, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Papers relating to the Insurrection in Bosnia and the Herzegovina; and to move—That this House is of opinion that Her Majesty's Government, while maintaining the respect due to existing Treaties, should exercise all their influence with the view of securing the common welfare and equal treatment of the various races and religions which are under the authority of the Sublime Porte,said, that he wished first to make a brief explanation on the subject of the alteration made in the terms of his Motion. He had placed that Motion on the Paper without the least intention of making it a Party question; but he was afterwards informed that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken that view of his Resolution, and as he was un willing that it should bear this complexion, he had altered the terms of his Motion. He believed that the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) had made a similar alteration in the terms of his Amendment. With regard to the Motion itself, he felt a certain diffidence in bringing it forward, not only in consequence of the magnitude and importance of the question 127 itself, but because the debate was of a somewhat different character from those usually raised in that House. In discussing questions affecting the policy of this country, hon. Members spoke to an audience of their own countrymen, who knew them and their position, and were very good critics and judges of the importance to be attached to their remarks. But hon. Members who might take part in that debate were speaking to a much larger audience. Their remarks would be read at Belgrade, in Constantinople, and in other countries where they were personally unknown, and where their words would be regarded not in the measure of the individual importance of the speaker, but as having been spoken in an Assembly consisting of the Representatives of the greatest Power in the world. It was desirable, therefore, that those who took part in that discussion should express themselves with moderation, and avoid any occasion or intrusion of their Party differences. For himself, he could honestly state his intention of so acting. Before discussing the Papers he wished to say a few words upon the general condition of this Turkish question. The Eastern Question had been very much talked and written about; but many mistaken ideas were current as to the policy which this country had pursued upon that question for many years past. There was a certain political interest for England in the unrivalled position of Constantinople itself; in its harbour, which was absolutely impregnable if held by a strong Power, particularly if that Power were backed by the possession of the shores of the Black Sea. The possession of Constantinople under these circumstances would constitute a formidable menace in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, and might materially affect our position in reference to our route to India, particularly if the Power to which he referred had possessions or objects contrary to our own in Asia Minor. Of course, we might secure ourselves by seizing Candia and Egypt, but such a course of proceeding would simply be increasing our responsibilities, and raising complications which no statesman in this country would willingly adopt, besides involving us in a conflict which it would be desirable to avoid. A Power already possessing the shores of the Black Sea, and thereby able to 128 command the trade of the Danube would, if it also possessed Constantinople, introduce a disturbing element into our trade, especially if that Power were not characterized by the liberality in commercial matters which Turkey, to do her justice, had always shown. The policy of this country, and the interest felt by our great statesmen in Turkey had been influenced by these considerations. Butte had never been the advocates of Turkey regarded as a Mussulman Power, we had simply felt that as long as these countries remained in the hands of a comparatively insignificant Power the danger of political disturbance was greatly lessened. While saying that, however, at the same time, he was sure that neither this nation, nor any Government worthy of representing this nation, would not allow the political advantages which might be obtained by the position of Turkey to stand in the way, if it were necessary they should be purchased by the misery and misgovernment of the people. The great object of our policy was that while maintaining the status quo we were ready to use our influence in obtaining necessary reforms, in purifying the Turkish Administration, and in equalizing the position of the different races which were under the same sway. Whatever might have been the partial success or future of these efforts, the main object of the English Government had never wavered, and the happiness and good government of the races under Turkish sway had always been the desire and wish of the statesmen of this country, and he hoped would always continue to remain so. The state of things in Turkey was in many respects much to be deplored, and we had the Eastern question with its old difficulties staring us in the face, as it did many years ago. The condition of Turkey was mainly owing to the complication of races and religions and the extreme misgovernment of the Central Power. Those religions were intermixed in all parts of the Empire, and there had never been a proper recognition of their positions and claims. He did not refer to the position of the Churches, which was not to be much complained of. The Christian communities had their own Ministers and managed their own affairs, and they were not subject to the interference of the Central Power with the exception of its consent being required 129 to the appointment of the principal ecclesiastics. Complaints were made that they were not allowed to use bells in some rural districts, but elsewhere, and especially in Constantinople, bells were used to such an extent as would cause the interference of the police magistrate in any other country in the world. The evidence before the House as to the condition of the Christian communities did not show any great degree of oppression, and on this branch of the subject he would repeat a statement made by Fuad Pasha to a deputation which waited upon him representing a particular sect, and which the Pasha repeated to him (Mr. Bruce)—The Mussulmans are bound by their religion to give the utmost respect to anything which's placed as a deposit in their hands. They are bound to retain it intact, and to restore it without injury. We look upon the Christian communities under our Government as being placed by Providence with us as a deposit. We must keep them intact and respect them. We do not, like you Christians, think that we have a right to alter their condition as we think proper.Now, up to the present the Christians had been comparatively unmolested in their corporate capacity; but he was afraid that those who knew Turkey best would unite in saying that, with the exception of some very small communities, there was not amongst them very much of the intelligence shown amongst Christian communities in this part of the world, and so far there had not been any indication amongst them that their religion had placed them on a superior level to that of the Mahomedans. There was not a very great difference between the state of the Christian peasant and the Mahomedan peasant, except with respect to what he might call the social position of the Christians as individuals. For many years, for instance, their testimony was not received as against that of the Mussulmans. That grievance in a great degree had now been removed wherever the Government was strong, but it still remained in force in many parts of the Empire. Then there was the question of Christians being admitted to military service, but the evidence on that subject went to show that was a privilege which they did not wish to possess. It was true they paid a tax in lieu of service, but he believed that if they were asked they would rather pay than serve; and, indeed, in one of Sir 130 Henry Elliot's despatches he mentioned that the influence of Earl Russell and of Lord Dalling was exercised against the granting of that privilege. That, therefore, could not be considered a very great boon. In other respects the Christian was very much in the same position as the Mahomedan, and that was bad enough. They were subject to all the evils of the Turkish Government—its arbitrariness, its exactions, its monstrous system of taxation, and there could be no doubt that in those respects much required to be done to better their condition. But whatever should be done for the one, ought equally to be done for the other. The greatest grievance of all—that which was most frequently mentioned in the Papers before the House—was that which related to the system of taxation, resolving itself, as it did, into a system of tithes. The House was aware that under the system of capitulations a great proportion of the wealthy inhabitants did not pay any direct taxation at all, and the taxes fell almost exclusively upon the agricultural population, both Mussulman and Christian. The question of commuting the taxes and collecting them directly had more than once been raised, but the peasantry objected to it, and it had to be given up, and the system of farming the taxes was still maintained. It was, indeed, questionable whether direct collection by the Government would be more favourable to the people than the system of farming now was. One thing should not be forgotten, for it was, he believed, a matter of considerable importance—namely, that as long as the country was quiet the different races lived together in comparatively tolerable harmony; but, unfortunately, the question of religion had been mixed up with that of foreign protection, and the Christian population was supposed to be more orless—on account of their religion, that of the Greek Church—under the power and influence of Russia. The result was that whenever the Turkish Power was attacked, there was a strong tendency to blame the Christians for what they were supposed to be privy to, and a great part of the danger to which the Christians were exposed was trace able to the fact that they were regarded as being in alliance with the enemies of Turkey. That was a matter which ought to be taken into account in calmly considering 131 the whole state of the question. The difficulty was not attributable in any great degree to differences of race—races being so inextricably mixed up. The distinction of race did not co-exist with the distinction of religious belief. In many of the Provinces the dominant Turkish race had been merged in the Christian population, and that was the difficulty which existed in respect of that question of autonomy. It would be impossible to bring about an amalgamation of the two races, as was forcibly pointed out by Lord Derby in his despatch of the 27th of June last, and his (Mr. Bruce's) own opinion was, that in existing circumstances, no good would result from giving autonomy to the disaffected Provinces unless they were to be kept in order by some superior force. The position of the other semi-independent States had always been different from that of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There never were large numbers of Armenians in Roumania, and there were none in Montenegro; so that the establishment of autonomy in those Provinces was comparatively easy, and it had been more or less successful. The Servians had a very fertile country, and had always been disposed to peaceful pursuits; but the Montenegrins had no such advantages, and were generally distinguished by a fondness for joining in disturbances in whatever direction their sympathies for the time being might lead them. On the general question he could not help thinking that it was a very doubtful policy to go on multiplying these small States, which in all parts of Europe had been a source of great difficulty. Most of the great wars that had disturbed the Continent during the present century had had reference to the absorption or occupation of small States. Such a policy would tend rather to disturbance than to peace. There was no doubt that Servia and Montenegro had been to a certain extent dependent upon Russia, and had acted through the impulsion of Russian public opinion, if not of the Russian Government itself. In point of fact, they had done that which the Russian Government would not take the responsibility of doing for itself. Several solutions of the difficulty had been suggested. One was, and it enjoyed the merit of being both simple and complete in its operation, that the Mussulmans should 132 be turned out of Europe altogether. It was Mr. Fox, he believed, who said that Mussulmans were an anachronism in Europe. That was quite true, but there were several other anachronisms existing in Europe which could not be dealt with in so sweeping a manner, and the proposal was not one that was likely to be received with favour in this 19th century. It was not in itself an advanced system of policy, and it had this further disadvantage, that it was quite clear that such a suggestion could not be acted upon; and it was equally clear that a policy of the kind could not possibly be carried out except at the cost of an immense amount of bloodshed. Granted there were large Mussulman populations in Europe, there were equally large Christian communities in Asia, and if the Mussulmans were driven out of Europe, their fanaticism would rise to such a height that reprisals would be adopted against the Christians in Asia, compared with which the recent atrocities in Bulgaria would be mere trifles. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina were in a peculiar position, because most of the land in those Provinces was owned by Mussulmans, and the soil, which was formerly held by the tenants under a sort of feudal tenure, was now let under a system by means of which each tenant handed to his landLord a part of the crop which his land produced. Now, it was obvious that a system of that kind must be liable to greater abuse than any other kind; and, as a matter of fact, the disturbances which had arisen were due much more to agrarianism than to religion; for in the first representations which were made for redress, the people put forward their position as farmers. The difficulty of the situation was complicated by the fact of many of the Christian population having in course of time become Mussulmans, and in addition to this, the Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina were Slavs, and they were in constant communication with the Slav committees in Servia and Dalmatia, by whom they were strongly influenced in all their conduct. Furthermore, there was a geographical drawback to the position of these Provinces, in that they were cut off from the seaboard by a thin wedge of country belonging to a Power which had always shown itself adverse and obstructive in reference to commercial matters. The 133 result was that the country, shut out from the sea, was surrounded or flanked by a network of Austrian custom-houses, and lay entirely at the mercy of the Austrian Government. Perhaps the best thing of all others to be done would be to hand over the Provinces to Austria, and so give them access, through Dalmatia, to the sea coast; but that was obviously impossible, and the question that remained was as to the course that was practicable to be taken under the circumstances. It was well known that for a long period these countries had been discontented, and that the immediate cause for the present outbreak was an attempt on the part of certain refugees, who had broken out into insurrection by reason of the taxes levied upon them, to compel the people to join their cause. This they did, after assassinating a number of Turks, and burning several villages. For some time after its outbreak the Turks regarded the affair as of no importance, and thought it would not be long in its duration; but their forces were few in the disturbed districts, and they did not make any impression on the enemy. Then, as the Turkish Force increased, the Insurgents, resting as they did on the one side on Montenegro, and on the other on Bosnia and Servia, were enabled to carry on the campaign during the winter, and when defeated to retire within these Provinces, and to come back and attack the Turkish Army when they found it convenient. Meantime the Turkish Army, not expecting a long campaign, were sent into the field in a very bad state; their commissariat was bad and their condition during the winter might be described in a well-known phrase as "horrible and heart-rending." Hostilities were carried on by both sides with the greatest barbarity. Atrocities, much to be regretted, were committed by the Insurgents in the earlier stages of the war, atrocities, some of which he would fain hope had been exaggerated. The consequence was, that when the opportunity arose, the Turks retaliated and committed atrocities in their turn. It was evident that a barbarous warfare, continued so long under those circumstances, was calculated to excite the feelings of the Turkish population to such an extent as to render the maintenance of peace extremely difficult, and in the war to make them likely to resort 134 to the most violent and unscrupulous means to effect their object. But after due allowance was made for all this, it was to be borne in mind that the detailed accounts of cruelties published by both sides were utterly untrustworthy, for the Turkish bulletins were very much what bulletins were in most parts of the world, and the Insurgents were very remarkable for their imaginative powers. Indeed, they reminded him of a fact that came under his own notice at Athens during the Cretan Insurrection. Mr. Findlay took the trouble to sum up the accounts of the killed contained in a file of newspapers, and he found that during that small war, the Turks had lost 6,900,000 men, and the Greeks a smaller number. Now he knew that the Slavs, whatever their other merits, had never shown that magnificent power of imagination which was the gift of the Greek race, and to which we owed so much in our younger days. Still the Slavs followed their example to a great extent, and unfortunately those exaggerations produced two effects—they tended to the exasperation of the Turkish population, and they led the Servians, Montenegrins, and other sympathizers utterly to undervalue and despise the Turkish Forces. The result of these causes combined were very disastrous. Meantime, the Porte proposed to introduce certain reforms, admirable in themselves, if there was any certainty of their being carried into effect. That was the difficulty. At that time the Three Northern Powers met at Vienna and drew up what was known as the Andrassy Note. There were two objections to that Note, however. One was a general objection. He confessed Her Majesty's Government were required to justify themselves for in any way accepting the interference of these Three Powers in a matter of the kind. In his opinion, anything which affected the condition of Turkey was not a question for the Three Northern Powers alone, but one in which the rest of Europe ought to be considered. The harmony of these Powers might be a great security for the peace of the world; but it was a different thing to constitute themselves as a Court which, in a matter affecting the internal relations of another country, would impose their will by force. No doubt if they were united they could impose their will on any Power by force; but it did not 135 appear to him that they had any more right than any of the other signataries of the Treaty of Paris to impose their will on the rest of the world with regard to the steps to be taken for the pacification of the Turkish Empire. Another objection to the Andrassy Note was that it stipulated for certain reforms for the Insurgent Provinces alone. He always thought, and did still think, that if an attempt was made to maintain those Provinces in peace, that attempt should be directed to general, and not to mere partial improvements—to reforms applicable to the whole Empire. It was obvious that if certain concessions were made because a Province was in a state of insurrection, other Provinces would be induced to get up insurrections, in order to effect the same object, and then there would be a process of division carried on by constant insurrection and slaughter and misery, under the pretence of satisfying the wants of these particular Provinces. He admitted that the Insurgents had great deal to complain of. At that time the Turkish Government did not give evidence that it was willing to carry out its own proposed reforms. But the other Governments ought to have insisted upon their being carried out. There were two reasons stated byte Government for accepting the Note; one was that the Turkish Government had asked them to do it, and the other that if these conditions were accepted by the Turkish Government the Austrian and Russian Governments would prevent supplies from reaching the Insurgents, and thus the war would come to an end. But when an attempt was made to carry out the Andrassy Note, it entirely failed. Turkey refused to stop the war or grant any concessions until the Insurgents laid down their arms. On the other hand, the Insurgents complained that they had not sufficient security that the conditions of the Andrassy Note would be carried into effect, and the question rose whether the Insurgents or the Turkish Government were to begin. The latter said they could not begin, because they were obliged to concentrate their troops, and could not allow the people to return to their homes until they did so; the Insurgents said they could not place themselves at the mercy of the Turks, because they would not trust the Turkish promises. Thus, as neither party would take the initiative, no result followed; 136 and as there was no stoppage put to the supply of arms and ammunition to the Insurgents, the Turkish Government naturally thought they had not been well treated, and the irritation in Turkey against foreign Governments went on increasing. Matters continued in this way until the month of May, when a rising occurred in Bulgaria—and here he must now call attention to Paper 492, a letter written by General Tchernaieff, giving his own reasons for joining the Servian Army. He described the preparations which were being made by Bulgaria. The movements, he said, were regulated by a fixed programme. The Bulgarian insurrection was part, he said, of a large plan, and though the manner in which it was attempted to be put down was much to be deplored, still there appeared considerable reasons why Turkey should have been alarmed at it. So much for this letter of General Tchernaieff. It was rather a remarkable circumstance that Russian officers who made their way to the revolted districts and espoused the Servian cause entered the service either as generals or as newspaper correspondents. They sometimes began as generals and ended as newspaper corrrespondents. At other times they commenced as newspaper correspondents and ended as generals. Another event happened which caused considerable sensation at the time—that was the Salonica outrage. The cause of it was described in these papers. A girl who arrived with her mother by train at the station, in proceeding to the Governor's house to make a declaration, was surrounded by Greeks. She was carried off by the police and her veil torn. Among those who carried her off was the brother of the American Consul. Those who knew the country must be aware that such an outrage on a veiled girl was likely to create a great sensation. It was very natural that the Mahomedan population should become irritated, and unfortunately that irritation was connected with the Consuls. No blame attached to the American Consul; he was absent at the time, but his brother had taken part in the proceeding, and when the mob assembled next day, the two Consuls thought they had the power of rescuing the girl if they chose to do so. She was sent to the American Consul's house, and then the outrage was committed. He could not 137 regard that outrage as showing any extreme irritation on the part of the Moslems towards the Christians. The circumstances which had led to that outrage would have caused a similar outbreak at any time and in other places, and he thought too much importance had been assigned to it, both in the Berlin Note and in the communications of the Consuls with foreign Governments. There was a very elaborate inquiry, several persons were hanged, and officials degraded and punished; but there seemed to have been no investigation as to how the matter originated. This produced another result which had a remarkable effect. The Consuls immediately telegraphed to their respective fleets, and the English fleet was brought to Besika Bay. Then came the Berlin Note, and it was remarkable that in that document the whole onus of the insurrection was thrown upon the Turks. There was evidence that the Three Powers who agreed to that Note had through their subjects to a great extent supported the insurrection, and therefore the charge that the Turks had not put it down did not come very well from them. The English Government declined to accept the Berlin Note for reasons stated in these Papers; but the immediate effect of that refusal on Turkey was very remarkable. He had frequent communications from that country, and he understood the effect of their refusal was, that the bitterness of the hostility towards the Christians on the part of the Moslems sensibly decreased. The fact that the English Government did not accept that document, and that they indicated a desire that Turkey should have justice done her, did more that anything else to prevent such outrages as that of Salonica, which might have been only the beginning, and to calm the fear and irritation that existed at Constantinople. The rejection of the Berlin Note coincided with the arrival of the Fleet, and impressed the Turks with confidence that they would be treated with fair play. Then followed a most remarkable event—the change of Government in Turkey, a change of Government proceeding, for the first time for many years at least, on constitutional views. It was brought about by a class of men among whom above all others they might have expected that fanaticism would have predominated. But, on the contrary, they never showed any feeling 138 of the kind. That was clearly shown in these Papers; and the private accounts he had received entirely coincided with this view. He had it from one who was in Constantinople at the time, that the Softas wished for good government for the whole country—for the Christians as well as themselves, and that their object was to get rid of the corrupt Minister who had brought their country to its present state of degradation. The success of the movement was a remarkable phenomenon and could not be neglected, and, if it was true that the new Government had not been able to carry out its programme, the explanation was to be found in circumstances which would have paralyzed any Government. Immediately after its accession, Servia declared war, and the war had naturally taxed the efforts of the Government. The English Government, we were assured, had preserved neutrality, and had done all they could to influence other Governments to do so, and that was our best policy. It was better for us and for humanity that this quarrel should be settled one way or another than that it should be kept open by underhand support, and that these wretched people should be exposed to the continuance of useless and purposeless hostilities, without any prospect of success. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would feel called upon before long to endeavour to put a stop to the effusion of blood, and that they would then keep in view the policy of pressing reforms on the Porte, so as to restore harmony and prosperity to its subjects. That had been our policy in the past, and though it had not been so successful as we could wish, it had succeeded to a certain extent, and the Turks had done something in populous places where they had most influence and which were easy of access. After what had passed, as well as on account of Treaties, European Governments were entitled to demand something more than the bare promise of reforms, which he trusted would receive the support of the Mussulman population. He believed they felt the miseries which their own misgovernment had produced, and that reforms to benefit all classes would be received without opposition and without jealousy. If, however, we merely supported the Christians as against the Mussulmans, good results would not be produced. Among the Mussulman population 139 there was now manifest a certain degree of political light, and they could no longer pretend ignorance upon the point, that their existence as a nation depended upon the conciliation of their fellow-subjects and the moral support of the nations of Western Europe. He hoped and trusted that Her Majesty's Government, knowing and feeling these things, would take a wide view of the subject, and would endeavour to carry out these objects, and he was sure that in so doing they would be supported by the approval of the English people. He would conclude by submitting the Resolution to the consideration of the House.
§ MR. HANBURY
, in seconding the Motion, desired to direct attention to the real nature of the disturbances, for which, in his opinion, both Christian and Mussulman were to blame. He questioned the humanity, the tolerance, and the justice, and in our mouths the patriotism, of the proposal sometimes made to expel the Turk out of Europe; and, if the attempt was made, we must expect that a cry would be raised of "Asia for the Turks. Those who indulged in proposals of the kind did not know what Turkey was. Hon. Members talked of atrocities with special reference to Salonica. Now, those occurrences he neither desired, nor was he prepared to defend; they were gross and abominable; but we must, in common justice, recollect whom they began with, and that they were committed at a time when Mahomedans believed that the Christians of the world were in a conspiracy against them. They were provoked by what was undoubtedly a gross outrage on a Mahomedan woman; and Sir Henry Elliot had formerly warned us that Salonica had been for some time the only place in the Empire where any considerable persecution had been going on, and he attributed that entirely to the very great zeal of Christian missionaries there. The atrocities in Bulgaria were committed by men who not so many years ago were looked upon with as much compassion by Europe as they were now looked upon with aversion. The cruel wrongs the Circassians suffered at the hands of Russia justly appealed to the sympathy of Europe, and if now, when they had the opportunity, they retaliated, although that retaliation might be thoroughly unjustifiable, 140 still there was no doubt whatever that these people had suffered grievous wrongs at the hands of a Christian people. And that was not only true of the past, but these outrages were not begun by Circassians, but, on the contrary, atrocities just as great as they committed were committed by the Christians of Bosnia, and there was not a pin to choose between the two. The Circassians were as unpopular with the Turks as with any other people, and two years ago, when he was in the south of Turkey, he saw some thousands, the last remnants of the settlers in Turkey, going back to serve in the Russian Army. When, too, there was a talk of expelling the Turks from Europe it must be remembered that the people of those provinces, Christian and Mahomedan alike, were all of the same Slavonic race and speaking the same language. When these people were spoken of as the most fanatical Mussulmans in the world it should be remembered that they were the descendants of people who had themselves suffered the cruellest religious persecutions recorded in history. It was said that these men ought to be kept in control by Turkey. He would not deny that; but he must, however, remind the House that the East was not like the West, and that there were other countries in the East of Europe besides Turkey in which the Governments and the people were at least 300 years behind the people of the West. It was also a most important fact that Turkey had about 20 different nationalities. Other nations found it difficult to govern more than one nationality, and Ireland was an example. In Turkey the difficulty, moreover, was aggravated by religious differences, and was mixed up with foreign intrigues. It was not to be supposed that we supported Turkey from any disinterested affection for that country. If, however, Turkey should disappear, what would happen to those 20 different nationalities? They might become distinct Powers, and would thus be so many stepping stones to Russian ambition. He, for one, was not prepared to see Russia by this means in such power in the Mediterranean or in the Persian Gulf as to stop our road to India; and if hon. Gentlemen said they did not care for India, he would reply that, in the next place, he was not prepared to see Russia stop the road to our 141 Colonies. If hon. Gentlemen said they did not care for our Colonies, he would ask them whether they were prepared to sacrifice the great trade of the Pacific, which would one day occupy so large a space in the future commerce of the world. Turkey was, at the present moment, the only Power to which we were prepared to trust the keys of Asia, and he, for one, was by no means willing to trust those keys to another Power, who would not only keep them for her own purpose, but might use them to break into the house. It was said, and a good deal had been heard about it, that the Turks were fanatics, but fanaticism was one of those misleading words that begged the question. In the sense in which we used it, it meant everything that was bad; but in the mouth, of a Turk it meant devotion to his creed and country, and those were not virtues which Englishmen would wish to disparage. When a Turk was once roused, and believed that the other Powers were in a conspiracy against him, his blood was up, and from fanaticism, devotion, or patriotism—whatever it might be called—he would fight to the last. That, also, was a feeling that under similar circumstances would actuate a good many Englishmen. But Turkish fanaticism—when the Turk was left alone—took a far less active shape than in a good many countries in the West. He had travelled considerably in all the Turkish Provinces of Asia, where religious feelings were strongest. Yet he had been welcomed with a courtesy and hospitality which would have done credit to the most tolerant of Englishmen. If he passed from his own personal experiences to the Blue Book which he expected to be a record of religious persecution in Turkey, he found only four cases of alleged persecution, and these were but instances of converted Christians belonging to races which had never been free from the conscription, being obliged to join the Turkish Army. And with regard to them our Minister had expressed an opinion that there was no ground of complaint against the Turkish Government, and in no sense could they be regarded as cases of real religious persecution. The head of the Protestant community in Turkey declared that there was nothing in the nature of persecution of Christians by the authorities, although there was sectarian persecution 142 by the more powerful Christian communities, and the inquiries showed that there had been good cause for such a declaration. The Greeks and Armenians formed the great majority of the Christian subjects of Turkey, and no complaints proceeded from them against the Turkish Government nor from the Roman Catholics, with very few exceptions. There was, however, a great deal to encourage persecution on the part of the Turks. The Christians were as disunited as possible, and while among the great mass of the Mahomedan population the virtues of sobriety, honesty, and regard for truth were almost universally practised, the Christian population of Turkey lamentably failed in these qualities. The truth was that this was not a question of religion, but of rich and poor. The poor Christians and poor Mahomedans lived in peace and unity together, but poor men were persecuted equally by rich Christians and rich Mahomedans. No better illustration of this could be found than what was going on in Bosnia at the present moment, where there would be found very little sympathy with the existing insurrection. He hoped that this would not be regarded as a religious question at all, and that it would not be supposed to be a religious crusade. It was a note-worthy fact that they had not heard of a single Christian from Asia joining in the insurrection. He had not seen a Bulgarian joining in the insurrection, although it might be said that he had been provoked by great atrocities. Neither had he seen the Roumanians taking part in the insurrection. The fact was the Servians and Montenegrins were rivals as to which should be the head of the great Slavonic Empire, upon which they had set their eyes; and, from a vulgar lust of territory, these people were beginning a war than which no gambler's coup was more immoral or unprovoked. Who, then, were going to follow them in this crusade? It was called an insurrection against oppression; but where were the oppressed? They were conspicuous by their absence. In truth the oppressed were now in Bosnia—driven over the border by men who, in the name of liberty, had burned their houses and forced them either into insurrection, or to leave their homes. Servia was practically independent. Montenegro was 143 quite independent. The districts adjoining Herzegovina were also practically independent. And who were the oppressors? They were chiefly Socialists, Carlists, Garibaldians, and the refuse of all Europe—people who it was said wanted reform, but to whom reform would most stand in the way. Let him not be understood as saying, however, that a great deal of persecution did not go on in Bosnia; but who were the offenders? No doubt the Slav inhabitants had persecuted these people a great deal; but there were worse persecutors than the Slavs or the Mahomedan Beys. If the poor Christian and the poor Mahomedan were made to suffer, it was not so much by the hand of the Turk or by the inhabitants of Bosnia as by the rich Christians of the towns and by their own Bishops—foreigners who hardly spoke a syllable of the Slav language. Taxation fell heaviest upon the agricultural population, and in the towns the rich Christians were almost exempt from taxation; but they were not exempt from it in this way, that they were the publicans and tax-gatherers all over Bosnia, and he would remind the House that although great blame was to be laid on the Mahomedan Government for the way in which they taxed the people, yet the taxation which led to the present revolt was levied to pay interest to English bondholders, and the rich Christians were the tax-gatherers. He wished he could stop there, but he could not. The Slavs in Bosnia were not governed by Slavs, but by Greek Bishops—men who spoke a foreign tongue, who had no sympathy whatever with the people, and who received their position, just as Pashas were appointed in all parts of Turkey, because they could give the biggest bribe to the Patriarch of Constantinople. As they had received their own advance in that way, they in their turn sold cures to the highest bidder, and even the sacraments, he was sorry to say, were a monopoly in their hands. This was a disgraceful state of things, and it was a curious fact that the only people who ever raised a finger in defence of the poor Christians who were so ruled were the Mahomedan Government, in Constantinople, and their task was a difficult one, because in doing so, they had to contend not so much with 144 Mahomedan Beys as with traitors in the Christian camps—with Christian publicans, and even with Christian Bishops. He (Mr. Hanbury), therefore, called on the House once and for ever to get rid of the idea that this was a question of religion at all. Further, if it were thought to be a question of nationality, it was very curious that not one of those people asked to be made independent of Turkey, as hon. Members must have remarked in reading the despatches. The people of Servia themselves did not seek for independence, because they felt convinced that they could not stand alone. The Slavs were greatly divided by habits, as well as by tongue and dialect. Even at the great Slav Congress held at Moscow so entirely distinct were the tongues spoken, that the discussions had to be carried on in the tongue of the hated German. As regarded religion the Slavs were also divided. The Greek Slav hated the Latin Slav at least as much as he hated the Turk. It would, indeed, be good for Europe, if the Slav Empire could be established; but there was this difficulty, the Slavs were not only divided by religion and by tongue, but also by their respective national songs—the national poetry of one Slav district breathing the most opposite sentiments of ambition. Their aims clashed, and, owing to their dissensions, they could not stand alone. Besides this, in any attempt to build up a Slavonic Empire they would have to deal not only with the Slav nationality of the Turkish territory, but that of Austrian territory likewise. He was perfectly sure that the Slav population of Austria had this recommendation in its favour, which could not be urged in favour of the Slav population of Bosnia, that whereas the latter were divided into Latin, Greek, and Mahomedan races, the Slav population in Austria was homogeneous both in race and religion, and were more advanced than were the Slavs of Turkey. Under such circumstances one would have expected to see the insurrection commence in Austria rather than in Turkey, and he should like to know the reason why it did not? [An hon. Member: Because they are not oppressed.] An hon. Friend behind him said "because they were not oppressed." Well, if his hon. Friend was going to argue upon that assumption, he would be arguing upon a 145 miserable delusion. He ventured to say that the Slavs who formed a portion of the Hungarian Kingdom suffered as much persecution at the hands of the Hungarian Government as their brothers did at the hands of the Porte. The question which had to be settled was not to be decided by sentiment apart from facts, as some seemed inclined to think. For himself he looked forward to the time when the Slav population would enter into the political life of Europe, and would act as a great bulwark in the South against Russia, for no people regarded with greater aversion the Russian advance towards the South than did the Southern Slavs. But Russia was at the present moment the only Power from whom they had received assistance, and he hoped that henceforth assistance would soon come to them from other quarters, and that England would, as far as her Treaty obligations permitted it, see that these unfortunate Slav Christians were not maltreated either by their own Government, the Mahomedan Beys, their own Bishops, or the rich Christians. England was absolute Ruler of the greatest Mahomedan Empire in the world, and he appealed to Parliament to remember that it was not only the poor Christians who were oppressed, but the same treatment was extended to the poor Mahomedans who lived under Turkish rule, and who had no one to raise a voice in their behalf. He hoped that no one after reading the despatches would come to any other conclusion than that the policy of England in relation to the matter had come out well. Other Powers might have plotted and intrigued, but the policy of England had from the beginning to the end of these difficulties been straightforward, honest, clear, and manly, and, whatever credit might be due to other Ministers, no blame could attach to the Minister who at present presided at the Foreign Office.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House is of opinion that Her Majesty's Government, while maintaining the respect due to existing Treaties, should exercise all their influence with the view of securing the common welfare and equal treatment of the various races and religions which are under the authority of the Sublime Porte."—(Mr. Bruce.)
§ MR. FORSYTH
I confess, Sir, I am greatly and deeply disappointed at the 146 tone of the speeches of my two hon. Friends. My object in putting an Amendment on the Paper was to strengthen and give emphasis to what I thought was the policy shadowed forth in the Motion, and to indicate that the time had come when we could no longer put faith in the promises and professions of the Ottoman Porte, but must insist upon substantial guarantees as the price of our friendship—guarantees from which the Ottoman Porte could not escape, and which would be a security that its promises should be fulfilled. I had hoped that there was no serious or substantial difference between my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce) and myself. But the speeches we have just heard were neither more nor less than an apology for Turkish misrule; and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) might have been spoken by a Turkish Minister in a Turkish Divan. He defended the conduct of the Turkish Government, and did all he could to throw discredit upon the Christians. I am glad that this debate will not assume a Party character. It would be a deplorable thing if a question which affects the happiness of millions of the human race were degraded to the level of a Party contest. To-night will be exhibited the spectacle of the British Parliament united in one great object—how best to alleviate the sufferings of an afflicted and unhappy people, and put a stop to the barbarities of an oppressive Power. It has been said by Hallam, in his History of England, that the pulse of Europe beats according to the tone of our Parliaments. I hope if that was true when he wrote then it is equally true now. Sure I am that this night's debate will be read in every Capital of Europe, and the words of the speakers—so far as they are reported—will be weighed at Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople; and if there is anything like unanimity of opinion and feeling amongst us—although from the speeches we have just listened to, I fear there will not be—this discussion may exercise no inconsiderable influence on the Cabinets of Europe, and shape the policy to be pursued on what is called the Eastern Question, but which I would rather call the Turkish difficulty. Now the causes of that difficulty may be summed up in 147 two words—the corruption and misgovernment of the Ottoman Porte. If this assertion is denied it would be easy to prove it by a cloud of testimony which cannot be gainsaid; but I will content myself with quoting what has been said by Lord Derby in one of the despatches in the Papers laid before the House, where he states the case with only too much mildness and moderation. In a despatch of May 19th, 1876, Lord Derby says—They—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 powers of government, shown by the state of financial, military, and administrative collapse into which the country has been allowed to fall. The responsibility of this condition of affairs must rest with the Sultan and his Government, and all that can be done by the Government of Her Majesty is to give such friendly counsel as circumstances may require. They cannot control events to which the neglect of ordinary principles of good government may expose the Turkish Empire.I may refer also to a remarkable appeal addressed last June, not by Christian Rayahs but by Mahomedans themselves to all the Cabinets of Europe, in which they say that the troubles of Turkey are owing to the iniquitous Government under which 30,000,000 of its subjects groan, and that there never was a serious intention of carrying out the reforms which have been so often promised. What was the real cause of the insurrection in the Herzegovina and Bosnia? It has been said by some of the organs of the Press and by others that that insurrection is due to foreign influence and foreign intrigue, but I deny that this is true. It is of the utmost importance that we should come to a correct conclusion on this point, for it ought materially to affect our opinions in this debate—and I hope the time will never come when the British Parliament will be asked to countenance or express its sympathy with wanton and unprovoked, revolt. Mr. Holmes, our Consul in Bosnia, has, indeed, in a Memorandum, drawn up in March of the present year, "regarding the affairs of the Herzegovina," made the following assertions:—To persons acquainted with the course of affairs during the last few years in Bosnia and 148 the Herzegovina there can be no doubt that the insurrection was first brought about, and afterwards supported by, foreign influence. There was no particular reason, or any excess of oppression, to justify or occasion a rising of the people in 1875 beyond what has existed any time since 1860, but it was seen that the moment was propitious, inasmuch as the troops had been, during the few last years, gradually withdrawn from the Herzegovina until there were scarcely more than seven or eight battalions in the Province. A few individuals from Nevesinje, the richest and most prosperous district of the Herzegovina, and which might naturally have been considered the least likely to revolt, and which did not revolt during the former insurrection, were induced to avail themselves of some excuse to leave their homes and take refuge at Grahovo.Nevesinje, where the insurrection broke out, so far from being the richest and most prosperous district of the Herzegovina, is one of the poorest and most barren. It is on the edge of a rocky plateau, surrounded by bare limestone mountains, and the crops, which are there never plentiful, had, in 1874, comparatively failed. In Turkey no crop can be gathered until the tax-gatherer has levied one-eighth of the value of the produce, and in Nevesinje the tax-gatherer did not come to exact the tithe until January, 1875. The peasants, to save themselves from starvation, had, in the meantime, gathered a portion of their crops. When the tax-gatherers came they put so preposterous a value upon the produce that the peasants refused to pay it. Upon this the Zaptiehs—the Mahomedan police—were let loose upon the people, and every kind of outrage was inflicted. They fled to Montenegro, and some of them appealed to the Emperor of Austria, who then happened to be in Dalmatia. They were induced to return under a safe conduct from the Turkish authorities, but on their way back were fired upon by the Turks, and afterwards many were murdered when they got back to Nevesinje. The rest fled to the mountains, and the insurrection began. To show the kind of oppression which the Bosnians had to suffer, and the normal mode in which the taxes are collected there, I will quote a passage from a work written by an English traveller—Mr. Evans—who was there last year, and who says, in his book Through Bosnia and Herzegovina—In the heat of summer men are stripped naked, and tied to a tree smeared over with honey or other sweet stuff and left to the tender mercies of the insect world. For winter extortion 149 it is found convenient to bind people to stakes and leave them bare-footed to be frostbitten; or at other times they are shoved into a pig-sty and cold water poured on them. A favourite plan is to drive a party of Rayahs up a tree or into a chamber, and then smoke them with green wood. Instances are recorded of Bosnian peasants being buried up to their heads in earth and left to repent at leisure.I might quote many more such examples, but this will be enough.Accipe nunc Danaû insidias, et crimine ab uno Disce omnes.Can we wonder, then, that those who are of the same race and religion, and who are in close contact with these people, should be stirred to the utmost sympathy with their sufferings? How can it be otherwise, when the people of this country, who are separated from them by the distance of the Continent of Europe, and are aliens from them in blood, language, and religion, are so profoundly affected by their wrongs? There is no doubt that there was a strong sympathy for the insurgents felt by the Slavonic population of Russia and Austria; but I defy any one to prove that this disposition has been fomented by Austrian or Russian intrigue. Why should we attempt to defend the iniquities of Turkey towards her subject population? If they are not true, let them be denied; if they are true, surely all our sympathies must be in favour of those oppressed nationalities. I should have liked to point out in my Amendment that the true solution of the question is not by enforcing the policy of Turkey or getting guarantees, but by endeavouring to obtain the practical independence of those provinces, so as to place them in the same condition as Roumania and Servia. North of the Danube is Roumania, consisting of two Provinces—Moldavia and Wallachia. A few years ago she was as much oppressed as any of the subject-Provinces, but since she has obtained her independence she has become most prosperous. Bulgaria is south of the Danube, and her people are by the confession of all writers some of the gentlest, kindest, and most amiable of mankind. Servia is like Roumania—a free Principality. In Roumania the population is 4,500,000, in Bulgaria it is 2,000,000, in Servia 1,300,000, and in Bosnia 1,200,000. Here, then, is a population of Slavonic 150 people not fewer than 9,000,000, who are perfectly fit for free government, and who would know how to use their liberty when they have it. I want to know whether the proper solution of this question would not be that these people should become so far free that the Porte could not any longer oppress them—that they should be placed in the same position as Servia and Roumania. We are afraid of Russia; and we have a right to be afraid of seeing her in Constantinople. But the strength of Russia in this matter arises from the oppression of the Slavonic people; and she has always a reason for interfering as the champion of humanity and the redresser of their wrongs. But if we had these free States we should have a belt of 9,000,000 interposed to the South between Russia and Turkey. It is impossible that we should ever allow Russia to seize on Constantinople, but Russian ambition is a great bugbear. I deprecate the idea of a member of the House of Romanoff sitting on the Throne of Turkey; but let us be just to Russia. In 1826 Russia had conquered Moldavia and Wallachia. She had crossed the Balkan, and was in possession of Adrianople. Constantinople lay at her feet, and she might have seized it without the slightest opposition. But, on the representation of the other Powers, she retired, and, by the Treaty of Adrianople, contented herself with retaining a small strip of territory on the left of the Pruth. Russia knew that if she were to seize Constantinople it would be at the cost of an European war, in which she would have to face Austria, Germany, and England. I should like to see steps taken to persuade Turkey to give up those provinces, and make them as independent as Servia and Roumania. We should insist not on promises—I put no faith whatever in promises, which have been broken over and over again—but on stringent and effective guarantees for the execution of the promises which Turkey may make. There ought to be a mixed commission of the different foreign Consuls in Bosnia and Bulgaria to see those promises carried out, and if they were not performed—if oppression still continued—I will go so far as to say there ought to be a military occupation of those provinces by Austria and Russia to act as a police, in order to see the engagements of Turkey performed. In conclusion, 151 I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
thought it must be a great satisfaction to the House that the debate should be held before the Session concluded. He deprecated partial statements unsupported by authentic Papers. There had unfortunately been extra-Parliamentary utterances on this subject. In the month of October the noble Lord the Minister for Foreign Affairs had told an audience at Liverpool, that we should hear little more of the armed insurrection in the Turkish Provinces, and he informed a deputation consisting chiefly of hon. Members opposite, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, that the sending of the Fleet to Besika Bay was not susceptible of the interpretation popularly placed upon it. In the House of Lords, Lord Napier and Lord Hammond had both referred to the despatch of the Fleet to Besika Bay with approval, as an instance of promptitude and vigorous policy, and had attributed it to a different reason from that given by the noble Lord, and yet the noble Lord had not in his place in the other House made any reference to the opinions which they had expressed. He wished that these matters should be cleared up. The noble Lord had informed the deputation that the reason why the Fleet had been sent, was that our Ambassador at Constantinople was afraid of attacks on the Christian population, especially after the massacre at Salonica. Yet the despatches stated some time before the Mediterranean Fleet was reinforced, that all possibility of disturbance had been prevented by the precautions taken by the Porte, and that everything was quiet at Salonica. The country had been misled by that statement, for the truth of the matter was that on the 31st of May, writing to Sir Henry Elliot, the noble Lord said, he "should be watchful lest, under cover of protecting the Christian population, or on some similar pretext, a proposal may be made to summon the Fleets to Constantinople, in which case Her Majesty's Government would have to reflect on the course they should pursue in the event of so grave an infraction of Treaties." Her Majesty's Government asked for information as to the action of the other Powers in this respect, and soon after 152 their despatch was written, the Fleet in Besika Bay was raised from three ships to 20. He did not in any way object to that step, for he considered that the noble Lord was perfectly justified in sending a Fleet to Besika Bay, not by way of menace or threat, but as a convincing proof that he was ready to fulfil the obligations we had undertaken by Treaty; but he objected to the discrepancies which existed between the statements made by the Minister out-of-doors and the statements in either House and the Papers presented to Parliament. The same course had been taken with regard to the Suez Canal Shares. They were told at one time that a great political act had been performed, and at another it was said to be a mere purchase of shares. What was the real position of England at the present moment? Having sent our Fleet into the Mediterranean and shown our readiness to maintain Treaty engagements, we had a right to speak boldly and give Turkey advice which might not be palatable to her. Turkey was now passing through an ordeal more critical than any she had ever gone through before, even in connection with the independence of Egypt, Greece, or Syria, because the Provinces in insurrection were surrounded by neighbours having views and interests of their own. As to the Austrian Government, it was impossible for them not to sympathize with the oppressed Slavs. It had been said that those who were under Austrian rule were as much oppressed as those under Turkish rule; but far from the Slavonic subjects of Austria being ill-treated, they occupied a very favourable position. Nearly the whole of the Austrian Navy was composed of Slavs. Half of her Army was Slavs, and he was informed that a large portion of her superior officers belonged to that nationality. There was a reported movement in Austria for the annexation of Bosnia, and he was informed that within the last few days some of the inspired newspapers had written in support of that view. The head of the Austrian Government was a Hungarian, who could not be in sympathy with the Slavs; but still the Austrian Government could not prevent its Slav population stimulating insurrection for the amelioration of the condition of the Slavs in Turkey. The Austrian and 153 Russian Consuls at Constantinople attended the embarkation there of 700 armed Servians and Montenegrins; while the Russian Government, which was subject to the influence of as strong a public opinion as any Government in Europe, could not prevent pronunciamientos by its own regiments in favour of the insurgents in Turkey. Russia, he believed, did not want to go to war; but if fighting went on and villages and communities were involved, European complications were to be feared. As to Montenegro desiring territory, it was a progressive country, and the late and the present Princes had done all in their power to advance the civilization of their small domain. They regretted they had not the means to build houses and make roads; and the reply to the complaint that their people did nothing but fight, was that they had nothing else to do, because they could not bring their timber, wine, and fish down the river to any port where they could sell the produce of their country. They were an industrious people when they could get anything to do; nearly all the gardeners in Constantinople were Montenegrins; but the foolish policy of the Turkish Government kept them cooped up in a district where they could not develop agriculture. Only let a port be given them, and they would soon become absorbed in peaceful pursuits and gradually lose their warlike character. It was a mistake to suppose that the feelings of the Montenegrins were strongly in favour of Russia, for the fact was their supposed leaning towards that country was of the nature of political gratitude—the hope of favours to come. In 1804, the Diet told a Russian Envoy that they would maintain fidelity to Russia, only on condition that they did not share the position of subjects of that country. The idea that the insurrection originated with or was carried on by foreign Powers was a great delusion; they could not excite insurrection unless there was some internal cause for discontent. Could any foreign Power produce revolution in this country? These people were badly treated, and it did not require any foreign Power to stimulate them to revolt. They did not desire to be taken out of the Ottoman Empire. In speaking of the Sultan, Consul Holmes informed us, they took their caps off. They thought he did not know of 154 the manner in which they were treated, and they desired their grievances to be made known to the Government at Constantinople. Had Servia no cause to complain when her frontiers were colonized by Circassians who plundered the country? If it was difficult for Austria and Russia to prevent their subjects showing sympathy with the insurgents, how much more difficult would it be for Servia? It was useless to contend against the existence of misgovernment in these Provinces. The English Government had acknowledged it by joining in the Andrassy Note; and the Turks had acknowledged it by publishing firmans and Iradès to carry out the reforms they had promised 20 years ago. The complaints made were formalized in the Memorandum given to Consul Holmes; they had been confirmed in a letter to The Times and in the book of Mr. Evans, who in the course of his travels passed through the revolted districts. The complaints included the refusal of education, the neglect of the resources of the country, and the discouragement of foreign capital. The demands made were that their churches should not be desecrated; that they should have equal rights with the Turks before the law; that the tithe farmers should take no more from them than they were entitled to take; that Christian girls and women should no longer be molested by Turks; the free exercise of religion; and the abolition of enforced and unpaid labour. The complaints and demands were substantially those of the French peasantry before the great French Revolution, which was the beginning of a new era in civilization, simply because the truth was recognized that every one should be equal before the law. This had never yet been recognized in Turkey. In no case was Christian evidence admitted against Mussulman evidence in Osmanli tribunals; and this was not entirely the fault of the Turk so much as the result of failure to establish a system of centralization in a country where there was no properly established administration. That was brought out in the remarkable book of Mr. Palgrave, which showed that there was a better feeling in the Provinces under the old feudal system than there was now when officers were sent out from Constantinople who could have no local interests or sympathies. 155 With regard to the atrocities which had been perpetrated, there could be no doubt that such atrocities had been perpetrated by both sides, and he thought that some energetic measures ought to be taken by the Government to put a stop to them. It was not sufficient to have sent a subordinate officer to inquire into them. In 1845, when great atrocities were committed in Spain, the Government of the day sent Lord Eliot and General Wyld to obtain assurances from both sides that there was to be a mitigation of cruelties and barbarities; and he did not see why some military officer of rank should not have been sent into Bulgaria and the insurgent districts to come to some terms both with insurgents and Turks to prevent a further perpetration of them. What was to be done under existing circumstances? The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) had suggested the establishment of the independence of these Provinces; but he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would rather not make any suggestion in that direction. The idea of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) that it was desired to establish a great Serbian kingdom was equally fallacious, for the Papers which had been laid upon the Table in no way countenanced that theory. In 1826, when war broke out between Greece and Turkey, the Three Powers—England, France, and Russia—offered their mediation. Had Turkey accepted the offer she would not have lost Greece, because the Great Powers would have recommended that Greece should acknowledge the Suzerainty of the Turkish Empire. He, however, did not see why the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office should see any difficulty in suggesting a meeting of the Great Powers to settle the question. In one of his despatches, the noble Lord said he did not see that anything could be done, unless by using force, but no ground was stated as the basis of such an opinion. If an armistice were proposed, and if a Military Commission such as was sent out to Syria were detached from a Congress or Conference, they might visit these Provinces as had been done in the case of Roumania, and suggest a system of government which, while acknowledging the supremacy of the Ottoman Empire, would give the population of the Slavonic 156 Provinces some system of free government. Turkey had shown her great confidence in England by joining in the Andrassy Note, and as she had a few years ago entered the European system, it would-be our duty to remind her that she could only expect to be recognized as a European Power so long as she governed her subjects on European principles. He concluded by seconding the Amendment.
To leave out from the words "opinion that" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is the duty of the British Government, as one of the Powers which, under the Treaty of 1856, guaranteed the independence of the Ottoman Empire, in any steps that may be taken with a view to the restoration of peace between the Ottoman Porte and her Slavonic provinces to obtain for those provinces adequate and effectual guarantees for good and impartial government irrespective of race or creed,"—(Mr. Forsyth,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE*
If, under ordinary circumstances, I had to reply to the four hon. Members opposite, [the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury), the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), and the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff),] who have all so extensive an acquaintance with foreign affairs, I should probably feel my strength unequal to the effort. But those hon. Members have so bullied one another, and—in the case of one of them at least—have so be-laboured the Government of which they are the supporters, that I confess my own task is very materially lightened. It has been stated that I wish to move a Vote of Censure upon the Government, and I am aware that the words I had originally placed upon the Paper were technically susceptible of that interpretation. In order, however, to place my meaning beyond doubt, I have so altered them that they now apply only to the future, and therefore cannot be construed into a Vote of Censure. At the same time I shall make some criticisms upon the past conduct of the Government. In a debate of this kind no Government can expect to be above criticism; least of all the 157 present Government, for when they came into office there was no subject on which their friends were so confident as their foreign policy. Now, at last, so it was then said, the country was going to see statesmanship, spirited yet conciliatory, firm yet cautious, and the honour of England, so long neglected, was going to be effectually upheld. It would seem as if some malignant fate had overheard these confident anticipations, and had determined to give those on whose behalf they were uttered, a full opportunity of proving their mettle. Hardly had the present Government been in office more than 18 months, before it was evident that more than one difficult question would demand their attention, and that the East was once more propounding for solution the riddle which statesmanship has not yet answered. What the House, then, has amongst other things to consider, is whether the Government, in their treatment of this difficult question, has hitherto fulfilled the confident anticipations of their supporters. In replying to this question, it is indispensable to have a clear idea of the condition of the Provinces of European Turkey, now the theatre of the insurrection. I shall try and satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury), and not treat this subject as a question of religion merely—as a question between Mahomedan and Christian alone; nor shall I quote the book of Mr. Evans, or any other author, however interesting or well-informed; but I shall confine myself to the Papers on the Table. I fearlessly say that out of those Papers, and out of those Papers alone, it can be shown that a state of things exists in European Turkey which no Government with an atom of self-respect would tolerate for an instant. The promises which each Sultan has successively made, especially in the Hatts of the 3rd November, 1839, and of the 18th February, 1856, each Sultan has successively broken. The only real change which has taken place in Turkey since the accession of the Sultan Mahmoud II. has been the substitution of a centralized bureaucratic system in the place of the old quasi-feudal system. The latter had many faults. It had also certain virtues; but it has been swept away, virtues and faults together; and a system of which the faults are but too conspicuous, and the virtues are far to seek, now reigns 158 in its stead. Already, in 1859, Prince Gortschakoff called the attention of the Powers of Europe to the slight importance apparently attached by the Porte to the performance of her promises. Sir Henry Bulwer was thereupon instructed to issue a set of questions to the English Consuls, which he accompanied with a covering despatch, between the lines of which it could be read that a pleasant answer—pleasant, I mean, to the Porte—would not be altogether disagreeable at home. The Consuls, however—and to their honour be it spoken—uttered the truth; and the truth, as it often is, was very disagreeable indeed to the Ottoman Porte. Now I turn to the state of things revealed by the Papers on the Table. They show that the civil administration, instead of being a protection, is a terror to the country; that the judicial tribunals are hopelessly corrupt, that civil servants and magistrates alike are a set of vampires; that the taxes are bad in principle and collected by still worse methods; that tithes are levied, and levied in kind; that the roads are neglected, public works uncared for, the railways jobbed, and the whole moral and material condition of the country retrograding. The reign of violence, tempered by corruption, is complete; and we in England, who believe that there is nothing worse than to hold Turkish bonds, have yet to learn that there is something a great deal worse—to be held in them. The system which I have described is the cause of the rebellion. The promises of reform, so glibly and so frequently repeated by Sultans and Pashas, are no longer listened to. The populations of these countries have risen with arms in their hands, and are determined to work out their own salvation. It has been said that the rebellion was got up by foreign emissaries. Was there ever a rebellion of which this has not been said? But assume—and I do not deny—that foreigners have entered those countries; men of the same religion and nationality, though owning a different political allegiance. What stronger argument can be used against the Turkish Government? Imagine foreign emissaries coming to stir up a rebellion in England. They would speedily find their way into the nearest horse pond. But in Turkey they are welcomed. Again, let me ask if other great rebellions have not also been 159 largely assisted by foreigners? We all know the story of the rise of the Dutch Republic. We know that Englishmen fought in the ranks of the Dutch armies. Was that held to prove the mildness of the rule of Philip II.? During the Thirty Years' War, Scotchmen fought in the armies of Protestant Germany. Did that prove the justice of the Catholic cause? In any case, whatever the opinion of the hon. Member for Tamworth may be, it was not the opinion of the Governments of Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, that the movement in the Turkish Provinces was fictitious. The Ministers of those countries met, and towards the close of last year drew up what is known as the Andrassy Note, in which they recommended the Sublime Porte to promulgate a new scheme of reform and to carry it out. And here Would observe that the position of England in the matter of the Andrassy Note does not seem to me very dignified or creditable. The Ministers of the three Great Powers meet together, and settle their policy without in any way consulting England. England islet standing entirely apart from and outside the European concert. The Andrassy Note is left at our door, is served upon us like a writ or a summons, and we after a time, having ascertained that the Sublime Porte has no objection to promulgating some new reforms, accede to it. The Andrassy Note proved a failure, as everybody knew it would. The Turks had no intention of carrying out the promised reforms, and the insurgents did not believe in the professions of the Porte. In the month of April Prince Gortschakoff told the English Ambassador at St. Petersburg that "the Porte could not carry out the engagements she had taken; it was impossible for her to do so." The Salonica outrages happening at this moment quickened the action of the Russian Chancellor. Hence the meeting at Berlin, and the Berlin Memorandum, which was drawn up by the two Chancellors and the Austrian Minister, with the same disregard for the existence of England as a Great Power, which they had exhibited on a former occasion. The propositions it advanced were vague and unsatisfactory. They bore the mark of divided counsels, and the matter and the manner being both equally objectionable, the Memorandum 160 was rejected by the Foreign Secretary, with the general consent of the English, people. The Foreign Secretary thereupon resolved to pursue a policy of the strictest non-intervention. He was informed by the Austrian Government that in their opinion—as between the two extremes, that is to say, between a scheme of pacification energetically carried out and an attitude of absolute non-interference,there was no middle course, and he resolved to choose the attitude of absolute non-interference, although, as appears from these Papers, the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum had already been near impairing the cordial character of the relations between this country and Russia. What, however, is most remarkable, is that while the Foreign Minister of England was assuming this attitude, the Prime Minister of England had been following a very different line of conduct. A large fleet was sent to Besika Bay. By expressions sonorous, ambiguous, and magnificent, he led this House, and the country, and the nations of Europe, to suppose that the moral, if not the material support of England, was being given to the Turks. But now we are assured by the Foreign Secretary that the fleet was only sent to Besika Bay to protect the English residents on shore, and that this gigantic and unprecedented armament was gathered together for this harmless purpose. Really the Government could not complain if their conduct was misunderstood; so altogether disproportionate to the object were the means employed to attain it. When Guy Faux was found in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament, with ever so many barrels of gunpowder, with matches on his person, and a lantern in his hand, he was asked what he wanted down there; and he replied that he was the most harmless and inoffensive man in the world—he was only minding the coal cellar. But it was answered—"Are all these barrels of gunpowder, these matches, and this lantern, necessary in order to mind the coal cellar?" Well, in like manner, the Government must not be astonished if the public wanted to know if it really was expected to believe that all these turreted ships and armour-plated vessels were necessary in order to protect the English inhabitants on 161 the shores of the Bosphorus. I confess, indeed, that if the Prime Minister were to ask me to quote any particular expression or set of words which, used by him, justify me in asserting that he led the public to suppose that the moral and material support of England was to be given to Turkey, I could not do so. [Mr. BOURKE: Hear, hear!] But really I think I am justified in appealing to the effect of the language of the Prime Minister, and my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State and his Colleagues must consider not only the House, but the country and the nations of Europe, to be all a pack of fools, if he believes that without the slightest justification they unanimously arrived at the conclusion they did, as to the meaning of the language of the right hon. Gentleman. In one of the plays of Aristophanes there is a scene in which a Persian Envoy is introduced to the citizens of Athens. He is a man of great rank and dignity, and so much in the confidence of his sovereign, that he is known as the King's Eye. The citizens of Athens ask him what he has to say about foreign affairs; and he replies in language very grand and very mysterious. And all the bystanders are mightily impressed, till some plain-minded person plucks up his courage, and asks—"What does it all really mean?" And then a person who knows the King's Eye of old, replies—"Well, if you particularly want to know, it means nothing at all. The King's Eye has been laughing at you all round." Well, I hope I shall not be saying anything disrespectful of the Prime Minister if I call him the Queen's Eye, or even the Eye of the Empress. We asked him what he had to say about foreign affairs, and he replid in phrases very grand and very mysterious, and we all believed that something tremendous was happening. But at last some plain-minded persons, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), asked—"What does all this really mean?" And then the Foreign Minister, who had known the Prime Minister a very long time, came forward, and animated no doubt by the affection he bore to his Colleagues, replied—"Oh, if you particularly wish to know, it all means nothing at all. The Queen's Eye has been laughing at you all round."
162 Now, let me ask the House to consider if there was no other course to pursue than that adopted by the Government. I recollect that Mr. Fox, when speaking in 1792 on a question germane to that before the House—I mean the Russian Armament—said in reply to Mr. Jenkinson, that whether an insulated policy which disdained all Continental connection whatever, or a system of extensive foreign connection, or a medium between these two was the interest of England, were topics very proper to be discussed; but, of the three, he confidently pronounced the middle course to be, under ordinary circumstances, the best for this country. I want to know why the Government did not enter on the course recommended by Mr. Fox, and without having either recourse to arms, or standing absolutely aloof, did not enter on a course of diplomatic action, making a counter proposition to the Berlin Note, instead of remaining satisfied with merely rejecting it. In the month of June they had an opportunity such as may not recur, for a short time after the rejection of the Berlin Note, Count Schouvaloff proceeded, in the name of the Emperor of Russia, to propose, as the best solution of existing difficulties, the establishment of "vassal and tributary autonomous States in Bosnia and the Herzegovina," the cession of a port on the Adriatic and some adjacent portions of territory to Montenegro, and of the fortress of Little Zvornik, so long a subject of dispute, to Servia. Here, then, was a clear and definite proposal on the part of one, and that the most important, of the three Powers. Austria, however, had objections to make. The Foreign Minister eagerly adopted those objections, thereby giving them a force they would otherwise have lacked, and, as clearly appears from the despatch of June 30th, from Mr. Macdonell to the Foreign Secretary, thereby encouraged Count Andrassy to state to the Court of Berlin, which had not, and, so far as appears from these Papers, never has committed itself against the proposal of Russia, that under no circumstances would he come into it. Here is the despatch—Mr. Macdonell to the Earl of Derby.—(Received June 30.)Berlin, June 30, 1876.(Telegraphic.)Count Karolyi informs me that, in consequence of Mr. Ffrench having communicated to 163 Count Andrassy your Lordship's despatch to Lord A. Loftus of the 14th instant, he had been instructed to state to the German Government that his Government would disapprove and object to any possible autonomy for the Provinces in insurrection.He asked me if a similar communication had been made by me to the German Government. I answered that I had not made any such communication.I said that the support of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for England gave the Austrian objections a force they would otherwise have lacked, and I said so because the internal position of Austria—with her dual Government and her 17 local Parliaments in Cisleithania alone, not to mention the local Parliament at Agram, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) seems to have so low an opinion—would not have allowed Austria to resist the combined voices of England and of Russia. There is no solution of this Eastern question possible which will not be more or less disagreeable to Austria and Hungary; and what a Foreign Minister has to look for is not the policy agreeable, but the policy the least disagreeable to them. It is clear from these Papers that Hungary will no tallow any annexation of Slavonic territory to the kingdom, for fear of disturbing the balance of power within it; and it is also clear that it is not the interest of Austria to see one large Slavonic kingdom established between the Danube and the Balkan, because of the attraction it would exercise on Dalmatia. Consequently, next to the maintenance of the status in quo, and trusting to the chapter of accidents, the establishment of vassal and tributary States, though not without considerable danger to Austria, is the policy least liable to objection at Vienna. Now, what were the reasons which weighed with Count Andrassy, and so impressed the mind of the Foreign Secretary that he shrunk from the adoption of the Russian proposal? They are summed up in the despatches of the Foreign Secretary of June 27 and June 28 to Sir Andrew Buchanan and Lord Augustus Loftus. I shall say a few words on each of them. First, comes the existence of a Mahomedan population, 600,000 strong, in Bosnia, and the probability of the Mahomedan population suffering great wrongs under Christian rule. Now the present state of things is that the Christian population 164 is suffering great oppression under Mahomedan rule. There is consequently a choice of difficulties. I confess myself that the existence of this Mahomedan population seems to me to furnish rather an argument for than against diplomatic intervention. Diplomacy might gain guarantees for the protection of this population, which otherwise it would be hard to obtain. I would in any case point out, that if any hon. Member will run his eye over the Treaties regulating the position of Servia, he will find that diplomacy has not been unable to deal with a similar question in the ease of that country. Next, Count Andrassy states certain objections to the idea of confining the Government of Bosnia to a hereditary and quasi-independent Pasha, like the Khedive of Egypt. But before taking notice of these objections, the House would, I think, like to know if anybody has ever seriously contemplated such a plan. Then it is stated that if autonomy is given to Bosnia, it must be given to Bulgaria, where conditions more favourable to autonomy exist than in Bosnia; so the Austrian Minister himself, with great truth, observes. But I do not think that this circumstance, however much it may be an objection at Vienna, will be considered an objection in the House of Commons. Next it is added, that if Bosnia and the Herzegovina are made autonomous, Servia, Montenegro, and Roumania may demand complete independence, and Greece may ask for a rectification of her frontiers. All this is quite true, but may not these same demands be advanced now? In fact, have we not some reason for supposing that they are being actually advanced? Then the Foreign Minister of England concludes by saying that he is not prepared to draw up a constitution in detail for the Turkish Provinces. To which I reply, that nobody ever asked that he should do so, but that he should enter into communication with the other great European Powers having Treaty engagements with Turkey, on the basis proposed by the Russian Government—namely, that of granting a certain degree of autonomy to these insurgent Provinces.
And here I wish to observe that the names of the greatest statesmen of England may be cited in favour of granting autonomy to these provinces. My hon. Friend the Member for Poole 165 (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) has called my attention to a passage in the Life of Lord Palmerston, from which it appears that that eminent statesman foresaw the possibility, if not the probability, of such a solution being adopted at no distant date, in the case of the Herzegovina at least. Lord Russell, in a recent pamphlet, has advocated the idea; Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—and I can quote no higher authority—in a letter written at an early period of these troubles used the following words:—The Herzegovina and Bosnia might be put in a state of vassalage to the Sultan, similar to that in which Servia stands. A belt of such principalities, including Moldavia, Wallachia, and Montenegro, interposed between Russia and Austria on the one side, and Turkey on the other, might operate as a protection to the Ottoman dominion in Europe, and a pledge of durable peace in that quarter. In fairness to the Turkish proprietors, facilities would have to be given for the settlement elsewhere of such of them as chose to emigrate, and for the sale of their lands and houses. On the other hand, the Sultan's concession would carry with it a just claim for tribute from the emancipated Provinces.Last but not least, the present Foreign Secretary, speaking 12 years ago, expressed himself thus—I believe the breaking up of the Turkish Empire to be only a question of time, and probably not a very long time. The Turks have played their part in history; they have had their day, and that day is over; and I confess I do not understand, except it be from the influence of old diplomatic traditions, the determination of your older statesmen to stand by the Turkish rule, whether right or wrong. I think we are making for ourselves enemies of races which will very soon become in Eastern countries dominant races, and I think we are keeping back countries by whose improvement, we, as the great traders of the world, should be the great gainers, and that we are doing this for no earthly advantage, present or prospective. I admit that England has an interest, and a very strong one, in the neutrality of Egypt, and some interest also, though to a less extent, in Constantinople not falling into the hands of a great European Power; but, these two points set aside, I can conceive no injury arising to Great Britain from any transfer of power which might affect the Turkish Empire.But I may be told, this is an ideal plan. The circumstances of place and time are hostile to it. But what are the facts? Nobody pretends that these insurgent Provinces are prosperous or very civilized communities, but they are at least as prosperous and as civilized as were Servia, Roumania, and Greece, when you obtained a practical independence 166 for those countries. I am not ashamed of confessing to a belief—it may seem unfashionable to some persons—that free institutions will of themselves give a force and vigour to a country, which in a short time will work marvels in the way even of material development; and if I wished to find an illustration of the truth of this, it would be in Servia and Roumania that I would go to seek it. Those countries are no longer the same countries they were before 1829. They were then parts of Asia, but are now European, and I say this—Give Bosnia, give Bulgaria the same form of government, and you will find the same results. Now as to time: and this is a very important matter, for the Foreign Secretary committed himself in the interview with Count Schouvaloff on June 21st, to which I have already alluded, to this position—namely, that whatever intervention might be deemed advisable by the Government, would be more likely to be efficacious at the termination than at the beginning of the struggle. Now, on this subject, the Russian Ambassador made a reply, which I shall read to the House. He said—The Russian Government must dissent from the opinion that it would be useless to look for a practical solution till hostilities had resulted in some definite issue. They had always held, on the contrary, that the Powers should use their best efforts to avert a fanatical war of extermination, both on grounds of general humanity and for their own interests. The consequences of such a war would be incalculable. It would ruin both victors and vanquished, and would smother in its infancy the future prosperity of those countries, from the civilization of which Europe had every advantage to gain.Now, these words seem to me to be the words of wisdom. They are also the words of humanity, and I believe the House would have been glad if I could have told them they were the words of the Foreign Secretary of England, instead of being those of the Russian Ambassador.
Why, then, I venture to ask, were the Russian proposals rejected? I cannot help fearing that it was because of that unworthy suspicion of everything Russian that seems at times to seize hold of this country. I am far indeed from asserting that under no circumstances can England and Russia have divergent interests. It is not desirable that the control of the Mediterranean should 167 pass absolutely into the hands of Russia. I can imagine that at some future day English and Russian interests may come into collision on the frontiers of India, but I also believe that a prudent diplomacy may avert the danger of these things happening. Russian influence on the Mediterranean must exist. You can no more prevent it than Russia can prevent your influence existing in the Channel and the North Sea. This constant fear and suspicion of Russia did not always exist in this country. Lord Chatham once said "he was altogether a Russ," and when Mr. Pitt wanted to go to war with Russia about the fortress of Oczakow, he was stopped by the unanimous voice of the English people. But I may be told that in the last century Russia was regard as a useful counterpoise to French ambition, and that the circumstances of the time are since then entirely altered. Let me assume that that is the case, and I have no wish to deny it. Let me also assume for a moment the truth of everything which the most extreme Russophobist could put forward about Russian designs, and then let me ask what greater obstacle you could interpose to the advance of the Russians on Constantinople than by covering the Balkan Peninsula with free and independent States? Is Roumania an assistance or an obstacle to a Russian advance on Constantinople? Would a self-governing Bulgaria be an assistance or an obstacle? Let hon. Members look at the map, and they will hardly hesitate as to their reply. Does anybody think that countries enjoying free institutions would wish to be absorbed into a despotically governed Empire? As well say that England would wish to be annexed to a French Empire.
And now, in conclusion, let me point out what has happened since the Foreign Secretary rejected the Russian proposals. The war has extended itself over a large area; Servia and Montenegro have joined it; the contest has assumed a character of the utmost ferocity, and threatens to prolong its existence. We are told every day that the Turks are going to take Belgrade tomorrow. My own fear is that this struggle is going to degenerate into a guerilla warfare, which may go on indefinitely. The country is well adapted for such a war, covered as it is with 168 long mountain ranges and thick woods; and the termination of the struggle, the happy period marked out by the Foreign Secretary for mediation, when he is to appear and distribute blessings all round, may still be very far distant. Each day that passes makes a settlement more difficult. The religious hatreds which are being aroused, the atrocities which are being committed, are dividing Turk and Slav wider and wider apart. The sympathies of the Russian population, the desire of Roumania and Greece to aggrandize themselves, may extend the contest yet further. All the dangers foreseen by Count Andrassy grow greater instead of less. Therefore it is that I have placed an Amendment on the Paper—the Forms of the House will not, indeed, permit me to move it—urging on the Government, even at this eleventh hour, to attempt by diplomatic action, while there is yet time, to stay this conflict, and obtain a measure of self-government for the insurgent Provinces. They will not, indeed, be able to propose it with the same prospect of success with which they might have suggested it in June, but I believe that each hour that passes makes intervention more, rather than less, difficult. Delay becomes more and more perilous. Day by day, month by month, as the struggle deepens, it will become harder to confine it within the present limits, and your policy, begun apparently in order to check Russian advance, may end in promoting it, while England, the mother of free nations, will stand convicted before the eyes of Europe of having tried to check the enfranchisement of an oppressed people, without even having had the miserable satisfaction of succeeding in the attempt.
§ MR. J. HOLMS
said, that he was but little anxious to criticize the action of the Government up to a certain time in relation to this question. He would far rather make use of the occasion to press forward that which was more practical, than to criticize the doings of the Government, who had followed, to a great extent, the traditional policy of the Foreign Office, which had been pursued for generations—namely, to maintain the Turkish rule in the East. Every Chamber of Commerce, every body in the country, was most anxious to know what was to be the future policy of the Government in reference 169 to the Eastern Question. The uncertainty of the state of affairs affected more or less the trade of England, because looking at the state of the struggle now between Turkey and her revolted Provinces, no one could tell what would be the results a short time hence, for whether Turkey or Servia won there were sure to be complications. If Turkey won, her triumph would be merely temporary, and she would continue to be offensive to Europe as she had benign times past. If, on the other hand, success should attend the arms of those rebellious northern Provinces and they should conquer, what would be the future of Turkey? We knew that Austria, Russia, and Prussia were looking with desiring eyes upon the Turks. It was therefore wise of the people of this country to wish to know distinctly from the Government what was the course which they intended to pursue. He asked the House to consider what had been the state of Turkey during the last 20 years. It was shown that Turkey had been during that time as "a dead body" among the nations of Europe, and that she had not adopted any European habit but one—namely, she had accumulated (and, he might add, repudiated) a great National Debt. He might refer to a great speech which was made by the celebrated statesman Burke in the House on the 29th of March, 1791, in which he said that the Turks had nothing to do with European Power, they despised and contemned all Christian Princes and people as infidels, and that savages as they were, they seemed to do nothing but spread ruin and desolation, and should not be admitted to recognition with the other European Powers. He (Mr. Holms) did not think that the character which was given of the Turks in 1791 by that distinguished statesman was different from that of the present day, and they found that the opinion recently expressed by Lord Derby corresponded with it. The Turks had played their game in such a manner that they had their day, and that day was gone. Mr. Cobden, in 1853, expressed himself strongly in reference to the Turks, and had his opinion and words been acted upon this country would not have been dragged into the Crimean War. He thought that, having regard to our past policy, and remembering the great Christian population 170 that there was in Turkey, this country should declare clearly and distinctly that it would prefer to see some other Government than a Mahomedan Government ruling in Turkey; and that not in relation to Christians alone, but to the poorer classes of Turks as well—in truth, the march of civilization had come to a stand-still in Turkey. He could not but think that if the people of England had been informed in 1853 of the real character and state of affairs in Turkey, and of the real condition of Russia, they should never have had the Crimean War. Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Sidney Herbert believed that the British forces and their ally were to take Sebastopol in a few days, Lord Raglan and Admiral Dundas were of the same opinion, and formed strange estimates of the Russian forces, the one estimating them at 30,000, the other at 120,000 strong. They had had a Sebastopol Committee, who, in their Report, showed the state of ignorance which the English Government were in at that day. Lord Aberdeen in his evidence stated that the English Ministers were in a state of deplorable darkness on the subject, and acknowledged that the country was getting better information from the Press than they got from the Government, just as was the case in the present day. The Daily News, on the 23rd of June, showed that while the Foreign Office appeared to be in ignorance of the atrocities committed by the Turks in Bulgaria, 20,000 to 30,000 people had been brutally murdered. The Prime Minister stated, in answer to a question put to him respecting those assassinations, that Her Majesty's Government had not had any information of such atrocities. Now he (Mr. Holms) could not conceive how the Foreign Office could have kept the right hon. Gentleman in such a state of darkness. The British Consul in his despatch stated that he had reason to believe that great atrocities were being committed, and he said, in answer to an inquiry, that it had been stated by one person 5,000 or 6,000 people had been murdered; another said not 5,000 or 6,000, but 25,000 or 26,000 would, be nearer the truth. That the atrocities of the Circassians and Bashi Bazouks were committed with the full knowledge of the Turkish Government was evident from a letter which he had received from an American missionary in Bulgaria. The writer, who had every 171 opportunity of obtaining correc information, said.—It has been stated that the Turkish Government was forced to employ Circassians and Bashi Bazouks. This is entirely false. There were thousands of the best troops of the Turkish Army at Constantinople who might have been sent by railway in 24 hours to the scene of the revolt. Why were they not sent? The simple truth is that the late War Minister was determined to strike terror into the hearts of the Bulgarian people; hence the employment of the Circassians and Bashi Bazouks.Now, as in 1853, there was an evident desire in some quarters to magnify the resources and position of Turkey and to depreciate those of Russia. But what was the true state of things? Turkey was relapsing into barbarism, for she had receded rather than advanced since 1853. Corruption, oppression, and the Sultan had reigned conjointly; commerce had greatly diminished, in our case to the amount of 25 per cent, and the country was in a deplorable condition. She had a nominal debt of £156,000,000, of which she had received £86,000,000, and which represented on the Stock Exchange a value of only £18,150,000. It was true that her creditors had lost but little for they got back a considerable sum in the shape of extremely high interest. Taking into account all the interest above 4 per cent, they had been re-imbursed to the amount of about £25,000,000. But there still remained £61,000,000 which Turkey had received, and for this she had almost nothing to show—no public works, no railways, nothing, in short, of a useful public character. Russia, on the other hand, had progressed. Our trade with her was increasing rapidly. Her Debt was £159,000,000. Of this she had received £131,000,000, the value of which on the Stock Exchange was nearly £135,000,000, and for every £10,000 of money borrowed she had a mile of railway to show, independently of other improvements which she had effected. With respect to those railways, he denied they had been created for military purposes alone, and contended that they were to a considerable extent the result of the commercial progress of the country, and it should not be forgotten she had given freedom 10 years ago to 22,000,000 of serfs. All this went to prove that the relative condition of Russia and Turkey now was very different from what it was at the time of the Crimean War. As a 172 solution of the present difficulty it had been suggested that with regard to the future of Turkey a belt of free States should be created, including Roumania, Herzegovina, Bosnia, Servia, and Montenegro, all lying to the north of that country, and he thought the suggestion a good one, and the present a favourable moment for carrying it into effect; but if it was to be carried into effect at all, it would be absolutely necessary to include Bulgaria. It was there that the conflict of race and religion was keenest, and unless it were brought within the circle of free States they were only wasting their time and labour. It was said we ought to support Turkey on account of our position in India; but what did we gain by supporting that Mahomedan Power 20 years ago? They all knew how soon the Crimean War was followed by the terrible Sepoy Mutiny. He concluded that good Government was the only means by which we could continue to hold India.
Sir, as between the Motion and the Amendment that are before us, and as between the speeches by which that Motion and that Amendment respectively were supported, I must confess that I have very little difficulty in making my choice and giving my preference to the Amendment. I will immediately state the reason, but in the meantime I must make a remark on one at least of the speeches we have heard to-night in support of the Motion. I thought my hon. Friend who made the Motion (Mr. Bruce) advanced upon the whole a very elaborate and ingenious plea on what is termed the Ottoman side of the question. But when I heard the speech of the Hon. Gentleman the Seconder of the Motion (Mr. Hanbury), I am bound to confess that my hon. Friend the Mover of it was entirely eclipsed, to a degree which it was hardly possible to estimate. My hon. and learned Friend who proposed the Amendment (Mr. Forsyth), said it was such a speech as might have been made by a Turkish Minister; but I must say that I doubt whether any Turkish Minister would have gone to such a length to demonstrate as he did, from his own point of view, that there was indeed somebody who ought to be put out of Europe, but that it was not the Turkish Power, but those Christians whom he described as so inferior in every personal virtue, as having 173 no grievance except from their own superiors and their own Bishops, and, in fact, as having no cause of complaint whatever in relation to the Ottoman Government. On the showing of the hon. Member, nothing could be more clear or ingenuous than the character of the expulsion that ought to be effected; but with regard to the Motion itself, I wish to point out a strong reason against its adoption. I quite agree with the Mover that while maintaining our full and free liberty of criticism—and if we are not to criticize freely, our discussion is worthless—we ought not to give to this debate the character of one of our own domestic political discussions. I am therefore extremely glad that by the judicious action of the Mover of the Motion those words which had a tendency of that kind were removed, and also that the Government with, I think, very good judgment, are understood to have favoured that removal. But when I read the Motion I find that when it indicates a view—I know not whether it be peculiar to himself, but—which I cannot think is the general view of this House, especially when I interpret it by the speech which, he delivered. He desires that—Her Majesty's Government, while maintaining the respect due to existing Treaties, should exercise all their influence with the view of securing the common welfare and equal treatment of the various races and religions which are under the authority of the Sublime Porte.And the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth confirms me in the belief—in fact, conveys to me the knowledge—that I construe these words with accuracy, when I say they were intended to convey the opinion that it would be wrong, under the circumstances of the present war in Europe, to seek for a remedy that shall be applicable to these Provinces in particular, but that what we ought to launch in lieu of that method of proceeding is some plan which, applying to the whole of the Ottoman Empire, will establish the common welfare and equal treatment of all its populations. I hardly think the House will be disposed to give expression to that opinion. I can perfectly well understand the benevolent anxiety that whatever is done for practical reform in Turkey shall be done in such a way as to have at least the capacity of providing for the whole of the various populations 174 of the Ottoman Empire. But I cannot possibly understand that it would be right for us, as a branch of the British Legislature, at a time when a conflagration has begun to arise, which becomes more and more dangerous the longer it continues, and which may at any moment widen its range, to decline to send out the fire engine to put out that conflagration, until we have ascertained that every other dwelling in the Turkish Empire has been made fire-proof. That I take to be a familiar and homely, but the true method of representing the case. On that account, therefore, I hope the House will refuse to commit itself to any such opinion. Under the terms of the Amendment, I am not at all aware that the matter is likely to be decided by a division; but I find there the declaration that effectual guarantees are to be taken according to the sense of the Amendment, and especially with reference to the Slavonic Provinces for good and impartial government, irrespective of race or creed. Those appear to me to be well-chosen words. They exclude that unjust, unfounded, and offensive idea that we are here urging a merely religious conflict. We are doing, I apprehend, nothing of the kind. In so far as religion enters into this question it is our duty to consider it primarily and simply as a matter of fact, and as my hon. Friend points out, what we are to seek for are guarantees for good and equal government, and that we are to be guided entirely by the necessities of the case. I hope it will be allowed that I have not shown any undue impatience of late to intrude myself into the discussions of the House. I am reluctant to trouble them on a question where I must necessarily speak at some length, but at the same time I feel that I have a duty specially incumbent on me. And that duty arises because in this House at the present moment I am the only person who has been officially connected with this great question in its historical character, who is responsible for the proceedings connected with the Crimean War, and not only so, but who says now, in away when the Crimean War is in a very different state of popularity from that which it enjoyed and elicited a quarter of a century ago, that he does not at all shrink from that responsibility. I wish to establish the connection between the subject before us as we have it now and 175 the Crimean War. I shall endeavour to show that it is in the policy and in the results of the Crimean War that were a to seek for the means by which we may be enabled honourably and usefully to play our part in finding an honourable solution of the present question; and I must begin by trying to remove a perfectly intelligible and innocent, but very singular and curious misapprehension which has prevailed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham is not now in his place. On a recent occasion, when, unhappily I did not hear him—I was not in my place—my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bright), anxious that we should not, as it were, tumble accidentally into the muddle of another war, and not unnaturally alarmed by the tone of some of the manifestations that had been made in various portions of the Press, said—I quote him with substantial accuracy—that—"We drifted into a war in 1853, as we were then informed by the Foreign Minister of that date. Don't let us drift into another." Now, this is a very curious and remarkable example of the ease with which an expression perfectly innocent, and not open, as it was used, to any misapprehension at all, has nevertheless, by the force of what I may call mythical accretion, acquired a meaning totally different from that in which it was originally employed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham is not to blame. He says that which we know to be the common belief. The common belief is that Lord Clarendon in his place, being himself the Foreign Minister, did make the declaration that we had drifted into the Crimean War—that is to say, that we had been carried into it without our own free choice by causes over which we had no control, with no distinct view or policy to guide our course, as victims and playthings of mere circumstance. That is the popular belief; and it was expressed by my right hon. Friend. Now, Lord Clarendon never said any such thing. What he said was this—he used the expression, but I have before me the words, which I have taken the pains to find out in Hansard, and I do not believe that anybody has ever thought it at all necessary to refer to the original document to find what was his meaning. They will be seen in the 130th volume, page 568, if any one has the curiosity to 176 look for them. On that occasion the Marquess of Clanricarde had raised a debate in the House of Lords with regard to the policy of the Government—that was on the 14th of February, just before the declaration of war,—and Lord Clarendon having explained the views and the policy of the Government said that, having done with the Blue Book, he came now to the question whether we were at peace or at war, for the noble Marquess had wound up his arguments by asking, Are we at peace, or are we at war? Lord Clarendon answered that negotiations had been brought to a close, that diplomatic intercourse between the two countries had been suspended, and that therefore all questions of policy were over and gone by; that the Government still desired peace, but that the means for securing it had passed away from their hands, and in short, he said, "We are drifting towards war." In using that phrase, he did not mean to say that we had not had a policy, or that negotiations had not been entered into, but that the time for negotiations had gone by, and that we had reached a transition period, when we had nothing to do but to await the declaration of war which reached us three days afterwards, and it was under these circumstances that Lord Clarendon used the expression, "We are drifting towards war." I do not wish to beg the question that the policy of the Crimean War was a just or a well-considered one. That is a question upon which at the time there was some difference of opinion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham opposed the policy of the war with admirable consistency, and in that he was supported by his and my equally distinguished Friend the late Mr. Cobden, and they both firmly resisted the Crimean War and the policy of the Crimean War to the end. But what I wish to point out now, even to those who agreed with the right hon. Member for Birmingham and with Mr. Cobden at the time, is that, whatever objection there may have been to that war, we ought not to ignore or disown the consequences of that war, because it has given us the means and has imposed obligations out of which we can extract valuable rules and principles of conduct that will be most useful to us in the present crisis. What was then the policy of the Government at the time of the Crimean 177 War? It was two-fold. It was intended first, to defend the Turkish Empise against assaults from without, and, secondly, to defend her from corruption and dissolution from within. With regard to our power of defending her from dissolution from within diverse opinions were held. Some were sanguine on the point and some were the reverse. Lord Palmerston hoped for the best, but others did not share his hopes. We all, however, felt the necessity that existed for repelling the external danger, while we all cherished more or less of a hope that much might be effected within the precincts of the Turkish Empire for the purpose of applying a remedy to evils which were then felt, as they are now felt, to be gross and intolerable. We, therefore, felt it to be our duty on the one hand to repel all external danger and on the other to meet as far as we could the no less formidable and dangerous disease from within. These were the principles, as was explained by Lord Palmerston with very great force in the very able and lucid speech in discussing the Treaty of Peace in 1856, which the Government of that day had in view in entering upon the Crimean War. There were four points that suggested that line of operation. The first related to the navigation of the Danube, over which Russia was thought at the time to have a dangerous control; the second had reference to the condition of the Black Sea and to the position of Sebastopol, which was then deemed, and was justly deemed, to be a standing menace to Turkey under the circumstances that then existed; the third related to the Principalities, which were under the special protection of Russia—for which special protection the Treaty of Paris in 1856 substituted a collective guarantee of the Powers, completely and carefully effacing all the special rights of Russia in respect thereof; and the fourth and by far the most important of all referred to the power, which was placed by Treaty in the hands of Russia, which gave her the right of her disturbing the States of the East under the pretence of protecting the Christian subjects of the Porte. By the Treaties that had been entered into, as well as by usage, Russia was thus constituted the champion of Christianity in Turkey, and she had the power of affixing her own construction upon the privileges 178 accorded to the Christian subjects of the Porte, and it was open to her at any moment which she thought fit to select, to say—"Now is the time for me to point out that you are misusing the Christians in that particular place or circumstance. I call upon you to alter your conduct, or else I menace you with the threat of war." That was the state of things before the Crimean War, and Lord Palmerston in the speech to which I refer pointed out conclusively that the cause of the war grew directly out of that state of things. By the famous mission of Prince Menschikoff the demand of Russia was that her rights of interference with the internal affairs of Turkey should be rendered clearer, more defined, and stronger, and she manifested no intention of contracting or of receding from those rights. I will now refer shortly to the results of that war. In the meantime, however, let me entreat the House to consider the risks that we run from imprudent and thoughtless language being used with regard to Russia. Let us consider, in the first place, the enormous difference in the position of the Russia of 1853 and of the Russia of 1876. The Russia of 1853 was in the possession of her full and unbroken resources. By the Crimean War those resources in men, in money, and in credit, as well as in reputation, were so far impaired that in some respects even now, after 20 years of peace, Russia is not where she stood in 1853. In 1853, partly through the wars then recent between Austria and Hungary, she had attained the height of military glory. That is not now the condition of Russia. Although she offered throughout the Crimean War a most gallant resistance, and could not be said in the course of it to have lost military credit, her position in Europe since that war has not been what it was before it, and she does not hold that towering position which she appeared to hold at that period. On the contrary, she is now involved in military burdens and responsibilities with regard to wild and barbarous tribes, which she has thought it her duty, or has found it necessary, to subjugate or contend with in Central Asia, and although it may have been thought by those whom I believe to be light-minded politicians in this country, that her conflicts with those tribes have increased her military strength, yet in the opinion of others 179 those operations have entailed upon her immense burdens, and are among the many causes which now lead her to direct her attention to a more pacific policy in Europe. As I said before, previously to the Crimean War the military supremacy of Russia was acknowledged generally throughout Europe, but her supremacy was not only military, but political also. Of the five great Powers of Europe, Prussia was one; and the Prussia of that day was very different from the Germany of to-day. Prussia was then under Russian influence, and could not be calculated upon for any purpose that was at variance with her views on any subject. Austria, the second of the great Powers, although not under Russian influence to as large an extent as Prussia, had received such obligations from Russia in the shape of military assistance in her conflict with Hungary very shortly before, that it was no unreasonable expectation on the part of Russia, though it was not afterwards realized, that upon Austria to a considerable extent the Emperor of the day might count as not being an opponent to him in any plans he might have formed regarding the East. Above all, I cannot refuse to consider what the character of the Ruler of Russia was at the time and what it is now. He was a man of remarkable ability and of ambition corresponding with the range and scope of that ability. The ruling Sovereign of Russia now is a man who is possessed of an ambition of a wholly different character. He has already signalized his reign by a deed of a pacific character that is almost unequalled in history, especially in a country that is subject to a despotic Ruler. I mean the emancipation of the serfs, which has already won for him a far better, surer, and stronger title to immortality than any that the Emperor Nicholas could have enjoyed, even had he succeeded in planting the Russian flags upon the minarets of Constantinople. That is the difference between the Russia of to-day and the Russia of 1853. It not only surprises but it grieves me when I still find that there is a disposition in some quarters to attempt to set up the old Russian bugbear, and to conjure up from the deep a sort of phantasmagorial existence, and to threaten us with dangers that either do not exist, or are, at all events, indefinite 180 and remote, and to use them not merely for the purpose of terrifying the imagination, but, unfortunately, to excite and inflame the passions of the people. It is in consequence of that feeling that we have articles full of defiance to Russia, in which we are urged to obtain diplomatic successes over her, and some of which go to the extent of rejoicing that we have made a military demonstration against her. What is the meaning and effect of all this? It is that you who do these things are playing into the hands of Russia very effectually. The true friends of Russia are those who convey to the minds of the Christian populations of the Turkish Provinces the belief that Russia is their friend and champion. A great change has taken place in this respect. Before 1853 Russia was presumed to be the habitual champion of the whole of the Eastern Church irrespective of race, and I think I gathered from the speech of my hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution that Russia was still believed to be the hereditary champion of all the Eastern Churches. There cannot be a greater mistake. Russia is at present in sharp antagonism of feeling with all that portion of the Eastern Christians who belong to the Hellenic Church. The sharp and serious antagonism between the Hellenic and Slavonic portion of the Eastern Churches is not a mere religious and theological antagonism, or an antagonism remotely connected with ecclesiastical organization, but an antagonism which is material, and which affects the feelings of the Hellenic Christians towards the Slavonic element. When you read in the newspapers about tranquillity in Thessaly and Macedonia, and the apparent little disposition of Greece to mix in this quarrel, and about the volunteers of Greece to serve in this army and make contributions for carrying on the war—though I reserve to myself the liberty of retrenching considerably some of these statements—the fact is that these are the indications of the circumstances that the position of Russia with reference to the Christians of Greece has materially changed. If Russia is again to occupy the place she occupied in the minds of Christians of the East before the Crimean War, it will be the fault of those in this country who make speeches such as convey to the minds of Eastern Christendom that we are the 181 enemies of Christendom. After all, I want to know with which of these parties does the future condition of things lie? On the side of which of them is that great and powerful factor, the element of time? I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, in his optimizing disposition, will undertake to assure us of this—that the Mahomedans, strong in that panoply of virtue with which he invests them, are growing in power, in wealth, in influence, in knowledge, in population; whether when you go into a Mahomedan village you can tell by the state of its cultivation that it is superior to a Christian village; whether the native and inborn strength of the village is making way against the Christian power, or whether the direct reverse is the case. Unfortunately the statistics for the Turkish Empire are very imperfect, but I apprehend there is not the smallest doubt that the Mahomedans of these Provinces are a dwindling race and likewise a backward race; that there is no element of progress among them; that industry among them is low; that the old traditions of force and ruling by force tends to depress peaceful pursuits; that arts do not flourish among them; that skilled labour exists to no extent among them; that the difference in these respects is easily traceable between a Christian district and a Mahomedan one; and that the advance, such as it is, is a Christian, and not a Mahomedan advance. The hon. Mover appears so happy in that palace of fancy which he has reared for himself that I will not disturb him in it; but I do not think even he would deny that the Mahomedan is a dwindling race. [An hon. Member: They are subject to the conscription.] Surely the hon. Member does not pretend that "the conscription" would, during the 20 years Turkey has been at peace, account for the Mahomedan being a dwindling race? So much for the position of Russia; and now I ask what is the position of the other Powers to whom duty allies us in the consideration of this question? I will take the three together—Germany, Italy, and France—for there is no great difference between them. I hope the hon. Mover has before now discovered that the interruption I addressed to him was not a gratuitous interruption. He said that 182 Austria had objected to the autonomy of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I asked him for the reference, and he gave it to No. 517 at page 350 of these Papers. But he fell into a total and absolute mistake. He mistook a communication to the German Government for a communication from the German Government. No doubt a very pardonable mistake when hastily endeavouring to master the contents of this large volume. Those who wish to refer to it will see that the letter of Mr. Macdonell to Lord Derby is simply a communication of the views of Austria to the German Government. With regard to Germany, Italy, and France, I have not a word to object to what they have said or done in this matter. On the contrary, I consider especially that the Government of France in their communications have been prompted by admirable good sense, and that they have addressed themselves throughout to the maintenance of that which I take to be the most important by far of all the elements in this question—namely, the principle of the common concert of Europe. The position of Austria is undoubtedly in some respects a false position in regard to this question—in this, that she has internal domestic interests of her own, which tend to incline her to take a particular view of the internal affairs of the Turkish Empire, which really do not depend so much on the exigencies of the Turkish Empire as upon her own affairs. I have heard of the dreadful oppression which the Slavs in Hungary are suffering from Austria. I believe these statements to be conceived in a spirit of exaggeration. There is, undoubtedly, a jealousy between the Magyars and the Slavs, and a most important influence that jealousy has upon the conduct and policy of Austria. I am bound to say I do not think we have any cause of complaint against either Austria or Russia in this matter. I am convinced—and these Papers bring out the proof so far as they go—that both these Powers, like the three other Powers, have been labouring honestly and assiduously for the peaceful settlement of these questions. What their ulterior views may be we have no means of knowing. Selfish interests may enter into their views, and if we were placed locally as they are with reference to Turkey, I am afraid we should have some selfish interests 183 attributed to us also. But at the present moment we can see that they know that their palpable interest is, if possible, to adjourn this dangerous crisis—not for ever, but as long as may be—to adjourn it, we may be sanguine enough to hope for a time worth having, such as has elapsed since the Crimean War; but there is no doubt whatever that the Magyar jealousy of the Slav influence in Austria is of such a character that now the Magyar influence is dominant in that Empire, it extends itself legitimately beyond the Empire of Austria, and leads to favour this conclusion, that the internal wants of certain Provinces of the Turkish Empire are not to be met and satisfied, for fear the effect of such satisfaction should be to give additional strength to the Slav influence, not only in, but beyond the Turkish Empire. Therefore it is undoubtedly our duty to watch the proceedings of Austria with reference to the bias which she must needs receive from the existence of a force like that influencing her mind in one direction. Her arguments against autonomy were for this reason not those of an impartial Power. That, then, is the position of the Powers with whom we may be called upon to co-operate. Lord Palmerston at the close of the Crimean War stated with satisfaction, I may say with exultation, that the object of the war had been attained. The military audacity of Russia had been repressed. A very severe blow had been inflicted upon her in the diminution of her resources. The Danube had been freed, Sebastopol had been destroyed, and a provision had even been made—not one of a permanent character, perhaps, and one that has now disappeared—for limiting the force of Russia in the Black Sea. But much more than that; the whole Treaty-rights of Russia to interfere in Turkey had been destroyed. Let us recollect in what position this fact places us relatively to the Christians of Turkey. Remember that, for a generation before the Crimean War, the Christians of Turkey having a protector, the Crimean War abolished the functions of that protector, and do you suppose it was the view of Lord Palmerston, Lord Aberdeen, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and any of those principally concerned in making the Crimean War, that the effect of that war was to leave the Christians of Turkey in a worse position than 184 it found them, and to deprive them of the guardianship which they before enjoyed. No such thing, Sir. That which it did was not to take away from the one Power the right to require a redress for grievances on behalf of Turkey. It was to substitute a European conscience, expressed by collective guarantee and the concerted and general action of the European Powers for the sole and individual action of one of them. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of that principle; and I heartily concur with my hon. Friend who made the Motion in the remarks he made, which I believe lie at the root of the whole matter. Therefore I think the boast of Lord Palmerston with regard to the condition of the Christians of Turkey was sustained by the facts when he was able to point to that which actually occurred—that we had destroyed that dangerous prerogative of Russia which had been made use of in the hands of Nicholas as a means of destroying the peace of Europe, and we had substituted for that the new arrangement referred to in the Treaty of 1856, and recited there, under which the principles of civil equality were guaranteed to the Christians. Well, Sir, it may be said, and said truly, that in that Treaty there is an article which recites that the new legislation on behalf of the Christians in the Turkish Empire is an act of grace and of favour on the part of the Sultan, and it is likewise distinctly stated in that Treaty that out of the communication of this new legislation there shall not arise any right of interference in the internal affairs of the Turkish Empire, either separate or collective. Of that there is no doubt; and that was noticed in the debates in this House. Lord Palmerston was told that the provision on behalf of the Christians was really little better than waste paper, because you renounced any right of interference which might grow out of a communication made by the Sultan. Of course, it was open to state that, although we renounced the right of interference arising out of the communication, we did not renounce the right of interference which upon general grounds and general principles might well be held to apply to the Powers of Europe. But Lord Palmerston was not satisfied, and he lays down this doctrine, as reported in the 142nd volume of Hansard, pages 125–6— 185The Sultan, however, was perfectly willing to give to the Allies that sort of moral right which I think ought to be considered a sufficient security for the maintenance of the arrangements which were made, and which in themselves were satisfactory…. Cases will arise in which the firman will not be fully executed by the authorities of the Porte in distant provinces and in places not immediately under the view of the Consuls; and if that should occur the fact of the firman having been adverted to in the Treaty would give to the Allied Powers the moral right of diplomatic interference and of remonstrance with the Sultan, which I am perfectly convinced would be quite sufficient to accomplish the desired purpose….. The stipulation contained in this treaty will give to all, the Powers the right of watching whether the firman is carried into effect, and of remonstrating in case of violation of it.That laid down that one great result of the Crimean War was the establishment of the great principle of European concert as against that of the individual action and sole interference; and I now lay down that a second great result of the Crimean War was that, in the words of Lord Palmerston, a moral right of interference was acquired, not in petty details, not upon arbitrary and separate issues, but upon thereat, broad, general question whether the engagements which Turkey then solemnly took in the face of the world to redress the evils and abuses of her Government and to extend to all her subjects the blessings of civil and religious freedom have been fulfilled or whether they have not. These were great results, and if we did go to war, and if we did expend and suffer much in treasure and in life, yet by these consequences of the war foundations were laid that promised the maintenance, at least for a considerable time, of tranquillity in the East, and principles were established and sanctioned, under the shield and cover of which we have the power, moral as well as physical, to do all that the case requires. I have stated what are the attitude and condition of other countries; it is necessary to say something about the attitude and condition of Turkey herself. I am not about to accuse Turkey of iniquity; I do not believe that dishonourable intention has been at the bottom of these failures. We have had an experience of more than 20 years—of 20 years of such tranquillity as I do not believe, in the course of its troubled annals, the Turkish Empire ever had enjoyed. What has been the result and fruit of those 20 in respect to internal reform, in respect 186 to the repression and cure of those tremendous mischiefs, which were recognized at the time of the Crimean War, recognized by none more clearly than by those who were most anxious to repel the aggressions of Russia—such men as Lord Palmerston and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—Lord Palmerston, who has been taken from us in a distinguished old age, and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who still lives, at an age still more advanced, to give the weight of his authority to principles then laid down as those of a sound and enlightened policy? I ask the question, then, have these Turkish engagements been fulfilled or have they not? If not, it is not, in my opinion, iniquity—I am afraid I must say it is impotence: a moral blight seems to have rested on every large or effective scheme of improvement. The principles of civil society as they are understood in Europe are not understood in Turkey, are not embraced in the Ottoman faith. Particular concessions may be made, and particular evils may be mitigated; men of ability and enlightened views may rise from time to time, such as Fuad Pasha and Mehemet Ali; but you have no security for the succession of such men; you have no tradition of their continuance. They are not like the men in that race of the Greeks, in which he who carried the light, when he had achieved his course, handed it on to the one who ran next; they are more like the aloe, which flowers only once in a long period of years, or the Phœnix, which never exists. It would take time, otherwise it would not be difficult to go through long details founded, not upon arbitrary individual opinions, but upon the pages of this Blue Book—upon particulars carefully and faithfully selected from these pages to show what are the causes of this failure; but I will satisfy myself almost exclusively by quoting the words of Lord Derby. On the 13th of June, in a despatch on Page 253 of the Papers numbered 3, he sums up the case in these words:—It is undeniable that the liberal and enlightened projects of reforms which have from time to time been promulgated at Constantinople, have not been brought into practical operation in the Provinces.What can we say of such testimony as this? Can we add to it: can we detract from it? If there has been a prepossession in the proceedings of the present 187 Government, it has not been one adverse to the Ottoman Porte, and yet Lord Derby sums up the case in that broad and equivocal declaration, that the projects of reforms of the Turkish Government have not been carried into practical operation in the Provinces. I hardly know whether any other authority can be required. One word, however, I will say on the authority of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Everyone who hears me is aware of the great ability of this distinguished statesman and diplomatist. Everyone knows that if there has been one point more marked than another in the career of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe it was a certain antagonism to Russian influence. Partly in consequence of that antagonism, and partly in consequence of his patriotic sentiments—and no doubt from the latter in the main, he was one of the leading men who maintained in all its firmness and force the policy pursued in 1853. His strong hand was that which held up high before the Ottoman Porte all the symbols of that policy. You have heard his witness of late years; in this year you have seen, with no sign of weakness from his age, but with a vigour worthy of his best time, he has recorded his sorrowful conviction that these promises have remained unfulfilled, and that a new necessity has arisen for adopting new measures in order to attain those ends for the attainment of which these promises were given and exacted. Is it necessary to refer to the number of indications we have in these very remark able and most interesting Papers, in which, as far as I can judge, there has apparently been no suppression, but a liberal communication of the information at the command of the Government? Although they unfortunately came late into our hands, they afford the fullest proofs of the utterly unsatisfactory state of things at the present moment, and almost at more points than I care to number I find clear indications of that mournful state of things. Such is the defect of sound original principles and notions of government in Turkey, and such the tendency to abuses in human nature—such is our wilful self-delusion when we shut our eyes to facts—that there is no principle of health-like vigour at Constantinople necessary to propel the orders of the Turkish Government through the Provinces. Let us take as 188 an instance what has happened lately. A set of promises are given, and after they are given, it is not considered necessary to fulfil them to-day. They are put off until to-morrow or the day after, or the next day, and, in the meantime, those whose self-interests are concerned begin to devise impediments and obstructions. A pressure of business arises in other quarters, and as the stages of delay are multiplied, the reasons for fresh delay are always forthcoming. So it goes on until some great difficulty arises, such as the rebellion in the Herzegovina. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister sagaciously remarked at the Lord Mayor's dinner last year at the Mansion House, that this rebellion acquired a more formidable character, because it was combined with what was understood to be an act of repudiation. And what happened then? Simply, that which has always happened when a crisis of the kind has arisen—namely, the issue of a new document, with a new set of promises, and a new recital of the daily, sleepless care of the reigning Sultan and his Government as to the performance of the duties of civilized society and the establishment of perfect and absolute equality among his subjects. And these promises, which are so much wind—for they have not the solidity of paper, they are so much breath—issue into the air and mix with other currents. And it is supposed that upon this we are to rely, without reflecting that we have had the same thing over and over and over again. To these promises we have entrusted the happiness of millions, and to these promises the interests and welfare of millions of the people of Turkey have been sacrificed. I contend that to these promises there must be an end, and if sensible to the obligations of duty and honour, and looking back a quarter of a century ago to the rights we then acquired and the obligations we then came under, we ought to insist that there should be some reality in the guarantees—if with guarantees we are to be content—given by the Turkish Government. We must make sure in one way or the other that this terrible state of things is not to be indefinite. Something has been said about the great difficulty of putting down the present revolt in consequence of the fact that the refugees did not return to their homes. Certainly, 189 very few did return. The terror of the Insurgents may have kept back some from returning, but was that the only cause? Have hon. Members read the account of the massacre of 12 Christian refugees who were returning to their homes last October in consequence of the invitation of the Turkish Government? If you have not read it, it is time you did, before you attempt to weigh the causes that kept the refugees from returning. It is not in the Blue Book last presented to the House, but in that which was presented four months ago, and which had reference to the period anterior to the Andrassy Note. It is not simply the fact that the 12 refugees were murdered. That would be sad enough by itself, but under what circumstances were they murdered and what were the consequences of the transaction and the redress they have obtained? Those refugees came back on the invitation of the Ottoman Government, and under the protection of the regular Turkish troops. On arriving they were murdered by the Aghas and the Turkish troops looked on in silence at the transaction. Is it possible for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) to hear this recital, and have no misgiving about the pictures he has drawn to-night? What followed? Was this covered up for weeks together, as were the Bulgarian atrocities, by some devices which I have difficulty in describing? No, it became known in Constantinople, and Sir Henry Elliot discharged his duties, as he always does, in the spirit of an honourable and enlightened Christian diplomatist. He at once sent and informed the Grand Vizier, who shared his indignation and promised redress. Sir Henry Elliot reported the interview with the Grand Vizier on the 26th of October. On the 23rd of November Sir Henry Elliot wrote to Downing Street to say that nothing whatever had been done; and from the 23rd of November, 1875, to the 31st of July, 1876, that outrage remains unredressed. What can you expect from a system under which these things take place? Let me give you another instance in which the Mahomedans were the sufferers, and I will quote now from the Salonica Papers. After the population of Salonica had become sufficiently calm to allow judicial proceeding connected with the murder of the two Consuls to 190 begin, a Court assembled on the spot. The criminal justice of the Turkish Empire was put in motion, and the delegates of the chief European Powers attended the Court and watched the proceedings. Punishment was inflicted on three leading persons. The first was the colonel of the garrison and chief of the police. He was degraded from his military rank and sentenced to one year's imprisonment. The second was the commander of the garrison, who was sentenced to 45 days' imprisonment. The third was the commander of the corvette, and he was also sentenced to 45 days' imprisonment. The delegates were not satisfied with these sentences, and they admonished the Porte—rather a singular proceeding—that they were not sufficiently severe. However, they had been passed, and the punishment had been inflicted, and I suppose those upon whom they had been passed had a moral title to presume that, as they had gone through their trial and received judgment, the matter was at an end. And so it would have been among European nations, and according to European ideas of justice. It was, however, not so according to Ottoman ideas. The German Government—which is somewhat prompt and decisive in the views it takes upon these matters—was not satisfied with these sentences, but it appeared that the matter could quite easily be settled. True, they had gone through a course of criminal jurisdiction once, but there was no reason why they should not undergo it again. The venue was accordingly changed, and a Court met in Constantinople. The gentleman who was condemned to one year's imprisonment now got, in addition to degradation, 15 years' with hard labour. The gentleman the commander of the garrison, who got 45 days' imprisonment, was sentenced to three years in a fortress, and the commander of the corvette, who also got 45 days at the first trial, was turned down from his rank and received 10 years' imprisonment. Now, that is the mode of administering criminal justice under political pressure in the Turkish Empire through its Ottoman rulers towards its Mahomedan subjects. I am one of those who greatly desire to maintain the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire, but as to setting up the notion of independence in the exact sense in which it applies to great and highly-civilized 191 European communities, it is perfectly plain that any such notion could find no more than a partial application in Turkey. The state of things in Bosnia and Herzegovina was very bad. Unfortunately, the Ottoman Government, when it makes one step forward, is rather giving to taking two steps backward. Certain things have been done under the Firman of 1856; but since then a new set of mischiefs of a fiscal and financial character have come into operation, and they appear to weigh upon Christians and Mahomedans very nearly alike. The amount of tithes has been increased, and the system of realizing money by a sale of tithe-farming was in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1875. Upon the breaking out of the rebellion there came immediately the usual crop of promises, and among them was the promise that the system of farming the tithes should be given up, and that the tithes should be collected directly by the officers of the Government. A decree was issued accordingly, but so mutable are the decrees of the central power that this very year, and while the rebellion was going on, the decree was recalled, and the system of tithe farming was re-established. I grant that since then another change has taken place. In June that revocation was re-revoked, and it was again ordered that the tithes should be collected by the Government. But what security have we that another may not be added to the many revocations, and that when the pressure is a little relaxed, the tax farmer, whether Christian or Mahomedan, it does not matter which, may not be re-instated in all his glory? These are a small number of instances out of many which might be given, but I fall back upon the declaration of Lord Derby, that the liberal and enlightened reforms which had been agreed to at Constantinople had not been carried into practical operation. My hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution referred to the fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina the evidence of a Christian would not be taken in Court against that of a Mahomedan, and he added that still there was very little difference between the condition of the Christian and the Mahomedan. Well, my hon. Friend is a man upon whom in all circumstances of social life I would place the utmost reliance, and probably he would not be indisposed to entertain a somewhat similar feeling 192 towards myself, but if I could take him into Court and give evidence against him, he not being able to give evidence on his own behalf, I do not think he would feel altogether comfortable, or be inclined to accede to the proposition that there was very little difference in our relative position. Well, Sir, I have come to the conclusion that the administration of its insurgent Provinces on the old footing is a task which, unless we are disposed to close our eyes to the light of day, we must now at length, however reluctantly, admit the Porte is incompetent to fulfil, and that the real question—the real remaining question—is not whether the supremacy of the Porte can be established in its ancient form as a supremacy of administration, but whether its political supremacy in some improved form can be—as I hope it may be—still maintained. It is said that these revolts are maintained by foreign instigation, and that is the uniform burden of the song when these cases occur. It is always the foreigner who does it. It was the same in Italy. It was said there that it was not the Italians, but the Piedmontese; Italy was persuaded that it was well governed; but it was the Piedmontese that induced them to go to war. What a strange thing however, is this—that since Italy has been united, perfect peace has prevailed over Italy. A most singular result this of that action of foreign instigation. I admit that in this case there has been, and there is, a great deal of foreign instigation, but it is not the instigation of States. That is, I think, perfectly clear upon the face of it. It comes in a great degree from Russian committees, but they are entirely a reflex of popular opinion. It comes from Montenegro; but a little Sovereign—I might almost say a trumpery Sovereign, if measured by the extent of his dominions—cannot possibly restrain the ardent sympathies of his people. It is not from Servia that the sympathies come, it is from Dalmatia. Dalmatia has been a great source of support and a sure harbour of refuge, and Dalmatia is Austrian, and none of you suspect Austria of a disposition to support these insurrections. If it were an insurrection of States you might interfere, you might remonstrate against it. It is, however, popular sympathy—an influence, as it were, passing through the air—an influence 193 working in detail in a way which, you cannot detect or effectually check. Foreign instigation has no doubt done much to sustain the revolts; you may regret it, but you cannot prevent it, and it is idle to refuse to recognize the distinction between the strong, irrepressible popular sympathy flowing in on every side and the mere intrigues and action of States. And now, Sir, I must reluctantly state, with the exercise of that right of criticism which we all possess, the points on which I am not satisfied with the action of Her Majesty's Government. I think, with the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Resolution, that Her Majesty's Government committed a very serious error at the period preceding the formation of the Andrassy Note, and at the time of the first Consular intervention, in allowing what I may call the initiative of concert and intervention to pass from their hands. I agree with my hon. Friend that the Three Great Northern Powers, whom we all desire to see living in concert, had no right to form themselves into an entity and take the initiative out of the joint hands of the Powers of Europe. I am sorry to say that in my opinion the error to which I have referred has been the source of most of the difficulties and inconveniences that have since been experienced. I look upon the concert of Europe as the greatest of all the results achieved by the Crimean War, as thus Europe speaks unitedly, and in a way that cannot be resisted; but as soon as three Powers are separated from the other three, factions arise which have a fatal effect upon the securing of concert in action, and encouragement is given to the resistance of wise counsels, and that without the slightest countervailing advantage. It may be my prejudice, but I am sorry to say I sometimes think I can divine the reason why you did not do what Lord Hammond said—namely, vigorously remonstrate and protest against the separate initiative of the Three Empires. Most certainly we ought to have made that remonstrance. Perhaps we did make it. If we did, Her Majesty's Government might have been told, "You are not at all indisposed to sole action when it suits your purpose, as in the case of the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares, when, without consulting anybody, you placed yourselves very much in the position of a private 194 company. This is a very important change in the position of the Porte for which hitherto you have proclaimed an absolute supremacy over the claims of the Suez Canal, and you do not come into Court with clean hands to protest against the partial action of the Three Powers." However that may be, on the thing itself I place the greatest reliance. I think you have most unwisely abandoned and surrendered that principle of the concert of Europe which I hope henceforward you will do your utmost to re-establish. By the concert of Europe you may succeed in restoring tranquillity; without it you never can. You may take a side and you may stimulate passion in connection with any question; you may do much to disturb a subject that is sufficiently disturbed and embroiled already; but if your object is to compose and settle it you must beat back upon the course in which you have been engaged, and instead of the system of sole action, you must return to the policy established by the Crimean War, and endeavour, whatever you do, to do it in concert with the Great Powers. The Government have weakened their own hands by forgetting—for it must have been forgetfulness—that their position in regard to Turkey is not merely that of friends entitled to give friendly advice, buts likewise that of one who has acquired what Lord Palmerston called the moral right of offering remonstrance. These reforms, concerning which Lord Derby has written so admirably in his despatches, were not mere independent legislation on the part of the Sultan, but they were covenants entered into between the Sultan and his subjects, and for which the Powers of Europe were made morally responsible, and I therefore hold that it was an entire mistake on the part of Her Majesty's Government when, after adopting the Andrassy Note, they refused to join the Powers in pressing its acceptance on the Porte, with the remark that they could not go beyond the tendering of friendly advice on the subject. If you confine yourself to this you may tender friendly advice until the crack of doom. It is only by the weight of authority, and that alone, that can gain the objects that are to be had in view. If you ask Lord Stratford de Redcliffe what kind of friendly advice he tendered to the Porte, what it was that gave him so much influence 195 with the Ottoman Government, and enabled him to do so much good in the way of redressing grievances, he will give you a lesson that you will find useful. I agree with much of what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Seconder of the Amendment in regard to the despatch of the fleet to Besika Bay. It now seems that the fleet were so despatched as a measure of defence, upon the request of our Ambassador, who acted in strict concert with all the other Ambassadors in Constantinople. Notwithstanding this, it has pleased some of the public instructors in this country to construe that despatch as a measure of demonstration and of menace; and so far from Her Majesty's Government correcting that impression, they allowed that operation to bear the erroneous construction which had been placed upon it. The right hon. Gentleman sat still in his place and listened to compliments based upon that interpretation of the proceeding, and a similar circumstance occurred in the other House. My noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition put a Question in which he made a rather marked reference to the despatch of the Fleet, and the right hon. Gentleman in replying to him did nothing to remove the impression to which I have referred. Similar Questions were put in the other House of Parliament, with similar results, and I was certainly surprised to find in the Papers that have been laid before Parliament an official declaration that the critics who had been objecting to this despatch of the Fleet as a demonstration of naval force would have to eat their criticisms, for the reason that the movement was made with a pacific purpose and after concert with those who were supposed to be effected by the menace. It appears to me that this system of double construction is one which deserves notice, criticism, and censure, and I should dwell upon it more at length were it not that I regard this as a question in consequence of its difficulty as affecting the adoption of proper regulations for the future rather than one calling for the establishment of objections to what has been done in the past. Finally, although I know the action of the Government in respecting the Berlin Memorandum has met with a great deal of approbation, I do not hesitate to express my concurrence with the sentiments of the noble Lord the Member for 196 Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) in thinking that it was an error to reject the Memorandum, instead of making it the basis of communication with the Powers. What Her Majesty's Government did was to reject the Memorandum and then, to recommend the Porte not to reject it, but to make it a subject of detailed investigation. Supposing the advice to have been as sound as it was inconsistent with their own action, why did Her Majesty's Government not give their aid to the Porte in making the investigation? The letters on the subject of the Memorandum which appear among these despatches are just such letters as might have been written by some very able leading counsel engaged to say everything that could be said against the document. Objections are taken which the Ottoman Government disowns. They Memorandum required the Porte to find funds for rebuilding the houses of the refugees. It is said here that the Porte could not do that, for she could not find funds, did not possess any, and could not borrow. Yet a few weeks before the Porte very freely takes that very engagement which Lord Derby recommended them not to take, because it was impossible to fulfil. Again, one of the great demands of the Insurgents to which objection is taken by the British Government is that if they return to their country they should return armed. "Oh," said the British Government, "that will not do; that will lead to a collision." They cannot bear the idea of the collision that will arise from these two parties being armed, and therefore they propose that one party which is unarmed shall go into the presence of another which is armed. That is the position of our Government; but what of the Turkish Government? Their proposition is, I must say, a very much more reasonable one, as may be seen, from Page 210 of these Papers, in the letter of Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Derby of May 9, where it says that—The Porte has never intimated an intention of disarming the Christiana, and judging from the language both of Raschid Pasha and of Hussein Avni Pasha, the Minister of War, there will not, I think, be any difficulty in obtaining an assurance that it will not be attempted.Notwithstanding this, Her Majesty's Government, more Turkish than the Turks, rush into the field, and say this 197 is a thing we cannot hear of, for a collision will be certain to ensue. They, therefore proposed that one side should be disarmed, and that it should then go into the presence of an armed population. Why did they not act in concert and in council, and bring these points upon the carpet one by one? They take another objection, which seems to me to be perfectly good—namely, that the Berlin Note had not provided for what was to take place at the expiration of the period of joint action, and that it was therefore likely to lead to a prolongation of hostilities, but it was clear from the Papers, that in the opinion of the other Powers; there would have been no difficulty in removing that passage from the document. What, then, was the effect of the rejection of the Memorandum? We were told that the effect of its rejection was to produce a very satisfactory feeling of confidence on the part of the Turks and put them in an extremely good humour towards the Christian populations of the Principalities, and, indeed, towards the whole world. But what was the effect upon the people of Servia and Montenegro? Why, that as long as they saw the Powers of Europe at work to procure a pacific solution, it was possible to keep them from resorting to arms; but when you came in and deliberately overthrew the plans proposed, and. as deliberately announced that you had no plan of your own, and were prepared to let things take their course, these people, deprived of all reasonable hope, drew the sword from the scabbard, and you see the result in the war which followed. There is another subject into which I will not enter, for I feel that I have already detained the House too long; and it has been touched before, and will probably be touched by others—I mean the cruelties practised in Bulgaria. I will only express a hope that Her Majesty's Government will take care that we have no sham inquiry into them. The accounts I receive inspire me with an apprehension that the person who has been chosen to conduct the inquiry is not well suited for the purpose; that neither his disposition nor his history points him out as in the slightest degree likely to go to the root of the matter. I shall not presume to pronounce a definite judgment; but, after all that has taken place, after all these delays before any considerable 198 proportion of the truth was allowed to come into view in this country, I do hope that the Government will take care that the inquiry shall be a real inquiry, and that those who have incurred so deep a guilt shall be brought to account for it. It may be said—"You have criticized the policy of the Government in these respects. Can you suggest any plan?" My answer is that it would be the greatest presumption on my part to do so. I do not deny the difficulties of the case. I am glad on this account that the question is not made a question of censure in the form of a vote. To a formal approval of the policy of the Government it would be impossible for me to assent, but I am sensible of the great difficulties with which they have had to deal. I have spoken, for example, with an honest and cordial tribute of admiration of the present Emperor of Russia. I am not, however, prepared to say that every servant of the Emperor of Russia in foreign lands—particularly, perhaps, near the seat of these events—commands equal confidence to that which we ought to feel in His Majesty. These are great difficulties for the Government; but it seems to me that, though a plan cannot be suggested, it is not difficult to discern what ought to be the principles of policy which should guide the course of this country. In the first place, I heard with much satisfaction the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Resolution say that it was impossible again to be satisfied with the mere utterance of a promise; there must be more than that; something added to the promise in order to justify acceptance on our part. Supposing, then, we are agreed that the case is serious and that mere promises cannot be accepted, the next principle is that we must endeavour to obtain European concert. The absence of European concert upon this question will infallibly imply—not, perhaps, at present, but hereafter—the arriving at European convulsion. The choice is between the two. European concert may not succeed. Everything else must fail. What is this concert to be for? I say, without the least hesitation, it must be for measures conceived in the spirit and advancing in the direction of self-government. Autonomy is a word which has acquired a technical sense. I will not undertake to say anything definite, either positive or 199 negative, about it; but this I will say, that the state of the Turkish Empire, the long experience of now half-a-century, show us distinctly that it is in this direction, and in this direction only, that relief is to be had. Nothing else, probably, not even the most miserable measure of relief can be found from any other source. Let the House consider that this is no new case. Consider how the monster structure of the Turkish Empire is dotted all over with instances in which the central Power has been totally unable to discharge the first duties of Government, and in which the cure has been found by bringing in, in various forms, popular and local action. There is the case of the Kingdom of Greece, where, mainly in consequence of the errors of the Turks themselves, this action proceeded to the actual establishment of independence. I need not dwell upon this because I hope it may be possible to stop short of so extreme a result. There is the case of the Lebanon. There you had to deal with a position of extreme difficulty. Yet there the establishment of principles of local administration put an end to the state of things which prevailed some 12 or 15 years ago, and with which the Porte, by the exercise of the central Power, had found itself unequal to deal. There is the island of Samos—I believe I am accurate in the name of the island—tranquil, and comparatively flourishing and happy because it enjoys the privileges of self-government. But, above all, there is the case of Servia itself, where, by the establishment of full local privileges, great relief was given to the Porte and tranquillity to the East. Nor is it Servia which is now the root of these difficulties. Servia has been compelled to come in in a later stage; but it is sympathies flowing from other quarters, and not from Servia, which have caused these troubles. We have also to look at what has been done in Crete. But the case I Quote with the utmost confidence is the case of the Principalities. Of all the results of the Crimean War there is none so satisfactory, and, I confess, I remember with some envy that France had a larger share than we had in bringing about this result. The Principalities, when disunited, were much more open to intrigue from without. Their union made them a State of respectable dimensions, secured 200 development from within; and the effect has been, not, perhaps, the establishment of a perfect Government, but, at all events, an immense material and moral development there. Above all, in the view of foreign policy, these very countries, which were the door through which Russia found it convenient to advance into Turkey, have now become a firm military barrier against her. It is sometimes said that the case of the Principalities is different because there are very few Mahomedans there, whereas there are many in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This may be so, but these same gentlemen tell us that it is not a question of religion. I believe in the main they are right; but I think there are various instances which show us that a mere difference of religion, if it stands alone, does not constitute a hopeless difficulty. I believe there is at this moment in the free Kingdom of Greece, in the Island of Eubœa, no inconsiderable number of Mahomedan squires—if I may call them so—or landed proprietors, who live in peace and satisfaction, with their lands cultivated by Christian peasants and under a Christian Government. In the Principalities the land question is one of considerable difficulty. It is true there was no difference of religion, but there was a great difference of proprietary rights, and it led to a sharp conflict. Notwithstanding that, the power of free government has been found perfectly effectual to deal with the difficulty, and most certainly I think that a survey of the whole circuit of Turkish Empire points out to us in the most distinct manner, that it is in the direction of free local government, and in that direction alone, that we can seek a remedy for the present disorder. Now, Sir, I sympathized very much with the right hon. Gentleman the other night when he said he could not, in answer to a Question, deal with the point put to him from below the Gangway on the other side of the House with regard to immediate action. I sympathize, however, with the question as far as regards the object which the hon. Member had in view. Every day lost in this matter, I feel convinced, causes additional risk and hazard. It seems to me to be of the utmost consequence that, if possible, there should be some friendly European action, firm and intelligent in its character, before either of the parties has gained a decisive advantage over 201 the other. I may be wrong, but I see little probability of profit to the Ottoman Power by this war. It appears to me that, in all likelihood, if she should succeed in putting her enemies on the defensive, yet when they are on the defensive she will not be able to subdue them. The power of popular sympathy coming in from every side will be far greater than she can by possibility cope with. On the other hand, should the Servians and the Montenegrins obtain decisive advantages in the field, it will be most difficult to deal with them when they are raised to a height of sanguine expectation and confidence, and possess probably an extended sympathy and support. I, therefore, greatly hope, in the interests of general peace, that it may be found possible to pursue some prompt action with a view to interference in this matter, for I am not ashamed to say that I still desire, if possible, the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire. I do not see how, if that is broken up, we can avoid very serious difficulties and dangers. On the other hand, I believe that if we can get rid of the difficulties of local administration by a Power which is wholly incompetent to conduct it, especially from Constantinople, we may attain the very practical object of good government. Gentlemen have spoken of the formation of a Southern Slav State, but depend upon it it is much more easily said than done. And if it were established it would be found to raise up a new set of difficulties and dangers. Within these limits, which I have feebly endeavoured to indicate, and to which I think there is no inconsiderable approximation among the various speakers in this House, I most earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government may be able to discover a solution of this question—a solution which may have the effect of giving us the consolatory assurance that all our efforts and sacrifices made at the time of the Crimean War were not made in vain—a solution which may adjourn, and perhaps adjourn for a long time, the raising of a greater question as to the presence of the Turkish Power in Europe, which we feel to be fraught with serious and grave considerations of uncertainty, and perhaps of danger; and a solution which, above all, may afford to a population that has suffered long and suffered much a hope of gaining at 202 length the benefits of rational government and civilized life.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I feel considerable difficulty in dealing with the Resolutions which I find on the Paper. If they expressed confidence or involved censure, of course it would not be difficult to deal with them; but at present, although they are numerous, they only express a sentiment, and not a very strong one. I must say I much regret, as censure or confidence has not been proposed, that my hon. Friend or any other hon. Gentleman who thought fit to bring before this House the discussion of this matter should not have moved simply for Papers. If the House of Commons is really to express its opinion on these grave events, I should have wished that there should have been an opinion more decided and expressed in language more commanding; but it is impossible to read these Resolutions without at once seeing that the principle and point of them, as they were originally drawn, have been taken away from them. There was, indeed, one Amendment intended to be proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), which did imply a censure on the Government; nor can I see why it was withdrawn, because we have had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in support of it. It was avowedly a speech of censure against the Government, and coming from such a quarter I think the noble Lord might have taken the opinion of the House upon the subject. I will not enter into the politics of the Crimean War. Having no Resolution which I am called upon to combat, I hold that my principal duty here is not to vindicate—for it has not been attacked except by the right hon. Gentleman—but to explain the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter from the beginning. Perhaps, before I make these remarks, I might notice some which have been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms) on a subject of a most painful character, but which I think ought not to have been introduced into this debate. I mean the atrocities alleged to have been committed in consequence of the invasion of Bulgaria. I think on this occasion it would be quite out of keeping to enter into any controversy on that subject. 203 Admit that all the Bulgarian atrocities that have been brought under the consideration of the House are genuine, and admit that they have all been committed by one side—and I am not prepared to make either of these admissions—everybody must feel that that is a question completely outside that which we are called upon to consider now, which is really whether the House approves or not—though they may not choose to have a Resolution—of the policy of the Government in the late negotiations. But the hon. Gentleman did make one charge against Her Majesty's Government which I must notice. He said there was printed among these Papers a Report of our Consul respecting these massacres which must have been kept back from me by the Foreign Office. I must vindicate the Foreign Office. Neither my noble Friend the Secretary of State, however, nor myself, considered that Report was one which at all justified the statements which were made, and which were subsequently the subject of discussion in this House. A Consul hears, and no doubt truly, that there has been extremely wild work on the part of some of the Bashi-Bazouks, and he engages some one to go to a coffee house frequented by these ruffians, where he listens to the reports of the wild work that has been going on. One present says—"5,000 or 6,000 must have perished innocently," when another answers—"If you had said 25,000 or 26,000 you would have been more correct," as if exulting in the carnage. Now we know very well how difficult it is even in civilized nations with a well-organized police to obtain accurate information on such points, and how frequently we hear of 100,000 men being assembled on a public occasion when subsequent inquiry showed that the number was not more than 10,000 I was not justified for a moment to adopt that coffee house babble brought by an anonymous Bulgarian to a Consul as at all furnishing a basis of belief that the accounts subsequently received had any justification. I will only mention one more circumstance with reference to this subject, which may be one worthy the attention of the House if it chose to consider it singly and apart, but which I think ought to be kept out of a discussion as to the conduct of the Government in these negotiations. 204 I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite speak as he did just now with so much contumely and want of confidence of the person to whom was intrusted the investigation on the spot of these dreadful atrocities that have taken place. I really do not know who the individual is to whom the right hon. Gentleman refers, but I hope he is not an Englishman. [Mr. Gladstone: Oh, no!] If it be Mr. Baring—[Mr. Gladstone: Oh, dear, no!]—I should be most pained to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman because he possesses the most entire confidence of the Ambassador, and our own confidence as well. I should say that we have already received a despatch from Mr. Baring on this subject, and he has made an investigation with regard to a report which produced a deep impression on this House—namely, the story that we heard about 40 girls being burned. He says that there is not the slightest foundation for that story, and that it is a complete fabrication. The right hon. Gentleman went on to describe with most telling effect, the massacre of some refugees who tried to return to their country; but in the Papers before the House there is an account of the first incident in the insurrection in Herzegovina, and it began in this way. It would seem that the insurrection of Herzegovina began to break out in July, 1875, by a disturbance arising out of the return of some of the inhabitants who had emigrated, from Montenegro. The circumstances are identical with those mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The insurgents attacked and captured the caravan, and murdered and beheaded five Turkish travellers. It appears, therefore, that the refugees could defend themselves and massacre the Turks; and this only shows that in those countries there are views and feelings of humanity altogether different from our own, and that on both sides these horrible scenes have been occurring. But at the present moment, although the right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the promises of the Turkish Minister are utterly valueless, and that the influence of Her Majesty's Ambassador is of no avail, I can only say that I believe great exertions are being made to prevent a repetition of any incidents of this kind, and that our interference has been productive of great good. The insurrection, 205 as I have said, commenced in the month of July, 1875, and after some time—in August—the three Imperial Powers made a proposition that there should be a delegation of Consuls from the States, called by courtesy the six Great Powers, to treat with the insurgents. I do not know whether we took a wise step in agreeing to that proposal. We objected to it on principle, and I think Lord Derby addressed a letter to Sir Henry Elliot in which he expressed that opinion of the Government. He said that Her Majesty's Government had since the outbreak of the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina deprecated diplomatic intervention of the other Powers in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire, but that they agreed to the Consular Commission although they felt little good would result from it. The Government, on the other hand, did not counsel the Porte to resist any advice which they might consider to be advantageous, adding that they could not conceal from themselves the gravity of the situation owing to the weakness exhibited by the Porte in dealing with the insurrection in its early stages, the want of confidence in its administration, and the state of collapse in which its Government had been allowed to fall. The responsibility of that condition of affairs, the despatch from which I am quoting went on to say, must rest with the Sultan and his Government, and all that could be done by Her Majesty's Government was to give such advice as they deemed to be best under the circumstances. That was the feeling by which we were influenced throughout these transactions. After the failure of the Consular Commission the rumour arose that the three Imperial Powers were preparing a Note on the state of Herzegovina, and that was the celebrated Andrassy Note. We did not conceal from the House on a previous occasion that Her Majesty's Government hesitated much before they adopted the Note. The reason why they hesitated was this—They were of opinion that the status quo in Turkey should be, if possible, maintained, and I understand from the right hon. Gentleman he is still of that opinion. [Mr. Gladstone: The territorial integrity.] You will find it difficult to maintain the territorial integrity of Turkey without acknowledging the principle of status quo. Let us see what the status quo in Turkey is. It is not an 206 ancient order of society or political arrangement that has become obsolete. It has been tested in the severest manner and by the severest deeds only 20 years ago. It has been tested by a sanguinary war and by the Conferences of the great States; and the results of these material struggles and moral considerations had been expressed in solemn Treaties; and, therefore, the status quo is not a state or condition to be looked upon lightly or with disrespect; it is a status quo with which, in our opinion, it was not proper to interfere. If ever there was a case in which interference was to be deprecated it was, in our opinion, in the condition of Turkey, because it was quite obvious that, from the circumstances of the relations between Turkey and the other States of Europe, supported as they were by peculiar Treaties, the interference of other Powers would have been induced, and would have led to a perilous state of affairs. Therefore, to recognize and to wish to maintain the status quo of Turkey and to deprecate interference with its condition in order to allow Turkey and its subjects in the course of time to find that condition which suited both of them best, seemed to us the policy desirable. Therefore, we hesitated very much about joining the English Consul to the others in the delegation to the insurgents which failed. Then came the Andrassy Note. We hesitated about accepting that. We were influenced by the responsibility we should incur by departing from that concert of nations to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred. Unquestionably, it is one of the great objects—and it ought to be one of the great objects—of this country to act in concert with its allies, and not to take a course which would isolate us unnecessarily when united action is more calculated to achieve success. But when we came to analyze the Andrassy Note we remembered there was very little in it which the Porte itself had not already undertaken, on the recommendation of the great Powers, to accomplish, so we felt that we could, under the circumstances, and for the sake of the united action and concert, take part in that Note. There were one or two matters which were new on which we reserved our opinion, but they were not of that importance which we might not fairly consider would be arranged satisfactorily; 207 and, indeed, while we were considering what course should be taken with regard to allowing our Consul to join the other Powers in an urgent application to the insurgents, the Porte itself made an earnest appeal to us to allow our Consul to act as required, and so also to join in the Andrassy Note, and that settled the matter. The right hon. Gentleman, in his charge against the Government, blames us greatly for our conduct with respect to the Andrassy Note for allowing the initiative to pass into the hands of the other Powers; and yet I think he spoke early in the Session of the conduct of the Government in a very different tone. On the first night of the Session he said—"I am most grateful that Her Majesty's Government, instead of being actuated by that principle"—that is, that they had no right to expect anything from the Sultan—"I am most grateful to them for having given in their adhesion to the Austrian Note—[Mr. Gladstone: Hear, hear!]—and, for my part, I cordially express my acknowledgments to the Government." [Mr. Gladstone: Hear, hear!] How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile those gracious expressions with the severe criticism with which he has just favoured me for giving in the adhesion of the Government to the Note? [Mr. Gladstone: No, no!] Then he blames us because we departed from the European concert. But he mistakes the nature of affairs. It is true that we on a subsequent occasion found ourselves in a state of isolation. England was in a state of isolation, and the five other Powers were not acting with us. But why was England in a state of isolation? She was isolated because she determined in favour of the principle of non-interference. But England is not in a state of isolation now, because the five Powers, after various attempts to produce effects in which they were not successful, have adopted the principle of non-interference—that is to say, that they have come over to us, and the six Powers are now acting in concert on the principle of non-interference. After the Andrassy Note there was an armistice; that was in March; and then, to the great surprise of those who were on the point of believing that the insurrection was terminated, the insurgents pressed new demands of an extraordinary kind. The Berlin Memorandum 208 was proposed in May, and the right hon. Gentleman blames us for our course there, because we rejected the Berlin Memorandum on grounds on which the Turkish Government previously had given in their adhesion—as, for instance, the building of churches, the rebuilding of the houses that were destroyed, and the supporting of those who had quitted the Provinces and returned, and so on. It is very true that Her Majesty's Government did object to the Berlin Memorandum on many points not known to the House and to the country. It is very true that they objected to it on grounds which the Turkish Government had previously accepted. Why did we refuse to sanction the Berlin Memorandum? We did so because we knew that the Turkish Government and the Turkish nation could not fulfil the conditions which were laid down in the Berlin Memorandum, and because we knew that the Berlin Memorandum ended with an intimation that, if this effort failed, very different measures would be had recourse to. And, of course, the very failure by the Turks to fulfil the rash and reckless promises which, in their miserable state of despair, they were ready to make every day, would have been the foundation for that which we, who were advocating a policy of non-intervention, wished particularly to avoid. It was perfectly clear that as the Turks would necessarily fail to observe the conditions laid down, the Berlin Memorandum would have allowed active interference—an occupation, perhaps, and an occupation in a country like Turkey generally leads to war. Then the right hon. Gentleman says—"What has been the effect of our conduct in rejecting the Memorandum and in ordering Her Majesty's Fleet to Besika Bay?"—a subject on which I will in due time touch. The effect of our conduct, he says, is war with Servia. We drove Servia to war, he says, because she was in sheer despair at not getting redress for her grievances. But what had Turkey to do with the redress of the grievances of Servia? Servia was as independent a country, you might say, with regard to the Government of Turkey, as England herself. If Turkey had come forward and practically made all the changes which are included in all the Hatti-Sheriffs and Hatti-Humayouns in existence, 209 it would not have affected Servia in the least. Nothing appears to me more unwarranted than to maintain that the policy of this country with regard to Turkey led to war with Servia. Servia could not be affected in any way. Servia required no redress. What Servia wanted was Provinces, a very different thing, and the Papers on the Table show that in the Spring she was preparing for war, on the supposition that she would commence it probably with the presence of some European Power. Well, then, the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), who appears to approve our having refused to sanction the Berlin Memorandum, asks us why, in refusing to give our adherence to that document, we did not think it our duty to propose an alternative. I differ from the noble Lord on that point. It was matter of opinion, and I think the Government would have made a mistake if, in rejecting the Berlin Memorandum, they had immediately offered a proposition of their own. One observation has been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the Andrassy Note of which I ought to take notice. It has been said that we should have required from the three Powers that we should be consulted. Think that is an objection very analogous and almost similar to the objection of the noble Lord in regard to the Berlin Memorandum. But I cannot say that I should ever deem it my duty—and I feel sure that none of my Colleagues would deem it to be their duty—to advise the Sovereign to offer her unsolicited presence and counsels to other Powers. If there are States which believe they can beneficially and usefully act together without our co-operation or without consulting us, I do not think it is either our duty or our policy to thrust ourselves upon them. And so with regard to the objection of the noble Lord respecting the Berlin Note, and his view that we ought to have made an alternative proposition. What chance would an alternative proposition from England have received from those three Powers? Those three Great Powers meet together to settle a difficult question. They give all their intelligence and their influence to the document which they produce. We reject it, and are to offer them a proposition of our own. What chance is there 210 of its being accepted? I imagine myself that a worse chance could not exist. Their self-love, their just pride, their somewhat mortified feeling at the course which we had taken, all would have impelled them to reject our proposition. And my own opinion is that it is not a wise thing for a country, and a country like England, to make proposals which it has not the means of carrying into effect, and to sketch a policy, which is never difficult to do, but which a country like this ought certainly not to entertain unless it entertained it in a serious, practical, and determined manner. I might say also, when we are told that our conduct with regard to the Berlin Note produced the war with Servia, that the Berlin Note never was rejected by the Porte, and for this simple and very satisfactory reason, that it never was presented to the Porte. Therefore, the argument founded on the rejection of the Berlin Note being the occasion of the Servian War falls entirely to the ground. The fact is that the Berlin Memorandum was never presented to the Porte. It was no offensive act of the Porte of any kind that produced the war; it was an invasion on the part of Servia, who had not been interfered with; and, therefore, if the Notepad been presented to the Porte and been rejected, even under those circumstances it could not for a moment be maintained that that was the cause, or one of the causes, of the war with Servia. The noble Lord the Member for Calne also made some remarks upon the difference between the policy of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and of myself. The noble Lord did not favour the House with any proofs, or even illustrations, of the somewhat interesting and unusual circumstance of persons in our respective positions, having the conduct of very responsible affairs, yet, at the same time, maintaining two different policies. It would have been, I think, only fair in making such statements if the noble Lord should have been furnished with some hint, if not evidence, however slight, that would have warranted him in making that statement. True it is that the noble Lord said a man would be considered a great fool who was not of that opinion.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had 211 misunderstood his observation. He had said nothing of the kind.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Well, I was not present when it was made, but it was one of those airy observations that are immediately reported to me. But then it seems that that is founded upon the way in which I treated the subject of the Fleet in Besika Bay, and the right hon. Gentleman has touched upon the same subject. Let me see if there was anything in what he said, and let us see what actually happened. No one with the Papers before him can deny that the statement of Lord Derby is accurate so far as it goes. There can be no doubt that the English Ambassador, alarmed at the state of affairs at Constantinople, joined with the Representatives of the different Powers there who agreed to take conjoint action, and determined that the best course that could be adopted was to send for their respective squadrons in the Mediterranean and have them brought into Turkish waters. Our Mediterranean Squadron at that moment was not very strong. Three of our ships arrived in Besika Bay and the squadrons of the other nations were soon established there also. The state of affairs at Constantinople at that moment was most critical. Even in that city, which has been the scene of some of the most violent occurrences in history, I do not know whether there was ever a period when there was greater danger, and when that danger was so indefinite, and caused such general alarm and terror. After the arrival of the ships in Besika Bay that condition of affairs grew worse from day today—I must say, however, for our English Ambassador in Constantinople that he always took a more sanguine and courageous view of the state of affairs than his Colleagues did, and that he did not believe from his own observation that there was any fear of the religious feud between the Mussulmans and the Christians which was generally accepted as impending, and which so alarmed many; but he warned the Government that we must be prepared for startling events. There was, however, existing at the moment an anxiety, a dread, and a general apprehension, the nature of which was communicated by our Ambassador to the Government. This, then, was the state of things we had to consider. Whatever might have been the 212 hopes of Sir Henry Elliot, the general opinion of people, and of people of great experience, seems to have been that some rising in the city of Constantinople against the Christian population was to be expected. What was going to happen? There were rumours afloat; no one knew exactly what they meant. Sometimes it was that there was to be an invasion of Constantinople at the instigation of the Sultan himself; sometimes, that there was to be a domestic revolution. We know very well that these waters had in time of public disturbance ever been the scene of sudden and startling events, and we felt that three ships in Besika Bay were under the circumstances but a very scanty protection, when, perhaps, you might have an insurrection stirred up in Salonica or on the coast of Syria, which was completely denuded of any protection whatever. We thought, therefore, that the time had arrived when we ought to take care that the Mediterranean Squadron should be somewhat more powerful than it was then. Let us look at what is the policy of England. The policy of England has ever been that the Mediterranean Sea should be considered as one of the great highways of our Indian Empire, and we have always held, and do hold it, that the waters of that sea and all the waters connected with it should be free and secure. When wearer asked what is our policy, I say our policy is to secure those great results. Well, then, under these circumstances, we felt it our duty to increase the strength of the Mediterranean Squadron. We also felt that we should not be doing our duty to our country if we left events to happen and our interests to be protected only by two or three ships. It is quite true that it was originally at the invitation of the united Ambassadors and Ministers of the Great Powers that the Mediterranean Squadron and other squadrons repaired to these waters; but it is not true that we had not subsequently to consider our position; and it is also true that it was the unanimous conclusion of the Cabinet that it was our duty to see that the power of England should be more efficiently represented. It was no threat to any one. The Mediterranean Fleet is the symbol and the guarantee of our power. We could not and we never attempted to conceal that we had in that part of the world great interests 213 which we must protect and never relinquish, and it was no threat to any particular Power that we said at such a moment that the Mediterranean Fleet, which is the guarantee and the symbol of our authority, should be there, that the world should know, whatever might happen, there should be no great change in the distribution of territories in that part of the world without the knowledge and consent of England. I do not call that a threat to any Power, and I cheerfully agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us as to the conduct of those whom I will still, notwithstanding his criticism, call the Allies of our Sovereign throughout this matter. When I spoke the first night of the Session on the Address, and made some reference to the Andrassy Note, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition intimated, though not in a very decided manner, a fear that perhaps Her Majesty's Government had interfered too much, and argued that some dangerous consequences might ensue. But I said then that I had the utmost confidence in the Great Powers—I was not ashamed to say that I believed in their entire sincerity, and I have not changed that opinion after six eventful months. I believe that the Governments of Russia and Austria have from the first—though they might, like ourselves, have made a mistake in their means—sincerely and unreservedly endeavoured to terminate these disturbances in Turkey. They felt that it was their interest to do so, and they have been most anxious to maintain the status quo. But, unfortunately, the world consists not merely of Emperors and Governments; it consists also of secret societies and revolutionary committees, and secret societies and revolutionary committees have been unceasingly at work in these affairs, and they do bring about in an Empire like Turkey most unexpected consequences, which may have a most injurious effect on British interests. When we are told that we sent our Fleet to the Dardanelles in order to maintain the Turkish Empire I deny it. It is not to maintain the Turkish Empire, and the Turkish Government were never deceived on that point. They were frequently informed from the first—as will be seen from the instructions to Sir Henry Elliot on the accession of the new Sultan—they were told they must reform their course and 214 conduct; they must fulfil their engagements and obligations; and that our arrival in their waters was to maintain the interests of England and the British Empire, not to bolster up any Power that was falling into decrepitude from its own weakness. The Turkish Government is engaged at this moment in a civil war—it can hardly be considered more than that; but I cannot say that I have seen any cause at present why we should suddenly interfere. The right hon. Gentleman used the expression "prompt interference;" but, at the same time, he tells us he has nothing himself to propose. We are, according to his desire, to maintain the territorial integrity of Turkey; but, in my opinion, it would be in the long run a very unsatisfactory interference if you did not know when you interfered what you intended, what you wished to accomplish. Her Majesty's Government have shown no disposition to avoid the liabilities which are annexed to a great country like England, and which she must not shrink from. I am perfectly aware of our duties not merely arising from Treaties into which the country has entered, but the duties generally which we owe to civilization; you cannot, however, settle these things by making speeches at public meetings. That is not the way in which it is possible to encounter matters of such difficulty as are now agitating Europe. I cannot see, so far as I can review our conduct, that the Government have taken any course in these proceedings but such as the interests of this country required, and we have certainly not committed the country to any rash undertaking. We have said from the first that we were in favour of non-interference; we have said from the first that we should observe a strict neutrality if that strict neutrality were observed by others. There has been a difference of opinion between us and the other Powers; there has been some controversy; in what has it all ended? It has all ended by the other Powers adopting our policy. They have all, in a manner most unmistakable, admitted that non-interference is the policy that ought to be pursued, and that neutrality is the process they ought to follow. When I am told by the right hon. Gentleman that we have lost our position in the European concert, I am bound to say that is not the opinion of Her Majesty's 215 Government. I believe the other Powers are most ready and prepared to act with us. I have no doubt when the opportunity offers we shall find ourselves in that position which becomes the dignity of this country, and we shall have every opportunity which is desired to contribute to the general welfare of the world. The course which we have taken is the one which we believe we were called upon to pursue for the sake of our interests, and for the sake of our Empire; it was the course which, in the second place, we were called upon to pursue because we believed it was most conducive to the maintenance of peace; and thirdly, also, the one which we believed would lead to the progressive improvement of the population of the Turkish Empire. If there is to be nothing but confusion, if we are to have nothing but struggles and war, if secret societies and revolutionary committees are to ride rampant over those fair Provinces, I shall cordially deplore such a result as much as Gentlemen who attack me very often for my want of sympathy with the sufferers by imaginary atrocities. I must say I have greater confidence than some have in the sense and prudence of Governments. I cannot believe that the scenes which have taken place during the last six months in these Turkish Provinces can be maintained, and when the occasion arrives we shall be ready to take our responsible part in what I hope may be the pacification of these countries, their advancement in civilization, and their general improvement. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us, our task is not an easy one. Hitherto we have experienced the generous confidence, of Parliament, and I hope I may say, notwithstanding the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, after the six months which have now passed, Parliament having had ample opportunity of examining and criticising our conduct, the general opinion of Parliament, and, I believe, the general opinion of the country, is that we have not been remiss in our duty. I know the difficulties which now await us. I know that for some time to come we cannot rely upon that which has been our main reliance—the sustaining power of Parliament—under many difficulties of late. But if we feel that we have the confidence of our countrymen, great as 216 may be the difficulties we may have to encounter—vast as may be the responsibility of public men under such circumstances—we shall not shrink from doing our duty. And I trust that in fulfilling it we shall not disappoint the expectations of the country.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I regret that the exigencies of the Government and the manner in which they have thought fit to conduct the Business of this House have rendered it necessary to discuss this question in so brief and unsatisfactory a manner. When the Government thought that seven or eight days were not wasted upon the discussion of a clause in an Education Bill—a clause, moreover, not introduced by themselves—it was somewhat extraordinary that we should be told at an. early period of this evening that according to the Government distribution of our time it was impossible we should be allowed more than one evening this week for the discussion of affairs which have occupied the attention of the whole country since the meeting of Parliament. It is not long since Lord Derby, speaking to a deputation, informed them, and through them the country, that it was of the greatest importance to the Ministers, who were, he said, the servants of the country, that they should receive instructions from their employers, and that one of the greatest difficulties of a Government was that they were unable to know what were the intentions of their employers until it was too late. I do not know whether Lord Derby did not rather underrate the responsibility under which the Government acts. I should have thought it might sometimes have been the duty of the servants of the Queen to conduct the foreign policy of the country in a manner not altogether accordant tithe instructions of those whom Lord Derby called their employers. But, at the same time, there can be no doubt that it is of vast importance to the Government to feel that the policy they pursue is supported by the general feeling, and sense, and intelligence of the country. And certainly there never was a more difficult, embarrassing, or perplexing question placed before the country for its consideration; and one of the best and chief modes by which the Government can form and test opinion on the events that are passing and 217 the policy they ought to pursue would undoubtedly be by discussion in Parliament. I think we must all feel that we are at a great difficulty in discussing this question by reason of the paucity of the information in our possession. What we know respecting these distant countries and these different nationalities is so imperfect that it is impossible not to feel that we have not before us all the materials we could desire for the complete consideration of this question, and therefore a full discussion by Parliament was the more necessary. According to the Notice Paper no fewer than four propositions were to have been placed before the House for its consideration, yet but only three of the hon. Members who have given Notice of Resolutions on the subject have barely had time to express their views. I therefore think it will not be denied that sufficient time has not been afforded for the discussion of those propositions, and, indeed, I am, to some extent, consoled for the shortness of the debate by the thought that the lateness of the hour relieves me from the responsibility of stating, at any great length, my own views upon the subject before the House. If I were to attempt in a few words to state the impression formed on my own mind by a perusal of the Papers, I should say that the views taken by Her Majesty's Government were in the main just, and that the objects which the Government endeavoured to accomplish were in the main such as the country would be disposed to approve. At the same time, I should also be obliged to say that the measures which the Government adopted with a view of attaining those objects are open to grave and serious question. The right hon. Gentleman has not committed himself or his Government to a policy founded upon a belief in the indefinite duration of the state of things now existing in the Turkish Empire. On the contrary, he has stated his opinion on that point in terms which appear to have been completely satisfactory to no less a personage than Prince Gortchakoff. On the other hand, the Government appear to see in the fact that an insurrection has broken out in some of the Turkish Provinces—stimulated, no doubt, to a great extent by influences from without—no cause for the immediate disruption of the Turkish Empire. They joined 218 the three Powers in calling upon Turkey to institute certain reforms, but they declined to call upon her to carry out reforms which appeared to be impossible of acceptance. They have remonstrated against the neglect shown by a neighbouring Government in allowing the insurrection to be stimulated from without, and have expressed their opinion, although, possibly, not in terms which many of us would consider adequate, as to the means taken by the Turkish Government to repress the rebellion. When we look at the views held by the Government they appear at the first sight to be such as will meet the general approval of the country. At the same time, I cannot help thinking that there has been a certain want of firmness, clearness, and decision in the tone and language of the despatches. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich expressed our approval of the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in adopting the Andrassy Note, but we withheld our approval of the action of the Government until we had full knowledge of all the circumstances. It is to be regretted that at an early stage of the proceedings Her Majesty's Government did not protest against the new policy that was being inaugurated by the three Great Northern Powers adopting the Note in consultation, and then sending it for approval or rejection to the other Powers which had had no share in the previous consultation. When, however, the Government had made up their minds to adopt the Note, I think there was a great absence of firmness and decision in the manner in which the Note was pressed upon the consideration of the Turkish Government. The tone of the despatch in which the Note was recommended to the Porte by Her Majesty's advisers was rather an apology to the Porte for pressing the proposals contained in the Note upon its consideration than a vigorous representation that the proposals contained in the Note were the only ones which would enable the Turkish Government to retain the confidence and support of the European Powers. But when they were told that Her Majesty's Government would rather abstain from pressing certain reforms, it was not at all surprising that, in view of a line of conduct such as that, the Porte should treat the Note very much as a matter of 219 course, instead of paying any particular amount of attention to it. On the other hand, I fail to see that Her Majesty's Government have remonstrated with the firmness and vigour which might have been expected with those Powers, who have allowed breaches of their neutrality to be caused by the assistance given to the insurgents by their subjects. I cannot conceive any action more unjust to the Turkish Government, and more calculated to prevent a pacific solution of these difficulties than the breach of neutrality which thus appears to have occurred. At the moment when reforms were pressed upon Turkey by the Great Powers of Europe, many of their subjects appear to have been engaged in encouraging the insurrection. How was it possible that the Turkish Government, which was trying to suppress the insurrection, should be able at the same time to introduce reforms? There seems to have been a great want of energy in the representations made by the Government in this respect. Further, I cannot help thinking that, though the Government had from time to time made representations on this subject, their effect would have been much strengthened if, instead of discouraging discussion in this House, it had been allowed to discuss the matter earlier, so that it might have been made known to Europe by the representations of Her Majesty's Government that some of the so-called neutral Powers were themselves violating the obligations of neutrality. It would have been much to the advantage of our Allies, the Turks, that that fact should thus have been made known to the whole of Europe, because they would have known in an authoritative manner that the war was encouraged by other Powers. I now come to to the Berlin Memorandum. It appears to be generally acknowledged that the Government had no alternative than to agree unconditionally to that Memorandum. But it does not seem necessary that, in rejecting it, Her Majesty's Government should have supplied the Turkish Government with reasons for rejecting every one of the propositions contained in the Memorandum. Instead of discussing these propositions in an argumentative spirit, it would surely have been better to rest their rejection upon the simple circumstance, which really made acceptance impossible—namely, that the Memorandum 220 had been agreed upon altogether without consultation with England and the other Powers, and that it contained certain propositions the acceptance of which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, was incompatible with the dignity and self-respect of the Porte. The right hon. Gentleman says that no evil consequences followed the unconditional rejection of this Memorandum by Her Majesty's Government. "It is true," says the right hon. Gentleman, "that at the moment of rejection we stood in a position of isolation; but since that time the European Governments have come round to our opinion, and we now stand in concert with them in defence of the principle of non-interference." But I think it is scarcely possible to doubt that the unconditional rejection of this Memorandum was the immediate cause of the outbreak of war between Turkey and Servia and Montenegro. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Servians were not affected by the Memorandum. But he has himself acknowledged that there was great sympathy with the insurgents in Servia; and when it appeared that, through the action of Her Majesty's Government, the further proposals of the European Powers were not even to be presented to the Porte, it was not unnatural that this sympathy in Servia should become uncontrollable, and that the Servian Government should find it impossible any longer to restrain its subjects from war. It is quite evident from a perusal of the Papers that the Servians were prepared for war long prior to the rejection of the Memorandum, and were only restrained by the action of the other Powers; and it is also clear that the rejection of the Memorandum by the British Government was the signal for a relaxation of the pressure up to that time exercised by the Russian Government, and that after that rejection the pressure on Servia was relaxed, and Servia was allowed, if not encouraged, to declare war. I cannot, I must add, help thinking that there has been a miserable want of energy and vigour in the remonstrances—the frequent remonstrances, I admit—which have been made by the Government as to the excesses and cruelties which have from time to time been committed by the Turks on the insurgents. I admit that remonstrances have been made, but have they, I would ask, been 221 made with all the force and energy-possible? Lectures have, indeed, been read to the Turkish Government, but have they been told that their last chance of retaining the sympathy of any portion of the people of this country—even of those who have hitherto been their warmest friends—was in danger of being forfeited by such conduct as that which had been attributed to them? Were they informed that the excuses which were from time to time put forward for that conduct, to the effect that those excesses had been provoked by similar excesses on the part of the insurgents, and that they had not been committed by the Regular troops of the Porte, but by auxiliaries, were in reality no excuses at all for such proceedings? Were they told, as they should have been, with the necessary firmness, that no Government purporting to be a civilized European Government had any right to shelter itself behind its own weakness? What, he should like to know, would have been said if a few years ago, when we had to deal with the Fenian insurrection, we, instead of employing Regular troops or an organized police, had invoked the assistance of the Orangemen of the North of Ireland, and if the religious bitterness which then existed in that country had led to excesses of one kind or another? Would Europe have considered it a sufficient excuse for those excesses that we had not at the moment a sufficient force of Regular troops or of police to grapple with the insurrection? I maintain that a Government that isn't able to deal with an insurrection by means of Regular troops, or by a force of police organized under its own command, and which has to put forward such excuses in extenuation of its excesses, is not fit to occupy a position as one of the Powers of civilized Europe. I will refer for a moment to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on the despatch of our Fleet to Besika Bay. If there has been one circumstance which more than another had given satisfaction to the country during these prolonged negotiations, and which had mitigated the anxiety felt throughout the country, it has been that whatever may have occurred in other parts of Europe and in other Cabinets, the policy pursued by this Government and this Cabinet was open and straightforward. That impression should not be weakened. 222 I cannot help thinking, however, that there are discrepancies, differences, and divergences between the public utterances of the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that are not calculated to strengthen the impression of the perfect openness and straightforwardness of the policy of the Government of this country. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of the speech of Lord Derby to the deputation the other day, used an expression which I cannot help thinking was some what unfortunate. The right hon. Gentleman said that that statement was true "as far as it went." I have taken an opportunity of looking at the statement of the noble Lord, and I cannot see on the face of it that there is any reservation whatever. Indeed, I think the noble Lord himself could not say that it was not intended to be a full explanation of the policy of the Government, as far as that matter was concerned. Yet the right hon. Gentleman comes down this evening and says that the noble Lord's statement was correct, but only as far as it went. The right hon. Gentleman has told now that the prime object in sending the Fleet to Besika Bay was that mentioned by Lord Derby—the protection of the Christians in Constantinople and other parts of Turkey in the great excitement that prevailed at that time, but that there were political reasons besides—that the Mediterranean was one of our highways to India, and for commerce, and that we had a sort of supremacy to maintain in that sea. Well, we are a great Mediterranean Power, and if there were political purposes to serve in sending the Fleet to Besika Bay I should not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman. But it is most unfortunate that if the Government had other objects in view the noble Lord when he addressed the deputation did not state fully the views of the Government on that point. We know there was no intention to deceive the House of Commons or the public; but it is necessary in this matter that we should consider not only ourselves, but others who are not our own countrymen. What will be the natural effect of such a divergence in declarations made on the part of the Government? When the Prime Minister gives one account of the despatch of the Fleet and the Foreign Secretary another, may it not 223 very naturally be concluded that the real explanation of the matter is different from that given by either Minister? We have testimony that the despatch of the Fleet was supposed at Constantinople and other places to be a demonstration in favour of Turkey, and it was so supposed throughout Europe. ["No, no!"] It was interpreted to be an intimation on the part of Her Majesty's Government that come what might Turkey had the English Fleet and the English Government behind her; and I cannot help thinking that a plain, straightforward declaration at the earliest moment by the Government of their real intentions in despatching the Fleet would have done more to dissipate any false ideas entertained on the subject than the two versions of the affair which have been made public. As to the Motion and the Amendments which have been placed on the Paper, it appears to me that the House will not attain any very useful object by coming to any decision upon either of them. If it were the intention of the Government to intervene, or if it were the desire of the House that the Government should intervene in the quarrel which is now in progress, it might be useful that we should express our opinion as to the particular remedy which the circumstances of Turkey at present require. But as the Government have no intention of interfering in the war, or in the suppression of the rebellion, and as this House, I am sure, has no wish that it should so interfere, I cannot see what advantage can be gained at this moment by such an expression of opinion as to the particular remedy by which the evils under which Turkey is suffering should be met. The time may come when the Government in concert with other Powers may usefully interpose with its advice, and, no doubt, if the House should then be sitting, it might be an interesting question whether the proposal of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce), or that of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), or that of the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), would be the one most applicable to the case. I am glad that at this moment all Party element has been removed from these Resolutions by the alteration made in the terms of that of the noble Lord the 224 Member for Calne. From what I have said it will be clearly seen that I have no desire to place upon record any condemnation of the conduct of the Government. I think that in the main the policy which they have adopted is right, although I may have had objections to the means they have adopted to carry out that policy and to enforce their views. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich that nothing could have been more difficult than the circumstances in which Her Majesty's Government were placed. On the other hand, I cannot say that it would be satisfactory to me at this moment to be called upon to express my satisfaction with the whole of the policy or with the reasons for the policy of the Government. I cannot help thinking that when weseparate—as I hope we shall in a few weeks—the Government will not find their position in regard to this question very satisfactory. They have obtained nothing but promises from the Turkish Government, things which they have had over and over again, but they have obtained no security that these promises will be fulfilled. On the other hand, while Her Majesty's Government profess and, no doubt, feel great sympathy for the Turkish Government in the difficulties which surround it, while they have been nominally acting in concert with other Powers, they have been unable to prevent the action of certain portions of the subjects of such Powers, or even avert the outbreak of a war between the Porte and one of its tributaries. At this moment, after althea diplomatic assistance which the Government have been able to give Turkey, that country is fighting to maintain the integrity of its dominions and to resist an invasion the success of which would be the utter destruction of the Turkish Empire. An attempt has been made to show that the Berlin Memorandum was not accepted by our Government, because it would not secure the objects which Her Majesty's Government have in view. If that were so, it would in a sense be a triumph for our diplomacy. But if that triumph was to be obtained only by the success of our own policy, then I am unable to see that any triumph has been obtained, and I think the hon. Member for Portsmouth has been well advised by omitting from the terms of his Resolution 225 those words which, might provoke discussion. I am sorry to have detained the House so long.
§ MR. DISRAELI
explained that he did not wish to interrupt the noble Lord in his speech, but he had not quoted his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs exactly. What Lord Derby said was this—With regard to the bringing up of the British Fleet, there, again, you will have in Parliament more full and more complete explanations than any I can give here.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
also explained. It was the following passage to that referred to by the right hon. Gentleman that he had quoted.
wished to avoid giving the House any trouble in the matter. If his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) would withdraw his Amendment he would withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.