HC Deb 04 April 1873 vol 215 cc606-28

rose to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the evidence laid before the Select Committee on the Euphrates Valley Railway last Session demonstrates the great advantages, both politically and commercially, that would accrue to England by the acquisition of an alternative route to and from India, especially in case of any emergency arising, and that this object would be best secured by a Railway which would connect the Mediterranean with the head of the Persian Gulf; and, therefore, the Recommendation of the Select Committee on this subject to Her Majesty's Government is well deserving of their serious attention, with a view to carrying it into effect. The hon. Baronet said, that he had endeavoured to word his Motion in such a manner as would induce Government to accede to it. He was aware that the word "guarantee" was one of which Her Majesty's Government had great dread; and the Committee which investigated the subject were careful in wording their Report, not to commit either themselves or the Government to the responsibility of a guarantee. His Motion for the appointment of a Committee, which was made on June 23, 1871, was carried by a majority of 86 to 10; and that showed that there was even then a prevalent feeling in favour of the object for which he proposed the appointment of the Committee. But whatever feeling then existed as to the alternative route to India had been strengthened immeasurably by events which had lately happened. There could be no doubt that the Central Asian question was one which had greatly increased the importance of the proposal he had to make to the House. The great advantages of the proposed line commercially, politically, and strategically, had already been proved before the Select Committee, by the most complete and overwhelming evidence. The great difficulty in the way of the construction of the line was, that its cost would be such that the Turkish Government would not be able to make it themselves. He was expressing his own opinion, not that of the Committee, when he said that by means of a counter-guarantee, such as he had always advocated, he did not believe this country would incur any real responsibility. The question was on what terms they should give this counter-guarantee. They were at the present moment going to pay £3,250,000 for the Geneva Award, which would never be of the slightest advantage to this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that this Award was simply to keep America in good humour, and that the New Rules would never be of the slightest benefit. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I never said so.] The right hon. Gentleman was so reported in his speech at Glasgow. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No.] At least he used words which led to that inference; but the counter-guarantee which he proposed would be of infinitely greater value to this country and to civilisation generally than the Geneva Award could ever be, by the acquisition of an alternative route to and from India, especially in case of any emergency arising. The Suez Canal had cost £16,000,000, and the highest estimate ever framed of the cost of this railway was from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. His own opinion was, that if a proper gauge were adopted, the expenditure would fall much short of £10,000,000. They were not asked to guarantee the capital. The Turkish Government would borrow the money, and pay it into the Bank of England under certain conditions, one being that the money should be used for no other purpose but the construction of the railway. The Turkish Government would be liable for the interest of the loan, and the receipts of the railway, as well as certain other tributes, were to be devoted to that object. The counter-guarantee of this country would, therefore, never come into operation until the Turkish Government had failed to pay one sixpence of interest—until the railway failed to pay one sixpence of working expenses, and until all the contributions which were to be handed over to this country also failed. The only guarantee Turkey had from us was the loan of 1855, which was guaranteed by France and by England. The amount was £5,000,000, which was issued at 102⅝. The price remained the same now as when it was issued; and the loan had not cost this country sixpence. If we were to guarantee a loan to Turkey for the construction of this railway, he did not believe we should ever be called upon to pay a sixpence of interest. He wished to add that all which he had said was not embodied in the Resolution which he submitted to the House. All that he asked the Government to do was to resume the negotiations with the Turkish Government, in order to see whether any measures could be concerted between the two Governments for securing this alternative route between this country and India. The navigation by us of the Suez Canal was exposed to a variety of risks. A Question had already been asked in this House as to the imposition of prohibitory tolls, which indicated at least the possibility that some day, at the instance of a hostile Power, our shipping might be excluded by such tolls. Last Tuesday the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane) had on the Paper a Question relative to the Suez Canal, and it then appeared that the control of the Canal was in the hands of the French Government, or of the French and the Egyptian Governments. The French Government held £12,000,000 out of the £16,000,000 of capital, and therefore possessed a power which might any day be used detrimentally to us. Another kind of danger was indicated—first, by the report that the Serapis went ashore in the Suez Canal, and again by a recent report that the navigation of the Canal had been obstructed by a sunken ship. Although it might not be the case that the navigation of the Suez Canal had ever yet been interrupted, although no ships might have been sunk, what he wanted the House to consider was this, that if all these things were possible—and the day might come when, either by a sunken ship, or by some unexpected complication, by some or all of these means, the navigation of that Canal might be completely stopped—what would be the condition of England with regard to this Canal if we had no other equally rapid route open to us? We should have to send troops and everything necessary for their safety—and it might be for the salvation of India—round the Cape. He asked the House whether such a position was one which a great country like this ought to be content to be placed in? At Kurrachee we had a beautiful harbour—Mr. Parks, the consulting engineer of the Company, reported five weeks ago that already £480,000 had been expended upon it—which was capacious enough for ships 400 feet long and drawing 25 feet of water, and which, inside and outside, compared very advantageously with that of Bombay. After the outlay we had incurred at Kurrachee, it would be a great mistake not to facilitate the opening of the route which would give us direct communication with that harbour. No one would deny that the advantages of the route, commercially, strategically, and politically, would be to us very great, and the only question could be how far they would be worth the outlay this country might be called upon to make. At the outside that had been estimated by Sir Henry Rawlinson and Sir Bartle Frere at £80,000 a-year. Some of our highest military authorities were greatly in favour of the establishment of this route as an alternative route, and it was as an alternative route he advocated it. If the two routes were maintained in their integrity, there would be work enough for both. If by accident or design the Suez Canal were closed to this country, we should be placed in a position we should very soon regret. The Suez Canal was a route which was in no way under our control. It was pointed out in a pamphlet which had been submitted to him that the Canal passed through territory over which we had no control; that it was in the hands of a French company; that we used it to a certain extent on sufferance; and that the keepers of the key had it in their power at any moment to bar the passage indirectly by increasing the tolls, or directly, from political motives, by closing the gates. He thought he had said enough to show the House the necessity of providing ourselves with an alternative route. The more we could save ourselves from the high pressure of physical rule in India, and the more we could induce the natives to be governed by moral rule, the greater would be our hold on them, and the greater would be in the end their civilization and their attachment to us. Nothing would so much add to our moral prestige with the natives of India, as the knowledge that England had at her command an alternative and even a more rapid route than the Suez Canal. The main objection which Governments in this country had previously entertained against the Euphrates Valley Railway was caused by the well-known opinions of the late Emperor Napoleon on the subject; but now that eminent man was dead, he hoped such narrow-minded views would be abandoned, and that it would be admitted the interests both of this country and India required the construction of an alternative route which would make us independent of all accidents which might deprive us of the only route now available to us. When he thought of such historic names as Lord Clive and Lord Wellesley, and the Marquess of Hastings and General Pollock, and Lord Gough and Lord Strathnairn, and Sir Henry Lawrence and Lord Lawrence, and when he thought of the triumphs and the results which had ensued from the exertions of such men, backed as they were by the great power of England, he did hope that the danger of wasting all these achievements for the want of an alternative and rapid route to India, might be averted—as even on the score of expense it would be bad policy to incur such a risk—and he did hope that he might make a successful appeal to the House in favour of the alternative route on which so much in future might depend. If we lost the present op- portunity it might never recur. Events we little anticipated now might happen, and others might slip in and reap the benefits of the line now presented for our acceptance. This was a great Imperial and not in any sense a party question; and therefore he implored the House to regard it from an Imperial point of view. He hoped the House would not set the lives of our countrymen in India, and the interests of that great colonial Empire, against the comparatively small outlay which would be required. We ought to look to higher considerations than the mere outlay of money, and he trusted hon. Members would not think he had taken undue advantage of their kindness by bringing this subject under their notice. Indeed, he was sanguine enough to believe that Her Majesty's Government would not oppose the Motion, which he had worded with great care, but that they would acknowledge the correctness of what he had stated. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.


in seconding the Motion, said, he could not have done so a year ago, simply because the public mind was not then prepared to received the proposition which the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) had submitted to the consideration of the House. The project was not a new one, having 15 years ago been brought to the attention of Lord Palmerston by a most influential deputation of able and intelligent gentlemen thoroughly well acquainted with the requirements of the East. The project was first planned by the late General Chesney, and after having surveyed the route, he continued up to the last day of his life to favour it. The project was, however, studied, developed, and kept before the public by Mr. Andrew, who with the characteristic energy and perseverance which had enabled him to do so much in India by urging on railways, repeatedly urged on Lord Palmerston the importance of a line of railway through Mesopotamia to a port on the Persian Gulf. In an interview with Lord Palmerston in 1857, Mr. Andrew strongly represented that the great object was to connect England with the north-west frontier of India by a line through the Euphrates Valley, from the Persian Gulf to Kurrachee, and thence by the Indus, whereby we should be enabled to move re-inforcements with ease and certainty to the entrance of the Bolan or Khyber Passes leading to Affghanistan and Kelat. He (Sir George Balfour) seconded the Motion of the hon. Baronet on the ground that we were bound to defend India at any cost, and urged the House to accept the Resolution on grounds of economy. The facility of moving troops from one point to another enabled a small force to act with effect; and looking to the impossibility of England maintaining armies at all approaching in strength to the hosts of the continental armies, it was highly advisable, in a military as well as an economical point of view, to increase to the utmost the power of moving a small and efficient army with promptness and effect. Events were ripening fast in Central Asia, which in the present year, or the year following, might alarm people in this country, and lead to great augmentations of our armies, and necessarily to largely increased military expenditure. As men of business we ought to prepare beforehand, and the only course we could pursue was to increase, to multiply, the facilities for concentrating troops at those points which might be threatened by the enemy. The expenditure on the Affghan War would have paid for a railway in the Euphrates Valley and up the Valley of the Indus. If these lines had then been in existence, the Affghan calamities could never have fallen upon us. It was of great importance that we should be able to put forth the might of England when the necessity arose. In his opinion the hon. Baronet had very clearly made out the necessity for an alternative route to India. If, during the war with Russia, we had been able to transport troops by this proposed railway, through Mesopotamia, or even if we had had steamers on the Tigris and Euphrates, we could have moved troops from India up these rivers, so as to have combined with the Turkish troops, and have driven Russia out of the whole of the countries conquered from Persia. This project was indeed mooted in India, and there could be no doubt that the European troops withdrawn from India for the war in the Crimea, and the men kept wanting to complete the force in India, would have supplied about 7,000 European troops. These, aided by a selected force of the Indian native troops, would have formed an efficient army to act with the Turkish troops, of whose fitness for soldiers the late General Prim spoke in the highest terms. There could therefore be no doubt that if we had had command of these communications, we could have thrown in troops to any extent, and not only would Kars never have fallen, but Russia would have suffered great reverses. The mere alarm of Omar Pasha's advance, and the rumour of the intended movement of the Turkish Contingent sufficed to make the Russian General raise the siege of Kars, and though only for a few days, the interval was sufficient to enable the garrison to obtain supplies. And the knowledge that a force could be promptly sent from India would have had an effect most disastrous to the power of Russia. Too much importance could not therefore be attached to the results that would follow on our having the power of sending an Asiatic army which would have roused the population of a country by which Russia was greatly feared, whilst we inspired confidence wherever we went. Again, if during the Indian Mutiny, we had had this railway communication down the Valley of the Euphrates and up the Indus Valley, we should have been spared many anxious days and nights when we were looking out whether the Punjaub was safe, or whether the whole of India was likely to rise up in rebellion against us, before we could pour in re-inforcements from home. He (Sir George Balfour) would also urge the necessity of making timely preparations for such events as the near approach of Russia to India might bring about. For instance, in the event of any complication in Europe, Russia might stir up the discontented spirits in and out of India. Russia, by her advances in Turkestan, and above all by the occupation of the Valley at the mouth of the Attrek, had so closely embraced Persia, that this country might at any time be constrained to advance either on India or to Mesopotamia. In the event of this dangerous combination, the line of communication through the Euphrates Valley would as Mr. Andrew represented to Lord Palmerston in 1857, enable us to threaten the flank and rear of any force advancing through Persia. There should therefore be no delay in securing another line of communication with India, independent of that through Egypt, so that when an emergency arose, we might meet it without apprehension, and with the conviction that we had in time of peace devised means of operating with effect, without entailing on India and England the burthen of maintaining great armies at vast expense.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the evidence laid before the Select Committee on the Euphrates Valley Railway last Session demonstrates the great advantages, both politically and commercially, that would accrue to England by the acquisition of an alternative route to and from India, especially in case of any emergency arising, and that this object would be best secured by a Railway which would connect the Mediterranean with the head of the Persian Gulf; and, therefore, the Recommendation of the Select Committee on this subject to Her Majesty's Government is well deserving of their serious attention, with a view to carrying it into effect,"—(Sir George Jenkinson,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


observed that, if we looked only for the most direct cut front the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, the line on the right bank of the Euphrates no doubt supplied the easiest and cheapest of the various routes suggested. The country for engineering purposes was easy; but for 700 miles along the banks of the Euphrates there was scarcely a town worthy of the name. The country was barren, and, owing to the absence of tributary streams, no cultivation had ever been possible, except in a narrow strip along the bank of the river. The animosity of the wandering tribes which inhabited it was principally directed against the Turkish Government, and if they received a subsidy the chiefs of these tribes would protect the railway against injury, especially if they understood it to be an English concern. On the other hand, there was no local traffic, and it would be simply a military line, by which England might send troops to India on some extraordinary emergency. In ordinary times it would be merely a line for the conveyance of Indian mails or first-class passengers. The local traffic would consist principally of pilgrims on the way to the shrines of Kerbela and Meshed Ali, and of coffins. We should not only have to create the line, but to create a population—we should have to civilize them, and introduce cultivation. When the subject was discussed in the House some years ago, he ventured to express an opinion that if a line were made at all we ought to follow the Tigris Valley, and the evidence given before the Committee had only confirmed him in that view. It would develop the resources, and strengthen the political independence not only of Turkey, but of Persia. Starting from the same point on the Mediterranean, it would pass through some populous towns, and a comparatively civilized country. Below Bagdad the difficulties would be about the same as on the Euphrates route. It would be, no doubt, a more expensive line to make, especially if it followed the left bank of the Tigris, because there would be rivers to cross, but the line would begin with some local traffic, and be, in some measure, self-supporting. It would be a longer line by 150 or 200 miles than the Euphrates route; but in a journey from England to India a matter of 10 or 15 hours would not be of such vital importance. It would be accessible to routes coming down from Persia, and would equally give us another route to India. He trusted, however, that the Government of this country would not be induced to take the initiative in this matter in any way whatever. If they did so they would find themselves committed to a guarantee or a subsidy, and what should we gain in return? The advantages of an alternative route had been spoken of; but neither the Euphrates nor the Tigris would be an alternative route in any true sense of the word. It would be a second route to India, through the Sultan's dominions, the use of which in time of war would equally with the Suez line depend upon our having the command of the sea. Colonel Chesney 38 years ago was sent out on an expedition to survey the Euphrates, in order to ascertain whether it was navigable, and whether steamers could ply upon it. We were then seeking to secure an alternative to the passage round the Cape. The Red Sea route had not then long been open, and it was doubted whether it would prove a permanent success. The idea then was that the Red Sea route would only be available for eight months in the year; and that the Euphrates might serve during the other four; but now the Suez route was available throughout the year, and we had not only a railway, but a canal through Egypt. We had thus got our alternative route to that by the Cape. He protested against our Government committing itself to any negotiations, the result of which would be to fling English money into Turkish bogs or Arabian quicksands. If it was pretended that a line could be made to pay, let a commercial company take it up; but from what he knew of the country, they need not trouble themselves to send him a prospectus. If the Turks wanted a line of railway, let them undertake to make it; and if they could show us any such advantages that it would be worth our while to assist them, let the Turks open negotiations and come to us with some proposal. It would then be for our Government to consider whether we could utilize the route for the purpose of forwarding the Indian mails; but, under the present circumstances, he strongly dissented from the recommendation of the Committee—that our Goverment should take the initiative; and he dissented still more from the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir George Jenkinson), which pointed to the Euphrates line—the least desirable route, in his opinion, to adopt.


said, he had not pointed to any line, but simply advised a communication.


said, he would support the Motion. Nearly every witness who attended before the Committee by whom this question was considered had expressed himself in favour of an alternative route to India. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) had referred to the Suez Canal; but Lord Palmerston made a great blunder with regard to the Suez Canal, and we ought to take warning from that. We did not consider the vast importance of that Canal; and, as he had stated last Tuesday night, unless we took some energetic steps, the Canal would be taken entirely into the hands of the French. Instead of taking energetic steps, we had given the French an opportunity of shutting up the Suez Canal whenever they pleased, and thus destroy that connecting link with India to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. With regard to the Euphrates Valley line, the highest authorities had insisted on the importance of having an alternative line, and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, Lord Canning, and Lord Strathnairn had pointed out the necessity of the Euphrates line. The Turkish Government were most favourably disposed towards the project. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not asked to make any advance of public money. The Turkish Government would advance the money upon our guarantee. When we considered the enormous importance it was to keep open our communications with India, he could not imagine that the Government would hesitate to take the subject into their consideration. We had recently heard a great deal about the progress of Russia in the East; but even supposing she did move down, if we had this alternative line we should have our communications safe from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, and should have nothing to fear from Russia. He therefore trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not take the advice given him by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson).


said, he had the misfortune to differ from the rest of the Committee upon this subject, they thought this railway of so great importance that they recommended the cost should be provided by a British guarantee on the back of a Turkish loan. He, on the other hand, moved an Amendment to the effect that it was not advisable to incur any pecuniary liability for the construction of a railway in a foreign country. It might be assumed that the promoters of this undertaking had no faith in its financial results or they would not have held a Government guarantee indispensable to raise the money. The line would never be used for through traffic to India. For any receipts it must depend entirely on local traffic. No doubt more traffic could be picked up on the Tigris than on the Euphrates line; but all the accounts which had been received precluded the idea of any remunerative return until some extraordinary change should take place in the condition of the country. Our Consul at Aleppo, for instance, stated that two trains would suffice to carry the whole annual export and import trade of all the towns except Aleppo and Bagdad, and that one carriage would accommodate all the passengers. Other authorities spoke quite as decisively on this point. If the line were regarded merely as a means of relieving our troops in India, he did not believe that it would ever vie with the Canal. It was generally assumed that the troops could be conveyed through without stopping. That was not, however, the case; and, as Lord Sandhurst had shown, it would be necessary to have resting-places, as in India, every 250 miles. It was said that all the objections that had been urged to the construction of the line would disappear in the case of a great emergency arising, but on that point he would refer the House to the testimony of Lord Sandhurst, who totally dissented from that view, and held that the acceleration of the journey by 15 or 20 days was practically of no importance whatever. He (Sir Charles Wingfield) believed that if Kurrachee were adopted as a terminus instead of Bombay there might be a saving of two or three days; but he did not think that Kurrachee would be substituted for Bombay for military purposes. He regarded the Euphrates Valley line as inferior in every respect to the Canal route through Egypt, except in respect of the saving of two or three days, to which he attached little value. The only advantage it could possess was a second line of communication. That was a good thing, no doubt even though it be inferior to the existing line of communication, but it was not an advantage to attain which we ought to expend money. He therefore dissented entirely from the recommendation of the Select Committee, and must protest against this country or India incurring any pecuniary risk or liability whatever in the promotion of this undertaking.


said, he thought it desirable that there should be no misunderstanding as to the real intentions and object of the Report of the Select Committee or as to the meaning of the Resolution of his hon. Friend (Sir George Jenkins). The question of guarantee had been very distinctly put aside by his hon. Friend, who did not propose to ask the House to commit itself to any such principle. He did, however, by his Motion ask the House to affirm the recommendation of the Select Committee. He wished for a few moments to recall the attention of the House to the circumstances under which the Committee was appointed two years ago. The question of establishing a route of some kind between England and India by way of Syria or Mesopotamia had been for many years under consideration—and that long before there was any idea of constructing the Suez Canal. It was deemed desirable that there should not only be communication by sea, but that a second line of communication by railway through Syria or Mesopotamia should be secured. Two years ago his hon. Friend the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) brought the subject under the consideration of the House, and moved for a Select Committee to inquire into it. At the same time a very important step was taken by the Government of India, who in a despatch to the Secretary of State, which was appended to the Report of the Committee, said that India had derived great advantages from the opening of the Suez Canal, and that, upon the whole, they desired to offer such encouragement as might be possible to the project for constructing a railway from either the Bosphorus or the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf; but they added that they were opposed to the undertaking receiving pecuniary assistance from or becoming chargeable upon the resources of the Empire. At the time when that Select Committee was appointed such were the general views of the position of the question taken by the Government of India. The Government of this country agreed to the Inquiry, on the ground that the question was one of considerable importance, which had never been fully discussed, and as to which a good deal of information was required, and they wished to know whether the line was capable of being made, and whether it was likely to be remunerative. The Committee considered these questions, and agreed to a Report which was now in the hands of the House. In many senses the Report was not a final one. For example, the Committee thought that a line was advisable, but did not determine the particular line to be adopted—whether by the Euphrates route or the Tigris route—or the advantages of this or that point of departure. The Committee felt it was impossible to get sufficiently clear evidence on these questions without an actual survey. Upon the financial part of the question the Committee arrived at a tolerably clear conclusion—namely, that it was improbable that any private company would undertake to construct this line; and that the Turkish Government would hardly be disposed to give either any guarantee or any great facilities to a private company. At the same time, the Committee had reason to believe that the Turkish Government would be anxious to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government; but here the powers of the Committee failed them. They could not undertake a survey, nor could they call evidence in order to elicit the views of the Turkish Government. Some Correspondence was, indeed, laid before them which had passed between the Turkish Ambassador and his hon. Friend (Sir George Jenkinson). But the Committee would have exceeded their functions had they communicated with a Foreign Minister in order to ascertain what the Turkish Government were ready to do in this matter. The Committee, therefore, believing that the matter was worth pursuing, recommended that Her Majesty's Government should take it up, and that a joint survey should be made to determine upon the best route. If, they added, the enterprise were to be regarded as one simply affecting British interests, it would be wisest to adopt the shortest and most direct route by the Euphrates Valley; if the co-operation of the Turkish Government were desired, the Government might prefer the Tigris route, and any such preference would be a material point in determining the question. The Resolution now submitted expressed no preference for any particular route, and therefore did not pre-judge the question. It should be remembered that though no railway was in course of execution to connect the two seas, various plans were under consideration in the district, and the Committee had reason to believe that the Turkish Government were actually engaged in making lines for their own benefit, which would more or less occupy some portion of the ground to which our attention had been drawn. It was desirable to communicate with the Turkish Government on this subject, so that both Governments might co-operate for their mutual benefit. Another question was as to the progress made in lines promoted by other countries besides Turkey. We found, for instance, that the Russian lines were gradually being pushed to the frontiers of Turkey, and it was reported to be in contemplation to carry a line from Tiflis to the head of the Persian Gulf. Within the last few days there was a rumour of a scheme for connecting the Russian lines with Kurrachee; and we had been told of a concession made to Baron Reuter of a monopoly of railways and telegraphs in Persia. It was important that we should know the meaning of all this. Another matter which deserved attention was how far we could develop the railway systems of the East so as to give a fair opening for the commercial produce of Persia and Asia Minor in such a manner as to work in with our own commercial interests and prevent the giving of such a monopoly to Russia as she was inclined to secure if possible. These considerations added greatly to the importance of the whole subject. His hon. Friend (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had warned us that commercial companies at the Suez Canal might seriously cripple our trade by imposing heavy tolls at the Suez Canal. It would be of great importance for us to have some alternative route, if it were merely for the sake of keeping the Suez route in order; and he hoped that the Government, even though they might not altogether approve of the Report of the Committee, or the Resolution, might put themselves into communication with the Turkish Government, in order to ascertain their views, and see how far it was possible for the two Governments to act together. There were various other modes besides that of a guarantee by which encouragement could be given by the Government for the making of a line. For instance, they might undertake to use the line for certain purposes, such as the carrying of our mails, or of a certain portion of our troops. But that was a matter on which there might be a difference of opinion. All that the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts and himself desired to pledge the House and the Government to, if this Motion were adopted was, that they should not put this matter aside in the rather curt manner in which he thought it was put aside when a Question was asked at the beginning of the Session; but that the Government should put themselves in communication with the Turkish Government or their Representative here, and ascertain what the feeling of that Government was, and in that way should give this matter a serious and careful consideration.


said, there was one thing which the House should clearly understand, and that was the effect of the Motion for which they had been asked to vote. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) very earnestly and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), he thought, with less confidence, had both endeavoured to persuade the House that the question of guarantee was not raised on this Motion at all. It was a matter of considerable importance that the House should attend to what the meaning of this Motion really was. The hon. Baronet summed up the result of the Motion in this way— Therefore, the recommendations of the Select Committee on this subject to Her Majesty's Government were well worthy their serious attention with the view of carrying them into effect. The hon. Baronet said the recommendations of the Select Committee, whatever they were, were well worthy the serious consideration of the Government with the view of carrying them into effect, and if the House adopted his Motion they recommended Her Majesty's Government to carry into effect the recommendations of the Committee, and those recommendations were ascertained by reference to the last paragraph of the Report. The Committee clearly pointed to incurring a pecuniary risk, for after speaking of several things they said they were of opinion— That it would be worth the while of the English Government to make an effort to secure them, considering the moderate pecuniary risk which they would incur. They further believed that this might Best be done by opening communication with the Government of Turkey—in the sense indicated by the semi-official Correspondence to which they had already drawn attention. What was the "semi-official Correspondence?" It appeared that the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson) having no doubt a special commission to represent Her Majesty—for he could find no trace of such an authority in the Blue Book—entered into a Diplomatic correspondence with the Turkish Ambassador, and felt himself justified on behalf of the Government in submitting a proposal to the effect that the funds should be raised by means of an Ottoman Loan, interest at the rate of £4 per cent per annum, and £1 per cent Sinking Fund to be guaranteed by England. The hon. Baronet referred to the recommendations of the Committee. The recommendations of the Committee referred him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to the hon. Baronet, and that was what he had suggested, adding that it was accepted by the Turkish Minister. Therefore it was as plain as anything could possibly be, that if the House adopted the Motion of the hon. Baronet, the House and the Government would be pledged to the principle that a guarantee should be given for this railway. Here he might very well stop, because, as the Motion did not give effect to the intention avowed by its supporters, they had nothing to do but to withdraw it. He was not prepared, having no special knowledge of the subject, to argue the matter as to whether it was advisable that such a line should be made. He readily admitted that if some one else made the line it would be just as well, and probably better, to have an alternative line; but the arguments advanced on the point were most fallacious. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) said if a ship was sunk in the Suez Canal this line would give an alternative route; but was there no alternative route except by the Cape of Good Hope? He was of opinion that such an alternative route was afforded by the railway from Alexandria to Cairo, and from Cairo to Port Said on the Red Sea. Were we to suppose that some foreign Power would drive us out of Egypt, which was a country so favourable to the operations of a maritime nation? Or, was it assumed that we should be unable to maintain a way through the Desert? England could exist without India, but British India could not exist without England, and it would seem that if anybody was desirous to have this route it should be the Indian Government. But the Indian Government, with no objection to have it if somebody else would make it, declined to have anything to do with its construction, and it was proposed that England alone should bear the burden. Although we had guaranteed lines in our Colonies, we had never yet ventured to guarantee a line in a foreign country. Every possible objection that could be urged against a route had been asserted with regard to this line. Alexandretta was unhealthy, Bussorah was deadly, and Grane little less deadly. There was no irrigation; there were no settled inhabitants, but only predatory and nomad tribes; the heat was almost more insufferable than in any other place; it never had been inhabited, and never would be to the end of time. This was the kind of country through which we were asked to guarantee a railway. Turkey was interested in making the railway, and if she could ever afford to make it she would make it, no doubt; but she would not now advance money either with or without a guarantee, for the simple reason that she had not got it. As he had said, India had an interest in the line, but would not have it; and it was proposed that England, having comparatively a very slight interest, should entreat Turkey to accept a guarantee of £10,000,000, in order to make this railway. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight said, quite pathetically, "Pray, do not let this golden opportunity slip, for it may never occur again." He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was under no apprehension, for he believed that if we were ever prepared to offer a guarantee of 10,000,000 of money we should not find any insuperable difficulty in getting Turkey to accept it. As the Motion pledged the House to force upon the Government a guarantee for this line, he hoped the House would not adopt it.


said, he wished to explain to the House certain circumstances which had completely altered the aspect of affairs since the Report of the Committee was made. But before doing so he would refer to the argument that we ought to have nothing to do with this scheme unless it would be a financial success. Were we to disregard everything but financial success? The Suez Canal was not a success, very much because the Government opposed it. It cost £16,000,000; but if the Government had taken it up in a different spirit it would not have cost more than two-thirds of that sum. Still, though the outlay was great, no one could dispute that the Canal was an immense advantage. With regard to the new circumstances which had occurred, he might mention that on the 25th of July last year His Majesty the Shah of Persia made a concession which was about the most remarkable concession which had ever been made by any foreign country. That concession gave to Baron de Reuter power to make all railways, tramways, or roadways throughout the country, and to work the valuable mines of Persia, which only required science to develop them; and also gave a guarantee of 7 per cent. Persia pledged the revenue of the country as security, and extended the guarantee over a period of 24 years from March, 1874. That was very remarkable, and showed great energy on the part of the Shah, who was evidently resolved to develop the resources of his country. Concessions from Oriental Governments, however, had not been uncommon, and, perhaps, the House might require proofs of the intention of the concessionnaire to keep to his bargain. These proofs were forthcoming—£40,000 had been paid into the Bank of England, an amount which would be forfeited if the materials for the line were not landed at Resht within 15 months. A staff of nine engineers, the best that could be selected, had already arrived at Tehrán, and would commence operations immediately, and two mining engineers of the highest ability were on their way to explore all the mines of Persia, and examine whether the wealth reputed to be contained in them really existed. The first line to be made would run from Resht, on the Caspian, to Tehrán, and thence to Isfahán. If it were asked why the railway should be commenced near the spot to which attention had been drawn by the operations of Russia, the reply was that it was impossible to land materials in Persia by any other route, except at a vast expense. But by this route there was water carriage, and he had crossed the Caspian in a steamer which had been sent out in pieces from England, had been put together in the Volga, and had then begun work on the Caspian. The British public might be re-assured also by the fact that this undertaking would be directed by a naturalized Englishman whose sympathies were entirely with England. Within a space of two or three years, then, there would be a line from the Caspian to Isfahán, which would afterwards no doubt pass down to the Persian Gulf. This fact changed the whole view of the matter, and rendered it a primary object to make a line which would give through communication with India overland. The heat of the proposed route, over which he had passed, had been much exaggerated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had never been there. There would be the same route as before from the Mediterranean to Anah, but the line from thence to the head of the Persian Gulf, though no doubt it would be made, would become of secondary importance, and the line from Anah to Karáchí would be the most important. From Anah it would be carried 260 miles to Ták i Girah. Ták i Girah is on the Persian frontier and close to Khánikin, where the telegraph line runs from Tehrán to Baghdád. From Ták i Girah the railway would be carried to Karmánsháh, a flourishing city of 30,000 inhabitants, 60 miles. There it would pass over the only route by which both mountains and difficult and rapid streams could be avoided 400 miles to Shíráz. He had himself been at Karmánsháh, and had been informed of this locality, and it was the only possible through route to Karáchí; for that round the head of the Persian Gulf was impracticable, owing to swamps, rivers, and lofty mountains. At Shíraz, or perhaps earlier, the line from Alexandretta would form a junction with the line coming from Resht and Tehrán to the Persian Gulf; it would then be continued 300 miles to Bandar Abbás, and then 670 miles to Karáchí. Thus the total distance from the Mediterranean overland to Karáchí in India would be only 2,130 miles. That would imply an enormous saving of time. The journey from Dover to Brindisi took 10 days, and the route across to Kurrachee would occupy 114 hours, and it would not be necessary to break bulk. A great deal had been said as to Lord Sandhurst's objection that the soldiers would have to get out for rest and refreshment every 200 miles; but in refutation of such an idea he could refer to his hon. Colleague, who had travelled from Moscow to Odessa, a distance of 1,040 miles, without finding himself more tired than he was by a 3 o'clock sitting of the House. By adopting the Resolution they would be showing for the first time for many years a feeling of friendship towards Persia, to which he thought the country intervening between India and the great advancing Power of the North was entitled. Persia was doing all she could to enter into the position of a civilized nation. It had been the fashion hitherto to depreciate Persia on all hands. It was said her population since the famine had immensely decreased; some said it was 3,500,000, and others 4,000,000; and that the country must fall into the voracious mouth of Russia. He did not believe that; and was sure all those estimates of population were conjectural. However that might be, there was no race in the world more intellectual than the Persian, or more likely to make a figure again in the world as soon as it had been indoctrinated with European civilization. It was on these grounds he supported the Motion; and it was not, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, a mere question of guarantee, but of whether the Government were to put this scheme aside, or to give it encouragement which would induce commercial men to support it. The possibility of the closing of the Suez Canal, too, must not be lost sight of. It might be closed either by accident or by the foolish policy of the Canal Company. He invited the House to support the Resolution, which did no more than declare this scheme to be worthy of the consideration of the Government.


said, if this Motion were adopted, the Government would be encouraged, if not obliged to give a guarantee for a railway in a foreign country—an act that had never yet been done, and he trusted never would. The question divided itself into two parts, the commercial and the military; and in order to obtain security for either purpose it was indispensable that they should have the control of the Mediterranean, in which case we could control the passage of the Suez Canal. In the statement made in the recommendation of the project no account had been taken of the time that would be lost in landing and unloading on the Syrian coast, and in re-embarking and re-loading at the southern terminus of the line. Were that matter gone into, he strongly suspected it would turn out that there would be a loss of time instead of a gain. He would remind the House that the description of the hon. Member for Penryn of the journey from Moscow to Odessa omitted the important fact that it was performed in sleeping carriages. Now, sleeping cars could scarcely be provided for soldiers, and he thought it would be somewhat cruel to expose them to the suffering which would be entailed by travelling 114 hours under the circumstances. It must also be borne in mind that in passing over a foreign country with troops it would be difficult to exercise a proper control over them, and he did not believe that Turkey would allow us to extend our Mutiny Act to her territory. He could not see any commercial or military advantage whatever in giving the guarantee for a sum which, it was said, would be only £10,000,000, but which was more likely to turn out £20,000,000. He should therefore certainly vote against the Resolution if it were pressed to a division.


said, he was a member of the Committee which sat on the subject, and that Committee, after a careful consideration of it, had recommended that a partial guarantee should be given. He could not acquiesce altogether in the interpretation which had been put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon their recommendations.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 29: Majority 74.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."