MR. J. G. C. HAMILTON
Mr. Speaker—Sir, the House must, I am sure, be impatient to hear the great events which have happened in Europe since it last met, and their effect on the policy of this country, discussed by those in whose opinions it is in the habit of placing confidence. I can only suppose that it is a wish to pay a compliment to the country to which I belong, and the constituency which I represent, which has led to my being entrusted with my present honourable duty. In fulfilling that duty, I feel that I have every reason to appeal to the forbearance which the House always shows to those who are not in the habit of addressing it.
In proposing that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to the gracious Speech which she has been pleased this day to deliver from the Throne, I am sure I express the feeling of this House when I say that the presence of Her Majesty in person has been a great gratification to Her Parliament and people, and has added lustre to the opening of our Session.
The announcement which Her Majesty has been pleased to make of the approaching marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise must have been received by this House with the deepest interest, as it is an alliance so likely to promote the happiness of one of the Royal Family, and bind it still more closely to the hearts of the people. The presence of members of the Royal House in these islands can but add to the loyalty of their inhabitants; and I think we, for our part, have every reason to congratulate ourselves when they have no home but this country, when here are their pleasures, here are all their interests, and that thus they are made one with the nation in sympathy and feeling.
That portion of Her Majesty's Speech which relates to our foreign policy speaks of a most momentous period. Though measured only by a few months, events 54 have occurred in it which may influence the history of this world for ages to come. Two nations, both our allies, both of whose rulers have sometimes given us cause to regret their policy, but still more often to sympathize with it, have struggled for the mastery. They have fought until there can have been but one feeling amongst us, of heartsoreness at the terrible carnage. It is not so much when one thinks of those who have died a soldier's death, fighting for their country; but when we think of the widowed wives, the starving children, the burnt homes, one cannot but wonder whether the maxims of our common Christianity have not been utterly forgotten. There is now a lull in the storm—God grant that it may be a sign of the end. Let us hope that the victors may show that magnanimity which is sure to be its own reward; let us hope, also, that when our sister Assembly across the Channel meets, under far different circumstances to those in which we meet to-day, proposals of peace will be laid before it which it may honourably adopt, and that the peace so concluded will be both immediate and lasting.
We are informed, Sir, that during the Recess Her Majesty's Government have followed the policy which was announced in the Speech at the close of last Session—that they have done their best to maintain the rights and strictly perform the difficult duties of neutrality, and that they have endeavoured to prevent an enlargement of the area of the war. They have also watched anxiously for an opportunity of procuring peace, and with that view have endeavoured to bring the combatants into communication. I sincerely hope that peace will result from their action. When, however, we see a war waged so fiercely as the present one, when not only two Governments but two nations are determined, the one to claim a large cession of territory, of which the other is equally determined not to yield one inch, the interference of neutrals becomes absolutely impossible. My own opinion on this point is a most decided one; I believe that at no period in this war would it have been possible for this country to interfere actively either on one side or the other. Granting this, it would, I think, have been beneath our dignity to offer remonstrances which might not have been received, and which 55 could scarcely have been compatible with the neutrality which we professed. In the interest of civilization also it was our duty to do our best to limit the area of the war as much as possible, and any active interference on our part would have had an exactly contrary effect. The position of neutrals must have been felt as irksome by many; but I think this might have been prophesied, and is seen in every situation of life. When a contest is going on, those who by conviction are neutrals feel prompted, some from generosity of disposition, others from the mere love of fighting, to take part in the fray. The combatants themselves, especially the weaker one, naturally appeal for help to the bystanders. The result is that neutrals, however justified in their neutrality, must expect to be blamed, certainly by some amongst themselves, and by one or both of the combatants. The time, however, Sir, has, I hope, now arrived when it will be possible for us to interfere actively in the hope of procuring peace; and if we are successful, I hope the peace will be a lasting one—not a mere patched-up agreement, but a peace which will restore tranquillity to Europe. The negotiations will be arduous, all the more so that France has hardly yet decided who is to have a right to speak in her name.
Her Majesty expresses her regret that she has been unable formally to accredit her Ambassador to the Government of Defence; but to lay too much stress on this point would, I think, be unwise, as it would imply that this country had a claim to control the choice by another country of its own Government—a claim which I believe we should most certainly repudiate. The Government have always, I believe, been ready to treat with the French nation by whoever it might be represented.
Her Majesty has congratulated the King of Prussia on his acceptance of the title of Emperor of Germany—a title testifying to the greatness and importance of his kingdom. I hope he will be led to think that greatness sufficient, without making an addition to it, to guarantee him against foreign aggression.
Communications from different foreign Powers have led to the holding of a Conference, which is now sitting. Generosity to a great nation, must, I think, be a sufficient reason for wishing 56 that France should be represented at it. No agreement come to without her knowledge and concurrence, could, I think, possibly be permanent. So far as we ourselves are concerned, I believe we may feel confident that the Government and the noble Earl who holds the seals of the Foreign Office will act as is his wont in a manner both courteous and dignified, and at the same time jealous of the honour of his country. I hope and believe the result of the Conference will be to uphold the performance of their duties by contracting Powers, and show that treaties are not made to be broken.
I am sure it is the wish of the country and of this House that our relations with America should be satisfactory. Questions have arisen between the United States and the Dominion of Canada on different subjects. They relate principally to matters of detail, and a Commission has been appointed to which they as well as the Alabama question will be referred. I hope the result will be a satisfactory settlement.
This country has always taken such interest in, and has made so many sacrifices for Spain, that we must, I am sure, rejoice in the prospect of her having a stable Government under a member of the House of Savoy.
The House will scarcely be surprised to hear that the inquiry into the outrages in Greece by its Government and tribunals has not been carried on in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. The melancholy events which took place last year give this country every right to insist that even-handed justice should be done.
The Chinese Government have shown every wish to give satisfaction for the outrages which were committed in one of their cities. It is a proof of our improved relations that this is likely to be secured by diplomatic action alone.
The House will have been glad to learn from the Royal Speech that, notwithstanding the frightful war that has been raging in Europe, our own relations with foreign Powers are satisfactory. Papers on the subjects to which I have referred will be laid before the House.
The condition of trade and industry is, with the exceptions which are within the personal knowledge of hon. Members, satisfactory, and consequently the Revenue is flourishing. In the present 57 state of affairs, however, we must look for larger Estimates.
There is much in the subjects to which I have attempted to draw your attention which reminds me of an old proverb, which I only allude to because I saw it paraphrased the other day by the Prime Minister of one of the neutral Powers. He said that—"To secure peace we should be prepared to ward off aggression." I believe Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to be so prepared; but this will involve great military reform and probably increase of expenditure. The armies of Europe are no longer collections of armed men selected for the defence of their country, and which before acting offensively must be increased in number and organized for the field. If this were so now, our old plan of Ministers coming down to this House in the time of danger, and asking for their 20,000, 50,000, or 100,000 men, and power to call out the Militia, might be sufficient. They are, on the contrary, armed nations, ready, at a moment's notice, to defend themselves, or what affects us more closely, to strike a blow whilst the word which provokes it is scarce spoken. Whole classes amongst them devote their lives to the science of war. Every requirement of the State, learning, trade and manufactures, are made to give way to the one object of having an overwhelming army. In our insular position and with our great naval power, it is, I hope and believe, unnecessary for us to follow their ruinous example. The House will, however, I believe, agree with Her Majesty's Speech that the lessons of military experience afforded by the present war are numerous and important. We have seen, I think, that young soldiers are as good or better than old soldiers; that well-drilled men dismissed to their homes and called out again when required are not only cheap but efficient soldiers; that it is absolutely necessary for officers to devote themselves more than they have been in the habit of doing to the science of their profession; and that it is too late to organize an army when war has already broken out. When war was declared in July last France had to bring her soldiers from one corner of the country to another to join their regiments; the stores from another corner and the officers from another; all according to orders, sent to each from the War Office. In 58 Germany, on the contrary, so soon as its army was mobilized, drilled men, who had returned to their homes, went to the nearest town where arms and stores were ready for them, and well-trained officers ready to enrol them according to a pre-arranged system, and, so soon as they had been organized, to constitute them into an army. And all this was done by a Government which is acknowledged to be the most economical in the world. How different are the facts in this country! We have a regular Army under its own officers, pensioners under theirs, Militia under one command when embodied, and another when disembodied, with Yeomanry and Volunteers partly under the War Office and partly not, and all these have no connecting link between them except one solitary Staff officer, who has to look after some 20,000 men, and he did not exist a year ago. Though we have, I believe, 400,000 men or more in the country, what can they do with such an organization. To take an instance of the present state of things. Supposing there happened to be in a country town 10 disembodied Militia sergeants on full pay doing nothing, and in the same town a detachment of regular soldiers, recruits, or some Volunteers in urgent need of drill and instruction, no human being that I can find out could order those sergeants to give that instruction. I will only add that whilst other nations have made their armies more and more local, we have made ours less so.
I am no preacher of panic; on the contrary, I think that the alternate fits of over-confidence and terror to which this country is a victim are a disgrace to it. But I believe that great reforms are only made amongst us when the public attention and interest are excited. This is now the case; let us therefore go thoroughly into the question and get the efficient army we most undoubtedly pay for. Holding these views, I am glad to see it stated that a Bill is to be introduced for the better regulation of the Army and the auxiliary Land Forces of the Crown.
I regret that I should have taken up so much of the time of the House on these subjects, which, I hope, will not occupy a proportionate portion of the Session, and that time will be found to pass the important measures of domestic legislation promised in the Speech.
59 The University Tests Bill stands first, and will, I hope, become law. During the last two Sessions so much time has been occupied by Irish legislation that the House must be glad to find that the state of that island shows a gratifying contrast with its state in the preceding winter, with, I am sorry to say, some partial and painful exceptions. The alteration of the status of the Church there renders an Ecclesiastical Titles Bill absolutely necessary. So much of the prosperity of this country depends on the existence of good feeling between employer and employed, that the House will be glad to see that the Government intends to deal with the question of Trades Unions. There is another Bill—the Mines Regulation Bill — which I should have liked to see mentioned, but which I am glad to hear is not forgotten. The Courts of Justice Bill will make an important improvement in the Appeal Courts of England. A Local Burdens Bill is to be introduced. The patience with which local taxation is borne, compared to the impatience to Imperial taxation, has always been a wonder to me. Now that the Government have taken the subject up, I trust they may be able to devise some plan by which local rates may be better managed, and some relief may be afforded. The Bill on secret voting will introduce an important reform into the machinery of our representation; and the Licensing Bill will be looked forward to with great interest. In one of the last paragraphs of the Speech it is truly said that an Education Bill is anxiously looked for in Scotland. It is many, many years ago since a Scotch Education Bill first appeared on the Table of this House, and many others have succeeded it; though some have been very near it, none have become law. I can only hope that Scotland may be rewarded by now getting an Education Bill that may be all the better for the delay. I trust the House will excuse me for suggesting the possibility that a few hours before midnight and even before Easter may be given to this and other Scotch Bills which are urgently required.
It only remains for me, Sir, to thank the House most sincerely for the kindness with which it has received what I have said; and before reading the Address—which I have endeavoured, however feebly, to induce them to adopt—I will express my belief that if the measures 60 proposed in it are adopted, and the policy suggested in it is followed, it will tend to the good government of our country at home, and to the security of our honour abroad. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to convey the thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech delivered to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that in accordance with Her Majesty's promise to pay constant attention to the subject of neutral obligations, Her Majesty has maintained the rights and strictly discharged the duties of neutrality during the war unhappily prevailing between France and Germany, which we trust, with Her Majesty, may, under the influence of moderation and forethought in the councils of both parties, shortly be terminated:To thank Her Majesty for endeavouring to prevent the enlargement of the area of the war, and to contribute to the restoration of an honourable peace, and to assure Her Majesty that we rejoice that the sphere of the war has not been extended beyond the two countries originally engaged:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has forborne from whatever might have been construed as gratuitous or unwarranted interference between parties, neither of whom had shown a readiness to propose terms of accommodation, such as to bear promise of acceptance by the other; and that She has been enabled, on more than one occasion, to contribute towards placing the Representatives of the two contending countries in confidential communication; though, unfortunately, until famine compelled the surrender of Paris, without any further result:Humbly to unite with Her Majesty in praying that the suspension in the constant accumulation on both sides of human suffering, which has been brought about by the Armistice now being employed for the Convocation of an Assembly in France, may result in a peace compatible, for the two great and brave nations involved, with secucurity and with honour, and likely therefore to command the approval of Europe, and to give reasonable hopes of a long duration:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, though She has been unable to accredit Her Ambassador in a formal manner to the Government of Defence, which has subsisted in France since the Revolution of September, neither the harmony nor the efficiency of the correspondence of the two States has been in the smallest degree impaired:61Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has offered Her congratulations to the King of Prussia on his acceptance of the title of Emperor of Germany at the instance of the chief authorities of the nation, and to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we trust that this event, which bears testimony to the solidity and independence of Germany, may be found conducive to the stability of the European system:To thank Her Majesty for endeavouring, in correspondence with other Powers of Europe, to uphold the sanctity of Treaties, and to remove any misapprehension as to the binding character of their obligations; and to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we confidently trust that the result of the deliberations of the Conference (which it was agreed by the Powers, co-signatories of the Treaty of 1856, should meet in London, and which has now been for some time engaged in its labours), may be to uphold both the principles of public right and the general policy of the Treaty, and at the same time, by the revision of some of its conditions in a fair and conciliatory spirit, to exhibit a cordial co-operation among the Powers with regard to the Levant:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we share in Her regret that Her earnest efforts have failed to procure the presence at the Conference of any representative of France, which was one of the chief parties to the Treaty of 1856, and which must ever be regarded as a principal and indispensable Member of the Commonwealth of Europe:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has engaged in amicable communications with the President of the United States for the settlement of the several questions of importance which are not yet adjusted between the United States and the territories and people of British North America; and that She has suggested the appointment of a joint Commission, and agreed to the proposal of the President that this Commission shall be authorized at the same time, and in the same manner, to resume the consideration of the American Claims growing out of the circumstances of the late war:To concur with Her Majesty in hoping that the establishment of a Prince of the House of Savoy on the Throne of Spain, by the free choice of the popularly-elected representatives of the Spanish nation, will insure for a country, which has passed with so much temperance and self-control through a prolonged and trying crisis, the blessings of a stable Government:To join with Her Majesty in regretting that the inquiry which was instituted by the Government of Greece into the history of the shocking 62 murders perpetrated last spring at Dilessi has not reached a termination answerable in all respects to Her Majesty's just expectations; and to thank Her Majesty for Her promise not to desist from Her endeavours to secure the complete attainment of the objects of the inquiry:To assure Her Majesty that we learn with pleasure that the anxiety, which the massacre at Tien-tsin on the 21st of June last called forth, has happily been dispelled, and that it has been Her Majesty's earnest endeavour to provide for the security of Her subjects and their trade in those remote quarters, while recognizing the Chinese Government as entitled to be dealt with in its relations with this Country in a conciliatory and forbearing spirit:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, during these critical times, Her relations are as heretofore, those of friendship and good understanding with the Sovereigns and States of the civilized world; and for directing that Papers illustrative of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the several matters on which She has touched, should be duly laid before us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has approved of a marriage between the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne, and to assure Her Majesty that we trust that this union may be prosperous and happy:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that the Revenue of the Country nourishes, and that the condition of trade and industry is on the whole satisfactory; and for directing that the Estimates for the coming year should be promptly laid before us:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that in reviewing the important lessons of military experience afforded by the present war, and in endeavouring to turn such lessons to account by efforts more decisive than heretofore at practical improvement, we shall not fail to bear in mind the special features in the position of this Country, so favourable to the freedom and security of the people; and if the changes from a less to a more effective and elastic system of defensive military preparation shall be found to involve, at least for a time, an increase of various charges, that we shall not grudge the cost so long as we are satisfied that the end is important and the means judicious:To assure Her Majesty that we shall give our anxious and impartial consideration to the Bill for the better regulation of the Army and the auxiliary Land Forces of the Crown, which She has directed should be laid before us, as well as to the work of general improvement in our domestic 63 legislation, including the several measures brought before us during the last Session of Parliament, but which the time remaining at our disposal, after we had dealt with the principal subjects of the year, was not found sufficient to carry to a final issue:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the inquiry made by a Committee of this House into the question of Secret Voting is now complete, and that a measure on that subject will be placed before us on an early day; and to join with Her Majesty in trusting that the question of Primary Education in Scotland may this year be adjusted by the enactment of a just and effective Law:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the condition of Ireland with reference to agrarian crime has, in general, afforded a gratifying contrast with the state of that island in the preceding winter, although there have been painful, but very partial, exceptions:Humbly to concur with Her Majesty in thinking that after the great measures of the two last Sessions which have so recently passed into operation, and which involve such direct and pressing claims on the attention of all classes of the community, a period of calm is to be desired; and to join with Her Majesty in considering it wise to refrain from the discussion of any political question likely to become the subject of new and serious controversy in that country:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we fervently join in Her Majesty's prayer that all our designs may receive the favour and aid of the Most High.
§ MR. MORLEY
Sir, I rise to second the Motion for an Address in Answer to the Speech from the Throne; and I also must ask for the forbearance of the House while I briefly perform that duty. I share in the general pleasure experienced by the presence of Her Majesty in opening the Session, and I am sure that the terms in which my hon. Friend the Mover of the Address referred to that presence will be responded to by every Member of the House, and will be accepted throughout the country. I feel convinced that the more Her Majesty shows herself among her people the more thoroughly will affection towards the Throne be rooted among her subjects.
Sir, the House has assembled at a solemn crisis, when, in the words of the Royal Speech,— 64The ravages of the war may be renewed, after but a few days more, unless moderation and forethought, prevailing over impediments, shall sway the councils of both the parties, whose well-being is so vitally concerned.At such a moment I desire to abstain from uttering a word which might be likely to interfere with that unanimity which is so desirable in approaching the Throne on the first night of the Session. I believe that the conviction exists throughout the country that the Government has performed the promise they gave at the close of last Session, and that constant attention has been paid to the subject of our neutral obligations, and that they have employed their best endeavours to prevent the enlargement of the area of the war. My conviction is that the exertions of the Government in that direction have sent a feeling of thankfulness and a sense of security into thousands of homes throughout this country, and that we have been pursuing our commercial and other engagements in the conviction that the Government was keeping the country out of complications with the tremendous conflict which has been raging on the Continent; and I am sure that all will join in the prayer that the present suspension of hostilities may result in a peace compatible with the honour of the two great and brave nations which have been involved in strife.
The paragraph in the Speech which gives expression to a hope that the result of the Conference which has assembled with regard to the Treaty of 1856 will be—To uphold both the principles of public right and the general policy of the Treaty, and, at the same time, by the revision of some of its conditions in a fair and conciliatory spirit, to exhibit a cordial co-operation among the Powers with regard to the Levant,will, I believe, receive a hearty acceptance in every quarter. We must all greatly regret the absence of any representative of France from the Conference; but we must, at the same time, confess that for that absence France is not responsible.
I cannot pass the reference to the misunderstanding between this country and America without some notice. It would, I believe, be difficult to overrate the importance attached out of doors to the desire that all matters in dispute between this country and the United States should be settled on terms fair and reasonable, and that an end should thus be put 65 to the misunderstanding which has so long existed. There is abundant evidence that among the native Americans there exists a feeling of strong affection towards the "old country," and that the continued hostility which has been exhibited towards this country is chiefly confined to those of alien birth. I confess myself to be one of those who believe mistakes to have been made on both sides, and that it is due to ourselves, as well as to our Transatlantic kinsmen, that we should show a disposition to make amends for any injury we may have done them, if any such can be shown to have arisen from intention or from our default. There can be nothing unworthy or undignified in showing a desire to avert even the prospect of a suicidal war, or in placing two great nations, allied by race and language and by sympathy, on those terms of uninterrupted amity, which every Member of this House must desire to see established. It may even be regarded as a subject of congratulation that the dispute as to the Fisheries is so pressing as to have led to the appointment of a Commission, by which, on the invitation of the President of the United States, all matters in dispute between the two countries may be considered and disposed of.
I cannot leave the subject of Foreign Affairs without turning to the other side of the picture, and asking whether nothing can be done to lead to the establishment of some international tribunal, to which might be referred misunderstandings between one country and another, which, although serious in their results, are generally trifling in their origin. I should be glad to know, too, whether we cannot do something that might lead to a system of general disarmament, by which a constant source of danger would be at once removed, so that we might all breathe more freely, and not be continually exposed to the danger of witnessing or being engaged in conflicts and slaughter, against which our civilization so strongly revolts. Our commerce, our civilization, and, above all, our Christianity alike protest against the enormous wickedness and inhumanity of war. It may be Utopian, in face of the war now raging on the Continent, to hope that the common sense of the world will ever be strong enough to adopt such a plan of settling the disputes of nations; 66 but I speak under the influence of the agony and desolation to which the people of France have lately been subjected, and I cannot help pressing the subject on the attention of the Leaders on both sides of the House, and I believe all will agree that some attempt at least should be made in this direction.
I join most heartily with my hon. Friend (the Mover) in his congratulations on the approaching Royal marriage. I think it a matter of national congratulation that Her Majesty should, by sanctioning the marriage between a daughter of the Royal House and one of her distinguished subjects, have cast aside a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance, and that Her Majesty, by approving a marriage dictated by the heart's affections rather than by reasons of State expediency, should add another example in the Royal Family of domestic happiness and virtue.
With reference to the condition of our trade and industry, I believe that the great industries of this country were at no time better employed since the panic of 1866 than they are at this moment, although the effects of that panic have since that time hung over us like the poison of the Upas tree. No doubt the profits of trade have not been so large as in former years; but we have, during the past year, done a very considerable trade, and with some few exceptions the commerce of the country has been satisfactory. The Returns of the Board of Trade show that our exports during the 11 months ending 30th November last, exceeded those of 1868 by £18,000,000, and those of 1869 by £8,000,000, notwithstanding the interruption of our large transactions by the war between France and Germany; in the case of Germany showing a falling off of £3,000,000.
At the same time, while it is satisfactory to know that trade is prosperous and that there is a larger amount of employment in the manufacturing districts than has been the case since the panic of 1866, there is a melancholy reverse to the picture, and it seems that there are large portions of our population who have sunk into a state of chronic and apparently hopeless misery. Still, it is the opinion of those connected with the Poor Law that we are at last really turning the corner with regard to the condition of our very poor, and that our prospects are undeniably more hopeful 67 than they have been for a long period. This subject is one which deserves, and no doubt will receive, the attention of the House; for with constant occupation for our workpeople, there is always a class, large in number, barely existing, and almost always at starvation point. The subject is one which requires to be dealt with, and I earnestly recommend it to both sides of the House as a question, the solution of which would be most beneficial, why such a painful and dangerous state of things should exist. Should inquiry be determined upon I shall be most glad to give my zealous co-operation.
With regard to military matters, I am only a learner. I can only repeat what I hear in all quarters—and it is a conviction I personally share—that the efficiency of our Army does not correspond with its cost; and that as to both officers and men promotion ought to be secured by merit and not by money or favour. I trust that the House will not deal with the question in any feeling of panic, and be tempted under the influence of such a feeling to indulge in any large expenditure. Above all, if we have an increase in the Estimates we ought to take care to receive at the same time a guarantee that there shall be a corresponding increase of efficiency. If we must have soldiers let us have real soldiers, and the British taxpayer will not object to pay for them. But the House should bear in mind that it is very possible to have increased Estimates without increased efficiency.
I will now venture, with all earnestness, to appeal to Members on the other side of the House to assist in a settlement of the long-vexed question with regard to University Tests. There has never been less bitterness with reference to this controversy than now, and the moment is therefore, in my belief, one peculiarly suitable for arriving once and for ever at a final settlement of the question. The tests are most felt among the great middle class of the country. The middle class, in which the great strength of Dissent lies, has been rising in wealth and social influence for years past, and they appeal confidently to the Legislature to give them, on fair and equal terms, that higher cultivation which they feel they need, and which they know well enough how to employ, if the opportunity for its acquirement 68 were afforded them. It is only recently that I witnessed the reception given in the Senate House of Cambridge to Mr. Hopkinson, the Senior Wrangler, who has since become Smith's Prizeman, and who, because he has a conscience, is unable to avail himself of the prizes which are invariably offered by his University to those who secure his position. What the Dissenters desire are terms of equality, and it is with these terms alone that they will be satisfied. The fountain is large enough both for those who are now receiving from it and those who desire to receive; it is large enough for the whole nation. When these tests were first instituted there was scarcely a Dissenting place of worship in existence. There are now 20,000 Dissenting chapels, and the Dissenters demand their share of endowments which were originally intended to be national. I trust, therefore, that hon. Members opposite will be ready to join with the Government in securing the passing of this Bill. I am aware of the religious difficulty connected with this question, and I sympathize with it; but hon. Members must see that it is a difficulty which cannot be met by legislative enactment; it requires other arrangements, and hon. Members should see that these are made. University Tests once abolished, and a fair Burials Bill agreed to, the House will have disposed of the two last of a number of measures which used to be spoken of as "Dissenters' grievances." As matters stand, a Nonconformist who is also a Master of Arts is prevented from voting for a Member of Parliament for his own University—the only case, I believe, in which religious opinion is still a barrier to the exercise of the franchise in this country.
I know nothing of the principle of the Bill which the Government propose to bring in with reference to Trades Unions; but I hope it will be framed in a generous spirit. I am convinced that the combination laws have worked unspeakable mischief between master and servant, by introducing into a relationship the very life-blood of which is mutual confidence and respect, the elements of bitterness and strife. Let the common law be made strong enough to deal with lawlessness or oppression, whether manifested towards employers or fellow-workmen; but what the workmen object to 69 is legislation aimed specially at them, and I sympathize heartily with them in that objection—for combinations exist as much among masters as among workmen.
There will be wide-spread satisfaction at the mention for the first time in a Speech from the Throne of the Ballot Bill; and if I may presume to offer advice to the Government it will be to let the Bill be one which will really secure secret voting. No other measure will satisfy the country, or accomplish—what is so much desired—the securing to every voter, however humble, an opportunity of voting in accordance with his convictions. No other measure, again, will put a stop to the practice of canvassing, and to those scenes on the day of election which have made our electoral system a scandal and a reproach.
I entertain a strong conviction that benefits may be expected to follow from a change in our licensing system which shall place some restriction upon the extension of public-houses—for instance, by giving to the inhabitants of a district, in some safe form, a power of veto upon the granting of new licences. But to do anything effectual, the crime of drunkenness must be treated really as a crime, and not dealt with as a palliative of crime. Such a course of action will produce results in a very few years upon the condition of the people which everyone must rejoice to see; and I therefore hope the Government will deal with the question with a bold hand. No measure much in advance of public opinion can expect success; but a large and courageous measure will, nevertheless, be hailed with approval. Evidence is rapidly accumulating that drunkenness is the cause of an immense proportion of the pauperism and crime which afflict this country; and, for my own part, I believe that drunkenness does more than all other causes put together to keep the people down politically, socially, and, above all, religiously.
There are other measures of a domestic character referred to in the Speech from the Throne to which I will not now specifically advert.
In the language of the Address, I trust that the interest attaching to affairs abroad and to military questions will not greatly abate the energy with which the House will apply itself to the improvement of domestic legislation. But desiring, as I do earnestly, to see all 70 these measures carried, I venture, young though I am in Parliamentary experience, to suggest that in order to accomplish the work we must husband our time. I vie with the most earnest Member of the extremest section in my desire to see measures passed to reform abuses and to remove hindrances that impede the material and social progress of the people; but it is clear that to pass more Bills in the same space of time we must discover some method of using our time more economically, and with larger practical results. In saying this I know that I am trenching upon ground which, as a young Member, I have no right to occupy; but I belong to the large class of what may be called comparatively silent Members, who have opportunities of listening at times to what appear rather profitless discussions, and who, accordingly, are anxious that arrangements may be made, while there is yet time, to facilitate the passing, if not of the whole, at least of the greater portion of the promised measures. Thanking the House for the attention with which they have listened to my remarks, I conclude by seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend for an humble Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See Page 60.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, it is little more than six months since Parliament was prorogued, under circumstances of great anxiety, and we are re-assembled to-day to encounter a state of affairs that all must admit to be greatly complicated, and which I myself think to be not devoid of danger. When we returned to our constituencies Europe was on the eve of a war which, looking to its consequences, may, perhaps, be described as the most important war of this century. Her Majesty's Government then took the opportunity of indicating to the House the general policy which they felt it their duty, under the circumstances, to advise Her Majesty to follow. That policy was a policy of neutrality, and was a wise and a just policy. I cannot recall at this moment whether war had been declared at that period; but whether it had or not, there was a considerable and mysterious pause before the actual commencement of hostilities which 71 was very favourable to negotiation; and I then took the liberty of suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the policy of the Government should not only be a policy of neutrality, but of an armed neutrality. The right hon. Gentleman then said that a policy of armed neutrality was a very serious thing. That was why I recommended it. We had to deal with a very serious state of affairs, and it appeared to me that if we were to have a chance of coping with them and controlling them we should use an instrument of equal temper. The operation of an armed neutrality is three-fold. Its first tendency, of course, is to prevent; its second, to shorten war; and, in the third place—and not the least important—when pacification is contemplated, to insure the acceptance of just and temperate terms of peace, so that the seeds of future disquiet and inevitable struggle should not occur at the very moment when general tranquillity appears to be about to be accomplished. The last instance of an armed neutrality was the occupation of the Danubian Provinces by Austria; and I believe that no one will deny that that act on the part of Austria tended greatly to shorten the Crimean War. I do not presume for a moment to speak on this question of high general policy as one more competent to deliver an opinion upon it than any Gentleman who is sitting in this House; but hon. Members may, perhaps, recollect that four years ago myself and my then Colleagues had under responsibility the duty of considering a state of affairs almost identical with that state of affairs which obtained in the middle of last July. There was then a war imminent, occasioned by the rivalry between France and Prussia. Indeed, for 48 hours it appeared inevitable, and yet that war was prevented—was prevented by that Treaty which guaranteed the neutrality of Luxemburg, upon which I will not at this moment dwell, though I may have to advert to it. Now, that was an opportunity, certainly, all will admit, to those who had then the management of affairs, to form some opinion as to the motives of the principal actors in those transactions, the influences which regulated their conduct, and the objects which they contemplated; and we arrived then at three results for the future regulation of our 72 conduct in these matters. First of all, which was of course obvious, that the danger to the peace of Europe was the rivalry between France and Prussia; secondly, that Prussia would never commence hostilities herself; and thirdly—and that was the most important and practical point—that it was consequently necessary that the English Government should concentrate all its resources, all its diplomatic influence, and exercise its unceasing vigilance at Paris, to prevent the ruler of France from commencing hostilities, which were so dreaded and deprecated. Now, it does not appear to me that Her Majesty's Ministers, when these unfortunate transactions commenced in July, did use that requisite energy, and were not sufficiently prepared for the circumstances which they had to encounter. I must remind the House that Her Majesty's Ministers were placed in a peculiarly favourable opportunity to press their opinions and their policy upon the Emperor of the French. I give Her Majesty's Government full credit for the energy and promptitude with which they obtained the withdrawal of the candidature of the Prussian pretender to the Throne of Spain. But their success in that proceeding gave them an additional claim and hold upon the French Government:—because the House will understand that for a mediator to come forward between two such Powers as France and Prussia, and accomplish so difficult a task as the withdrawal of the Prussian Prince who was a candidate for the Spanish throne, required a great exertion and expenditure of influence on the part of the Crown of this country. Influence, however considerable, is at the same time a limited quality. It cannot be expended for a certain object, or in a certain degree, without being diminished for other purposes in an equal degree. If Her Majesty, for instance, made an appeal to the King of Prussia that ultimately led to the withdrawal of the pretender to the throne of Spain, on other occasions and in reference to other matters, no doubt such a course would give Prussia a moral claim on England. Her Majesty had done the Emperor of the French a great service: and if at that moment—in July—the business had stopped as it was, the Emperor of the French would have had a considerable diplomatic triumph. It would 73 have added to the credit of his dynasty and position, and would have been owing to the mediatorial influence of the Crown of England. When the Ambassador of the Queen therefore went to the Emperor of the French and announced that he had succeeded in his difficult and important office, and the Emperor—notwithstanding his appeal to the Queen to use her influence, and notwithstanding that Her Majesty had used her influence successfully—the Emperor said, "I will, nevertheless, proceed on my own course," Lord Lyons should have declared—"This is an outrage to the Crown of England, and I am instructed to tell you that if you thus discard the result of the Queen's intervention, and if this is the mode in which you express your gratitude for the successful exertions of the solicited influence of our Sovereign, you must take the consequences. I do not say we are going to throw ourselves into the fray, but the neutrality that we shall observe will be an armed neutrality." If that had been the case, I do not believe there would have been war.
Sir, there was another ground on which I apprehend the right hon. Gentleman might have successfully appealed to the Emperor of the French and prevented the war, and that was — I called it to the recollection of the House at the end of last Session—that Russia and Great Britain had guaranteed to Prussia the possession of her Saxon provinces, and that if Russia and Great Britain had represented to the Emperor of the French—being neutral Powers, and his allies—that if he persisted in the insane course upon which he was about to enter, it was more than probable that he would force Russia and Great Britain to place themselves in a position if not absolutely of belligerents, yet in a hostile position, that would have influenced a Sovereign who was hesitating to the very end. You must remember that the Emperor of the French was for peace in the morning and war in the evening, and if the English Ambassador had, in the interval, represented a definite policy, such as that which I have indicated, there is every probability that the Emperor of the French would never have embarked in this war. Now, what was the answer given to me by the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman rose and repudiated the guarantees which had been 74 given by this country and Russia to Prussia of the possession of her Saxon provinces, and he gave two reasons for his repudiation. The guarantee was given in 1815 under the Treaty of Vienna, The right hon. Gentleman said, that Prussia had become much more powerful since the guarantee of the Saxon provinces was given in 1815, and he said, in the second place, that the Diet of Germany had been recently abolished. Now, Sir, the first reason of the right hon. Gentleman was a strange one. If I owed a man £5,000, and he asked me to repay him, he would be surprised if I said to him—"True, it is, I owe you £5,000; but in the interval that has elapsed since the loan you have come into the possession of an estate of £5,000 a year, you are more powerful and richer, and therefore your claim can no longer be recognized." Then, with regard to the second reason, the abolition of the German Diet, I answer at once that the guarantee does not at all refer to the German Diet in any sense whatever, and the only effect of the existence of the German Diet would be this—that, in all probability, Prussia would then have a right to appeal to the other Powers of Germany to assist her if her Saxon provinces had been invaded. The question for Her Majesty's Government was this—What were the circumstances contemplated when the guarantee of the Treaty of Vienna was given by the Great Powers? Now, what were the circumstances? The circumstances were these — The signataries to the Treaty of Vienna, in the distribution arrangement of territory, were anxious that States bordering upon France should be strengthened. France was looked upon as the great disturber. Future aggression was contemplated by France, and it was therefore thought the best policy to strengthen, as much as possible, the States contiguous to the French boundary. For that reason the King of Sardinia received a great accession of territory, and the kingdom of the Netherlands was created. But the brunt of the struggle was evidently to be borne by Prussia. Prussia was to take the Rhenish provinces. Prussia required, and deserved, compensation for her great sacrifices and sufferings; and though she wished to find that compensation in the North of Germany, she ultimately accepted the Saxon pro- 75 vinces on condition that a guarantee should be given by the Great Powers, and especially by England, that practically, in case there was a war occasioned by the aggressions of France, and Prussia was attacked in her new territory, she should be guarded by the guarantee which was given. Now, what were the circumstances in July last? It is difficult for us to realize what was the state of affairs in July now that the King of Prussia is sleeping in the bed of Louis Quatorze at Versailles. But the fact is the King of Prussia was very much alarmed at the state of affairs; he had been surprised—I mean, of course, in a military sense—and was not prepared for war. Although, as I have heard, and have no doubt, the Prussians did not despair of ultimate success in the struggle, they were, in a military sense, surprised; and Russia, which has since made so many Field Marshals, was particularly anxious, to support Her Majesty's Government in maintaining peace last July. There is no country more adverse to war than Russia, and it is very much to her credit; but, as she generally attains her objects without war, this is less surprising; but if there be any kind of war which Russia especially dislikes, it is an European war, and an European war commenced by France. These were the circumstances we had to deal with in July last; and I maintain that if proper representations had been made to the Emperor of the French—if it had been pressed upon him that this country had entered into solemn engagements guaranteeing the provinces of Saxony to the King of Prussia—the Emperor of the French would have recoiled from the possible results of an infringement of the Treaty. Some hon. Gentlemen seem to be incredulous as to Prussia not being ready for immediate war in July last. I speak on the very highest authority when I say that Prussia was perfectly prepared for seeing the Palatinate overrun by the French. As far as the Palatinate was concerned, the Prussians had no doubt that the French would entirely and immediately overrun it, although they may have had confidence that they could prevent their capital being taken. It was under these circumstances—very different, of course, from those which now prevail—that a successful appeal, in my opinion, might have been made by our Government, 76 upon this ground, to the Emperor of the French; and, I think the war might have been prevented. How was the case met by our Government, and, I am sorry to say, by more than one hon. Gentleman who spoke on the occasion alluded to? It was met on the part of the Government by a repudiation of a national engagement, a treaty of the most solemn and stringent kind. I want to know what hon. Gentlemen mean by the habit which, I am sorry to say, I have seen of late growing up in this House, of deriding the character and stipulations of treaties. What is the alternative if they are not supported, if they are not upheld by public opinion and by the sentiment of the House of Commons? What alternative is there? If it be true, as we have heard from a high authority, that no Power will observe a treaty the moment it has the opportunity of breaking it, you are really dissolving society into its original elements, which appear to me to be "blood and iron." It is easy to say that the Treaty of Vienna has been violated twenty times over, and that it is an obsolete document; but, in the first place, it has not been violated twenty, nor ten, nor five times over. No doubt, great changes have been made in the distribution and arrangement of territory which it sanctioned; but the Great Powers and statesmen who attended the Congress of Vienna most scrupulously and cautiously abstained from doing more than sanction an arrangement and distribution which was the inevitable consequence of a long war; and they never in any instance bound themselves to maintain the distribution that was then made, except in the case of the Saxon provinces of Prussia. Even if the Treaty of Vienna had been in some instances violated—which I dispute, but do not dwell upon now, because it does not touch the question—that is no reason why other important stipulations, which have not been violated, should not be maintained. There are many things of the utmost importance in the Treaty of Vienna besides the mere arrangement and distribution of territory. That was considered by the leading statesmen in this manner. They said—"We will not bind ourselves to any of these arrangements of territory; we contemplate that the time may come when changes will occur, and when those changes occur we will consider 77 them on their merits." The withdrawal of the Austrians from Italy is no violation of the Treaty of Vienna in the circumstances under which it was accomplished; nor, I believe, in the opinion of higher authorities than myself, are any of those changes which have occurred violations of the Treaty, though they are changes of it. But in the Treaty there are things in importance equal to or greater than that of the distribution of territory. Take, for instance, the free navigation of rivers; that is one of the most important subjects that can possibly engage our attention. If, in the conduct of public business, a question arose as to the navigation of rivers, and I was told that the Treaty of Vienna was an obsolete document, and that it must not be referred to, I should be totally at a loss as to where I was to find any foundation for the doctrine of the free navigation of rivers, which is of the utmost importance to the welfare of humanity. Judging from what I hear, before a month is over we may be discussing in this House the free navigation of the Danube. Where would you be if the Treaty of Vienna, which was the first public document that, by a series of masterly clauses and provisions, established the free navigation of rivers—where would you be if the Treaty of Vienna was to be looked upon as a mere obsolete document? There is another river the free navigation of which, judging from all we hear, will be under our consideration soon. I mean the St. Lawrence. If we are not to respect the rights of nations as determined by the Treaty of Vienna, I do not believe there is any document in existence which will enable you to treat in a satisfactory manner the question of the navigation of the St. Lawrence.
In my opinion there was not sufficient energy exercised on the part of Her Majesty's Government in July last, at the commencement of these unhappy circumstances, to meet the conjuncture, and that they were not prepared for an event which, in my opinion, they ought to have contemplated. The proper policy for England would have been an armed neutrality; it might have prevented, and it certainly would have shortened the war; and if it had existed at this moment, I have no doubt it would have obtained for the discomfited just and temperate terms, and given a dif- 78 ferent character to Europe. But I may be told—"An armed neutrality might have been, under the circumstances, a very sufficient and proper policy; but how could an armed neutrality be adopted by a country without armaments?" I admit we should have placed ourselves in a position that might have been awkward and embarrassing if it could have been shown that this terrible war between rival races—for it comes to that—has been occasioned by neutrals not having that command of organized force which becomes great nations. It is possible that the Ambassador of the Queen, when he went to the Emperor of the French to make the appeal which I suggest, might have been answered in this manner—the Emperor of the French, who is extremely well-informed about everything in England, might have said—"Yes, Sir; I understand the policy of your Government is an armed neutrality; but an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation that for a year and a half has been disbanding its veterans; an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation with skeleton battalions and attenuated squadrons, and batteries without sufficient guns, and yet more guns than gunners; an armed neutrality is a very serious thing for a nation without a military reserve." The Emperor of the French might have added—"Nevertheless, you are still mistress of the ocean; yet, as you must have a Channel Meet, and scarcely can do without a Mediterranean Fleet, I think it would be difficult for you to establish a fleet for the North Sea, since for a year and a half you have left off shipbuilding—since you have reduced your famous blue-jackets — since, as I well know, you have not been furnishing due artillery to your men-of-war, and you can't deny that for a year and a half you have been living on the stores that were accumulated by preceding Governments." Sir, I confess that would have been an answer to my suggestion of armed neutrality which would have been certainly for the moment somewhat embarrassing. I have no wish on this occasion to make a single criticism upon the conduct of the two right hon. Gentlemen who preside over the great Departments of the Army and the Admiralty. They were preferred to those eminent posts because, as was understood generally in the country, they were 79 deemed, on the whole, the administrators most competent to reduce the naval and military strength of the country, and I am bound to say that the country, which is always just to public men, has unanimously agreed that these right hon. Gentlemen have entirely fulfilled the confidence reposed in them. But I cannot help making one remark upon the conduct in this respect of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman challenged the existence of the late Government upon a grave question of policy with regard to Ireland in a manly and straightforward manner. I have not changed my opinion as to that policy; I did not think it was a policy calculated to secure the tranquillity of Ireland and put an end to those feuds which seem indigenous to that country, or that it would make every district of that island a Utopia. Still, no one can deny that the right hon. Gentleman came forward on that occasion in a manly, straightforward manner. His policy was openly declared, and he appealed to the last Parliament, elected by the restricted constituency, and the last Parliament gave him a large majority. At a later period he appealed to the Parliament elected by the new constituency, and that majority was increased. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, gained his position, as far as the policy for Ireland, was at issue, in the most clear and honourable manner; and no one grudged him his triumph—at least, I did not. But the right hon. Gentleman was a candidate for the suffrages of a large and, as he believed, of an economically inclined constituency, and, not having sufficient confidence in the bold policy he had enunciated, he suddenly turned round, and apparently to obtain votes, in which he did not even succeed, he denounced the then Government on account of the extravagance of their military and naval establishments. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Expenditure.] Well, we will not quarrel about the word; it comes to the same thing whichever we use. But the right hon. Gentleman, denouncing the extravagance of the late Government, said to the electors—"If I am in power next year I will terminate all this expenditure; I will put an end to these costly establishments, and you shall have a great reduction of taxation in consequence." This was a mere episode in the career 80 of the right hon. Gentleman. It did not obtain him the seat he then solicited, nor do I believe it obtained for him half-a-dozen seats in this House. He would have had a complete majority if he had adhered to his first policy, which, though I believe erroneous, was the policy of a statesman, was perfectly intelligible, and had been deliberated upon in this House. My complaint against the right hon. Gentleman is that when he was summoned by his Sovereign to occupy the highest position in the kingdom, with a responsibility attached to it which no language can describe, and no degree of feeling equal, the right hon. Gentleman could not have been 10 minutes in the Cabinet of the Queen without knowing that the representations he had made respecting the military and naval expenditure of the country and the consequent reduction which he had pledged himself to was one of the greatest mistakes any Minister could possibly have made. The facts upon which this conclusion would be arrived at by him were State secrets at the time; but they have since been revealed in ravaged Europe. Why, the right hon. Gentleman sent his most trusty Councillor upon these subjects abroad to examine into these matters; he sent the member of his Cabinet on whom he naturally most depended for a correct opinion upon the state of Europe. Lord Clarendon went to the Continent. Lord Clarendon had conferences in Germany with more than one Sovereign, and with many most eminent statesmen. By one of those lucky combinations which sometimes occur in public life, Lord Clarendon met the Prime Minister of Russia, Prince Gortchakoff, who happened to be in Germany at that period, and he had confidential conferences with Prince Gortchakoff; and the consequence of these communications with German Sovereigns and statesmen and the Chancellor of Russia was that Lord Clarendon repaired to the capital of France, and conferred confidentially with the Emperor of the French. Now, Sir, there may be difference of opinion as to the position of the late Lord Clarendon as a statesman, as there will be upon the character and career of every public man. Perhaps Lord Clarendon was more adapted for an Ambassador than a Minister of State; others may differ from this view, but no one will dispute that Lord Clarendon was a consummate man of the world, 81 with a quick perception of character, and gifted with that versatile and captivating sympathy which extracts secrets from the most reserved, and obtains the confidence of the most close. Now all this time Lord Clarendon was communicating confidentially with the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Gentleman admitted this at the close of last Session—and who can doubt what were the results at which Lord Clarendon arrived? Lord Clarendon must have comprehended the whole situation—the danger to the peace of Europe from the continued rivalry of France and Prussia; the causes which prevented Prussia from commencing the contest; the restraint necessary in consequence to impress upon the Emperor of the French; and the right hon. Gentleman must have been perfectly well aware of everything Lord Clarendon did, of everything that passed through his mind, and of all the information that he gained. Under all these circumstances, it is to me most difficult to comprehend the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot understand how a person filling the position of the right hon. Gentleman should have deemed himself bound by the rash rhetoric of the hustings to continue those reductions of what he calls expenditure, but which are, practically speaking, establishments, seeing that the reduction is, in fact, a reduction in the number of men and boys and in the amount of stores. How is it possible that the right hon. Gentleman could, possessing this knowledge, have pursued such a course, and countenanced the framing of harum-scarum Budgets which have dissipated the resources of the nation?
The danger which Lord Clarendon must have foreseen eventually resulted in the war between France and Germany; and now let me impress upon the attention of the House the character of this war. It is no common war, like the war between Prussia and Austria, or like the Italian war in which France was engaged some years ago; nor is it like the Crimean War. This war represents the German Revolution, a greater political event than the French Revolution of last century — I don't say a greater, or as great, a social event. What its social consequences may be are in the future. Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs, accepted by all statesmen for guidance 82 up to six months ago, any longer exists. There is not a diplomatic tradition which has not been swept away. You have a new world, new influences at work, new and unknown objects and dangers with which to cope, at present involved in that obscurity incident to novelty in such affairs. We used to have discussions in this House about the balance of power. Lord Palmerston, eminently a practical man, trimmed the ship of State and shaped its policy with a view to preserve an equilibrium in Europe; and we have recently been favoured with a letter from M. Guizot to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in which the balance of power is declared to be absolutely necessary to the peace of Europe. We have heard hon. Gentlemen in this House, on some occasions, deride the idea of a balance of power as altogether a fancy; but what has really come to pass in Europe? The balance of power has been entirely destroyed, and the country which suffers most, and feels the effects of this great change most, is England. Now, what has been the first consequence of the destruction of the balance of power by this war, which I sincerely believe, if we had been energetic and prepared, this country might have prevented? The first consequence is that Russia repudiates the Treaty of 1856. There is nothing in diplomatic history so unqualified as the repudiation of the settlement of 1856 by Russia. Now, I am not going to inveigh against the designs of Russia. Russia has a policy, as every great Power has a policy, and she has as much right to have a policy as Germany or England. I believe the policy of Russia, taking a general view of it, to have been a legitimate policy, although it may have been inevitably a disturbing policy. When you have a great country in the centre of Europe, with an immense territory, with a numerous and yet, as compared with its colossal area, a sparse population, producing human food to any extent, in addition to certain most valuable raw materials, it is quite clear that a people so situated, practically without any seaboard, would never rest until it found its way to the coast, and could have a mode of communicating easily with other nations, and exchanging its products with them. Well, for 200 years Russia has pursued that policy; it has been a legitimate, though a disturbing policy. It has cost Sweden 83 provinces, and it has cost Turkey provinces. But no wise statesman could help feeling that it was a legitimate policy—a policy which it was impossible to resist, and one which the general verdict of the world recognized—that Russia should find her way to the seacoast. She has completely accomplished it. She has admirable seaports; she can communicate with every part of the world, and she has profited accordingly. But at the end of the last century she advanced a new view. It was not a national policy; it was invented by the then ruler of Russia, a woman, a stranger, and an usurper—and that policy was that she must have the capital of the Turkish Empire. That was not a legitimate, it was a disturbing policy. It was a policy like the French desire to have the Rhine—false in principle. She had no moral claim to Constantinople; she did not represent the races to which it once belonged; she had no political necessity to go there, because she had already two capitals. Therefore, it was not a legitimate, but a disturbing policy. As the illegitimate desire of France to have the Rhine has led to the prostration of France, so the illegitimate desire of Russia to have Constantinople led to the prostration of Russia. Now, when Russia repudiated the Treaty of 1856 I do not think the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government was a wise one. I admire the reasoning by which Her Majesty's Secretary of State showed to the Russian Minister the fallacy of his position; but I think that the inference he drew from his own premises was lame and impotent. Our proper answer to the first note of Prince Gortchakoff should have been to protest against it, and to have said at once that Russia must take the consequences of such a step. In that case, I doubt very much whether at this moment we should have heard any more about it. But that was not the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government. The plan of a Conference on the Treaty of 1856, which France could not attend, was not politic; and the inability of France to take part in it was alone a sufficient reason in refusing to listen to any such project. Let me recall to the House for a moment the circumstances under which the Treaty of 1856 was negotiated. I know there are hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who 84 think the Crimean War was a great mistake. I am not one of them. I think the Crimean War might have been prevented. I have not the slightest doubt that in the month of July, 1854, if our Government had informed the Government of Russia that war would be the consequence of their passing the Pruth, the Pruth would not have been passed. I believe that is not now mere conjecture, but a matter of acknowledged fact. But when that war was declared I believe it was a just and necessary war; I believe there never was a war carried on for a nobler purpose or with purer intentions, nor one which the people generally of this country ever supported with more enthusiasm. There was a great demur at the time as to the terms of peace; they were not thought adequate. It is true they did not call upon Russia, under defeat, to yield up any of her provinces; and I wish that fact could be recollected by other Powers. It is true, also, that the Allies did not propose to mulct Russia by calling on her to pay a great indemnity; and that, too, should not be forgotten by nations who are influenced by precedents. But I think the Treaty was admirable, because it devised a plan for neutralizing the Black Sea, which absolutely, as far as human arrangements could control affairs, really prevented that part of the world again disturbing the general peace. Well, that Treaty was regarded, at the time as a magnanimous Treaty. I believe it was so accepted by Russia. She obtained terms after the fall of Sebastopol as favourable as those which she refused at the Conference of Vienna. I doubt there is an example of such terms being offered by the conqueror under similar circumstances. Now, Sir, I do not pretend to divine what is passing at the Conference. All sorts of rumours are afloat; but I cannot understand, or conceive it possible, that a British Minister, after the immense sacrifices made by the Allies, and especially by this country, in order to obtain that Treaty of 1856, will consent in Conference to give up the whole point for which those sacrifices were incurred. There really is nothing in the Treaty of 1856 of vital importance — nothing that did secure and can maintain the general peace of Europe with regard to that part of the world, except the termination 85 of the naval preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea by a plan which spared the pride of a great country. To obtain that result the Allies expended three hundred millions of treasure. I cannot trust myself to tell what was the loss in human lives, infinitely more valuable. You fought four pitched battles and made two of the most terrific assaults ever known in the history of sieges, and all to obtain this result. Why, there is hardly a family in England, from the haughtiest to the humblest, which has not some painful recollection of the sufferings and sacrifices of that war. In my parish church there is a memorial window to the memory of two sons of an hon. Baronet, once a Member of this House, both of whom fell in the Crimea. The eldest, who was little more than of age—a youth of great promise and distinguished appearance—had just married, and the very week after his marriage he was summoned to his regiment, one of the finest in our service—the 23rd Fusiliers. He fell at Alma after many acts of valour. Exactly a year afterwards his next brother, who had succeeded to his title—an officer of Artillery, also in the same army — died in the trenches before Sebastopol. The mother of those gallant youths raised that memorial window in my parish church because—to use her own words—amid her terrible sorrows she had the proud consolation of knowing that her sons had died for their country. But now you are going to tell her that she is not to have that proud consolation—that they did not die either for the honour or the interest of their country—that it was all moonshine. I think that the mothers of England will feel very differently in future, and the sons of England, too, will not be so lavish of their lives, if this mockery is to occur. But the most curious thing in all this affair of the Treaty of 1856 is the conduct of Her Majesty's Government when they received the note of Prince Gortchakoff; and it is to me perfectly incredible. What did Her Majesty's Government do? They consulted Count Bismarck—certainly a most eminent man, and there is no man whose opinion on a difficult question I should think more valuable. But he is the Minister of Prussia, who was not our ally in the Crimean campaign, and whose conduct then was equivocal and ambiguous; and they sent, as 86 I understand—but we are to have the Papers laid before us, and I am sure Papers were never more wanted — they sent Mr. Odo Russell in their difficulty to consult Count Bismarck. Now, what said Count Bismarck? Count Bismarck said this—"I see that your Government is extremely indignant because Russia has repudiated the Treaty of 1856. Well, it is a very extraordinary thing; but only three months ago your Prime Minister repudiated a most solemn treaty with regard to my country — namely, that which guaranteed the Saxon provinces to my Sovereign." Why, at that moment it was a toss up whether those Saxon provinces would or would not be invaded, and I believe it is in those very provinces that Count Bismarck's estate is situated, though that is a matter that of course would not affect his opinion. However, Count Bismarck, with that cynical cordiality which distinguishes him, said—"Notwithstanding the way in which you have treated us, I will do everything I can for you. I will suggest a Conference, and the practical consequence of a Conference is that you condone the great offence of Russia, and then that will happen at the Conference which always does happen at Conferences to which Russia is a party, and particularly where Prussia also is a party—namely, that Russia will gain her object." But Count Bismarck is a man of the world who goes with the times; so he does not stop here—the Treaty of Vienna is an obsolete treaty; the Treaty of 1856 is now successfully repudiated by Russia; the balance of power no longer exists. And therefore the unfortunate Sovereign Prince of Luxemburg, to secure the neutrality of whose territory we had laboured, and had incurred so great a risk, has notice served upon him, which puts an end to the Treaty of Luxembourg. That is the third repudiated treaty. Now let me say one word about that Treaty. I wish to speak thus, because the matter has not been so much before the House of Commons as might be desirable, and the observations of a Secretary of State have not been correctly apprehended. By the Treaty of Luxemburg the five signataries gave a joint guarantee to maintain the neutrality of the Grand Duchy, and the question has been raised as to what were our liabilities in respect of the joint guarantee. I do not apprehend 87 that as regards our liabilities to the Grand Duke of Luxemburg the slightest difficulty is likely to arise. I believe that the liability of each of the co-signataries towards the Grand Duke of Luxemburg merely extends to this—that they shall not themselves violate the neutrality of his territory. But the liabilities that the signataries to that Treaty incur to each other in respect of the engagement are much larger and of a far more complicated character. Guarantees of the neutrality of their territories are not given to Princes out of mere affection or personal respect—they are given for much larger objects, to secure the peace of Europe and to maintain the general tranquillity. And therefore a signatary of the Treaty who violates the neutrality of the territory of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg incurs a large responsibility to England and to the other signataries of the instrument; and it would be open to us, at any moment and in any manner we might think proper, to assert our rights if they should be so violated. It has been said that there is in existence a secret Treaty between Prussia and Russia entered into before the war. I make no statement to that effect myself. It once fell to my lot, in reference to transactions relating to the Crimean War, to state to this House that there was in existence a secret Treaty between two great Powers—France and Austria—having reference to the state of Italy, by which the former undertook not to attack the latter in case certain things should be done in the course of that war, and Lord Palmerston contradicted me upon the subject. In about a week after, however, Lord Palmerston, as a man of honour, having ascertained the real facts, thought it his duty to come down to the House and to acknowledge that such a Treaty did exist. I merely advert to that circumstance to show that I make no such assertions until I am convinced of their truth. When I am convinced of the existence of a Treaty such as I have described between Prussia and Russia, I shall state the fact openly in this House. I feel called upon, however, to make this remark—that if, when Her Majesty's Government communicated with Count Bismark respecting the repudiation of the Treaty of 1856, they were ignorant of the existence of such a Treaty, they were exceedingly ill-informed; but if 88 they were aware of its existence—and I wish the House to observe this possibility particularly — and yet under such circumstances made the appeal to Count Bismarck which led to this Conference, then I say that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government is of a very grave character, and that the censure of this House would be a very light punishment for them to undergo.
There is another Treaty upon which I will not stop to make a comment, which has been violated in consequence of the destruction of the balance of power produced by this war—a war which, I believe, England might have prevented, and that is the Treaty which secured Rome to His Holiness the Pope, entered into by the King of Italy, by which the latter bound himself to defend the former from all aggression. We were not parties to that Treaty, and can be only indirectly concerned and interested in it; but the violation of that Treaty is, in my opinion, complete. I am not at all surprised at the result; it is the necessary result of the alliance between the Papacy and Liberalism. Why the Pope should destroy Churches—even if they were Irish Protestant Churches—and why he should secularize ecclesiastical property, I never could understand. His Holiness, however, succeeded in his object; but the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland was not legally disestablished at the time when the Papacy was disestablished itself. I do not dwell upon this Treaty, because I have no doubt but that in the course of this debate we shall have a satisfactory vindication of the policy of the Government, and a complete interpretation of their views, from the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird).
Now, Sir, I have shown the House what a complicated state of affairs, what difficulties, and what possible dangers have arisen in Europe from this war, which has destroyed the balance of power, and which war, I think, might have been prevented. But those difficulties and dangers are not limited to Europe. The Atlantic Cable unhappily conveys not only communications relating to commercial matters. Everything that happens in the diplomatic circles of Europe appears to reach the other side of the great waters with a rapidity rivalling that by which the knowledge of the price of gold and 89 of cotton is conveyed across the Atlantic. I am surprised at the course which was taken by the Sovereign of America in this matter. I should have thought that he would not have condescended to imitate the example of Europe. But to my great surprise the United States have also got hold of a Treaty with this country which they intend to repudiate. This Treaty was a treaty negotiated—as all treaties entered into with the United States have been negotiated—with great concessions on our side. The enjoyment of it was lost, wantonly lost by the United States by their abrogation of the treaty of reciprocity with Canada, although even after that occurrence they enjoyed the advantages of its provisions for many years longer by the forbearance and indulgence of English statesmen. That Treaty is now brought forward by the United States as an act of injustice on our part and as a means and opportunity for misunderstanding. I was very glad to hear from the Queen's Speech that the attention of England had been directed to this question, and that there seems to be a prospect of having at least some formal communication upon the question. There is one point connected with America which I cannot refrain from noticing, and that is, the extraordinary tone in which the authorities of America communicate with our Government and with the people of this country. The tone of the American Government towards the Government of England is different from that used towards the Government of any other country. It is not, as I once thought, the rough simplicity of Republican manners that occasions a rudeness so painful. Nothing can be more courteous than the Government of the United States to the Russian Government and, I have no doubt, to the German Government; but if they have any communications to make to the Government of this country, or any cause to give their opinion as to the conduct of the English people, a tone is adopted and language used which it may be forbearing not to notice for a time, but which, if persisted in, must ultimately lead to consequences which, though they may not be intended, all will deplore. Now, I am not going to dwell upon the wild words of demagogues, who, I suppose, in the United States, as in all other countries, are reckless in their expres- 90 sions. I am talking of persons of high official authority. I will take, for instance, the chief Senator (Mr. Sumner)—I look upon the Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs as the chief man in the Senate, and only second to the President, for to a certain degree he exercises the functions of royalty. No treaty with the United States can, I believe, be concluded without his concurrence. This gentleman commenced his Parliamentary career last year by an invective against the British Government. Having to deal with the difficulties between the two countries, having to exercise the functions of a judge and a statesman, he commenced the campaign by a violent invective against the English Government and the English nation, exciting the passions of the people of America. Then the President of the United States, the Sovereign of America, recently in one of those grave State papers which a person of his exalted position periodically produces, having occasion to speak of the English Government and people uses language which I wish I could describe as either friendly or respectful. It was, I think, very unfortunate that the Fenian prisoners were sent to America. It is a questionable thing to me whether they ought to have been amnestied. But, as I have said on a former occasion, it is best that an amnesty should be complete; and if they were to be freed I think they ought to have been allowed to go to Ireland, instead of being sent to America as first-class passengers in a Cunard boat, with a £5 note in their pockets. The people of America received them, in pursuance of the system of always insulting this country, with all honour, and by a large majority in the House of Representatives decided to treat them with every possible respect. I want to know what is the reason why the Government and people of England are treated by the Government of the United States in a different manner from that in which other countries are treated. The time has come when we ought to know that. At the first blush one would think it impossible for two nations to be on terms of more thorough and complete understanding. Notwithstanding the Celtic or Teutonic emigration which the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address (Mr. Morley) has noticed, the English character of the original settlers 91 in these colonies has always predominated. They have, perhaps, improved our language; but they still speak it. We have the same laws, the same literature, and the same religion. Our commercial relations are on a vast scale; and though our terms of exchange might be improved, the reciprocal benefit is great and unquestioned. There is every circumstance which ought to unite two nations in the bonds of real friendship, and yet it is impossible that the Government or the people of this country can be brought in any public way before the authorities of the United States without some expression being used, or some course taken which is offensive to our honour. What is the cause of this? It cannot arise from the original quarrel. The result of the original quarrel was certainly calculated to leave feelings of humiliation and vindictiveness, but not on the part of the Americans. Nor can it arise from the course taken by England during the Civil War. Nothing is more unjust than the statement that the cause of the Southern States was taken up by either party in this country; and, with regard to the charges so constantly made, that the party represented on this side of the House acted in a party sense with regard to the Southern Confederation, it is utterly untrue. There were hon. Gentlemen, no doubt, on both sides of the House who expressed their opinions and brought forward Motions; but nothing like a party Motion was ever made. The late Lord Derby, who was well acquainted with America, from the first believed that the Northern Confederation would be successful, and as regards the House of Parliament where he was eminent he surely may be assumed to represent the party sitting on this side. As regards this House, I may, perhaps, though with less authority, claim to be regarded as the representative, and under no circumstances whatever did I sanction any such Motion, and for this reason alone, if not others—I felt that it was impossible to limit our interference to the recognition of the Southern States. It would have involved us in a war with the Northern States, and of such a result I would not take the responsibility. Sir, there is no ground for the charge. It is futile. The reason of this offensive conduct of the United States is this — There is a party in America, who certainly do 92 not monopolize the intelligence, the education, and the property of the country, and who, I believe, are not even numerically the strongest, who attempt to obtain political power and to excite political passion by abusing England and its Government because they believe they can do so with impunity. These are the last men who would take this tone if they thought England would resent such conduct; but the idea is impressed upon them that they may insult the Government of England with impunity. You may say, if they have no really hostile intent, and it is a mere electioneering game, is it not better for us to be forbearing and contemptuous? Well, it is not exactly that. The danger is this — Habitually exciting the passions of millions, some unfortunate thing happens or something unfortunate is said in either country; the fire lights up, it is beyond their control, and the two nations are landed in a contest which they can no longer control or prevent. As there is to be a Commission, it would be a very good opportunity for us to come to some clear understanding on the subject, and let it be known England cannot be insulted or injured with impunity; though I should look upon it as the darkest hour of my life if I were to counsel or even support in this House a war with the United States, still the United States should know that they are not an exception to the other countries of the world — that we do not permit ourselves to be insulted by any other country in the world—and that they cannot be an exception. If once our naval and military establishments were in that condition which, I hope, on Thursday, or some early day, we shall find they are—if once it is known that Her Majesty's dominions cannot be assaulted without being adequately defended—all this rowdy rhetoric which is addressed to irresponsible millions, and, as it is supposed, with impunity, will, I believe, cease.
Now, Sir, that is the state of affairs which we have to deal with at the commencement of the Session. And as there is not one of the subjects which I have mentioned which will not, probably, be brought forward for our consideration in its course, it has seemed to me not inappropriate that, on the first day, some general view should be put before the House of the consequences of the war be- 93 tween Germany and France. The whole machinery of States is dislocated. There is not an engagement between Powers which is not impugned or looked upon with suspicion and without confidence, and it is very likely that with every one of the countries to which I have alluded we shall have to discuss our diplomatic engagements and the stipulations which now exist. I hope I may presume to say that I have never been what is called an alarmist. I have never magnified the dangers which this country has had to undergo. I hope I may add that I have never been in favour of a meddlesome policy, though I am not prepared to support what is called non-intervention under all circumstances. I am quite aware that the relations of England to Europe are different now from what they were at the Treaty of Utrecht, or even in the time of Lord Chatham, and that other than European elements, great in themselves and considerably affecting the balance of power, have grown up which could not have been taken into consideration by the statesmen of that day. But I cannot resist the conviction that this country is in a state of great peril, and that it will require the utmost prudence and courage to extricate her from the consequences of recent events. A distinguished man, long a Member of this House, an eminent statesman, whom I am sure even his opponents must always speak of with respect—Lord Russell—has called the attention of the public to the fact that there is in States a natural jealousy of any dominion that rises up chiefly by the influence of commerce. There is no doubt that there have been periods before this when a feeling—not, I think, a rational, but a general feeling—of hostility to the United Kingdom has existed which nothing but fortunate circumstances or the exertion of great energy on our side could have dispelled or baffled. I remember in a discussion in this House 20 years ago, when a feeling of this kind had grown up, reminding the House of what occurred at the Treaty of Cambrai. That was a treaty under which the Confederate Powers of Europe determined, without any cause whatever and from mere jealousy of Venice, of her mercantile spirit and great wealth, and from irritation at the reserve with which she had declined mixing herself up in their separate plans, 94 to cut the pinions of that great Republic. No doubt there is even considerable similarity between the condition of Great Britain and the Republic of Venice. Venice had all the commerce of the world, the finest navy, and a good army, commanded by strangers and foreigners it is true, but still by distinguished generals. She held Cyprus in fee; she possessed the Morea, the peninsula of the Ægean—the same to her that India is to us—the best islands of the Ionian and Ægean seas, and every province of the terra firma of Italy distinguished for civilization and culture, except the Grand Duchy of Milan. But there are also differences between the United Kingdom and Venice. Venice had not a numerous and warlike population. She had not a high-spirited middle-class, and she had a suspicious and tyrannical oligarchy instead of an open and real aristocracy. I understand, that some distinguished statesmen have been speaking of England as a country that is past as regards political power, and as one that has sacrificed all her reputation and her real power merely to the accumulation of wealth. Well, I am glad that during the 50 years of peace that more or less we have enjoyed—we have accumulated wealth, and it is a great consolation to me to know that if—which God forbid—we should have to defend ourselves and assert our position in the world, we could enter, as I am sure no other Power could, into a third campaign without finding the sinews of war fail us. It is a great source of strength to England to feel that if she enters into a quarrel which is necessary and just, she is not likely to find her resources exhausted; whereas, it would be very difficult to fix on any other Power, with all their boastfulness, that in the second or third year of hostilities would not be found upon the different Exchanges of Europe endeavouring to raise loans to an amount, moreover, not as large as we could raise by a single tax. But in the 50 years which have elapsed we have done something besides accumulating money, and it is well that this should be known by those who make such free comments upon England and the English people. The people of the United Kingdom enjoy at this moment complete personal and political liberty. Those two great subjects that used to disturb our predecessors, and were the foundation of half the 95 encumbering orders of this House—trade and religion—are no longer any source of difficulty to us since they have taken the shape of commercial freedom and religious equality. We passed last year a Primary Education Bill, not so various in its elements as I hope to live to see pass, but still a real Elementary Education Bill. The people of this country have had the opportunity of following their industry and enjoying their rights in a manner which cannot be equalled by the records of any modern or ancient nation; and I do not believe that a population thus circumstanced is going to give up such blessings without a struggle, or will yield so pre-eminent a position without at least proving that they are worthy of it. There are many observations that I could make upon details of the gracious Speech and of the Address which we are called upon to vote in answer. It is one of the longest Speeches that, I believe, was ever delivered to Parliament from the Throne. It touches on many subjects; there are expressions in it which might be criticized; and there are some points which might, under ordinary circumstances, warrant even a graver notice. But I think it of importance that we should show to Europe and to America, on the present occasion, when we re-assemble, an united Parliament; and though, no doubt, we shall have differences of opinion on minor points, I apprehend that on the vital question there is no difference of opinion among the great majority of the House. I believe we are resolved that the military and naval institutions of this country shall be adequate to the occasion. We hope—aye, more than hope, we believe—the Government are going to bring forward measures which will meet the exigencies of the case. In that case I shall give those measures my entire support; if there are points of detail of which I may not approve, I shall waive my opposition, if it will endanger the security of their passing. I would even make some sacrifice of principle to support their proposals, if they be adequate to the occasion, as I hope and believe they will be. But, although I am not prepared with any Amendment upon this occasion, or to ask the House to come to any declaration of opinion upon a state of affairs that I do not think devoid of peril, and which all, I 96 think, must admit to be most critical, still I could not be altogether silent, after the conversations which occurred in the last days of the late Session, and the events which have since taken so grave a form. The opinions which I have expressed I have teen emboldened to offer because I know they are shared by those who generally act with me in public life—and also because I know that a great body of persons throughout the country sympathize with us in our resolve, which is, as far as our power may enable us to effect that object, to uphold the greatness of our country, and to maintain the Empire of the Queen.
My hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Address have each of them discharged a part well known not to be free from difficulty in a manner that I am sure will tend to conciliate for them the favour of this House, and to inspire in all of us a hope that neither of them will be too much attracted by sympathy, or any other cause, into the rank of silent Members. But since my two hon. Friends have sat down the debate has assumed a different character. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has consisted in so large a degree of charges of the most pointed character against the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, that I hope the House will think I am not taking an undue liberty if I rise at once for the purpose of meeting the challenge he has given us, without, in the slightest degree, questioning his title to bring these accusations forward. I appeal to the judgment of the House, and I shall endeavour to show that there is not a shadow of foundation for the accusations he has made. As the right hon. Gentleman has found it necessary to traverse a field of considerable breadth, I will at once point out those portions of his speech with which I do not find that the respect I am bound to pay him makes it my duty to follow him on the present occasion. In the first place, I shall not touch on Lord Clarendon's visit to the Continent in 1869, other than to say that from whence the right hon. Gentleman derives his information I know not, except it be from the inexhaustible repositories which his own brains supply. During the whole time when Lord Clarendon was Foreign Minister of this country in the present Government, I certainly had the honour and satisfaction 97 of communication with him rarely intermitted for a single day. My evidence, I admit, is of a negative character; but, though negative, it is tolerably strong, and I can assure the House that the fabric which the right hon. Gentleman has built up of Lord Clarendon's supposed communications, plans, and schemes, which were the object of his tour, is a fabric wholly without foundation in fact, so far as I am able to see. With respect to the subject of Rome, as my hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) has given notice of raising a discussion on it on a very early day, I will take the liberty likewise of omitting that topic from any observations I have to make. And with regard to America, I wish to say a very few words, for certainly the right hon. Gentleman, as well as the House, will feel that it would hardly be expedient at this particular moment, in the position I have the honour to fill, if I should undertake on the part of the Government to state our exact appreciation of the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman on certain American matters. One thing I will say, which is due to the right hon. Gentleman, that I think the course of forbearance and prudence he pursued during the American War entitle him, if any man, to be a critic in this matter without offence; and one thing I will say for myself, which is this—that with him I deplore that licence of speech and that misapprehension of occurrences on this side of the water which we occasionally notice in portions of the American Press. I feel that our best and safest course is to trust to the judgment and good sense of the mass of the American nation themselves to discountenance, neutralize, and dishearten whatever injustice the effects of rash and intemperate speech may be calculated to effect. We are at the present moment upon the very eve of despatching to America a Commission, of which my noble Friend the President of the Council (Earl De Grey and Ripon) will represent British interests. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that this is not the time for discussing the various matters with which that Commission will have to deal. Papers will be laid before the House explaining the conduct of the Government, and the merit of that conduct is fair matter for the consideration of the House. My noble Friend will be assisted in the 98 Commission by Sir Edward Thornton, the able, prudent, and trusted representative of this country in America, and Sir John Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, than whom, perhaps, no one is so well, certainly no one is better, qualified to represent and defend the interests of the Empire in every question that affects British North America. The main part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman naturally turned upon the discussion of the circumstances of the Continental war, and, as he entertains the opinions that he has expressed to-night, I am the first to admit that, whatever be the practice commonly prevailing in regard to abstension from polemical discussion on the night of the Address, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in departing from it; although I think, on the other hand, he will admit that the necessity of raising charges so grave in his place in Parliament is a necessity in some degree adverse to the attainment of that object which he declares he has so much in view and at heart—namely, the object of presenting to foreign nations perfectly united councils. Now, I take the argument of the right hon. Gentleman to be a very simple one, and I will first grapple with that portion of it which refers to the destruction of the balance of power, and the Note which was issued in the autumn by Prince Gortchakoff. The right hon. Gentleman says that we were quite wrong in the mode in which we dealt with that Note. Well, Sir, I am sorry that we have not the suffrage of the right hon. Gentleman; but I am bound to say that, as far as I have any means of judging of the state of the public mind, I do think that the answer which was made by my noble Friend, Lord Granville, upon the receipt of the Note of Prince Gortchakoff was recognized by the country as a becoming, adequate, and manly answer. But the right hon. Gentleman says that, after issuing that answer, to which he does not object in itself, we then proceeded to commit a gross error in making our appeal to Count Bismarck—a very clever man, as the right hon. Gentleman, not too liberal, says; but one into whose mouth the right hon. Gentleman has found it necessary or expedient to put arguments and statements that Count Bismarck himself never was ingenious enough to discover. We made 99 no appeal to Count Bismarck whatever. We took our own course in reply to the Note of Prince Gortchakoff, and, having taken our own course, it became a proper subject of communication to the other Powers of Europe who were the other parties to the Treaty of 1856, and among those Powers was Prussia. The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that Prussia was not our ally in the Crimean War; but Prussia was our ally in the negotiations preceding the war, and Prussia was a party to the Treaty itself. Do not let me be misunderstood. We did not exclude Prussia from the communication that we made to every other Power concerned in that Treaty; but a special appeal to Count Bismarck we never made, and that is one of the suspicions upon which the argument of the right hon. Gentleman on this part of the case depends. The right hon. Gentleman made some general observations with regard to the moderation on the part of the victorious Power, and when the moment comes for negotiation, though it is not prudent or desirable for me to discuss it now in debate. I cannot pass it by without stating my general concurrence. Well, I think I may pass to the main subject of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the present war and the conduct of the Government in connection with the present war. His charges are perfectly clear. He says we were right in maintaining neutrality, but that we maintained a wrong kind of neutrality. We ought to have maintained an armed neutrality: maintaining an armed neutrality, we should have been able to prevent the war—certainly to shorten it, and as certainly to improve the terms on which peace is to be finally concluded. But we did not use energy enough in our representations at the critical moment before war broke out. We did not make use of the services we had rendered to France. We did not make use of the guarantee by which we were bound to Prussia. If we had made use of these documents we should probably have been able to prevent war arising. We were paralyzed, because we had unduly reduced the armaments of the nation in order to redeem rash pledges given by me on the hustings in Lancashire, and to enable my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose to the House and 100 carry through his harum-scarum Budget. I hope that is a tolerably fair statement of the charge of the right hon. Gentleman. There are many of the things which the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, describes as placed entirely beyond argument, as admitted by everybody, which, as I have often been compelled to do before, I must take up in a bundle and put them aside as wholly unfounded. But with regard to armed neutrality, I own it, with some reluctance, that I followed the right hon. Gentleman into the cloudy controversy that he has raised. What is this armed neutrality? I have heard of armed neutrality in history. I recollect an armed neutrality of about 1780, and with that armed neutrality war, so far from being stopped, was extended. That portentous evil was made even more portentous from the admixture with it of this armed neutrality. I will not merely criticize the phraseology of the right hon. Gentleman—the right hon. Gentleman is privileged in phraseology with gifts of invention, and copious and powerful mastery which I cannot imitate, and which occasionally, no doubt, may lead to my coining a phrase less felicitous than those he is frequently so happy and able to produce. There was a case of armed neutrality—the case of Austria and the Principalities—which the right hon. Gentleman says all persons admitted to have shortened the Crimean War. Now, the case of Austria was not a case of armed neutrality at all, but an especial operation directed to a particular point. Austria never professed to be neutral in the Crimean War. Upon the occasion of the siege of Sebastopol the driving of the Russians out of the Principalities had for its main military effect nothing but this—it placed a large and neighbouring force at the disposal of Russia for the defence of Sebastopol. I am not finding fault with the proceeding; I am endeavouring to show how lightly the right hon. Gentleman deals with the facts of history. But the right hon. Gentleman says we did not use sufficient energy in preventing war; and those who have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman will really be under the impression that he pointed out to us this lack of energy at a period when it was not too late for us to amend our defective policy. He has spoken to-night as if the speech he made last 101 year was made anterior to the war. On the contrary, it was a speech made during the war; it was a speech made by a person who was in possession of all the steps which had been taken by the Government in reference to the war. He thinks it was before the war; but the date of it was the 1st of August, when war had been declared a fortnight; in fact, it was the day of the battle of Saar-brück, and it was within three or four days of the battle of Wœrth. The right hon. Gentleman says we did not use energy enough. I want to know what it was we were to do. Well, we were to go to the French and we were to say—"If you exercise your own free discretion towards Prussia as to what is or what is not sufficient reparation, that will be an outrage upon the Crown of England?" When the right hon. Gentleman had used that strong phrase he immediately felt that from such, a phrase there would arise a presumption that we were to go to war, if necessary, in support of that strong language; but he disclaimed the intention of going to war in support of it. We were to have told France that she was inflicting an outrage upon the Crown of England; but we were to abstain from saying that that outrage would be resented on our part. And that is what the right hon. Gentleman calls a recommendation to use greater energy than that which we used. We were to have said to France—I am quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman—"You must take the consequences;" and France might safely have taken the consequences, according to the right hon. Gentleman's position, for the consequences were not to be war, but they were to be our high displeasure—consequences which I think it very possible a people much less powerful and high-spirited than the French would have been perfectly content to take in resenting an unwarranted and excessive intrusion from a foreign Power into a province which was not its own. It is not the question whether France was right, or whether she was wrong. In mild and friendly terms we did state to her that, in our judgment, she was wrong in not accepting the withdrawal of the candidature of Prince Hohenzollern; and, having done that, we felt that we had discharged our whole duty, and in discharging our whole duty we had exhausted our whole right. The 102 right hon. Gentleman has another argument. He says we had entered into a guarantee with Prussia which I repudiated last year, and which, if we had used it properly, would have given us a position of authority with respect to France. That is to say, if I understand the argument, we should have been justified in going to France and speaking thus—"Pray observe we are bound to Prussia by a guarantee which will compel us to go to war in case the Saxon province is invaded, and, that being so, as we have an interest in the quarrel, we are entitled to require you to hold back." But the right hon. Gentleman, at the same time that he holds we were thus entitled to claim an interest in the quarrel and a commanding power over the act of France, on the ground of our being under an obligation to go to war, has expressly disclaimed the idea of our going to war in the case, and has told us that he was not ready to counsel such a course. The right hon. Gentleman has laid down doctrines with regard to guarantees which are totally fatal to the argument he has used. I beg the House to follow me while I try to apply to the case his argument and opinions. He says we were to present ourselves before the Emperor Napoleon, and claim the right to check the policy of France: because the policy of France was war, and that war might involve the invasion of Saxony, we should be bound by our guarantee, and consequently bound to take up arms. In the major portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he laid down a theory perfectly new—I never heard it before—of the nature and binding force of guarantees. What is it? He says that in the case of giving a territorial guarantee, you bind yourself to the Sovereign of the territory to respect that territory; you bind yourself to the other parties to the guarantee in a much higher degree, and there the liability of going to war even may be involved. [Mr. DISRAELI: In a joint and separate guarantee.] The guarantee is not a joint and separate guarantee. It is this—Austria, Russia, Great Britain, and France guarantee to his Majesty the King of Prussia and his descendants and successors the possession of the countries marked out in the 15th Article as full property and sovereignty.That is a joint guarantee; in the 103 strictest sense it is a joint guarantee. Now, I have got from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman a definition of the exact binding force of a joint guarantee, and from his mouth I fasten him to this—that the amount of obligation put upon us by that joint guarantee, so far as regarded Prussia and the sovereignty of the territory, was that we were ourselves to respect the King's possession of that sovereignty, and it amounted to nothing more. And when the right hon. Gentleman can reconcile together these two portions of his speech in which he laid down doctrines, one of which directly inculpated us, and the other of which directly exculpated us, I will only say that he will show an ingenuity greater than he has ever manifested in the whole course of his long Parliamentary career. The right hon. Gentleman says there has been a great deal of most melancholy talk with regard to the repudiation of treaties, and I might agree with the right hon. Gentleman up to a certain point. What we think of the sanctity of treaties is to be learnt from the declarations of Lord Granville during last autumn. But do not let us exaggerate the case; do not let us make matters worse than they are. By needlessly finding other Powers guilty of the repudiation of treaties, we are not taking a course likely to mollify or to convert them; but we are taking a course likely to isolate ourselves, and, in isolating ourselves, to deprive ourselves of all power for good. The right hon. Gentleman says that an end is now put to the Treaty of Luxemburg. I must say I think there was no occasion on which the Luxemburg Treaty was in so great danger of being put an end to as it was upon an occasion which occurred within a fortnight after it had been signed. That was the occasion when the doctrine was laid down, or understood to be laid down, that when a number of Powers concurred in a guarantee, any one of those Powers making default, the rest were absolutely released. I can only say that so long as the idea that such a doctrine was laid down by the British Government was allowed to possess the public mind all Englishmen should be cautious of using rash language in charging, others with the repudiation of treaties. But I deny that the Treaty of Luxemburg has been put an end to by what happened in the 104 autumn. I presume the right hon. Gentleman to mean that when he heard of the proceeding of the Prussian Government in regard to Luxemburg, it was a proceeding which raised apprehension in his mind; and so far I am perfectly willing to travel with him. But, consider, we have had from what I ought to call the German Government a most explicit and full assurance that the objection which they took to the proceedings of Luxemburg was an objection with respect to military purposes and military necessities alone, and that they expressly, fully, and absolutely recognized the binding character of the Treaty of 1868. It is not for us to maintain, and the right hon. Gentleman will not maintain, that it will be just on our part—nay, more, that it would be politic—to say that the Prussian Government had put an end to the Treaty. Before I part altogether from the question of the Note of Prince Gortchakoff, I must refer to another portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He discussed at great length—perhaps greater length than was necessary on an occasion of this kind—the Crimean War. He said that one valuable result of that war was the neutralization of the Black Sea, and that when we received the Note of Prince Gortchakoff, stating that in consequence of what Russia considered to be breaches of treaty she was no longer bound to observe its stipulations with reference to the Black Sea, we ought to have warned her that she must take the consequences; and what the consequences are in this case there can be no doubt whatever. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the Treaty of 1856, if it produced nothing else, produced one result of the utmost value and of the most vital importance in the East—namely, the neutralization of the Black Sea. That was never, so far as I know, the view of the British Government. In this House, in the year 1856, I declared my confident conviction that it was impossible to maintain the neutralization of the Black Sea. I do not speak from direct communication with Lord Clarendon; but I have been told since his death that he never attached value to that neutralization. Again, I do not speak from direct communication, but I have been told that Lord Palmerston always looked upon the neutralization as an arrangement which might be maintained and held 105 together for a limited number of years, but which, from its character, it was impossible to maintain as a permanent condition for a great settlement of Europe. However that may be, let me now try the wisdom of the right hon. Gentleman by the doctrine he lays down. It is this—that we ought to have held very short language with Russia, ought not to have entertained the project of a Conference, and, at all hazards and all extremities, ought to have staked ourselves upon the neutralization of the Black Sea. Now I come to the ground of positive fact when I say that if we had been prepared for that most chivalrous resolution we should have adopted it with our eyes open to the fact that no one Power in Europe shared our opinion, or would be in the slightest degree responsible for our acts. Who is it that you would have looked to in order to maintain the policy in the East, if matters now stood again as they were? France. But France by official acts expressed her readiness to give up the neutrality of the Black Sea. Which is the Power most disposed to go with us in maintaining the spirit of the Treaty of 1856? The Austro-Hungarian Government. But they several years ago proposed to Russia that the Treaty should be altered, and that the neutrality of the Black Sea should be abandoned; and it is in this state of things that the right hon. Gentleman finds it necessary to introduce to-night the polemics of the case before the House of Commons, and to show how wrong we were not to go to war single-handed in order to force on Russia the permanent contraction of her rights of sovereignty over a portion of her territory. I am perfectly content to leave to the House and to the country the judgment on that portion of the question; and I think I have shown in some degree what would have been our predicament if, adopting the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to guarantees, we had endeavoured to make the guarantee to Prussia. With regard to the general question of the guarantee which, the right hon. Gentleman says I repudiated last year, I used no such expression. I declined to be bound by the stringent application of the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, a doctrine which he is himself obliged to overturn to-night. I have shown that there are circumstances which I think brings the 106 greatest weight to bear upon the nature of the guarantee—namely, the total change that has taken place in regard to the constitution of Germany, and the vast extension and power of the territorial sovereignty of Prussia. The right hon. Gentleman would cut up the guarantee by the roots. It would be most ungrateful on my part if I were to pursue his position of the subject into further analysis; but the right hon. Gentleman has not done with us, and I have not done with his argument, for the point of his charge was this—that our diplomatic weakness was traceable to our military weakness, and our military weakness was traceable in errors, in harum-scarum Budgets; and our harum-scarum Budgets were ultimately referable to rash rhetoric in Lancashire. I think the House will agree that it would not be respectful, either to the right hon. Gentleman, or to the House itself, if I were not to test, in some degree, these rather grave allegations which he has made. Having raised to its climax his argument of interference, the right hon. Gentleman said, here I should be met with the observation "That's all very well—but we have no armaments." Now, let us test the question, whether there were armaments or not. This is a relative term. There are a certain number of Gentlemen in this House who will contend that we have no armaments—that is, we have not sufficient armaments until the whole population of military years are armed—not the whole population which occupies the Benches of this House to which I belong, but that nothing short of an armed nation can be considered a nation properly prepared with the means of defence. I disclaim that standard; and certainly the right hon. Gentleman has not appealed to it. Now, what standard have we to go by? It is quite obvious. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had no armaments, because we had dissolved or disbanded regiments, and that we had damaged, curtailed, and contracted the armaments of the nation in pursuit of the frivolous purpose of affording some fiscal relief to the people. Well, so far as I am aware, every word I spoke in Lancashire on the subject of economy I adhere to. The right hon. Gentleman said that we reduced and enfeebled the armaments of the country, and that we had no armaments to sup- 107 port our diplomacy. I will try a mode of testing this by reference to former years. I will take the armaments of last year, when the right hon. Gentleman said we had no armaments, or—for he changed the phrase—only "attenuated armaments," and probably the latter is the idea which the right hon. Gentleman, in the use of his copious vocabulary, intended by preference to convey. I have often known the right hon. Gentleman to be great in this House on the subject of armaments, and the last time he so displayed himself he was not deploring "attenuated" armaments, but denouncing "bloated armaments;" and it will be found curious to illustrate by the familiar test of arithemetic what are his notions with respect to "attenuated armaments," and what they are with respect to "bloated armaments." There may be bloated armaments either by sea or by land; but I am not going to enter into the naval part of the case, and for the reason that during the discussion of last summer, when the policy of the Government was questioned with respect to military matters, admissions were frankly made by many of the objectors—some of them sitting on the Opposition Benches—that we had a powerful and efficient fleet. In 1862, however, the armaments of the country had, according to the right hon. Gentleman, reached such portentous dimensions that he was obliged to express his indignation at them, and denounced them as "bloated armaments." In that year the whole of the regular force available for home service amounted to 92,270 men, according to the Estimates. That, then, was a "bloated armament." In 1870 the force at home, on the Estimates of the regular Army was 89,051; and yet the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the 92,000 men as a bloated armament, and of the 89,000 as an attenuated armament, the difference between the two amounts being only about 3,000. It must also be recollected that in the days of the bloated armament of 92,000 men we had no reserve—not a man to bless ourselves with—but in the days of the attenuated armament of 89,000 men we had a reserve of more than 20,000 men, liable to serve abroad. Then the right hon. Gentleman says we disbanded veterans. What we did was this—we disbanded the men who were uselessly employed, in order that we might depend upon 108 men who should be usefully employed, and that is the principle of economy, that is the principle of rash rhetoric in Lancashire, and that is the principle which my right hon. Friend near me (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) is said to have adopted in his "harum-scarum Budgets," by which the country has received a remission of taxation, amounting to more than £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Eight millions.] At any rate, I hope that we have effectually stopped the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman upon the subject of attenuated armaments. But it may be as well to give the figures for 1868, when the armaments, being under the charge of the right hon. Gentleman, would, of course, be proper armaments, for I find that, whereas there was an attenuated army in 1870, available for home defence, amounting to 89,000, in 1868 the proper and sufficient number was 87,500. Nor is that the whole of the case, because the reserves were then comparatively in their infancy, and while in 1868 they amounted to only 3,500, in 1870 they numbered 20,000. Now, I ask the House—I ask Gentlemen in whatever part of the House they may sit—I think I may even ask the right hon. Gentleman himself—what sort of a case he has made out upon the question of attenuated armaments, and consequent impotence to support the just influence of England? I depart entirely now from the polemical portion of the case, though, of course, it is in the discretion of other Gentlemen to pursue it to any extent they may think fit. It is natural and right that the right hon. Gentleman should state his objections as important points affecting the conduct of the Government, especially as such a statement reaches over the Recess, and it is also right that we should defend our conduct. There is very little more to say before I sit down. With the right hon. Gentleman I feel there are other considerations which rise much above these, even although they be not void of importance. I cannot say that I have been greatly impressed with what has been said with regard to the special dangers to this country involved in the present aspect of affairs; but I am deeply impressed with the melancholy and doubtful character of the prospects which hang before Europe. I know that our minds have been to a 109 certain extent relieved by the armistice which has been accomplished within the last few days. Let us hope it may be renewed if necessary. Let us hope that the transactions which occur within it may be transactions of a nature to lead to a durable peace. But I think it would be rash on our part to indulge in too sanguine anticipations. Hope for peace we may; but we must not at present reckon too confidently upon the fulfilment of our hopes. If we look forward to the future, no doubt it is necessary for us to consider what is the position of this country with reference to Europe at large; and for my own part, separating the position of this country, ideally and for purposes of argument, for a moment from that of Europe, I cannot but feel that we have some reason to be thankful—thankful for the position of the country, and thankful for the union of the people, to which the right hon. Gentleman to-night referred, and in many respects has rendered such emphatic and handsome testimony. But I should probably find the right hon. Gentleman agreeing with me—or, using more respectful language, I should find myself agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman—that, while it is a mistake for us ever to be laboriously endeavouring to show that we are in danger, and that somebody or other is meditating mischief against us, it would be, on the other hand, a gross error to lay down doctrines of non-interference in the manner of a rigid formula. I am now speaking in my own individual capacity, and I do not wish in any way to bind my Colleagues in what may fall from me. I should not wish to bind any other person to the feeling that I myself entertain of the power, the security, and the independence of this country, come what may. But I admit, and am the first to assert that, whatever be that security, power, and independence, we have no right to wrap ourselves up in an absolute and selfish isolation. We have a history, we have traditions, we have living, constant, perpetual, multiplied intercourse and contact with every people in Europe. We should be unworthy of the recollections of our past, unworthy of our hopes of the future, unworthy of the greatness of the present, if we disowned the obligations which arise out of these relations to others more liable to suffer than ourselves. Sympathy and 110 fellow-feeling in Europe, with the duties which arise from sympathy and fellow-feeling, never can be forgotten in this country, and I fully admit that the exercise of these duties is not to be separated from the consideration of the state of your military power and the efficiency of your armaments; while I venture to think we are not open to the charges of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. Admitting this, I also feel that in this country our great desire is to see from year to year more and more ascendancy given to moral over material forces. Perhaps in that respect during our lifetime many of us may have been too sanguine. Perhaps at this moment some of us may, on the contrary, be too desponding. But I venture to say that probably the year upon which we have lately entered will establish much, and confirm much that is now doubtful and open to dispute with respect to what Europe has to hope in the future, and what Europe has to fear from the relations between moral and material forces. Of course, what we mean when we speak of moral and material forces is not the mere change from one epithet to another of a different character. When we speak of material forces we mean overpowering violence, and by moral forces we mean that rule of right which is the protection of all peoples. I trust we shall never be led into the error of supposing that we improve our own condition in the face of Europe by setting up theories of imaginary interests which we do not possess, or which if we do possess them, are not exposed to danger. Here I claim the liberty of criticizing the historical statement adopted by the right hon. Gentleman from Earl Russell, with regard to States, by the example of which it is said we should take warning, and which have perished not through any fault of their own, but because other nations envied them their happiness and prosperity. I have asked what these States are, and have not been able to obtain an answer. The right hon. Gentleman is the first person bold enough to attempt an answer, and he cites the instance of Venice and the League of Cambrai. Now, though Venice there had a good case, it was certainly not one of entire abstinence, as far as she was concerned, from the policy of violence and aggression. The League of Cambrai came and went, and Venice, which had lived long before it, 111 survived the League of Cambrai, succeeded against the combination, and it therefore does not form an illustration in support of the doctrine which has been taken over by the right hon. Gentleman from my noble Friend Lord Russell, and which, I think, is wanting in historical foundation. For my own part, I am persuaded that a just, a moderate, and practical view of our national security, combined with those careful preparations which we ought to make for the efficiency of our military system, is the best policy for ourselves and the best policy for others, and that by the avoidance of all fantastic theories—whether theories of security and isolation or of alarm—we shall most safely discharge our duty both to ourselves and others. For the present, I do not enter into the question of military preparation, because, as my right hon. Friend has shown, within seven days the House will be fully possessed of the views of the Government, and it would, therefore, be obviously impossible to discuss a matter of this kind with satisfaction upon the present occasion. Perhaps I ought to state that, while we have found it our duty, as has been stated in the gracious Speech from the Throne, to refrain from whatever might savour of the appearance of impertinent interference or whatever might justly diminish any claim we might have on the goodwill and attention of the two great belligerent Powers, we have certainly redeemed by acts the pledges we gave of perpetual and vigilant watchfulness over all the turns and movements both of policy and of war. We began, as the House knows, by endeavouring to procure the withdrawal of the candidature of Prince Hohenzollern; and in that endeavour, acting in concurrence with others, we were successful. We then ventured to disapprove the demand made by France upon the King of Prussia (now the Emperor of Germany) for a prospective engagement; and there it was our misfortune to fail. We then appealed to the Treaty of 1856, and endeavoured, in a practical form, to set up the wise doctrine that the disputes of States ought to be referred to some competent tribunal for settlement. But we did not obtain a hearing. After the war broke out many questions still arose—scarcely a week or a fortnight, indeed, passed without them—upon which we 112 had to consider nice matters for intervention,—I mean intervention by request or expostulation. I need hardly say that all we have done has been done with a perfect and absolute impartiality. The first appeal addressed to us in the course of the war was made by Germany with a view to induce us to favour to the utmost of our power arrangements, not perhaps strictly justifiable upon the bare ground of neutral obligation, for the transit of wounded soldiers through the territory of Luxemburg. Of course we could do nothing to extend unduly the rights of neutrals or disparage their obligations. This was an appeal in the name of humanity, and therefore we ourselves waived every objection to the transit of the wounded, and did all we could to recommend the adoption of a similar course to other Powers. It was declined at the time; but such has been the force of circumstances, and the overpowering necessity arising during the gigantic operations of the war, that, from what I have read in public journals, that has been done in the interests of Germany and France for which we tried to procure a sanction at the earliest period, and soldiers wounded in action have been transported across neutral territory. As has been stated in the Speech, we have endeavoured to bring the parties together. I shall not dwell on the efforts which we made to bring about the conferences which resulted in the meeting between Count Bismarck and M. Jules Favre, or that which was held with M. Thiers. We did, perhaps, stretch a point, but in language so respectful that no objection could be taken, in expressing an earnest desire—thus only making ourselves the mouthpiece of universal humanity—that the extreme measure of bombardment should not be had recourse to against a magnificent and beautiful city. And, perhaps, when we take into account the great severity by which the war has been characterized, we have less to lament with respect to this point than with regard to many other subjects, notwithstanding that a great deal of alarm and exasperation was created. We ventured, I may add, to favour, so far as we might in friendly communication with the Government of Defence in France, those plans for calling together an Assembly fully authorized to represent the nation, which are only now about to reach their con- 113 summation. We ventured to point out that little good was likely to arise from the multiplication of abstract declarations with reference to the terms of peace, as they would probably operate rather in the way of obstacle than the contrary. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) endeavoured, with the utmost persistence, to cause that France should be represented in the Conference which is now sitting in London, and it is matter of great regret to us that this endeavour has failed; and lastly, perhaps, I may say in regard to political measures, we ventured to suggest to the Government of Germany that it would be conducive to the general welfare if they found themselves in a condition to make known to the world what were the terms of peace which they deemed to be required, having regard to the honour and safety of their country. There remains but one other measure which we have taken, in which we, perhaps, have assumed a responsibility that may render it necessary that we should come to Parliament to give it its final authority. I do not know how that may be; but we were of opinion that we should be giving effect to the feeling of this country and performing a duty if, at a critical moment, when we were just told that in Paris there was danger of extensive famine from the absolute want of food, we offered to place at the disposal of the two Governments on their joint representation, for the purpose of immediate relief, whatever stores we had in the victualling yards of the country. It was not our fault—it was, I believe, the fault of no one—but I have to regret sincerely that it was only last night we received anything which we could consider as a joint answer to our offer, and when I inform the House of this circumstance, it will not, I think, be regarded as discreditable to the condition of the public Departments that, as I understand, three vessels took their departure for France with provisions in the middle of the day. I may add that it is our duty and desire to continue to act in a similar spirit. It is impossible to divest ourselves of the deepest interest in the events which are now going on on the Continent, and, independently of the measures to which I have specially referred, we have carefully reserved to ourselves all along full liberty of action. We have at no time subscribed to the 114 doctrine that a war between two belligerents is the concern of those two belligerents exclusively. It is, no doubt, their concern in the first instance, and, with respect to it, they have a primary authority; but the effects of such a war are not and cannot be confined to them. The time may come—I do not not say it will come; I hope it may not come—when the need may exist for some expression of the general sentiment of the neutral Powers on questions which may become of deep practical issue. If that need does arise, I feel perfectly satisfied that such an expression of neutral opinion, apart from all imputations of selfish interest, in claiming for itself only to be the living utterance of the voice of civilized mankind, would have a genial, kindly, and beneficial influence in bringing about the realization of a satisfactory settlement between the contending parties. And I am sure that, although the right hon. Gentleman opposite and myself have broken lances to-night across this Table, he will agree with me that there is no reason why all parties in this House, and in the House of Lords, should not unite in supporting the Government in any measure they may take with the view of preventing human suffering in this formidable war.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I desire, before this debate closes, to say a few words with reference to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I do not believe that there is reason for the abject alarm on account of the interests of this country which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed, although, on account of the critical state of affairs upon the Continent, I believe that there is reason for prompt exertion. The right hon. Gentleman congratulated the Prime Minister on his triumph in the disestablishment of the Irish Church. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite should express their satisfaction at finding that, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, there is to be no opposition from the Conservative party, as a party, to the adoption of the measures which they advocate. I suppose that this will be likewise the case with respect to the abolition of the University Tests and the Ballot, which were honestly advocated by the Seconder of the Address, the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. 115 Morley), especially the abolition of the tests in the Universities, which the hon. Member advocated in the sense of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall.) Now, I know that I speak not only the opinions of my own constituents, but those of thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—of educated men, when I object to these measures on constitutional grounds; while, as regards these measures, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire at once accepts in principle the programme of the Government and of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Such conduct on the part of the right hon. Gentleman—and he spoke emphatically as the organ of the Conservative party in this House—such conduct is destructive of the Conservative party in the country, for the right hon. Gentleman declared his full acceptance not only of the commercial policy called free trade, which had its source among hon. Gentlemen opposite, but, further, his full acceptance of the doctrine of religious equality, as held by hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House. I believe, Sir, that it is advantageous to the constitution of this country, and for the conduct of business in this House, that there should be two parties—one supporting the Government, the others represented by the Opposition in this House—so long as there is in this country an honest and distinct difference of opinion on general politics. I, therefore, deprecate the announcement of submission on the questions of internal policy, to which I have alluded, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire; such conduct on his part is destructive of the Conservative party. Allusion has been made to the letter, written by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, promising the support of the Government to the spiritual authority of the Pope. I understand that a Notice has been given by some hon. Member on this subject. I am glad of this, and that we shall have a specific discussion of this subject. It does seem to me lamentable and inconsistent with the views upon which many hon. Gentlemen opposite supported the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland, that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister should attempt to establish the spiritual authority of the Pope everywhere, and in Ireland especially, after he has done 116 all he can to disestablish the spiritual authority of the Protestant Church in Ireland. I was unwilling, Sir, that this debate should close without my entering this emphatic protest against the abandonment of principles to which I have been long attached.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that the following passage with reference to the Army appeared in Her Majesty's Speech:—The lessons of military experience afforded by the present war have been numerous and important. The time appears appropriate for turning such lessons to account.But he looked in vain to find any allusion to the confusion which existed at present in the administration of the Admiralty, or to the enormous deficiencies in the material of our naval force, in the number and quality of our vessels, and in the men required for the defence of the country. As his noble Friend the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) had given Notice that he would early in March call attention to the loss of Her Majesty's ship Captain, he would only say now that it was a very extraordinary thing that the confusion which existed at the Admiralty—the First Lord being absent for the sake of his health, and there being no one in his place—should not have been alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. JOHN HAMILTON, Mr. MORLEY, Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, Mr. Secretary CARDWELL, Mr. GOSCHEN, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Mr. AYRTON, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. STANSFELD, Viscount ENFIELD, Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Mr. MONSELL, The JODGE ADVOCATE, Mr. GLYN, and Mr. ADAM, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.