§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
rose to call attention to the delay in obtaining 1079 official information as to the outrages in Bulgaria, and to the want of prompt and energetic action in the matter on the part, of the Government and of Her Majesty's Representatives in Turkey. The hon. Gentleman said, that the third reading of a Bill which was to appropriate public money to the respective Services of the Crown appeared to him to be a fitting one, if it were not the only one he now had, for calling the attention of the House to matters in which he ventured humbly to think the character, if not the interests, of this country had been imperilled through the action of some of those Services. He would not apologize to the House for bringing the matter before them. If under the circumstances of the end of the Session, and the short time at the disposal of the House, any excuse was needed beyond the gravity of the questions involved, he would find ample excuse in the fact that last Monday evening, when the truth of these charges against the Turkish Government was on all sides acknowledged, and when to the Head of our Government was imputed, whether rightly or wrongly, an indifference to these events, and a desire to palliate, if not to conceal them, the Prime Minister maintained silence throughout the whole evening, and, as far as the right hon. Gentleman himself was concerned, he left Europe and England to imagine that he still adhered to his former attitude of sceptical apathy. The right hon. Gentleman ought to give him (Mr. Ashley) thanks, and not censure, for affording him an opportunity to repair his omission, though whether he received the right hon. Gentleman's thanks or censure— greatly as he preferred the former— would make no difference in the view he held, that it was incumbent on the Government to explain, if they could, where the blame lay, for the undoubted fact that with in a district not three days' journey from the place where they were sitting, and under the auspices of a Government with whom we were in the closest alliance, there were perpetrated in the early part of the month of May murders, mutilations, rapes, and devastations, which the much-abused Huns and Vandals might have envied for their completeness, and yet that it was only in the first week in August that Her Majesty's Government seemed to be aware 1080 of the truth of the statements that had been made; and that even now, having read the Papers laid on the Table of the House that morning, he saw no adequate protest communicated to that Government the responsibility for whose acts this country was, by force of circumstances, compelled to share. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen might cry, "No, no!" but he held that we were morally responsible for these acts; and he would endeavour to show, before he sat down, that what he had said was supported by the facts of the case. No protest against these cruelties had been recorded worthy of the character or of the power of England. He was not going into renewed details of these atrocities, because he would rather leave those to the better skilled, and he believed the entirely truthful, pens of newspaper correspondents. But two remarks he wished first to make in answer to those who endeavoured to palliate these atrocities by saying that they were reprisals for the acts of others, and were the necessary concomitants of civil war. Both of those positions were untrue. By people inside as well as outside that House, the attitude of the Montenegrin soldiery was unconsciously confused with the attitude of the Bulgarian peasantry. He did not deny that the Montenegrin soldiery were brutal in war, though not so bad as formerly, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina also, he admitted the Rayahs were guilty of isolated acts of atrocity, and he did not justify them; but he maintained that the Bulgarian peasantry had never been guilty of organized cruelty, that they were an inoffensive people, who were perfectly unarmed, and were incapable of carrying on war. As to the second excuse, when the honour of women and the slavery of children became the prizes of war among civilized nations, then the atrocities which had been perpetrated in Bulgaria might be described as concomitants of civil war. We also had had atrocities, but these were confined to summary executions and wholesale destruction; but such as those to which he called attention never had been carried on by any civilized nation, and never should be. What he wanted to show on going through the Papers was, first of all, that the Turkish Government knew perfectly well the character of these Circassians whom they 1081 let loose on the unfortunate inhabitants of Bulgaria; that the English Government was also acquainted with their character, and that the English Government knew that the Turkish Government knew the character of these men, who were lawless, brutal, and licentious. In October last, 12 refugees returning to Herzegovina, were murdered by Bashi-Bazouk irregulars in the presence of the regular Turkish troops. The Grand Vizier, when his attention was called to this outrage by Sir Henry Elliot, promised that the perpetrators would be promptly punished; but time passed on, and nothing whatever was done to fulfil that promise. Was it right or wise, when the British Government had thus owned their responsibility, that they should have allowed the matter to drop without insisting upon redress being given? He referred to this transaction merely to show that the English Government were perfectly aware of the character of these Circassians. When they were first sent to Bulgaria no less a person than Midhat Pasha was Governor of Nish, who himself bore testimony that the Bulgarians were a peaceful and laborious people, who desired nothing more than the honour and safety of their families, and were willing to pay their taxes. And yet the Turkish Government, of which Midhat was one of the chiefs, who were perfectly well acquainted with the lawless character of the Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians, let them loose to work their will upon that defenceless population. He wished to submit a statement to the House which he had received from Constantinople, and he challenged the Government and Sir Henry Elliot to say whether it was true or false. It was to the following effect:—1. Skefket Pasha, the commander of the troops who were sent from Adrianople to Slieven, himself gave orders to his troops and irregulars to ransack the city of Yamboli, four hours distant from Slieven. He also bombarded and destroyed entirely the village of Boyardjik, eight hours distant from Slieven, whose inhabitants did not take any part whatever in the insurrection. Skefket Pasha has been appointed General of the Imperial Guard of the Sultan's Palace.2. Reschid Pasha, who destroyed the large and flourishing village of Peronshtizza, in the Province of Philippopolis, and massacred most of its inhabitants, was promoted and appointed Colonel of the troops stationed in Slieven.3. Deli Nedjib Effendi, Governor of Plevna, who, with Bashi-Bazouks, destroyed about 1,000 houses in the district of Sevlievo, was rewarded with the decoration Medjidieh of the fifth class.10824. Tossoun Bey, from Karlovo, who destroyed the small town of Klisoura, in the Province of Philippopolis, and many other villages in the district of Gupsa, of the same Province, has been appointed Mudir (governor) of Karlovo.5. Ali Pehlivan, the commander of a numerous band of Bashi-Bazouks, who perpetrated many atrocities in the Province of Philippopolis, was promoted to the rank of Bimbashi (Colonel), and was allowed to go at the head of 10,000 Bashi-Bazouks and fight in Servia.6. Hafiz Pasha, under whose eyes and in whose presence the Bashi-Bazouks massacred about 600 people in the village of Batzigovo, in the Province of Philippopolis. Hafiz Pasha also kept for a week within his private apartments Rainoe, the Bulgarian schoolmistress of Otlonkeui, and violated her. Nothing has been done to him, and at this moment he is commander of a division of the army operating in Servia.7. During the latter part of June 50 decorations of the Medjidieh class were sent to the Vali of Adrianople to be distributed among those 'qui se sont distingués en combattant I'insurrection bulgare.' Such were the phrases of the papers at Constantinople.8. Aziz Pasha, who was Governor of Philippopolis at the time of the outbreak of the insurrection in that Province, and whose justice and philo-Bulgarianism are wellknown, was removed from office and recalled to Constantinople, where he is staying now. There is no doubt that had Aziz Pasha been maintained in his post things would not have reached such lamentable proportions. Likewise the Governors of Carlovo and Adjar (small towns in the Province of Philippopolis), who had shown some zealin defending the Christians and opposing the lawlessness of the Bashi Bazouks, were dismissed from office and replaced.Those statements he would, if agreeable, hand to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs who could take the steps necessary to ascertain whether they were true. Some of them, he might observe, were- corroborated by communications from our Consuls published in the Blue Book now on the Table, and the source from which the letter emanated led him to believe that all the statements it contained were well-founded. It should be remembered that during all the time these outrages were going on accounts of them were being published in the Constantinople newspapers, and the Government of Turkey had never contradicted them. What they did was this. They went to the newspaper offices and said— "Instead of publishing these distressing letters, send them to us, and we will lay them before the Grand Vizier, who will deal with the matter." The papers of Constantinople, however, continued to publish the letters, not having that confidence in the Turkish Government which 1083 some people appeared to think ought to be reposed in them. There could be no doubt that our Government was not sufficiently supplied with information as to these occurrences. He desired to speak of Her Majesty's agents in Turkey with the greatest possible kindness, more especially as they were not present to defend themselves, but they showed incapacity to deal with the circumstances in which they were placed. The Consul at Adrianople, M. Dupuis, was a sufferer from chronic paralysis, and was physically incapable of acting- with that energy which the circumstances demanded, and he blamed those in authority, who, either knowing, or who ought to have known, the position of that gentleman, did not remove him to some other place and appoint another person more capable of discharging the duty. The Turkish Government were now endeavouring to make out that there was a great and organized insurrection in Bulgaria, and that they were driven into a corner and obliged to make use of any means at their disposal for its suppression. They thus excused themselves for the employment of the Circassians; but that was very different from the language which they held at first when they spoke merely of some slight troubles in Bulgaria, which they expected speedily to come to an end. He (Mr. Ashley) was prepared to admit that there was an insurrectionary movement in the month of May, but those engaged in it never exceeded 1,000 men, most of them being refugees or Servian emissaries. [The hon. Gentleman then read a number of extracts for the purpose of showing that the outbreak in Bulgaria was not of such a nature as to require the Turkish Government to employ irregular troops in addition to their Regular forces.] He did not want to read more than was necessary from these Papers, but in a despatch from Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Derby, shortly after the change of Government in Constantinople, Sir Henry wrote that he would not fail to point out the danger—danger, he (Mr. Ashley) supposed to the Turkish Government—of organizing those expeditions of Circassians and Bashi-Bazouks, who were committing the most atrocious outrages on humanity and civilization. But they did not know whether Sir Henry Elliot had done more than this. Consul Dupuis, when he informed Sir Henry Elliot of the irregular bands 1084 of Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians who were enrolled by the Turkish Government, said as to their proceedings he had "no means of ascertaining them." What was a Consul sent to a district for, but to find out such means? As to others of our officials, they had a certain amount of information, but did not act with energy, and grave responsibility rested on their superiors for not insisting upon their gaining more complete information. At page 267 of the printed Papers there was a despatch from Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Derby, in which he stated that he might "accept the assurance that the accounts as to the Bulgarian outrages had been exaggerated to a degree which must deprive them of the slightest credit." And this notwithstanding the Report of Mr. Baring, which had since appeared. And now as to our Home Government. He confessed he was always unwilling to make any remarks on men in a high position in that House. He felt that young Members should avoid doing so; but what encouragement was given to a Consul who, finding himself in a situation of great difficulty, sent home official despatches which were treated by the Prime Minister as "mere coffee-house babble?" Consul Reade said ho was inclined to think the object of these lawless bands was to diminish the number of Bulgarians—if he had said "educated" Bulgarians he would have been right; for there was an evident determination to diminish the intelligent and educated majority of the Bulgarians—and all this with the perfect connivance of the authorities. The unarmed population was absolutely at the mercy of these savages. It was said the emergency was so great as to render it indispensable to put down the insurrection by any means immediately available. But the extermination of a peaceful people was not justifiable in any circumstances, and it was to be regretted that Sir Henry Elliot did not at once tell the Turkish Government that the extermination of this population for the purpose of re-adjusting the balance between Christians and Mahomedans was not justifiable under any circumstances, but, instead of doing that, Sir Henry Elliot adopted the view that the Turkish Government had no choice under the circumstances but to employ the Circassians and Bashi-Bazouks. Lord Derby wrote to Sir Henry Elliot on the 13th of 1085 July. The language of that despatch was good, very good; but this he must point out—he could find in these Papers no instance in which Lord Derby had written to Sir Henry Elliot a despatch instructing him to read it to the Turkish Minister and leave him a copy. He did not pretend to any great diplomatic experience, but he had always been taught that when any serious remonstrance was intended, that was the first step. Not once had Lord Derby written such a despatch, strongly saying that the outrages which had been perpetrated were a disgrace to the Turkish Government and to humanity; that they would not be tolerated by civilized Europe. Nor had Lord Derby sent for the Turkish Ambassador in this country and said—"I am now speaking to you in the name of the Cabinet. I tell you the acts of your Government are a disgrace to humanity, and what you are doing will receive no countenance from us. I ask you to put that in writing and send it to your Government." But they had nothing of the kind. They had no interview with the Sultan demanded by the English Ambassador. They had only unreported conversations of Sir Henry Elliot with the Vizier, the force and character of which they did not know, but only the result, which was nil. He remembered Lord Palmerston writing to a representative of this country abroad—" You are quite right to report home whatever is said to you, but you are quite wrong to adopt as your own all the nonsense which it may contain;" but Sir Henry Elliot did adopt as his own the statement that the Porte was obliged to employ the Bashi-Bazouks. There was abundant proof that the Porte had Regular soldiers to spare if they were required in Bulgaria, there being 5,000 present at the time, and Sir Henry Elliot abandoned his proper judicial position in expressing a contrary opinion. A paragraph in one despatch (Page 372) showed how Consuls were indoctrinated with the belief that they were to put things in a favourable light for the Porte, for Consul Dupuis, unable to report a better state of things, said if he were compelled to notice the disorders committed, it was not from any desire to say anything adverse to the Turks. He could not help thinking that the difficulty of our Government had partly been—and so far he sympathized with them—that 1086 our Consuls acted under the belief that they were not to say more than they could help about the shortcomings of the Turkish Government. With reference to newspaper correspondence he said that there were hon. Gentlemen in that House who talked in a way that showed that they forgot what a great advance had been made in the way of "our own correspondence" since the pre-Crimean days. The newspaper correspondent under the present state of things was not an ill-educated partizan, but a cultivated traveller, and in nine cases out of ten was without prejudice. His only prejudice was that in favour of telling the truth as largely and successfully as he could. Did they suppose that the newspaper correspondents, many of whom they in that House personally knew, had any desire to back up the Bulgarians against the Turks, or the Turks against the Bulgarians? They were cosmopolitan to the largest extent; they were men who had seen the world, and who could form mature judgments, and he might say that the information received by the newspaper Press in this country was rapidly supplanting the information which the Foreign Office could command. A noble Lord opposite had demurred to the suggestion of the responsibility of our Government for the action of the Turks. On that point he must appeal to the universal opinion of the Turks themselves. He had received letters from American missionaries in Turkey during the last week, telling him that the Turks considered they were being backed up by England. He did not feel called upon to say whether or no in his opinion the Government were right in refusing to sign the Berlin Memorandum; but they should certainly have made counter-proposals, and the despatch of May 19, in which Lord Derby announced that refusal to the Turkish Government was remarkable for its omissions. One would have expected Lord Derby to say—"Do not let us be misunderstood. We are not prepared to say that you ought not to give guarantees, or that you have not broken your pledges. All we have done is to say we will not join in this minatory action on the part of the Northern Powers, for reasons of our own; but do not imagine that we are going to back you up in whatever you may do, We know you are engaging 1087 Circassians and Bashi-Bazouks. Do not think we shall help you in any difficulties you may get into on that score." It was incumbent on the Government to have said something to that effect, but Lord Derby only wrote—Her Majesty's Government cannot conceal from themselves that the gravity of the situation has arisen in a great measure from the weakness and apathy of the Porte in dealing with the insurrection in its earlier stages," and "from the want of confidence in Turkish statesmanship and power of government.How could the Turks understand that, except as a direct warning that they must make shorter work of Bulgaria than they had of Bosnia and the Herzegovina? Again, could it be supposed that the despatch of the Fleet to Besika Bay had no effect upon the Turks? There was at the time great uncertainty as to the cause of the proceeding, but they had since heard from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Fleet merely went to protect British subjects who were in danger at Constantinople. But at first a very different impression prevailed. He was reminded of a story about one of the Kings of Prussia, who, on being told that abusive articles were being written against him, said—"Oh, never mind! I and my subjects have come to a compromise. I am to do what I like, and they are to say what they like." He could not help thinking that in this matter the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, had come to a compromise by which the Secretary of State was to be allowed to do what he liked, and the right hon. Gentleman to say what he liked. At any rate, until the Papers were laid on the Table, and the deputation went to Lord Derby at the Foreign Office, there was a notion that the Fleet had been sent to Besika Bay to meet some threatened attack upon Constantinople. The arrival of our Fleet must have produced a great effect upon the Turks, and if we had led them to believe that we should encourage them in dealing sharply with the insurgent Provinces, what became of our non-intervention? He should doubtless be asked what the Government ought to have done? It would be dangerous for a private Member of that House to answer a question of that sort, for unanswerable objections could always be 1088 stated by the organ of the Foreign Office to any plans that might be suggested, and therefore he would only say that our Government ought to have managed to let the Turkish Government know that they were in earnest. He would only give as an illustration of a statesman in earnest, a proposal made to the British Cabinet during the Greek War of Independence. It was in Lord Palmerston's own words (Bulwer's Life, p. 293)—When accounts came that the Turkish fleet had carried away Greeks as slaves, I called the attention of the Cabinet to this circumstance, and urged that it would he a stain on our national character if we did not make an effort to recover them. The Duke of Wellington received the proposition coldly; Aberdeen treated the matter as a thing we had no right to interfere with. Bathurst—as the exercise of a legitimate right on the part of the Turks—and Ellen-borough as rather a laudable action. They said —What do you propose we should do? I said, we have some hold over the Pasha by the presence of Ibrahim and his army in the Morea. Let the Pasha know that till the whole of the slaves are given up that army will be starved in pawn.Sir Henry Bulwer wrote to Lord Palmerston from Constantinople, in July, 1838, and forcibly conveyed to him that the influence of England would be less in proportion to the services she might render to Turkey, than in proportion to the dread she was able to inspire. He (Mr. Ashley) concurred in that statement, and thought that if the British Government wished to show a due sense of the atrocities that had been committed, they should make so strong a representation to the Turkish Government as to show that they were in earnest, and they ought to recall Sir Henry Elliot from Constantinople on the ground that the Foreign Office had not been properly informed of what was going on, and that he had not been able to control the Turkish Government. He wished now to say a few words as to the future. This was an important moment, when the Recess was coming on and the House would not meet again for six months. He was in favour of a spirited foreign policy, but the spirit he wished to pervade our policy was a spirit of freedom on behalf of oppressed nationalities. The influence of England had always in the long run been exercised in that direction. This was not a question as between Mahomedanism and Christian- 1089 ity; but it was a question of a ruling army encamped on a soil upon which had grown up new nationalities, which had made strides in education and refinement, that had made the yoke burdensome which had before been lightly borne. Much had been said of the integrity of Turkey. He trusted that the time would never come when the integrity of Turkey would be regarded not as the means to an end, but as the end itself. Many persons looked upon the integrity of Turkey as a golden calf to be worshipped, and not as a means to an end—that end being to prevent any other Power from obtaining a dangerous preponderance in the East. The time was, however, rapidly approaching when there would be many other means to that end. Let the House remember how completely the aspect of Europe had changed since the Crimean War. Germany had become a great Power. Italy had become united. Austria had become far stronger because she had no Italy to curb, and her Provinces were more reconciled to each other. There were thus three Powers'—where there were none before—to curb the ambition of Russia. The condition of Russia had also entirely changed, for she had now a peaceable Emperor, and the country was not anxious for war. The Crimean War was as much caused by the refusal of the Porte backed up by England to surrender the Hungarian refugees to the Emperor Nicholas as by the question of the Holy Places. Russia had now ceased to assume her former aggressive attitude, and it was desirable to seize the present moment. Another Emperor might succeed to the throne animated by different feelings, and England ought to be ready to co-operate with Russia or any other Powers in order that these Provinces should as early and as peaceably as possible receive an autonomy and a Government of their own, subject only to the Porte as their suzerain to whom they should also pay a tribute. This Turkish policy of sitting upon the safety valve might be worthy of the captain of a Mississippi steamer, but not of a civilized State. The ruling Turk had not, in fact, changed since the time when the streets of Alexandria were strewn with the books of the Alexandria library, and when the Caliph Omar exclaimed—"If these books are in favour of the Koran they are unnecessary, and 1090 if they are contrary to the Koran they are mischievous, and so burn them all." The Turk had not changed in his views from that day to this. He was not speaking of some half dozen Europeanized Turks at Constantinople, but of the nation at large. The ordinary Turk was a grave, honest man, but he was as benighted as ever he was. The Bulgarian population, on the other hand, had during the last 20 years made enormous strides. Schools had been established in almost every village, and it was the jealousy of this on the part of the Turk which had been the cause of half the atrocities that had been committed, and which had been directed principally against the priests and schoolmasters. England was strong enough to do what was right and just, and if Russia was to be fought, let us fight her openly, and not over the prostrate bodies of these Bulgarians. In the Life of Lord Palmerston he found that in 1848 he remarked that the real policy of England was to be the champion of justice and of right. She was, of course, Lord Palmerston said, to act with moderation and prudence, and not to be the Quixote of the world; but she ought to give the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thought justice was, and whenever she thought wrong had been done, and in such a case she would never find herself altogether alone. It was a narrow and false policy, Lord Palmerston added, to suppose that this country or that was to be marked out as the eternal ally or perpetual enemy of England. She had no eternal ally, and no perpetual enemy. There were, however, people, in 1876, who thought that Turkey was to be our eternal ally, and Russia our perpetual enemy. Lord Palmerston went on to say our interests alone were eternal and perpetual, and that every British Minister should make the interest of England the shibboleth of his policy. He (Mr. Ashley) contended that the interests of England were not concerned in sacrificing justice and right to the mythical notion of keeping the Russian Fleet out of the Mediterranean, where we could meet her on equal terms, in alienating from England the feelings of these nascent peoples and throwing them into the arms of Russia, or in checking the development of new free States. He could not think that the Government were really opposed 1091 to the emancipation of these subject-races; but he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Conservative Party were kept out of office for many years by their ill-disguised hostility to Italian emancipation. ["No, no!"] Well, if an objection was raised, he would not say their hostility, but their lukewarmness. He ventured to say that if the country thought that Her Majesty's Government or the Party which followed them were really indifferent to the aspiration of these subject-races in Turkey, the same feeling would be excited, and they would suffer from the same cause.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, that although he could not think that his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ashley) had made out a case which would justify the House in censuring the Government and its diplomatic representatives in Turkey—he rejoiced that an opportunity had been given to the House before the Session closed of expressing their horror at the outrages which had occurred in Bulgaria. They could now offer to Bulgaria nothing but barren sympathy; but with respect to Servia, against which country the fortune of war seemed to be turning, the debate might be attended with good results. The Servians might be unable to resist the Turks in the open field and the contest would assume the character of a guerilla warfare, in which the Bashi-Bazouks and other irregular troops would find opportunities for perpetrating the atrocities which had occurred in Bulgaria. Lord Derby, writing on the 9th of August, only two days ago, to Sir Henry Elliot, said—It appears to Her Majesty's Government that the capture of Saitschar may probably lead to the occupation of a considerable part of Servia by Turkish forces.I have therefore to instruct your Excellency to urge strongly on the Porte that it is absolutely necessary that its troops should be kept under proper control; that the unarmed population should be spared; and that any repetition of the outrages committed in Bulgaria should be avoided.Your Excellency will point out that any renewal of such outrages would prove more disastrous to the Porte than the loss of a battle. The indignation of Europe would become uncontrollable, and interference in a sense hostile to Turkey would inevitably follow.He (Mr. Forsyth) felt sure that these words would find an echo in the heart of every Englishman. Now the object of the speech of his hon. Friend was to 1092 censure the Foreign Secretary and Sir Henry Elliot, and he would take the two cases separately. First, with respect to Lord Derby. There ought, he submitted, to be evidence before them to show that the noble Lord did not act with promptitude and energy on the information before him before they could pass such a Resolution. He thought he could demonstrate that not a shadow of a shade of blame attached to Lord Derby throughout the whole of these transactions. Lord Derby was here in England, and could only act upon the information before him. He could not act upon mere rumour or report, and, on the information he received, he did act with promptitude and energy. The insurrection broke out at the end of April, but the first intimation of any disturbance in Bulgaria which reached Lord Derby was received in a despatch dated May 4, and it contained these words—"Some disturbances have taken place in Philippopolis." In a despatch of the 7th of May that statement was repeated; and the first allusion Lord Derby made to the subject was to be found in his letter of the 25th of May, in which he said—Her Majesty's Government approve the communication which your Excellency intends to make to the Turkish Government upon the subject of the recent outbreak in Bulgaria.Writing on the 20th of May, Consul Reade informed Lord Derby that "the rising of the Bulgarians is all but put down;" and he received no further communication on the subject until the 9th of June, when Consul Reade wrote to say—" I have heard nothing particular to report." Up to that time that was all the information Lord Derby had. From a despatch dated the 18th of June, received 10 days later, he first heard of the Circassians and Bashi-Bazouks being brought into Bulgaria. Well, the day before the substance of what had appeared in The Daily News was brought before both Houses of Parliament, and on the 26th Lord Derby wrote to Sir Henry Elliot, urging him to make inquiries and furnish information, and enclosing the newspaper reports, as he did also, in a later letter, those which subsequently appeared. The next despatch was from Sir Henry Elliot, who enclosed two despatches from Vice Consul Dupuis on the subject of the outrages. Sir Henry Elliot said that the excesses were unquestionably very great; but that there 1093 had been monstrous exaggeration; that cases of revolting cruelty had been mentioned to him which turned out on investigation to be fictitious; and adding that, while atrocities had been committed, the Christians commenced them, although the Turks were the greatest offenders. So that even then Lord Derby was told that great doubt was thrown upon Vice Consul Dupuis' Report, and informed that some things that were stated were known to be false. Lord Derby, however, on the 14th of July wrote to Sir Henry Elliot directing him to bring the Reports of the Vice Consul under the notice of the Porte, and to urge strongly that orders should be given to the local authorities without loss of time to repress the outrages and punish those concerned in them, and that a proclamation should be issued to put a stop, under severe penalties, to the sale of women and children, and directing the release of all persons improperly detained in custody, and that those released should be protected. What, he asked, could Lord Derby at that time have done more? No hon. Member of the House—no matter how strong might be his desire to put down the commission of outrages—could have written in a stronger or more determined manner than Lord Derby did. On the 19th of July Lord Derby again wrote to Sir Henry Elliot, approving what he had done in the way of addressing remonstrances to the Porte with reference to these atrocities. The first Report made by Mr. Baring in relation to the matter bore date July 25, but was not received until the 4th of August. It stated that he had visited the villages, and, as far as he could gather about 12,000 Bulgarians had perished; the number of Turks killed being, in his opinion, short of 1,000, many of whose deaths had been attended with circumstances of great cruelty, On the 8th of August Lord Derby again wrote to Sir Henry Elliot in strong, emphatic, and indignant terms, instructing him to make further representations to the Porte in reference to the atrocities, and stating that he could not speak too strongly of the horror which the statements received had aroused in the minds of the Government and the people of this country. Sir Henry Elliot was also instructed to report further as the progress of the insurrection and the incidents connected 1094 with it. This was the whole of the Correspondence by means of which the House was able to judge whether Lord Derby had or had not been guilty of remissness or neglect in reference to the subject of the atrocities; and he contended that as far as Lord Derby was concerned, and as far as his means of procuring information enabled him to act, he lost no single moment of time, but acted with energy and decision. If that were so, there was no basis for the first part of his hon. Friend's speech, which called upon the House to censure the conduct of Lord Derby. He felt bound to admit, with regard to Sir Henry Elliot, that he did not seem to have been sufficiently alive to the gravity of the circumstances in which he had to act. It must be remembered, however, that at the time engrossing and momentous events were happening in Constantinople, where Sir Henry Elliot was. First, there was the massacre at Salonica, then there was the deposition of the Sultan Abdul Aziz; and, in the next place, there came the assassination of several Turkish Ministers. In addition to all this, there was the fact the Porte constantly denied the truth of the statements made in relation to the outrages alleged to have been committed; but, at the same time, he must admit that there was a certain absence of energy and a disposition to believe the Turkish statements as against those made by Christians which somewhat surprised him. An examination of the different statements made must convince anyone that gross exaggeration was indulged in on both sides, although it was clear to his mind that the outrages of the Turks outweighed those of the Christians a hundred-fold. Yes! there were atrocities on both sides, and it might be said—"Are you to ignore the atrocities of the Bulgarians, and to heap all your wrath upon the Turks?" This, however, was not the way to put the question. The point of view from which he regarded, it was this—Her Majesty's Government was not dealing with a host of savages, but with a Government in friendly alliance with England, and possessing a Regular Army sufficiently strong to repress excesses indulged in by its irregular forces. It was different with the insurgents, who had been downtrodden for centuries, and had perhaps become brutalized by oppression, so that they so far forgot themselves as in some 1095 instances to give way to feelings of revenge. This country had a right to call the Turkish Government to a severe account for what had occurred, and it was no sufficient answer for the Porte to say that atrocities had been committed on the other side. If a Government was too weak, or was unwilling to repress these atrocities, it was not fit to be a Government — certainly not a Government to which the moral support of England ought to be extended. The hon. and learned Member then proceeded to quote from the Correspondence, which contained many most distressing details, in order to show that the balance of atrocities committed by the Turks was far heavier as compared with those committed by the Bulgarians. The Turkish Government had sent out a Commissioner with extraordinary powers, but he (Mr. Forsyth) did not believe the Report. The challenge was as to particular localities and circumstances, but the Commissioner dealt only in vague generalities. He (the Commissioner) did, indeed, say that there was a document which contained the plan of the details of the insurrection, and which stated that the men and women of Mussulmans were to be murdered; and that this document had appended to it the names of a number of persons concerned. All important, however, as it was to the Turkish Government, this document had never seen the light; and, therefore, its existence could hardly be believed in. No doubt there had been individual atrocities on the part of the insurgents, but nothing like what there had been on the other side; and it was admitted that Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians had been let loose on these people "to diminish their numbers"—that was, to murder them. Sir Henry Elliot, to whom Midhat Pacha had denied the outrages, said that he wished that it were possible to accept the denial; but the testimony as to the outrages committed upon Bulgarian women and children was too strong to be disbelieved. There was also the statement of a gentleman who had travelled from Schumla in company with a high Ottoman functionary, and who on his way asked the police if they had profited by the rising to diminish the number of Bulgarians, and he added that he feared that they had not done everything in their power and everything that they ought to have done in this direction. 1096 After that who could wonder that atrocities had been committed by the irregular troops'? Moreover, the fact had been overlooked that after the insurrection was over, and the prisoners were about to be examined, judicial torture was resorted to by the Turkish authorities for the purpose of extracting confessions and procuring condemnation. The question now was as regarded the future. Could we, as a Christian nation and a free people, continue to give a moral countenance and support to a nation whose Government had allowed the horrors of which they had just heard to be perpetrated, unchecked and unreproved until England had at length sternly remonstrated with her? It seemed that if we did so we should be creating for ourselves a totally false position in England as regarded the grounds upon which we gave our support to Turkey at all. We had stood by Turkey longer than any other nation had done. We had been her friend and we had put faith in her promises for the reform of her Government, which she had broken over and over again. Under these circumstances, we should let the Turkish Government know that as the price of our friendship and our alliance for the future there must be a total change in their attitude towards the Christian population which was subject to them. Turkey had much to repent of in the past, and Servia was now before her, where the same cruelties would be perpetrated if the voice of England did not make itself heard in stern and unmistakeable tones. Servia, perhaps, might not be able to meet Turkey in the open field, but, nevertheless, she would be able to carry on a protracted guerilla warfare, and would not be eventually conquered. Thus a long and desultory conflict would ensue, in which many atrocities might occur if steps were not taken to prevent them. If the war continued for any length of time the feelings of the Slav populations of Russia and Austria would become so excited that they would force the hands of those Governments, who would be compelled to go to war in defence of Servia, and would not allow her to be conquered. And he did not believe that England would allow a shot to be fired or a shilling to be expended by herself in defence of Turkey to prevent that interference. The sooner, therefore, Her Majesty's Government began to 1097 propose mediation for the purpose of stopping the advance of Turkey into Servia the better it would be for the peace of Europe. In his opinion the best thing that could happen for Turkey would be that her Christian provinces, which under the present system formed a gangrened limb, should be entirely separated from her and formed into free and independent States, which would act as a barrier between herself and the rest of Europe.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought every one must agree that the House could hardly have separated without some further allusion to the subject which his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) had brought under their notice. The eloquent remarks with which his hon. Friend had concluded his speech would alone afford a justification for the Notice which he had given. He (Mr. Forster) candidly admitted that if he had put a Motion on the Paper he did not think that he should have expressed it in terms which would make it appear to have been framed to convey a positive censure on the Government, and for this reason—that this was a matter of such immense importance, deeply concerning the honour and credit of the country, and especially as regarded the future action of Government, that they should, if possible, come to a nearly unanimous conclusion with regard to the policy they would suggest to Her Majesty's Government, and to their expression of the feeling of the country. He therefore deprecated any spirit of Party feeling being excited by the fact of any direct attack being made upon the Government. But his hon. Friend had not put his Notice in the form of a Motion. At the same time, what he had said with regard to the past, and what the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) had stated in reply to him, seemed to make it impossible that the past could be entirely overlooked, and doubtless Her Majesty's Government themselves would desire an opportunity of giving additional explanations in reference to it. It was, for instance, rather an astonishing fact that when terrible deeds had been perpetrated on such an extensive scale as recalled to memory the atrocities of ancient times or the Middle Ages, within a few days' journey of London, the particulars of which had been in the knowledge of 1098 the newspaper correspondents for the last six weeks, Her Majesty's Government should not have received reliable information with regard to them until a very few days ago. This was in itself a fact that required explanation, and he could not help thinking that if the Government had to live over this time again they would take care that they did obtain information more quickly, and act upon it more quickly than they did. The House would recollect that it was on the 26th June that he ventured to ask the Prime Minister as to a statement that appeared in The Daily News. It was the first statement respecting these atrocities, and it had been wonderfully borne out by what now proved to be the facts. The Correspondent did not pretend to give exact figures, admitting that the dreadful atrocities committed had a tendency to exaggerate themselves. He did not vouch for numbers, but he stated that from 13,000 to 18,000 had been killed; and in his second letter he put the number at 12,000, which was what the official investigator imagined it to be. The Correspondent said 100 villages were believed to have been burnt, though he did not vouch for the number, and he gave many details, mentioning one terrible story of burning, which he did not give as a fact, but which he hoped might not be true. The right hon. Gentleman was glad the other day to find that this was a falsehood; but, on looking at the papers this morning, he (Mr. Forster) was sorry to see that the way in which that atrocity was denied did not appear to him to disprove the fact. There were other occurrences not quite so glaring, but almost as bad, of the truth of which there could be no doubt. The reply of the Prime Minister was that it was true that the war was carried on between the invaders and the Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians with great ferocity, but the information which had been received certainly did not justify the statements which had appeared in the newspapers. Thus it appeared that Ministers were entirely in the dark with regard to the truth or falsehood of those statements. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Forsyth) said Lord Derby did not lose a moment in ascertaining the truth. He could hardly think that was quite correct. He could not for a moment suppose that 1099 Lord Derby, in his intense anxiety about Eastern Affairs, had not himself read those accounts on June 23. He should have thought that, without waiting for any Question being asked of him, he would have telegraphed at once to Constantinople to ask whether the horrible story was true, especially as he did not think they ought to have been exceedingly surprised, seeing that they had information of the employment of irregular troops, whose character was known to them. Beyond that, they had in their hands a despatch of Sir Henry Elliot, dated June 8, in which he said that the Bulgarian insurrection appeared to have been put down, though he regretted to say with cruelty, and in some places with brutality. Knowing what these irregular troops were he was surprised that no telegram was sent, and much more surprised that when Lord Derby had assured the Duke of Argyll that further inquiries would be immediately made, these inquiries were not made by telegraph. He should have thought, if the telegraph was of any use, it would have been used on that occasion. The Government sent no telegram; the newspapers did, and when he again interrogated the Government they had no information, whereas The Daily News had received a longer list of atrocities and more detailed information, and similar information appeared in The Times, showing that in all probability the stories were now true, and creating a great change in public opinion in England. This was so marked that one journal, The Daily Telegraph, which had said when the first letter appeared in The Daily News that it was utterly impossible the news could be true, and that "these villages did not even exist," no longer attempted to deny the general truth of the story. The Government were more ignorant than anybody else. They had no information, and made no attempt to get it. He confessed if they had realized the meaning of the report and the responsibility of this country in the matter they would have set more eagerly to work to get the information upon which to base protests of misrepresentation. At the same time, he admitted the Government had been misled by Sir Henry Elliot. He had been informed of the statements in The Daily News. They had constantly been brought before him, as he 1100 happened to know, by persons in Constantinople whose representations he ought not to have dismissed as unworthy of credit. Sir Henry ought to be called upon to explain why he treated as unworthy of credit statements brought to him in this way and which afterwards turned out to be substantially correct. Then coming to the position of the Prime Minister on July 10th. There was no answer to the Question then asked him, though he had the information contained in Consul Reade's despatch of June 16th. That was in the hands of the Government, and it stated that it was an object with the Turks to diminish the Bulgarians as much as possible. He was surprised at the answer of the Prime Minister on July 10th in the face of that despatch.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that I had not seen that despatch. From circumstances which I can in private explain to the right hon. Gentleman, but which would weary the House, I had not received that despatch.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was very glad indeed to have that explanation. They all knew how busy the Prime Minister must be, and that, although, a despatch had reached the Foreign Office, he had not seen it. Sir Henry Elliot, who did not appear to have realized what had occurred so near his own house, seemed to have turned a deaf ear to representations made to him concerning the atrocities, and to have lent an ear freely to any sort of apology for the Constantinople Government. As to his despatch of July 25th it appeared to him (Mr. Forster) that The Daily News correspondence was as well worthy of credit as the extract from The Levant Herald; and it was surprising that in the same despatch, while he spoke of the credulity of The Daily News as being imposed on, he did not mention Consul Reade's despatch containing the news of the promotion of the man who had been concerned in the atrocities. He must have also received the despatch of Vice Consul Dupuis from Adrianople, which said—Judicial torture, as your Excellency is aware, is a common practice in connection with judicial proceedings now going on against Bulgarian political prisoners,and he must have received the telegram from Philippopolis, at which the number of killed were stated at "below 15,000." 1101 With, that telegram in his possession he sent a despatch describing correspondence as sensational the statements in which did not go beyond his own information. On the 6th of July Sir Henry Elliot said that without an agent on the spot he was unable to say more than that there were atrocities, chiefly committed by the Turks. Feeling his want of information, it was astonishing he did not send some one to the spot until he was directed to do so by the Government. Mr. Baring, in the letter he had sent from Therapia, said he had great difficulty in obtaining information; and no wonder, considering that he did not speak Bulgarian, and the dragoman could not, and the accompanying Consul could not, and the Bulgarians were in constant fear of the Turks. The natural consequence of leaving this inquiry to persons ignorant of the Bulgarian language would be that a Report favourable to the Turks would be received with suspicion and mistrust. He could not understand why at the later stages also more use had not been made of the telegraph wires. The last information in the official Papers was a telegram of the 30th. July, but The Daily News had telegraphic information from Philippopolis of all that had passed. He could not understand why the Government could not have had something like the same information. They could hardly have been deterred by considerations of expense. There were three questions to be fairly considered in connection with this matter; first, what did this terrible story mean? how far had we anything to do with it? and what lessons were to be learned from it to guide us in future action? The story, he thought, meant more than mere atrocity and devastation. It threw a light on the government of these Christian Provinces. The Prime Minister had evidently heard something about the relation of the Bulgarians and the Circassians, and he told the House the story of the Circassians fighting for their independence in the Caucasus and becoming voluntary exiles and settlers in Bulgaria at a time when there was general sympathy with them. Well, he (Mr. Forster) did not mean to enter upon any reproach of these men. He remembered when this country did feel great sympathy with the Circassians fighting for their freedom against the Russians, and their subsequent story, as he would 1102 tell it, was this. They left their country with a natural hatred of the Christians, and he wished the hospitality which the Turks extended to them had been extended to them at their own expense. Great care was taken not to send the Circassians to Turkish villages. They were given land without payment. In many cases, as he learned on authority that would satisfy the Government, Bulgarians were made to build houses for them, and had either not received more than half the payment promised, or no payment at all. The Circassians were naturally looked upon as intruders; they would not settle in the country, and in a few years they sold their interest in the land, and had been living the lives of gentlemanly brigands ever since. This constant brigandage had, of course, brought about ill-feeling, and then came last autumn the first beginning of any kind of insurrection. Up to that time there had been the usual government of Christians by Turks, and that there was misgovernment there was no attempt on the part of the Turkish Government to deny. In Bulgaria it was worse in some respects than in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because the people in Bulgaria were peaceful and inoffensive, and could be more successfully tyrannized over and oppressed than those of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the insurrection in these Provinces was going on, it occurred to a very few in Bulgaria that they would have an insurrection too, and there was not a man in this country who would not have felt, under the circumstances, an enormous temptation to insurrection. Some few young men rose; somebody made it their business to inform the Turkish Government; they were arrested, and there was an end to the disturbance in October last year. But an excuse was made to put a large number of persons in prison, and the Turkish population was to some extent empowered to keep order. We know what was meant by the Turks keeping order amongst the Bulgarians. The Stamboul in November and December last year recorded terrible acts of brigandage, murder, robbery, dishonoured women, with the connivance of the authorities, and there was no attempt by the Turkish Government to deny these acts. Could it be wondered that there were some few Bulgarians in a state of revolt? A slight insurrection was met by fire and sword. 1103 all through the country, and by the destruction of 10,000 or 15,000 lives. It was the greatest puzzle to him how so many could be killed, till from inquiries he received what he believed to be the explanation—namely, that before the 5,000 Regular troops had been sent, an army of Bashi-Bazouks and other irregulars, numbering, he was told, 18,000, were employed. The result was that the inhabitants of the Christian villages were in an intense state of alarm, and no wonder; they sent to the authorities, asking—"Are you going to protect us?" and the answer was, they must protect themselves. Of course they set to work to do so; the men from the smaller villages went to the large ones, and then the Bashi-Bazouks came down upon them. The worst part of the matter was that the Regular troops, instead of stopping these atrocities, assisted in the work of destruction. He held in his hand a letter from a Bulgarian merchant in Constantinople—a respectable man, who was anything but hostile to the Turkish Government. He gave story after story of outrages committed by the troops themselves, and the terrible tortures practised upon the poor people to make them accuse the priests and schoolmasters, the men whom they most respected. He did not believe there had been any attempt on the part of the Turkish Government to punish the perpetrators of these atrocities, and there would have been nothing but praise for them, but for the representations made on the part of the Christian Governments. It was a strong accusation to be made even by an independent Member against any Government, and especially against one with which we were in alliance; but he could not resist the conclusion that there was a positive intention on the part of the Turkish Government to strike terror into these Bulgarians, so that their troops might the more easily put down the insurrection. He would say nothing about religion; but this was a case in which the ruling minority were allowed to carry arms, while the large majority of the population were not permitted to carry arms for their protection. A minority in that state of affairs would always make a terrible misuse of their arms, and it was hopeless to expect good government in those distant Provinces where a small minority of Mussulmans governed a large majority of Christians. 1104 The sooner the House of Commons and the Government took that fact into its consideration the better, and it pointed to some sort of local authority. They were told that Russia was in favour of such a change, and that everything supported by Russia was opposed to the interests of England. Now, he very much doubted whether there was any ground for all this jealousy of Russia. There was no other possible future for these Provinces, and if we took up a position antagonistic to Russia we might find that we had lost all our influence in this part of Europe. Then came the question what were we to do under the circumstances? It might be said that these were not the only atrocities in the world. There were atrocities lately committed in Spain, but we did not interfere, and it might be asked why we were anxious to interfere in Turkey. He would say in answer that the reason was that we had interfered. In one of the first letters The Daily News gave an extract from a Turkish paper stating that—England will protect us from Russia, and leave us to take care of our rebels ourselves;" and again—"England will protect us from the interference of foreigners, and leave us to deal with our rebels as we can.Undoubtedly that had been the effect of our policy. It might not have been necessary to concur in the Berlin Note, but it was the continuation of an attempt on the part of the Three Powers to interfere for the protection of the Christian subjects of Turkey. He did not blame the Turkish Government for believing that the nation which protected her by money and soldiers 20 years ago would be as read to do it again, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave some countenance to this belief when he was asked whether England would interfere. He said that she would not, but that she expected no one else to interfere. He did not blame the Government for taking this view, but the necessary consequence was that Turkey believed she would have the protection of this country against interference, and therefore we incurred a certain responsibility, and were bound to see what was done in her Provinces. When Lord Derbysaid he could not guarantee Turkey against suicide or disease, but only against murder, he ought to have added that he could not guarantee her against the penalty of murder, 1105 and it was that penalty she was now incurring. With the part we had taken the only course we could pursue was to show Turkey that no sense of our own interests and no jealousy of other Governments would induce us to sanction these atrocities. Ho did not know any other way of expressing that determination except by withdrawing our Minister from a country where our diplomacy seemed to have so little effect. As long as England was giving the impression to all Europe that she was the friend of Turkey, she was bound to see that this Power, the life of which we had prolonged, did not commit these atrocities. It was constantly said by many both in and out of Parliament that this country ought to have no sympathy with the Servians, that there never was a war so unprovoked, and so little to be justified, and that it proceeded from Russian intrigue and Servian ambition. He was not going to gauge the depths of Russian intrigue, but with a country governed like Turkey, and with Provinces so badly treated and so oppressed for centuries, there, if there were any neighbouring Power which had selfish motives, that Power would have the greatest means and opportunity of intrigue. The Emperor of Russia was himself the greatest friend of peace, but there might have been instigations to insurrection from private individuals in Russia or even from Government officials. But why were such instigations dangerous? Because of the materials they had to work upon, and if Englishmen were in the place of these people they would need no intrigues to press them on to revolt. He did not know what might be the personal ambition of the Prince of Servia, but they had now to think of the Servian people. They had made a declaration of war, but it should be remembered that the grandfathers of the present Servians were the slaves of the Turks. There was not a family in Servia in which stories of atrocities committed by Turks were not handed down from father to son, and when these people found men of the same race near them subjected to outrages by the Turkish troops could the House be surprised at the sympathy they exhibited? There was not an Englishman in their position who would not do the same. It was, therefore, unreasonable to charge the Servians with having begun an unprovoked war 1106 when it sprang from the natural and in some respects the most honourable feelings of humanity. They had made a mistake; they did not understand the state of diplomacy—few could. They might have repented this grave attempt, but it was not for us to complain of them. Could we not remember our own feeling in the case of Italy? Piedmont had even less chance of driving the Austrians out of Italy, but she manifested a sympathy with her Italian brethren which won the admiration and sympathy of the English people. But the two things would not bear a comparison for a moment. The government of Italy by the Austrians could not be compared with the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Turks. Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to somewhat isolate itself and take a somewhat independent course. That independent course might be fully justified, but he did not think that as yet there was much on which the country could congratulate itself. The Government sent a war fleet to a war position, and they were told that the object in view was to protect the Christians. It seemed almost a mockery now to use those words. But having taken that ground, the Government could certainly step forward and propose a policy to the other Great Powers. They should at once take the opportunity of saying to the other Great Powers—"Let us together try and stop this war. Turkey has driven the invader out of her territory; let us prevent vengeance following defeat; and let us see, too, whether we cannot propose a scheme of mediation, and propose a plan by which to prevent a recurrence of these events." He was glad to conclude by expressing his hearty concurrence in one of those despatches—the last sent by Lord Derby.Your Excellency will point out that any recurrence of suck outrages," meaning the possibility of a renewal of them in Servia, "will prove more disastrous to the Porte than the loss of a battle. The indignation of Europe would become uncontrollable, and interference in a sense hostile to Turkey would inevitably follow.He hoped that that despatch would find its way to the Sultan, if he were able to comprehend it, and that the Prime Minister as well as the Foreign Secretary fully understood what he (Mr. Forster) understood to be its meaning—namely, that if the Bashi-Bazouks and irregular 1107 troops, which, they were told were the advanced corps of the Turkish. Army, committed any approach to the atrocities in Servia which they committed in Bulgaria, the indignation of Europe, the indignation of England, would become uncontrollable, and that if this were a bordering country we would march our troops in to prevent such outrages. He hoped that that was the meaning of the despatch, and he hoped, too, that if Austria and Russia, or any other Government, finding such atrocities being committed, marched in their troops and interfered, there should be no opposition to such a course on the part of the Government. The honour and interests of England were in the hands of the Government, and they were now considering this matter with full information before them. Perhaps the Prime Minister, when he made one or two remarks in reference to it on a former occasion, found it necessary to guard himself against what he thought a premature opinion, but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he would have the support of hundreds of thousands of his fellow - subjects in this policy— "We shall take care of our own interests, and with respect to Constantinople we shall have our fleet to take care of those interests; but we cannot consent to this one thing. We cannot suffer ourselves to be implicated in the support of a Government which carries on war in this way, or attempts to put down its rebel subjects by a recourse to these inhuman atrocities."
§ MR. BOURKE
said, the House would not expect him to follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster) through all he had said in reference to Servia, though much of it was germane to the subject immediately under discussion, All he would say about Servia was this — that he hoped she would not lose any of those dearly-bought liberties which she had purchased at so great a price some time ago. And whatever might be the fate of the war she had doubtless embarked upon, the condition of the Christian population of that country could never be a subject of indifference to Her Majesty's Government. He confessed that the question immediately before the House was one difficult to approach with any degree of calmness. He was glad to see that hon. Gentlemen opposite who had spoken in the de- 1108 bate did not pretend to arrogate to themselves exclusive sympathy for the sufferers by the acts which had occurred, and the difficulty which anybody must feel in dealing with this important subject was that all classes of the community, without distinction of class or Party, felt exactly the same sentiments of horror as were described by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They must, however, recollect that in dealing with political subjects, although they might have feelings of horror in reference to these outrages, and, he believed, unprecedented acts of barbarity, yet, considering that the interests of this country ought to be first in the minds of Her Majesty's Government, they ought not to allow those acts of atrocity altogether to blind them to those interests or to the political considerations connected with them. He must say that his own feelings upon the subject had been considerably intensified by the opening observations of his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley.) His hon. Friend began by stating broadly that he held Her Majesty's Government responsible for the outrageous acts which had occurred in Bulgaria. He must say he was startled with that expression of opinion, and, knowing that his hon. Friend had been brought up in the same Profession to which he had himself the honour to belong, he was anxious to see how his hon. Friend would prove his case; and he must say that a more impotent conclusion never was arrived at after a sweeping assertion of that sort. His hon. Friend based the whole of his charge of complicity on the part of Her Majesty's Government with those outrages upon two circumstances—the withholding of their assent to the Berlin Memorandum and the sending of the British Fleet to Besika Bay; and he endeavoured to support his case by reading part of a despatch which had nothing to do with the massacres—a despatch written upon a different subject and at a different time—in which Lord Derby warned the Turkish Government that instead of treating the insurrection in Bosnia with apathy, they ought to be more energetic. Therefore, said his hon. Friend, it was plainly shown that it was the wish of our Government that the Turk should carry fire and sword to all Christian populations. A more unfair assertion, he must say, he never heard, 1109 because if his hon. Friend had turned to the despatches which related to the outrages in Bulgaria, he would find the greatest horror expressed and the most peremptory directions given to Sir Henry Elliot to bring these occurrences to the notice of the Porte. The argument, therefore, as to the Berlin Memorandum altogether fell to the ground. With regard to the sending of the Fleet to Besika Bay his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government on a former occasion gave the House the reasons for that step, and proved that the sending of the Fleet there was consistent with the ancient policy which it was the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt, that so long as we were a great Mediterranean Power, so long as we expected to hold India, so long as the commerce of England found its way to the distant East over the Mediterranean, the Power, Christian or Turk, who ruled the Eastern portions of Europe might vitally affect the destinies of England. Although that was undoubtedly true, his right hon. Friend stated that the proximate cause of sending the Fleet to Besika Bay was the consternation which prevailed among the Christian population of Constantinople and throughout Eastern Europe with regard to the intention of the Mussulmans. The immediate cause, therefore, of the sending of the Fleet to Besika Bay was the protection of the Christians, not only in Constantinople, but in all parts of the Levant; and yet his hon. Friend said that that course gave encouragement to the Turks and was followed by the massacre of a Christian population. Then, again, the Fleet was not sent to Besika Bay until the massacres had taken place in Bulgaria. But he was surprised that, after making that sweeping assertion, his hon. Friend did not inform the Government what they ought to have done, and all the more that his hon. Friend had had all his life particular opportunities of studying the foreign policy of England. He (Mr. Bourke) did expect that after denouncing the acts and policy of Her Majesty's Government, his hon. Friend would at least have intimated what, in his opinion, they ought to have done. On that subject his hon. Friend was entirely silent, except so far as to say he had no advice to give, and therefore he thought he 1110 might conclude they had not been very far amiss even in the opinion of his hon. Friend. He was not sorry that the question had been brought before the House, because he thought it would have been undesirable if hon. Members had separated, and in the country had addressed their constituents in the same tone and with the same arguments which had been used by some hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in the course of the present debate, without hearing the true facts of the case. He was not going to waste the time of the House by inquiring whether the occurrences to which attention was called had or had not been exaggerated. When the question was first brought forward, his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated his belief that there had been great atrocities, a statement that had been fully borne out by information which had been received since. It was sufficient to know that atrocities had occurred to such an extent as to justify all the indignation that had been felt in the country regarding it; and if he said anything that could be perverted into showing that he wished to paliate or excuse these shocking deeds, he could assure the House that he did it merely for the sake of narrative and statement, and in order that the House should have before it the facts of the case as fully as possible, rather than to show that he had any opinion whatever in favour of the Turkish Government in reference to this business. In the course of these discussions hon. Gentlemen had spoken with some degree of contempt of the newspaper correspondents. It was very difficult to please such hon. Gentlemen, because, if official documents were quoted, it was said that they were all prejudiced, that the stamp of red tape was distinctly marked upon them, and that they were all written with official bias. If, on the other hand, the letters of newspaper correspondents were quoted, it was said that they were unreliable rubbish, unless they happened to fit in with the preconceived opinions of hon. Gentlemen. At any rate, some of the statements made by a special commissioner of The Levant Herald were so important that they should be laid before the House and the country, merely remarking that the gentleman is question seemed, primâ facie, to be in just as good a position to give an historical account of what had 1111 occurred as any of those other most respectable correspondents—one or two of whom were friends of his own—who represented the London newspapers at the seat of war. From statements in that paper it appeared that in the month of February there were disturbances on both sides of the Balkan, but there was no real insurrection till April or May. What they were now discussing was the outbreak in May. In February emissaries appeared on both sides of the Balkan who put forth such, demands against the Porte as could not have been complied with except by a renunciation of Sovereign rights. Complications also occurred in Servia and Montenegro, and the greater part of the Bulgarian troops had been ordered to the Servian frontier. Some of the statements which had been made were borne out by other authorities which had been brought under their notice. Disturbances broke out on May 4 at Adrianople and various places, and all communication between Adrianople and Philippopolis was for a time prevented, and it was stated that these cities were to have been burnt, and that a general insurrection was to break out before the middle of the month. It was also stated that special agents had been appointed to set fire to various parts of the town on the same day, and, in order to gain access into Turkish quarters, Bulgarians entered the service of Turkish families in the capacity of grooms. Philippopolis and Adrianople were to have been set on fire in a great number of places. Mussulmans offering any resistance, policemen, and soldiers, suspicious officials, as well as refractory Christians, with their wives and children, were to be killed without mercy.
wished to know whether this extract of The Levant Herald was given on the strength of the Government?
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he felt bound to give those statements because not only had statements been made in that House from the Opposition benches, but anonymous statements had also been made. Letters had been read from gentlemen in Turkey, and even from friends of gentlemen in Turkey, of whom Her Majesty's Government had no knowledge or means of knowing who they were, and he thought the statements he had just read to the House, which he would not vouch the truth of, were at all events equally 1112 worthy of credit with those that were contained in such communications, which had been after all the foundation of the question being brought before the House. No doubt the Circassians had played a very prominent part in this terrible drama, and he should like the House and the country to know who these Circassians were. In a Paper presented to this House in 1864, which threw a great deal of light upon the subject, containing correspondence relating to the immigration of the Circassian tribes into Turkey, with an account of the circumstances under which they had been driven out by the Russians, and of the preparations which had been made to receive them in Turkey, Consul Stevens, in a despatch to Earl Russell dated Trebizond, February 17, 1864, said—The agglomeration of Circassian emigrants in this town has become a serious matter, and ought to occupy the immediate attention of the Porte. During the lastthree days fresh arrivals have taken place, and circa 3,000 have been landed; some 40,000 more were preparing to quit their country. Among those who have reached, hundreds are labouring under disease, superinduced by famine and misery which they suffered previous to embarkation.Sir Henry Bulwer, in speaking of this emigration in a despatch dated April 12, 1864, said—Twenty-five thousand have already reached Trebizond, and others are endeavouring to escape in small boats at every risk. The conglomeration of vast quantities of these people, who have no industrial habits, threatens the health and peace of any one locality, and the loss of life which is occasioned by their hazardous attempts to escape from their conquerors is shocking to humanity. The Turkish Government is therefore about sending vessels to Trebizond to remove the emigrants thence, and place them in different parts of the Empire.Consul Dickson, on the 13th of April, 1864, said—The Ubikh and Fighett tribes arc fast embarking for Trebizond. In fact, after their land having been laid waste by tire and sword, emigration to Turkey is the only alternative allowed to those mountaineers who refuse to transfer themselves to the Kouban steppes and contribute periodically to the militia. The condition of these poor people is described by eye-witnesses as most distressing. In the hurry of departure the overcrowding of boats is so little heeded as to lead to frequent disasters, while such of their horses and cattle as war and famine have spared are sold for a few paper roubles. In some instances the emigrants, sooner than see their weapons (may be heir-looms in the family for centuries) exchange hands with the enemy have flung them into the sea.1113 Sir Henry Bulwer, in another despatch from Constantinople, dated the 3rd of May in the same year, said—The Ottoman Government is willing to afford the refuge they desire. But its means for doing this are, as your Lordship knows, scanty. What it has already done—and this, comparatively speaking, is little—has been at a cost of £200,000. One mode of granting hospitality to these unhappy exiles is by dividing them among different Turkish villages in different districts, and alloting to four Turkish families one Circassian family in these districts. This is undoubtedly the cheapest mode, but the worst. It adds to the miseries of the already miserable condition of the Turkish peasant; it affords but a wretched chance of existence to the poor Circassians; while the strength of these almost invincible warriors is divided, dissipated, and lost. It would be a matter of policy, favourable both to Turkey and Europe, to colonize that part of the Ottoman Dominions which extends from the Black Sea towards Erzeroom with these gallant fugitives. This country is opposite to that they have quitted, and in some degree resembles it; and here they might repose from their misfortunes. For carrying out a plan of this kind, however, in a suitable manner the Turkish revenue affords no adequate means—that revenue is already appropriated—nor would it do, just as Turkish credit is beginning to move a little freely, to over burthen it by taking from the ordinary income of this country a sum which that income cannot without great embarrassment supply. At the same time the sum in question would not be so great if reduced to annual income. The calculation I make is about £1,500,000 sterling; the employment of a part of the Circassian population on the Erzeroom road and in the Turkish Army might make it something less. Take the interest at less than £100,000 per annum. Still, it would hardly be fitting for Turkey to seem to beg for this sum, however great the necessity for it, and however noble and useful the purpose on which it is to be employed. There should be something like a movement in Europe to aid her. Surely policy, humanity, public admiration for unexampled valour, public pity for almost unexampled distress, would come in to assist a cause to which no heart that has ever felt for deeds of patriotic heroism could be insensible. I think I know j'our Lordship's sentiments sufficiently to flatter myself that they will not be very different from my own; and if they should eventually be embodied in any scheme somewhat like that I have hastily sketched out, it will be a source of the highest gratification to me to have contributed in the slightest degree to have called forth a tribute of generous feeling towards a nation which, from a variety of untoward circumstances, has been crushed amid the universal regret of sympathizing Europe.When it was considered that 12 years ago these Circassians had been treated like wild beasts, it was not so very surprising that when they had the opportunity, and found their old enemy at their doors, that they should act like 1114 savage animals? The House must also recollect what was the state of things when the Bulgarian insurrection first broke out. He need not remind the House of the Salonica massacres, of the action of the Softas, and the deposition of the Sultan, and the general state of confusion which existed when the news arrived of the outbreak, in which a great number of persons had lost their lives. Sir Henry Elliot, writing on that occasion, described what had taken place, and from that time he never lost an opportunity of impressing upon the Turkish authorities the necessity of avoiding acts of cruelty and of not employing the Circassians and the Bashi-Bazouks in the suppression of the outbreak. Although some of the despatches from Sir Henry Elliot had been read already, he would, with the permission of the House, allude to them again very shortly because he wished to bring under one focus the different representations which had been made by Sir Henry Elliot. On the 23rd of May, 1876, Mr. Sandison wrote to Sir Henry Elliot as follows:—In accordance with your Excellency's instruction, I strongly represented to Raschid Pasha the injudicious employment of Bashi-Bazouks in Bulgaria, for which the Porto alone was responsible. His Excellency stated in reply that Vizirial orders were sent yesterday directing the authorities in Bulgaria not to resort to the services of Circassians as irregulars. I thought proper to tell his Excellency that this was doing away with one class of Bashi-Bazouks only, and that there were just as strong grounds for giving similar orders in regard to the common Bashi-Bazouks, who were equally brutal and licentious. His Excellency did not seem to think, however, that the matter rested any longer with the Porte, now that Abdul Kerim Pasha, the Generalissimo, was entrusted with the sole direction of everything connected with the military operations in Bulgaria.On the 19th of June, 1876, Sir Henry Elliot wrote to the Earl of Derby—I have again spoken very seriously to the Grand Vizier on the subject, and remarked that the manner in which his colleagues had just been murdered by a Circassian gave an idea of what must be the position of unarmed populations left absolutely at the mercy of hordes of those savages.On the 6th of July Sir Henry Elliot wrote—Abdi Pasha, the ex-Minister of Police, has been appointed to command the Bashi-Bazouks enrolled to operate against Montenegro, and has already left for Antivari. Although an old man, he is active and energetic, and, from 1115 what I have heard of him, I hope he may he able to exercise a salutary authority over the wild mountaineers under his orders. I have strongly recommended that an energetic commander should be appointed over the irregulars to be employed in Servia, and I have pointed out to the Turks that if the progress of their troops in that Principality is marked by barbarities upon an unresisting population, the indignation throughout Europe may become so great that the Government may be driven by the force of public opinion to step in to put a stop to them.And on the same day he wrote—For weeks past I have never seen one of the Turkish Ministers without insisting upon the necessity of at once putting an end to these excesses, and their answer has been invariably the same.That language of Sir Henry Elliot was entirely approved by Lord Derby, and he did not think that any stronger language could have been employed. Hon. Members appeared to imagine that our Ministers in foreign countries were in a position to send an armed force to any part of the country in which they were, whereas all that they could do was to use strong language in order to express their own views and those of their Government. At the time when Her Majesty's Government were receiving those despatches, their attention was drawn to the subject by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster), and they were thoroughly under the conviction that everything that could be said had been urged by Sir Henry Elliot, and that the employment of the Bashi-Bazouks and of the Circassians in the suppression of the outbreak would be at once discontinued. But they sent Sir Henry Elliot the articles in the newspaper. The language used a few days since by Lord Derby, which had met with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and which was used after the noble Lord had had the advantage of hearing what was the public opinion on the subject, and all the discussions which had occurred in that House, was almost identical with that which had been originally used by Sir Henry Elliot, to whom, therefore, exactly the same praise was due as the right hon. Gentleman had bestowed upon the noble Lord. Again, Sir Henry Elliot occupied himself in attending to the question of disarming these Circassians. On the 14th July he again wrote that he had con- 1116 tinued Ins inquiries, but that he had not been able to verify the statements which had been made as to the wholesale slaughter which was said to have taken place. He (Mr. Bourke) would not go over the three despatches which had been written by his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, because the course which he had taken had not been attacked, though the course of Sir Henry Elliot had been attacked by several of the speakers. He could not himself see what Sir Henry Elliot could otherwise have done short of either withdrawing from the Embassy or sending for force. The sending for force was out of the question, and the withdrawing from the Embassy would have been a disastrous thing at that period, considering the great events which were occurring at the time. It would be seen from the Papers that Sir Henry Elliot was not the only Ambassador who was in the same position with regard to information upon this subject, for up to the end of June his Russian and Austrian—or certainly his Austrian—Colleague knew nothing about these Bulgarian atrocities. To say, therefore, that Sir Henry Elliot had not shown due diligence in ascertaining facts was manifestly unjust; and he might add that it would be an evil day for England if public servants were to be attacked without great circumspection, and upon the fullest evidence. Of course, he did not mean for a moment to maintain that the conduct of public servants ought not to be criticized; but it was necessary to bear in mind that the Papers which had been laid before the House went over a lengthened period, and that Sir Henry Elliot had throughout been subjected to a great amount of mental strain and anxiety, and had acquitted himself in away which was satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ashley) had said they should recall Sir Henry Elliot, but the recall of the British Ambassador without full and adequate inquiry—for that was practically what was demanded—would, he did not hesitate to say, be a most unfortunate event, not only in regard to the particular position which Sir Henry Elliot occupied, but in its effect on the public service of the country generally; for unless public servants were treated with justice it would be impossible to obtain good men for high and responsible positions. The hon. 1117 Member had further said that the present question had nothing to do with the relations existing between Christians and Mussulmans; but he could hardly understand that assertion. So far as his (Mr. Bourke's) observation went, the root of the difficulty lay in that very matter. The relations of Christians and Mussulmans lay at the bottom of everything connected with the question, and unless that fact was recognized, it would be impossible to make any satisfactory arrangement. As to the question of autonomy, he would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), in the speech he recently delivered in the House on Turkish affairs, dwelt particularly on the necessity of maintaining the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire; and it was not very easy to see what hon. Gentlemen meant by "autonomy," and he believed that there were not two statesmen alive who would agree what that word meant in practice. Perhaps they might make a scheme founded upon such a principle, but it would require discussion and compromise of existing opinions respecting the meaning of the word "autonomy" The right hon. Member(Mr. Forster) had spoken of the future. Well, with reference to the future the Government, as the House was aware, had appointed a Vice Consul at Philippopolis, to whom special duties were to be assigned, and of course they would regard it as their duty during the Recess to watch events with the greatest circumspection. He felt bound to admit frankly that the Government really had no idea of the events which had occurred in Bulgaria, until attention was called to them in the House; and he gladly took the opportunity of saying that the Government and the country were very much indebted to the newspaper correspondents through whom those events had become known. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "Hear, hear!" but he hoped he had never used language which could be construed as implying anything to the contrary, and he was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had never done so. Upon the first intimation of the atrocities, the duty of the Government was to ascertain what had actually occurred, and having done that, they acknowledged most fully and freely the services of those 1118 gentlemen. Into the question of mediation he did not think it desirable to enter at any length, because it was a subject which concerned not England alone, but all the great Powers. He would merely remark in regard to it that if there was one thing more than another in which Europe was interested it was the maintenance of the territorial status quo, and he only hoped it would apply to Servia as well as to the other parts of the Turkish Empire. In addition to what he had said with regard to the future he might state in view of the events which had occurred in Bulgaria, and the possibility of similar events occurring in Servia, although the circumstances there were different, the Government had appointed a general officer of great distinction to accompany the Turkish Army into Servia. The officer in question was Sir Arnold Kemball, whose qualifications for the duty no one could doubt. Ho was acquainted with the seat of war and knew the Turkish language, and no man, he was sure, would more strongly vindicate the cause of humanity than he. He might also remind the House that this officer was then at Constantinople, and he had been employed in Turkey for some time. With regard to this appointment, a telegram had just been received from Sir Henry Elliot in the following terms:—Porte makes no objection to military attaché proceeding to Head Quarters, and Sir Arnold Kemball is willing to go. He will require a few days to make preparations.He hoped that he had now gone through the principal points which had been raised in the course of the discussion. He did not think that the conduct of Sir Henry Elliot had been successfully impugned, but he was quite certain that the respect that he had for the House would induce him to pay the most serious attention to what had taken place. He (Mr. Bourke) hoped also that the Government would not be turned away from the great question with regard to our Eastern policy which was now before them, and dreadful as these occurrences were, he believed that they ought to take care that they were not thrown off their balance, or made forgetful of contingencies of still greater moment to this country.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, that he desired to take that opportunity of making some general observations on the con- 1119 duct of Her Majesty's Government, and of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of it, and that he should then address himself to the question more immediately before the House. There was a feeling entertained by a very large class of people out-of-doors that the Government at home and abroad was doing a great deal that was tending to weaken the position of the House of Commons in the country, and to deteriorate the Constitution.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the question before the House. It is the third reading of the Appropriation Bill, and any observations that may be made must be relevant to that Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
rose to Order. It would be of great interest, in reference to future discussions on the Appropriation Bill, if hon. Members knew what was the exact rule on the subject. Last year there was on the Appropriation Bill a long discussion about the Fenian prisoners; and on looking back, he found that discussions on almost every kind of subject had been held in years gone by on the third leading of the Appropriation Bill. If any general rule could be laid down it would be very convenient.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The rule of the House is that in the discussion on the Appropriation Bill any observations applying to one of the clauses in the Bill may be made. No doubt the clauses in the Appropriation Bill have a large application; but I cannot understand how the observations of the hon. Member can be regarded as relevant to any clauses in the Appropriation Bill.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, in deference to the ruling of the Speaker, he should not unnecessarily pursue his argument; but he would ask whether it was not relevant to some clause in the Appropriation Bill that he should call attention to the fact that Her Majesty's Ministers, who did receive some remuneration, were not discharging their duty in a manner which the country might expect from them.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member proposes to call in question the salaries of a Minister or Ministers of the Crown, no doubt he would then be in Order.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, that under the Speaker's ruling he was unable to 1120 see the relevancy to the Bill of the discussion that had. taken place as to the foreign policy of the Government. He had proposed simply to make some remarks on the domestic policy of the Government; but as he was precluded from referring to various points which had been raised during the Session, and in which the character and conduct of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government were open to criticism, he would come to the matter immediately before the House. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government with regard to foreign affairs had been of the most unsettled character, and with regard to that, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman had been open to grave censure. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had spoken in honied words, and had thrown out inuendoes, but did not say definitely whether the Government had or had not done that which was wrong. He (Mr. Jenkins) was prepared to support the hon. Gentleman who had brought the matter before the House (Mr. Ashley) to the full extent to which he went in his Notice. What was the position occupied with reference to the question at that moment? They had a series of surprises, and they had at one time heard one thing said by a Member of the Government, and another thing by another Member of the Government. He instanced the various and conflicting statements made by Ministers with regard to the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. Then they had found some discrepancy existing between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister with reference to the Fleet sent to Besika Bay. This sort of thing was far more serious than anything that could occur with regard to our domestic policy, because it would be known through the whole of Europe. He considered it a most disgraceful thing, in a country like this, that there should be things said by one Minister and denied by another. It was at one time the roaring of a lion, and at another the roaring of Bottom the weaver. Some protests at all events should be made against the action of the Government, and he knew from careful reading of the provincial Press that there was growing up in the country a strong feeling that they were being shamed in the face of Europe by the conduct of the Government. There was a discrepancy between Members of the Government 1121 with regard to the Bulgarian atrocities, and not only that, but the light and flippant style in which the Prime Minister had answered Questions had created great indignation in the House. Then when they had waited on the Earl of Derby with regard to the Bulgarian outrages, they had failed to get from him that expression of horror at the atrocities which ought to have been made. The Under Secretary, however, had spoken as he always did on such subjects, but his vicarious tears came too late. It would have been better if they had been dropped at an earlier stage of the proceedings, and that the hon. Gentleman had been allowed to get up in his place and state the horror he felt at the atrocities when they had only just commenced. He (Mr. Jenkins) would further refer to the traditional policy of this country in regard to Turkey, and he maintained that by the Treaty of Paris of 1856 Turkey having been admitted into the European system, which was a humane system, was bound to carry on war in at least a humane, if not a Christian manner. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had spoken of the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire as a thing which it was necessary, or, at all events, important, for this country to support, while at the same time he pointed out that the autonomy which that right hon. Gentleman wished to secure for the disaffected Provinces of Turkey would render her territorial integrity a mere shadow. Ha held that by the Treaty of 1856 we were not bound to guarantee the territorial integrity of Turkey. One thing should not be lost sight of—that Lord Palmerston said the Treaty was only intended to last for 14 or 15 years; and his sagacity was proved by the event. He maintained that we were not now bound by the Treaty to guarantee the integrity of Turkey. The engagements entered into by the Three Powers at Berlin and Vienna were inconsistent with the Treaty, which was thereby broken in spirit, if not in fact. At all events, there were no moral grounds for insisting upon the Treaty of Paris, or for maintaining the guarantee. Why was it, he asked, that we found Austria, Germany, and Russia concerting together to prepare a note, without taking other nations into their councils? It was the jealousy believed to be entertained by 1122 England against Russia. Now, though circumstances had changed since then, he thought that the principle formerly laid down by Mr. Cobden still held good, and that there could be no danger to a great commercial country from the increase of a Christian nation and the spread of civilization over the world. He hoped that the Government were trying to disabuse the mind of Russia, that we looked upon her with jealousy, or that we did not believe her when she denied any intention of territorial aggrandizement in the direction of Turkey. Then it was no longer the duty of England to maintain "the balance of power," a fiction which was exploded at Solferino, at Sadowa, and at Sedan. Could we be bound by any undertaking to stand up for a State which allowed such atrocities? In a document attached to the Treaty of Paris, Turkey had solemnly promised to observe the rights of Christians, but not one of the terms of this undertaking had been kept. There was an unlimited amount of evidence as to the violation of pledges, the succession of outrages, and the corruption perpetrated by the Turks in some of the fairest lands on the globe. That being so, he held that it was a ridiculous idea, that because we had 45,000,000 of Mahomedan subjects in India we were bound to be careful what we did with respect to Turkey. What he desired to see was autonomy in the Turkish Provinces. He did not care what autonomy it was—whether it was Grecian, Roumanian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, or Herzegovinian. It would be more consistent with good policy, he contended, that we should endeavour to join with Russia in inducing Turkey to grant a system of autonomy, and so to put an end to the distressing and disgraceful atrocities in question, and the state of things which now existed in Turkey, rather than that events should be allowed to take their course, and that eventually the Russian people, no longer able to control their sympathies, should throw themselves into Turkey and cause greater and perhaps more general bloodshed. Everybody would be glad to recognize the autonomy of the Slavonic Provinces if such were established. His belief was, that Turkey would, if asked by the Great Powers, grant autonomy to the Christian populations under her rule, rather than let it be granted to them by Russia. However that might be, they 1123 ought to take an early opportunity of letting it be known to Turkey that we could no longer stand sponsor of a Mahomedan Government which had ceased to deserve the respect of civilized Nations, and which had done all it could to call down upon itself the just indignation of humanity and of Heaven.
§ SIR. H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that he had seen in the Press, and had heard it stated that evening, that the public, or, at least, a certain portion of the public, strongly condemned certain expressions which had fallen from the Prime Minister with respect to outrages in Bulgaria. He had heard what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and he must say that, instead of treating the alleged atrocities with anything like indifference, the right hon. Gentleman gave utterance to language which showed his abhorrence of them. On the 10th of July the right hon. Gentleman said—With respect to the reports of the terrible atrocities to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, I would still express a hope that when we "become better informed—I would express this hope for the sake of human nature itself—when we are thoroughly informed of what has occurred it will ho found that the statements are scarcely warranted.And the right hon. Gentleman called them "terrible scenes" and "heartrending statements "—in short, ho (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) did not think anyone could stigmatize the acts attributed to the Turks in Bulgaria more severely. He alluded to these things in order to show how groundless were the attacks which had been made on the right hon. Gentleman. For his own part, he came down to the House after reading the Papers, very much prejudiced against the conduct of Sir Henry Elliot; but he thought the Under Secretary of State had done a great deal to put his conduct in a more favourable light than he had anticipated. A great deal of what had occurred was, in his opinion, due to the want of information at the Foreign Office, owing to a certain looseness among some of our agents abroad and of diminution in the number of our agents in places where they ought to exist. Both at Constantinople and some of the outposts our diplomatic and Consular agents were, from the society in which they mixed, apt to have feelings more in favour of the Turks than 1124 the Christians. He thought the Foreign Office ought to have had from our Consuls and other agents in Bosnia and Herzegovina some information as to the condition of the Christians, and of the feeling which had led to these events. He could not help thinking that the Ottoman Government were somewhat guilty of an offence against the comity of nations when they brought these Circassians from Asia and settled them in Europe, where they were necessarily a menace to the Christian population from their faith and from their wild habits. At the same time Philippopolis was only 300 miles from Constantinople, and was easily accessible by rail; and he regretted that Sir Henry Elliot had not of his own accord sent his own agents to the places where these outrages occurred, so as to ascertain the truth upon the subject, without waiting for instructions from Her Majesty's Government. He quite agreed that Ministers abroad were overworked, and he did not blame Sir Henry Elliot very severely, because he was suffering from illness, and therefore, like many others, might have failed to do the right thing at the right moment. It was to be regretted that the example set in the case of the massacres in Syria in 1860, when Commissioners were sent to investigate the murders, was not followed in this case. He did not share; my of the fears expressed with regard to Russia. Her great influence over the Christian Provinces of Turkey was deprived from their expectation of favours to come, and he believed that England would hold the same position and possess the same influence with these people if they showed the same sympathy as Russia and manifested an interest in their future. Not only that, but the unfounded fears entertained with regard to Russian influence in Greece showed that in the present instance all fears of Russian influence might be dismissed. The desire of England was to see Turkey peaceful, but her Christian Provinces would never be peaceful or contented as long as their Government was of so abnormal a character. He suggested that Turkey should be asked to call a conference for the consideration of the future government of these Provinces. That course had been adopted with respect to Roumania. A Commission, at which Sir Henry Bulwer was the British Representative, proceeded to Bucharest, held 1125 an inquiry into the state of the Province, and the result was that a form of government was agreed to which, although since modified in some respects, had formed the basis of all future arrangements. He commended that precedent to the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, which, he could see, was really powerful in Eastern matters. Turkey asked England to join in the Andrassy Note, and any proposal made from England would receive the earnest attention and respect of Turkish statesmen. The charges made against Her Majesty's Government had been obliterated by the statements of those who had advanced these charges, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford read a passage from one of Lord Derby's despatches with which, he said, he entirely agreed; and the fact that an officer had been despatched to the Turkish head-quarters to accompany the Turkish troops into Servia was a guarantee that such, atrocities as they had heard of would not be committed any longer. He could not attribute the atrocities to the complicity or even the laches of Her Majesty's Governmennt; they were due to circumstances which were not foreseen, and he thought what had taken place would show the Government what was the wish of the country, and that they might now separate for the Recess with full confidence that these atrocities would not occur again.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) was justified by the important discussion which had taken place in calling the attention of the House to this subject. It was a question in which, without a doubt, in the opinion of this country, and certainly of Europe, the reputation and fair fame of England were involved. He was not going into any elaborate argument whether England was more or less pledged in respect to the good conduct of Turkey; but he entirely agreed that the Government incurred a great responsibility in declining to join the other Powers in the Berlin Memorandum, the one object of which was to secure the pacification of Turkey and the protection of the Provinces. He was not, however, going to argue this question, for the Government admitted it in what they had done during the last fortnight or ten days. Why had they sent a Vice Consul to 1126 Philippopolis and a general officer with the Turkish Army to Servia, if they did not feel that they had a responsibility in this matter towards this country and Europe, and had tardily come to the conclusion that it was their bounden duty to fulfil that obligation? Every act they had done and were now doing was entirely inconsistent with the allegation that they were not responsible for seeing that such atrocities as these were not to be committed in future. If that were so, then there must be an exactly similar responsibility for the outrages that had been committed in the past. Then arose the question, How had that responsibility been discharged? That was a question to which he thought there could be only one answer. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State had made an apologetic speech which everybody in this country would, he was sure, be only too willing to accept, on behalf of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. But the question was, What had been done? The House approved what was now being done according to the despatches which had been received within the last few days, in sending a Vice Consul to Philippopolis and a general officer to Servia. The question, however, which the English people asked, was not what was done at the end of July and the beginning of August, but why the same measures had not been taken at the beginning of May? Why was the action of the Government delayed until it was too late to save a whole Province from desolation and a whole population from murder? That was the question which was asked in every corner of England and in every quarter of Europe. The answer given to that question on behalf of the Government of a great country was, "We knew nothing about it." What an answer for a Government which undertook to maintain the integrity of Turkey! They did not know that 12,000 innocent, inoffensive, and unresisting people had been slaughtered by their Allies in the month of May. If there ever was a spectacle of diplomatic impotence and administrative incapacity, it was that which was exhibited in the Papers which were now under the consideration of the House. From the First Minister of the Crown down to the Consul at Adrianople, there seemed not to be a man who, at 1127 the moment when the East was occupying the attention of the country, knew that these massacres and horrors were going on. How could such a state of things as that arise? His hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, indeed, admitted with admirable simplicity, that the Government had learnt all about them from the newspaper correspondents. He was glad, he must say, at all events, that after being denounced in that House and vilified in the Conservative Press, it was at last acknowledged that the reputation of England, which had been neglected by Her Majesty's Government and overlooked by our Representatives abroad, had been vindicated by the newspaper correspondents. He had said that the Papers which had been laid before the House were a monument of diplomatic incapacity, but if anything were wanting to crown the edifice, it would be the speech of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who, rising on an occasion like the present, could tell the House of Commons, and through it the English nation and Europe at large, what was the true history of the insurrection in Bulgaria, and that not in the language of a British Consul, or of our Representative at Constantinople, but in the language of The Levant Herald, which was at the last moment sent over, not, he was happy to say, by the Ambassador, but he supposed by some young attaché, as the best apology for the incompetence of our diplomacy. He hoped Sir Henry Elliot was not responsible for it, for he must, of course, have known that every statement in that account was open to the charge of being absolutely untrue. It was contradicted by the Papers which he had himself sent over, and by the Report of Mr. Baring. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State had called his hon. Friend the Member for Poole to account for having missed some lines in a paper which he read; but when he himself read the account from The Levant Herald, and took credit for the wonderful accuracy of some of the statements, he omitted the words—There are no serious grounds for those estimates which are gratuitous and are derived from suspicious quarters. If any one would go to the trouble of making a right estimate of the number of men missing from the different villages, the result would he that it would be found to be hardly more than 3,000.1128 And that was stated in the face of our own Representative, Mr. Baring, who put the number slaughtered at 12,000. These statements had been published in The Levant Herald, in order that they might be read in that House by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If he wanted to point to the culmination of diplomatic incapacity in these transactions, he need only refer to a paper being cited as an apology for the ignorance and want of energy displayed by our Representatives abroad, which contained statements which everybody knew to be false, and to which the lie was given by Mr. Baring's Report, who said that 60 villages had been burnt down, almost the whole of them, by the Turks. Well, what had been the conduct of the affairs of a great country to justify its action in the face of Europe with respect to those abominable transactions? The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs asked, with great innocence, what the Government ought to have done? He (Sir William Harcourt) would tell them. Why, he would ask, had they not done in May what they had done in July? On the 23rd of June the newspaper correspondents, who could do it seemed what the Government could not, told the English people the truth in the matter. The Government was, thereupon, challenged, and the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office could only reply that he knew nothing about it, and that the accounts could not be true. That was on the 26th of June; and, if Lord Derby had then sent a telegram to Sir Henry Elliot to despatch some person to know what had really occurred, the whole story might have been known to the Prime Minister within a week. The Secretary of State said he would inquire. A fortnight elapsed— and the House knew what a fortnight was in this matter—after that Mr. Baring was sent, and news of him was heard within three days. The Daily News correspondent telegraphed on the 1st of August from Tatar Bazardjik that Mr. Baring was there. Why was Mr. Baring's Report not here? What did The Daily Mews correspondent see? He told us he saw 7,000 corpses, most of them women and children. Was that true? Why had they not Mr. Baring's account that morning of what he had seen? Lord Derby had allowed more than a fortnight to elapse from the date 1129 when a Question was put to him in the House of Lords on the subject, before he addressed a letter of remonstrance to our Ambassador at Constantinople. He alluded to the letter on the 13th of July, which was rather a mild and weak one, although a much stronger one was sent the next day. The Prime Minister, in referring to those atrocities, in answer to a Question on the 10th of July, said, that they were in constant communication with the Ambassador—that wars of insurrection were always atrocious. That was not a condemnation of the atrocities, it was an extenuation of them; and beyond that, the right hon. Gentleman further said that the English people had done something of the same kind in Jamaica, and that there was no prison accommodation for the number of prisoners said to have been taken; while as to the reports of torture the right hon. Gentleman exercised his unrivalled powers of humour and sarcasm, saying he did not believe that torture existed among an historical people. [Mr. DISRAELI: No; an Oriental people.] He was sorry if he had misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman; nothing could be further from his intention. Reports were very often inaccurate, and he would not for a moment impute any levity to the right hon. Gentleman whose kindness of heart was well known. Well, what did all that prove? It proved that the Government at the time the right hon. Gentleman spoke was unaware of the magnitude of the events which had occurred or that language would never have been used. How, then, was it that this ignorance prevailed in the Cabinet? It did not appear that Sir Henry Elliot was solely responsible, because Consul Reade's Report unquestionably reached England on the 28th of June, while the Prime Minister used the language referred to on the 10th of July. And that Report, which was dated the 16th of June, stated not only that atrocities were going on, but that the object of them was to diminish as much as possible the number of Bulgarians in the disturbed districts, and that the Circassians were said to be doing that work with the apparent connivance of the authorities. Then, although that document was in the hands of the Foreign Secretary on the 28th of June, he did not for more than a fortnight—namely, on the 13th of July—afterwards address any instruc- 1130 tions to Sir Henry Elliot. Consul Reade subsequently repeated his statement that there was a deliberate plan on the part of the Turks and the Turkish Government to exterminate the Christians in Bulgaria, and said he had seen the Turkish Commissioner, who had informed him that the whole of the inhabitants of a certain village had not been massacred, but only 700 out of 1,300. That was the Turkish Commissioner whose Report the House had received—a Report he might say which bore the stamp of mendacity in every line, and the publication of which was a disgrace to the Turkish Government. There was overwhelming evidence in the Papers that those massacres were done at the express instance of the Government of Turkey, and under the authority of its highest officers, who had been rewarded for their conduct, with the deliberate object of exterminating the Christian population of Bulgaria. Yet it was not, as he had said, till the 13th of July that Lord Derby instructed Sir Henry Elliot to make re-monstrances to the Porte. The feeling among the employés of the English Government at Constantinople at that time was betrayed by the letter of Sir Henry Elliot, which, to his astonishment, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had pointed to as being creditable to Sir Henry Elliot and the English Government. He (Sir William Harcourt) was sorry to say he read the letter with very different feelings. Writing from The rapia on the 6th of July, Sir Henry Elliot said he had strongly recommended that an energetic commander should be appointed for the Irregular troops to be employed in Servia, pointing out that if the progress of those troops in that Principality was marked by barbarities upon an unresisting people what would happen? That the English Government would denounce these proceedings? No, but that the indignation awakened throughout Europe might become so great that the Government would be driven by the force of public opinion to interfere and put a stop to them. What language was that to use at such a juncture! The English Government would not interfere, unless it was driven to do so by the force of public indignation! Altogether that was, to his mind, one of the most extraordinary and least creditable letters which had ever been addressed by an English. Ambassador to 1131 an English Government. But the main question was—why had nothing been done till the middle of July? These unhappy people were being slaughtered in May. How did it happen there was nothing known about it till two months afterwards? It was true that they had a Consul at Adrianople, within a few hours of the spot; but it had been said for him, by way of excuse, that he was paralytic; but if the Government were to carry out their Oriental diplomacy with paralytic instruments, they would succeed about as well with the rest of them as they had in these. It was not for want of warning that the Government had been guilty of this apathy, for under date the 7th of May there was a communication from Mr. Kyriatzi urging the disarming of Bashi-Bazouks in order to avert the danger of excesses. Again, on the 12th of May, Vice Consul Dupuis wrote to Sir Henry Elliot—The local authorities, as well as the Turkish Beys here, are displaying great activity in the enrolment and equipment of Bashi-Bazouks and other volunteers, and hatches of Turkish peasantry are continually arriving from the surrounding villages to he supplied with arms and ammunition.Lord Derby therefore knew that the Turkish Government were arming these people. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government did not know it, as he had great and multifarious occupations; but the Foreign Office knew from the Papers sent home by Sir Henry Elliot that the Bashi-Bazouks were armed and doing infinite mischief, and that it was the duty of the British Government to remonstrate and to see that their remonstrance was attended to. Then it was said all that was not the doing of the Turkish Government, but the doing of those ruffians of their own accord. On the 16th of May, Consul Dupuis wrote to Sir Henry Elliot a different story, as follows:—The general topic of conversation here the last few days is that the Bulgarians of the village of Otleukeui, refusing to surrender, and taking refuge in a church or monastery, were bombarded by the troops under Hafous Pasha, when upwards of 300 men, women, and children were slaughtered.According to other accounts it is stated that Hafous Pasha sent to demand a parley, and three times summoned the place to surrender, but, his messengers having been killed by the villagers, they were attacked as described. Others, again, state that the insurgents were driven off by 1132 artillery with trifling casualties. The last item of intelligence I hear is that the troops have since surrounded the village of Avradano, and that, unless it surrenders, it is feared the inhabitants will share the same fate as those of Otleukeui.Extraordinary activity is Doing displayed here by the authorities and others in recruiting, arming, and forwarding to the disturbed districts Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians. Observing, in the meanwhile, great numbers of these irregulars about the streets, I represented to the Governor-General that it was scarcely safe to the public tranquillity to allow those troops to circulate the streets armed, and suggested that they might be localized somewhere away from the city, as it was generally feared that the slightest provocation might produce unpleasant consequences. The Governor-General assured me that the inhabitants had no cause to fear these troops, and that he had taken every precaution to maintain public tranquillity, but that he could not help keeping the Bashi-Bazouks here until such time as they received their arms and necessaries, when they were immediately ordered off to the front. I do not hear of any disorders having been committed by these troops in Adrianople, but I am assured that, once outside the city, they gave themselves up to all kinds of violence, and to the firing on women and other defenceless people in the villages and roads in this vicinity.Her Majesty's Government knew of those things in the middle of May, and yet they addressed remonstrances neither to Musurus Pasha in England nor to Sir Henry Elliot. They knew that those defenceless people were being murdered. But it was said that Sir Henry Elliot was making remonstrances at Constantinople. On the 24th of May Sir Henry Elliot reported that he had made a strong remonstrance about the Bashi-Bazouks; but what sort of remonstrance was it? Now, he did not profess to be versed in the technicalities of diplomacy; but he should have thought if Sir Henry Bulwer, or Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in former times, wanted to make a strong impression, he would have gone to the Porte himself, but Sir Henry Elliot sent his dragoman instead. That was the way in which he met the matter, and from it he (Sir William Harcourt) thought that Sir Henry, though he might otherwise be a most excellent person, was not fit for the post of Ambassador at Constantinople. That was, he believed, the first remonstrance, although he had known for more than a fortnight all that had been going on, and when there had been, he ventured to say, 10,000 people murdered. And this was the kind of remonstrance that was made—He made 1133 a representation to Raschid Pasha about the injudicious employment of the Bashi-Bazouks in Bulgaria, for which the Porte alone was responsible, and the Turkish Minister stated in reply that Imperial orders were sent yesterday directing the Bulgarian authorities not to resort to the services of the Circassian Irregulars, but it was then represented to the Turkish Minister that that was only doing away with one portion of the Bashi-Bazouks, and that the others were equally brutal and licentious. Thus the first representation they made was met by the Porte with a practical refusal, granting only half their request, and leaving the mischief confessedly unredressed. Yet our Government did not write a line until the 13th of July. They had that fact before them that the Bashi-Bazouks were employed in killing innocent and defenceless people, and they knew of it for six weeks without writing a word of remonstrance against it. On the 19th of May, Consul Dupuis said that reports reached him of the excesses committed by the Bashi-Bazouks and Circassians on defenceless people, adding—How far the atrocities said to have been committed on both sides are true or are exaggerated I have no means of ascertaining.What should have been our Ambassador's answer to that? Why, that he would send somebody to ascertain. He (Sir William Harcourt) said that our Government and Sir Henry Elliot in the whole of May and June had a knowledge of these things, and the means of knowledge forced on their attention, and they did nothing except to send a flabby remonstrance through a dragoman which was not regarded. Consul Reade's despatch of the 23rd of May, which reached Lord Derby on the 2nd of June, said—There is a grave matter here which I should bring to your Excellency's knowledge, and that is the arming of the Mussulmans and Circassians in the vilayet, and the letting loose of the latter on the Bulgarians simply reported to be in revolt. The lawless character of these Circassians is notorious—they are not to be trusted at any time; to employ them therefore in the way I have stated at the present moment, is, in my opinion, to drive many, who have hitherto remained quiet, to revolt. … As regards the arming of the Mussulmans, a Frenchman who returned yesterday from an inland town, states that whilst he was there an order arrived from Rustchuk for the Mussulmans to arm at once, and this order was accompanied by an in- 1134 timation to the effect that those who should be found unarmed would be punished. I am told that identical orders have been issued to other districts; if, therefore, the present rising, which was said to he dying out, assumes greater dimensions, I do not think it will be a matter of surprise.They all knew there had been a deliberate plan to exterminate the Christians of Bulgaria. Sir Henry Elliot wrote on the 8th of June saying that the Bulgarian insurrection appeared to have been unquestionably put down. Why, the Turkish Government informed our Government that there had been no Bulgarian insurrection! Sir Henry Elliot, however, said it had been put down, though with cruelty and in some cases with brutality; and he added that the Irregulars had then been recalled. They never had been recalled; but on the 8th of June they were still doing their bloody work, and Mr. Baring on the 22nd of July found them still at that work. What was the use of a Consul or an Ambassador? and why was not some one despatched to see what was going on? The Prime Minister knew nothing about it when he was asked a Question on the 10th of July, but on the 14th of July Her Majesty's Government began to write strong letters. And why? Because of the information received from Consul Dupuis as to the treatment of Bulgarian women and girls belonging to the burnt villages. Did anybody believe, if a telegram was sent from England in the month of May, when the Berlin Note was in suspense, and the English Fleet were going to Besika Bay, saying that our Government demanded that not a single Bashi-Bazouk or Circassian should be armed, that it would not have been attended to? No one would impute to the Government or to any Englishman any indifference to transactions of this kind; but what they were bound to do was to point out the lamentable breakdown of their administrative and diplomatic service. If the British Government had telegraphed in the first week in May, the lives of these 12,000 persons who had been murdered might have been saved. While the eyes of all Europe were fixed on the Eastern Question, was it possible that 12,000 human beings could be massacred in cold blood and that the English Government should know nothing of it? Was it possible that this should go on two whole months, from the middle of May 1135 to the middle of July, and that all these lives should have been sacrificed in consequence of the diplomatic incapacity of their Representatives, when they might have obtained the necessary information in a few hours? He could not but think, without desiring to lay undue blame on particular individuals, that the story of the massacres in Bulgaria would always remain a dark blot in the history of Europe, and, in some respects, a reproach to the statesmanship of England. They might have prevented, they ought to have prevented, and they had not prevented them. But lamentations over the catastrophies of the past were unavailing. What they had to think of was the future. Theories of these slaughtered women and children would not go up to Heaven in vain. That Providence which governed the fortunes of nations was a Power which "out of evil still educeth good." They had learned a lesson late indeed, but soon enough, if they had learnt it thoroughly, and laid it to heart. Speaking for himself, at least, he was prepared to say he hoped to God they had at last done with the Turk. If they could not control his ferocity—and these transactions had shown that they could not—they had no right to prop up his tottering power. In the name of humanity and civilization let them sink beneath the crushing weight of their own wickedness. What was that Government of Turkey which they were told it was the policy of England to support? They had replaced one Sultan by another who was to inaugurate an era of reform. But what a Sultan and what a reform! The Government of Turkey was a Government tempered by assassination and maintained by massacre. What a spectacle did these Sultans offer to the world—a dynasty of worn-out and impotent debauchees, who let loose on mankind a horde of uncontrollable wild beasts. They could no longer accept complicity with a detested and detestable Government—an abominable and an abominated race. The handwriting of Bel-shazzar was already flaming on their walls. They had been weighed in the balance of European opinion, and their scale had kicked the beam. For four centuries they had been the curse of Europe, Africa, and Asia. They had occupied the fairest portions of the globe, the famous cities of the East—the cradles of genius and of art; but where their hoofs 1136 had trodden the grass had never grown. Those famous spots, dear to the memories of mankind, were now the haunts of wild beasts, of which the worst were those who bore a human form. Europe had known how to deal with tyrannies less intolerable than these. The voice of their fathers was lifted against the detestable dynasty of Spain and that throne tottered to its fall. Statesmen whose fame yet lived rescued the soil of Greece from the hands of their brutal oppressors. The crimes of the Government of Naples cried aloud to Heaven for vengeance, and the cries of an oppressd people found an echo in the hearts of the English nation. His hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ashley) had invoked that evening the shadow of a great name; but Lord Palmerston, when he gave a voice to the sentiments of England, employed accents very different from the flaccid and flabby tone of these despatches. But there remained a question which it was their right and their duty to address to the Government even in the last days of an expiring Session, and it was this—;Was not the time at last come to "do justice and to work mercy?" Were they to sit by for ever with hands folded and eyes closed whilst such things were done beneath the shadow of our prowess? They had been told they were to "keep the ring." Yes; but was there not something of hypocrisy in passing Vivisection Bills, whilst they kept the ring of Tatar Bazardjik? In his opinion, England was ashamed of the degrading occupation of keeping the ring for such transactions as these. It was time that the great interests of civilization and humanity should cease to be the base counters in a game of diplomatic chicane. The moment was never more favourable for a European settlement. France and Italy, Germany and Austria, had insisted, nay, entreated their cooperation. But then the Russian terror was invoked. That nightmare seemed to haunt their dreams and distort their judgment. But what reason was there to allege that in this matter the conduct of Russia had been wanting in moderation? Indeed, considering her national sympathies and the terrible nature of the provocation, it seemed to him that her self-restraint had been astonishing. No doubt Nicholas was a headstrong and violent despot, whom they were compelled 1137 to confront by arms. But the present Emperor, under circumstances of the greatest difficulty, had proved himself a true friend of peace. Europe owed him that acknowledgment. It was idle to deny that, apart from any schemes of territorial aggrandizement, the sympathy of Russia with the Slavonic populations of Turkey was national and inevitable. But what reason was there to suppose that the Czar was unwilling to come to some reasonable arrangement to protect those interests, which should in no way be prejudicial to their dominions in the East. As a matter, not of sentiment, but of policy, let him ask them in what position they would stand if they presented themselves as the sole obstacle to such a settlement? They would stand confessed before the world as the abettors of these murderous barbarians. They would present Russia to the world in a character which would give her more strength than all her armies—in the character of the champion of an oppressed and a Christian race. Was that a wise or a politic course for England with her vast interests in the East? Was that the way to increase and to maintain her authority? Let them think of the future. The future could not and would not belong to those decrepid ruffians. He had hoped, and he still hoped, that England might take a proud and a worthy place in the vindication of a noble policy. In common with other hon. Members of the House he had read with satisfaction the despatch of Lord Derby of August 9th—a despatch which seemed at last to breathe the spirit of an English Minister. The only thing to be lamented was that it was written in August—if it had been written in May, when there was just as good reason for writing it, those crimes might have been averted. But what did that despatch say? It said—" The indignation of Europe would become uncontrollable." He hoped it would become as uncontrollable as the ferocity of the Turks. Lord Derby had shown himself on that occasion at least a sagacious man. He could foresee that the tide of European opinion was rising, and that it would sweep away the petty sand castles which a feeble diplomacy was raising on an unstable beach. It would carry onward on its vast and resistless waves the fortunes of those Powers, whosoever they might be, who would emancipate Europe from the curse 1138 which afflicted her, and redeem Christendom from the shame by which she had been too long dishonoured.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) has called attention to an important and interesting subject tonight in a manner very irregular, I think, not to say unprecedented. If the hon. Gentleman really believes that the the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with respect to these transactions and of the Queen's Ambassador is deserving of censure and disapprobation, I think he ought to have come forward with a distinct Motion on the subject. Although we are on the point of Prorogation, he knows enough of me to know that my advice to the Sovereign would be not to prorogue Parliament if he desired to challenge our policy; and even in a House like this, if he had given Notice, the opinion of the House of Commons might be taken about it. It appears to me to be a course scarcely, I should think, pleasant to a man of a mind such as I believe is possessed 'by the hon. Gentleman to avail himself of a Parliamentary privilege, which I do not care to admit or deny, to insinuate an offensive opinion upon the Advisers of the Crown and upon the conduct of absent Ambassadors, when he knows we have no means, in the present state of affairs, of testing the opinion of Parliament or of the country upon the subject. ["Oh, oh!"] Let me at once place before the House what I believe is the true view of the circumstances which principally interest us to-night, for after the Rhodian eloquence to which we have just listened, it is rather difficult for the House to see clearly the point which is before it. The Queen's Ambassador at Constantinople, who has at all times no easy duty to fulfil, found himself at the end of April and in the first three weeks of May in a position of extreme difficulty and danger. Affairs in Constantinople never had assumed—at least in our time certainly—a more perilous character. It was difficult to ascertain what was going to happen; but that something was going to happen, and something of a character which might disturb the relations of the Porte with all the Powers of Europe, and might even bring about a revolution, the effect of which would be felt in distant countries, there was no doubt. The House is well ac- 1139 quainted with the train of strange incidents which occurred, all of them events that tried the intelligence, the vigilance, and the thought of our Ambassador there to the utmost, and, in circumstances of great difficulty, I think he showed an intelligence, a courage, and a calmness which were highly beneficial to the course of public affairs. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed us in so learned and powerful an oration—[Laughter.] —well, I speak what I feel; I look upon him as one of the chief orators of the House—although sometimes he lavishes, as he has done on this occasion, his great powers upon subjects which are not quite adequate to the treatment. In the present instance the hon. and learned Gentleman has made one assumption throughout his speech—that there has been no communication whatever between the Queen's Ambassador at Constantinople and Her Majesty's Ministers upon the subject in discussion; that we never heard of these affairs until the newspapers published accounts, which were brought under the notice of both Houses of Parliament, and from that assumption he draws all those inferences so nattering to Her Majesty's Government which have been recently communicated to the House. The state of the facts is the reverse. From the very first period that these transactions occurred—from the very commencement—the Ambassador was in constant communication with Her Majesty's Ministers. ["No, no! "] Why, that may be proved by the Papers on the Table. Throughout the months of May and June the Ambassador is constantly referring to the atrocities occurring in Bulgaria, and to the repeated protests which he is making to the Turkish Government, and informing Her Majesty's Government of interviews and conversations with the Grand Vizier on that subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that when Questions were addressed to me in this House I was perfectly ignorant of what was taking place. But that is exactly the question we have to decide to-night. I say we were not perfectly ignorant of what was taking place, and that is the very point I am now calling attention to. I say during all this period we were, I will not say daily, but constantly receiving communications from Her Majesty's Ambassador informing us of what was occurring in 1140 Bulgaria, and apprising the Government of the steps he took to counteract evil consequences. What did take place was this—When certain statements were made in this House we said we were in constant communication with Sir Henry Elliot, and that the information which reached us did not warrant the statements that were made. I agree with my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke), who has on two occasions addressed himself to the subject with great knowledge and ability, that even the slightest estimate of the horrors that occurred in Bulgaria is quite sufficient to excite the indignation of the country and of Parliament; but when you come to say we were ignorant of all that was occurring, and did nothing to counteract it, because we said in answer to Questions that the information which had reached us did not warrant the statements that were quoted in the House—these are two entirely different questions; and therefore it becomes us to consider what were the statements made in this House. In the newspaper which had been referred to, the first account was, if I recollect aright, that. 30,000 or 32,000 persons had been slain; that 10,000 persons were in prison—[Mr. W. E. FORSTER: There is no mention of that in the first statement.] Well, it may have been in the second that it was made. It was also stated that 1,000 girls had been sold in the open market; that 40 girls had been burnt alive in a stable; and cartloads of human heads paraded through the streets of the cities of Bulgaria—these were some of, though not all, the statements made; and I was perfectly justified in saying that the information which had reached us did not justify those statements, and, therefore, we believed them to be exaggerated. Is that fact true, or is it not? Now that we have arrived at a position in some degree to realize the truth of the terrible results that did occur, is the truth most like what we believed to be the case, or that which was brought forward as the foundation of the Questions of the right hon. Gentleman? I maintain that the statements we made in Parliament were quite justified. Lord Derby telegraphed to Sir Henry Elliot a second account, which appeared in The Daily News, stating that in the Tatar-Bazardjik district, in Bulgaria, cartloads of heads of women and 1141 children were boastfully paraded, and that young women were regular articles of traffic, and were being sold publicly in the villages by Tartars and Turks. Lord Derby added that it was very important that Her Majesty's Government should be able to reply to the inquiries made in Parliament respecting these and other statements, and directed Sir Henry Elliot to inquire by telegram of Consuls, and report as soon as he could. All these statements are untrue. There never were 40 maidens locked up in a stable and burnt alive. That was ascertained with great care by Mr. Baring, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford should still speak of it as a statement in which he has confidence. I believe it is an entire fabrication. I believe, also, it is an entire fabrication that 1,000 young women were sold in the market as slaves. We have not received the slightest evidence of a single sale, even in those journals on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford founded his erratic speech. I have been attacked for saying that I did not believe that it was possible to have 10,000 persons in prison in Bulgaria. So far as I can ascertain from the Papers there never could have been more than 3,000. As to the 10,000 cases of torture, what evidence is there of any case of torture? We know very well there has been considerable slaughter; that there must have been isolated and individual cases of most atrocious rapine and outrages of a most atrocious kind; but still we have had communications with Sir Henry Elliot, and he has always assumed from what he knew that these cases of individual rapine and outrage were occurring. He knew that civil war was carried on there under conditions of brutality which, unfortunately, are not unprecedented in that country; and the question is, whether the information we had justified the extravagant statements made in Parliament which no one pretends to uphold and defend. We were asked if we had information which justified us in supposing they were authentic? We replied that we were in daily communication with our Ambassador, who was in constant communication with Consuls, and that nothing which reached us warranted those extravagant statements which nobody now professes to believe. The hon. and learned Gentleman kindly excused me for not having 1142 seen the Report of Consul Reade, on the score of my multifarious duties; but I do not think my multifarious duties are any excuse for the neglect of business, and I can assure the House there is not a despatch which reaches or leaves the country which it is not my intention to see, and I scrupulously fulfil that duty; but it is a remarkable circumstance that that despatch of Consul Reade, through no inadvertence of mine, was forwarded to another person; a delay arose, and it never reached me until 10 days after the Question was asked. I wish to vindicate myself on that point. The hon. and learned Gentleman has done full justice to the Bulgarian atrocities. He has assumed as absolutely true everything that criticism and more authentic information had modified, and in some instances had proved not merely to be exaggerations but to be absolute falsehoods. And then the hon. and learned Gentleman says—" By your policy you have depopulated a Province." Well, Sir, certainly the Slaughter of 12,000 individuals, whether Turks or Bulgarians, whether they were innocent peasants or even brigands, is a horrible event which no one can think of without emotion. But when I remember that the population of Bulgaria is 3,700,000 persons, and that it is a very large country, is it not a most extravagant abuse of rhetoric to say that the slaughter of so considerable a number as 12,000 persons is the depopulation of a Province? Well, but then the hon. and learned Gentleman makes a severe attack upon the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State, because he referred as an authority to The Levant Herald. Now, The Levant Herald is a newspaper which, I believe, is of considerable authority, and is distinguished for its authentic information. That article in The Levant Herald I may not have read with all the critical acumen of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford; but, certainly, as I read it, there were many points which I felt as I went on were substantiated by official Papers, the whole of which I believe are now on the Table of the House. And I cannot understand how it is that those who are so ready sometimes to exaggerate the importance of newspaper communications, and to assert, as two hon. Gentlemen, Members of the late Government, have done this evening, that they are more authentic than diplomatic despatches, 1143 should say that The Daily News should be such an absolutely infallible authority upon those matters, and that The Levant Herald should be flouted and treated with all the scorn which the hon. and learned Member for Oxford has poured upon it. I cannot see why the information of The Levant Herald is to be treated in that manner. It is to be weighed fairly. Its statements are not to be accepted without adequate consideration; but I do not place it, as regards having confidence in its information, lower than any other newspaper. And I have always heard—I know it was so in old times; I do not know myself if it be so at present—that it was an authority much looked up to; and I have never heard anything about its management or character to give any reason to treat its authority with contempt. But when I find its statements agree and tally with the statements in the published despatches, I naturally say that it gives me a prejudice in favour of its veracity. ["Oh, oh!"] And I have no doubt, Sir, that if The Levant Herald were to publish some evidence to-morrow which would tell in favour of the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, or the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford, we should have that journal held up as containing infallible proof of the fact, and who should dare attempt to depreciate its authority, or to question its veracity. We should have had nothing but high laudation, instead of the denouncing phrases which fell upon us to-night. Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman said also that Her Majesty's Government had incurred a responsibility which is not possessed by any other country as regards our relations with Turkey and our influence with the Turks. I say we have incurred no responsibility which is not shared with us by all the other contracting Powers to the Treaty of Paris. I utterly disclaim any peculiar responsibility. He asks, why did we not send a Consul to Philippopolis at once? and why did we not at once appoint a Military Attaché to the Turkish Army? Why should we have sent a Consular Agent to Philoppopolis? Why send a Military Attaché to the Turkish Army? To do so does not involve us in any peculiar responsibility—it is only the exercise by Her Majesty of one of her rights and duties. 1144 It has nothing to do with Treaties or with diplomatic responsibility. Her Majesty has a right to send a Consular Agent to any place she thinks fit, and she has a right, if the Sovereign of the country agrees to it, to send a Military Attachè to the armies of the belligerents. The very fact that we were obliged properly to appeal to the Porte for their permission before we appointed General Kemball, shows that it was no intrusion and no undue or unjust interference with the Government of the country, but that we were only fulfilling our duties as an independent State in connection with another independent State; and to attempt to mix up those two simple acts on the part of the Queen with diplomatic engagements, and responsibility of a peculiar nature arising from those diplomatic engagements, is really to introduce a preposterous element into the debate. I am asked why it is that because we have in August agreed to send a Vice Consul to Philippopolis, we did not do so in May? Does anyone believe that if a Vice Consul had been sent to Philippopolis in May it would have prevented the disastrous events that have occurred? It is quite impossible to suppose anything of the kind. What we have done now in a place where I am sorry to say we have no commercial relations will at least lay the basis of some better means of communication in that country, and we should have better communication with Turkey at present if, unfortunately, some years back there had not been a Liberal assault on the Consular system, which reduced the number of Turkish Vice Consuls. The hon. and learned Gentleman told the Government—"There is a question now which you must face, and that question is, why do you stand out as an obstacle to the settlement of a great question from pure jealousy of Russia?" I should like to know, in the first place, what is this great question to the settlement of which we stand out as an obstacle. The hon. and learned Gentleman, although he has seldom had greater command of eloquence, and although he appears to have given the subject great consideration, never told us what the real question was, and when he taunted us so indignantly with being an obstacle to the settlement of this great question, he never ventured to define it, except, indeed, that he did intimate that it was 1145 the duty of England, in combination with Russia and. the other Powers, to expel the whole Turkish nation from Eastern Europe. That an hon. and learned Gentleman, once a Member of a Government, and an ornament of that Government, and one who would in future be one of our eminent statesmen, that, after having experienced a sense of political responsibility, he should get up on the last day of the Session, and, with the conviction that from his glowing and animated words the country might be disturbed for the next six months at least, should counsel as the solution of all these difficulties that Her Majesty's Government should enter into an immediate combination to expel the Turkish nation from Eastern Europe, does indeed surprise me. And because we are not prepared to 'enter into a scheme so Quixotic as that would be, we are held up by the hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford as having given our moral, not to say our material assistance, to the Turkish people and the Turkish Government. We are always treated as if we had some peculiar alliance with the Turkish Government, as if we were their peculiar friends, and even as if we were expected to uphold them in any enormity they might commit. I want to know what evidence there is of that, what interest we have in such a thing. We are, it is true, the Allies of the Sultan of Turkey; so is Russia, so is Austria, so is France, and so are others. We are also their partners in a tripartite Treaty, in which we not only generally, but singly, guarantee with France and Austria the territorial integrity of Turkey. These are our engagements, and they are the engagements that we endeavour to fulfil. And if these engagements, renovated and repeated only four years ago by the wisdom of Europe, are to be treated by the hon. and learned Gentleman as idle wind and chaff, and if we are to be told that our political duty is by force to expel the Turks to the other side of the Bosphorus, then politics cease to be an art, statesmanship becomes a mere mockery, and, instead of being a House of Commons faithful to its traditions and which is always influenced, I have ever thought, by sound principles of policy, whoever may be its Leaders, we had better at once resolve ourselves into 1146 one of those revolutionary clubs which settle all political and social questions with the same ease as the hon. and learned Member. Sir, we refused to join in the Berlin Note, because we were convinced that if we made that step we should very soon see a material interference in Turkey; and we were not of opinion that by a system of material guarantees the great question which the hon. and learned Gentleman has adverted to would be solved either for the general welfare of the world or for the interests of England, which, after all, must be our sovereign care. The Government of the Porte were never for a moment misled by the arrival of the British Fleet in Besika Bay. They were perfectly aware when that Fleet came there that it was not to prop up any decaying and obsolete Government, nor did its presence there sanction any of those enormities which are the subjects of our painful discussion to-night. What may be the fate of the Eastern part of Europe it would be arrogant for me to speculate upon, and if I had any thoughts on the subject I trust I should not be so imprudent or so indiscreet as to take this opportunity to express them. But I am sure that as long as England is ruled by English Parties who understand the principles on which our Empire is founded, and who are resolved to maintain that Empire, our influence in that part of the world can never be looked upon with indifference. If it should happen that the Government which controls the greater portion of those fair lands is found to be incompetent for its purpose, neither England nor any of the Great Powers will shrink from fulfilling the high political and moral duty which will then devolve upon them. But, Sir, we must not jump at conclusions so quickly as is now the fashion. There is nothing to justify us in talking in such a vein of Turkey, as has, and is being at this moment entertained. The present is a state of affairs which requires the most vigilant examination and the most careful management. But those who suppose that England ever would uphold, or at this moment particularly is upholding, Turkey from blind superstition and from a want of sympathy with the highest aspirations of humanity are deceived. What our duty is at this critical moment is to maintain the Empire of England, 1147 Nor will we ever agree to any step, though it may obtain for a moment comparative quiet and a false prosperity, that hazards the existence of that Empire.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.