than that of mere admiration of success. My right hon. Friend was himself the man who drew attention to the remarkable change which has occurred not only in the condition of Europe, but also in the condition of English public opinion since the time when the discussion on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater took place. There has been a great change in public opinion on this subject, but I cannot think that it is to be attributed to the mere operation of success. I cannot imagine that we are so blind or so base, that the favours of fortune have the power to shake the settled judgment of the country, or to make us libel to-day that of which we yesterday approved. It appears to me, on the contrary, that the great events which have taken place, independent of those of a military character, have not only changed much which before existed, but disclosed much which was not observed before. My hon. Friend who has just sat 1244 down said that the object which Prussia had in view in the war with respect to the Elbe Duchies, was, if not a just, at any rate, a fair object—a distinction which I do not understand. But he said that she had a fair object in view, and that the war only became abominable and execrable in his eyes when it assumed the double character, first that it became associated with the liberation of Venetia, and secondly, it came to be a war for the unity of Ger-many. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: I did not say—] That, at any rate was the construction I put on the words. If the hon. Baronet wishes to explain them, I shall be happy to hear the explanation.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
explained that what he said with respect to the Elbe Duchies was that whether the object of the war in that quarter was legitimate, if not just, was a fair subject of dispute; but that after Prussia met with great success she went on with what he called a system of buccaneering, overthrowing Sovereigns and making wanton conquests in a manner which were utterly inconsistent with International Law and the objects of the war itself.
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has stated distinctly what he meant, but it does not alter the case, because we do not know that up to this hour Prussia has overthrown a single Sovereign. I know it not. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Saxony and Hanover.] I know it not. It may be that she has coerced those States for the purposes of the war, and there is no doubt at all about that; but the future political condition of the Sovereigns of those States remains a matter yet undetermined, and no person could say whether in respect to the States in 'question Prussia deserved the charge of buccaneering until we know what is to be their ultimate condition. But what I wish to point out is this. About two months ago it appeared that Prussia intended to make war on Austria in order to obtain possession of the Elbe Duchies. As my hon. Friend says, upon that issue there were not two opinions in this country. We had unanimously condemned the joint conduct of Austria and Prussia at a former period in reference to the Duchies; and when Austria adopted the course of public right with regard to the Elbe Duchies, opinion in this country was unequivocally declared in opposition to it. But when the war began the case of the Elbe Duchies was completely absorbed and swallowed up 1245 in a far greater question; and we must now look at the cause of the war, not merely or mainly with reference to mere condemnation, as if we were to set ourselves up to be judges of nations and of Governments—a position, I think, we have no right to arrogate to ourselves; but we must look at the great issue involved with reference to the well-being and happiness of Europe; and in the share which it gives to this country in promoting that wellbeing and happiness, and to the mode in which we should exercise that influence. I, for one, entirely disclaim any title to condemn or to sympathize with anybody except in the sense of giving a private opinion, which all men are entitled to give in passing their judgment upon the conduct of others. But let us now consider the question in that point of view. There was one sentence in the speech of the right hon. Member for Stroud which I heard with, some jealousy, though, perhaps, I did not distinctly gather its meaning, but he used an expression, much and long in favour in this country, in stating that it was the duty of the British Government to endeavour to maintain the influence of England at the highest point in every Cabinet in Europe. Now, I venture to say that the influence of England is best maintained by refraining from continued interference. The influence of England, so far as it is genuine and useful, does not depend on elaborate schemes for magnifying our old reputation and our old performances. It does depend, first, on the strength of the country, and secondly, upon the credit that may be given to the country for the honesty of its purpose, and for the disinterestedness that is so favoured by our insular position. I dare say the difference of opinion between my right hon. Friend and myself is on this point, and it is a verbal difference more than anything else. I wish to express an opinion that I strongly entertain, that just as between man and man you do not make your friend attached to you and admire you by any elaborate effort to draw forth his attachment or his admiration, so I think in regard to our influence, it is more likely to be the spontaneous growth of the greatness of the country, and of the confidence which by our good conduct we shall lead others to have in us, than by incessantly setting before us questions of policy which do often tend to involve us, if not in intrigues, in petty rivalries and struggles for local objects, and for the attainment of weight in the Councils of this or that Sove- 1246 reign, and which lead often to our own disadvantage. Speaking of British influence in its proper sense, of course, it will follow that in the case of any great European complication British influence will at one or other time come to be employed. It is difficult to define accurately that principle of non-intervention which the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) invites us to adopt. Non-intervention, no doubt, if we are satisfied with anything less than metaphysical strictness of definition, and if we take it as indicating that spirit and temper, I heartily subscribe to it; but the experience of us all shows that the instances in which we have interfered by diplomatic correspondence in the transactions of Europe have been eminently fruitful of good to many nations. If we go back so far as the constitution of the Belgium kingdom we shall find an evident instance of this. Take another case, to which I should appeal with more confidence if the hon. Member for Dandalk were not in the House. With respect to Italy, the share taken by England in 1859 and 1860 in the diplomatic transactions of Europe, and between the preliminaries of Villafranca and the peace of Zurich, was alike beneficial and important. The noble Lord, no doubt, will be called on to exercise influence in some shape or other, and as I have said, we should endeavour to put out of our minds, so far as we can, the perplexities involved; exercising moral influence in matters beyond our control, and in which we have not necessary information and no title to act. Let us take a practical and perspective view, and ask ourselves what are the objects and desires which we should propose to ourselves in exercising, whether as Ministers or Members of this House, and in whatever capacity that share of influence in our country may have in bringing about any European settlement. And here, I must say, that the hon. Member entirely failed in his impeachment of the description, not less just than brilliant, given by the right hon. Member for Stroud of the position of the three parties to this struggle as they are likely to emerge from the conflict. I look first to Italy, and I trust the noble Lord will never forget that the cause of Italy is dear to the people of England. If I may for one moment constitute myself, like the hon. Member for Dundalk, their organ, I will say with confidence that they will never forget or forgive any deviation on the part of the Government from the straight path 1247 on this great question — from that path in which the influence of England, 'such as it may be, shall be uniformly and steadily exercised for the promotion of the unity and independence of Italy on grounds the most strictly germane to every definition, however rigid of the objects and the limits within which our share in foreign politics ought to be confined, because we hold, the British Government and the British people hold, that a united and strong Italy is an element of immense power added to the guarantees of European order. It is not necessary that we should take a narrow or selfish view adverse to the greatness of this or that European Power; but the more the countries of Europe are solidly constituted under Governments, I will not say all great—because the small States are matters of fact, and ought to be respected as eminently beneficial—but under Governments that are associated in heart and will with the sentiments of their people; Europe so constituted is a guarantee for peace, for order, for civilization, and for the happiness of mankind. And I place confidence in the noble Lord in this respect, and in the Government as constituted. I think it unnecessary to refer to expressions that have been used by Members of that Government in former years, and from which adverse inferences on some points bearing on Italy might be drawn. Well then, Sir, as to Germany. Let my right hon. Friend descend fairly into the arena of argument and consider what has been the condition of Germany. In my judgment, so far as I can form an opinion on the events of the last century, it has been a deplorable condition. Germany instead of being a strength has been a weakness to Europe. Germany has been a perpetual cause of difficulty and apprehension. The time has been when millions have been added to the Military Estimates of this country, chiefly on account of what might take place in Germany. But that is not a position in which such a Power as Germany ought ever to be placed. Germany contains the most numerous race in Europe; one of the most intelligent, and, perhaps, the most highly intellectual—a race united by its juxtaposition, famous in history, having traditions inferior to those of no other people. Surely Germany, with all those great advantages, ought to defend herself. And why has Germany been weak? Because she has been subjected to the constant struggles and rivalries of two Powers to neither of 1248 which has the position of Germany been beneficial; while on account of those difficulties and struggles Germany has not been able to attain to her proper position in Europe, and has been prevented from giving to Europe those solid advantages which Europe ought to have derived from her. It is not for us, I think, to presume to determine in what way the great German problem ought to be solved. So weakened has she been by internal disunion and by the struggles and rivalries of Prussia and Austria that it would be impossible for any Englishman to determine in what way that problem should be solved; but other influences are determining that question. It is not for us to say a word as to the manner in which those influences have been brought to bear; but looking at what is going forward as a matter of fact—judging drily, as we ought, as to its probable effects on the European system —I believe that if, instead of Prussia and Austria contending for power in Germany, one Power only shall be in a position to wield an influence there, that influence will be beneficial to Germany at large. It will be beneficial, no doubt, to the Power that wields it; but I believe it will be also beneficial to the Power which has been worsted in the struggle, and which has been obliged to yield. When my hon. Friend calls upon us and calls upon the Government to use our influence to maintain the power of Austria in the Germanic Confederation, I could understand him perfectly well if he could convince me that the old state of things had been beneficial to any one. Now, has it been beneficial to any one? What has been the position of Austria for many years? A most unhappy one. In her own immediate dominions, inhabited by races which it is difficult to combine under one political and Executive constitution—I hope she will combine them —I am satisfied, as my right hon. Friend said, that her chances of combining them will be greater when once she is relieved from her false position in Germany and her other false position in Italy. But the politics of Austria of late years have been chiefly external to herself. Her struggles for supremacy in the German Bond and her attempts up to 1859 to maintain all her influence in Italy have prevented the accomplishment of the main purpose for which Austria has existed; while, at the same time, no progress has been made in settling those questions which must be settled, and to bind together in one harmonious union 1249 the people of Hungary and the peoples of the other different countries which compose the Austrian Empire. And has not her position in Italy been a false one? Has her position in Venetia been of good to any one? The Austrians never have been able to pretend that they are one people with the people of Venetia. The people of Venetia have to pay taxes; they have to serve in the army and they have to discharge other duties, the fulfilment of which a strong Government can enforce; but in point of feeling there never has been the smallest proximity of feeling between the Austrians and the Venetians. Has my hon. Friend read the address of the Archduke, who is general of the Austrian army, on his retiring from the army of the South to join that of the North? In that you read clearly undeniable evidence of the hopeless state of things existing as between Austria and Venetia. Whom does he address to defend the Austrian possessions in Italy? He addresses the people of the Tyrol and the garrisons of Venetia; but he makes no address to the Venetian people. He knows that if he did so he would find no echo. Has my hon. Friend seen the monument to Marshal Radetzky? Has he seen those painful words—I admit they were deserved—which record that soldier's victory over his fellow-countrymen? If unhappily there were an insurrection in this land, and any commander won a victory at the sacrifice of the lives of thousands of his fellow-countrymen, would a monument be raised in Westminster Abbey or in any of our public places to record such a triumph? Fellow-subjects of Marshal Radetzky's those Italians might have been by accident and for a time; but fellow-subjects of his in heart and will they could not have been; fellow-subjects of his in tongue, fellow-subjects of his in tradition, fellow-subjects of his in hope and feeling they could not have been. They were foreigners in spite of mere conventions and written documents. Something deeper than written documents is required to make men fellow-subjects; and as foreigners the Venetians feel towards Austria as strongly as she feels that she is a foreigner towards them. My hon. Friend appeals to us strongly when he asks us to look at the present position of Austria. The loss of dominion is not pleasant to any State. We ourselves have gone through the operation. None of us are old enough to know the feeling which prevailed here at the time of the 1250 separation of the American Continent; but we are able to look back and see that painful as that separation was—though it pierced the heart of England through and through—yet it was not less beneficial to England than it was to the inhabitants of what are now the United States. To be relieved from a false position may be a most painful process to the country which obtains the relief; but that is no reason why there should be an interference such as my hon. Friend asks for. The long account between Austria and Italy it is unnecessary to open. It is time that account should be closed. And deeply do I regret the great error which, in my judgment, has been committed by Austria in introducing a political element into the present contest by making a cession of Venetia to France. I believe it to be a transaction without example, parallel, or precedent of any kind that in a state of war one of the belligerents should hand over a territory, which is a part of the matter in question, to an indifferent party, not engaged in the war, for the purpose of raising some artificial barrier against the enemy. I regret that, but not because I think it will have the effect of keeping Venetia in the hands of Austria. The cession I look upon as definite and settled; but whether it now exists in any shape, perhaps the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to tell us. As far as I am able to judge of the cession to France, I believe that the shadow has melted away. I cannot suppose that General Cialdini is engaged in an invasion of the French dominions. I believe that the cession of which we have heard was the thought of a moment and the fiction of an hour; but though I believe that thought of a moment has passed away, and that fiction of an hour has ceased, and though I believe Venetia is still Austrian territory, yet I also believe Austria must feel that her dominion over the Venetians is at an end. And what I regret is this—that Austria has lost the opportunity which a direct cession of Venetia would have given her to lay the foundation of a most solid friendship with Italy. I know that my hon. Friend cannot go with me in this sentiment; for he cannot speak of Italy with even the courtesy which is due from a British subject. The Queen has been pleased to recognize the kingdom of Italy; but my hon. Friend, like the Austrian Government, is unaware that there is a kingdom of Italy in existence. I repeat 1251 that I am sorry there has not been a direct cession, which might have laid the' foundation of that solid friendship which I hope to see one day existing between Austria and Italy; because I think the finger of Providence has written that between the Austrian and Italian kingdoms there ought to be no rivalry, but that they ought to be in perpetual harmony and alliance. Well, Sir, I cannot but hope that out of this tremendous carnage good is to result. I assume, and I ought to assume, that Prussia will not render herself obnoxious to the charges made by my hon. Friend when she comes to the adjustment of the difficult question of what should be 'the Constitution of Germany. If Prussia does proceed in that buccaneering spirit which she proceeded in with respect to the Elbe Duchies, two years ago, hand in hand with Austria, the censures of my hon. Friend will be deserved. But let us hope for better things. It may be possible when the rivalry in Germany is at end there may be established between Prussia, the leading Power in the Confederation, and the Minor States such relations as will do justice to these States, and give Germany her proper position in Europe. That, I think, is the problem to be settled in Germany; and we should not by act, or even by word, offer any obstacle to the solution of that problem. Now, Sir, suppose Austria ceases to be a German Power—that is, in the sense of being a member of the German Confederation—I confess that does appear to me to be a following up of the transition which resulted from the policy which Austria adopted 100 years ago, and of the transition which took place when the Emperor of Austria gave up the ancient and venerable title of Emperor of Germany. That was an enormous change. It appeared to some to consist only in name; but it involved the fame and the power of ancient and venerable tradition. Since that she has had nothing to sustain her against Prussia excepting her own policy and strength, and undoubtedly there has been a tendency on the part of Prussia to aggression, and she has appeared constantly to gain ground upon her. But supposing that Austria loses altogether Venetia—that Venetia ceases to be an Austrian province —what will be the position of Austria? Will the position of Austria be deplorable? She will still have a population of 33,000,000. She will still have countries of enormous fertility. She is not so favoured as other countries with regard to the command of sea coast, but I 1252 take it for granted that she will retain her great seaports in the Adriatic, which may perhaps include Trieste. I do not say what would be reasonable after a long protracted war; but if these things are to be settled by equity or any other principle but the sword, it appears only fair that no nationality or historical geography would justify them in including Trieste in Italy. She will have vast spaces of undeveloped territory—vast amounts of undeveloped resources. She will have all these millions of her subjects to bring together and bind together under the influence of good institutions. She has shown—and I give her the greatest honour for it—she has, under the influence of an enlightened Ministry within the last twelve months, shown herself superior to one of the most dangerous prejudices that still fetter the human spirit in regard to freedom of commercial intercourse. It is impossible too highly to commend her statesmen for the spirit which they indicated at the time when they assented to a Treaty of Commerce with this country. Has she not a hopeful and noble task? Is there anything to prevent her continuing to be—what she so long has been, and which I hope she will always remain—one of the great Powers of Europe? Is it not even possible that she may find that this curtailment of her territory—this cession of certain parts and characters which she was unable adequately to fulfil, though apparently a loss, proved to be a real gain? I know not whether this is too hopeful a picture in times of wholesale bloodshed—perhaps it may be an unnatural deduction of the mind to anticipate favourable results to be wrought out through the miserable process of a bloody war. But when these favourable results do appear to rise up before us it is not too much to hope that the three parties to the war—namely, Germany on the North, Austria, and Italy, will be both stronger and happier and in better harmony together after the war than they were before it. That blessed consummation we all desire, and whether much or little be in our power we should do nothing to impede or prevent it.
Sir, this debate has lasted for some time, and, as was to be expected, many and various opinions have been expressed by those hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in it. I hope it will not be supposed that on the one hand I necessarily agree or acquiesce in those opinions which I do not expressly mention for the purpose of saying I differ from 1253 them, or, on the other hand, that I differ from those opinions in which I do not go out of my way to express agreement. I think that in the actual state of Europe the House will hold me justified if I do not think it expedient to go into a general detailed discussion of the political situation, and the more so as that situation is changing not merely from week to week, but from day to day, and I may say, from the telegrams received, almost from hour to hour. I shall confine myself, therefore, as closely as I can to the questions which have been put to me in the course of this discussion. First of all comes the question of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing). He wants some guarantee that no intervention is contemplated on our part. He wants some assurance that this country will not be dragged into a war as it was in the Crimean case. He admits the policy of the Government is intended to be that of nonintervention; but he fears that it may be possible to drift into a quarrel without intending it. But I suppose when the hon. Member speaks of intervention he means either armed intervention or intervention of such a nature as, though not immediately, yet in ultimate result might lead to an appeal to physical force. If that is what he refers to, all I can say is that if the speech which Lord Derby about a week ago delivered in another place—if the opinions which I myself have invariably expressed on that subject, not merely when occupying the position I now hold, but for many years past when these questions were under discussion—if, what is infinitely more important, the unanimous feeling (for I believe it to amount to unanimity both of Parliament and the people out of doors)—the feeling that we ought not to be dragged into these Continental wars—if all these things, taken together, do not constitute a guarantee that ours will be a pacific policy, a policy of observation rather than of action—then I am unable to understand in what language a stronger guarantee can be given. But if what is meant is intervention of a different character—intervention in the shape of friendly advice tendered by a neutral Power, then I think the question whether intervention of that kind is under particular circumstances desirable or not is a question which must necessarily be left to the discretion of the executive Government. I am not personally very fond of the system of giving advice to foreign countries. I entirely agree with what 1254 has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon the subject, when he said that you are never more likely to lessen the influence of England than when you are constantly endeavouring to increase it by giving advice. I think that the right of giving advice has of late years been largely used; and that it has sometimes been not only used, but abused. Still, there is truth in the proverb which says that lookers-on see more of the game than the players; and cases do occur when warning given by a friendly and neutral Power—by a Power which is well-known to haves no interest of its own to serve—by a Power desiring nothing more than the restoration of peace, and that that peace shall be permanent, may do something to shorten the duration and limit the extent of a war that might otherwise spread over the greater part of Europe. As to the state of affairs at the present moment—for that, I apprehend, is the practical question on which the House wishes an answer from me, I wish distinctly to assure hon. Gentlemen and the country that the British Government stand, as regards the European controversy, free, unpledged, and uncommitted to any policy whatever. The sole diplomatic act which the present Government have taken—and it was almost the first act of any kind they had to perform —was that of supporting in general terms at Florence and Berlin the proposition made by the French Government for a temporary cessation of hostilities. It seemed to us that to support that proposition was on our part simply an act of humanity and common sense. The House will recollect what were the circumstances of the case. Venice had been ceded, not indeed to Italy, but ceded by Austria. A great battle had been fought—a decisive victory had been gained —Austria had invoked the mediation of France. France had accepted the post of mediator. She asked us to support, not the terms of peace—that would have been premature—but merely the general proposition for an armistice in order that the belligerent parties might have time to consider whether, under the totally altered state of circumstances, it would not be possible to substitute negotiations for further bloodshed, and to obtain the results of the war without continuing the war itself. We did not feel it in our power to refuse our assent to that principle. But, while in general terms we have supported the proposition of an armistice, we have pledged ourselves to no terms or conditions 1255 of peace whatever. We have pledged ourselves to nothing beyond the general advice that an armistice should take place. The circumstances under which that advice was given have passed. Our mediation and our advice have not been officially asked by the combatants, and we have abstained from giving it. That is the present state of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has asked me whether there is any expectation of an armed mediation on the part of the French Government. Well, it is not my duty, nor is it in my power, to answer for other Governments, but only for our own. All I can say is, I have not the slightest reason to believe that any step of that kind is in contemplation, and I have strong reasons to believe that no such step is contemplated. [Mr. HORSMAN: I did not ask that question. It was another hon. Member.] Then the question was asked by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing). Then these two questions were put to me—first, whether the British Government has been invited by that of France to address joint communications to all or any of the belligerent Powers? The French Government have taken up the matter and it now rests with that Government. The French Government may or may not ask us to join in that work of mediation; but, should they do so, I do not think it would be the duty of the British Government to join in any such mediation, unless we have a distinct understanding as to the terms the French Government will propose. The second question of the right hon. Gentleman is, whether the British Government has expressed its readiness to concur with the Government of France in recommending Austria to terminate the war, by accepting the two conditions proposed by Prussia and Italy as to her surrender of Venetia, and ceasing to be a member of the German Confederation. Now, Sir, as to that, Venetia has been, I understand, ceded by Austria, and whether or not any questions will arise as to that settlement being absolute or conditional, I do not know, still I apprehend that none of us can entertain a doubt that the final result will be that Venetia must pass from Austria. Venetia has been, in effect, conquered not by Italy but for Italy; Venetia has been conquered in Germany. Whatever the manner of the transfer may be—whatever may be the precise nature of the measures adopted by France — I do not 1256 think any reasonable man can entertain a doubt that Venetia, at Do distant period, will belong to Italy. Then, with regard to the question as to whether we have recommended Austria to terminate the war by assenting to the proposal of ceasing to be a member of the German Confederation, I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that that proposal has never been made, so far as I am aware as the sole condition of peace, that Austria should cease to be a member of the German Confederation. No doubt various preliminaries have been discussed between the two Governments. If the question were narrowed to the issue whether Austria would conclude peace by ceding Venice and by consenting to quit the Confederation, that, no doubt, would be a question upon which we should be in a position to give an opinion; but since we have no reason to think that the acceding to those two conditions by Austria would terminate the war, and since we do not know accurately and precisely what are the terms which would be likely to be accepted by one or other of the belligerent parties, it would be clearly premature on our part to express an opinion on the abstract question as to what conditions might or might not be accepted. With regard to the general policy of the Government I have only one remark to make. I think there never was a great European war in which the direct national interests of England were less concerned. We all, I suppose, have our individual sympathies in the matter. The Italian question I look upon as not being very distant from a fair settlement; and with regard to the other possible results of the war, and especially as to the establishment of a strong North German Power — of a strong, compact Empire, extending over North Germany—I cannot see that, if the war ends, as it very possibly may, in the establishment of such an Empire—I cannot see that the existence of such a Power would be to us any injury, any menace, or any detriment. It might be conceivable enough that the growth of such a Power might indeed awaken the jealousy of other Continental States, who may fear a rival in such a Power. That is a natural feeling in their position. That position, however, is not ours, and if North Germany is to become a single great Power, I do not see that any English interest is in the least degree affected. I think, Sir, I have now answered as explicitly as I can the various 1257 questions which have been put to me. I think, in the first place, I may assure the hon. Member for Wick that there is no danger, as far as human foresight can go, of Continental complications involving this country in war. I think, in the next place, that if we do not intend to take an active part in the quarrel, we ought to be exceedingly cautious how we use menacing language or hold out illusory hopes. If our advice is solicited, and if there is any likelihood that that advice will be of practical use, I do not think we ought to hesitate to give the best advice in our power; but while giving it under a deep sense of moral responsibility, as being in our judgment the best, we ought carefully to avoid involving ourselves or the country in any responsibility for the results of following that advice in a matter where no English interest is concerned. I do not think we ought to put ourselves in such a position that any Power could say to us, " We have acted upon your advice, and we have suffered for it. You have brought us into this difficulty, and therefore you are bound to get us out of it." We ought not, I say, to place ourselves in a position of that kind. And now, Sir, I have stated all, I think, that it is possible for me to state at this time, and it remains for me only to assure the House—knowing, as I do, how utterly impossible it is for any Member of the Executive to carry on his work effectively without the support of public opinion—it only remains for me to say that, as far as the nature of the case allows, I shall always be anxious that the House shall be conversant with everything that is done.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he had regretted to hear some of the opinions expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite in discussing the question. They were all of them talking of non-intervention, and yet, in point of fact, they all seemed to be in opposition to that principle. He sincerely hoped and believed that the policy of the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Her Majesty's Government generally, would be opposite to that of the late Government, for it was impossible to deny that the present state of the Continent—the sanguinary war that was now being carried on there—was mainly owing to our intervention in the affairs of the Continent during the last ten or fifteen years. There were only two occasions on which a country was justified in inter- 1258 fering; one was where a Power from its geographical position, or from natural causes, became a menace, as in the case of the first Napoleon; and the other was where opinions were propagated that might lead to sedition in another country. The noble Lord enunciated a policy that would maintain the honour of the country and be beneficial to Europe.