§ MR. AUBERON HERBERT
rose to call attention to the Papers relating to the French and German War, and to move a Resolution thereon. The hon. Member said, it was with a feeling of great responsibility he had undertaken the task which was before him. He could have wished that the Motion of which he had given Notice had been in the hands of an hon. Member of greater experience than he possessed, and one whose words would carry far greater weight; for he must confess that, deeply as he felt on this matter, there was something in it rather painful to him, because having carefully read the Papers presented to the House regarding it, he had deeply to regret the tone which pervaded the despatches that had emanated from our Foreign Office during the progress of this long and terrible war. He knew no person in this country who could feel more pain in view of what had passed during the war than his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government; nor could any man feel more desirous than himself that the influence of England should be exerted towards mitigating the sufferings which the war had caused; but the matter was of so great importance, in view of the position which England held in relation to the other European countries, that he should not hesitate to speak freely and openly, and to ask the House to take what he had to say at whatever value might attach to it. The regret which he felt in reading the despatches was occasioned by the perception that the influence of England, which had undoubted weight with other European countries—that the influence of neutral opinion, in fact, had counted for absolutely no 388 thing during the present war. In the course of the war they had seen many things both strange and new. They saw the other day what was called the doctrine of "benevolent neutrality"—a doctrine which did not last long, but was destroyed by a very skilful despatch written by the Foreign Minister of this country, who, in his turn, invented another kind of neutrality, which might be described as a sort of moral neutrality—a variety which he, for one, very much, regretted. It seemed to have been the opinion of our Foreign Office that England was not only to preserve neutrality in regard to the sale of arms, the export of horses, or matters of that kind, but she was bound neither to hold nor to express any opinion whatsoever. It seemed, further, that our Foreign Office had no desire to possess any individuality on the question. He did not know how the despatches had struck other hon. Members; but he had correctly described the impression gathered from a perusal of their colourless pages. From the beginning of the war to the present time there had been a great want of plain powerful speaking on the part of this country. There had been throughout, on the part of the Foreign Office, a distrust of itself, and a determination not to act in concert with other nations. It would be recollected that, at the outset, England was very much grieved and startled to find that the Government of the French Emperor persisted in their demands after the Prince of Hohenzollern had retired from his candidateship for the Spanish throne. It was quite true that at that time Lord Lyons spoke gravely and strongly. It was true, also, that his Lordship's language was approved, and that Lord Granville remonstrated; but he did not think anyone could compare the tone of that remonstrance with the enormous gravity of the circumstances, and without feeling that, considering the tremendous issues then depending, this country failed in its duty both to France and by Germany in not speaking much more plainly and much more strongly. He regretted also to notice that at the same time, and also subsequently, this country refused, when pressed to do so, to act with Italy in taking measures with a view to bring about a reconciliation between the contending nations. Since that time what had been England's course? She had, 389 by reason of her great influence with the other European nations, gathered the neutral Powers into a sort of league, and bound them together under certain conditions. This was a step for taking which Her Majesty's Government deserved the thanks of the country; but, having formed this league, the next step taken by the Government was to reduce it to a state of complete inactivity:—the weapon had been forged but it was allowed to rust useless in our hands. There was not a single act done, not a single word spoken, not a single influence exerted during the existence of that league throughout the whole of the war to bring about a reconciliation between the two belligerents. Yet he could not help feeling that it was a great opportunity—that, if that opportunity had been availed of, out of that league might have grown a new sense of international obligations, that the league so sustained might have been found a great barrier against the violence of nations. He did not introduce his opinion alone. If hon. Members would turn to the last set of Papers presented to the House they would find that Lord Bloomfield thought so too. He wrote in this manner—I hoped all the Powers would act steadily together and hold to their declaration, in which case the neutral party in England would become a powerful one, and have a right to be listened to hereafter.He did not like to quote Russia; but still she had as much insight as any other nation. Very early in the war Prince Gortchakoff wrote to say thatHe hoped Her Majesty's Government would lose no time in making a proposal on the subject to those Powers, and if they accepted it (of which there could be no doubt), the general concert established among them would greatly increase the moral influence which the neutral Powers would be entitled to exercise in any conference which might take place for the restoration of peace.He would not repeat the charge that this country had prevented other countries from taking a more active part in bringing about peace. It might be so, but he would not make that charge. A friend of his the other day, in speaking to him on this matter, said it struck him that we played the part of a "detrimental." He (Mr. Herbert) did not know what a "detrimental" was. A "detrimental," in the language of a well-known journal, was a part played by a man who paid great attention to a young lady, but who had no serious inten- 390 tions, and who thereby discouraged the attentions of others. His hon. Friend's idea was that England had not only failed to play her own part, but that she had prevented others from doing theirs in exerting a useful influence. Without raising that charge, he must express his deep conviction that the other neutrals in Europe would have acted if England would but have taken the lead. No man could have read the Papers that had been laid before the House without being struck with the constant appeals which were made to this country. All that was required was that England should give up the stoical attitude of indifference which she had assumed, and had she done so he believed we should have called a great power into existence for the purpose of reconciliation. He was not talking of war—he was not talking of an armed influence—but he was talking of the influence which such a country as this ought to exert—that of a grave, firm, and unfaltering remonstrance against wrong, against violence, whether on the part of France or on the part of Germany. He would call attention to some of the appeals that were made to this country. They would find that on the 27th of August Italy, for the second time, expressed her desire to act in concert with us. On the 10th of September they would find that M. Tissot was charged to represent to Her Majesty's Government that various Governments sympathized with the desire of France to obtain an honourable peace on the basis of territorial integrity. They would find that Austria hesitated to join the league which was formed simply because she wanted the league to be somewhat stronger in its purpose—she was constantly pleading for stronger action. On the 18th of October, Austria expressed her desire to see Europe recover from the torpor which seemed to beset her, and from the fear of a general convulsion. Austria declared strongly against the single action which we were maintaining; speaking touchingly, she said she could not act singly, but she again and again repeated that she was ready to act with us and for us. In the same way, Italy, on the 21st of October, through the Italian Minister, expressed her belief that the proper time to act had arrived, and proposed—what seemed to be a wise course—that the neutrals 391 should consider and draw up the terms which they thought would be possible, of acceptance. On the 25th of October Austria was again anxious to associate herself with England. In fact, she was ready to support us in whatever course we might initiate; her only anxiety was that that course should be something more than what it was. ["Hear!"] He heard a cheer from some of his hon. Friends, but he thought they could hardly have read the despatches. If they had read them, they would have seen how little it was that Austria was asking for. On the 5th of November again we had an expression of opinion by Austria that England, with Italy, should act together with her; again, on the 12th of December, we found that Austria proposed a united representation in favour of an armistice; and again on the 21st of December we found that she asked for a collective move and a firmer attitude. While Austria and Italy were anxious that the neutral Powers should take up a stronger position together, we constantly found that France was anxious for the same thing, and was pleading for the same thing. On the 10th of September M. Tissot was directed by M. Jules Favre to represent to our Government how great was the value of English co-operation. M. Jules Favre pointed out how much value public opinion in France attached to English co-operation, and how much that public opinion was afflicted at finding that, while her old and faithful ally was deeply suffering, England still hesitated to take any steps towards reconciliation between the belligerents. When M. Thiers came to England he used similar language, when he said, on the 17th of September, that if England would but lead, the other neutrals would follow; and that it would be impossible even for Prussia to withstand the moral influence of this country. Now, what was England's answer to all these appeals? Why, a cold answer of refusal of all concentrated action. He thought he could best express what was the attitude of our Foreign Office by reading an extract from a despatch—Her Majesty's Government have declined to entertain any proposal with the view of localizing the war, or with regard to the eventuality of a combined mediation." [No. 109.]It was not simply their refusal to act in concert with other Powers, but a greater charge that he felt himself 392 bound to bring against the Government—and that was that they had distinctly refused to let this country have any opinion on the matter. Whenever any critical moment had arrived our Foreign Minister found himself seized with an incompetency to form or express any opinion respecting it. On September 12, in the 109th despatch, our Government conveyed an inquiry from the French to the Prussian authorities, taking care to say that they conveyed the message verbatim, and without comment. On the 16th of September Lord Granville refused to give an opinion respecting M. Jules Favre's circular, or any opinion as to the terms of the Armistice. He said he had no desire to give an opinion as to the fairness or the reverse of the proposals, although he had an impression that both parties had been extreme. That was the most the Foreign Office had said in the way of expressing opinion. Considering all the miserable circumstances connected with the war, especially the latter portion of it — that seemed to be very cold charity on the part of our Foreign Office; and it was rendered all the more mortifying, because whilst England refused to have an opinion upon those matters and backed herself out with polite indifference, other nations had had not the same fear. Italy was not afraid to express herself with regard to a cession of territory. She distinctly expressed herself as adverse to a cession of territory. She said she thought the terms of peace might be found in an indemnity and a dismantling of fortresses. On the occasion of the Armistice, too, both Italy and Austria were in favour of allowing Paris to be revictualled. The matter was mortifying, because if the neutrals had expressed themselves strongly about it he believed that peace, which was very nearly achieved once or twice, would have been established. That was not his opinion alone; it was the opinion throughout of the French Representatives. On the 8th of October, in the 195th despatch, Count de Chaudordy expressed the feeling that it was absolutely necessary that a common friend should come forward to find out a basis on which peace could be established. He would venture to support the opinion that it lay upon the neutral nations to make the way smooth and easy for peace by an acknowledgment which was made by France that 393 if a Congress of nations was assembled she might be willing to make much greater sacrifices than she was prepared to make directly to Germany. He would also support it by a very important expression on the part of the French Minister at Florence, who seemed to think that France no longer refused to dismantle the fortresses, but would be willing to accept peace on that condition, and also to pay a heavy indemnity. Now, if that were the temper of the French nation, it seemed to require only strenuous and united action on the part of the neutral Powers to have brought about peace on such a basis. Unfortunately, our Foreign Office had found a formula, and under that formula it persistently shielded itself. The formula was repeated in a great many of those despatches, and ran very nearly in these words—"That it was not desirable to offer mediation unless they had reason to believe it would be acceptable to both parties, and a basis on which both would consent to negotiate." That was the position of our Government—it certainly was not the position of other Governments—and he ventured to think that those Governments were right and that our Government was wrong. It was our duty, not to wait for a basis, but to find one. To wait for a basis was to wait dum defluat amnis—until the whole course of the war had flowed on, and at last one party was so reduced that it would be obliged to accept whatever the other chose to inflict. Was it not so? Had not the course of events shown that it was wrong to wait for a basis? Here we were to-day; battle had succeeded battle and siege had succeeded siege, the war had gone on month after month, but the basis for which we were waiting had never turned up until this last moment, when France lay powerless at the feet of Germany. But he would not be speaking quite truly or justly if he were not to mention one startling exception. If the House turned to the 202nd despatch of the 16th of October they would discover something quite out of keeping with the tenour of all the other despatches in the Blue Book. That was a despatch in which we appealed to Russia, and was of so astonishing a character that he read it again and wondered how it found its place in that book. So mysterious were the ways of diplomacy that he could not attempt to fathom what 394 that despatch meant. It might have been written because the Government at that particular moment had determined to give up the attitude which they had assumed up to that period, and which they persistently maintained after that time. It might have been written because they wanted to probe the dispositions of Russia, and they had certain suspicions as to what those dispositions were. The only thing that seemed to him matter of great regret was this — that the despatch was not addressed to one of the civilized Governments of Europe between whose words and opinions there was some sort of correspondence and relation. All he could say was that the spirit which animated that despatch left no trace of itself in any other. It was as wonderful as the toad which was buried in the rock and no opening could be found by which it had got there. But our Foreign Office refused to have any opinion; it was content to perform certain small useful offices for the belligerents. It was willing to carry letters for them, to obtain a safe-conduct, to pass any communication verbatim from one to the other. But, according to his belief, instead of performing the office of a whispering tube, we ought rather to have sought to exercise some moral influence over the two nations, to have moderated their violence, and to have called, with the united voice of Europe, for reconciliation. For himself, he could only say that if England was not to speak fearlessly on such occasions, however powerful might be the nation which she addressed, he would rather that the diplomatic service of this country was entirely given up, and that it was left to the Press and to public speakers to express what this country felt. And now, what remained to be done? He would venture to ask that even at this last moment we might make an appeal which should be worthy of this country. He did not wish that any threatening language should be used—that we should talk of arms, or pretend to do so; what he wanted was, that we should express openly and clearly how strong was our sense of the great evils which would arise if the terms of peace were extravagant and impolitic in their nature. He could only say for himself that terms which should involve the violent annexation, of territory were to him immoderate. He clung to the prin- 395 ciple which Europe had already learnt to sanction, that the inhabitants of any district ought not to be transferred against their will. That principle had caused a great deal of suffering and bloodshed, and he was not willing to give it up. It was in politics like the law of gravity in physics. It was the one firm abiding place, the one barrier against the violence of military ambition, and he, for one, could not consent to renounce it. But he did not wish in any way to bind the Government by his interpretation of what was immoderate. They must take on themselves the responsibility of deciding what was moderate and what immoderate. At this moment what the terms of peace might be was not known, but it would be impossible for us to discuss the question after the terms of peace were known. Germany had, in her own interest, refused already to communicate them. She knew her work well enough not to let Europe know what the terms of peace might be in time to call out any expression of feeling against them. Moreover, whenever Germany made known to Europe what the terms of peace were, it would be a matter of pride to her to maintain them. Therefore, if the action of the neutrals were to do anything for France in the way of moderating and softening the conditions, it must be now, before the terms were positively known. He objected to compulsory annexation for a great many reasons; not simply because of the injury it would inflict on France. Whatever he might feel about the German Government — however hateful to him was the policy which actuated it now—he had too great a respect and too great an esteem for the great mass of the German people not to wish to see them saved from the great injury which this annexation would inflict upon themselves. He was certain that annexation was a fatal gift; it was a doron—it was no gain, it was the old story—if the conquered suffered at the hands of the conqueror, they also inflicted moral degradation upon him. The annexation of the provinces no man could doubt would prevent the constitutional development of Germany. All that remained for him to do at this last moment was to plead that some united expression of opinion should go forth from the neutral Powers. He might be told that an Emperor who commanded a million of soldiers would 396 not take much notice of such a remonstrance. He could not, of course, persuade any man on this subject who had no belief in moral influence. All he would venture to remind him of was that the whole social and political fabric of this country rested upon the belief that there was such a thing as moral influence; and no newspaper ought, in his opinion, to be written, no meeting to be held, and no speech to be made unless moral influence existed and possessed a certain power. He pleaded for its exercise because he thought we owed it to France, to Germany, and to ourselves. He pleaded for it not simply because France was our old ally, not simply because her independence was of the greatest importance to Europe, not simply because the condition of Europe would for years and years to come be affected by the terms of peace; but he pleaded for it for a much deeper and higher and stronger reason, and that was the great international obligation by which he believed we were all bound, from which we could not escape and ought not to seek to escape, and the spirit of which taught him that it was a thing wrong and inexpedient that Europe should stand apart, in distrust and disunion, and not say a single word or raise a single finger when she beheld one nation deciding on the destinies of another, and saw the conqueror holding in his hands the lives and future of the conquered.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to act in concert with other neutral Powers to obtain moderate terms of peace, and to withhold all acquiescence in terms which might impair the independence of France, or threaten the future tranquillity of Europe,"—(Mr. Auberon Herbert,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I thank the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for bringing this question before the House, because in the present very critical state of Europe we cannot have such questions too forcibly or too earnestly brought under the notice of Parliament and the country. I do not mean to say that I entirely agree with the tenour of the hon. Gentleman's Resolution, whilst I 397 must say he has submitted his views in a very excellent and praiseworthy manner to our consideration. There is, however, much which has fallen from him in which I fully concur. I have read this Blue Book solely with the object of considering the interests of England, and what, as a great European Power, should be our influence. The hon. Gentleman expresses a hope that the Government will act in concert with the neutral Powers. The neutral Powers! Where are the Government, I should like to know, to find friends in Europe to act with them? I have read these Papers, and have asked myself in the most impartial spirit — for I take no party view of this question—I have over and over again asked myself whether out-of-doors the public opinion of the country endorses and accepts the policy of the Government. Now, in endeavouring to answer that question, I am prepared to admit very frankly that their task has been a difficult one; although I must add that, in my opinion, they also surrounded themselves with a great many difficulties, and created for themselves not a few enemies. Within the last few months we have been menaced in the far West, and we are threatened in the East. Prussia despises our Government, and laughs it to scorn. There is France—poor France, as the hon. Gentleman has said—our faithful ally and neighbour, drinking at this moment the bitterest cup of national humiliation and sorrow. I should much like to know if, under these circumstances, our policy of isolation—of selfish isolation—has been productive to us of any advantage. I speak of "selfish isolation," and if I do not justify the use of that phrase by a reference to the Blue Book, so far as the policy of the Government is concerned, I shall be much surprised. We were told some time ago on authority which I am quite willing to accept—the authority of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who has recently left the Ministry—that he believed, speaking from his official knowledge, if Lord Clarendon had lived and remained in power, many of these complications with which we have since had to deal might have been avoided. Now, that may or may not be the case; but there is, at all events, one question which is constantly suggested by a perusal of these Papers. It relates to 398 Lord Lyons:—and the policy which led to the ungenerous and unmanly flight of the English Ambassador from Paris ought not, in my opinion, to pass without censure in this House. I find that at first he was told by Lord Granville to remain in Paris. Then the Austrian Minister goes to him and says—"We had better get out of Paris;" and Lord Lyons, I believe, himself recommended to the Government that he should take his departure. Now, I wish to point out the position in which Englishmen in that city were placed by such conduct. There were 1,500 or 2,000 English subjects left in Paris, yet Lord Lyons quitted the city on the 17th of September, having, as I understand, been instructed only to leave with the other foreign Ministers. I find, however, that there were in January 18 foreign Ministers and Representatives remaining in Paris, whilst Lord Lyons had taken his departure from it in September. Now just consider for a moment how much credit the Minister of the United States gained for himself by staying in Paris during these events. Was he not able to succour hundreds of his fellow-subjects? The Swedish, the Swiss, the Belgian Ministers, and other Representatives of foreign States, to the number of 18, also remained in Paris to take care of the interests of their fellow-countrymen; but Lord Lyons seems to have been satisfied with saying to the English residents in the city that they must leave it, or remain at their own risk and peril. It is clear, however, that for 1,500 or 2,000 English subjects to act upon his advice at that moment was a thing altogether out of the question. I contend, therefore, that the departure of Lord Lyons from Paris is a proceeding which exposes the Government to the gravest possible censure, and I cannot help regarding his conduct as most unbecoming when contrasted with that of the other Ministers who remained on the spot. While upon that subject, I should wish to draw attention to the statement which was made the other night to the effect that Lord Lyons left Paris at the urgent request of M. Jules Favre. Such was the statement of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in answer to a Question which was put to him; and he was very cautious in his reply, as I observed, being fully prepared with it beforehand. But, with all respect to the 399 Under Secretary, the statement is not correct. I can find nowhere in these Papers that Lord Lyons left Paris at "the urgent request of M. Jules Favre," and M. Jules Favre being the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, our Ambassador, I should have thought, ought naturally have stayed where he was, and where the Representatives of so many other States also continued to remain. As to the position of affairs generally, I may be allowed to observe that if we had had a strong Government we should have had a resolute policy. We wanted a resolute policy just at that time. I do not concur in some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken as to what might have been done; but we wanted a resolute policy. I have observed that since certain events have occurred there has been much weakness and vacillation on the part of the Government, and that difficulties of such great and unexpected magnitude have arisen as not only to embarrass but almost to overwhelm them. One great difficulty, at all events, they appear to have grappled with with the most complete success. I allude to the success which has attended their efforts in bringing about in the brief period of 12 months so much of humiliation to the character and credit of this country. We talk of our national pride and of the moral influence of England; but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has advised us, in the opinion of the Prussian Government and Count Bismarck, to accept a policy of obliteration. I believe that this country has lost caste, and that in the course of the last two years this country, in the councils of Europe, has achieved more unpopularity than was accomplished by the policy of any other statesman within the last 30 or 40 years. ["No!"] An hon. Member behind me says "No!" Go to France—go to Switzerland—go to Germany — go to Belgium — countries which I have recently visited. Why, the universal expression of opinion on the part of all classes of society, echoed in the columns of the newspapers, is, La politique du Gouvernement Anglais fait honte! That is what you hear abroad. I have visited those countries, and can speak from my own observation. Now, what is the attitude of the Government? And when I speak of its attitude, I should be glad to say, by 400 way of parenthesis, that I only refer to the attitude of the Government, and that I separate altogether from it the attitude of the country. I have admired—we all must have admired—the splendid philanthropy which has been exhibited. When one has witnessed, as I have witnessed, the thousands and tens of thousands of miserable victims of this war, thrust into Switzerland, maimed, and wounded, and crushed, and has thought of what England did to benefit, to assuage, and to alleviate this misery, I own that I have rejoiced at what has been done—that I have felt proud of my country. I speak, therefore, only of the political attitude of the Government. What that has been France, I suppose, knows pretty well. At all events, the Government, through one of its Members, expressed its opinion pretty freely about France; for I recollect, when I was in that country, seeing what I considered a most ungenerous taunt on the part of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I am very glad that he has since endeavoured to explain it away, stating that he was badly reported, for I can assure the House that the fact of a Secretary of State being even supposed, at such a moment, to utter an ungenerous taunt against France created a most painful impression abroad. But I pass from that to the estimate which other Governments have formed of the attitude of our own Government. Take the opinion of the United States of America, in the most unfriendly message ever presented to Congress by the President, referring to relations with this country—take the opinion of Russia, as shown in their despatches and public utterances—take the opinion also of Prussia, which is very remarkable. I hold in my hand an extract from the German Official Gazette for December, a gazette which is believed to be under the inspiration of Count Bismarck and the highest authorities; and this is the way they talk of the Government of England—It is perfectly idle to talk of the attitude of England, inasmuch as its policy admits of but one attitude—viz., that of obliteration.Now, that is a literal translation of an article that appeared in the German Official Gazette in December last. And then the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government protests that we have not followed a policy of selfish isolation. 401 I fear very much, nevertheless, that this is the policy that must be attributed to our Government. I have here some extracts from the speeches of Ministers, showing what we have ventured to do, and what we have not ventured; and I really think this country has some reason to blame the Government for not having acted in the earnest manner which might have been expected. I will read one or two of these extracts, and the House will observe that in every one of them the word "ventured" occurs in some shape or other. "We ventured" to do this, or "we ventured" to do that.We ventured to disapprove the demand made by France upon the King of Prussia for a prospective engagement respecting the candidature of Prince Hohenzollern for Spain; but then it was our misfortune to fail.…. We ventured to appeal to the Treaty of 1856 as to a reference to some competent tribunal for a settlement of the disputes between France and Prussia; but we did not obtain a hearing.This is the language of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. Now observe this—We expressed, in language so respectful that no objection could be taken to it, a hope that Prussia would not have recourse to the extreme measure of a bombardment of Paris. But we failed.Again—"We ventured to favour" the calling together of an Assembly fully authorized to represent France—I assure the House that I am using the literal expressions of the Government. Again—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.["Hear!"] I do not dispute the fact—I am only showing now how "venturesome" the Government have been.In the next place, 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 what were the terms of peace which they deemed to be required.This expression "we ventured" occurs throughout the whole of the correspondence, and as it is the manner of dealing with the question which is characteristic of the Government, I submit respectfully to the House that it is not the language which Lord Palmerston would have used. The language which Lord Palmerston used in the troubles upon the 402 Continent has been detailed by my right hon. Friend and Colleague (Sir Henry Bulwer), whom I am glad to see in his place to-night for the first time. "Ventured to do" this, or "ventured to do" that—why this language is unworthy of a great and powerful nation! In common with many others upon both sides of the House, I am unable to listen to such language patiently. Now, how does the Minister for Foreign Affairs maintain his policy of selfish isolation? The hon. Member below me (Mr. A. Herbert) quoted some passages from the correspondence; but I am afraid he stopped sooner perhaps than he intended, for, not having the exact references at hand, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was enabled to complain that he was not so accurate as I shall be in my quotations. Lord Lyons writes to Lord Granville on the 19th of August, at page 15, that, "under instructions," he had informed the Government at Paris that Her Majesty's Government had no desire to "obtrude their mediation either on France or Prussia," but thatTheir good offices would be freely given, and zealously exerted for the restoration of peace, if at any time recourse should be had to them.I quite agree with that; it is an excellent sentence, and if it had only been followed up by action in the same spirit, I should have cheered as loudly as the hon. Gentleman who is sitting next my right hon. Colleague; but if he will give his attention to the next extract or two he will find how those zealous intentions cooled. On the 6th of September M. Jules Favre invited the good offices of England with a view to an armistice; but "Lord Granville to Lord Lyons" on September 7 said—You will inform M. Jules Favre that Her Majesty's Government consider that they would be more likely to do harm than good to the cause of peace if they attempted to mediate—and I think they would with their "venturesome" policy. And then came a letter not to our Ambassador at Paris, or to be communicated to M. Jules Favre, but written directly by Lord Granville to Baron Brunow, saying that Lord Lyons had been informed that Her Majesty's Government would not attempt, either alone or with other Powers, to offer mediation unless they had reason to believe it would be sucessful. ["Hear!"] Yes; but by that 403 letter they declined to take any initiative whatever, or to accept any invitation whatever, to co-operate unless they were assured of success. That was a very different thing from the assurance which Lord Lyons, acting "under instructions," had given to the French Government. Then came the private diplomatic mission to London with which M. Thiers was charged. At p. 73, Lord Granville wrote to Lord Lyons as to this—I have had an interview with M. Thiers, and he implored Her Majesty's Government to allow England to show her sense of her long alliance with France, and thus assert her own place in the councils of Europe.Lord Granville's reply was—"The Government must judge what is best for themselves;" and objected to even an offer of mediation, or of good offices. Why, Lord Granville had just before said that the Government would most zealously exert themselves, if any application were made to them for their good offices. [An hon. MEMBER: By both the belligerents.] No; the phrase is either on the part of France or Prussia. And yet, when M. Thiers implored us to show our sense of the long alliance, Lord Granville replied that the Government must judge what was best for themselves, and objected even to an offer of mediation or good offices. Can you conceive such a niggardly policy? They decline to mediate—they will not even give their good offices to a country that has been our close ally and friend for the last 20 years—a country that upon 20 battlefields in unison with England has sacrificed her best blood and her bravest sons for objects which the two countries had at heart. Yet this is the answer we give to M. Favre and to M. Thiers. M. Thiers, by the way, was excessively complimentary to Lord Granville. I do not know why, but he spoke in the highest terms of Lord Granville's father. Now, one is always proud to hear one's father spoken well of; but why such pains should be taken to record in a letter from Lord Granville to Lord Lyons, forming part of the official correspondence upon the French and German War, that M. Thiers remarked to Lord Granville—"What an excellent fellow your father was—"[Laughter.] I cannot at this moment lay my hand on the passage, but I commend it to the reading of hon. Gentlemen — why it 404 should ever have been said, or why it should have been put there, I do not know, except that it may have been done with a view to reciprocity. Lord Granville writes again to Lord Lyons respecting M. Thiers's view—this was after he had spoken so highly of his father—and he states that he told M. Thiers he was not jealous of any action which the neutral Powers might take which would lead to peace, but that he did not care to join them. Let the House hear these extracts, and say if this is the manner in which the foreign policy of this country should be conducted—whether it is anything else than a policy of isolation. Take this paragraph; it occurs on page 82, No. 134, in a despatch of Earl Granville to Lord Lyons—a most curious despatch, as you shall hear—On parting, M. Thiers made an observation which, coming from an eminent statesman, it is tempting to a son to record. He adverted to the time when he transacted business with my father, when the latter was Ambassador at Paris. He himself had been brought up in the school of M. de Talleyrand, but he had always considered Lord Granville as the beau idéal of a diplomatist—a proud Englishman, able, gentle, straightforward, and honest: proud indeed, as he had found when once he had a movement of vicacity with him.Sir, I quite agree in that character of the late Lord Granville, and I also think the present Lord Granville the beau idéal of a gentleman in every way. I say not one unkind word of my noble Friend; but I think these extracts—with which I have troubled the House, I fear, at too great length—show that the policy of this Government has been one, as described in the German gazette, of obliteration, and, as I say, of selfish isolation. I was surprised to hear the conduct of Prussia spoken of as it was the other night. I must say I look on the unification of Germany as a great peril to Europe; and for this reason—no one will deny that the unification of Germany began with an essentially democratic movement. Since 1830 15 Sovereign Princes have been removed from their thrones by their respective people. What greater proof can there be of an earnest democratic development? We have at this moment the unification of Germany under a military despotism. Can that be for the good of Europe? It cannot be for the good of Europe that there should be a great military despotism in Germany, built up on the ruin and de- 405 struction of France. German unification began in 1848. It was worked out by the absorption of Hanover, Holstein, and Hesse Cassel: and now the Sovereigns of Würtemberg, Baden Baden, and Saxony think to stave off the evil day to themselves by offering the Imperial Crown to the King of Prussia. I do not believe that the unification of Germany as a military despotism can be for the good of Europe. I do not believe it will last. I think the time will speedily come when we shall see it swept away. But I do regret, in this particular also, the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. They made haste to salute the new-born Empire of Germany in the French Palace of Versailles; but could not say one kindly word to France. Such conduct was an insult to France, and all that was noble and generous in its history. I should have liked Her Majesty's Government to have made some recognition of the Republic in France, for I am firmly convinced that is the only system of government that can prevail for good in that country. I am not singular in that opinion. M. Thiers himself, the greatest statesman in France, in 1848 said distinctly that it was the form of government which caused the fewest divisions in the country—C'est le gouvernement qui disire le moins; M. Guizot also calls it "a noble form of government." Considering what had occurred in France, I think Her Majesty's Government might have acted somewhat differently towards that country, which had been so faithful an ally of England. There are three facts to which, if the House will allow me, I should wish to refer, as showing the savage manner in which this war has been carried on by Prussia, and the bitter antagonism that existed at the end of a few weeks. The House will hardly credit what I am going to state; but I have myself taken pains to ascertain the facts. We all know how villages have been sacked, whole provinces wasted, and millions of francs levied in requisitions on towns; but here is an order of the day of Prince Frederick Charles, which, so far as I know, has never been contradicted. I wrote to inquire if it was true, and I received in reply that it was stuck up in Mans and had never been contradicted. The document is in French, but I will translate a few of its expressions— 406Exert all your activity," he says to his soldiers, "march and parcel out this impious land. Exterminate this horde of brigands which they call the French army. The world cannot rest in peace so long as the French people survive.["Oh, oh!" "Hear, hear!"] Such language will give the House a valuable insight into the manner in which this war has been waged. But here is a document, if possible, still more remarkable. Here is a Royal order of the King of Prussia himself. I hope he never saw it, so very severe is it. It refers to Alsace and Lorraine—which the House will remember have not yet been attached to Germany by any legal instrument. It bears date the 13th of December, 1870—it was posted up in Strasburg—and there is no doubt of its authenticity. The first article of this Royal order of the King of Prussia is this—Whoever joins the army of France is subject to confiscation of his property and banishment for ten years.Article 2 declares that—Publication for three days in the Official Gazette is sufficient to give the condemnation force of law.Article 5 says—Whoever is absent for more than eight days without leave is held to have incurred the penalties of the articles above mentioned, and to suspect is sufficient for condemnation.Is it possible that in the middle of the 19th century war can be conducted on such terms? 13,000 young Alsatians have joined the French army in defence of their liberties and lives. Can it be that this atrocious order will be carried into effect as regards them? I will give one more instance. The House will recollect that after the armistice which was made on the 27th of January, after three days' negotiation—I was then on the frontier of France and Switzerland—the King of Prussia telegraphed to Berlin that an armistice had been concluded, and it applied to all the forces in the field and on the water. But how was it applied? M. Jules Favre telegraphed to Bordeaux to the effect that the armies were to remain in possession of the tracts of country occupied by them, with a zone of neutral territory separating the respective forces of the two countries. Well, after that order had been cir- 407 culated, and after General Bourbaki had in a fit of despair endeavoured to commit suicide, General Clinchamp, who succeeded him, issued an order of the day informing the 80,000 soldiers under his command that an armistice had been agreed upon, and that the troops were not to resume hostilities until it had expired, and yet after what had occurred, the Prussian General Manteuffel actually attacked these 80,000 Frenchmen and drove them over the mountains of the Jura into Switzerland. I saw this wretched army. I came across thousands of men frostbitten, without shoes, and wholly unable to protect themselves from the inclemency of the weather. Is it not lamentable that, under the circumstances, such an attack should have been made? But I must conclude, expressing my thanks to the House for having allowed me to make these remarks. I feel very strongly that the Government is not following, and has not followed, such a policy as this country ought to pursue. I do not, indeed, wish to see this country rush rashly into war—God forbid!—but I know that before the commencement of the war Austria and Italy told Her Majesty's Government that they were prepared to join us in a determined and resolute denunciation of the conduct of France in proposing to attack Prussia. I am satisfied that if Her Majesty's Government had acceded to the request of Austria and Italy they would most probably have succeeded by mere moral influence in preventing the war. Even if this had not been the result, I think the Government ought to have followed a policy different from that which they have chosen. I am ashamed to say that everyone who reads the Blue Book must feel the deepest pain when he finds what the policy of our Government has been, and I most sincerely hope that they will at once bestir themselves in a different line of policy. We are most unpopular abroad; we have lost caste abroad. Still the spirit of the country is the same, and is willing to back up the Government in any way they may think desirable. ["No, no!"] I venture to say that if there was need—if an enemy should attack this country—there would be one universal expression of national spirit vibrating through all the arteries of the country. But in return for that demonstration of national spirit, which has never yet failed in times of emergency 408 or under the pressure of circumstances, we have a right to demand, and we do demand, of the Government of the day that by its policy and by its acts it shall maintain this country in that position which she once so proudly held in the estimation of her people and in the councils of Europe.
§ MR. W. C. CARTWRIGHT
craved the indulgence of the House, which he was addressing for the first time. Moreover he was addressing it on a subject which was full of delicate complications, and was following two Members who had ably reviewed the policy of the Government with respect to it. The Resolution before the House, however, did not refer to transactions already passed—it professed to be a guide for the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the terms of the peace now about to be negotiated between France and Germany. He thought such a Resolution both inopportune and impolitic. It was inopportune because it was brought forward at a moment when every effort should be made that could be made to allay the violent passions which had been aroused in France; and it was impolitic because, at a moment when those passions seemed about to be allayed, it would tend to re-awaken those misconceptions of which we had already seen too much. Misconception had been the predominant error and failing of France throughout this war, from its initiation down to its bitter end. One of the most remarkable utterances, well to be borne in mind, which was recorded in the Blue Book, was the statement made to Lord Lyons by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, before distress came very near home to the French people, in reply to an offer of friendly offices. The answer of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs—given almost with superciliousness—was, "We want no mediation from any party;" but when distress pressed more and more heavily on the French people, then French statesmen clamoured, fearfully—not for mediation merely, but for active interference. If this Resolution should be carried at this untoward moment the French belief in the inevitable arrival of succour from abroad, which had already been the cause of so much evil, would only be confirmed. The more he studied the Resolution the more he was driven to the conviction that it was incapable of acceptance by the House. The Reso- 409 lution began by saying that the House was of opinion that it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government, in concert with other neutral Powers, not to recommend—for had his hon. Friend contented himself therewith, he, for one, would have had nothing to say against this part of the Resolution—but actually to obtain moderate terms of peace. Such a Resolution, so worded, would impose on Her Majesty's Government a positive obligation very capable of involving it in complications of the gravest nature. For to fasten on Her Majesty's Government the duty to obtain terms was to fasten on it a duty not of effort, but of certain positive results. But could his hon. Friend state how he would secure the attainment of such results? He had listened with attention to his speech, and had quite failed to catch any indication of what means he would have Her Majesty's Government put in play. All he had been able to glean from his hon. Friend's own commentary on his counsels, was his distinct declaration that he had no wish to see Her Majesty's Government use violence or have recourse to arms. Well, then the Resolution went on to assert it to be the duty of the Government to withhold all acquiescence in terms which might impair the independence of France or threaten the future tranquillity of Europe. Now, had the House a clear comprehension of what it was asked to resolve in those terms? In his speech his hon. Friend had given it as his opinion that all terms involving any cession of territory were to be reprobated as immoderate; so that, by the terms of the Resolution, it would be the duty of the Government "to withhold its acquiescence" from the annexation of Alsace, even though such annexation were effected in virtue of an instrument signed and sealed by France and Germany. Now, such an instruction as this was simply to make the Government have recourse to a hollow diplomatic fiction. No doubt, precedents for such a course existed; but what sort of precedents were they that we should be tempted to follow them? One happened after the Italian War, when Austria refused to recognize the fusion of the central Italian provinces into the kingdom of Italy. The consequence was that for Austria there still existed a Duke of Tuscany—a Pope in the Romagna—and that it de- 410 clined to have its Consuls and other agents take cognizance of the actual Sovereign in possession of those countries. Was that any benefit to Austria? And another precedent was forthcoming from the action of this country in one instance. When Algeria was wrested from the Dey by France, for years this country would not recognize this conquest; and actually down to a comparatively recent date our Consuls in the French possessions in Africa were made to take their exequaturs from the Sultan. But, for all that, the fact remained the same; and he would ask the House if it really thought the dignity of the country had been raised by such a procedure so that it considered a repetition desirable? Well, then, he wished the House to consider how vague were the expressions in the Resolution, and how difficult it was to determine what "terms might impair the independence of France and endanger the tranquillity of Europe." His hon. Friend had already expressed his opinion that all cession of territory was to be reprehended as a grievous wrong to France. But could any really impartial person declare that any surrender of territory by France must amount to dismemberment, and constitute a monstrous outrage on that country? Look at what was done by France about Savoy and Nice. The latter province was taken, though Italian in language as well as Italian in tendency and affection, while Alsace was German in tongue, and had at all times kept up certain national relations with Germany. But how was his hon. Friend going to define what was or was not threatening to the future tranquillity of Europe? The cession of Alsace was insisted on by German statesmen in 1815, precisely on the ground that they considered the non-surrender of it by France a danger to the future tranquillity of Europe. And did not practical facts prove the correctness of their anticipations, and show that danger was to be apprehended rather from the Power which had the province than from the Power which now claimed to acquire it? This was an illustration of the great difficulty of defining with accuracy the practical sense of the expressions which the Resolution contained, and forecasting off-hand the conditions of the world's future. He had lately read a letter which, no doubt, many Members 411 of the House had also read with the same interest, addressed by M. Guizot to the Prime Minister, couched in terms singularly pathetic as coming from one far down the role of years, and who, with almost a foot in the grave, had to look back upon his country in the depth of grievous humiliation, which during so many years he had been helpful in governing with honour and success. He would be the last man to say one word which could reflect on one so venerable and so distinguished; but, as the letter in question was professedly meant as a statement of the case on behalf of France, he could not refrain from drawing attention to one inaccuracy which was not without importance in considering the points at issue. M. Guizot protested against the inordinate demands of the Germans, and contrasted them with the more liberal actions of his countrymen. He instanced the disinterestedness of France, which, he said, in 1859 was content to ask for no more than Savoy and Nice. What, however, really happened was this—France went to Italy as a liberator, and when, owing to circumstances, she did not carry out her original programme to free Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic, she waived her claim for these provinces, but turned round to Italy and said—"You must pay me for my assistance in the field." She accordingly presented a bill of 70 millions for materiél de guerre lent to Italy in the campaign; and when the bill was paid she extorted Savoy and Nice as compensation for acquiescence in the fusion of the central Italian provinces, and no voice in France—not even that of M. Guizot—was raised against their annexation. All Frenchmen looked upon it as a glorious consummation. The capital danger of France—which the mover of the Resolution, in spite of his sterling sympathies with that country, was doing his best to foment—was that throughout the whole of this unhappy war French statesmen had laboured under the belief that there was something so sacrosanct in the essence of the French constitution as must compel the rest of the world to come to her rescue; and, if one act more untoward than another could be committed, now that the French Assembly was meeting at Bordeaux, it would be that the House of Commons should adopt such a Resolution as this, which the mass of imper- 412 fectly educated Frenchmen would accept as the demonstration they had been hitherto waiting for in vain—that there was a determination in this country in favour of that active interference by the neutral Powers which French Ministers had been clamouring for as due to the rights of their country. Another dangerous hallucination which had taken possession of the French political mind was, that if they could not get peace according to their original programme—that was to say without the surrender of any French soil—then they hoped, at all events, to bring in the neutral Powers in such a manner as to throw upon them the odium and responsibility of forcing on France terms of surrender distasteful to her. The proof of this notion was to be found throughout the Blue Book, but especially in almost the last cry for help contained in this correspondence. Writing from Bordeaux on the 16th of December to Lord Granville, Lord Lyons, reporting what passed at an interview with Comte de Chaudordy, gave this version of the French Minister's statement—There were, he said, three different arrangements possible, any one of which might have the desired effect. The first was an armistice, on the condition of Paris being re-victualled for the time it lasted. This would render the election of a National Assembly possible. The second was a peace without any cession of territory. The third was a European Congress to determine the conditions of peace. To such a Congress France might make concessions to which she never could be brought if she were left to negotiate with Prussia alone."—[No. 317.]Now, this last alternative which the French would accept would leave necessarily something behind which would rankle in their minds. Another illustration of the same wish to commit the neutral Powers was to be found in a passage which followed. The Comte de Chaudordy desired Lord Lyons to ascertain the terms of peace which Germany would accept, but, he said—The inquiry must be made by Her Majesty's Government as coming from themselves (en dehors de nous), and not as being in any way prompted by France.If such an interference as that suggested by the Resolution were attempted, and if such a Congress were assembled, whatever terms they recommended to France, these would assuredly leave rankling in the minds of Frenchmen a deeper feeling of resentment against the neutral 413 Powers, and especially against us, than any which had hitherto existed, and impress afresh upon the French imagination that kind of animosity which it entertained against the coercion France had been forcibly obliged to acquiesce in at the hands of an overpowering coalition in 1815. The tendency that ran through the whole spirit of these French proposals was to put the neutral Powers in a position in which they might get looked upon as the agents on whom rested the responsibility of having dictated to France acceptance of terms which, from single-handed Germany, she would never have accepted. He believed, therefore, his hon. Friend (Mr. A. Herbert), while his earnest sympathy with France could not be doubted, would be acting not as a friend, but as an enemy to that country, should he succeed in obtaining the adoption of this Resolution. His hon. Friend should consider the responsibility which must attach to anyone who, at this moment, when France was prostrate, did anything to induce her not to meet the Germans fairly, and concede fair terms of peace. The programme of France, the only one she had officially proclaimed—"Not an inch of our territory, not a stone of our fortresses"—did certainly not offer fair terms; and at that critical moment it became the true friends of the French people, instead of fomenting passionate impulses, to induce them to meet the Germans fairly, and yield those terms of peace which their enemy had earned for herself by successes won with so much gallantry and skill.
said, the views which the Government had expressed in their Blue Book were the views entertained generally throughout the country. The country was satisfied with that policy which the hon. Member for Nottingham called a "colourless" policy, and which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), had stated was a policy wanting in resolution. Now, what did such a statement involve? It appeared to him (Mr. Goldsmid) in itself to furnish a proof that the language of Her Majesty's Government had been well-weighed and deliberate. A so-called "colourless policy" on the part of the Government must go to show that they had endeavoured to keep a fair balance of justice between the two contending parties. The words of Lord Granville— 414 which the right hon. Baronet, however, had hardly fairly quoted, for he read part only of the despatch—showed this to be the case, for Lord Granville stated expressly that he was unwilling to mention any terms or offer any mediation between the parties, unless he had reason to believe that those offers would be acceptable. What could be more sensible—what could be more reasonable—than such a statement? — because it was perfectly obvious that the only result of any other course would have been to bring even greater discredit on England than, according to the right hon. Baronet, now attached to her. But he (Mr. Goldsmid) thought the statement of the right hon. Baronet that England no longer maintained her former high position among the Powers of Europe was disproved by the fact that all through the proceedings to which this Blue Book referred constant appeals were made to England, and that she had been attacked equally by both parties for the position she had assumed. He would go further than that. He would say that the position of neutrality was the proper position for England to assume. Under that position they were attacked by both sides on various grounds — for example, by Prussia for the export of arms. Well, was it not a fact that the export of arms from America had been far greater than the export of arms from England? Yet, in consequence of a Treaty which Prussia concluded some years back with the United States, it was an admitted fact that Prussia had given authority to the United States to export arms to any country at war with Prussia which might be used against her; and it was, therefore, hardly fair to say that they had no right to do what Prussia had ceded power to another nation to do. Such an attack as that which had been made went to show that their position of neutrality was an inviolable position, and the proper position for England to take up. Because if they had not been neutral, what would have been the result? Had they not heard of a policy of "meddling and muddling," and the discredit of saying too much without being prepared to follow up words with acts? Had they not an instance of this in the case of Denmark, and other instances in European history? He felt, therefore, that the duty of Her Majesty's Government was, instead of expressing an opi- 415 nion, to refrain from expressing an opinion which they did not think likely to be acted upon. He maintained that the action of the Government was in accordance with the wish of the great majority of the people, who desired that this country should abstain from interference in the war, which on the one side and the other was a war of conquest. The origin of it, as it appeared to him, rested in iniquity. The object of the war on the part of France was, at the beginning, conquest; and, on the part of Germany afterwards, the subjugation of France and the appropriation of entire provinces. If Her Majesty's Government had adopted a policy of threatening—a policy of using words which they did not mean to follow up by acts—they would have met with universal reprobation. More than that, it must be remembered that an expression of opinion which came from a British Minister was regarded as an expression of the opinion of the country; and, if Lord Granville had expressed the opinion which the right hon. Baronet would have wished him to express, he would have involved the country in the most serious difficulties. He (Mr. Goldsmid) wished also to say a few words on the terms of the Notice of the hon. Member. The Motion before the House called upon the Government to act in concert with other neutral Powers to obtain moderate terms of peace. Now, he would like to know what right Her Majesty's Government had to suggest terms of peace, unless one of the belligerents, at least, asked them to do so? It appeared to him that if Government were to act in the way the Motion pointed out they would probably be told in polite words to "mind your own business," and if such were the result of her interference England would lose her credit on the Continent more than by any other proceeding which could possibly have been adopted. But the Motion further asked the Government to withhold all acquiescence in terms which might impair the independence of France. Now, if the Government of this country were to say to the Prussian Government—"We propose to withhold our acquiescence in terms of peace which will impair the independence of France," Count Bismarck's simple answer would be—"What do we care about it: you may withhold your acquiescence or not; but unless you 416 mean to back up your words by deeds I do not care about your acquiescence;" and, consequently, by such a course the Government would involve itself in a line of conduct which the country would not approve. The Motion appeared to be unnecessary, for it was pretty well known throughout Europe that the opinion of England was that the war had gone too far, and that the terms of peace should be moderate. The terms which had been announced indirectly as those which the Germans were about to impose had been received in England with universal reprobation. He believed that the wisest course, and the course which would be approved by the country was that which the Government had adopted—namely, not to interfere unless they saw reason to think that their words would carry weight; and if they were requested by either belligerent, then to express their opinion jointly with other neutrals in favour of the most moderate terms. He (Mr. Goldsmid) concluded, therefore, that the whole of these proceedings, as shown in the Blue Book, proved that the British Government were throughout this matter well able to conduct the foreign affairs of the country in a calm and judicial spirit befitting the position of neutrals, which, though disagreeable to belligerents, was, he believed, in consonance with the feelings of the people of this country.
§ VISCOUNT ROYSTON
said, there was a very strong feeling among the nations of Europe in regard to the position in which France was placed. The sympathy which they might give to France was perfectly natural—indeed if it were not given, it would be even unnatural; but much as he sympathized with France, in common with every Gentleman in the House and with the people of the country, he could not think that the Motion which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Herbert) had put on the Paper was conducive to the better arrangement of terms of peace, or would be satisfactory to the general feeling of this country. Under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman, this country had pursued a policy which, however we might sympathize with our neighbour, he must candidly own had been a sound one. The policy of neutrality was one of considerable difficulty owing not only to the opinions current among the population of this country, but also to the feelings 417 and opinions which might exist abroad. This country, living under a settled government, and exposed to no temptations of foreign acquisition, could afford to stand aside from the quarrels of Europe and maintain a strict neutrality. Let them look back to the various questions which had agitated the Continent of Europe, and in regard to which indignation had been expressed against our "isolated policy." In the year 1863 the Danish question arose, which created great confusion in the councils of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was at that time a member of Lord Palmerston's Government, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had twitted him with the remark that if Lord Palmerston had been Prime Minister of this country at the present time he would not have adopted the line of policy of the present Government. With all respect to Lord Palmerston's memory the present foreign policy of neutrality adopted by this country was rather started by him. Lord Palmerston spoke in this House in the strongest terms of reprobation of the annexation of Schleswig and Holstein by Prussia. From that annexation dated the whole misery which had now fallen upon Europe. He himself heard Lord Palmerston—for, though not a Member of the House at the time, he happened to be present during the discussion—make that speech in which he wound up with saying that "Denmark would not stand alone." Lord Russell, who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, was in active negotiation with the Emperor of the French to get him to act in concert with England—to get him to back up the treaty, by which England and France had guaranteed Schleswig and Holstein to Denmark. Everyone knew that the Government of the day, feeling that the position of Prussia was becoming dangerous to Europe, and foreseeing the consequences which might possibly take place if such a scandalous break-down of treaties was permitted, made a strong resistance to the policy of the Chancellor of the North German Confederation. Unfortunately—because it had been a great misfortune to the Emperor of the French—he did not act in consort with the British Government in regard to Schleswig and Holstein. Lord Russell's policy which had been described by the late Lord Derby in the House of Lords 418 as a policy of "meddle and muddle," did not certainly gain that name without some reason. The statement made by Lord Palmerston in this House had been received with cheers, and gave the greatest satisfaction out-of-doors. The feelings and sympathies of England were roused not only by the way in which a small Power like Denmark had been stripped of her possessions, not only by the intimate connection which had taken place through a Royal marriage, not only by the feeling of the people of this country regarding the breaking of treaties, but also by the prospect of the difficulties that might arise hereafter. It was stated in the House at the time that if the King of Prussia and his troops went to Copenhagen and took the King of Denmark prisoner, this country must save him. Yet after that language the spirit of the treaty was broken through: France did not act with us, having been treated by Lord Russell with some disrespect. The Emperor of the French having demanded a Congress to take into consideration the Treaties of 1815, Lord Russell, instead of giving the Emperor of the French some answer to gratify his vanity, told his Imperial Majesty—he did not doubt with truth—what was disagreeable at the time. Hon. Gentlemen were smiling; but there were unpleasant truths, and there was a pleasant and an unpleasant way of telling them, and it was enough to say that Lord Russell had not that conciliatory manner which distinguished the present Foreign Secretary. The Emperor was irritated by that answer, while by an additional misfortune our Ambassador in Paris did not receive the despatch which declined the proposition for a Conference so as to communicate it to M. Drouyn de l'Huys until it had been published in the English papers. It might be said that this was a small matter; but many small matters made up a great offence. It was hardly too much to say that but for this accident, and Lord Russell's want of tact, the Emperor of the French would still have been upon the Throne of France; but for that the Emperor would have joined us in resisting the spoliation of Denmark; that mighty Power which was now domineering over Europe would never have been built up; and the present war would never have broken out. Of course what he was stating was open 419 to objection, and certainly to doubt; he meant "doubt," because what he said was only an opinion of his own. He must state his opinion that this country had not from the year 1863 kept up the position that she ought to have maintained as a great Power, and she had retrograded in the councils of Europe. From the gist of the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) it appeared he had gone through the Blue Book with considerable assiduity. He (Viscount Royston) had not waded over the whole of the volume, and what was more he did not intend to do so. He noticed that hon. Gentlemen often came down to the House and treated Members with extracts from Blue Books which they might read at leisure for themselves. He would not do so; he would only give his opinion that what he had read in the Blue Book had convinced him that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been a straightforward one—a policy of neutrality, to which, however disagreeable to foreign countries, it was necessary in our own interest to adhere. He would ask the right hon. Member for Tamworth what he would propose that the Government should do? Would he wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs to have gone to the Chancellor of the North German Confederation and say that if he repelled the invasion by France we should go to war with Germany, or have gone to France and say if the French repelled the invasion of the Germans we would go to war with them? We held a comfortable position with regard to ourselves, and he did not think it was desirable to go and meddle with the quarrel of two great Powers—a quarrel that we never could have stopped, because it had been brewing for years. It had been brewing on the part of France since 1815, and France had only been waiting for an opportunity to make its rush at the throat of Prussia. He had lived in France and had seen a great deal of French society, and he was in France at the time when the Luxemburg difficulty took place. Then mediation was asked, it was given, and it succeeded. Prussia had never been an aggressive Power—["Oh, oh!"]. His hon. Friends had not heard what he was going to say—she had never been aggressive outside what she considered her own sphere. She had a scheme for the 420 unification of Germany, which dated far beyond the time of the present distinguished Chancellor at the head of the Prussian affairs. It dated as far back as the Ministry of M. Hardenberg, who took part in negotiating the Treaty of 1815. He himself (Viscount Royston) reprobated what had taken place in Germany; yet Germany had a scheme of its own, and it was owing to the assiduity and vigour and talent of the Chancellor of the North German Confederation that it had been now carried out. But the difficulties of that scheme were only now beginning. With regard to North Germany, the work was probably easy; but with regard to Southern Germany, where the religion and the political feeling of the people were different, it was more probable that the task would be found, a difficult one. What would the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth propose should have been done? That was the simple question which every thinking man in this country would put. What could this country have done to have carried out the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Auberon Herbert's) policy? He had raised the discussion which he (Viscount Royston) hoped might be profitable. The hon. Gentleman sympathized with France, and so did he (Viscount Royston); but he had seen more of France than the hon. Gentleman, though not under the trying circumstances in which he had so kindly and honourably distinguished himself. He had watched the progress of feeling in France, and, associated as he was with one who knew more of French society than any Gentleman in that House or outside its walls—one whose opinion was perfectly well known to the late Lord Clarendon—he could state that that gentleman shadowed forth in letters which might one day see the light of publicity, that the stability of the Government of the Emperor was uncertain, and the advice he gave was that the Napoleonic dynasty was trembling on an uncertain foundation. We had been told that the Emperor had done all the mischief—that he was the cause of all the evils which had occurred. It could not be denied that the Emperor was responsible to the people of France for every step he had taken with regard to war; but neither could it be denied that there was a force behind which impelled him forward, and the moment the Emperor let 421 the French people slip out of his hand—as he had acknowledged it had—his doom was certain. Knowing the character of the French people, he (Viscount Royston) did not think that they would have crumbled away with as much facility as their Emperor; but in six months a nation of 36,000,000 was utterly crushed, three armies were taken prisoners, they never won one single action, they had not produced one general with a head, and they had not been able to raise a Minister capable of conducting the national affairs. He asked whether it was conceivable, in the hallucinations of any mind whatever, to imagine such a prostration as had been witnessed within the last six months? Britain could aid and sympathize with France, but that was all she could do till she was asked, and when asked—though he was opposed to many of the questions upheld by the Premier and his supporters — he believed she would act worthily of her antecedents. He thought the Government deserved the best thanks of England, and he was confident that when this country could mediate with any chance of success the Government would come forward with heartiness and readiness to perform that office. He trusted that that time was not far distant—because Germany, with amalgamated power and a concentration of forces, rendered it probable that the entire prostration of France, instead of being conducive to the peace of Europe, was certain to incite war. There could be no durable tranquillity on the Continent so long as France was demolished. He could not believe that so farseeing a man as the Chief Minister of the Emperor of Germany could allow himself to dictate such terms of peace as could not be performed. It would be useless to demand ten milliards of francs; it would be cruel to take Alsace and Lorraine, and the greater part of the French fleet. When these terms were propagated by the newspapers, and believed in by the gobemouches — in which latter category he should not think of placing the right hon. Member for Tamworth, although he was startled when he heard that right hon. Baronet quoting a proclamation which, he said, had been posted upon the walls of certain cities, as emanating from Prince Charles, who as a practical general could never have been guilty of such pettishness and 422 childishness—they naturally created a great sensation. But he did hope that the terms of peace — which must be severe, seeing that Germany must defend herself against future aggression by sufficient securities—would soon be adjusted. The fact was that the French people had brought the war upon themselves. No man—not even the Emperor himself—had done more to incite a war feeling than M. Thiers, both in the Chamber of Deputies and out of it. M. Thiers had been elected by 19 different constituencies, which constituencies had evidently a higher opinion of the French Minister than he (Viscount Royston) could ever form. Personally, M. Thiers had brought as much misery upon his unhappy country as any Minister connected with the Empire. In the fortifications of Paris alone he was responsible for the expenditure of 200,000,000 of francs, besides bringing upon the capital the misfortunes and horrors of the late siege. France had not only slipped out of the hands of the late Emperor, but out of everybody's hands. But we in this country should not be led away by maudlin and philanthropic sentiment. That France was in a wretched and deplorable state was too true; but our assistance should only be given when it was asked, because volunteered it would only bring reprobation on ourselves, and never elicit any gratitude from France. He hoped the Motion would not be pressed to a Division. The best wishes of Britain were with France—the people of this country would do all in their power to alleviate the sufferings of France; but we should not be forced into a policy which might bring destruction upon ourselves, and no benefit to those upon whose behalf we intervened.
§ MR. HORSMAN
There is one objection to this Resolution which my hon. Friend (Mr. A. Herbert), who has moved it with so much earnestness and feeling and so much ability, must feel is calculated to render it so unacceptable to the House, that I hope he will be satisfied with the discussion he has raised, and not take a Division upon it. That objection is that this Motion would drive the Government to abandon the position of neutrality which they have taken up in accordance with the feelings and wishes of the country at large. So far as this particular Blue Book is concerned, I cannot entertain the same view of the 423 policy of the Government as is taken by some of my hon. Friends. The Government have had a very difficult duty to discharge. They have had, first, themselves to take up an attitude of neutrality; and they had, secondly, what was not a less responsible duty—to localize the war and to induce by their influence other parties to adopt the same policy. I have read with great attention the despatches alluded to by my hon. Friends, and I have observed the pressure put upon the Government to induce them to take up what I think was termed "the resolute and determined attitude" pressed upon them by M. Thiers and others. I am sure I shall receive the concurrence of many on both sides the House when I say that nothing is so contagious as war; and that if the Government had yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon them from various quarters we might have found ourselves the moving cause of a general European conflagration. I therefore, for my part, entirely approve and concur in their refusal of what M. Thiers asked. Moreover, I think that such a course as that suggested by the hon. Gentleman, while embarrassing to this country, would be unjust to Germany; for what would be the purport and intent of this Resolution if carried? I heard the other day — almost with apprehension — an Answer given by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government to the hon. Member for Nottingham, in which, I think, he said that the terms of peace were a matter of watchful concern to the Government of England. Even that was going further, I thought, than was consistent with the view they had adopted; because how was it to be followed up? Did it mean that we were to give unpalatable advice to Prussia? It certainly could not mean that we were to deal in threats; but if we, in concert with other Powers, once take upon ourselves to remonstrate and recommend, we do not know how soon we may be pressed into dictating terms of peace; and I want to know what answer we are likely to get from Count Bismarck if this position should be assumed? Count Bismarck has a very easy answer, which, I am afraid, has not been thoroughly considered. I am, and always have been, as anxious as anyone for peace, and should be very glad to hear that Germany had abandoned her claim to 424 Alsace and Lorraine; but we must look at the matter from the German point of view as well, and what would Count Bismarck say to us, if we were to tell him he must be content with moderate terms of peace? "Who is to define what moderation means?" he would say—"And remember what position we are now occupying. France began the war; France invaded Germany—not the Emperor only, not the Government only; the Chamber, the Press, the populace all cheered on the war; 'A Berlin' was the cry." My hon. Friend (Mr. A. Herbert) thinks territorial occupation is an immoderate condition of peace; but Count Bismarck may ask in reply—"Who made territorial cession the prize of war?" Was it not France herself? Did she not name the stake? Did not she know that according to all longstanding usage, cession of territory would be the conclusion of the war? Did not both parties go into the war with the acceptance of the condition that the Rhine was to be the prize? And when France herself laid down the stakes shall she not pay the forfeit? But when Count Bismarck first spoke to Jules Favre about the cession of territory, what did Jules Favre say?—"Sir," said he, "do you know you are speaking to a Frenchman?" "Yes," Count Bismarck might have said, "I know that I am speaking to one of that nation that has always coveted the Rhine, and that went to war on purpose to take the Rhine." Count Bismarck says, in one of his despatches—"I have found it impossible to make M. Jules Favre understand that the honour of France is of the same quality as the honour of other nations." And this, Sir, it is that has been fatal to France; she has been the victim of her own delusions. What is the truth? The war was practically concluded at Sedan: and the question is often asked—Why was not peace concluded at Sedan? We are told the other night that the King of Prussia began the war by announcing that he warred against the French Emperor, not against the French people; then, why was not peace made at Sedan? Why did the King of Prussia re-commence the war, and, at that time, against the French people? Because, before he could even speak of peace the Government was changed, and, through the mouths of its two most eminent members, declared the war should go on. 425 M. Jules Favre's first act was to declare that "not an inch of territory should be ceded nor the stone of a fortress be forfeited;" and M. Gambetta exclaimed—Vanquished as we have been, we will not for one moment entertain conditions of peace until every German soldier has left our country; we will not even talk of peace as long as the soil of France is polluted by a German foot.I would not say one word in disparagement of a great nation in misfortune. I sympathize with—I commiserate France in her misfortune; but, Sir, I commiserate France most of all that, in her misfortune, she fell into the hands of those two men, who are more responsible for the bloodshed we deplore than any German who has invaded her soil. If France has been humiliated—if she has been devastated—if she has been exhausted—those who are responsible for her condition are the men who deluded her by those vainglorious, bombastic, mendacious proclamations in which they did not themselves believe. Of Germany, I would say that, although I should be glad to see peace concluded without France being too much humiliated, I think we are liable to err greatly if we conclude, as is commonly done, that Germany has shown herself so immeasurably the superior of France that she is safe for all time to come, and may part with those securities which she thinks necessary for her defence; because it is impossible to deny that Germany has had unusual advantages in this war which she can never hope to have again. In the first place, France, anticipating that she would surprise Germany, was surprised herself. Germany had the finest army the world has ever seen, in a perfect state of preparation. The war had been foreseen and prepared for by a statesman of great sagacity, and every movement of the campaign was directed by a military genius unequalled in our time, and, perhaps, not surpassed in any other. But another generation of Germans may not have a statesman such as Bismarck or a general equal to Moltke. If France had had a statesman like Bismarck and a general like Moltke, where would Germany be now? The fortunes of war would, perhaps, have been reversed. The present misfortunes of France are not traceable to the quality of the French troops. Had the generals been changed 426 the march of the French to Berlin might have been as certain as that of the Germans has been to Paris. These are circumstances we must take into account; and Germany from a German point of view has a right to say—"We must have security for the future." I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) speak of the unification of Germany as a misfortune to Europe. I take the opposite view. I am one of those who think that Cavour did a great work for Italy, and that Bismarck has done a great work for Germany. The memory of Cavour will be honoured as long as Italy exists; and the name of Bismarck will, in future times, be mentioned with honour throughout Germany and through the world. I myself believe that the unification of Germany is a new guarantee of peace for Europe. Germany has never been an aggressive Power. I am not here to defend the German aggression on Denmark. In this House I went further than any man to press the Government to defend Denmark; but examine the history of all the greatest men, and tell me how many are there whose career is without a blot. I will say nothing of France upon this point; but I insist that if you take the whole history of Germany you must say she has not been an aggressive Power. While, therefore, Sir, I admire the generous spirit which dictated this Resolution, and acknowledge that there could not be found a more fitting mouthpiece for the sentiments of which it is the expression, I do trust my hon. Friend will rest satisfied with the consciousness that he has well discharged the duty he was impelled to undertake, and that he will not put the House in the very false position we should be in if obliged to divide upon his Motion.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, he thought some of the remarks made in this debate were quite uncalled for; and in particular he protested against the construction the right hon. Member for Tamworth had put upon the departure of Lord Lyons from Paris. Lord Lyons left the city at the earnest solicitations of M. Jules Favre, in order that he might be in full communication with Her Majesty's Government. The position of Mr. Washburne in no degree resembled that held by Lord Lyons, and his conduct could not be dictated by the same considerations. He again protested in the warmest 427 manner against any adverse construction being placed on the departure of Lord Lyons from Paris with the Government of the country to which he was accredited. Lord Lyons was no more capable of deserting his post in a time of danger than his gallant father would have been of deserting his ship.
§ SIR HENRY LYTTON BULWER
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had anticipated the few observations he should have wished to make in reference to Lord Lyons. He thought nothing would have been more injudicious than that Lord Lyons, Her Majesty's Ambassador in France, should have remained in Paris when it was absolutely necessary for the transaction of business that he should accompany the other foreign Representatives who were leaving the capital. It was perfectly clear that the Representatives of Switzerland or Brazil might remain in Paris without injuring their Governments; but it was perfectly clear also that nothing would have been more injurious to the interests of the British Government than that Lord Lyons, from any false sense of honour should have remained in Paris when his presence would be far more useful elsewhere. He desired to say a very few words with respect to the special Motion now before the House. He entirely sympathized with the sentiment of his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. A. Herbert); but he could not approve of his Motion. Of two things one was certain—either the Prussian Government meant to act with justice and moderation, in which case we should, only by a sort of indirect menace, place an obstacle in the way of its doing so; or else it meant to act with injustice and exorbitance, in which case it was advisable that they should have the facts before them, and not proceed in the dark upon a mere hypothesis. Moreover, supposing they were to agree to the Motion of his hon. Friend — to whose ability as well as to whose sentiments he begged to pay a merited compliment—what then? Who should decide what would be moderation on the part of Germany?—who should decide what was contrary to the independence of France, or to the security of Europe? Why, the very moment after they had voted unanimously for the Resolution of his hon. Friend, when the case to which he referred was brought 428 before them, they would be found perhaps essentially to disagree. His hon. Friend thought that to take the smallest portion of territory from France would be an act of injustice. There were, on the other hand, many who thought that, after Germany had been exposed to a war which was unjustly brought upon her, even were she to exact Alsace and Lorraine, she would only be repaid for the suffering she had undergone. He thought, for himself, if Germany would be satisfied with the possession of Alsace, and let France retain Metz, that would be a very fair arrangement. Well, with all these differences of opinion, would it not be absurd for them to make a declaration in words which signified nothing clear in ideas? Besides, what would this declaration result in? He confessed, indeed, in reading the Motion of his hon. Friend he was somewhat reminded of a very old story told of one of Mr. Speaker's predecessors. One of those inquisitive foreigners who were anxious to inquire into our institutions asked the Speaker of the House of Commons of that time what he would do if some refractory Member persisted on speaking out of his turn. The Speaker said "I would call him to order." "Well," rejoined the foreigner, "but supposing he did not attend to your admonition, what would you do then?" "Why," answered the Speaker, "I would name him." "But," continued the foreigner, "supposing he did not attend even to that very solemn warning, what would you do then?" "God Almighty only knows!" exclaimed the Speaker; "I am sure I do not." Well, what were we to do now. Supposing Germany was to do something exceedingly unjust, something that would deprive France of her independence and menace the security of Europe, and we had expostulated and she had disregarded our expostulations—what was to follow? Would it be enough to say, as this Resolution says, we did not approve of such conduct? On the other hand, if she were to act with scruple and generosity, was it worth while to have said anything? It seemed to him that this Motion said too little or too much. If we were to condemn, let us know what we were to condemn; if we were to praise, let us know what we were to praise. Our words come too late to prevent anything, too soon to judge anything. We could not 429 be always talking, and he thought it better, therefore, that we should only talk when we could do so with reason or with effect. In conclusion, he trusted his hon. Friend would be satisfied with the discussion he had originated, and would not press his Motion further.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
thought that any French patriot who had heard the expressions of sympathy with their country which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Cambridgeshire (Viscount Royston), and the right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman), must have exclaimed—"Save us from our friends!" The question before the House was, whether it was the duty, and, he might add, the interest, of that assembly to plead the cause of France, when France was too prostrate to say anything for herself. A French gentleman of good position, well known in English circles, and not responsible in any way for the sad position in which his country now found itself, remarked to him the other day—"We must accept the terms of peace, whatever they may be, for we have nothing left—neither armies, nor generals, nor munitions, nor finances. We trust to your country and to Europe. We trust you will see that it is for your interest and the interest of Europe that you should leave to us at least some semblance of independence." It had been urged that they should let this question alone, because France, being prostrate, could do nothing for herself, and they would only anger the Prussians by saying anything on her behalf. He had also heard it said that, because France threw herself at the throat of Prussia, she must meet in silence her condign punishment, and we must hold our hands. But then came the question—Had we any moral influence, and could we exert our moral influence when we were determined to back it up by nothing else? He would remind the Prime Minister that the loudest cheers which greeted his policy of non-intervention came from the Benches behind him, where sat the representatives of the peace-at-any-price policy—those who had declared, in meetings at Manchester and other places, that under no circumstances, except the invasion of this country, would they go to war. ["No!"] Yes; and one Member behind him had already proposed to reduce the Army by the 20,000 men whom the Government 430 had raised to increase it. Judging those Gentlemen by their actions and their words, they thought the foreign policy of this country should be one of isolation, weakness, and "effacement." ["No!"] He held that it was our interest to endeavour, by moral influence, or by any means in our power that could be exerted beneficially, to secure for France some decent terms of peace. In August last he predicted in that House that the rupture of the alliance with France would put them in this position—that they would have Russia in Constantinople, and the Alabama claims again cropping up. The position of England in Europe at the present was as though she had had a rupture with France, for France was annihilated and could not act as her ally; and we found that Russia had withdrawn from the Treaty of Paris; that Prussia immediately afterwards gave notice that she no longer held herself bound by the Treaty of Luxemburg, and he thought there existed strong reason to believe that these two Powers had come to an understanding for the future partition of Europe when favourable circumstances arrived. It had been the policy of this country to protect Belgium, and to suspect that the only danger impending over her came from France; but, in his opinion, danger was as imminent from united Germany when ruled by a despotic Power as it had ever been from France, where there had always been a strong section of the people willing to stand up in defence of constitutional government. Now that Germany was united she would require a large seaboard, and did not this threaten danger to Holland and the Colony of Heligoland? Some people contended that it was not to the advantage of England to preserve Heligoland; but she could not tamely give up except by general consent anything she held by the faith of a treaty. What he contended was, that Her Majesty's Government ought to use moral influence if they possessed it, and if they saw terms proposed which would, if accepted, have the effect of annihilating France, to consult every class in the community as to the course to be pursued, instead of depending simply on the representatives of the easy-going classes who defend the policy of peace-at-any-price, maintaining that cotton is king, and that trade and commerce are 431 the only things in the world worthy of protection. He felt strongly on this question, because he had himself seen the miseries which France had suffered in consequence of the war, and because he had helped the party of which he just spoke to settle many questions in which the interests of the people generally were concerned. There were many hon. Members in the House who were equally in favour of protecting the rights of the working classes with the representatives of "peace-at-any-price," but who would not help those representatives in their endeavours to disestablish England and destroy its proper influence in the Councils of Europe? He was morally convinced that at the present moment England stood in a very critical position. With France annihilated and Germany consolidated England would have to do battle within the next ten years without a single ally for her liberal institutions; and she would have also to fight for the independence of Turkey, of Belgium, of Holland, and of the Scandinavian nations. Of course, great doubt might be thrown on the conceptions or belief of any Member of the House; but such he held to be the peril before this country. Therefore Her Majesty's Ministers ought, in his opinion, to use every means at their command to save France from her present position; for, by so doing, they would place this country in such a position that she would not have to cast her eyes over Europe for help in vain in her own day of trouble and in the time of European conflagration.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Henry Bulwer) had asked who was to decide as to what were moderate terms of peace?—and it must be confessed that abstractedly the question was one difficult to answer, but a reference to historical precedents might be of assistance. Let them look back to the pages of history, and see what was the course pursued in former days after wars more severe and terrible than the one they hoped had now come to an end. In 1814, when the Emperor Alexander entered Paris, he said—It is not against the French nation I have made war, but against Napoleon. He has carried fire and sword through our country; he has devastated, he has penetrated to the very heart of my empire, sacrificed my people, burnt my cities. The justice of God has brought me to-day to the 432 foot of those ramparts whence the enemy took their departure, and now my only object will be to reconcile France with other nations.Again, M. Talleyrand, supported by the Duke of Wellington, said—The Sovereigns will respect the integrity of France, such as it was. They will do more, for they hold to the opinion that it is essential to the happiness of Europe that France should be great and strong.These extracts were his answer to the question of the right hon. Baronet. He did not wish to discuss the question from the French or German point of view, but he held with the right hon. Baronet the senior Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) that they should regard, it from that point of view which comprehended the interests of England; and, holding that opinion, he thought the language of M. Talleyrand laid down the true principle on which peace should be made on the present occasion. If Prussia crushed and humbled France too much, it would lay the basis of great danger in the future. A very clever pamphleteer recently wrote—Will it not be advisable to accept a peace with conditions however severe, but which, while they leave us conquered, leave us full of energy and resource prepared to take our revenge at the very first opportunity?This would undoubtedly result if France were too hard pressed now, instead of having offered to her terms of peace which she could accept with honour. With regard to the question of indemnity, he could not imagine that any great nation like Germany would make its victory the ground for utterly crushing a country with which it had been at war, by demanding a money indemnity so enormous as to absorb all the wealth of the country. With regard to the question of ceding territory to Germany, he thought that the cession of Alsace and Lorraine would leave the germ of a war which would certainly break out between the two countries in the future. And then he could not see on what plea Alsace and Lorraine were alone demanded, and why the proposed cession should not extend, if there must be a cession, to the whole of Northern France. In 1815 we did not allow territory to be taken from France. The cession of Lorraine to France was made some 130 years ago, when Fleury was Minister, and, therefore, he thought it absurd to regard the two provinces as being German. Again, another feature in the case 433 which strengthened the right of France to Alsace and Lorraine, was that after the cession she paid a large annual sum to the ceding Power. The proposition before the House was, in his opinion, a very moderate one, and he did not think it at all unreasonable to ask for its acceptance by the Government. The despatches of Earl Granville, doubtless, contained expressions indicative of the natural courtesy of his mind:—but it was shown, and he regretted it, by answers to Questions in this House bearing on the subject of the war and by the despatches laid on the Table of the House that Her Majesty's Government were opposed to intervention of any kind—in fact, the Blue-book was pervaded by the idea—"Let them fight it out," notwithstanding that others of the neutral Powers were prepared to assist England in the work of bringing about an honourable peace. The commonest humanity would lead a man to prevent one person ill-using another in the street; and yet when Government was called upon to take some action in the present difficulty, they seemed possessed by the idea that any action on their part would do more harm than good. But he (Mr. Cochrane), for one, altogether failed to see what harm could arise from Her Majesty's Government taking the line of action laid down in the proposition now before the House. But there was a stronger point for interference than that—we had interfered; and how? Earl Granville wrote to the Turkish Ambassador to say that we insisted that neither of the two Powers between whom such interchange of letters was made should depart from its neutrality in the present war, without a previous communication of ideas and an announcement to one another of such change of policy with regard to neutrality. That was a mode of interference that had never been heard of before. Similar notes were addressed to Austria, Portugal, Spain, Greece, the Hague, Belgium, and Sweden. Even if one of the Powers had an opportunity of interfering it could not interfere at all, because Earl Granville took upon himself to tie them all up. They were not to move till he moved, and then he said—"I will not move at all." He thought that was a most questionable thing for Earl Granville to have done. His reason for rising was simply to urge that it was 434 important to the interests of this country that our Government should now express some interest in the terms of peace. Count Bismarck said the other day—For the future, people will not ask what is the opinion of Europe, but what is the opinion of Prussia.It is not a pleasant prospect for us to have to decide on the policy of Count Bismarck. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I was not aware that such an expression had fallen from Count Bismarck. Where does it appear that he said so?] It would be found in a despatch which he should, no doubt, be able to discover, and would hand to the right hon. Gentleman. Were we not interested in the question of Germany becoming such a great Power? Suppose that Germany should interfere with the neutrality of Belgium? If we were not interested in this question, why had it been proposed that our Army should be increased? Why should we add three millions to our military expenses? This showed that the views of the Government had changed, and that they did not feel so secure as they had done. We might increase our Army as much as we pleased, but the real security of this country really was in its high moral standing, in its possessing the confidence of foreign countries, and the perception that it was always actuated by the feelings of justice, humanity, and dignity.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, that, referring to an observation that had been made with regard to the magnanimity of the Emperor Alexander, he wished to mention that he struck away from France 8,000,000 of people, of Belgium and other provinces, who had been French for years, and that he claimed to take and kept to this day the whole of Poland, with the exception of the Grand Duchy of Posen and the part of Galicia now belonging to Austria; and he governed Poland with a ruthless policy such as was scarcely known in the annals of the world. As to the question immediately before the House, he thought the hon. Member had brought forward a Resolution which indicated rather what we should not than what we should do. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) found fault with the Government for everything they had done. Now he (Mr. Muntz) was of a very different opinion. What were the facts? Before the commencement of the 435 war, after the Prince of Hohenzollern had withdrawn his candidature, Earl Granville did everything in his power to induce the French Emperor to abstain from declaring war. The answer he got was one of ordinary courtesy and nothing further. After the first reverse of the French another application was made; and we were told to mind our own business—that France wanted no mediator. After the extraordinary surrender of Sedan and the dethronement of the Emperor it was perfectly true that M. Jules Favre did talk of peace—but upon what terms? He said that the Republic willed peace, but that they would never surrender one inch of their territory or one stone of their fortresses — that there should be no peace while a single foreigner remained in France, or her soil was polluted by a single German foot. Of course, Earl Granville acted very properly in stating that as long as France maintained that position England could not interfere. M. Thiers made pretty much the same declaration, for he said when a soil had once become French it remained French for ever. His position was that France had a right to make war for conquest, and if defeated retire without loss, for French soil was inviolable. What would France have done if she had been successful in this war? In that event the country on the left bank of the Rhine would have been annexed to France, and no one in France would have cried out against the injustice of doing it. M. Thiers, in his Consulate and the Empire, said when the whole left bank of the Rhine had been annexed to France, that Germany began war against France — which by-the-by was not true—and that if a nation which declared war lost its territory, no one had a right to complain. How, with this opinion, could he now complain of what had happened to his own country? Why were the Paris Forts built? To cover an attack, which at the time was actually intended to be made on Germany, and which was merely put off in consequence of the Quadruple Alliance. And these forts, that were built for the purpose of aggression on a neighbouring people, had proved to be instruments of misery and horror to the French. Then, it was not for them to complain. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Herbert) found fault with Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Muntz) did not profess always to vote for the 436 Government, but, having read carefully the Blue Book on the subject, he did not know what better course they could have adopted than that which they did adopt. He thought they had acted with wonderful discretion. They had kept us free from all reproach—from all the troubles of war; and neither party could find fault with us hereafter, for they could not find fault with us now—which was the best proof of the perfect neutrality of Her Majesty's Government. Suppose, when war was first threatening, the English Government had said to the Emperor—"We will not allow this war of aggression on a neighbouring Power, and if you persist you must take the consequences." That Mr. Pitt would have said so 70 years ago, under the same circumstances, he thought very likely. But if we had tried that game it is just possible that, with the aid of Italy and Austria, we might have been successful in preventing war. It was possible. But if we had what would have been the result? The eternal hatred of the French people. On the other hand, if we had not been successful we should have been involved in a war of which we might never see the end, and all from a Quixotic desire to meddle with the affairs of others. But if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had adopted that policy he had reason to believe that the British people—or even that House—would not have supported him; for the feelings of the House and the nation were very different now to what they were in the time of Mr. Pitt; there was no longer that hatred of the French people which prevailed at that time, for both nations had learnt to live together as friends instead of being continually at loggerheads. Coming now to another question, it appeared rather harsh to say anything in favour of one nation taking part of the territory of another; but before the French people made good their claim to retain Alsace and Lorraine against the Prussian demand to take them away let them come into court with clean hands—let them give up Savoy and Nice. Within these ten days there had been a revolt against them in Nice which had to be put down by force. It is true there had been a plébiscite for Savoy and Nice, which showed a great unanimity in favour of the French; but when it was about to be taken 40,000 437 troops were were marched into the territory, the ballot boxes were made safe, and everything was done to secure a majority. Therefore, unless the French Republic, having come by those provinces by accident, showed now that it was willing to give them up it would have no claim itself not to be treated as a conquered country. We had been told that Italy and Austria had offered their assistance. But in what way? By moral influence — to which neither the one belligerent nor the other would listen. Suppose our moral influence came to nothing, were we to bark without biting? Nothing could discredit a nation more. We did that in the case of Denmark, and he could conscientiously say that for some time after he was ashamed to show his face abroad, because it was said — "You English threaten, but dare nothing." If we had been prepared to interfere we must also have been prepared to go to war with such assistance as we could get from Austria and Italy. But with the immense armies on the side both of the French and Prussians nothing short of 150,000 men on our part would have been of the slightest avail. Where were they to come from? We might turn out 40,000 or 50,000 men, but it would take three or four years before we could put into the field such a force as would make an impression either on the French or Prussian armies. The policy of England of late years had been not to intermeddle in the affairs of Continental States. Therefore, considering that Her Majesty's Government had done all they could, that any interference would only produce harm, and, perhaps, make enemies on both sides, he hoped the House would see the necessity of rejecting the Resolution, which would merely encourage false hopes on the part of the French people which could not be realized, and prevent them from making peace, so essential to their own welfare and the tranquillity of Europe.
§ MR. CORRANCE
thought that the present discussion would be received by the Government with some satisfaction, because up to this time it seemed to him that the voice of the country on this war had been but feebly represented in Parliament. Throughout the whole of this memorable winter the English people, in their homes and families, had almost represented the internecine war which 438 was then raging between Prussia and France, and they naturally expected that when Parliament met it would give some utterance to their feelings. But what was the result? When the House met there were only two speeches of any importance made. No doubt they were admirable speeches, and effectually sufficient for the occasion. But wherever he went he heard nothing but expressions of disappointment at the silence of the British Parliament on a subject which the whole country had so much at heart. From the peculiar position in which the Government were placed at the time he knew what a difficult task it was for them to shape a policy. In the admirable speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. Herbert) the feelings of the people generally were well represented; the House, he thought, was much indebted to him for the opportunity now afforded to the representatives of the people for the expression of their opinions. This was a question of the attitude and conduct of the British Government. The attitude taken by the people had been noble. They had filled up the gap which they felt had existed in the policy of the Government by unexampled contributions. They could do no more—they would do no less. It appeared to him that this debate had diverged rather widely from the issue that had been submitted to the House. The discussion had been turned into one relating to the comparative merits of Prussia and France in commencing this war. Some hon. Members were disposed to throw all the blame upon France, whilst others were as strongly censured the ambition of Prussia. He should candidly admit that the attitude of France for many years past had been anything but satisfactory, and their policy, a policy of aggression. But whilst confessing that fact, what were they to say of Prussia? Was Prussia so lamb-like and peaceful-minded during the last few years? Was she so essentially German as some persons had represented? He doubted it. He had had some acquaintance with Germany, having resided there many years. He knew that the great German people were both intellectual and peaceable; but he believed the very contrary to be true of the Prussians. The right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) said that Prussia was non-aggressive. Now, he 439 should like to know in what sense could the hon. Gentleman say that Prussia was non-aggressive? Was she not a partner in the partition of Poland? Was she not a partner in the conspiracy against Schleswig-Holstein? And was she not at the present moment a determined candidate for the possession of Alsace and Lorraine? Was that, he asked, a policy of non-aggression? Added to that, when they found that she set herself up as a great military dynasty—was not that a policy in utter opposition to the principles of the great Liberal party of this country? What had been the career of Prussia since 1848? It had been one in direct antagonism to the constitutionalism of Europe and immediately to the constitution of Frankfort. Tracing the history of Prussia upwards from 1848 they found its policy one of aggression. In 1862 and 1866 the intentions of Count Bismarck were admittedly to stifle the freedom of discussion in the Prussian Chambers, and for four successive years he levied taxes on the people without the assent of the Chambers. Did such a policy as that meet with the assent of the great Liberal party of England? Nor did it end there. As soon as the unprovoked war with Denmark was over, Count Bismarck turned his attention to the great war with Austria, which ended at Sadowa. Was that a policy of non-aggression? Was that a policy to be approved of by the great Liberal party of England? Nothing astonished him more than the attitude of the great Liberal party in this case. But it was the same in the days of the first Napoleon. Mr. Fox supported the policy of Napoleon until he had conquered the whole of Europe, and the Liberals of the present day were in danger of falling into the same error with regard to Prussia. Great excuses were, no doubt to be made for any short-comings on the part of Her Majesty's Government. They came into office to represent a distinct policy of non-intervention. There was scarcely a Member of that Government who did not come in with that policy written upon his flag-staff. Well, what did that policy mean? It meant this—that both Parliament and the country were utterly disgusted with the former conduct of our foreign affairs—with our conduct with regard to Denmark—with our protocols in regard to Poland; and there was a general under 440 standing that unless we intended to back up our representations by military force, the only sound policy was one of non-intervention. Well, that, at all events, was intelligible. But he wanted to know whether the Government would consider the policy which had in view the suppression of France one that the people of England would tolerate? Count Bismarck had suppressed a portion of Denmark, because he found it too Liberal in its principles. He had also suppressed the Diet of Frankfort because it was too Liberal. Was it likely that it would continue to tolerate Switzerland and Holland? He asked whether it was not wise and politic on the part of Her Majesty's Government to use all their endeavours in time to avert the catastrophe that seemed impending over Europe generally? He did not mean to express any blame of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues—indeed, it seemed to him impossible that they could have interfered effectually between the two belligerents whilst they were engaged in such deadly hostilities against each other; but now that there was a pause in the operations of the war—now that this country was fully awake to the dreadful horrors which had resulted from it—now that France was prepared to make mighty sacrifices in order to obtain peace—he thought that Her Majesty's Ministers could find themselves in a position to vindicate what he conceived to be the true policy of this country.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
* said, he had listened with great interest to the speeches which had been made for and against the Motion of his hon. Friend, and he would invite the House to consider fairly its object and aim, and whether the time for useful intercession could, with justice, be said to have elapsed. He used the word "intercession" and not "intervention," for there was the greatest possible difference between the two expressions, as well as between the things which they were intended to denote. His hon. Friend had no idea of urging on the House the expediency of having recourse to a policy of intervention. He was not a man of such levity of speech as to advocate that course, but what he and his hon. Friend desired was, that the Government should consider whether, in the present dreadful position of an old ally, which was in such a state of exhaustion that it could not fairly 441 treat with the victor we should not be doing an act advantageous to ourselves and to Europe if we could bring our influence to bear as intercessors for the independence of France. It might be asked—"How were we to judge what was consistent with the independence of France?" History answered that question. When this country, after the termination of the most fearful struggle in which she had ever been engaged, joined the Representatives of all the European States to decide the settlement of 1815, was not the vital point of discussion that which was consistent or inconsistent with the independence of France, and was not the whole moral influence of England brought to bear with the view of maintaining the independence of a nation which had just inflicted upon us terrible wounds? What had been the result? Fifty-five years of peace — an eternity in politics. What he asked was an enduring alliance, if that was not? He was desirous, therefore, to receive from the Government the assurance that they were engaged in the endeavour of fairly, justly, and reasonably bringing the interests of this country to bear on the present state of affairs, not so much for the sake of France, or for the sake of Germany, as for the sake of the one thing which was so well worth obtaining—a permanent peace in Europe. Now, permanent peace, unless the terms imposed by Prussia in some degree recommended themselves to reasonable men, in France was a hopeless dream. It was not a truce that either France or this country required. It was a lasting peace. France required rest. She might be driven mad, as an individual might be driven mad by oppression. She had been driven mad once before, and all Europe suffered in consequence. It was to be hoped that such a state of things would never occur again for want of some mediator who would procure for her lenient terms. It was not for the benefit of Germany herself that she should not show lenity. There might be a war party in that country for all he knew; but the tillers of the soil and the workers at the loom in Germany had no interest in imposing terms on France which Frenchmen must ever regard with a sense of humiliation. It was the duty of the Government to decide what should be regarded as fit and moderate terms of peace; and it was of moment to us that 442 France should start afresh not dreaming of revenge, but that she should be restored to her proper place in the assembly of nations. A friend of his who left the French capital but a few hours ago confirmed what he had heard from others, that over her melancholy joy at the prospect of peace there crept a chill of terror unspeakable at the apprehension of the victors insisting on a triumphal march along the Boulevards. No reasoning or precaution could insure that perilous cavalcade against interruption by some desperate man whose home had been made desolate, and who thirsted madly for revenge. He envied not the brain or heart that did not sicken at the contemplation of the possible consequences, or who would not rejoice in bearing a part, ever so small, in averting them. But how could that be done? Only, so far as he knew, by the intercession, not intervention, of the neutral Powers, whose good opinion, after all, the victorious monarch could but desire to win. Surely, we had been abstinent enough in tendering our good offices. Officially, we had not muttered between our teeth a hint of interference. Should it be said that while the safety of the fairest city in the world and 2,000,000 people was at stake, we had not the pluck to ask if they might be spared a provocation which any madman might convert into wholesale carnage? It was said that it was too late to interpose, as peace was certain. But what sort of peace? Physically, France had been brought so low that at the present moment she was unable to hold out for terms such as reasonable men could expect her to abide by, or such as England had any interest in seeing her compelled to endure. She had, indeed, been vanquished by superior foresight, preparedness, and strategy; but could, anyone believe that she was dead. Standing by the prostrate and powerless form of the country he so fondly loved, and of which he used to be so proud, a patriot statesman of France might well exclaim—Thou art not conquered; beauty's ensign yetIs crimson in thy lip, and in thy cheek,And death's pale flag is not advanced there.She will awake from her trance which is not either sleep or death; she will arise ere long. But ought not we and every other neighbouring people, for our own sake as for hers, pray devoutly that her awaking may be peaceful, and not 443 with the frantic start of one who burns for revenge; that her closing wounds may not be cankered by the weight of any lingering chain, and that we may see her resume her old place in the society of nations, sitting clothed, and in her right mind. It was not the fashion, upon his side of the House, to speak of Count Bismarck as he was about to do; but his estimate of the character of that eminent person was very different from what so often was confidently launched without sufficient information. A man of Count Bismarck's ambition—a man who had performed such transcendent work in the execution of his aims—was not a man upon whom suggestions of magnanimity were likely to be thrown away. It was hardly conceivable that he should be the man from whom urgent and exacting counsels always proceeded. There was a great work yet before him, and he probably desired the war as heartily at an end as anybody else. He was not certain that if Count Bismarck had had his way he would not have wished the war to finish earlier. For, to the attainment of the pitch of his ambition, and to enable him to carve upon his tomb the inscription, Exegi monumentum ære perennius, a season of peace and prosperity for Germany was indispensable. For these reasons he believed that representations properly made in the name of the Queen and the people of this country would not be thrown away upon a man whose talents, prudence, circumspection, and foresight were probably unrivalled in the present day. Even if he knew beforehand that such representations were certain to fail, he should still think it right to make them. Side by side with the French people it would still be our lot to live, whether they were ground to the earth or allowed to hold up their heads again as free and industrious men. Was it not something to be able to say, even if Frenchmen still were forced to carry about some portion of their bonds, that in the hour of their extremity we did all we could for them? It was always worth while to be right; and it would be a misfortune which none of us could live long enough to forget, or would ever cease to regret, if, through want of intercession on our part, exorbitant terms were imposed upon France. He had listened with surprise to the statement by an hon. Member that the reason why 444 Earl Granville had declared in his despatch on the 7th of September, that he would not interfere or invite concerted action upon the part of neutrals was because of the ill-starred phrase which escaped from M. Jules Favre. Earl Granville had declined to interpose before that expression was used. Intercession might have been tried and failed; but why not try again? No harm could come of it. Had not our Government been forbearing enough? No one who read the Blue Book as carefully as he had done could say that the Government had risked anything on the part of this country, or suffered themselves to stray from their path through over-zealous attempts at mediation. The Blue Book he could only compare to one of the stone ditches in the West of Ireland, which looked in the distance like solid walls, but when viewed nearer were found to consist merely of stones piled up without mortar or cohesion; the only difference being that you could see through a stone ditch, but this published correspondence could not be seen through, for it embodied merely the darkness of despair. He had never been an advocate or an admirer of a swaggering policy; but he believed that we might have done much, at the time when the second war was beginning, to strengthen the hands of the peaceable and moderate party in the councils of the Prussian King. Had we then said—"If you persist in this war we shall withdraw our Minister, because we wash our hands of the innocent blood that is about to be shed," one of the most eminent Frenchmen, with whom he had the honour of being acquainted, had told him that not only would all France have been perfectly satisfied, but that a fire would have been kindled in Western Europe which even the winner of great battles and the taker of great cities could not have ventured to disregard. What had been the consequences of our inaction? In the course of a very few weeks the Treaty of 1856 had been torn up; the Treaty of Luxemburg had been thrown into the fire; and a fresh insult had been offered to us on the other side of the Atlantic. Our non-interference had only succeeded in lowering our prestigé. But the urgent and immediate question which they had now to consider was this—how could France, Germany, England, Belgium, and Italy be saved from the dan- 445 ger which would menace them if such terms were imposed on France as aggravated and kept alive the spirit of revenge in that country? No matter what Government might be set up — Bourbonist, Orleanist, Bonapartist—if excessive terms were imposed on France, in six months after the wounds of the country were healed, that Government would be swept away if it did not give vent to the national sentiment. Nor would this movement be confined to their own soil. Frenchmen would be at work in every discontented country in the world; and great changes had occurred in Europe since last discontent was actively fomented. Steam and telegraphy now-a-days were wonderful instruments in the hands of demagogues, and there was not a country on the Continent where the elements of disturbance were not still smouldering. Apply to those elements the momentum of rankling discontent in France, and who could tell the consequences?
MR. M. T. BASS
said, he had no fault to find with the Motion, nor did he think it ill-timed. On the contrary, it was at the moment when the terms of peace were being proposed that our own views could be expressed with most effect; for once the terms had been actually made known, it would be difficult for those who imposed them to yield any point. The Motion of the hon. Member (Mr. A. Herbert), accordingly, was entirely consistent with his high principles of humanity and generous sentiments. For his own part, he had a strong impression that Her Majesty's Government had been too timid in this matter. They had been afraid of doing anything that was likely to give offence to one party or the other. But had we escaped doing so? Had not Prussia expressed her strong disapprobation of our course during the war? and were we not even threatened with the resentment of Germany—a menace which he confessed did not fill him with any very great alarm? As to interference, had not the noble Lord who conducted our Foreign Affairs, at the instance of Prussia questioned Austria as to certain steps which she was about to take; had he not interfered with regard to Denmark; had he not made representations to Italy? If so, it was plain that we had interfered before, and once at the instance of Prussia, and there was nothing 446 to prevent us from expressing our opinion now, when Prussia held back. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had himself laid down the doctrine that there were conditions in which the neutral Powers were not only entitled, but bound to express their opinions upon any matter threatening the general tranquillity and welfare of Europe. That was his own clear conviction. He could conceive France being subdued, subjugated—governed even by Prussia; but he did not believe that if France were partitioned she would ever remain at peace with the rest of the world. It was therefore as much in the interests of Prussia as of the other nations of Europe, that our Government should express to her, in terms consistent with amity, that the more moderation she showed the more satisfactory would be the results. To say that Prussia had anything to fear from France in the future appeared to him to be a paradox and a contradiction in itself. The present war, in his opinion, was due rather to the desire for the unification of Germany than to a wish to get possession of the Rhine provinces; and France had been afraid of the unity of Germany, which had now been accomplished. It appeared to him monstrous, therefore, to assert that Prussia could not be safe without taking provinces from France. It was sometimes urged that to take Alsace and Lorraine was but reasonable; but, if so, why should not Prussia also take Champagne? Supposing such a proposition were to be made, would the right hon. Gentleman and his Government refrain from expressing their disapprobation of such an exaction? To talk about what France would have done was now quite out of date. No doubt, France did very wrong; but if France were compared with Prussia, there really was not a pin to choose between them. It was the old song over again — "Brother, brother, we are both in the wrong." They had both been the great robbers of Europe. From the time of the Great Frederick, who was the greatest robber that ever existed, Prussia had been plundering her neighbours. He hoped the Government would make such an expression of their desire to obtain moderate terms of peace as would induce the hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Herbert) to withdraw his Motion.
Sir, it is impossible to be surprised that the stifled emotion which every man carries in his breast with reference to the engrossing subject of the present day should have found vent in the debate of this evening, and that the debate should have been continued, not so much with any set purpose, as by the spontaneous action of the hon. Members who have taken part in it. On the part of the Government, as far as the past action of the Government is concerned, I must say I think that with hardly an exception we have nothing to complain of with regard to the manner in which our conduct has been judged by the House. But there is one exception which I cannot refrain from noticing. The noble Lord the Member for the county of Cambridge (Viscount Royston) has rendered his testimony in the handsomest terms to the spirit by which the Government were animated. On our own side my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), in a very able speech, made a defence of the Government which I am perfectly content, speaking generally, to abide by; but I am bound to say that, irrespective of coincidence with particular opinions which cannot, of course, be universally asserted where so great a variety of opinions has been expressed, I thank the House for the temper in which our actions and intentions have been judged. And it is but just that I should refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright), who addressed us to-night, for the first time, with that knowledge, ability, and judgment which, from my previous knowledge of him, I fully expected he would bring to bear on any question of this class. And now let me refer for a moment to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), the only speech delivered in this debate which could be generally described as a speech intended to assail the policy and proceedings of the Government. I will not cope with his general assertions, nor will I object to his criticisms upon the language which he states I used on more than one occasion when I said we had "ventured" to do this and we had "ventured" to do that. I do not find that the reports of my speeches in the newspapers sustain the quotations made by my right hon. Friend; but on several occasions I did use that expression, and it appears to me 448 to be a fitting and proper form of expression for a Minister to employ in describing the conduct of his Government in cases where it was not acting in strict right, but expressing opinions on the conduct of others which they were perfectly competent to determine for themselves. I "venture" to assure my right hon. Friend that moderate and deferential language on all occasions, whether among States or individuals, is in itself becoming, and will be found, on the whole, to answer best. But I admit my right hon. Friend did appear to make one point by a reference to the book of despatches on the Table. His charge was that we wrapped ourselves in selfish isolation, and so far he fairly grappled with an expression I used when I said that was the very thing we had forborne to do. He quoted Earl Granville's answer to M. Thiers that "we must judge what was best for ourselves." He left the House under the impression that that was the substance of Earl Granville's reply; and, indeed, no inconsiderable presumption would thence arise that we had taken our own interests for our compass and had paid regard to nothing else. But how does the matter stand? My right hon. Friend ridiculed me a little for being desirous to follow the quotations which he made. Well, my primary motive for that anxiety was respect for the Gentleman who was speaking, because, if it be my duty to render an account of the conduct of the Government, it is also my duty to answer, as fully as I can, any criticism which may be made upon it. In this instance I find reference to the book to be extremely useful, for I find that the representation made by M. Thiers consisted of two parts, one of which was an appeal to us to show our sense of the long alliance between England and France, and the other was that we ought to assert our own place in the Councils of Europe. What did Earl Granville do with reference to the latter part of that appeal? He said, and with the utmost propriety, that "of course we must judge what was best for ourselves." It was in reference to that portion of the appeal of M. Thiers that Earl Granville asserted we ourselves must be responsible. My hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion did so in a speech that was governed by a spirit which made it obvious that motives of humanity and philanthropy dominating 449 over everything else constituted the sole governing principle which led him to submit the Motion to the consideration of the House. My hon. Friend admitted, however—and it was an important admission for him to make—that there was in this book a despatch which, as he said, is in total and utter discord with the rest of the despatches. He quoted a letter of the 16th of October, wherein Earl Granville instructs the British Minister at St. Petersburg confidentially to inquire of Prince Gortchakoff, whether in his opinion it would be possible for England and Russia to come generally to an understanding between themselves as to the terms on which peace might be made, and if his answer should be in the affirmative on that point to further ask him whether he considered there was any possibility of putting a stop to the siege of Paris, if England and Russia, jointly with other neutral Powers, were to make an appeal to Prussia on the one hand, and to recommend moderation to the French Government on the other? The substance of that despatch was transmitted by telegraph to the British Minister at St. Petersburg; who, on the 18th, replied that he had seen Prince Gortchakoff, and that his Excellency had declared, on the part of the Russian Government, that any agreement between the neutral Powers would prove to be a barren and unpractical measure. This refusal on the part of the Russian Government, at that date, stands on record. Now, my hon. Friend cannot fail to see that this was a fact of the utmost importance. My hon. Friend should also tear in mind that the refusal on the part of the Government of Russia was at no long interval followed by the Note of Prince Gortchakoff, relating to the Treaty of 1856. My hon. Friend will at once perceive that, so far from this letter being out of harmony with the spirit of the book, it was an indication of a sincere and anxious intention to act prudently within certain limits, in the hope that an opportunity would be afforded for accomplishing a work of moderation, of justice, and of peace; and that it was only the untoward manner in which it was met, and the yet more untoward circumstances by which at that early date it was followed, that precluded my noble Friend from further developing the spirit and temper of which he had thus given an indication. One word I must say, 450 though the subject has already been most becomingly noticed by my right hon. Friend the junior Member for Tamworth (Sir Henry Bulwer). I greatly regretted the reference to Lord Lyons. The language used was "the ungenerous and unmanly flight of Lord Lyons from Paris." In truth, however, if the flight of Lord Lyons is to be censured, it was not ungenerous or unmanly, for he acted under the direct injunctions of the Government at home, and Lord Lyons can in no sense be held responsible for it. I want to know what would have been our wisdom and prudence, if at the time when the iron circle of investment was about to close round Paris, we had instructed Lord Lyons to remain there, and had made ourselves dependent for our communications with our principal and most trusted agent in France upon the chances of passing through the Prussian lines, and of the replies also passing through those lines, so that three, five, ten, or more days would have been occupied in the passage of communications? It is idle to refer to the case of the Minister of the United States; he was most useful, and performed a most honourable and advantageous part by remaining; but his position was entirely different, because the United States acted upon its traditional policy, wholly avoiding not the general interest of humanity, but that kind of position in regard to an European war which this country has never yet foregone. My right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) seems to think that the primary duty of an Ambassador in Paris is to take care of British subjects resident in Paris; but there cannot be a greater mistake — his primary duty is to take care of the interests of his country; it is a collateral and secondary duty to do all he can for those English people who may have occasion to reside in Paris: but that was not an occasion for any to remain in Paris who could get out of it. My right hon. Friend says that 1,500 or 2,000 English remained in Paris during the siege in its later stage. I can only say that his information is entirely at variance with ours. Nor was Paris left without an English Representative when Lord Lyons came away, because an inferior member of the Embassy remained to discharge those duties on behalf of British subjects which my right hon. Friend supposes were left unattended to. I will not dwell on the general objections which the 451 Mover of the Resolution has taken to the conduct of the Government on account of its negative and neutral character. The question is, what my hon. Friend shall do and what the House shall do with respect to the Resolution he has felt it to be his duty to move? I hope on every ground my hon. Friend will withdraw the Resolution; indeed, it is in the interest of the Resolution itself he should do so, for he will see that it would be impossible to prevail on the House to adopt it. It is perfectly true that we who know and are cognizant of the forms of our own Assembly are quite aware that we should not meet it with a direct negative, but by adopting the Motion to go into Committee of Supply; but the world outside — and not only the English world outside — but other countries, who may observe our proceedings — would not fail to conclude from seeing the small number voting with my hon. Friend that that small number was to be taken as indicating the strength in this House of those who are desirous, if it be possible, to mitigate the misfortunes of France, and to promote the future tranquillity of Europe. Therefore, in the interest of the Motion itself, I earnestly hope my hon. Friend will be disposed to withdraw it. It would not be right that I should pass from the terms of this Motion without reference to what I take to be their intention. My hon. Friend who has just sat down has spoken of the question of to-night, and the points upon which he and the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. A. Herbert) insist are—first, that England is to take upon itself to form at once a combination of neutral Powers, and, second, having succeeded in forming the combination, she shall then proceed to discover the basis upon which peace is to be negotiated. We are not to wait to allow the principals in this awful contest to make the basis for themselves, or even to compare their own ideas of what it should be; but we are to step in and make ourselves, whether they will or not, as far as opinion is concerned, the arbiters of the quarrel. I say "as far as opinion is concerned," and that construction is very stringently imposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens). When he stated that after the battle of Sedan was the time when we might have offered our mediation and influence, I observed that he said he objected to the 452 use of idle words, and that in the event of the rejection of our mediation, and in the event of our failure to make our influence effective, we were to withdraw our Minister from Berlin and close diplomatic relations with the German Empire. Well, my hon. Friend may think that such a conclusion as the extinction of diplomatic relations would form a happy medium between the opposite course of using loud and sonorous language without any effect being given to it, on the one hand, and going to war on the other; but I confess I am not prepared to take so favourable a view of the course he suggests. It appears to me that if we had gone so far as that it would have been difficult indeed not to have proceeded farther; and I think I have some support from the phrase which dropped immediately afterwards from the mouth of my hon. Friend. He said if we had only done that we should have kindled a fire in Western Europe which would have been effectual for the purpose. I am afraid we should have extended the fire that has already been kindled, and that without providing any means that would contribute to the limitation of its range or to the hope of its extinction. In two propositions of the last speaker I, for one, cordially agree. He is full of apprehension lest the peace to be made should be an extorted peace, involving conditions which would be intolerable to the recovered strength of a nation; and such a peace, after so much bloodshed and misery, my hon. Friend contemplates with sentiments of loathing and aversion. I agree with him that the possible arrival of such a peace is one of the unfortunate alternatives that may be before us. I agree with my hon. Friend in this, that the more magnanimity shall be shown by those whose splendid courage and wonderful organization, as well as the great genius of their leaders, have made them victors in this war, the better it will be in every sense not for France alone, nor even for Europe alone, but for the future interests of the German Empire. My hon. Friend also urged his desire that we should make an immediate attempt to use British influence. If the time comes at all it may come suddenly and with very short notice when neutral agency may interpose, and interpose with effect. It was surely a moderate demand which was made by an hon. Member to-night, in defending and 453 apologizing for the conduct of the Government, when he said that, as a condition of intervention between the two belligerents—as a condition of the most friendly and apologetic intervention—the least you can require is that it should be agreeable to, and desired by, one of the two belligerents; but the other night, in answer to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. A. Herbert), I stated that, so far as we were informed, neither belligerent showed the exact view which has been expressed to-night by my hon. Friend who spoke last, and by the Mover of the Resolution. As far as our information goes, the belligerents do not desire that, by a premature attempt, we should take out of their hands what they appear to think, and as it seems to me rightly, their own franchise—namely, that of comparing their views. I do not doubt they retain the hope that in case their views should prove irreconcilable there may be a place for the good offices of the neutral Powers; but I think it is their opinion that those good offices ought not to be prematurely thrust upon them, but should be left for a future stage. I dare say my hon. Friend would like a further assurance from me; but, in my opinion, it is better on this occasion to say too little rather than too much, and the House, viewing as it does the conduct of the Government in a spirit of confidence, would not desire unduly to press us. I would point out to my hon. friends that they must not form too high an estimate of the value of the sole and separate opinion of this country. Of the language imputed to Count Bismarck by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) I know nothing, and I cannot but believe he must have been erroneously informed; but do let us bear in mind that England is not Europe, and England is not neutral Europe. With reference to the article published in a paper at Versailles, we have received information that it was expressly disavowed by official authority. I sometimes hear hon. Gentlemen express sentiments to the effect that we have lost our influence in Europe, and that nobody regards us. I think England has no reason to be dissatisfied with the position she occupies in regard to European affairs. The anxiety of other Powers to enter into the consideration of our views, to obtain an expression of them, and to obtain our co-operation—if this were a 454 matter of national vanity, is as much as we ought to desire; and we must be careful we do not strain the opportunities of our position. We cannot assume at all times that all neutral Powers shall be ready to enter into our views; and I would have my hon. Friend bear in mind that when he speaks of the neutral Powers the secret of their strength is not that a portion of them shall enter into a separate combination, broken it may be by the absence of some vital member of the European community, but that the whole shall be prepared to act together. Much must depend on the disposition of the neutral Powers; much must also depend on the disposition of the belligerents. But it is not for me to invent new phrases expressive of the anxiety of the Government on this subject, because already we have advised Her Majesty on two separate occasions in the highest and most authentic form—namely, in the Speech from the Throne—to express the sentiments she entertains, first of all with regard to the duties she has to perform during the course of this afflicting war; and, secondly, in regard to its termination. I am not sure how far I am to understand my right hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman), in his able speech, as objecting to an expression which fell from me on a former night, when I said we should be watchful for opportunities of this kind. I am aware how easy it is to misjudge the precise force of terms that should be used in circumstances so critical; but I do not think that I overstepped the mark. Watchful I think we ought to be and should continue to be; and it would be a great and noble distinction for this country if, without allowing her sense of humanity to betray her into proceeding beyond her right, she could inscribe on the roll of her great deeds having been able to make some contribution, should the need arise, towards the mitigation of conditions, necessarily heavy and severe, which must be imposed on the termination of the war on one of the noblest countries of Europe; so as to afford the hope, expressed in Her Majesty's Speech, that the peace about to be made should not contain within itself the seeds of future trouble and disorder, being so actuated by the principles of justice with reference to the circumstances of the case as to give the assurance that after so great 455 convulsions Europe may enjoy a period of real and solid tranquillity.
§ MR. AUBERON HERBERT
said, that after the debate that had taken place, and especially having regard to the hearty manner in which his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had spoken on the subject, and also because he had told them that at the present moment, according to the best information in the hands of the Government, neither of the two parties had yet announced their desire for the intervention of this country, he begged, with the permission of the House, to withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.