I have some Questions to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer respecting the aspect of affairs on the Continent of Europe; and desiring to preface my questions by some few remarks, I undertake to place myself in order by concluding with a Motion. I take the liberty of addressing these questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than to my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, not only because the questions are of so great importance that the House has a right to expect an answer from a Member of the Cabinet, but also, I may say, because one of the questions which I propose to address to the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that which relates to the advice tendered by Her Majesty's Government to some of the disputing States—has reference not only to advice which may have passed in the ordinary way through the Foreign Office, but also to advice, not necessarily of an official kind, which may have been given by some Cabinet Minister other than by Lord Clarendon. The last accounts that have been received—not, I think, by telegram but by letter—give us some reason for fearing that almost at this moment the peace of Europe may have been broken; because it appears that it was the intention of the Austrian Commander to convoke the Estates of Holstein not at the place originally intended, but at Altona, which is a suburb of Hamburg, and 118 apprehensions exist that the Prussian Commander will interfere with the assembling of the Estates, and prevent them from nominating, as it was supposed they would do if left to themselves, the Duke of Augustenburg. Now, Sir, in this condition of things I think it is right that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject; but I shall take care, as far as I am concerned, that no word shall fall from me tending in the slightest degree to aggravate the feelings unfortunately now existing between the parties. The first thing that strikes one looking at this impending war is, that really there is not, as far as we know, anything which can be called a misunderstanding. On the part of Prussia—or rather I should say of Count Bismarck—there is an unveiled desire to obtain the annexation of the Elbe Duchies, and on the part of Italy there is an equally unveiled desire to appropriate the territory of Venetia. Each of those States has, so far, one merit—that is, of being free from all hypocrisy in the matter; and I own that up to the present moment—though we cannot tell what is passing to day—I have not thought the hope of maintaining peace was so desperate that the House of Commons should cease to take any interest in the negotiations preceding war, and be prepared to think only of the horrors which are to succeed those negotiations. There are several circumstances which I think might have enabled us to hope that what one may call the German quarrel, if it had stood alone, would now have been put an end to; because I think Count Bismarck must have found that he is encountered by the opinion of the whole of Germany—that he is encountered even by the opinion of the King's own subjects; and there have been symptoms of a similar feeling on the part of the troops; for, as the House must know, during the process of their being moved for the purposes of the war, the troops, when stopped on the march, have given indications of feelings strongly adverse to their own Government. In this state of circumstances Austria took the course of saying that she was willing to submit the whole question to the Bund. There is ground for supposing that the dispute might have been arranged if there were nothing but the German question to be settled, because, as far as that question was concerned, the two Powers were willing to go into a Conference. Prussia was willing and Austria was willing if there were nothing but the 119 German question; but another matter, which I am now approaching, has prevented the consideration of the German question by a Conference. It is a great mistake to suppose that a Conference or a Congress—for there is not much difference between the two—can do anything important in the way of depriving one State of territory and giving it to another. What a Congress or a Conference can do, is to arrange details. It would have been quite open to the Powers, if a Conference had assembled at Paris to come to such a determination on the mere question of the Duchies as would have put an end to the dispute. But, unfortunately, there was another element which entered into the discussion. The difficulty now is with regard to Venetia. I think it is most desirable for the House to understand the peculiar position in which Italy is placed at this moment. Italy, as a result of the Treaty of Villafranca, is placed in a position of peculiar impunity. She is enabled to threaten a Power greater than herself; because the frontier which divides her from that Power is one which was virtually guaranteed to her by France. The consequence is that Italy is so circumstanced as to have it in her power to act as a disturbing State in Europe, and to act in that way with impunity; because we all know that if Austria crosses the frontier into Lombardy she brings herself in contact with France. Well, in that state of things, Italy has to watch her opportunity. She has to watch her opportunity even when there is not a quarrel. There has been no quarrel, as far as I know, between Italy and Austria; but Italy awaits as her opportunity the moment when Austria shall be engaged in a conflict with some other Power. That moment seems to have arrived; and the result is—I think I am not too rash in making the statement—that Italy has signed a convention with Prussia involving an alliance, offensive and defensive, between those two Powers. This has taken place without any previous dispute between Italy and Austria, and therefore this singular result is presented—that in the event of a war between Austria and Italy it would be a war without a quarrel. Now I, for one, cannot say that I blame Italy for seizing this opportunity. We know that revolutions cannot be made with rosewater. Italy is engaged in an enter-prize; and forming a kingdom by taking provinces from other countries is an enter-prize 120 not to be executed without passing somewhat beyond the bounds of legality. I say, therefore, it is not for me, at all events, to blame Italy; but I think that refusing to blame Italy for seizing her opportunity is a very different thing from approving the conduct of other Powers which, from time to time, have encouraged her in taking a course which is now disturbing the peace of Europe. And when one comes to look at the extent to which these two aggressive Powers—if I may so call them—have been encouraged by bystanding Powers, I think we are enabled, as far as Her Majesty's Government is concerned, to be perfectly comfortable with regard to Prussia, at all events. I cannot imagine that any counsels other than those of a most pacific kind have ever been tendered to Prussia by Her Majesty's Government, and I believe there is no question that counsels of that kind have been tendered not merely in the ordinary way through the Foreign Office, but in the form which it was believed would be most likely to command the attention of the Prussian King. With regard to the extent of the encouragement which may have been given to Count Bismarck by the Government of France, very little has, as far as I know, transpired. What we do know is this, that Count Bismarck and the French Sovereign met, and that their meeting was not, I think, followed by any increase of aggressive activity on the part of Count Bismarck. At all events, it was not followed by any cessation of his enterprizes, and when we recollect what the declarations of the French Government have been we may perhaps conclude that nothing like a very careful engagement was necessary in the present state of the transactions on the Continent of Europe, because France has always frankly declared—and it is important for the House to bear this in mind—that in the event of any of the other Powers of Europe receiving aggrandizement of territory she then would deem herself entitled to redress the balance, and to take territory for herself. With regard to the encouragement given to Italy, all we know is, or all we believe is, that Italy has, at all events, been encouraged to arm and to remain armed by the Government of France. With respect to the encouragement given to Italy by England, I cannot believe that any direct encouragement to measures so directly tending to the disturbance of European peace could ever have been given by Her Majesty's Government, 121 or that any such thought could ever have occurred to them, but the giving of direct encouragement is not the only way in which Italy may have been incited to take her present course. Rumour tells us—and I speak of that kind of rumour which usually passes for the rumour of what is true and may be credited—that Her Majesty's Government has tendered advice to Austria for the cession of Venetia. Well, it may be said that if that advice is only given to Austria it could do no harm, and could have had nothing to do with the present disturbance of Europe. But I answer that transactions of that kind invariably become known in the diplomatic circles at the various capitals of Europe, and in this way I say that advice of such akind being given to Austria is encouragement and encouragement of the strongest nature addressed to the people of Italy. It is very true that this advice has not been taken, and certainly there never was advice less calculated to be taken. I should have thought that it was the duty of a great Power, when advising another, or when contemplating that course, to be above all things careful that it was advising something which was consistent with the interest of the advised Power, and especially careful that it was advising something which was consistent with the honour of the advised Power. Now, I cannot come to the conclusion that advice of this kind to Austria can answer either of these purposes. It appears to me that anything more crude than the notion of calling on Austria to surrender this immense province never entered into the mind of any statesman. Look at the naval importance of this territory. Why, it is half the seaboard of Austria. Now, imagine calling on a great Power, in these days when Powers look so eagerly for any fresh extension of their seaboard, to abandon half of the seaboard which she already possesses. In that point of view the proposition is startling, but when we come to look at it from a military point of view it is still more untenable. The form of the Julian Alps is such that no force less than one of 300,000 men can defend the frontier; but place a much smaller number of men in the plain below, on the site of the Quadrilateral, and there they can make good the frontier against all corners. This is not a mere military theory, but a thing which has been tried, and which has stood the test of experience. We well know that after the battle of Solferino the French army was stopped, and 122 stopped effectually, by the obstacle of the Quadrilateral, and I think I may say that at this moment we owe such peace as still exists to the existence of that Quadrilateral, for who that knows anything of Italy will doubt that if the Quadrilateral were out of the way some of the more enthusiastic of the people, led, perhaps, by Garibaldi or some other chief, would have been crossing the frontier and in that way engendered war. But the very existence of that nest of fortresses on the frontier has prevented any result of that kind. Now, it is a great error to suppose that Austria is retaining this stronghold simply for herself. To her, indeed, it is of vital importance, as we know, because whoever obtains possession of the Julian Alps as one party did in 1846, is, as it were, in sight of Vienna, and there is nothing to stop him from approaching that city. But Austria holds the Quadrilateral not simply for herself, but also for Germany, and it does so happen that Prussia herself in 1859 authoritatively laid it down that the nest of fortresses on the south of the Julian Alps was a German stronghold which Austria was bound to occupy in the interests of Germany. And it will be no exaggeration to add to that statement another—namely, that fortresses of that kind are a protection not merely to Austria and Germany, but also a safeguard for the maintenance of peace all over Europe. But if the proposal for inducing Austria to give up a rich province which is so important to her in a naval and a military point of view be extravagant, still more extravagant, I venture to say, is the principle on which Austria is asked to do so. What is that principle? It is the principle of nationality, which for the want of a better adjective I may call a Fenian principle. Now, when you ask a great Power to give up an important province on such a principle, is it not important to take into consideration whether the principle is one which is of any importance to her in other respects? What is the principle upon which the Austrian Empire is constructed? Is it not an Empire which is constructed upon the principle of holding together a vast number of territories differing from one another in point of nationality and in all other respects. It is the fate of Austria to hold these provinces, and if she once admitted the principle that she must give up Venetia because it is rather Italian in its notions than Austrian the same principle would apply to Hungary, Bohemia, and every territory that she has. Nor would the matter be adjourned. Supposing 123 Austria were to give up Venetia, the consequences of such a step would be felt almost immediately, because it so happens that other territories, not at present challenged, are also Italian in character, as, for instance, Trieste and the Tyrol. In all these cases the same principle would apply if Austria were induced to make the cession of Venetia. I say, therefore, that in asking a country to dislocate the arrangements of Europe by sacrifices of this kind, although you may be doing what is very amiable in one sense, and what is very popular, you are nevertheless taking a course which makes you disturbers of the peace of Europe. It may be that after great disasters, or even after great successes, Austria may be compelled or enabled to give up the province of Venetia, but in the meantime it is, as I believe, impossible even to raise the question without endangering the peace of Europe, and bringing about, or tending to bring about, the exact crisis in which we are now placed. Austria finding Venetia to be of this enormous importance, and being asked to come into a Conference, naturally took care to see whether in the Conference she would or would not be asked to give up that province. Upon this point I must ask from Her Majesty's Government some few words of explanation with regard to, I will not say change of policy, but change in the way of regarding questions of this kind which has obtained during the last two years. A proposal for a Congress was formally made to this Government two years ago, and we all remember the answer which Lord Russell made to that proposal. We all remember what I may perhaps call the pitiless logic with which Lord Russell spoke. Many Gentlemen on the other side of the House were of opinion, I think, that the noble Lord's despatch might have been couched in more courteous terms, but I believe that even they would have agreed that the conclusion expressed in the despatch was a sound one. It seems that from that conclusion we have now departed. Lord Russell then said, in his very first despatch, "Why are we to go into a Congress without knowing what is to happen there? Before we go into a Congress let us know, with respect to Venetia, whether Austria is willing to treat." On the present occasion, strange to say, but subject to any explanation we may yet receive, that precaution was altogether omitted; and the whole stress of 124 having to resist the proposed Conference was thrown upon Austria, who did as best she could under the circumstances. She applied to the proposal for a Conference a touchstone which was wonderfully operative. She said, "Before I consent to go into a Congress let me know that there is no intention on the part of any of those who have thus been called into Conference to aggrandize their estates." This test was fatal, and the idea of a Conference at once collapsed, the moment it was understood that the idea of aggrandizement was to be excluded from it. It was understood that the French Government first came to that conclusion, and that we agreed to it. Whether Russia did or not I cannot say, for I think it has been prematurely stated that Russia had taken that view. At all events, the opinion of the Powers was that the exclusion of the idea of aggrandizement was fatal to the whole proposal. In this state of things the Austrian Government has issued what appears to me to be a very able State paper, which I would commend to the attention of hon. Members who desire information upon this subject. I see it stated there is a question whether the document published in the newspapers is authentic, but I believe it is no secret now that the document, as it appeared in the papers, was perfectly authentic; and one can hardly imagine that so able a paper as that could have been forged, or that any one could have taken the trouble to impose upon us so admirable a paper. In that paper Austria states that she stands upon treaties, and she submits her belief that it is a not unbecoming duty on the part of the Great Powers, as far as their authority goes, to repress the hostile action of aggressive States; and, at all events, if that is not to be, that she is entitled to respect, and that she shall be left as free to defend as others are free to attack. She also states that she claims no help from other States. I submit that that is the spirit in which we ought to desire to see a State acting, if we are men of peace. I can quite understand the feelings of those who are so carried away by prospects of future improvement and by their sympathy for foreigners that they may desire to attain the object aimed at, even at the cost of a European war. But that is not our duty in this country, and we must endeavour, I humbly submit, to check those feelings of sympathy which at this moment have brought Europe to the verge of war. Depend upon it that 125 exactly as you desire the maintenance of peace, you must strive to avert all change of territory in Europe. The two things—the maintenance of peace and the change of territory—are not objects that are capable of being reconciled. With these remarks I venture to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer the questions of which I have given notice—namely, 1. Whether Her Majesty's Government can impart to the House any grounds for hoping that the peace of Europe may be preserved? 2. Whether the Government can communicate to the House any further information as to the reasons which induced the Courts of France and England to conclude that the proposed Conference could lead to no result? and, 3. Whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer can state the purport of any advice which may have been tendered by Her Majesty's Government within the last two months to the Governments of Austria, Prussia, and Italy?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Kinglake.)
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My hon. Friend was so good as to send to me on Friday afternoon notice of the three questions which he has just read; but he kindly refrained from putting them on that evening, because he was not desirous to interrupt the course of business, and we had some hope of resuming the discussion on the Reform Bill. This afternoon the hon. Member again intimated to me that it was his intention to ask those questions, but I did not gather from the note of my hon. Friend that it was his intention to accompany the proposal of the questions with any discussion, much less that it was his intention to make remarks covering so wide a field. I confess I am exceedingly reluctant to enter upon the general subject of those remarks, for my duty is to put to myself this inquiry:—To what good purpose can a discussion upon these subjects lead in the present conjuncture of affairs? Unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to remain entirely silent, first of all because in addition to the questions with which my hon. Friend concluded, he has distinctly challenged the conduct of the Government upon a particular point of very great importance. I should not feel that it was consistent with respect to the hon. Member or with respect to the House to pass by entirely what he 126 has said. At the same time I cannot refer to the subject, even as briefly end succinctly as I shall attempt to do, without doing it in a certain sense under protest, because I am not of opinion, and the Government are not of opinion, that good is likely to arise from a conversation of this kind in the actual state of affairs. My hon. Friend has stated that at the present moment, as he understands, the German quarrel might have been adjusted if it had not been for the differences existing with respect to Venetia. Whether that is the actual state of the case or not I will not undertake to say, as I do not know from what information my hon. Friend has spoken; but certainly it is not so as far as regards the information in the possession of Her Majesty's Government. The testing question proposed by Austria as the condition of her entering the Conference was a question which embraced the subject of the Duchies just as much as it embraced the subject of Venetia. If it was a criterion of the views of Italy as to whether she contemplated the acquisition of Venetia, it was just as much a criterion to determine whether or not Prussia had views of a similar character respecting the Duchies. Then, that is not all I have to say upon the subject, because another matter has come into the foreground and stands distinctly in advance of the Venetian question as connected with the present state of affairs—I mean the recession, so to call it, by Austria from the Treaty of Gastein, with reference to the question of the Elbe Duchies and the Diet, and the convocation of the Estates of Holstein; and, as far as we are acquainted with what has happened, it is that reference of the question of the Elbe Duchies to the Diet, and it is that convocation of the Estates of Holstein which are likely, if any circumstances are likely, to afford the immediate occasion of war. Consequently, there is not the least reason to suppose, so far as we are aware, that the Venetian question, with reference to the circumstances of the moment, is in a distinct and specific sense the question which threatens the peace of Europe, there being other questions which are in advance of it. My hon. Friend says that Italy has a frontier which enables her to act the part of a disturbing Power under the protection of France; but it is only fair to say, as far as we know—not entering at all into any question of intention, but confining ourselves simply to overt acts—Italy is not acting the part of a disturbing Power, 127 and no armament or other overt act on the part of Italy has tended to throw upon her the responsibility of aggravating by military measures the difficulties of the present state of affairs. My hon. Friend went on to speak of what he terms the bystanding Powers of France and England. It is not for me to defend in this place the conduct of the Government of France, nor do Her Majesty's Government profess to be apprised of everything that the French Government, may have said or done. Far less is it for me, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to impugn that conduct. I pass it by because the question does not arise in such a shape that we are called upon to deal with it. My hon. Friend referred, however, to the conduct of the other bystanding Power. First of all, he asks whether the British Government have given encouragement to Italy, and next, whether we have given advice to Austria. My hon. Friend acquits us of having directly encouraged Italy to contemplate or promote war at the present crisis. He might have gone a little further than that, because I am not aware of any encouragement, direct or indirect, singly, or in connection with any other Powers, which Italy can be said to have derived from any act or word of ours, tending to bring about a war on this occasion. But my hon. Friend says that we have advised Austria, and that if we have not given her official advice, yet in some other manner we have counselled Austria to surrender Venetia. My hon. Friend appears to be aware that the British Government, as a Government, has given no advice to Austria whatever. But he thinks and says, and rather makes it a matter of charge, that we have unofficially, irregularly, in some mode which he has not described, through some Members of the Government whom he has not named, made known to Austria the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, that it would be well if, compatibly with her honour, she could make arrangements for the cession of Venetia. Now, Sir, this is a charge upon which I feel very great difficulty in answering my hon. Friend, and for this plain, simple, unequivocal reason—that Austria has been perfectly well aware—eminently so for the last seven years, but, perhaps, in some considerable degree even before that time — that, as between one friendly Power and another, that was the opinion of the British Government. There has been no doubt or question at all about it. Not only was this the opinion of the present Government; 128 it was the opinion formed and expressed by Lord Palmerston in 1848. It is not the opinion of my hon. Friend; that opinion, I know, has been questioned in this House, but it is also an opinion that has from time to time been defended and maintained in this House. And since the present Administration was formed, now seven years ago, there never has been upon their part the smallest hesitation in giving utterance to that opinion, and in giving the reasons upon which they thought it might be defended. From that opinion I am not prepared in the slightest degree to recede. But I am sorry that the speech just addressed to the House has compelled me to refer to it. For at the present moment, when Austria is in a position of difficulty, there is something invidious and unkind in appearing to cast this advice in her teeth. It has been our earnest desire to behave not only with delicacy of feeling, but in every respect upon the strictest principles of friendship and goodwill towards Austria at all times, believing the maintenance of the Austrian Empire to be of the greatest importance to the peace and order of Europe. This has been our desire at other times, and most especially do we entertain it at the present time. If, indeed, my hon. Friend will go back to what happened one or two years ago, he will find there is no secret at all about the matter—it is upon record in official documents—that we deeply lamented, and, moreover, so far as we were entitled to do so, we decidedly condemned the course pursued by Austria in conjunction with Prussia towards the Elbe Duchies. But if we look at the recent posture of affairs with regard to these Duchies, we cannot fail to see that the cause of public right and the cause of justice has been to a great extent in the hands of Austria. It is therefore most painful to us to be called on to make any public declaration which, with reference to her position on another point of her frontier, might seem to discourage the pursuit by Austria of objects which we believe to be honourable. I think the House will to a considerable extent sympathize with the views entertained by Her Majesty's Government upon this question. We feel that it would be neither prudent nor honourable to invite or enter upon detailed expressions of opinion with reference to a question so peculiar as the position of Austria in the double quarrel which she is now carrying on—a quarrel respecting one portion of which I believe 129 she has the sympathies of this country, and as to another portion of which, that not being a matter which has arisen for the first time, but being a question of old standing, she undoubtedly does not possess that sympathy. Upon the whole, therefore, I think it is our duty to refrain from going over the ground on which my hon. Friend has entered. All that he has said about the naval importance of Venetia, of its preserving a seaboard for Austria, of its being German rather than Austrian, and about the advantage of Venetia as a German stronghold and as a safeguard to the peace of Europe—all these are matters which I only recite for the purpose of reserving on my own part and on the part of the Government the opinions that we may hold. I think that, under the circumstances, it is better to refrain from controverting anything stated by my hon. Friend. To express any concurrence with his opinion would not be in my power. But this one thing I will say. My hon. Friend attempted in the commencement of his speech to draw a parallel between the attitude of Austria in respect of Venetia and the attitude of Prussia in respect of the Elbe Duchies. Now, if that parallel be a true one we should never hesitate for one moment to apply to the case of Venetia the very same principles which we applied to the case of the Elbe Duchies. In Prussia my hon. Friend appears to see a Power desirous to annex to herself certain outlying territories against the will of the population of those territories. If such be the relation between Italy and Venetia we at once surrender Italy to the tender mercies of my hon. Friend, for Italy can have no right to seek for or desire the possession of Venetia, unless it be founded upon the feelings, the desires, the hopes, the convictions, the tradition of the Venetian people. There is, I think, only one other point alluded to by my hon. Friend upon which I need say a word—namely, the change of view which he imputes to Her Majesty's Government respecting the convocation of a Congress in Europe. He has referred to a period — now, I think, about two and a half years ago — when the Emperor of the French proposed to the Government that they should confer with the French Government in order to promote the meeting of a Congress. At that time, as he has truly said, the suggestion of the Emperor of the French was declined; and it was declined, if I may venture to speak from memory, upon this ground—that so far as regarded one 130 single question, there was indeed at that time a complication of affairs which threatened war, but there was no other question in Europe, beyond the single question of the Duchies which threatened the disturbance of the general peace. Our opinion was that the question of the Duchies would better be dealt with by concurrent action among the Powers communicating in the usual manner, than by the formalities and imposing machinery of a Congress. So far, therefore, as regarded the Duchies, it appeared to the British Government that a Congress was the least convenient method of proceeding, and having regard to the relations of other Powers, we thought at that time that a Congress was likely to do harm rather than good. But the present state of affairs is very different. It is not now the mere question of the Duchies that is at issue. The question of the Duchies was serious enough, but that question is now complicated with the far larger question which is to be the ruling Power in Germany, and with fundamental questions affecting the structure of the Germanic Confederation; while, at the same time, in conjunction with that very great subject, there is the difference between Austria and Italy on her southern frontier. At a period when Austria is threatened upon the north and upon the south—I use the word "threatened," but it would be more correct to say when Austria is engaged in questions which may lead to war both upon her northern and southern frontier—at such a period it is evidently no mere local question that is at issue, which was the case two and a half years ago when the Duchies were the subject of dispute, but whether there should be a general outbreak of war in Europe. Her Majesty's Government therefore, the proposal of the Emperor of the French being made, were certainly of opinion that at the time when there was a just apprehension of a European war, it behoved the friendly and allied Powers to consider whether they could do anything to avert such a dire disaster. I may also state that since the Treaty of Paris negotiation has assumed rather a different aspect. I do not mean to assert that whenever any Power, even though it has the great position and influence of France, proposes a European Congress, it is the duty of every other Power to accede to such a proposal. Each State still retains its own liberty of action in reference to the propriety and sufficiency of the course proposed. At the same time 131 it is certainly true that the tone of the negotiations carried on at the Congress of Paris in 1856 did amount to a sanction of the general principle of collective, peaceful intervention, by way of advice and recommendation, which is in itself a fact of such importance that no European State can be justified in ignoring it. I do not know whether my hon. Friend means to question the course we have taken in acceding to the suggestion of the French Government and in agreeing to promote a European Congress along with France. I do not know whether he objects to the course we have taken upon its merits, or whether he only thinks it inconsistent with what has been done on a former occasion. The inconsistency I have endeavoured to explain, whether satisfactorily or not I do not know; but that is comparatively a small question. I cannot entertain the least doubt that, with such dangers hanging over Europe as we have seen within the last two weeks, and with a firm conviction in our own minds that there were reasonable, wise, and honourable methods by which every one of those dangers could be averted, we should have been wholly without justification if we had hesitated for one moment to accede to the proposition made to us. I shall now, Sir, proceed to answer the questions which my hon. Friend has put to me. The first question of my hon. Friend is whether Her Majesty's Government can impart to the House any grounds for hoping that peace may be entertained. Sir, I am afraid that there are no grounds which can be alleged with confidence upon which we can build any solid expectations of that kind. But it appears that for the moment there has been an arrest of the military proceedings in Prussia. There has been a delay in the departure of the King from Berlin. But how far an expectation of peace may be founded on that circumstance I cannot venture to say, because I have no authority upon which I can found any opinion upon that subject. The next question of my hon. Friend was this—whether Her Majesty's Government can communicate to the House any further information as to the reasons that induced the Governments of France and England to conclude that the proposed Congress would lead to no result? Sir, I mentioned on a former occasion that the demands of Austria to be guaranteed against territorial changes was, in my belief, a sufficient ground; but I might also have mentioned—at any rate I 132 may now mention—that the reference by Austria of the question of Holstein to the German Diet has, in point of fact, contributed to place the matter in its present position. The two principal subjects—namely, the territorial questions and the German constitutional question—being in this manner, as we think, thrust out of the domain which the Congress would occupy, it appears to us, as it appeared to France and to Russia, that there was no practical purpose for which any combination of European Powers under the name of a Congress could be justly called upon to meet. And as respects advice, with regard to which my hon. Friend asks whether I can state to the House the purport of any which might have been tendered by Her Majesty's Government within the last two months to the Governments of Austria, Prussia, or Italy, I will only refer to what I have already stated, adding, however, that we have been rather chary of tendering single-handed advice with respect to which we could not be sure whether it would be otherwise of such authority as to make it likely to contribute towards the attainment of its end. Anything that has been said by Her Majesty's Government has been said in favour of moderation and peace. Our good offices, it was well known, were at all times at the service of the parties. Anything that we could do single-handed in the direction of avoiding bloodshed may have been little, but that little has been freely done. We have not, however, taken upon ourselves any responsibility beyond that which our position appeared fairly and legitimately to justify. We have thought that the collective action of European Powers in a case like this is a perfectly justifiable method of proceeding; it is an advance in civilization—at all events, it is an approximation towards a better system of public law, when the Powers of Europe having any difference among themselves show a disposition to recognize the mediation of friendly Powers. It is, however, a matter of deep concern and grief to us that the plan of a Conference should have failed to take effect owing to the obstacles which have interposed to prevent it.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he wished to make some inquiries in relation to this subject from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It appeared to be acknowledged that Austria had been advised to cede Venetia, and it was known that to this advice Austria had but one answer — what compensation are we to 133 have? Now, the question he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman was, what was the answer which Her Majesty's Government gave to this retort? It was said that compensation had been suggested to Austria in the Moldo-Wallachian provinces. He should be glad to elicit from the Under Secretary a denial of this statement. He must say that your Liberal Government showed great dexterity in shifting from one position to another, and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary was quite an adept at the art.
Græculus esuriens in cœlum jusseris ibit.And so it was with his hon. Friend, who showed great skill in obeying his instructions. At one time he displayed a liberality which astonished the world; at another he was the ready champion of the most despotic of Governments. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he did not think that his explanation of the inconsistency of the Government with regard to a Congress now, and their rejection of the proposition two years ago, was satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman said that two years ago they had only to settle the question of the Duchies. But was not the Polish question then before them? That was a question which was likely to involve the whole of Europe, and, in fact, was the question on which the Emperor of the French proposed the Congress. The simple fact was, that for years the difficulties of Austria had been the opportunity of Italy; and the present disturbed and threatening condition of Europe was only the result of what had taken place in the North of Europe. He was not disposed to blame Her Majesty's Government for the course they adopted with regard to either Congress, for he admitted the difficulties with which they had to deal. They might, perhaps, on the former occasion, have conducted the correspondence with greater courtesy, but the logic of their answer was confirmed by the experience of the present state of affairs. Questions of this kind, in which the passions, the hereditary feelings, and the pride of great nations were so mixed up, were not to be settled by half-a-dozen persons meeting together in Paris or London. He only now desired to be informed whether, when the advice was given to Austria to cede Venetia, it was proposed to give her territorial compensation in any other quarter?
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he could not but express his very great regret at the most ungenerous conduct of the 134 Chancellor of the Exchequer in his reply to his hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman had gone out of his way to express a private opinion which he was not called upon to express. The questions had reference, of course, to the advice given to Austria by Members of the Government acting for the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman was not called upon at the present conjuncture to state that for several years the cession of Venetia had been privately recommended to Austria by Her Majesty's Government. The statement was not only ungenerous but injudicious, and calculated to do injury in the present juncture of affairs. Her Majesty's Government was to a very great extent responsible for the condition of Europe; and when he remembered that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was partly the creator of the Italian kingdom, he should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have taken an early opportunity of deprecating a policy so mischievous and dangerous to the peace of Europe as that pursued by the Italian Government. It would be found that the noble policy pursued by England of watching with indifference struggles on the Continent in which we perceived no immediate interest for ourselves was not, he believed, a policy that in the long run could add much to our honour or to our welfare. Could the right hon. Gentleman foresee the consequences of the outbreak of war? Where could they fix the limits within which it would be confined, and all the interests that would ultimately become involved in it? Was the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that at this very moment 20,000 men were collected either at Civita Vecchia or at Rome? He had lately received a letter from Naples, and public opinion there was that should war break out these troops would be marched southward, and that the French would occupy the Neapolitan States. Was the House prepared to see the seaboard taken possession of by the French? He simply made this observation because it was impossible to foresee what might be the issue of the complications now existing on the Continent. He held that the course of the right hon. Gentleman would have been wiser and nobler if, notwithstanding his sympathies with the kingdom of Italy, and his dislike to the Government of Austria, he had candidly admitted the truth — namely, that the course pursued by Italy had led to all the present dangers, and that her position and 135 policy at the present moment were in violation of every principle of law and justice.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he thought the hon. Member for Bridgwater was entitled to the thanks of the House for having called attention to the great questions now pending in foreign affairs, before which the question of internal Reform which they were now discussing sank comparatively into a mere matter of parochial importance. The hon. Member had asked two questions, neither of which had the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered. The hon. Member did not ask whether Her Majesty's Government had been corresponding to stir up Italy as against Austria, or whether they had been tendering advice to Austria, but whether Members of the Government, in their private capacity, had not been writing notes to that effect; and if ho was rightly informed they had done so. Well, then, in answer to the hon. Member for Bridgwater, the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that Her Majesty's Government in 1863 refused to enter into a Conference because there was only one subject at that time to be discussed. But upon this point the language of the right hon. Gentleman that night was precisely at variance with the language of Her Majesty's Government in 1863. Lord Russell, writing to Lord Cowley on the 12th of November, 1863, said—He felt more apprehension than confidence from the meeting of a Congress without fixed objects, but ranging over the map of Europe, and exciting opinions and aspirations which they might find themselves unable either to gratify or to set at rest.Again, in a subsequent despatch to Lord Cowley, Lord Russell says—But as it is intended to ask Austria to relinquish the possession of Venetia, Her Majesty's Government have good grounds to believe that no Austrian representative would attend a Congress where such a proposition was to be discussed. They are informed that if such a proposition were announced beforehand Austria would decline to attend the Congress, and that if the question were introduced without notice the Austrian Minister would quit the Assembly.There was another paragraph which he desired to read and to compare with the present language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord Russell, writing to Lord Cowley, said—It appears certain that the deliberations of the Congress would consist of demands and pretensions put forward by some and resisted by others; but as there would be no supreme authority in such an assembly to enforce the decision of the majority, the Congress would probably separate, leaving many of its members on worse terms with each other than when they met.136 He now asked what circumstances had occurred to change the views expressed by the Government in 1866 from those set forth in 1863. The objects for which the Congress in 1863 was to have met were well known. The Emperor of the French had been perfectly explicit upon this point. In His Majesty's speech at Auxerre he distinctly stated that it was for the purpose of setting aside the Treaties of 1815. Now, he would be the last person in the world to say a word against the Emperor of the French, because he believed His Majesty was about the best friend England had in France, and because he had very good reason for believing that he wished to live in peace and amity with this country. At the same time he would point out that England was a Conservative Power—he used the word not in a party sense, but as being Conservative in the sense that it was her interest to preserve the peace and order of Europe, of which the Treaties of Vienna were the title deeds, while the interests of France were diametrically opposite. These were not merely his opinions, but the opinions of the head of Her Majesty's Government. Lord Russell himself, writing to Lord Cowley on the 12th of November, 1863, said—If, instead of saying that the Treaty of Vienna has ceased to exist, and that it is destroyed, we inquire whether certain portions of it have been modified, we find that some of the modifications which have taken place have received the sanction of all the Great Powers, and now form part of the public law of Europe.And further on the noble Lord said—It is the conviction of Her Majesty's Government that the main provisions of the Treaty of 1815 are in full force, that the greater number of its provisions have not been in any way disturbed, and that on these foundations rest the balance of power of Europe.These were the deliberate opinions of the head of Her Majesty's Government in 1863; and he wanted to know what had caused a change in their opinion in this matter. In 1866 they were willing to attend a Congress, the avowed object of which was to tear up the Treaty of Vienna, which Lord Russell in 1863 proclaimed to be the basis of public order in Europe. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would shortly lay upon the table of the House all the papers relating to the proposed Congress, because he desired to know the terms on which they acceded to it, the reasons which had induced them to change their opinions since 1863, and the cause of its being ultimately given up. He was rather surprised that the papers had not been 137 produced before. He could easily understand that it was the wish of the Government to preserve a discreet silence upon the subject, but it would be trifling with the House and the country if they failed to furnish the fullest and most ample information.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
regretted that, in the present circumstances of Europe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have expressed an opinion on the part of the Government that Austria ought to give up Venetia. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the Government had not lately in an official manner communicated that opinion to Austria, because Austria was already fully aware of their opinion; but he wanted to know, not only whether the Government or any members of the Cabinet had in any way intimated that opinion to Austria, but whether the Government, in the private or surreptitious manner of which they were so fond, had intimated that opinion to the Court of Florence, or given that Court to understand that they would use their influence with Austria at the Conference, to induce her to give up Venetia? The papers would, he hoped, be all laid before Parliament; but he feared that there were private letters which would not be laid before Parliament, but which, like the postscript in a lady's letter, contained things of more moment than the public despatches. He regretted to observe a disposition to throw upon Austria the blame of the Conference not being held, but nothing could be more unjust. Austria could not, with any sense of dignity or justice, accede to any Conference in which the affairs of Venetia and the demands of the Court of Florence could be entertained. The Government itself must see that to entertain such a question must be subversive of the law of nations, on which the peace of Europe mainly depended. The very fact of the question being entertained at the Conference would have implied that Her Majesty's Government considered that the Court of Florence had some right to Venetia. He contended that the Court of Florence, or rather the King of Sardinia—for he would call him so still—had no more right to Venetia than he had to Middlesex. He founded that statement upon the existence of the most solemn engagements in repeated treaties, which, if set aside in this case, must lead to the utmost confusion of all notions of right or wrong between nations. Did they suppose that Austria could give up the Quadrilateral with any regard to her own safety? They all knew that 138 France could pour into Italy any number of troops in half an hour, and that when the tunnel through Mont Cenis was completed, she would be nearer still, and all that had occurred since the usurpation of the King of Sardinia had gone to prostrate Italy at the feet of France. The Quadrilateral was one of the bulwarks, not only against the encroachments of the Court of Florence, but also against the possibility of the encroachments of France. They all knew that Italy had no nationality, but was now a province of France. Italy had no real unity, for it was composed of discordant elements that would not be held together except by the force of arms. How, then, could Austria be expected to give up the Quadrilateral and open Germany to the attacks of France? He did not himself believe that the Emperor of the French could have any intention of disturbing Austria in the possession of Venetia, which she held originally, not under the Treaty of Vienna, but from the first Napoleon. If the cession of Venetia ought to be considered at the Conference, why not, also, the case of the Danubian Principalities? What had Venetia to do with the question of Schleswig-Holstein? The peace of Europe depended upon Schleswig-Holstein and not upon Venetia. Why were the rights of Austria sought to be compromised by a question not relevant to the matter at issue? To bring the question of Venetia into the Conference must be the greatest obstacle to the settlement of the Holstein difficulty. That question was troublesome enough of itself without bringing in the cession of Venetia. He was afraid it would turn out that it was Her Majesty's Government who were responsible for the failure of the Congress, and not Austria. The noble Lord (Earl Russell) when he was at the head of the Foreign Office was always very fond of giving advice to other nations how to manage their own affairs, and his policy was very well described by a noble Earl in the other House as a meddling and muddling policy. The present seemed another instance of this policy. If Her Majesty's Government must give advice, why did they not advise the Court of Florence to keep quiet and mind its own affairs? They were ruining themselves by the course they were pursuing, although he (Sir George Bowyer) cared very little for that. Their finances were a disgrace to Europe, and they were approaching a state of national bankruptcy. The Government 139 ought to have advised them to look at home, and especially to look at the South of Italy. If it were for the good of Austria to give up Venetia, it was ten times more desirable for the good of the Court of Florence that they should give up the Two Sicilies. If hon. Members would look at the correspondence of The Times of that very day, they would find it plainly asserted that what had been thought to be brigandage was not brigandage, but reaction; and that a guerilla warfare was being carried on. In the South of Italy there were actually committees of private persons whose business it was to hunt out people who were in any way suspected, and to accuse them to the authorities. They were then arrested and thrown into prison, where they suffered greater severities and hardships than were asserted to have been inflicted upon Poerio, the friend of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The King of Sardinia governed by force of arms in the South of Italy, where, according to the Government, he had been welcomed as a deliverer. If that were so, tranquillity would long since have been restored to the country. Year after year greater disinclination was displayed in the Neapolitan provinces to submit to the dominion of a people and of a King whose language they did not understand. The people of that country had always been greatly attached to their native princes, they wished to see those native princes restored, and by the progress of events they would be brought back again. Charles III., an ancestor of the present King of Naples, was still remembered and celebrated as a patriot, because he had delivered his country from the rule of the Spanish Viceroys. The condition of Naples at the present day was calculated to awaken sympathy. With a population of 600,000, and properly the fourth capital in Europe, it was reduced to the position of a county town, with a decaying market-place. So visible, indeed, was the decay that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were he dealing with it in a Reform Bill, would surely take away its Members; and it might be said to have been "grouped" already. Plainly, the King of Sardinia could never keep his present territories. If any advice could be given to the King of Sardinia which would be in the least degree advantageous to him, it would be that he should give up the two Sicilies and the Papal dominions, which he had usurped without the slightest casus belli, and against all international 140 law, and that he should restrict himself to the limits of his ancient monarchy. The people groaned under the pressure of taxation, and exceptional laws were necessary to make them submit to his government. If, then, he could not govern what he had got, how was it possible that he could hope to govern Venetia? The transfer of that province would only consummate its ruin; and the Government, in stimulating the Italians to look forward to its acquirement, was doing its friends anything but a service; it was encouraging wild hopes and undermining those rights and laws without which the peace of nations could not exist at all. They had brought matters to this issue, that sooner or later a break-up of the kingdom of Italy was inevitable, and the people of the South would insist upon having their native princes. ["Oh, oh!"] He was not surprised to hear that cheer from hon. Gentlemen opposite, sitting below the gangway, for he knew that many of them held principles utterly subversive of the law of nations. The Royal family of Naples were at one time French, no doubt, in the same way that our Royal family were originally Germans; but we no longer spoke of them as Germans, we always called them our native princes. It was true that while the Bourbons still reigned at Naples there were, as there always would be, discontented people in the country. [Laughter.] Yes, he repeated it. Look at the history of the Old Testament. When the Jews were governed by God Almighty himself, they were discontented and called for a king. How, then, could it be a matter of surprise that discontent should exist under any mere human government. He would tell the Government what would happen if the native princes did not return to Italy. France would declare that it was necessary for the preservation of peace in the South of Italy, that she should march an army of occupation into the country. She would thereupon take possession of those provinces. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies would become French, probably be governed by a French prince. Was it a consummation devoutly to be wished that there should be a French army quartered in Naples and in the Two Sicilies? He did not believe that his observations would be attended with any effect on the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had arrived upon this question of Italian policy at a foregone conclusion, and they all knew it to be part of his disposition, that having 141 once made up his mind, he was reckless of consequences. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was so clever that he often deceived himself; by a process of self-persuasion he arrived at a belief to which he then expected everything to give way. It was so with regard to the Reform Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had plainly determined to listen to no remonstrances, but to force the measure upon the House. He was bent on carrying the Bill, though he (Sir George Bowyer) believed that if the votes of Members could be taken by ballot, the Bill would be rejected by a very large majority. In the same way with regard to the affairs of Italy, the right hon. Gentleman began by deluding himself with the fable about Poerio, invented by clever men at Turin, and he had since encouraged the Italians, not merely to the brink of ruin, but to actual ruin itself. To ask Austria to give up Venetia was a monstrous iniquity and absurdity. Were she to do so, past experience would show that it could only consummate the final overthrow of the people who were the particular friends and creatures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I do not wish to follow the hon. Baronet in his digression, which certainly had no relation whatever to the subject brought under our investigation by my hon. Friend; but there was one observation of his in which I concur, although it was received with much dissent from this side of the House. I do believe that in Southern Italy a very strong feeling exists against the system of government prevailing in that part of the country. I was one of those who at first strongly advocated the course taken by the King of Sardinia, until I saw the treachery in which he was induced to embark; and then I began to doubt whether the policy which this House and this country viewed with so much favour would be beneficial to Italy. I believe that the expectations formed with regard to the good government of Italy, and to the unity of Italy, have signally failed. I have information which assures me that in Naples itself, and in other parts of Southern Italy, there is a state of things far worse than existed before the union of that old and important province to the other dominions of the King of Sardinia. But leaving that point, which I only touch upon in consequence of what has already been stated, I must say that I most entirely dissent from the view 142 taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the course adopted by my hon. Friend. It was only a few minutes before the meeting of the House that my hon. Friend informed me he intended to bring this subject under the consideration of the Government, and I was one of those who hoped he would address his observations directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the organ of the Government, representing in this House the views of the Cabinet. Accordingly, I was very much surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer state that he rose to make the observations which fell from him under protest, and that he altogether deprecated discussions of this kind at the present moment. Why, if we are not to discuss this question now, in God's name, when are we to discuss a subject that threatens to involve the whole of Europe in a disastrous war? And I would remind hon. Gentlemen that in another place the Minister for Foreign Affairs thanked the noble Lord who addressed questions to him on two occasions, because he said he was glad of an opportunity of laying before that place and the country what really was the position of affairs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that he rises under protest to answer the questions of my hon. Friend; and he went on to say that he deprecated these discussions in the critical state of foreign affairs. Let me tell my right hon. Friend that he must expect to have many such questions addressed to him. I am as anxious as anybody can be to conclude the discussion which is now pending, and I have always supported the Government; but in the present state of Europe, and in the momentous crisis that has now arrived, my right hon. Friend must expect to be questioned pretty freely as to whether, through the friendly offices of Her Majesty's Government, it is possible matters may be brought to an amicable solution, or whether it is impossible to avert the calamities of war. I hope Her Majesty's Government will consider whether it is not possible by friendly advice to prevent the calamity with which Europe is now threatened. But I wish to remark that my right hon. Friend did not answer the question of my hon. Friend as to whether Her Majesty's Government had given any expression of opinion to Austria with the view of inducing Austria to cede Venetia to Italy—officially or non-officially? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Officially.] 143 My right hon. Friend was explicit on the subject of the States of Schleswig and Holstein, but he evaded the question about Venetia. He told us that Her Majesty's Government would have been wrong if they refused the invitation to a Conference or a Congress, but will he tell the House that the Government were prepared to enter into an arrangement with France without knowing upon what basis France was acting, and whether she was desirous of inducing Austria to give up Venetia? If Her Majesty's Government accepted an invitation to a Conference which could only lead to an enlargement of the power of France, without any question as to what the opinions of France were on the question of Venetia, I can only say that they did not act with that prudence and judgment which might have been expected from a Cabinet containing Members of the importance of some of the present Ministry. My right hon. Friend, using an expression which I had heard several times before this Session, said he endeavoured to treat this question with great delicacy of feeling; for he thought the maintenance of Austria a matter of great importance. But as my hon. Friend showed Austria is made up of a conglomeration of nationalities. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that the Government had given no advice in this matter lately. They are the Government of Lord Palmerston, and they accept the statement made by Lord Palmerston in 1859. Will my right hon. Friend rise and say that Her Majesty's Government have given no advice to Austria since that time? Will he say that officially or non-officially the Government have given no advice to Austria lately as to the cession of Venetia? My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater showed that the part of Venetia in which the Quadrilateral is situated is of immense importance as regards the maintenance of the independence of Austria. To cede that portion to Italy, and, consequently, to France, would imperil the independence of a great portion of Germany. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was not going to defend the action of the French Government; but surely if the English Government were acting in a straightforward and honest manner they must have had an understanding as to the footing upon which the Government of France was prepared to treat this question. The right hon. Gentleman said that no doubt there was a strong feeling for the cession of 144 Venice to Italy, and that if Italy had any right to Venice she could only have it by the sympathies of the people and by the traditions of the past. Now, I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what possible tradition of the past ought to give the Venetian State to the King of Sardinia? He must have read history in a different sense from that in which it has been studied by most hon. Gentlemen in this House if he can find in it any justification in ceding Venetia to the kingdom of Italy on the basis of the traditions of the past. I merely rose to express my entire concurrence in leaving the matter in the hands of the Government, but I hope my right hon. Friend will not meet these inquiries—which, no doubt, will be very frequent during the next few weeks—by a protest such as that which he entered against the question of my hon. Friend, because I believe that this subject is of infinitely more importance than any Reform Bill the Government can pass. I am not one of those who are opposed to the Government Reform Bill, but I do believe that this question is of infinitely greater importance. England, as represented by the Government of the day, should place herself before Europe in a manner to conciliate the feelings and sympathies of the Continent; and I do hope . that through the efficient administration of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the efforts of this country will be directed to avert, if possible, the dreadful calamity which now appears to be hanging over Europe. I concur with my right hon. Friend that the sympathies of this country are strongly marked as against Prussia, because every one must have felt that overweening ambition has placed her under the influence—under the hoof I may say—of, not to use a harsher word, an unscrupulous Minister. This state of things has been brought about, not by anything which in the ordinary sense may be called a casus belli, but by the spirit of aggrandizement, which, as Lord Palmerston said, must always result in evil to the Powers which allow themselves to be influenced by it. If the British Government had acted as Lord Palmerston would have done, I believe we should not now have had to apprehend the war which is threatening Europe, and into which, should it break out, this country, sooner or later, will inevitably be drawn. I would again express a hope that Her Majesty's Government will use their best efforts to avert what 145 would certainly be a grave misfortune to Europe and the world at large.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
must join in the protest which the right hon. Baronet had just made against the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had commenced his reply to the hon. Member for Bridgwater. The right hon. Gentleman had vehemently protested against the discussion which the hon. Member for Bridgwater had raised, and had deprecated all consideration of the foreign policy of the Government. And yet, most inconsistently, he was now proposing to enlarge the basis of representation, by lowering the franchise with the avowed object of rendering the House of Commons more efficient. While making such a proposition, he objected to that House exercising its legitimate functions as a check upon Ministers. By deprecating all discussion of the policy, the acts—nay, even the opinions and intentions of the Ministry—he was in fact seeking to establish the irresponsibility of the Government; he was trying to make his rule despotic. What was the use of a House if it did not act as a check upon the Government? It was far better to govern without the delusive semblance of a Parliament, than to establish and carry on a despotic rule by means of a Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if there was to be a war at all the cause of it was to be sought not in Venetia, but in the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. He would remind the House that fifteen years ago a Congress had met and altered the succession to those Duchies. The arrangement was kept secret for a long time; and after it had become known it was disregarded, because the treaty had not begun to take effect. It was not until the death of the King, in November 1864, that it came into operation. Then immediately all Germany arose; the Bund sought to rescue the Duchies and establish their rightful Sovereign over them. The lawless ambition of Prussia was aroused; she seized the opportunity; overbore the Bund; set at nought all law and right, and marched into the Duchies. Austria went hand in hand with Prussia, from a fear, he supposed, of being distanced in the race for the leadership of Germany. Thus the wrongdoing by the Congress led to the subsequent wrongdoing of the two German Powers. The lawlessness of the Congress gave opportunity to the rapacity of Prussia; the rapacity of Prussia gave cause to the interference of Austria, and this had led 146 to heartburnings and bitterness which was now about to burst forth in an European War. Austria now felt a tardy repentance and sought to re-trace her steps; and at once we heard of the Venetian question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that unless the people of Venetia wished to be united to Italy he would hand them over to the tender mercies of the hon. Member for Bridgwater; and justified the wish expressed by Her Majesty's Government for the cession of Venetia, on the ground that the Venetians desired it. This tallied with the famous despatch of Lord Russell in 1860, on the Italian question. But did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that whenever the subjects of any Government desired to be united to another State they were entitled to have their wishes carried out? Had the wishes of the people of Schleswig and Holstein been consulted when their rulers were changed? Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer apply these doctrines to India? Her Majesty's subjects there might desire to be annexed to some Tartar or Chinese State. If they preferred the rule of some other race to ours, was their preference to be gratified? Or if Ireland aspired to a separation from this country, and sighed for American forms of Government, would the right hon. Gentleman not say them nay? He suspected that the right hon. Gentleman held by the doctrine only when it was convenient to apply it to foreign States. For himself, he was heartily glad that there was not now to be a Congress. He had never known any good to this country from a Congress. We were strong in arms; our navy was invincible; but the moment we entered a Congress we were sure to lose that which our prowess had obtained. We gave up in a Congress what we gained in war.
§ MR. LAING
said, he rose, not for the purpose of prolonging the discussion, but to appeal to hon. Members to put a stop to it. It was of a most painful character, and he believed it could do no good and might possibly do harm. The matter was of such grave importance, that he thought hon. Members ought to concur with the suggestion of the Minister, and by abstaining from any further conversation on this question, act with a dignity which was suited to so grave an occasion. He apprehended that Her Majesty's Government, in common, he believed, with every sensible man in the House and the country, had adhered to the resolution that in the event 147 of war breaking out England should not be a party to it. Now, if this country were to abstain from being drawn into a war in which neither its interests nor its honour were immediately concerned, it would be better that the House of Commons should not erect itself into a sort of tribunal for criticizing the conduct and conveying an opinion as to the rights of the opposing parties. Such a course could, he thought, only lead to mischief and tend to make us misunderstood on the Continent, while it might, perhaps, drift us into the very situation which we wished to avoid and get us entangled in the war. He earnestly hoped, therefore, that the House would not allow this discussion to be continued.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he did not rise with any intention of prolonging the discussion, but merely for the purpose of asking a question with reference to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the immediate or proximate outbreak of war was to be expected rather in the North of Germany than in Italy. He had noticed in the public press that afternoon an announcement to the effect that General Garibaldi had landed at Genoa, and was about to proceed immediately to Como, the place which was the scene of his successes in the war of 1859, the headquarters of one of the divisions of the Garibaldian Volunteers, and in close proximity to the Austrian frontier. He wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government had received information to that effect, and whether they believed it to be authentic; and, if so, whether they were still of opinion that the outbreak of hostilities was to be expected on the Elbe rather than on the Alps?
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, he thought that an expression of opinion on the part of the British House of Commons would have a considerable effect through out the whole of Europe, and he was therefore glad that his hon. Friend had brought this subject forward. He believed that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been somewhat misunderstood by several hon. Members who had addressed the House. The right hon. Gentleman stated, as he understood him, not that Her Majesty's Government had represented officially to Austria that she ought to give up Venetia, but that Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that Austria had by treaties an undisputed right to that province. A totally different question, however, arose, if 148 Her Majesty's Government were asked as friends what they thought it was expedient for Austria to do in the interests of herself and in the interests of Europe. That was a totally distinct question, and admitted of a totally distinct answer. There was no doubt that Austria held Venetia by the same right as that by which other Powers held territories under the Treaties of 1815. But laws were made for ordinary occasions, and extraordinary occasions might arise when the sympathies of nations set at naught ordinary legislation. He thought if Venetia showed an effective wish to be joined to a population which were akin to her in birth and religion, although not having had the same political organization before 1793, she had a right to assert that unanimous desire. Now, as these feelings had through a long series of years been manifested in such a way as to disturb the equilibrium of Europe, it was quite right for Her Majesty's Government when war was imminent to say, "We see that this is an increasing difficulty, and the only difficulty which prevents Austria and Italy from being on friendly terms with each other." Austria was a nation in the same sense that England, France, and the United States were nations. There were different nationalities, it was true, but they were all united together by ties of social intercourse and political organization, which in the case of England, France, and the United States appeared to override everything else. Austria had possessed territory in Italy for about seventy years. In the case of Alsace, France had so endeared herself to the population of the province that if the question should arise whether they would be French or German they would without hesitation side with France. In a similar way the Silesians were united to Prussia by ties of religion and feelings of affection. Austria, he understood, was willing to accept the Silesian provinces in lieu of Venetia. Well, it was generally believed that Austria wished to fight one great battle and to recover Silesia from Prussia, because it had been originally wrested from her by Frederick the Great. At all events, he had heard that stated by friends of Austria in that House, the understanding being that she would then cede Venetia. Now, he thought that nothing could be more unwise than for Austria to wish for any possessions which would entail upon her the same difficulties which had resulted from her possession of Venice. In his 149 opinion it was perfectly wise and right for Her Majesty's Government, when they saw that the peace of Europe was likely to be disturbed, to say to Austria, "If you ask our private opinion, we think that if you give up this province the peace of Europe may be maintained and your own position very much strengthened." That advice might not be in accordance with the sentiments of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it accorded with the ideas of most Gentlemen on that side of the House, and with the wish of the nation at large. In matters of this kind we were very much in the hands of the Foreign Office, which could never act with force unless it were supported by the opinion of the country as expressed in the House of Commons. He was glad, therefore, that the feeling of the House seemed to be that Her Majesty's Government had taken the right course. A very material change, he might remark, had taken place in Austria during the last two or three years with regard to Venetia. Formerly the cession of Venetia was never permitted to be mentioned at Vienna, but now it was a common subject of conversation in the capital; the general opinion of those who wished to see Austria strong being that if Austria ceded Venetia in a manner consistent with her honour she would greatly promote her material interests.
I wish to say a word or two in answer to the appeal made by the hon. Member for Wick, because I am sure that every Member of this House wishes to escape the responsibility, and it is a grave responsibility, of aggravating the present state of affairs in Europe by any remarks he may make here. But, as I understood the hon. Member for Bridgwater and those who have taken part in this debate, our object is not to criticize the actions of foreign Powers, but to exercise a constitutional check on the action of our own Government, which is merely exerting one of our first rights. And in this case I maintain that the House has a very strong reason for interfering in order to express an opinion on the part of the country. No one knows better than the hon. Member for Wick how deep is the suffering which has fallen on this country in consequence of the disturbed state of the Continent, and if that disturbed state of the Continent is in any way the result of the diplomatic action of the British Government, the British House of Commons has a right, and, indeed, it is their 150 duty, to interfere. The charge brought against Her Majesty's Government is that in the case of Italy, which is the first and most irremediable cause of the complications of the Continent, the Government have, by their diplomatic action, tended to foster and envenom the most dangerous feelings—that they have encouraged Italy in her designs, and thereby increased the difficulties of the Continent at this moment. There is this difference between the case of Germany and the case of Italy. The case of Germany is a disputed question of right which might be submitted to arbitration; but the case of Italy is a simple demand on the part of A for that which B possesses. Now, you cannot submit that to arbitration. If I have a lawsuit with a man, I can take it to an arbitrator; but if a man meets me in a lane and puts a pistol to my head and says, "Your money or your life," that is no case for arbitration at all. However practicable it might have been at first to have settled the question of the Duchies by the ordinary processes of diplomacy, when once the population of Italy were inflamed by the passions of war, and their cupidity was tempted by the hope of acquiring Venetia, the chances of any arrangement by the operation of diplomacy became very slight and precarious indeed; and that is the ground of the complaint I make against Her Majesty's Government. The country thought that when Earl Russell left the Foreign Office, and Lord Clarendon took his place they would get rid of those despatches which were perpetually stirring up difficulties; but, like a character on the other side of the water, Earl Russell seems to be "irrepressible," and when he cannot kindle disturbance by despatches he does it by private letters. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not ventured to deny that Earl Russell has given, by private letters, advice which has tended more than anything else to engage Italy in that course, so dangerous to the peace of Europe and so baneful to Italy, which she has pursued. Therefore, although, of course, one cannot take any notice now or record a protest in a formal way, still, I think the hon. Member for Bridgewater does right in protesting, and this House will do right in protesting, as it often has done before, against Earl Russell's incurable habit of meddling in every foreign dispute that arises. There is another part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech to which I wish to refer, The right hon. Gentleman 151 told us that Italy had no claim whatever to Venetia, except such as arose from the wishes of the people of Venetia. He told us that for years past Members of his Government had urged upon Austria to recognize the justice of their claims, and that now the Italians had in their enterprize the sympathies of the people of England. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No!] Well, we shall see from the report to-morrow that that was the substance of what he said. If these are the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it results that he lays it down as a principle of public law that whenever a nation desires to be free from the Sovereign who possesses it, and desires to be annexed to another nation then the latter deserves and acquires the right to the sympathy of himself and of the people of this country. What warrant has the right hon. Gentleman for his statement of the facts? How does he know that the Venetians have a desire to be annexed to Italy? I cannot help thinking that a fallacy, which we trace very deeply in certain domestic matters now before the House, has got hold of the mind of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to foreign politics. In home matters he considers England made up of towns; he does not believe in anything you may call country; and I always think the Chancellor of the Exchequer exhibits the same fallacy in dealing with this question of Italy. If he finds that a great town has a strong political opinion, he utterly disregards any manifestation of counter-opinion in the rural districts in its very neighbourhood and immediately speaks of the opinions of that great town as those of the nation. It has been eminently so in the case of Southern Italy. I think it probable that in a considerable part of Naples the people are well pleased with the new order of things, but no impartial person can peruse the history of the last six or seven years and say that the rural districts which constitute the vast mass of the old kingdom of the Two Sicilies are satisfied with the new order of things. But according to his wont, the right hon. Gentleman treats the rural districts as a cypher, and the large towns as everything, and he still maintains that the southern provinces are well satisfied with the revolution. As in their case, so it may be in that of Venetia; we have no evidence, so far as I know, that the Venetians wish for the revolution which the right hon. Gentleman desires to see. There is evidence that the 152 town of Venice desires it, but I have never seen any evidence to prove that it is desired by the people of the country districts, and I suspect that the revolutionary feeling is not so general as the right hon. Gentleman would have the House believe. Be that as it may, I cannot pass without a protest that most pernicious doctrine of public law, now for the first time, I believe, laid down by a Minister of the Crown, and the public repetition of which by persons high in authority will assuredly rid us of all our Indian possessions, possibly of a considerable part of Canada, and I fear, last, but not least, of Ireland.
§ MR. LAYARD
I should be sorry, especially after the judicious remarks that have fallen from the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), to prolong this discussion. The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) has mistaken what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who did not protest against answering any question. The hon. Member had a perfect right to put any question he thought proper to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What my right hon. Friend said was this—the hon. Member went far beyond his question, and entered into a discussion of the relative position of Austria and the other Powers, under present circumstances, and as my hon. Friend could not, with due courtesy to the hon. Member for Bridgwater, pass over his remarks, but felt bound to answer them, he did so under protest, as to anything he might say on the spur of the moment, and without notice of a discussion raised in a manner—I will not say not conformable to the rules of the House, but not quite in accordance with the custom and practice of the House. I quite concur in the opinion that a grave question which may involve the peace of Europe is a legitimate subject of discussion here, but surely when an hon. Member wishes to get up an important debate it would be just and fair to give due notice of his intention, and not without notice to raise such a discussion on an evening generally expected to be devoted to other business. Several hon. Members seemed to have altogether misunderstood what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, but I do not think any other hon. Member would have made the remark which has fallen from the noble Lord opposite.
§ MR. LAYARD
The noble Lord said the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that 153 which he did not say, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer ventured to correct the noble Lord he said he would wait until to-morrow to see the report.
I did not mean the slightest imputation on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's veracity. Any Member may forget the words he used; the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have done so; and if there is the slightest idea that my language imputed untruth, I withdraw the expression.
§ MR. LAYARD
It is better that such language should not be made use of in this House. The hon. Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer), who was not in the House to hear the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answering it, replied to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say—namely, that Her Majesty's Government had been urging the Italian Government to go to war with Austria. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: No; I did not say that.] No such advice has ever been given by us to the Italian Government. On the contrary for years past, from the time the Italian unity was established, whenever advice was asked for—and it has never been volunteered—and occasion required it to be given, the advice we have continuously and consistently given to the Italian Government has been this—"Consolidate yourselves, develop your resources, establish good government, do not think of any further acquisition of territory, and do not turn your attention at present to warlike schemes." I must say I should be unworthy of my position if I did not protest against the very ungenerous remarks that have been made by the hon. Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer) as well as by the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel). I am glad that the former confesses that a change for the better has taken place in Italy, and any one who knew what Italy was seven or eight years ago, must be astonished at the changes that have been effected. That there is some open expression of discontent, I quite admit, but this very expression of discontent is a proof of the difference between the present and the past condition of Italy. A few years ago when there existed the state of things which the hon. Baronet admired, any one who expressed discontent was conveyed to a dungeon. I remember, some three years ago, when walking through Naples, I bought thirty-seven different newspapers, published in one day, and advocating all views, from the strongest 154 Reactionary opinions down to the broadest Mazzinianism or Republicanism. There is the most perfect liberty of the press, and everybody grumbles, as people do in a free country. Look at the start Italy has taken and the progress she has made in railways, commerce, and in education; look at her administration, her jury system, and the improved state of her prisons. I know that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have a preference for the despotic rule of the old times; but let us be at least just to Italy; I do not wish to justify all that the Italian Government may have done; it may have committed a great many faults, every Government does that in its turn. But it is the privilege of a people to comment upon those faults, and in Italy that privilege has been exercised to the fullest extent. With regard to advice recently given, Her Majesty's Government never advised Italy to go to war with Austria; on the contrary, we strongly urged and tried to dissuade her from going to war. Let me add this statement in Italy's justification. Until the Austrian Government thought fit to send a considerable force into Venetia, the Italian army was not raised above its usual peace footing. I am one of those who believe that the Italian Government have originated nothing aggressively towards Austria, and the strictest inquiries have shown that it was not until Austria sent troops to Venetia that Italy had taken any steps to increase her army. I think I am bound to state this fact in justice to the Italian Government. Of the movements of General Garibaldi I have no official knowledge; my information upon that subject is confined to what I have read in the daily journals. I do not wish to detain the House further, but I cannot sit down without requesting that hon. Gentlemen who desire to put questions of this character will in future give due notice of their intention to do so to Her Majesty's Government.
§ COLONEL PERCY HERBERT
said, that the hon. Member for Poole had informed them that the debates in that House were read with great interest on the Continent—but he scarcely thought that the debates in that House would have as much weight upon the Continent as they had at present if it were known that hon. Members made statements in their speeches founded upon no better authority than the various canards that appeared in the newspapers. The hon. Member cited no better authority than 155 that in support of his statement that Austria was prepared to go to war for the sake of obtaining Silesia in exchange for Venetia. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had stated that it was indisputable that until Austria had concentrated her forces in Venetia, Italy had not added to hers. That might be so, but surely the Emperor of Austria had a right to increase the forces in any portion of his dominions which he might think required additional defence without the inference being drawn from the fact that he intended to attack Italy. It was evident that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs wished such an inference to be drawn from his statement, but it was asking too much of their credulity to believe that the Emperor of Austria was such a drivelling idiot that with France uncertain, he should court a war with Italy at a time when he was in danger of having to contend with all the force of Northern Germany.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had not the slightest doubt that the Foreign Secretary desired to smother this question, for during his experience of nearly seven years in Parliament, he never knew any discussion on foreign affairs in which the Government did not get the worst of the argument. The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) had also endeavoured to stop the debate, but had he sat in the last Parliament he would have made no such attempt, for he would be now persuaded that had the Schleswig-Holstein question been ventilated in an early stage, the simple point involved would have come clearly before the House, and the minds of hon. Members would not have been utterly confused, as they were now, by the blundering policy of Earl Russell upon every matter connected with that subject. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had complained that the hon. Member for Bridgwater had not given notice of his question, but the memory of the hon. Gentleman must be very imperfect or he would have recollected that the hon. Member for Bridgwater had a notice on the subject standing on the paper in his name on Friday last, and that he withdrew it at a late hour on that evening, stating his intention to bring the matter forward at the earliest opportunity. Of that intention of the hon. Member hon. Gentlemen officially connected with the Treasury were fully aware. He entirely agreed with the observation of the hon. Member for Bridgwater that the dispute with regard to the Duchies was a question solely concerning the German 156 Powers. The Italian question had never arisen in any form, and if that question was to be dealt with in a Congress or Conference there was no possible reason to show why the present time was more fitting than last year, when a Congress was proposed by the Emperor of the French and declined by Earl Russell. He (Mr. Bentinck) considered it quite plain that the Italian question would never have arisen but for the dishonest, unnatural, and discreditable convention between Prussia and Italy to attack their common enemy. But if England had intended to interfere in this matter, she should have proceeded with the utmost caution, for while she was acting as a mediating Power in conjunction with Russia and with France, her interests were wholly different, for of these three Powers England was the only Power whose policy at this moment was not aggressive. Who could foretel the designs of Russia? The House had heard enough of the Schleswig-Holstein question, and had been frequently informed that Russia had originally instigated the Treaty of London of 1852. Russia had a strong interest, therefore, in the Elbe Duchies as well as in the questions which sow agitate the Principalities and Greece. He believed the Emperor of the French to be personally a friend to this country in his desire for peace, but the mind of France—if he might use such an expression—was also aggressive, and she could not forget that in 1814 the banks of the Rhine, the kingdom of Holland, and various parts of Italy were included within her boundaries. Under those circumstances it could not be said that England would meet France and Russia on equal terms in an endeavour to preserve the peace of Europe. But if she did consent to join in such an attempt she should take care to see that the propositions made to the disputing Powers were not coupled with conditions which it was impossible for one of them to accept. He contended that the propositions which had been recently made to Austria had been coupled with conditions which Her Majesty's Government must have been well aware that country could not accept. He had not had the good fortune to see the despatches that had been sent by Her Majesty's Government to the Powers of Europe upon this question, but he had seen in the public journals of the day the following most remarkable and able despatch sent by the Austrian Government to their various diplomatic agents, which presented 157 in very clear terms the substance of their objections to enter into the proposed Conference—The Emperor's Government only desires to receive beforehand the assurance that all the Powers which are to participate in the projected meeting are ready, as it is itself, to forego the prosecution of any object of private interest to the detriment of the general tranquillity. In order that the work of peace which the Cabinets have in view may be accomplished, it appears to us indispensable that an agreement should be come to beforehand to exclude from the deliberations any combination that might tend to give to one of the States now invited to the meeting a territorial aggrandizement or an increase of power. Without that preliminary guarantee, which sets aside all ambitious pretensions and leaves a greater space for arrangements equitable for all concerned, it would seem to us impossible to count upon a fortunate issue for the proposed deliberations.The next paragraph had reference to Italy—There must, however, be a clear understanding that the position assumed by the Emperor's Government as respects that of King Victor Emmanuel cannot be altered or prejudged by the eventual consent of Austria to cause herself to be represented at a meeting which has to occupy itself with the Italian dispute. In diplomatic Conferences held before war has broken off all ulterior engagements, the admission should be made that the public law of Europe, and consequently former treaties, should serve naturally for a starting point. We believe that this remark cannot give rise to any objections; it suffices to indicate the attitude which we shall have to assume, and we think we are giving to the Powers a pledge of the perfect honesty of our intentions in showing a frankness which ought to be complete on both sides if any wish is felt that a sincere effort at conciliation should be attempted.The third objection was as follows:—We must, lastly, express some surprise that the Pontifical Government should not be also invited to take part in deliberations concerning the Italian dispute. The situation of Italy cannot assuredly be examined without taking account of the interests of the Papacy. Independently of the questions of right, which we nevertheless are anxious to preserve intact, the sovereignty of the Pope is a fact recognized, in my opinion, by all Governments. His Holiness has, therefore, an incontestable right to make his voice heard in a meeting which has to occupy itself with the affairs of Italy.These objections on the part of the Austrian Government appeared to be perfectly reasonable. The Austrian dominion in Italy was not only recognized by the Treaties of 1815, but after the war of 1859 no voice was raised against the possession by Austria of that part of Italy which was left to her. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was at that time quite in favour of the Treaty of Villa-franca, 158 and no less a person than Earl Russell actually favoured the division of Italy into two Kingdoms—Northern and Southern Italy. The right of Austria to Venetia was as strong and as good as that by which any great Power held any part of its territories; and it was, therefore, too much to expect that Austria would enter into a Conference with the condition precedent that the surrender by her of that province should be discussed there. Did anybody suppose that the Emperor of the French would enter into a Conference if it were made a condition that one of the subjects to be discussed should be either the cession of Savoy, the "cradle" of the reigning dynasty in Italy, or of the county of Nice, the "cradle" of Garibaldi; for Garibaldi, as the House might be aware, was by birth a Nizzard, and therefore now a Frenchman? Again, if Spain were summoned to the Conference, would England allow the cession of Gibraltar to be debated? The hon, Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had stated that if Ireland could be loosed from her moorings and taken 2,000 miles to the westward, she would proclaim her independence, Would England then allow this Fenian view to be mooted in a Conference, and entertain the separation of Ireland from this country? If not, then it was unfair to blame Austria for not going into a Conference under the same circumstances. As to the question of nationalities, he really wondered that the Government should raise it when they had left it quite out of view in the case of Schleswig-Holstein. When the question there arose whether German nationality should be oppressed by the Danes, Her Majesty's Government took their stand upon the Treaty of 1852, though the Treaty of London was not comparable in importance and validity to the Treaty of 1815. Now, however, they changed their tone, and said, "Let us go upon nationalities and disregard treaties altogether." As to the alleged desire of Austria to possess Silesia, the published despatch showed that the Court of Vienna were influenced by no motives of that kind. Then with respect to the Conference, it seemed remarkable that the Pope had not been invited to attend it. What was going to happen on the 16th of September next? By the Convention of 1864 it was provided that in two years the French army would be withdrawn from Rome, and the Pope was to be left to defend his possessions with such a force as 159 he could muster. But the Pope had no army which could resist attack by Italy, and it was, therefore, singular that the Papacy had not been summoned to the Congress in order that the probable results of the Convention of September should be discussed there. He did not mean to say that it was not his wish to see Italy united. Matters had gone on too far to leave any chance of the restoration of the ancient thrones, and he thought we ought now to look to the future rather than the past, and induce the Italians to consolidate their political and material strength. But if there was to be one sole kingdom of Italy, it must include the County and Port of Nice, the Southern Alps, and certainly Rome should be its capital. His great objection to the policy of the Government was that it seemed to be wholly without definite principle. He had been forced unwillingly to the conclusion that the foreign policy of the Government for the last six or seven years had been nothing more nor less than a popularity-hunting policy. On their first accession to office, the Government were all for Italy and nationalities, simply because the cry was popular. Garibaldi, too, was a lion—a curiosity; he entered London in procession, welcomed by crowds, who would have gone next day as eagerly to see him hanged. Then Poland came on the scene; the working men of Brighton called on the Government to go to war for the sake of Poland; and we heard a great deal about the sufferings of the unfortunate Poles and their oppression by Russia. Next came the Danish question. Earl Russell wrote at first remonstrating strongly with Denmark for endeavouring to oppress the nationalities of Schleswig-Holstein. But afterwards the Government, for reasons to which he (Mr. Bentinck) would not then refer, turned completely round against these nationalities, and now they were supporting the unjustifiable aggressions of Italy, and again expressing sympathy with nationalities. They observed, however, a very discreet silence with reference to the Pope, for he invariably found the adherents of the Pope during the present Session going into the Government lobby on every division. Why they did so he did not know, for he thought that if they consulted their own interests they would not thus follow the lead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under Secretary, who systematically took the side opposed to the Pope. He could not give them the credit of being actuated by any genuine 160 conviction in so doing, for the motive of the Government appeared to him to be simply to catch stray votes and bid for popularity, no matter though they thereby sacrificed the true interests of the country, and pursued a fickle and feeble foreign policy, which was a reproach to every Englishman who travelled abroad. He was grateful to the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) for declining to be puzzled, and for bringing this question forward in so statesmanlike a manner, and enabling them to express their opinions independently at the present critical juncture.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he had always believed that Italian unity would one day prove to be a fact—and that Italy would in that way arise from her protracted dissolution into new life. It was because he feared that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government at the present grave crisis might retard the march of improvement on which Italy had entered during the last few years that he desired to offer a few observations to the House. It was often said that history reproduced itself, and Parliamentary debates appeared to reproduce themselves; for the present discussion and the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer naturally reminded him of the fact that a few years since the cession of Savoy and Nice to France was being arranged by secret treaties, and that the first note of suspicion proceeded from the right hon. Member for Tamworth, who to-night had spoken in almost the same tone. Venetia had been the subject of various compacts without care or regard for the wishes of the inhabitants, and as it was scarcely to be expected that Austria would surrender it without some equivalent, he thought the House ought to know what mode of compensation was proposed. Moreover there had been instances of a State, while receiving an accession of territory on the one side, making a cession of territory on the other, and it was well known that the Emperor of France, without whose consent, to say the least, Venetia could not be ceded to Italy, stipulated on a similar occasion for Savoy and Nice as a compensation. Amid the silence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the press, and of hon. Members usually best informed on such matters, he could not help suspecting that some secret arrangement was now in existence by which Italy was to compensate France for the acquisition of Venetia. The Government were bound to consider 161 Whether any of the interests of this country would be affected by such territorial changes, and the House was entitled to the fullest explanation before it was too late. It was argued that Italy should have Venice because Venice desired to be Italian, and the same argument was preferred when the southern portion of the Peninsula desired annexation. If, however, the discontent prevailing in South Italy was to be taken as an indication that the unionist feeling had disappeared after two or three years' experience, it might fairly be argued that the yearnings of the Venetians might prove equally transient. He fervently hoped, indeed, that that reactionary feeling was only local and temporary, and he regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not given a fuller explanation on that subject. He had more than once been in that country and spent happy days on the shores of the Italian sea, and among the mountains and the cultivated plains of that fair land, and he could testify from personal observation to the advances that had been made by Italy of late years. He had seen education diffused and trade and commerce extended in districts where a few years since no signs of progress were perceptible. He had seen every external sign which a stranger could see of national progress, and he earnestly desired to see that progress continue. He desired to see a firm, consolidated, and enduring Italy, realizing the most fervent aspirations of her greatest patriots during many generations; but he feared that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in virtually, though not directly, inciting Italy to a war with Austria, was calculated to arrest that progress and disappoint those aspirations.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he had no knowledge that the hon. Gentleman opposite was going to bring forward this subject, but in doing so he had only acted as became one who on former occasions had shown that he took not only a great but an enlightened interest in foreign affairs. If any one should get up and blame the hon. Gentleman for what he had done at such a momentous crisis, when the telegraph might at any instant flash the news of the outbreak of war over Europe, he would evince a complete misapprehension of the usages and practice of Parliament and the country. He had understood that the policy of England of late years—and in his opinion it was a judicious policy—was not to interfere much in foreign politics—not to coerce or even to advise foreign potentates as to the 162 conduct of their affairs. But, on the other hand, it was our duty to discourage those who sought to embroil Europe through greed of territorial aggrandizement, and from a desire to seize on the possessions of their neighbours. But from what he had heard since he entered the House of the tone of the hon. Member for Southwark's remarks that was not the case. So far from coming forward to defend the rights of those who were acting in self-defence, his hon. Friend had apparently gone out of his way to throw blame on Austria. For what did his hon. Friend say? That Italy had never made any movement, had never commenced any military preparations until Austria had moved within her own territories certain bodies of troops. But did the hon. Gentleman mean for one moment to assert that Austria was not cognizant of the secret negotiations that were going on between Florence and Berlin? Did his hon. Friend, by thus throwing blame on Austria for an act of common precaution, profess to be ignorant that Austria had the fullest knowledge of the constant passing of negotiators between the two capitals for the purpose of raising up a menacing state of things, and assisting those ambitious schemes which had so long guided the policy of Prussia? If the hon. Gentleman were now in the House he would ask him whether he was not perfectly aware that all the military movements of Austria in Venetia were in response to the known resolve of the Italian Government to take the opportunity of the embroilment of the affairs of Germany to make a military raid upon the Austrian frontier? He regretted that the mouthpiece of the Government on Foreign Affairs in that House should have made statements which if they meant anything meant that the present unfortunate state of things was owing to the military preparations of Austria in Italy. Nothing could be more unfair than to intimate anything of the kind. No doubt the Austrian Government had from time to time committed many faults, but no one could believe that in the present state of complications in Germany Austria should wantonly and wilfully have created hostility against herself. The hon. Gentleman said he entirely agreed with the observations of the hon. Member for the Wick burghs that it was very injudicious to raise this question, and then he proceeded to make remarks which rendered it impossible for any one who knew anything about the facts of the case to remain silent. As he understood the general 163 tendency of the remarks of hon. Gentlemen, there was a general disposition to blame Austria for not accepting the proposed Conference. But he would ask any English gentleman fairly to say how he could blame Austria for this. Could any Congress give her pledges or securities for her possessions greater than she already had under existing treaties? He would ask whether a person who had a complete right by, law, by usage, and by possession, was likely to place himself in the position of a mere claimant, and to go into court with any one not having the shadow of a title except that which greed and the desire of aggrandizement gave him? The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of the traditions of the past. But what were those traditions in the case of Italy? Were they not the traditions of a time when she was divided into a number of republics, carrying on perpetual wars with one another, and each, when worsted, inviting the Frenchman, the Spaniard, or the German to come in? From his imperfect reading of history he found that then, as now, Italy was always inviting the stranger to come in and interfere. He did not wish his views on the subject to be taken for more than they were worth; but he wished to show that this country would be treading on very dangerous ground if she departed from the sound principle on which she generally acted. What did the Earl of Clarendon say in 1859 on this very subject? His words were remarkable. They were these—If, my Lords, it is intended to require Austria to withdraw from that territory to which she has treaty rights, why my noble Friend and Her Majesty's Government know very well that the answer of Austria would be that she recognizes no authority on the part of a Congress in 1859 to abrogate the rights conferred by the Congress of 1815. Austria would reply that she was prepared to defend her rights, and there would be an end of the Congress."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 1842.]But Lord Clarendon went further. He said—If we are parties to, or in any way sanction, the violation of those treaties by which the Austrian possessions in Italy are secured and maintained, we may rely upon it that that process will not stop there, and that we shall soon have to consider other and more important questions of territorial arrangements. However, it may be thought, after a lapse of forty years, that in some cases the provisions of the Treaty of Vienna were defective in foresight—and it cannot be denied that in two or three cases they have broken down under the overwhelming force of circumstances—it cannot upon the whole be denied that they have served their purpose by maintaining the peace of 164 Europe; and the best proof of the confidence attached to the arrangements they effected was the universal satisfaction with which all Europe hailed the declaration of the Emperor of the French that he would respect the faith of treaties. But if these treaties are now to be torn up, and if Europe is to be scrambled for, I say that nothing but endless strife and universal confusion can arise."—[p. 1843.]He asked hon. Gentlemen opposite if these sentences were not pregnant with sound, statesmanlike policy? Did they not represent the principles of honesty and good faith, without which no state could, in fact, be secure? He did not wish to see this country meddling with the affairs of other countries, and he could not help thinking that the spirit in which we had so interfered had too often been calculated to give just cause of offence; more especially he deprecated the tone of the late Foreign Minister's official correspondence. Such a policy could end only in humiliation. What a miserable result had followed our uncalled-for interference with the Circassians. We coquetted with them, endeavouring to make use of them for our own purposes, during the Crimean war; and now that gallant nation had been vilely betrayed, trampled under foot, and all but swept off the map of Europe. Did we not also incur disgrace by our conduct towards Denmark? Did we not encourage Denmark to compete with the armed hosts of other nations, assuring her that she should not stand alone, and did we not leave her to her fate? He must apologize to the House for having detained them so long, but he could not allow the observations of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to pass unnoticed; and he would only say, in conclusion, that he hoped the House would by some expression of opinion condemn the spirit of aggression and uphold the faith of treaties.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
In the course of this debate we were getting into some difficulty when the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs poured oil on the troubled waters, and restored the temper of the House to a state of amenity. I do not think that the question put by the hon. Member for Bridgwater has been sufficiently attended to, or the character of the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary complained to the House that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been misunderstood. How it is that such a master of language should not be able to express himself as clearly as he certainly can copiously, and, when 165 he pleases, eloquently, I am unable to understand. What was the question put to him by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Kinglake) who, in a very temperate and states-manlike speech, addressed himself to a very large subject? That hon. Gentleman did not suggest for a moment that Her Majesty's Government had recom- mended Italy to go to war with Austria. What I understood him to say was that if not the Ministry, yet that some individual Member of the Ministry had at a very critical period of European history recommended Austria to cede Venetia to Italy. That raises a very curious question of principle. It is not asserted that the Ministry, through the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, addressed a despatch to that effect to the Austrian Government; but that a particular Member of the Ministry—and it might have been the foremost—may have written a letter recommending Austria to cede Venetia to Italy. The question is quite consistent with such a supposition, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was called upon by the scope and effect of the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgwater to answer that matter, with great good feeling to his Colleague and with great good taste, he avoided giving an answer to that question; and I maintain that no answer was given to that question—whether the Prime Minister had or had not addressed a private letter, but still in the capacity of Prime Minister, recommending Austria to give up Venetia to the Italians. If that had occurred, I should invite the attention of the House to the matter. I never knew that it was a principle of our foreign policy that while there was one set of despatches which, if moved for, might be laid on the table, there might be other documents of an epistolatory nature passing between great personages of the two nations, and having more effect and operation on the course of events than the formal despatches of which we can get copies placed upon the table of the House. I think the hon. Member for Bridgwater has done good service by calling upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer this question, and by calling attention to the new principle on which modern diplomacy has attempted to conduct our foreign affairs. Without going into irrelevant topics the noble Earl at the head of the Government has not been lucky in his despatches, and when we are told of his sympathy for oppressed nations I cannot but remember his sympathy for Poland. When certain despatches 166 were written by Earl Russell on the subject of Poland we all felt for Poland, but many of us thought it more expedient to hold our tongues, because I, for one, did not believe the noble Earl meant to act or do anything on behalf of Poland, and I thought that the expression of strong indignation against the Emperor of Russia must bring this country into trouble about Poland, when we did not mean to interfere or to do more than offer very emphatic advice. There was afterwards one despatch from the Russian Minister to Earl Russell which in former times must have led to instant war, because it was of a very affronting character to the great nation which the noble Earl represented. But if we had no business to interfere with Russia, and to ask it to resign the government of Poland, although our sympathies were with the Poles, what authority have we now, as a principle of International Law, to call upon the Emperor of Austria to resign his government of Venetia on the ground that that government is not acceptable to a large portion of the inhabitants of Venetia? Mr. Canning once said that any individual Member of Parliament might express his opinions as he pleased if he sympathized with any nation in the world which he believed to be oppressed, but that a Foreign Minister had other duties to perform, and must not indulge the same expression of opinion unless England, which he represents, is ready to back that expression of opinion. As another illustration of this unhappy tendency in the management of Foreign affairs by the noble Earl, I may refer to Denmark. The noble Earl conducted the negotiations in the affairs of Denmark, and I do not know that any Member of this House was ever called upon to perform a duty of a more painful nature than that of reading those despatches. I remember the criticism of the late Mr. Cobden upon them, and the remark of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, that while we signed such treaties, and our Ministers wrote such despatches, we might well expect the very consequences that have arisen in Europe from that policy. We do not seem to have gained much by the advice we then gave to Denmark. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for Tamworth—who knew something about these matters, as he was connected with the Government, and who is a Gentleman of great ability and high position—say that Lord Palmerston wished to pursue an 167 opposite policy, but that he was overruled by the Government. It cannot add to our admiration of the manner in which the foreign policy of this country is managed if advice has been offered in the way suggested. Indeed, the offering advice at all at a critical time, unless you mean to act on what you say, is, attended with more danger than advantage. What is the effect of this course of proceeding? Supposing that such a letter as the hon. Member for Bridgwater refers to has been written, it becomes known in diplomatic circles that England is in favour of Italy and against Austria. The expression of such an opinion at this most critical period is a standing incentive to war. Some years ago there was a debate on the line of policy pursued by Lord Palmerston in respect to Italy, and it was then stated that Austria had offered to resign Lombardy and some other parts of Italy, but refused to surrender Venice, though the Austrian Government were willing to give Venice a free Constitution, a native army, and a native administration. The offer of Austria was refused by Lord Palmerston and by the Government of that time, and the result was that General Radetski was put in motion and Italy was conquered; and what the hon. Member for Bridgwater now says is, that the advice to surrender Venice, which originally led to great effusion of blood, has been repeated in a private letter at a most critical period, when there is danger that it may be the occasion of the outbreak of hostilities. He could not say that Lord Palmerston was wrong when he used language to the effect that it was not only to the interest of Austria, but for the security of Europe, that rights confirmed by treaties, which formed a portion of the International Law of Europe, should be maintained; and that though in some instances those treaties might be repugnant to the desire of progress inherent in Englishmen, we were bound in honour and good faith to maintain them. What the Austrian Minister said to Lord Palmerston in regard to the Italian question is in their diplomatic papers. He said, "We cannot give up Venice, because the Power that is in possession of Venice commands Trieste, but we will give it a constitutional Government." Such being the position of affairs I cannot conceive more unfortunate advice than that represented to be given by the Government of this country, that Austria should surrender a great and important province without any consideration in return 168 Another hon. Gentleman asked an important question as to whether the Government were aware that General Garibaldi had arrived at Genoa. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs seemed to throw the General overboard as if he was a vulgar person, apparently forgetting that he was the good friend of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and had been warmly received in this country, and worshipped as an heroic and disinterested man, who, by the way, was drawn into revolutionary practices by the fact that his own country was handed over to another Power against his will, at a time when he had a positive assurance under the Royal hand that it never would be surrendered. The hon. Member for Dundalk might well be a little warm on this subject, because the dignitary at the head of his Church must be to-night in trouble when he hears that General Garibaldi has arrived at Genoa, and is marching on Como, for General Garibaldi has never denied that he wants to overthrow the power of Austria, and get rid of the Pope, and that he would do so whenever he could. Now the advice given to Austria, which leads to the arrival of General Garibaldi in Genoa, is very questionable advice as regards the preservation of the peace of Europe. If that advice which the hon. Member for Bridgwater referred to has been really given, it is a piece of advice which ought to have been contained in a formal despatch from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, so that, when called for, the despatch might have been laid on the table, and the House of Commons enabled to pronounce an opinion on the policy which dictated it.
SIR JOHN HANMER
said, he regretted, as an independent Member, to find, on returning to the House after an absence of several hours, the debate raised by the hon. Member for Bridgwater still going on. He did not know, and did not pretend to know, what communications might have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of foreign countries on the matters in dispute. But this he did know, that even if those communications were so unwise as hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches seemed to think, he believed that nothing could be more unwise than for hon. Members, after the events that had taken place within the past few years, to take a prominent part in discussing the affairs of the Continent of Europe, unless the House were prepared to 169 put fleets on the sea and armies in the field to back up its opinion. It seemed to him that this debate was got up in order to prevent another debate in that House rather than to have any effect on the policy of Europe. He had great respect for the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Buckingham, because that right hon. Gentleman always stood up for the honour, dignity, and influence of that House; but what, he asked, would become of the influence of that House among statesmen abroad, if those statesmen were led to believe that this discussion was a mere windy expression of opinion, having no result? He deprecated these casual debates on foreign policy, for he thought that if hon. Members had anything to say about foreign policy, they should bring forward a formal Motion on the subject. He thought the war in the Crimea was one of the most foolish undertakings into which this country had ever entered, although, having become entangled in it, she was, of course, bound to get out of it in the best way she could. If hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted to get rid of the question of Reform there were twenty other ways of doing it without occupying the time of the House with such debates as this, which lowered the House to the position of a common debating society.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he did not agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down, that debates of this kind lowered the House of Commons to the position of a mere debating society. While admitting the truth of the statement that previous discussions on questions of foreign policy—as, for instance, in the case of Denmark, which had been grossly mismanaged—tended to place this country in no very enviable light before the nations of Europe, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater had acted wisely in asking the question which he had that evening put to Her Majesty's Government. The threats which were held out, and the denunciations which were uttered against the German Powers in reference to the Duchies, did not proceed, it should be remembered, from the Parliament of England, but from the Prime Minister; and he felt sure his hon. Friend who had just spoken would agree with him in the opinion that the House of Commons could not be called upon to discharge a more vital or important function than that which the hon. Member for Bridgwater had invited them to perform—not by lecturing Europe, 170 but by taking account of the various steps adopted by the Government in the present most critical state of affairs. Under what circumstances had the questions been put to which that hon. Gentleman had drawn attention in his most thoughtful and statesmanlike speech? Had the House of Commons exhibited the slightest wish to interfere with the prerogative of the Government in the conduct of the recent negotiations, or displayed any undue haste in asking for explanations on the subject? Quite the reverse. It was not until it had been made known to the House by Her Majesty's Government that these negotiations and the hopes of a Conference based upon them had hopelessly failed, that his hon. Friend had come forward to ask for the information with which he thought it desirable the House should be furnished. And how had his appeal been met by the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, using a phrase which would probably be well remembered hereafter, told his hon. Friend that he would answer the questions which he had put categorically, but that as to the arguments by which those questions had been accompanied he would reply to them only under protest. Very natural comments having been made upon that statement, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs rose in his place and endeavoured to throw a gloss over them, observing that it was a mistake to suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgwater, and that all he had protested against was the practice of individual Members presuming on great questions of foreign policy to enter into any explanation of the questions which they desired to put. The hon. Gentleman had gone on to state that if it was the wish of any hon. Member to raise a debate on the all-important subject of peace or war he should give notice of his intention to do so, and fix the discussion for some convenient day. He, however, would appeal with confidence to those hon. Gentlemen who were then present to say whether it was not in accordance with custom when matters so grave were at stake that a Member of the House might take advantage of any legitimate opportunity which its forms afforded—always acting under a due sense of that responsibility of which his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater had, it seemed to him, taken a proper measure—to bring under the notice of the House, before it was too late, 171 the conduct with respect to those matters of the executive Government. That being so, he could see no good grounds for censuring his hon. Friend for the course he had taken; nor could he see the force of the allusion which had been made by the hon. Baronet to the Reform Bill. The hon. Member for Bridgwater was no opponent of that measure. He had supported it throughout, while he had been the apologist and successful vindicator of the Government, so far as a vote of that House went, by throwing his shield over them at the termination of the unfortunate Danish war. The hon. Gentleman, he therefore contended, was open to no accusation in the present instance, and had simply discharged an important duty in directing public attention as he had done to the manner in which the Government bad conducted the late negotiations. Their conduct of those negotiations was a point on which he also desired to say a few words, His own opinion was that the more the question was sifted, the more distinctly would it appear that the Government had taken a hasty and precipitate course in reference to that reservation under which Austria expressed her assent to enter into the proposed Conference. It was not, he thought, the part of a neutral Power to say categorically to Austria, "The reservation you make with respect to territorial aggrandizement cannot be for a moment entertained by the Powers of Europe assembled to secure the interests of peace. If you persist in adhering to that reservation we shall not enter into a Conference, and we hold you responsible for the war which may ensue." The neutral Government of England had, he maintained, no right to assume that tone in answer to the Austrian proposition. Their duty surely was rather to say, "We shall come to no conclusion in the matter until we have ascertained now the proposal is received by Prussia and Italy. If they consent to enter a Conference on those conditions, we too shall be glad to do so." And if upon those equitable terms Prussia and Italy declined to enter the Conference, then the whole blame attaching to that determination would devolve upon them, and the neutral Powers would have had the satisfaction of knowing that they had fairly exhausted every means within their reach for the preservation of peace, and would have retired with far more honour than they had done from the prosecution of the task in which they were engaged. But as things 172 stood, what was the position of the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer could hardly fail to be alive to the expression of feeling in that House to which he had listened that evening. The great majority of the speakers had advocated the line of conduct which he had briefly indicated. There was manifestly an uneasy perception in the mind of the House of Commons that the Government of England had not permitted the case of Austria to be placed fairly before Europe, and that they were endeavouring to shield, as it were, their own failure in the negotiations by throwing upon her unjustly the blame of that failure to bring about this Conference. That he regarded as a most untoward and unfortunate result, and he must repeat that his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater had, in his opinion, done a great public service by directing the attention of the House and of the country to the present lamentable state of affairs. The discussion which had taken place would serve to show the nations of Europe, not that the House of Commons was anxious to urge the Government on to the brink of war, but that however much they might value the blessings of peace, they would not sanction a line of conduct which sought unjustly to cast the blame of breaking off the negotiations entered into with a view to its maintenance on a great Conservative Power like Austria.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, that much as the House might desire to proceed with the business of the evening, it was quite impossible when accusations were made from the other side which Members on that (the Ministerial) side believed to be utterly unfounded, to let them pass without reply. To wade through the blue books on the Danish question might not be a pleasant task; but any one who took the trouble to read Lord Russell's despatches would see that nothing could have been more judicious than the advice which that noble Lord had offered, and that the interests alike of peace, of Denmark, and of this country had been uppermost in his mind. It was not Lord Russell who stated that if Denmark was attacked she would not stand alone. [An hon. MEMBER: It was Lord Palmerston.] It was impossible for Lord Russell or any other Minister to believe, after the Prussian Minister had declared in Congress what the policy of Germany and of Prussia ought to be, that Prussia would cast to the winds all those statements, and pursue a policy almost 173 without parallel in European history. His conviction was, that the present complications in Europe were due to the unscrupulous audacity and untruthfulness of a Minister, and the weakness of a Monarch.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, it was a remarkable fact that one portion of the hon. Member for Bridgwater's speech had been left unnoticed, both by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It referred to a point of so much importance, and one calling for so direct and immediate an answer from the Government, that it could scarcely have escaped their memory. The right hon. Member for Dublin University had already alluded to it, and it so imperatively demanded some reply from the Government that he made no apology for once more calling their attention to it. The hon. Member for Bridgwater, as he understood him, conveyed to the House the impression that there had been two sets of communications addressed to the Austrian Government—that, while official communications passed in the usual and proper channel from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, there were certain other more private communications addressed by some other Member of the Government to the Austrian Court. Now, he ventured to say that, if any such proceeding had really taken place, nothing more subversive of the principles and practice of the British Constitution could well be conceived. Of course, he had no knowledge of such being the fact; he only gathered it from the statement, or at least from the broad insinuation, of the hon. Member for Bridgwater; but still it was a matter which, until it was contradicted, must leave a most unfavourable impression on the House. He could not tell whether the hon. Member for Bridgwater had any other private information, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin seemed to believe that that indirect or semi-official communication originated on the part of the Prime Minister. That, again, was a circumstance which demanded immediate contradiction if it did not rest upon fact. Where was Lord Clarendon placed by such a supposition? Where was his responsibility? Did he endorse such a communication, assuming it to have existed; or was he, like the House of Commons, utterly ignorant of its having taken place? In either case, there had been a very gross departure from the proper official 174 rule of conduct. Either Lord Clarendon ought to have resisted such an indirect interference with his responsibility, or, if he bad been left in ignorance of the communication, he had been very scurvily treated by his colleague. Were there no reasons why the present Prime Minister, of all public men in this country, should have hesitated to address the Court of Austria in such a manner, or to have made any particular claim on the confidence of that Court? A passage in the life of the present Prime Minister, which, he thought, had not been alluded to in that discussion, was still fresh in his recollection. Happening himself some years ago accidentally to read in a newspaper what purported to be a circular addressed by the Austrian Government to its Ministers throughout Europe, complaining of the conduct of that noble Lord—complaining of what they regarded as a breach of the engagement into which the noble Lord had entered with the Court of Vienna, he immediately came down to the House and gave notice of a question which he meant to put to Lord Russell on the subject on the following day, of course expecting to hear from his lips an indignant denial of what he was likely to stigmatize as a mere newspaper fabrication. What, however, was his astonishment when the noble Lord himself got up in his place in that House and, standing where the Chancellor of the Exchequer now stood, admitted the substantial accuracy of that accusation made against him by the Court of Vienna in the face of Europe and published in all the official documents of the day? Nor was that all. A notice of Motion was given by his right hon. Friend (Sir Bulwer Lytton), who proposed to call the attention of the House to all the circumstances of that transaction, which, on the face of it, appeared so disgraceful to a British Minister, and to offer to the noble Lord an opportunity of fully explaining the whole matter, and, as they all hoped, of triumphantly refuting the charge brought against him. But what was the line then taken by the noble Lord? It was confidently stated at the time that forty Gentlemen on the other side of the House who were stanch supporters of Lord Palmerston, and attached adherents as well as ranking among the chief ornaments and most respectable Members of the great Whig party, went to Lord Palmerston and told him, "If this matter goes to a division we cannot, 175 under the circumstances, vote in justification of Lord Russell's conduct on that occasion." Whether that was the fact or not he did not know, but it would be very easy for hon. Gentlemen opposite to contradict the statement if it were untrue, and it would be only an act of justice to Lord Russell if they did so. But there was one fact which admitted of no dispute—namely, that Lord Russell did not meet that charge, and that Lord Russell resigned. It was a matter of deep regret if in the present critical state of Europe, when it was possible that a judicious Minister who really possessed the confidence of the House and the goodwill of Austria might have succeeded in preventing the calamity of war, it should prove to be true, as his right hon. Friend seemed to surmise, that Lord Russell—who of all men must have felt that his communications could not carry any great weight with them—went out of the way to make a private and unauthorized communication to the Court of Austria. He did not wish to prolong the discussion, but the subject weighed heavily on his mind, as he believed it did upon the mind of every independent Member of the House who desired to maintain the honour of England.
§ MR. HIBBERT
observed, that five hours had now been spent in the discussion of Continental affairs, and he thought that it was time the House turned its attention to the Reform Bill, a matter which affected our own country. He had continued in his seat during the whole of the dinner hour, expecting that the question of Reform would be brought on for discussion, but he had been disappointed. He must admit, however, that the speeches which had been delivered had came as much from one side as the other. He now thought the subject had been sufficiently ventilated, and that it should now proceed with a question on which hon. Members would be able to show their sympathies, not with foreign nations, but with our own countrymen. He had no doubt the hon. Gentleman who originated this discussion had been actuated by very proper motives, but if it were further continued, he believed it would do more harm than good.
MAJOR STUART KNOX
said, that the more discussion the subject underwent, which was now before the House, the better it would be for this country and for the peace of Europe. The hon. Member for Bridgwater had studied the interests of the country in bringing it forward. If the 176 question of European affairs did not interest Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, he was very sorry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer deprecated its discussion; but, with regard to foreign affairs, he was pleased to "meddle and muddle," regardless of the honour of his country. In the time of the Crimean war the following opinion was expressed by Her Majesty's Government:—"The rights conferred by the treaties which now form a portion of the International Law of Europe should be maintained." He trusted that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government would be in accordance with this opinion. He thought the country showed a right feeling when it encouraged the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member to engage in the Crimean war, and he believed it would show a similar feeling again, if it were necessary. [Cries of "Divide!"] He did not know what there was to divide about. At this time the Government must have quite enough to do to attend to foreign affairs, and he urged them to throw aside their obstinacy and postpone the question of Reform till next year.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.