§ MR. EDWARD JENKINS
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any information has yet been received from Her Majesty's Consul with regard to the two outrages detailed by the correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian" of the 26th March—one of which outrages was stated to have occurred at Otchievo, in Bosnia, and the other at Glomosh, in the Herzegovina; and, whether the Government has received any further information of the state of the rural districts of Bosnia and the Herzegovina?
§ MR. BOURKE
Sir, I am extremely anxious to give the House all the information that we have upon this subject, and it may be in the recollection of hon. Members that the day before the House adjourned for the holidays I mentioned that I had sent a telegram, as proposed on the 13th March, to Consul Holmes, asking him whether any outrages, such as had been reported in The Manchester Guardian, had come under his notice; and on the 14th I stated we received an answer from Mr. Holmes that he had not been able to hear anything of those outrages. Since the House adjourned we received two considerably long despatches from Mr. Holmes upon this subject; and I hope that these despatches will be amongst the Papers which will be laid before the House in a very few days; but if hon. Members will permit me, I will read one or two extracts which will give Mr. Holmes's opinion generally upon the subject. Mr. Holmes says on March 14—With reference to your telegram of 13th March, to which I have just briefly replied, regarding the statement that murders and outrages are on the increase in the north of Bosnia, I can only say that I have heard nothing to confirm this, nor, so far as I can learn by inquiry to-day, has any one else. It is well known that bands of insurgents, with Despotovich at their head, have passed the winter unmolested at Grahovo and Bihké, and that there are roving bands along the frontier; also that the desultory fighting between these hands and the Turks, which has been going on for many months, has long since had the effect of driving away most of the inhabitants, and no doubt murders and other outrages occur on both sides. I have lately been informed on good authority (not Turkish) that 12 Mussulman cattle dealers of Prujavor and Durbent, returning from Banialuka with the proceeds of their sales, were attacked at Zlatina by a band of insurgents and 11 of them killed. Probably this will lead to acts of retaliation, and I fully expect, now that peace has been made with Servia, and as the spring advances, all the unemployed and needy Slav patriots, aided and encouraged by Slav committees, will find their way into Bosnia, and cause a renewal of the brigandage on a large scale, which—ruinous to and deplored by both native Turks and Christians —it has pleased Slav sympathisers to call "insurrection." It is no wonder, then, that with these prospects those Christians who still remain should be anxious to quit the country, and I think that the unavoidable dilemma in which they are placed now, between their enraged Mussulman neighbours and their filibustering friends from without, has much more effect in determining their action than alleged atrocities on the part of the Turks, which it has been the fashion to take for granted.That is a portion of one dospatch, and 776 there is another despatch dated March 16, two days later, in which Mr. Holmes says—I have the honour to call your Lordship's particular attention to the enclosed copy of a letter from the Austrian Correspondent of The Times, which appeared in that paper of March 6. It gives an admirable description of the state of affairs in the North-west of Bosnia, and agrees with all my own information. In contrast with this statement I will quote and criticize a few extracts from a letter of an Occasional Correspondent of The Manchester Guardian, who writes from Knin, on the Dalmatian frontier, to show how incorrectly what passes in Bosnia, is represented by the Slavophiles, who, from their vicinity and facility for correspondence, ought to be better informed, if they desired to do so.I need not quote all the extract from The Manchester Guardian which is sent in the despatch, as it is already before the public. After reciting its statement, Mr. Holmes calls attention to this particular passage in the Correspondent's letter—Even in Serajevo, the capital of the Province, and where, if anywhere, the Osmanli ought to have some control over the native fanatics, the situation is deplorable. I have the authority of a European resident for saying that the whole Mussulman population has been armed to the teeth, that the Christian inhabitants of the city are daily insulted, and that gangs of fanatics patrol the streets at night, defying the authorities.' All this is utterly false, and the European Resident,' in giving this information to the writer to The Manchester Guardian, must have wilfully deceived him simply saying what, as a Slavophile, he thought it would be most agreeable to him to hear. It is true that the Mussulmans are armed, but scarcely anyone is to be found wearing arms in a town in which it is strictly forbidden. The Christians are not daily insulted. A few cases may naturally occur, but not to be spoken of as the writer evidently intends, as an intolerable persecution; and gangs of fanatics do not parade the streets at night, firing off pistols and defying the authorities, since I have returned here, and Mr. Freeman assures me that while I was absent nothing of the kind has ever occurred. The streets at night are undisturbed, and Serajevo is, and has been, throughout these events, perfectly quiet and orderly. The writer gives many other cases of murders by these ruffians.'Mr. Holmes adds—These cases may or may not be true, though, like everything else said to take place in this land of lies, they would, I imagine, be very difficult to substantiate. Nothing whatever, I may remark, is ever said or written about the murders and outrages committed by the Christian party, which, according to opportunity, have been, I believe, as hideous as those perpetrated by the Mussulman, but which, as the Turks for the most part have thought it more dignified to revenge than to complain, have had no chroniclers. I am quite aware that I am 777 represented as a 'passionate Turcophile;' but I trust that your Lordship and my superiors in general will give me credit for speaking the truth to the best of my knowledge and ability; and that being the case, I can afford to pass over the disadvantage under which I labour, in common with the few who have any knowledge of affairs in Bosnia, in having to contend against the great majority of uninformed and prejudiced speakers and writers on the state of affairs in these countries.We received a despatch this morning from Mr. Holmes, dated March 29, confirming the Reports of the 14th and 16th, in which he states that he has continued his inquiries both from the authorities and well-informed private individuals, Turks as well as Christians, and has always been assured that there is no truth whatever in the assertion that there is an increase in murders or outrages, and he is of that opinion himself.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
May I ask the hon. Member, Whether the Government has or has not telegraphed to Consul Holmes to ask him whether he can obtain any information with regard to the two particular outrages mentioned in the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee?
§ MR. BOURKE
I am not quite certain whether the right hon. Gentleman was present when some days ago I answered the Question put to me on this subject. I stated on that occasion that general instructions had been sent to all our Consuls on the subject of these alleged outrages. They were told, in the strongest and most peremptory manner, to report all outrages or atrocities which occurred in their districts. The right hon. Gentleman will see that it would cause an unnecessary multiplication of telegrams to ask for a report in each particular case, and that it is a much more convenient and satisfactory way of dealing with such matters than sending telegrams whenever Questions are asked in this House. By this means we should be supplied immediately with all the information of occurrences of the kind which came to the knowledge of our Consuls. The multiplication of telegrams on this subject has been very great. If the House will look at the Estimates it will be seen that a very large sum of money has been already spent in telegraphing; and I think we should not be justified in multiplying telegraphs unless we obtained some substantial evidence. We 778 are anxious to give the House all the information we can on this subject; and I have no doubt that if these particular atrocities to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes have taken place we shall hear about them from Consul Holmes.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
What I wish to ask is this—Whether the Government have taken any pains to inform Consul Holmes that intelligence of these atrocities had been received in England, and whether he was therefore asked to inquire if the accounts were true? The hon. Gentleman will see that there is a very great difference between a general request to send information with regard to atrocities Consul Holmes may hear of, and a special request to inquire about a particular atrocity.
§ MR. BOURKE
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I can only state that we have not sent a special request for information in regard to these particular outrages, because it was not necessary to do so. It would be absurd to do such a a thing after we have sent the orders we have done. We have regularly sent to the Consuls notices of these Questions in the House of Commons, and there is no instance during the whole of these occurrences where, when Questions were asked, our Consuls have not taken notice of them and sent us all the information they could obtain. I have no doubt when Consul Holmes sees that this question has been asked, he will inquire into the matter immediately in order to send information respecting it.