§ Report of Address brought up, and read.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
desired to call attention to one point which had been omitted from the most able and interesting speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire in the course of the debate so abruptly terminated yesterday. He alluded to the subject referred to by Her Majesty when She expressed a hope that the armisticeMay result in a Peace compatible, for the two great and brave nations involved, with security and with honour, and likely therefore to command the approval of Europe, and to give reasonable hopes of a long duration.He wished in the first place to ask for some explanation from Her Majesty's Government as to the course they intended to adopt in regard to the impending negotiations. Unfortunately, a very general feeling of dissatisfaction prevailed throughout the country at the want of sympathy shown by Her Majesty's Government in respect of the great misfortune of our old friends and allies. ["No, no!"] That was a prevalent opinion, and it was justified by some of the expressions used by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench in addressing their constituents. Of 126 course he did not allude to the Prime Minister, who had not had an opportunity of visiting his constituents; but he had been surprised and grieved to see the spirit of exultation at the misfortunes of France, and the want of sympathy with the people of that unhappy country, exhibited in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in his speech at Paisley. ["No, no!"] Those who would refer to the right hon. Gentleman's speech would find that he exulted over the calamities of France, because, he said, the result would be a greater confidence in England, because France in her prostrate condition would be less able to trouble this country. He was not quoting the right hon. Gentleman's precise words, but that was the tendency of his remarks. Now, he was quite ready to admit that while the war continued, whatever might be the feelings and sympathies of Her Majesty's Government, it was very difficult for them to interfere; in the first place, because, in the state of our naval and military preparations, our interference would not have been attended with much result. But now that the war had terminated, or was at least suspended, and the period for negotiations was at hand, the position of Her Majesty's Government had entirely changed, and he wished to urge upon them the necessity of attaching due importance to those negotiations. It could not be supposed that this country was uninterested in the new settlement of the map of Europe. In that very able article in a celebrated review which had become famous from having been attributed to a most important personage, and which might be described as "the happy-England and silver-streak article," there was a very strong passage as to the result of German unity as affecting Russia, Turkey, and the great Slavonian races. That showed that whoever wrote that article felt the importance of the reconstruction of the map of Europe in its bearing upon the interests of Europe. He hoped, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would state to the House their views with respect to some of the rumours current as to the probable terms of peace. M. Prevost-Paradol—alas! now no more—when German unity was mooted in 1866, referring to what compensation France could have for that change, said there was but one course that France 127 could take, and that was to fight, sword in hand, against German unity to the last gasp. He maintained, therefore, that they were now at the turning point of that momentous controversy, and that the greatest responsibility would rest upon Her Majesty's Government—perhaps within the next few days—if the terms of peace entered into were not those which would really give security to Europe. Some persons said that, however powerful Prussia might become, she would never do us any harm; but these tremendous changes must seriously affect the whole Continent. It was after the capitulation of Sedan that they had the Russian Note repudiating the Treaty of 1856; they had also seen mooted in a German paper the notion of the annexation of Denmark to Germany; and he should not be surprised if, in the course of time, the annexation of Belgium should likewise be suggested. Before the House, therefore, came to any question as to our armaments, they ought first to consider whether or not in future we were to maintain our treaty obligations. For himself, he felt much disheartened by what fell from the Prime Minister last night in speaking of that most important Treaty which it cost this country so much blood and treasure to secure—the Treaty of Paris of 1856. He was perfectly astonished to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that from the first, and as far back as 1855, he had always thought the clause of that Treaty preventing Russia from having a fleet in the Black Sea was unjust. ["No!"] Well, he had so understood the right hon. Gentleman, who also said that Lord Palmerston and Lord Clarendon were tinder the same impression. ["No!"] He should be glad to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of correcting him. The right hon. Gentleman went on to state that Austria and other signataries of the Treaty had evinced a disposition to recede from that condition. If that was really so, how was it that when the Russian Note appeared it created panic and consternation in every body's mind? And why did Lord Granville write that very able and spirited despatch, which was quite unmeaning if — as he understood from the Prime Minister's speech—they intended to give up that most important and vital part of the Treaty? What were the real facts of the case? So important was that 128 clause of the Treaty that in 1855 the Conference of Vienna was broken up on that very point. In February there was an armistice; and for 11 months this country went on expending its blood and treasure in the Crimea for that very point and no other. Were they to be told, then, 14 years afterwards, that the matter was wholly unimportant and indifferent to this country? Having himself had some communication with St. Petersburg, he was led to believe that if our Government had only stuck to Lord Granville's despatch and insisted on the withdrawal of the Russian Note, that Note would have been withdrawn. But the moment they talked of a Conference it was known that the result would be what the right hon. Gentleman indicated last night—namely, that they were going to give up everything for which they had made such costly sacrifices. What confidence, then, was to be placed in treaty obligations? If the solemn stipulations regarding the neutralization of the Black Sea were to be set aside, how was anybody to feel certain that existing treaty obligations in respect to Belgium or other States would not be given up also? Before considering the question of armaments, then, it was most important to decide what they wanted to have armaments for—whether they meant to uphold the faith of treaties, or whether they would confine their policy merely to the defence of these islands, shutting themselves up in insular selfishness, not even caring for their own Colonies, and taking no interest whatever in events passing on the other side of the "silver streak of sea." If they were, indeed, to adopt a policy of isolation, then they would not require to increase their armaments. And here he could not help remarking on the inconsistency of the Government. If they thought the country now was really as safe as it was before the war, and that there was no danger, why did they propose to strengthen their defensive establishments? If they did not intend in future to take any interest in foreign affairs, he was at a loss to understand why they were going to add to the Army at all. But, on the other hand, he felt sure that if they intended to maintain the dignity of the country in the face of the world and to play their part in the affairs of Europe, they did require a greater force than they now possessed. 129 But they also required that the Government should have a distinct, clear, and avowed policy—that it should tell Europe plainly what it intended to do, and, having thus declared its intention, should firmly adhere to it. Unless this country was prepared to maintain its position in the face of Europe it would sink into a third or fourth-rate Power. In his opinion the Government were bound to declare to the House the course of policy they intended to pursue with reference to the approaching negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman would, in all probability, urge the necessity of waiting before such a declaration should be made. But the House had waited. They waited last Session for such a declaration, and it was the opinion of many eminent politicians that if the House of Commons had been allowed to speak out frankly last Session on the subject the war would have been prevented altogether. Such a declaration of opinion on the part of that House would have greatly influenced the mind of the then Emperor of the French, who, he must say, had been most ungenerously treated by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and his Friends. If the right hon. Gentleman did not choose to go to his constituents he had had ample opportunity at the Mansion House and elsewhere to express sympathy with the misfortunes of an ancient and a faithful ally. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had not thought fit to adopt such a course. The present condition of affairs was unsatisfactory, but something, at least, would have been achieved if the right hon. Gentleman could be induced to make a declaration to the House such as he asked for.
said, he had not intended to take part in this debate, which appeared to be a continuance of the discussion which occurred last evening. It was to be regretted that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had not taken the opportunity of making his statement last night, when the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was fresh in the memory of all. He took the liberty of asking the hon. Member upon what grounds he formed his estimate of the opinion of the country with reference to the policy that had been pursued by the Government in relation to foreign affairs. Had the hon. Member attended one public 130 meeting where a thousand persons fairly called together had been present, in which he had been able to carry a resolution supporting the opinions which he had expressed to the House that night? He himself (Mr. Gilpin) had been present at four or five meetings within the last few months, at which the assembled thousands of working men had unanimously passed resolutions in favour of the policy of the Government. He joined issue with the hon. Member when he said that Her Majesty's Government—of whom the hon. Member was not more independent than himself — had been charged by the public with indifference or supineness with respect to the sufferings endured on the other side of the Channel. The hon. Member spoke of the indifference with which the Government had regarded the violation of treaties by certain Continental Powers, and yet in the same breath he blamed them for not taking steps to express sympathy with the misfortunes of a ruler for the expulsion of whose dynasty from the throne of France this country had engaged in the war that terminated in 1815, it being one of the stipulations of the Treaty entered into in that year that no Napoleon should ever sit upon the throne of France. It was extraordinary that the hon. Member should overlook the fact that that Treaty had been torn into shreds, while he expressed such unbounded surprise that another Treaty had been disregarded. The hon. Member had told the House that he had received communications from St. Petersburg. Perhaps the senders of those communications had mistaken the address of the Foreign Office. He had himself not had the advantage of receiving such private communications; but judging from the public communications from St. Petersburg, and from all he was able to learn from the Press of the different countries of Europe, he believed that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter had not only received the sanction of the people of those countries, but had met with the approval of even the parties directly concerned. The hon. Member opposite had referred to the subject of the increase in our armaments—a subject which would be brought under the consideration of the House before long, and had remarked that such increase would not be necessary if we intended to be selfish, 131 and to rely for our security upon the silver streak of sea. They had been justly told the Government did not pursue so selfish a policy; but on behalf of thousands, he (Mr. Gilpin) wished to state that he would be content with an increase of our armaments only on the condition that there was no increase in the expenditure upon those forces. Could our armaments be rendered more efficient at their present cost the country would approve of changes by which such a result might be obtained; but if the Government meant that they were going to have armaments that should entitle this country to meddle in foreign quarrels, and to dictate to a country whether it should constitute itself a Republic, or should accept such and such a king, let this country be ever so rich, it would, be unable to keep up the armaments necessary for that purpose. And he wished to say further, that if this Parliament separated without doing very much more than provide for an increase in our armaments, the country would be greatly dissatisfied. The people required large social reforms, and they believed that it was the intention, of the Government to effect them. The true way to secure the country was to govern it justly, and to cause the incidence of taxation to be revised, and the taxation itself lightened as much as possible. They wanted measures to make the working men better and happier. Improve the position of the working man as much as possible, and no increase of an outside army would be required to defend the hearths and homes that would be so dear to all.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he rose to express the regret not only of himself, but of a large number of people out-of-doors, that Her Majesty's Government had not seen fit to give a greater prominence to the Licensing question. He had no intention of underrating the importance to a large section of the community of the changes proposed to be effected by the various measures about to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. But the Bill to which he should have wished greater prominence given affected the home of every poor man in the kingdom. The little he had done in that direction had been done with the view of pointing the road for the Government to follow, and from the promises held out last Session, and held out to the country during the last 132 few months, he believed the Government really meant to deal with the question. In the course of the past Session, and during the last few months, promises had been given by the Government that this subject would be dealt with. He regretted, to find that the answer the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had given to a Question put to him that evening was very similar to one he had given last Session on the same subject. A Licensing Bill had been mentioned in the Queen's Speech of last year, and hon. Members had been told that such a measure would be brought in as soon as Her Majesty's Government could see their way to its being debated. But the end of the Session arrived without such, a Bill being even laid upon the Table, and he was afraid that the matter would be shelved in a similar manner during the present Session. He trusted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would give him an assurance that such a measure would be brought in shortly. Although the question did not bear a very attractive title, still it was one that deeply affected a very large section of the community.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, he did not rise to censure the past policy of the Government, because he did not regard the present as a very happy or convenient moment for discussing foreign affairs; but to remind the House that the speech of the First Minister of the Crown had raised the suspicion that a new line of policy was about to be adopted, and that they had a right to demand from the right hon. Gentleman a clear, plain, and straightforward declaration as to what shape that policy would take. As far as he could gather from the right hon. Gentleman's observations, he appeared to think it very doubtful whether there were any treaties in existence binding in any way on the honour of England. Certainly, the whole tenour of the right hon. Gentleman's speech had led him to imagine that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to abandon the treaty neutralizing the Black Sea. The question involved was most important one. It certainly seemed to him that if we abandoned one treaty, a reason would be supplied by that course for declining to maintain any treaty to which we might be a party. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. 133 Gilpin) had rather supported the same view by instancing the case of the Napoleonic dynasty. No doubt this country was as much pledged to the prevention of that dynasty from being placed on the throne of France as it was pledged to any other undertaking that we had ever given. At the same time, he perfectly agreed with the statement of a great man, that treaties were not made to last for ever. But then it might fairly be asked what was to be the limit in regard to the binding force of treaties? If England must merely look on, then the smaller the army, the fewer the ships and soldiers, and the less expenditure we had the better; but if it was our duty to maintain the honour of England, in regard to her word and signature attached to treaties with foreign Powers, then it seemed to him that the amount and burden of the guarantee we had given should be determined early in the Session, and before the House proceeded to consider the Army and Navy Estimates. It was, therefore, of the highest importance that the Government should give an answer to the House on this point as early as possible. He concurred in the sentiment uttered by the hon. Member for Northampton, that the great strength of England would consist in social reform; and he likewise supported the hon. Member's opinion that the burdens of the country should be fairly imposed. He hoped that when his hon. Friend and Colleague (Sir Massey Lopes) brought forward the question of local taxation, and of the injustice inflicted upon the landed interest and the tenant-farmers, the House would find the hon. Member for Northampton supporting his hon. Friend not only by the ability of his speech, but by his efficient assistance in Committee.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he concurred with the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) in the hope that the Government would bring forward some clear and definite measure respecting the Licensing question. There was no question which so strongly excited the attention of all classes in this country, and particularly of the working classes. Many had pledged themselves to a measure of this nature, and if it were not brought forward he felt they would have broken their pledges.
said, he did not know that any stronger pledge upon the subject could be given than that which was given in the announcement in the Speech from the Throne. It was well known that the Licensing Bill was one of the measures which could not be carried in the preceding Session on account of the want of time. The reputation of the Government was dear to them, and the mention of the subject for a second time in the Queen's Speech seemed to him a sufficient guarantee that it was the intention of the Government to deal with the subject. For his own part, he believed that no measure, not even the most important of those passed during the preceding Session, excited deeper interest among the people of this country than any that might be considered for the suppression of drunkenness. The working classes felt that it was a question which affected themselves as a particular portion of the community, on account of the special temptations to which they were, perhaps, more immediately subjected than was any other class. At the same time, the Government must be allowed to choose the period of the Session when, in their judgment, measures should be brought forward. He was not aware of any advantage that could accrue from fixing an early day for the consideration of so important a question; and he thought it was to put a somewhat hard and harsh interpretation upon the declared intention of the Government for hon. Members to demand at so early a period of the Session that a day should at once be named by the Government when they intended to bring forward any particular measure. No hon. Member would question the importance of the Education Bill, yet that measure was not brought forward until a later period of last Session. There were several other important measures to be brought forward, in regard to which a strong feeling prevailed among a large class of the population. One of these was the Regulation of Mines Bill, on which depended the improvement of the present condition of that important industry, the pursuit of which imperilled so many lives. He had received a communication on this question from the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), to whom he now repeated the assurance he had already given to the noble Lord in private, that 135 the Government would exert every effort in order to carry that measure through at the earliest possible period consistent with just claims from other quarters. Having said so much he must now notice a statement made elsewhere by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), who had imputed to him (Mr. Bruce) language he had never used, inasmuch as the hon. Gentleman represented that, while addressing his constituency, he exulted over the misfortunes of France. He (Mr. Bruce) now assured the House that nothing could be further from his mind than the expression of a sentiment of exultation at the misfortunes of any country. In the middle of September last, when heated discussions took place about the necessity of increasing our armaments, the question was raised whether it was not the duty of the Government to call Parliament together to deliberate upon that particular question, and he uttered what appeared to him a very obvious and by no means original observation, that this country was under no pressing danger justifying immediate anxiety or alarm. He said there was but one country which had possessed that rare combination of naval and military power which could excite reasonable fears; that Russia, however powerful by land, was weak at sea; and, unfortunately for France, the fate of war had been so adverse to her that for some time to come no danger could be apprehended from her. In brief, the statement he made was based upon the most evident facts, and in making it, nothing was farther from his intention than to exult over the fate of a country with which he had felt our own ties were so strong and close. With respect to the challenge thrown out by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) that the Government should give an expression of their policy with regard to the discussions likely to arise between France and Germany relating to the question of peace, he believed that the hon. Gentleman would act more judiciously in not pressing his demand until we heard what were to be the terms of peace. It was not for the Government of this country to declare either for France or for Germany what they considered those terms should be. When those terms were declared it would be time enough to express an opinion on the question. He could conceive nothing 136 more injurious to the interests of Great Britain than for its Government to take any step which would have even an appearance of a desire to dictate to either party what terms they should offer or what they should accept.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was quite ready to give the Government credit for their intention to bring forward a Licensing measure; but the House must remember that the question ought properly to have been introduced last Session, and the Government must be judged, not so much by their words as by their deeds. With regard to the feeling throughout the country on this subject, there was an impression, and he thought a growing impression, that the Government had not yet made up their minds as to the principle on which the proposed measure ought to be framed. It was certainly the feeling of various deputations which waited upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the course of the last Session, that the Government had more than once changed their minds in regard to the principle upon which they should frame the Bill, and it would doubtless be a great disappointment to the country at large to hear that the whole of the Recess had practically been wasted, and that the period was still indefinite when the Government would be able to bring the measure before the House, he would venture to suggest that the Government might lay the Bill on the Table of the House, if not in a week or two, at least at a very early period, so that the country might at least know that a principle had at last been agreed upon, and might have an ample opportunity of discussing the principle of the measure, and making up its mind as to whether it was one it might accept.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he must express his regret that a day had not been named for the introduction of the measure; but he was very far from wishing to condemn the Government without seeing the Bill it was intended to bring forward. No time should be lost by the Government in declaring the principle of the Bill, so that they might know what they were to expect. Nobody felt more dissatisfied than he last Session with reference to the conduct of Government with regard to home affairs. He regretted, for instance, that the licensing Bill was not brought forward, and that 137 the Ballot was shelved. But he felt he would be doing wrong not to approve the foreign policy of the Government; and he only hoped they would strictly adhere to that policy, and continue to resist the clamour of what might, without speaking disrespectfully, be called the war party in that House. It appeared to him there was never a moment in the lifetime of this generation when there was less necessity to strengthen and increase our armaments. We had always heard that our large forces were necessary because of the ambition of France. But the French were now in a position which rendered them unable to strike a blow at us for many years to come. Were we then to be in fear of the Prussians, who conquered the French? Prussia, after the late expenditure of blood and money, was in a less formidable condition than before. And what was the reason of the misery of these two countries? He maintained that it arose entirely from the "bloated armaments" which, they had of late years kept on foot, and that it would have been much better for both if all the money which they had for years past expended in preparing for war had been cast into the sea. He could not help thinking that if we in this island of ours could not place ourselves in a fit state of defence on an expenditure of £25,000,000 a year, there must be something radically wrong in the system which we pursued. Formerly it was said the country would be fully protected if the Militia were formed. We got the Militia. Then it was urged that we must have Volunteers. And now that we had the Volunteers they were said to be worth nothing at all. If what Her Majesty's Government proposed to do was to secure increased efficiency with our present expenditure, the Government would have every support from Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House; but they would find objections equally strong to the expenditure of a single penny in the increase of fresh armaments. Of course our present expenditure would not satisfy many people, any more than had the amount which we had expended upon fortifications. He had been led to make these remarks from his great anxiety to see the Government carry out those measures which they had announced for reform in our home affairs He trusted they would go on with the 138 measures which they had promised, and carry out the war which they had hitherto waged against pauperism, vice, and immorality, enemies in our very midst; and if they did this and pursued a course of honest and sensible home reform, they would, he believed, while finding the power of the Government consolidated, at the same time earn the gratitude of he country at large.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he was sorry to hear his hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) charge hon. Gentlemen who were sensitive for the honour and zealous for the dignity of the country with being desirous of plunging England into war. He had heard such insinuations out-of-doors, but had always disregarded them as palpably unjust. For himself, and all whose sympathies he shared, he roust repudiate and repel them as wholly undeserved. They were not there to incite to war, but to expostulate against exorbitant and oppressive terms of peace—terms which they sincerely believed it was not for the true and lasting good of the people of Germany that their Sovereign should exact. For the many years during which he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had steadily opposed an excessive expenditure and wanton intermeddling with foreign affairs; but he was, nevertheless, as desirous as any hon. Member could be that the honour and dignity of this country should be maintained. The Queen had reminded the House that but a few days had elapsed since a most destructive and desolating war had ceased to rage, and that only a few days might possibly elapse before its ravages might recommence. These were terrible words from the gracious lips of Royalty; but not more terrible than true. On ordinary occasions the Speech from the Throne, which was but the programme of the Minister for the Session, was met by that House with political politeness. But this was the longest and most pregnant Speech which had for a long time been delivered from the Throne. Her Majesty had in that Speech expressed her desire to take counsel of her Commons and Peers — not for peace alone and not solely for settlement of home questions. Events had occurred during the last six months such as had not happened during the lifetime of the oldest Member of that House; they 139 had witnessed a war which he could compare, as far as his limited reading went, to nothing since the times of Attila and Ghengis Khan. They had seen the fairest portion of Christendom laid waste, villages burnt, open towns bombarded, and city after city laid under ruinous requisition; the youth of the country had been decimated, old age and infancy driven to seek shelter in the open fields, the wounded left uncared for in the open amid frost and snow, and unoffending families, who had not fled in time, destroyed as they lay in their beds. To end such guilt and misery, France had said—"Take all the money we have, and go;" but the victors wanted more than money. They wanted the humiliation, abasement, and utter prostration of France. They would not say definitely what the terms were to be; but he (Mr. Torrens) and those who thought with him, felt that it was the duty of the neutral States, and of England, especially, as the chief of those States, to interplead while there was time in favour of moderate and reasonable terms, and to say aloud that, for the sake of Europe, France ought not to be thus cruelly and utterly undone. Yet the Home Secretary told the House that they had better wait before giving an opinion, and learn what terms the conqueror might think fit to impose. They had better wait till the promised Papers were on the Table in order that they might see what Ministers had done during the Recess, and to understand their reasons for what they had left undone. It was, indeed, quite true that, before making up their minds regarding the conduct of Ministers, the House could afford to wait, but France could not wait—she was in jeopardy every hour. He held in his hand a letter from a French gentleman, whom he had never seen. He would not mention the name of the writer, although he had no objection to furnish it privately to any hon. Member who might desire it. The writer was, however, a distinguished man, who had held Office under more than one Administration, and was a member of the new National Assembly. Without uttering a single word or reproach against England, his correspondent, writing on the 31st of January, said—If the Neutral Powers intend to show any desire to act it must be in the interval between the Armistice and the meeting of the Assembly. 140 If the English people desire an end of the war and a cessation of William's massacres, let them press with their whole weight, that reasonable terms may be made. Prussia asks securities. The neutralization of a strip of frontier territory would meet the case. The peace of Europe would thus be guaranteed, and wars become more difficult.What did they ask for? Sacrifice from Germany, or favour for France? Nothing of the kind. They asked for no more than moderation, reason, and justice.—Justice [said Mr. Burke] is the standing policy of great and free States, and any eminent departure from it lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.We should be forsaking and forgetting the highest sanctions and duties of international justice if we did not do all in our power at a crisis like the present to prevent the imposition on disarmed France of extortionate and intolerable terms. The original cause of war—who was right and who was wrong — was not now the question. The question now was as to European peace. He pleaded for France, not for the sake of France herself, but for the sake of England, and for the sake of Western Europe. So far from believing, with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin), that the people of this country were satisfied with the policy of isolation, which was repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown last evening, he felt convinced that the country at large was anxiously waiting to learn what the Government intended to do. He would ask his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) what man in his senses, were he Conservative, Radical, or Whig, would do anything to deserve the imputation of wishing to plunge his country into war, and venture to appear before a constituency with any hope of success, seeing how largely the constituencies of hon. Members were dependent for their daily bread upon the prosperity of the trade and industry which war so seriously impaired? It was for the Government to defend their own reputation, and when the time arrived the conduct of the Government would no doubt be discussed; but they had also a duty to discharge, and they should not feel that that duty had been discharged towards either the country or the Crown if they passed a colourless Address, which might be suitable enough for ordinary occa- 141 sions, and did not tell Her Majesty what was the earnest and heartfelt wish of all classes in this country — that everything should be done in our power to give France a fair chance to live, as we should like ourselves to be let live. He maintained that if we did not do this we should not be doing our duty as a great nation, and we should probably have to pay dearly for it hereafter. He would wish to refer for a moment to the question of indemnity. His hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said that France had paid very dearly in blood and treasure, but so had Prussia. Yes, but Prussia intended to get back the money. It was not the blood that she intended to get back—that was like water spilt in the sand, and could not be recovered. When the House parted last autumn the war was beginning, and we had then the word of a King, which used to be a solemn thing, that the war was not against France, but against the French Emperor and the army. That war went on for three months, and during all that time he asked any hon. Gentleman to say whether a single voice was raised by anyone of weight or influence in this country asking the Government to interpose? Not one. When, at the end of that time, the Emperor, two of his armies, and his greatest fortresses were in the hands of the enemy, then a change came over the spirit of our people. From that day a deeper feeling in favour of France had become perceptible; the people thought that the war ought to be ended, and from that day they were anxious to know what ought to be done. If not after Sedan, at least after Metz it was time for the war to have ended. The doctrine he was prepared to hold was that there and then the war did end, that a new war was begun against France and her people—a war of vengeance, a war of devastation, and a war of conquest. They had heard the First Minister of the Crown last night say in cautious and measured terms that the representations made by this country and other Powers against the threatened bombardment of Paris might at least be looked back upon with peculiar satisfaction by those who had made those representations. That was a diplomatic way of saying a great deal, and he (Mr. W. M. Torrens) was delighted to think that we had the least share whatever in saving for a time that multitudinous and beautiful city from what would be the 142 disgrace of the age. But there was an expression used by the First Minister which he hoped he might say he had misunderstood. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to convey—he fully believed without intending it—that we, by our representations, had obtained from the King of Prussia in the first instance the withdrawal of the candidature of the Prince of Hohenzollern. As a matter of history, he believed nothing was more demonstrable than that the withdrawal of the candidature by the King of Prussia never took place and we had certainly no partin obtainingit. He had been favoured with a perusal of the telegram sent by M. Benedetti to his Government on the 13th of July, giving an account of his final interview with King William—I observed to His Majesty that the resignation of the Prince of Hohenzollern, approved by him, was a guarantee for the present, but it appeared necessary to insure for the future, perfect and mutual confidence, and for this purpose I hoped the King would allow me to inform you in his name that if the Prince changed his mind he would interpose to prevent it. The King absolutely refused, saying that he could not and would not make such an engagement, and that he must for this and every other eventuality preserve the liberty of consulting circumstances.He (Mr. W. M. Torrens) had gone carefully over all the documents, and he was prepared to assert that not only was the first intimation of the withdrawal made by the French Ambassador to the King of Prussia, but that on the following day, when the King became aware that the information was correct, he sent an aide-de-camp to Count Benedetti with the spontaneous declaration that for the future he reserved his liberty of action in the event of the Prince changing his mind. If that were so, it was obvious that France was not so inexcusable as had been supposed, for it should be remembered that the candidature of the Prince was not spoken of then for the first time. The Journal Officiel of 30th March, 1869, contained a despatch in which the Government of Berlin, when expostulated with, had renounced their designs on the throne of Spain. Well, then, the candidature having been first tried in 1869 and disclaimed, it was revived in 1870. Baron de Thile, when called on for explanations, declared that the Cabinet of Berlin knew nothing of it, and referred the French Chargé d' Affaires to the King as the head of the Royal Family, whom it alone concerned; but, as head of the 143 family, the King, when appealed to, absolutely refused to bid the Prince withdraw, or to repudiate his candidature. His retirement for the time being was compassed wholly by other means, and the Spanish Ambassador at Paris was the first to make known the fact to the Due de Gramont. What security then had France that a design thus twice furtively planned, would not be attempted a third time? If that were so, then the advice of Her Majesty's Ministers, though sound and good, had been ineffectual. Then he would, ask the House to refer to the position in which we stood when we gave that advice on the occasion when Lord Granville wrote to Lord Augustus Loftus, directing him to throw all the weight of this country into the scale to induce Prussia to withdraw. Let the House now endeavour to put itself into that position, and try to apprehend what the Queen in her Speech from the Throne told them She apprehended—namely, that a third war would break out unless wisdom and forethought were exercised betimes on the part of those concerned. What he contended for was that England was deeply concerned; because he did not believe any peace worth talking of if it were an extortionate peace as regarded money, a partitioning peace as regarded territory, or a humiliating peace as regarded honour. He was told that the extravagant sum of 10 milliards stated as an idemnity was but a fable, and that four milliards was nearer the truth. He was speaking in the presence of men capable of judging as to the rate at which even such a sum could be raised either in London, Amsterdam, or Frankfort, and he asked what would be the amount of the interest on that sum which would assuredly be for many years an impayable debt? And what was an impayable debt when due to a foreign conqueror but a tribute imposed by one nation on another? The power to impose such a tribute was the very definition of conquest. We could not tell what the conqueror might ask; but he hoped that the House would press upon the Government its earnest desire that on behalf of the peace of Europe and the weal of England they should make such representations as would show in a legitimate way that they were opposed to extortion. Mr. Grattan, speaking of another conqueror, said— 144Ambition is omnivorous; it feeds on famine, and sheds seas of blood: ready to risk being starred in ice if it can steal empire from desolation.France had been made desolate, and Germany had been made an empire. The past was irrevocable; but the present and the future were still in our hands. The spectacle now exhibited in France was an ominous lesson to Europe and to the rest of the world; and if we in our power, who were said to be the freest, richest, and greatest country on earth, showed any hesitation in taking a bold and manly course, the nations of Western Europe would view their position with despair—they would feel that they might be dealt with in our time as Macedon dealt with the smaller states of Greece, as Poland in the last century, as Denmark in our own day had been dealt with, because we had not the wit, the wisdom, and the worth to do unto others as we would that others should do unto us.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that the appeal of the hon. Member who had just spoken to hon. Gentlemen opposite meant, if it meant anything, that the Government should intervene in such a way as to make our power and influence felt in the determination of the terms of peace. The hon. Gentleman had said that England's power ought to be brought to bear. ["Hear, hear!"] What did that mean, and what did hon. Gentlemen opposite mean by those cheers? Were they prepared to say to Prussia—"If you do not come to such and such terms with France we will declare war against you?" The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had a sort of hazy idea that we might go to a certain extent and bring a sort of unknown power to bear upon Prussia and France, and that without exerting any physical strength, but merely by the shadow of something behind, we might induce Prussia, conquering and victorious, to submit her judgment to ours. He did not for one moment suppose that she would do so, or that any hon. Member would propose to back up the view of Her Majesty's Government as to the proper terms of peace by an appeal to physical force. The view put forward by the hon. Gentleman, that we ought to constitute ourselves the arbiters of Europe and the protectors of all the other Western Powers, could only be enforced 145 if we had a Government possessing the quality of omniscience, backed up by omnipotence. Now, the fact was that upon the part of our own Government there was no omniscience. He had a very high opinion of the ability and knowledge of the Members of Her Majesty's Government; but he did not attribute either to them, or to any Government which might be formed by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) the possession of omniscience. The history of this country showed that, with the best intentions, gross mistakes had been made by the Government of England in dealing with foreign countries, and that they had calculated upon eventualities which never happened. A system, no doubt, was kept up which was supposed to give us some means of anticipating future events, but experience proved that in this we were continually disappointed. Why, last autumn something like a panic showed itself in the House, and every hon. Member was considering what would follow when the Emperor Napoleon had crushed Prussia and got to Berlin, as it was then believed he might easily do. The Government, even, fell in with that view to some extent, and, yielding to pressure, adopted measures in preparation for an emergency that had never arisen. Something had been said about our military power, and it was implied that if we could once raise a sufficient force there might be some chance of our carrying out a dignified and spirited policy. But was it imagined, after the experience of this war, that we could hope to compete with the great military monarchies of the Continent? Why, the thing was perfectly preposterous. At one time there was a talk of our sending 20,000 men to Antwerp, and £2,000,000 of money were voted in anticipation. But what could 20,000 men have done? Why, in the great battles which had been fought, the belligerents were able to bring something like 1,000,000 men into the field. The true dignity and honour of the country were in no degree affected by our not having interfered in this unfortunate quarrel. They were far better supported by the sympathy and liberality shown towards the suffering people of Paris. He had no wish to isolate this country from considerations affecting the welfare of others, 146 but he certainly wished to withdraw her from interference which proved in no degree advantageous to national interests. After all the blood and treasure which had been spent, could we point to a single treaty or engagement of the slightest value to the people of this country? A vast debt had been contracted in carrying out a spirited policy, and no benefit whatever had been obtained. This ought to be a great warning to Gentlemen upon both sides of this House. For his own part, he should support the course which had been taken by Her Majesty's Government, and he had no doubt their influence would be exerted at the proper time in favour of moderate terms of peace, which in the end would prove most lasting.
§ Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.