HC Deb 06 July 1875 vol 225 cc1034-58

rose to call attention to the progress of Russia in Central Asia; and to move an Address for Copies of any Papers relating to the occupation of the Khanate of Khiva by Russia. The hon. Gentleman said, that a fortnight since a very interesting discussion took place upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. J. R. Yorke) in reference to Turkey and her distant provinces, and throughout the speeches made on that occasion there was evident a feeling of anxiety and uneasiness with respect to the influence of Russia in those provinces. And not unnaturally so, for there was no country, not excepting Germany, that had made such extraordinary progress as Russia within the last half century. She had had the good fortune to be governed by Sovereigns of the highest capacity and the loftiest ambition; and the present Sovereign was inferior to none of his predecessors in those great qualities. The Emperors of Russia had had the sagacity to select as Ministers and Ambassadors men of the most pre-eminent ability to regulate the destinies of that great country. Not content with her present condition, Russia had her gaze fixed upon both the West and the East. In the West, in Europe, she had set her face towards an unfrozen sea; and in the East she looked to extending her influence over the whole of Central Asia. There was a phrase which said that Russia always had an Eastern iron in the fire. Therefore it was necessary, and he trusted that he should not be thought unduly presuming if he ventured to call attention to the fact of Russia having made recently a great addition to her territorial power in Central Asia; and also to call attention to a question that was of momentous interest to our own country. He had the very highest authority for saying that this was a question which ought not to be overlooked, and which might lead to the very gravest consequences, not only in the East, but also in the West. He quoted, in the recent debate to which he had referred, a most remarkable letter, written on his deathbed by Fuad Pasha to the Sultan, in which he said— Russia is the inveterate enemy of Turkey. If I had been myself a Russian Minister, I would have overturned the world to conquer Constantinople. He went on to say— The indifference of England to the events of Central Asia astonishes and alarms me. What alarms me most, however, is the considerable change which the pacification of the Caucasian Provinces has brought about in the position of Russia. To me it is beyond doubt that, in any future events, the most serious attacks of the Russians will be directed against our Provinces of Asia Minor. I can conceive of many acts of folly of all Governments; it is even one of their prerogatives to commit them. But I confess I have been unable to fathom the profound wisdom of the Government which, with such strange indifference, permits the greatest despotism in the world to put itself at the head of 100,000,000 men, and arm them with all the appliances of civilization, to swallow up at every step provinces and kingdoms as large as Prance; and while it hems in Asia with its arms, and, on the other hand, undermines Europe by the agency of Panslavism, comes forward periodically protesting its love for peace, and its sincere resolution no more to seek for further conquests. These were words which were deserving of our serious attention. In a remarkable book, recently published—the Life of Count Rostoyschine, who was Governor of Moscow when Russia, to recover her independence, made the grandest sacrifice a nation ever made—Count de Ségur quoted the Russian Press, and affirmed the opinion given at the time by Count Rostoyschine of the relative position of England and Russia. It was this— To overcome England we must divide Turkey, according to our ancient plan—that is to say, we must take Moldavia, and Roumania, and Constantinople, dividing the remaining territory between Prussia and Austria, secure Egypt for Franco, then send 50,000 men through Persia to India, and drive England out of all her Eastern possessions. That opinion the Russian papers of the present day entirely approved. He should not quote the views on the subject of all the great authorities in this country who had always looked with anxiety to the progress of Russia in Central Asia; but it was clear, he thought, that we must abandon our policy of indifferentism, or, as it might be termed, "masterly inactivity" in the case, when it was borne in mind that England was not only an European, but an Asiatic Power; and it had been well said that it was India which gave an Imperial character to the English nation. We must not be told that there was no immediate danger, for that was the opinion expressed before the Crimean War; and the consequence of the indifference and ignorance of the public mind upon these questions was that complications arose which drifted us into difficulties. He would briefly tell the House what had been the progress of Russia in Central Asia since the Crimean War. She had reduced the whole country between the Black and the Caspian Seas. The whole of the Caucasus had been brought under her dominion, and there was nothing to prevent her from taking the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey and carrying a railway through Teheran up to Cabul. East of the Caucasus her progress was still more remarkable. Since the Crimean War her troops had marched over those wild steppes like a tidal wave, and since the attack on Khiva she had the Oxus as her frontier. Through the Sea of Aral and the Oxus they had water communication almost to our Indian frontier, and if they had a railway only 200 miles long between the Black Sea and the Caspian, the construction of which was now contemplated, they could transport any number of troops in an incredibly short space of time down to the Oxus, and close to our Indian frontier; and that surely was a position which the House ought to look upon as one which demanded the gravest consideration. It was said that Russia could not move her Army through this wild, savage country, occupied by nomad tribes. But what was the state of affairs? He found that on the Caspian Sea, Russia had 17 steamers, of, together, 980 horse-power, and 4,400 tons, and 17 sailing vessels, of, together, 1,250 tons. That fleet was considered sufficient to transport in a very short time half, if not the whole, of a division across the Caspian Sea. On the Sea of Aral were stated to be six Russian steamers of 186-horse power and 600 tons. The regular forces which had been advanced to the Russian frontier districts consisted of 18 battalions and four batteries, to which, however, were to be added considerable contingents of the Tshernomonic and Caucasian line Cossacks. In reality, that force was to be considered only as the vanguard of the Russo-Asiatic Army. After the complete subjection of the Caucasus, the main body of that Army was now the so-called Army of the Caucasus, of which the front was continuously and exclusively directed towards Asia, and which might be transported at any given moment to Central Asia by the fleet of the Caspian Sea. That explained why that Army had not been dissolved after the subjection of the population of the Caucasus. It was composed now of six divisions of Infantry, one division of Cavalry, 31 batteries with 167 cannon, two battalions of sappers and miners, and 36 garrison battalions—altogether, when on the war footing, 163,759 men, of whom 90,000 to 100,000 might be put into the field immediately. One of the newly-formed railway battalions had already been joined to that Army. [Mr. BOURKE: May I ask from what authority the hon. Gentleman is quoting?] From The Cologne Gazette; but he was about to move for Papers, with the view of obtaining more accurate information on the subject. As it was, he, of course, could only take his information from the best authorities he could find. Now, two reasons had been assigned by Russia for the constant advance which he had mentioned. The first was that we had set her the example—that within a comparatively short time we had annexed the Punjab and Scinde, and that we were the most aggressive Power that had ever appeared in the East. He wished, however, to point out to those who argued in that way that nothing we could do in the East could injure Russia. We could not attack Moscow or St. Petersburg. We did not question the right of Russia to protect her frontier; but there was danger to us from her progress. The position of Russia marching towards our Indian frontier and our annexation of Provinces for our own safety were two very different things. But then the Russian authorities alleged that the course she was pursuing was taken in the interests of civilization. That, however, was, he contended, a plea which should in no degree affect the feeling with which we ought to regard the progress which she was making. Somebody had well said, that even if there was no immediate danger, no man would like to have always a certain number of armed men looking over his garden wall. It was not Russian arms that we had reason to fear so much as Russian influence. Every step she made had its effect in Lucknow and Delhi. There was something grand in the idea of an irresistible destiny that must drive Russia on; and a feeling that, whatever happened, Russia must advance. What was the opinion of Sir Henry Rawlinson, one of the most impartial judges, and a man who knew that question thoroughly, on that matter? In his interesting book on Progress of Russia in Central Asia, Sir Henry Rawlinson said— All the good intentions of the Emperor have proved in practice to be mere temporary interruptions to the one uniform career of ox-tension and aggrandizement, and we may be well assured that the continued advance of Russia is as certain as the movement of the sun in the heavens. Whether from the natural law of increase, or from the preponderating weight of the military classes thirsting for distinction, or from the deliberate action of a Government which aims at augmented power in Europe through extension in Asia, or from all these causes combined, we are told on high authority that in spite of professions of moderation, in spite of the Emperor's real pacific tendencies, in spite even of our remonstrances, and possibly our threats, Russia will continue to push on towards India until arrested by a barrier which she cannot remove or overstep. If this programme be correct, it means, of course, contact and collision, and such I believe to be the inevitable result in due course of time. Let them come to the facts. He believed the Emperor and the Emperor's Ministers and Ambassadors to be as pacific in their intentions as they stated; but there was what was called the Old Party in Russia, and also a population in that country who impelled that great Empire on towards our Asiatic frontiers. In 1865 the most solemn assurances were given by the Russian Government that that career of conquest was ended, and yet within a very short time afterwards they advanced their frontier hundreds of miles further. In 1869, again, the same positive assurances that Russia should not advance were given to Sir Douglas Forsyth, who was sent to St. Petersburg on a special mission; but a few months later she had hundreds of miles more territory. Samarcand was not evacuated as had been promised, and she had extended her dominion nearly to Khiva. Well, in 1871, what happened? That distinguished man, Count Schouvaloff, was sent on a special mission to England to prove that there was no intention on the part of the Russian Government to occupy Khiva; that she was only going to punish the Khivans for offences committed against her subjects, and would then leave the country altogether. She had certainly kept the word of promise to the ear; but the whole of that district was under the command of Russia. In the Treaty concluded between Russia and Khiva, the Khan acknowledged himself— to be the humble servant of the Emperor of All the Russias. He renounced all direct and friendly relations existing with neighbouring rulers and Khans, and of concluding with them commercial and other treaties of any kind soever, and bound himself not to undertake any military operation against them without the knowledge and permission of the superior Russian authority in Central Asia. The whole of the right bank of the Amu Daria, and the lands adjoining thereunto, which have hitherto been considered as belonging to Khiva, shall pass over from the Khan into the possession of Russia, together with the people dwelling and camping thereon. Those portions of land on the right bank which are at present the property of the Khan, and of which the usufruct has been given by him to Khivan officers of State, become likewise the property of the Russian Government, free of all claims on the part of previous owners. The Khan may indemnify them by grants of land on the left bank. In the event of a portion of such right bank being transferred to the possession of the Emir of Bokhara by the will of His Majesty the Emperor, His Majesty the Khan of Khiva shall recognize the latter as the lawful possessor of such portion of his former dominions, and shall renounce all intentions of re-establishing his authority therein. Russian steamers and other Russian vessels, whether belonging to the Government or to private individuals, shall have the free and exclusive right of navigating the Amu Daria River. Khivan and Bokharian vessels may enjoy the same right only by special permission from the superior Russian authority in Central Asia. Russian merchants shall have the right of carrying their goods through the Khivan territory to all neighbouring countries free of Customs duties (free transit trade). Complaints and claims of Khivans against Russian subjects shall be referred to the nearest Russian authorities for examination and satisfaction, even in the event of such complaints and claims being raised by Russian subjects within the confines of the Khanate. A fine is inflicted on the Khanate of Khiva to the extent of 22,000,000 roubles, to be paid in 19 years. Russia not having carried out her pledges, the question arose, what was to be done? A great deal had been said about a neutral zone of territory; but, when they had arranged all that, it would exist only as long as suited the will of Russia. No neutral zone and no Treaty was worth anything. It was a monstrous thing that after all our sacrifices in the Crimean War Russia should have been suffered to tear up the Treaty which excluded her fleets from the Black Sea. He would, however, suggest two things which he thought could be done and which would be most beneficial and advantageous to both parties. Again he would quote the high authority of Sir Henry Rawlinson, who said— Our proper course, then, as it seems to me, is, in the first place, to assure ourselves of the principles of the policy which we are in future to pursue in Central Asia; and, in the second place, to keep the execution of that policy exclusively in our own hands, entirely under our own control. In deciding on what we intended to do, we should leave ourselves free to act without having any understanding with Russia should certain eventualities occur. But he had another and more practical suggestion to make to the House. The key of the position at the present moment was Afghanistan. In 1869, when the late Lord Mayo was at Umballa, Shere Ali, the Ameer of Afghanistan, visited him and was received with all the courtesy and dignity which distinguished everything that Lord Mayo did. Shore Ali left that Durbar so delighted with his reception that for some period we were perfectly in the ascendant in Afghanistan; but the policy since pursued had made us unpopular in that country. We had interfered when we ought not to have done so, but now was the time when we should repair our error. Afghanistan was a district which we must look to for grappling with Central Asia, and therefore he thought we ought to have a Resident of great consideration and dignity at the Court of the Ameer of Afghanistan and also a Resident at each considerable town to represent the English nation. There would be a good opportunity very soon of using our influence there, when that event occurred which was now enlisting the sympathies of the whole of India and England—namely, the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to India. If, when His Royal Highness was at Lahore, he would receive the Ameer of Afghanistan in the same manner in which Lord Mayo did, he (Mr. B. Cochrane) believed it would have an effect perfectly extraordinary upon our relations with that country. We had in a manner made ourselves responsible for Afghanistan. At the present time, if he was not mistaken, we actually subsidized the Ameer. But we ought not to end there. We ought to do our best to bind Afghanistan in every way to England, and if we did not accomplish it we should be at the mercy of Russia and be involved in future complications of the most difficult character. He did not say we ought to occupy Cabul, or anything of that kind; but in every friendly way—by means of commercial treaties, for example—we ought to seek to unite the interests of the two countries, and the first thing to be done with that object was to have a Resident at the Court of the Ameer. The importance of this policy would perhaps be appreciated when it was remembered that there were no fewer than 12 passes leading from Afghanistan into India. There was another point demanding notice. As Russia contemplated the extension of a line of railway into the heart of Asia, so ought we in every possible way to develop our communications with the East. Some time ago we had an opportunity of acquiring a dominant interest in the Suez Canal, and bitterly he regretted that advantage was not taken of it. The Canal was at present entirely in the hands of French employés, and at any moment they could shut it up, as was threatened last year. To this matter our attention ought to be turned, and also to our relations in other respects with Egypt, a country which, under the Government of Nubar Pasha, was developing more rapidly than any other in the world. Then there was the proposed Euphrates Valley line of railway. That line could be constructed without a penny expense to the British Government. A company was ready to undertake the task, and its importance to us would be immense. He could have proceeded on a question like this at any length; but he did not wish to do more than to put clearly before the House what the position of the case was. It was in no spirit of antagonism to Russia that he had brought forward this subject. On the contrary, he had not said one word which reflected on the Government of that country. His feeling towards that Government was one of the greatest admiration. But it was necessary that the relative positions of this country and Russia should be clearly defined, and that each should know what the other wanted. The danger was when events became confused, and events occurred when no one knew what course to adopt. Russia was one of the most magnificent countries in Europe, and it should not be forgotten that she was the first country to break down the supremacy of the First Empire. Our attention, he regretted to say, was but little called to matters of this kind. We must bear in mind that we were not only a European Power, but also a Colonial Empire; and above all an Asiatic Empire. He gladly recognized that Lord Derby, as the head of the Foreign Office, had shown the greatest courage, combined with the most admirable discretion, and also great resolution combined with the soundest judgment; and he felt confident that not only the Foreign Secretary, but Her Majesty's Government in general, were resolved that the greatness of the British Empire should not be impaired.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he desired to imitate the tone of moderation which the hon. Member who had just spoken had adopted. While he regarded as most extravagant the expectations which were sometimes indulged in as to the advantages which would accrue to civilization from the advance of Russian arms in Central Asia, he was at the same time unable to join in the blame which many persons cast upon the Russian Government. It was clear, however, that Russia was not herself so thoroughly civilized that she could spread civilization over the half of Asia. Russia was essentially an Asiatic and not a European Power, and the civilization that she produced must, of necessity, be of an Asiatic character, and that civilization would have to be administered in Asia by lieutenants far removed from the capital, and exercising with almost an iron sway the rigid rules of despotism. Very little had resulted from the vast conquests in Turkestan, from which much benefit to civilization was expected. An eminent and impartial authority on this subject was Mr. Schuyler, the first Secretary of the American Legation at St. Petersburg, who, in a Report he had made to the United States, quoted instance after instance in which the prefects of various districts had levied taxes, and spent the money on their private expenses, while the same thing was done with the deposits in the savings banks, ostensibly established for the benefit of the population. Both with regard to industry and commerce the Russian Administration had done comparatively nothing, and next to nothing had been done in the matter of education. That was from the Report of Mr. Schuyler. For his own part, he accepted it cum grano salis; but, still, there could be no doubt that the civilization had advanced less than was expected. The same authority stated, with reference to commerce, that the vast trade in Central Asia had fallen off rather than increased, and that, in fact, there was very little opportunity for trade there. Small as this trade was, it was burdened with heavy taxation, as stated in Mr. Mitchell's Report, our attaché at St. Petersburg, especially cotton goods and tea. But, while it was impossible to praise Russia, it was, at the same time, difficult to blame her for the course she had pursued. We ourselves had advanced exactly in the same way in India as she had advanced in Central Asia, sometimes by right, and sometimes by might. During the last 30 years Russia had advanced some 1,000 miles in Asia, while we had advanced about as far in India, and we, moreover, had acquired fertile and productive territory, while she had conquered mere barren wastes and parched deserts. There was, however, in our advances one striking difference between the two countries, and that was that we had never shown such an ostentatious disregard for our promises and engagements as Russia had done. It was doubtful whether, in the whole of our history of conquest in America, Africa, and Asia, there had ever been shown, either in the case of an Indian Prince, a New Zealand Maori, or even an African Prince, such sweet credulity and such innocent confidence as was shown by one of our great Ministers of State in the answer given to the last and grossest violation of a promise on the part of Russia. He referred to the despatch of Earl Granville, which was sent to Prince Gortchakoff when the solemn engagement with regard to Khiva in 1873 was violated. When no faith was to be placed in such promises, Earl Granville wrote that Her Majesty's Government saw no practical object in examining too minutely as to how far those arrangements were in strict accordance with the assurances given by Count Shouvaloff, and that each step of that progress rendered it more desirable that a free and frank understanding should continue to exist as to the relative position of Russian and British interests. The question, however, which possessed most interest for us was—Where was Russia to stop? There was no doubt that she must, and would, creep on to the borders of Afghanistan and of Kashgar. But what would occur when she had reached those limits? The condition of Afghanistan was so unsettled and so uncivilized that it would be difficult to put a stop to Russian intrigues in that country, more especially as, notwithstanding that we subsidized the Ameer, no Englishman was allowed to set foot upon his territory. The position of Kashgar, however, was very different. The people of that country were stated, upon very high authority, to be in a very comfortable condition, and were said to have attained a considerable degree of civilization, violence and crime being almost unknown among them. Russia, therefore, would have no excuse for invading that country on the plea of its turbulence, while its social condition was such as to give no hopes for commerce. It was a singular fact that, while Russia had actually lost by her commercial and financial relations with her conquered territories in Central Asia, she had managed to give them good military roads, which were almost unknown within her own proper territories, while her occupation of those vast and unproductive districts was military rather than commercial. Finding that Russia had made her advance under such very suspicious circumstances, and that the Russian papers were talking of the alarm which it must create in the English mind, we naturally asked what was to be the recompense for all this great expenditure of life and property? The answer to that question would probably be found in the fact that her conquests were daily bringing her nearer to vast and rich countries. It was not to be anticipated for the present, at all events, that she would attempt to attack India; but she might easily interfere very seriously with our trade with China in the East, and with our communications with India in the "West. It was, however, at ports that trade must be tapped, and it was in acquiring ports that Russia would undoubtedly try to make her way. Step after step was being taken by Russia to reach the Pacific—the great page on which the future history of the world's traffic would be written—and which would more than rival the Atlantic. Russia would be able to bring great influence to bear upon China by land, and to get advantages which we in the more distant West could not hope to obtain. Those advantages would be of no use unless she could reach the ocean, and this she was continuously struggling to do. She was already strong on the Mediterranean and the Caspian; and Mr. Pal-grave, one of the highest authorities on questions relating to Asia Minor, had shown that Russia's nearest route to the Pacific was the route by the Black Sea, the Euphrates Valley, and the Persian Gulf. He had travelled every inch of it himself, and was therefore able to appreciate Mr. Palgrave's view. When Mr. Palgrave wrote he anticipated the advance of Russia would be checked by the creation of a new Mahomedan power in the north-east of Asia Minor; but his anticipations had not been fulfilled, and the very circumstance in which he saw an obstacle had proved to be a facility to Russian advance, for the 16,000 or 17,000 Circassians, who, it was thought, would have formed a Turkish alliance, had returned to the Caucasus, and were serving under Russia, and of the few who remained in Turkey, several told him that when their term of service was over they would join their friends in the Caucasus because the Russians were treating them so well. India virtually began at Bagdad; one-third of the population were Indian subjects or Indian refugees; here were some of the richest of Indian traders and some of the most rebellious of Indian subjects; and here could be stirred up an opposition to us which might ferment and fester throughout India, and be most dangerous to our political influence in the North of India. Although Russia was not inclined to make any direct attack upon our Indian Empire, she possessed wonderful facilities for creating diversions against us, and stirring up Mussulmans to effect her purpose in Europe and down the Tigris Valley. The question was, how we were to meet her? We might easily retaliate by stirring up her own subjects against her in Turkestan and China. But he did not think that was a policy which this country would be prepared to adopt. Another policy which was advocated was that of alliance with Russia. He did not think that was a policy from which they were likely to derive much satisfaction; because, however anxious the Emperor of Russia might be to keep his promises, his lieutenants would not carry them out. What remained for them was what always remained for them—to trust to themselves. Surely they had got courage enough to defend those possessions which they had gained. No doubt if we trusted to our soldiers our possessions in India would be safe; but, unfortunately, we had to trust to our statesmen, who did not exhibit the courage and determination that were displayed by our soldiers in the field. Did those who took the humanitarian view of our policy in India, and who talked of the necessity of educating India to govern herself, remember that the Natives of India belonged to a race who could not defend themselves, and that the moment we left India the Mussulmans would again re-assert their supremacy? There was now, moreover, another invader at the gates of India, and he would ask whether, in the event of our leaving India, there would be any advantage to the Natives of that country in the substitution either of Mussulman supremacy or Russian supremacy for our rule? About two years ago the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered a lecture in King's Lynn in which he adverted to the causes of our failure in India. He said that what we wanted was that our foreign policy in regard to India should be under one body and one head, but that at present it was committed to four different bodies—the Government of India, the Secretary of State for India, the Indian Council, and the Foreign Office; and the hon. Member (Mr. Bourke) asked whether it was wonderful, under these circumstances, that our policy should be variable, muddling, and unintelligible? The hon. Gentleman was now in Office himself, and he hoped he would be able to give them some information as to whether these four bodies acted more harmoniously.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of any Papers relating to the occupation of the Khanate of Khiva by Russia."—(Mr. Baillie Cochrane.)


said, it was nearly 30 years ago since he had filled a post on what was then the extreme North-Western frontier of India, and since that time he had been called upon both officially and unofficially to turn his attention to the subject now before the House. The longer he had lived, and the more he had thought about it, the more decidedly he had come to a conclusion diametrically opposite to that of the hon. Member (Mr. Baillie Cochrane). In his view the true policy for England to pursue with regard to the advance of Russia in Central Asia was that which the hon. Gentleman had described as "masterly inactivity." He believed the present danger was much exaggerated; but no doubt sooner or later Russia might come to be a disagreeable neighbour in India. The wisdom of a policy of "masterly inactivity" was this—that he did not see any other course that would not make matters worse and lead to dilemma, expense, and difficulty. In such a case it was sometimes best to do nothing. Hon. Members opposite had explained the advance of Russia and the danger of that advance; but when they came to suggest a remedy they were very weak and imperfect indeed. He could not, indeed, gather what were the remedies they suggested. The hon. Member who brought this subject before the House told them of one remedy—the benign influence which the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales would exert over the whole of Hindostan when he visited India. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) did not discover any remedy whatever for the dangers from Russian advance, except that we must rely on our own strength and ability to defend ourselves. Well, that was the true remedy. But if we were to defend ourselves we ought to wait until we were attacked. To anticipate attack would only create greater difficulty and danger. For himself, he had never been accused of an indisposition to progress, and he had always been inclined to go as far as it was prudent to go. There were, however, some circumstances under which, when you could not advance without danger, the best thing was to stand still. The best policy under present circumstances was to try how it would answer to do nothing. On each side of that great mountain barrier—the Himalayas—were two great countries, one was India and the other Turkestan. A hundred years ago England had made very small progress in conquering India, and Russia had made small progress in the direction of acquiring Turkestan; but since then England had progressed until she had acquired almost the whole of India, which, if not very profitable, was governed without loss; while Russia had by no means made equal advances in Turkestan, and had not succeeded in making the country pay. Under these circumstances, was it possible for us to prevent the advance of Russia in Turkestan if she chose to advance? He asserted that we were not in a position to do so, and if we made the attempt we should either be treated with contempt or else obtain those promises that were only made to be broken. For us to attempt successfully to prevent Russia's advance into Turkestan was, he believed, perfectly out of the question; but, for his part, he regarded it as being very doubtful whether Russia would incur the enormous expense of taking possession of the whole of that country. If they could not stop the advance of Russia, what ought they to do? If they did anything, they must themselves advance into Afghanistan. Well, he had always been a man of action, and was not disinclined to advise the taking possession of territory where the people were not accustomed to freedom, and of which it was expedient to take possession. He had himself very recently taken possession, in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty, of territory such as he had described on the other extremity of India, and in justification of such a policy much was to be said. But the conditions which justified it did not exist in the case of the Afghans. They were a people who prized freedom above all things. They might be called turbulent, but they had a passion for freedom. They could not take possession of the country of that free and democratic people without an expenditure of blood and treasure which would be totally disproportionate to the object in view. They had once tried this, and had burnt their fingers. Unless, therefore, it was a case of extreme necessity, it would be madness to attempt to annex Afghanistan. That being so, what course was suggested to us to follow? It was this—to enter into diplomatic relations with the Afghans, with a view to buying them up. Well, there was an old proverb, that you cannot get the breeks off a Highlander; but he believed that that feat would be an easy one compared with the obtaining of a diplomatic advantage over the Afghans. "Where they sold they had always the best of the bargain. No one could, so to say, come over them by diplomacy. There was this difficulty, too—that Afghanistan was not a united kingdom. It was a country made up of a great number of tribes, many of which were absolutely independent each of the others, and the Ameer had no real authority or real stability upon which we could rely for the fulfilment of a treaty. The day after a treaty was made with one Ameer, there might be a revolution and another Ameer in power. In fact, the course suggested would lead to much difficulty and expose this country to great political dilemmas, and for this reason, among others, that they could not secure the safety of a British Resident in Afghanistan. Any unruly Afghan might any day cut the throat of the Resident and render it necessary that we should send an army into the country. The true policy to pursue was, he said emphatically, not to make a fuss, not to talk so much upon the subject of Russian aggression. Talking where one did not mean to act, or could not or would not act, was likely to lead to mischief. The continual making of a fuss about Russian advances in Central Asia exposed a raw in our political hide and led Russia to think that she had a "pull" over us. If there was any degree of alarm in India on the subject, and excitement in men's minds and in the bazaars or regiments, it was due, he believed, not to Indian intelligence, but solely to the fuss and rumpus made in the English papers, and the articles being copied into the Native journals. Well, if that were the real cause of it, he was convinced they ought to get rid of all that fuss and pursue a policy of "masterly inactivity." He maintained that our fathers were wrong in formerly advancing into Afghanistan. It might be that Russia could establish herself in real strength in Central Asia, and if she established herself there, it would be necessary that we should be vigilant. In the meantime, he felt there was so little immediate prospect of collision with Russia that, probably, the question might be left to their children, or even to their grandchildren. At the same time, he did not say that we were not under any circumstances to take notice of the advances of Russia. England was not the only Power which, under such circumstances, would find it necessary to check the advance of Russia. If Russia were to take possession of Asia, and to acquire such a position that she might turn her hordes, disciplined by Russian officers, against Europe, Powers other than England would be interested in checking her advance. But the danger was by no means imminent, and he therefore thought it would be well to trust for the present to the chapter of accidents, and leave Russia to difficulties which she must necessarily encounter in pursuing a policy such as that of which she was by many suspected.


Although this debate has been somewhat discursive, I think hon. Members will admit that it has been very interesting, and although the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has rather deprecated discussion on the subject, I think the House will agree with me that, at all events, one good result it has had has been the giving us the pleasure of listening to his speech—a speech which was characterized not only by great knowledge and experience of the country of which we are speaking, but also by the common-sense of his native land. Now, I do not deny for a moment the right of my hon. Friend (Mr. B. Cochrane) to bring forward this question—I should be the last person in the world to deny him the right. At the same time, I hope he will excuse me if I decline to follow him throughout all the subjects on which he has addressed us. I think, Sir, I shall best discharge my duty to the House if I first allude to the Motion on the Paper, and which asks for the production of documents. Now, all the Papers relating to the treaty have been already produced, and consequently it is not in the power of the Government to produce any more. On the whole subject of Central Asia, I may say, that communications and despatches have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Russia, but these communications are not ripe for publication; but when the time comes we shall be very happy to produce such of them as we may think proper. I regret that it is not in our power to produce them this evening, because I am quite sure the House and the country would approve of the course which Her Majesty's Government have taken in the matter, and I am quite sure also that they would be thoroughly convinced of the harmony that prevails between the two Governments. A great portion of the speech of my hon. Friend was an historical survey of the progress of Russia in the East. It is not my intention to go into that question, for this simple reason—that there is no subject which interests people throughout Europe more, and in regard to which we have every sort of information supplied to us by the newspapers; and although my hon. Friend has brought forward many interesting statements, it would be comparatively useless for me to make any comments on them. But he is altogether in error when he supposes, as he seems to do, that either this House or the Government have been indifferent on the subject. I can assure the House that the Government have taken a very considerable interest in it. But when my hon. Friend talks about the progress of Russia, and likens it to the progress of a tidal wave which has swept over the country, he has acquired a totally different impression of it from that which we entertain; because we know it has cost Russia a great deal of time, and a vast amount of money and blood, to obtain the position she now has in Central Asia; and so far from her progress being like a tidal wave, I do not know any country that has expended an equal amount of labour in conquering another as Russia has in conquering that part of Turkestan which she now occupies. Then my hon. Friend went on to speak of Khiva, and he drew attention to the communications that have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Russia. Now nobody who reads English can assert that the engagements which we understood Russia to have entered into in regard to Khiva have been kept. That is a subject which has not, and ought not, to be lost sight of; but it is one on which, it will be perfectly obvious, it would be very wrong of me to enter at present. He then went on to speak of the desirableness of keeping up communication with the East, and I do not think there can be any doubt about that. He speaks of the Suez Canal. Well, its destiny is in its own hands as a great commercial speculation, and if it is true, as all must agree it is, that, both from a commercial and a political point of view, it is of great advantage to us, it is no less true that we are of great advantage to the Suez Canal, for I believe that at least 70 per cent of the vessels that pass through it are English. I am sure every person must sympathize with the undertaker of the Canal, and wish him every success in his great enterprize; but, at the same time, I think we ought not to bind ourselves to enter into any international pledge which must bring embarrassments on the country, nor do I think it should be the policy of this country to sanction any arrangement that would infringe on the territorial rights of the Khédive. Then, in regard to railway communication, I am sure we should all have great gratification in seeing such a line established, as has been alluded to by my hon. Friend, because it would have a great effect in developing the resources of the Turkish Empire, and, at the same time, would be of use to us in our commercial enterprizes and in our communications with the East. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury) also addressed the House in a speech of great clearness and ability, and that speech was a most interesting dissertation upon the various topics to which it referred. He spoke of China and of Kashgar, and of our relations with Russia; but, while all these subjects are of the greatest interest, I do not think the House will wish me to enter upon them in detail, for I could only make some comments on them which, after all, would not be of very much value. With regard to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir George Campbell), he spoke in the first place, and almost all through his speech, in advocacy of a course of "masterly inactivity." That phrase is one which those acquainted with India have often heard; but, for myself, I would prefer that the circumstances of each particular case should determine the amount of activity which should characterize the foreign policy of England. But I would be sorry to commit myself to a general policy of "masterly inactivity," because I am not quite sure what it means, and, in some instances, "inactivity" of any kind, would, in my opinion, be undesirable. My hon. Friends have almost all asked what is to be done. Now, it has never been the policy of this country to declare beforehand what course it will adopt under hypothetical circumstances, or upon conditions which do not exist. Our policy is well known upon the subject before the House. We have no desire to advance our frontiers in the direction of Central Asia. We think that it is the interest of both Russia and England that a reasonable distance should intervene between our respective frontiers; and that there may be a danger in the future of the two nations drifting towards one another—a danger pointed out many years ago by Count Nesselrode; and we think that the policy of both countries ought to be to prevent that contingency. At one time it was thought that a formal recognition of a great neutral territory between the two Empires, which might limit the advance of each and be scrupulously respected by both, would be a desirable arrangement, and a correspondence took place upon the subject, the particulars of which have been laid before Parliament, but that correspondence did not lead to any agreement as to the limits of that neutral territory; and when it was proposed that Afghanistan should constitute the zone the Government of India could not entertain the proposition; and no agreement was ever come to upon the subject; and now, speaking of the present position of affairs, I would say that since the idea of a neutral territory was first advanced many territorial changes have taken place, which materially alter the condition of things. We think that any undertaking or agreement based upon the principle of a binding engagement as to a certain defined neutral territory would be one likely to lead to misunderstanding and difficulty; and that an agreement that one Empire should exercise what has been called political influence within a certain sphere, and that the other Empire should exercise similar influence within another sphere, would be an unwise arrangement, for two reasons. In the first place, it is very difficult to define what political influence means, and misunderstandings might arise as to whether either country was or was not fulfilling its engagements to the other. Secondly, in a country like Central Asia, where boundaries are ill-defined and little known, where nomad tribes exist, who have never been accustomed to regard boundaries very scrupulously, where government in the European sense is not to be found, where the inhabitants are turbulent, lawless, and fanatical, it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the Government of either Empire so to control events as to be responsible to the other for occurrences which took place beyond their own frontiers. Under these circumstances, while they approve of the principle which dictated the policy of a neutral zone—that is, that a reasonable distance should intervene between the two Empires—it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to enter into any formal arrangement or agreement upon the basis of a neutral territory within certain limits in the European sense of the term. They looked upon the status quo without apprehension. I have said we have no desire to advance our frontiers, and, so long as the present state of things remains substantially the same. Her Majesty's Government do not intend to countenance any such policy. We have given innumerable proofs to those States which abut on our Indian Empire that we desire them to be powerful, peaceable, and independent. We desire to show them that we are not an aggressive Power. We have long been united to them by friendly ties. We will not enter into any engagement which might prejudice either their interests or our own, or hamper our freedom of action with respect to them; and we hold ourselves at liberty to enter into further alliances with those States, according to those considerations, commercial, political, and strategical, which we may, from time to time, consider wise and prudent. It is not for me to speak of the foreign policy of the Government of India. I should be trenching upon the province of my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for India, were I to do so; but I may say that the establishment of the most friendly relations with Afghanistan is no new policy. It was advocated by Lord Canning before Dost Mahomed died. It was carried out by Lord Lawrence. It was acted upon by Lord Lawrence's successor. It was secured at the Umballa Conference, and the fruits of that Conference are that Afghanistan is stronger now than it has ever been since the days of Dost Mahomed. The development of that policy is a work of time, and depends a great deal upon the amount of confidence we inspire by means of personal influence in the minds of the Native Chiefs and rulers; and when freedom of intercourse is more fully established between us and them, we may hope that old suspicions and old animosities may be subdued, and that our motives will be more appreciated by those wild and warlike tribes which inhabit Afghanistan. If that policy is carried out with firmness, conciliation, and perseverance, it is that most calculated to preserve the peace of Central Asia. This is a policy which can give no umbrage to any Power in the world. If the great Empire of Russia, with which we are on the most friendly terms, is anxious, as I am sure she is, to develop the resources of her domains in Turkestan, she will best attain that object by allowing a peaceful commerce to spring up between India and Turkestan, which, if left to its natural course, will enormously profit both Empires, and will cement that friendship between the two countries which is so important to maintain. In conclusion, I hope that nothing which has been said to-night will tend for a moment to disturb the friendly relations existing between the two Empires.


said, he believed that that part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he said that a correspondence had passed between the Russian Government and Her Majesty's Government, which, in the opinion of the latter, was satisfactory; and that he hoped that measures, though he did not think it right to specify them, would be taken by which a good understanding between Afghanistan and ourselves might be promoted, would be received with satisfaction by the country. He differed from the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Campbell) and in common with authorities equally as great as the hon. Baronet, among whom were Sir Justin Shiel, General John Jacob, and Sir Henry Rawlinson, he (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) held opinions diametrically opposed to that of the hon. Member as to the policy of "masterly inactivity" about which they had heard so much. The subject of the advance of Russia towards India was but a small part of the Central Asian question, for there were other objects which Russia might be supposed to have in view. He was somewhat disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), which was hardly adequate to the great subject which he undertook to bring before the House. He (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) thought that the Central Asian question had to Russia a meaning quite distinct from any question connected with Constantinople, or of menacing our Indian Empire. The idea of an attack upon India was not one that would be likely to enter the head of Russia; but even if Russia could cross the Himalayas, and thus add a whole continent to her dominions, she had not a sufficient staff of educated and qualified men to govern a country the administration of whose affairs put a great strain even upon a nation like our own. It might be an advantage to Russia to be able to menace England in the East in the event of European complications; but it was for us to look well to our resources, and to see that Russia did not put upon us a pressure to which we would not submit. Nobody who knew the history of Russia could suppose she had abandoned the hope of some day obtaining Constantinople; but that was not a thing likely to happen in our time. Though Turkey was in a bad condition, she had good elements which might be backed up with effect by English influence. Turkey was certainly at any time more exposed to danger from Russia through Asia Minor than through Europe, and the pacification of the Caucasus opened up a way to Russia in those parts. The objects of Russia in Central Asia were in a large measure commercial. The Khanates of the Oxus and the Jaxartes had entailed on her an expenditure three times greater than the revenue they yielded her. The Russians incurred that enormous outlay with a view to secure to themselves the whole of the trade of Central Asia. They would not abandon the Khanate of Khiva; they were extremely anxious to get to Bokhara, and they could not get to Bokhara without having Khiva. Why had Russia been so anxious to get to Bokhara? For the obvious reason that that was the centre and focus of all the caravan routes to the Empire of China. If Russia could bring China within the scope of her trade, the result would more than compensate any expenditure which might have been incurred to bring it about. By that means she would obtain something like a monopoly of the trade of Asia, and she would, moreover, take up a much more important position than she at present enjoyed in the trade of Europe. By every means possible Russia had been endeavouring to get into China. While we in the most brutal manner were sacking the Summer Palace—["Oh, oh!"]—well, all our relations with the Chinese Empire, from the Opium War down to the sacking of the Palace were marked by a truculency of policy unprecedented in our history—Russia was intently engaged in securing advantages by means of commercial treaties with the Chinese Empire. Were he a Russian he would contemplate with pride the growth of Russian dominion and trade in Asia, but the question he had now to consider was whether the interests of England were at stake. If English goods were allowed to compete freely with Russian goods, that extension of Russian dominion would be of great advantage to this country. But Russia absolutely prohibited our goods from going into the countries over which she exercised jurisdiction. In one instance there was a duty of 40 per cent on our goods, and a duty of only 2½ per cent on Russian goods. We had grown tea in India with eminent success, and yet Russia absolutely prohibited Indian tea from coming into her markets. He held that this country, by a proper diplomacy, might exercise a greater influence at Pekin than Russia, and he would be sorry to see "a policy of masterly inaction" carried out by England in China; and he sincerely hoped we should not come into collision with that country, as she was a very good customer of ours, and the effect of it would be to play into the hands of Russia, and to hand over a good deal of trade to Russia. The Russians were doing all they could in Japan as well as in China to show that they were the only true friends of that country, and that France and England were its enemies; and he was told that Russia had entered into an alliance offensive and defensive with Japan, so that the latter should close her ports against those countries with which Russia was at war. He would not at that late hour enter into the Indian aspect of the Central Asian Question, especially after the declaration of the Government on the subject, but would only express, in conclusion, his satisfaction at the statement which had been made by Her Majesty's Government, and to say he thought they might congratulate themselves upon the debate which had occurred upon the subject.


, in reply, said, he regretted that the hon. Member (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) had considered his speech entirely inadequate to the occasion. He knew that the hon. Member was so competent to make an adequate speech on the subject that he had implored him to bring it before the House; and it was only when he declined to do so that he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) in so inadequate a manner introduced it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.