THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
, in rising, pursuant to Notice,to move an Address for further Papers on the affairs of Turkey, and particularly for the Draft Protocol presented to Lord Derby by the Russian Ambassador on the 11th of March, and also for any Correspondence with reference to the Russian Circular of the 19th of January, and the Protocol of the 11th of March,said: Sir, in rising to move for further Papers upon the Eastern Question, I have neither the desire nor the right to make any complaint that up to a certain point Her Majesty's Government have not amply supplied us with all the information in their power to enable us to form a judgment on their policy. The fact is that if we have any complaint to make upon that subject at all, it would be rather that we have been deluged with Papers to a certain extent, that these Papers are so voluminous, and that they refer to so many and such various matters, and so varied a series of correspondence, that it is impossible for anyone not very much accustomed to study Blue Books, to derive, without great difficulty, any very clear information from them. But, since the conclusion of the Conference, the information which Her Majesty's Government have placed before us has been extremely limited. It is contained in the Papers which I hold in my hand, described as No. 8, Papers Relating to the Affairs of Turkey, and which may be read by any one in a very few minutes. In submitting the Motion with which I shall conclude, it will be my duty to refer to some passages in those Papers, and to point out that there is much in them which, in the absence of further Papers which may contain the explanations, and in the absence of verbal explanations from Her Majesty's Government, appears to me to be totally inexplicable, and to be thoroughly unsatisfactory, and that there is in them much also which leads to the conclusion that Her Majesty's Government are directly responsible for the present state of affairs in Europe. The first of these Papers is a Circular from the Russian Government. After the conclusion of the Conference, and the refusal of the Turkish Government to accept the recommendations of 1080 the Conference, the Russian Government took what appears to be an extremely natural step—the Russian Government addressed a Circular to the Powers of Europe reciting, in terms to which, as I think, very little objection can be taken, the various stages of the negotiations which had gone on since the outbreak of the troubles in Herzegovina from the Andrassy Note down to the time of the conclusion of the Conference; and it concluded by asking Her Majesty's Government and the Cabinets of the other Powers what, in view of the refusal of the Turks to accept the recommendations of the Conference, they proposed to do. The date of the Circular was the 19th of January, and on the 15th of February Her Majesty's Government replied to the Circular by stating that, in their opinion, since the Circular was written, circumstances had changed, and it would be better to defer a reply until events had developed themselves. In that answer of Her Majesty's Government, Sir, there is much that reminds one of the tone that was taken last June after the failure of the Berlin Memorandum. At that time also Her Majesty's Government were asked by the Russian Government what their views were, and what, in their opinion, would be a satisfactory solution. The Russian Government explained to them what their own views were, and what solution of the difficulty they thought practicable; but if Her Majesty's Government disagreed with them, they asked them, at all events, to state what their views on the subject were. At that time, as in February, the only view of Her Majesty's Government appears to have been to wait until events had further developed themselves, and to defer taking any action at all. I do not say that the dilatory plea which was advanced by Her Majesty's Government may have been without justification; all I say is, that the justification is not contained in the Papers that are before us; and, if the justification exists, if it is to be found in the attitude of the other Powers of Europe, or in the attitude of Russia herself, then further Papers explaining the attitude of Her Majesty's Government are required, and it is for such Papers I am now moving. But upon the face of the Papers before us, I say that the plea of Her Majesty's Government, although it may have a justi- 1081 fication, it is not, at all events, a logical plea; it ignores the first and main proposition contained in the Russian Circular. Prince Gortchakoff said, and I can conceive Her Majesty's Government would have difficulty in controverting the statement—The difficulty resolved itself into inducing the Government of Turkey to govern the Christian subjects of the Sultan in a just and humane manner, so as not to expose Europe to permanent crises which are revolting to its conscience and endanger its tranquillity.If Her Majesty's Government could not controvert that statement, I maintain it was not, at all events, a logical reply to the Circular of Prince Gortchakoff to say that things had changed since it was written, and that in view of this change a reply should be deferred. What were the changes that had taken place? The changes pointed out by Her -Majesty's Government were the change of Government in Turkey and the negotiations with Servia and Montenegro. What hope was there after the fall of Midhat Pasha, the author of the Constitution, of whom at one time such great expectations were entertained, that the Porte was more likely now than when the Circular was written, to undertake to govern its Christian subjects in a just and humane manner, so as not to expose Europe to permanent crises? Neither could the success of negotiations with Servia and Montenegro, with Provinces which are in fact, if not in name, independent of the authority of the Porte, have been expected to exercise any influence in this regard upon a matter affecting the Provinces under the direct rule of the Porte. On the 13th of February it appears that Prince Gortchakoff informed Lord Derby that he assented to the proposal of delay made by Her Majesty's Government, and on the 3rd of March he went further, and asked for still further delay. This may be, and I dare say it will be, brought forward as a conclusive justification of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in having postponed their answer to the Circular; but I protest against that being taken as a conclusive reply. There appears to me to be in that view a false assumption which has more or less pervaded all these negotiations—it is that, in this great issue, which has been pending more than 12 months between the Christian subjects of Tur- 1082 key and the Government of Turkey, and in the still greater issue which has been pending between Europe and Turkey, Russia should be allowed and acknowledged by common consent to place herself in the position of counsel for the plaintiff. It is the assumption that the Russian demands, which may be refused, or reduced, or altered, are demands which, under all circumstances, are to be considered as the measure and the limit—the very utmost that the Christians or that Europe have a right to claim from the Government of Turkey. That is a position which Russia has always desired to assume. It is a position not very far removed from the Protectorate that Russia has always claimed—the Protectorate against the extension of which the Crimean War was waged, the Protectorate which, ever since the Crimean War, Russia has endeavoured to recover; the Protecturate which, in a blind and shortsighted opposition to Russian policy, we have gone a very long way to restore to Russia. Now, on the 11th of March, the Russian Government suggested to our own Government the answer to their Circular which they desired to receive, and it assumed the form of a draft Protocol, which it was proposed should be signed by all the Powers, and which, as the Russian Government expressed it, should "terminate the incident." I will ask to-night for the draft Protocol which was presented by Count Schouvaloff on the 11th of March. I ask for the draft, because it is understood that very protracted negotiations have been held upon this subject, and in the absence of further Papers—if Her Majesty's Government are unable to give further Papers —it is possible that a comparison of that draft with that which was eventually signed may throw some light upon the views which were entertained by the Russian Government, and on the alterations which were suggested and contended for by our own Government. On the 31st of March the Protocol was signed which is now before us. I hold that it is impossible adequately to discuss the effect of that instrument until we have before us the correspondence by which the signature of the Protocol was preceded. If it is, as I think, in many respects an unsatisfactory instrument—if, especially taken in connection with the Declaration attached to it, it does 1083 little or nothing to secure the maintenance of peace, if it does little or nothing to remove the causes of all these troubles—namely, the misgovernment of Turkey—if it does little or nothing for the protection of the Christian subjects of the Porte—still I admit there may yet be a justification on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The only justification, however, which I can conceive is, that they may be able to say that this is all that it was within their power to do. If they can say that they would willingly have joined in more speedy, more effective, and more logical measures, but that they found themselves not assisted, but retarded, by the other Powers of Europe, and that no other agreement was possible, then, indeed, I admit their responsibility would be considerably lessened; but if, on the other hand, the other Powers were willing to agree to more speedy and more effectual measures—if Her Majesty's Government were the retarding influence—if they were the drag on Europe, then I say that their responsibility is very great indeed. In order that we may form an opinion on that point, upon the only justification which, as it appears to me, Her Majesty's Government can put forward, I ask that we should, if possible, be provided with Papers, showing the views they entertained during these negotiations; and if they desire—as they have often said they desire — to invite the judgment of the House and the country on the policy they have pursued, I invite them to furnish us with the only means by which they can enable us to form an intelligent judgment on that policy. Sir, I have said that the Protocol may be, and in my opinion it is, an ineffectual instrument; but it certainly cannot be said to be an unimportant one. It contains almost for the first time a direct acknowledgment of the duty which Her Majesty's Government have undertaken. In common with the other Powers, they have undertaken the pacification of the East. That is an acknowledgment of the greatest importance, and an acknowledgment which has never before been so distinctly and so definitely made. It may have been admitted by individual Ministers, but never before has it been stated on behalf of Her Majesty, by Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that Her Majesty's Government have undertaken the pacification of the 1084 East. It is no longer a case of friendly advice addressed to the Porte—it is no longer a question even of abandoning, under certain circumstances, Turkey to her fate. The admission has here been made by Her Majesty's Government that they have undertaken the pacification of the East. They have put their hands to the plough, and I am sure they will not now come forward and tell us they have done so with the deliberate intention of turning back. But the Protocol contains more than that. I do not see how Her Majesty's Ministers who signed this Protocol can any longer taunt any hon. Gentleman sitting on this side of the House with being alone in favour of a policy of coercion. I maintain that this Protocol contemplates coercion. We are told—I do not say, neither do I know, whether it is true or not—that a great deal of time has been spent on the wording of this Protocol, and that much depended on the substitution of the word "means" for "action." But whether the word be "means" or "action," I say that the Protocol does contemplate action, or else that it contemplates nothing. Suppose that the time has arrived contemplated by the Protocol—suppose that once more your hopes have been disappointed, and that the condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan has not been improved in a manner to prevent the return of the complications which periodically disturb the peace of the East—suppose the time has arrived when at last you, with the other Powers, must declare that a state of things has arisen incompatible with the peace and interest of Europe in general, well, in that case what will you do? Do you reserve to yourselves the power to consider the means you think best fitting to secure the interests of the Christian population and the general peace of Europe? What means, I ask, do you contemplate? Coercion may—I do not say it will—secure those ends which you set before you. Do you know, have you in your mind any other means less objectionable, less drastic, equally efficacious? If so, I ask Her Majesty's Government, why do you not now disclose them? If you know of anything equally efficacious, short of coercion, why do you not put a stop to a state of things which you cannot but admit is at this moment incompatible with the interests and the peace of Europe? Sir, if the Protocol contemplates, as I maintain it does, the use, al- 1085 though the deferred use, of coercion, what, I ask, becomes of the fervid protestations made not long ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War? I see that the right hon. Gentleman seems prepared to address the House, but I ask him—whether the delay be one of six months, or one year, or two years—whether it will not bring shame to his face then as it would now to use coercion towards the Porte? I ask him, whether it would not be as inconsistent then as now, with the Treaties to which we are a party and with those moral principles to which he appealed on the occasion to which I have referred? Sir, I say that if the Protocol is an ineffectual and inefficient instrument, it is not because it does not contain within itself principles of the highest importance—principles which establish the right of interference by the Powers in the affairs of Turkey—principles which appear to be inconsistent with the independence of the Porte, at all events in that sense in which it was understood at the time of the Andrassy Note and the Berlin Memorandum—and principles which I must also say do not appear to me to be easily reconciled with the letter of the Ninth Article of the Treaty of Paris. If, then, I say the Protocol is inefficient, it is not because it does not contain principles of importance, but because the Powers shrink from the immediate application of those principles—because either they do not believe in the truth of their own assertions, or else because they shrink from carrying those principles to a logical conclusion. What is the assertion contained in this Protocol? It is a declaration that an effective improvement may be secured in the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey, and that such improvement is indispensable to the tranquillity of Europe. Well, Sir, if the Government believed in the truth of that assertion, what reason have they to shrink from the conclusion that some immediate steps should be taken for effecting an amelioration of the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey? Is it that they still cling to the hope that the Porte will, by itself, be able to effect those improvements? If they do, I ask Her Majesty's Government, what reason have they for doing so? What has happened since the conclusion of the Conference to justify any such expectation? Has the condition of 1086 the Christian Provinces been in any degree improved? What has happened to give Her Majesty's Government more confidence in the promises of Turkish reform since Lord Salisbury said that one object of the Conference was the obtaining of effectual guarantees against the bad administration by the Porte of those Provinces? Are those guarantees less required now than they were when Lord Salisbury made that statement? And if they are not, why do Her Majesty's Government and the other Powers shrink from doing that which they consider necessary to obtain them, and which may yet have to be done at some indefinite period? It is this clinging to the hope that the necessary reforms will be carried out by the Porte itself that has led to the making of an ineffectual use of the Protocol, and which has placed Her Majesty's Government in a false position. Sir, what occurs here every day? What is the attitude that is taken up by Her Majesty's Government? Questions are asked as to these outrages, and what do the answers of Her Majesty's Government amount to? They have not heard of the outrages, or, if they have, they say they have reason to believe they are not so bad as is reported. [" Hear, hear "from the Ministerial benches.] That is the attitude they assume, and it is applauded by their Supporters as if they were responsible in any degree for what has been done. But why, I ask, is not Her Majesty's Government able to take what one would think is the natural position the Government of this country should occupy? Why are not Her Majesty's Government here able to say—" These things may or may not be true, but we, at all events, are not responsible for them? We have done what we could to prevent them—we have represented to the Porte, in the strongest language we were capable of, the injury which we think these things are doing to the Government of the Porte, and we can do no more." But that is not the attitude they assume, or the excuse which is made by Her Majesty's Government. They assume an attitude of defence of themselves from something for which they are responsible, and which is more or less repugnant to them. What is the reason for that attitude? It is because they know that to take any other attitude—to take what I have described as the natural and consistent attitude of a 1087 British Government—would be to show the fallacy of the position they are still occupying, and the fallacy of the hope to which they are clinging—that the Porte of itself will affect these necessary reforms. Sir, it may be said that in any such matter as this it is always something to gain time, and that the effect of the Protocol was, at least, to gain time. Well, there is always something extremely attractive, when a disagreeable truth has to be faced, or an unpleasant occasion to be met—there is in those cases always something very attractive in anything which holds out the prospect of gaining a little time. I have no doubt the unfortunate individuals who have to meet pressing pecuniary engagements, and who gain a little time at the rate of 30 per cent, think that they gain a good deal; but when the bills themselves fall due and they have to be met, they find in the long run they have really gained nothing after all, or rather that the gain is not so great as was imagined. But was there, I ask, any good reason for thinking that, at any sacrifice, time should be gained in this matter, and that the necessary measures contemplated by the Protocol should be indefinitely and unnecessarily postponed? On the contrary, it seems to me that there were reasons why the then present time was the more suitable than any other for making one bold and vigorous attempt to deal with this great question. The Powers of Europe were united. They were—or, at all events, a majority of them—sincerely anxious to maintain peace. Who can tell, when the time, the undefined period, contemplated by the Protocol shall have elapsed—who, I say, can tell what men shall be in power in the States of Europe, what may be the relations of the Powers, or what, in short, may be the fresh difficulties that will have arisen in the way of solving this difficult problem? So far, Sir, I have referred only to the Protocol; but it is impossible to consider the Protocol without noticing the Declaration which has been attached to it. I do not know whether there is any diplomatic precedent for the Declaration which Her Majesty's Government appended to the Protocol. There may be, but I must admit that, in the absence of the Papers on the subject and of explanations, I am totally at a loss to conceive what was the motive of Her Majesty's Government 1088 for appending that Declaration to the Protocol. What was the one great advantage which, in spite of all its weakness and all its deficiency, was supposed to be secured by the Protocol? It was that it continued to prolong the European concert. By it the Powers—Before all proposed to maintain the agreement so happily established between them, and jointly to affirm afresh the common interest which they take in the improvement of the condition of the Christian population of Turkey.Well, but the Declaration of Her Majesty's Government at the hands of Lord Derby is of itself, without considering its terms, a departure from that common agreement. What was it that induced Her Majesty's Government, at the very outset of the agreement which they desired to maintain, to launch into a separate line of action? If this Declaration was necessary, what was the reason it was not joined in by Germany, France, Italy, and the other Powers? What, I ask, was the reason which induced Her Majesty's Government at the very outset to take a step in the direction of separate action by themselves? What was the danger which was foreseen when the Protocol was signed? It was that one of the Powers might separate itself from the common agreement and take a line of individual action. Well, then, whose interest was it to make the Protocol as binding and as conclusive a document as it could be made? Was it that of the Powers which desired to maintain the common agreement, or of any Power which desired to take separate action? Surely it was the interest of the Powers who desired to maintain common concert, and not that of any Power which desired to take separate action. Well, if you had not accompanied the Protocol with the Declaration, what would be the language you could now naturally and justly use towards Russia? Why, you could appeal at once to the Protocol, which was not only signed by Russia, but proposed by Russia. You could say to Russia—"This instrument—your own instrument—binds us to concerted action; that action you are now on the point of taking is individual action—it is separate action, inconsistent with the Protocol and the combined action it contemplated." That is the action which might have been used towards Russia by Her Majesty's Government and those of the other Powers. But what have you done? 1089 You have pointed out to the Power which desired to enter on the path of separate action the way by which she might get rid of the restraint imposed upon her. You have placed in her hand the weapon by which she can strike off at any moment the chain by which you might have restrained her. But that is not all you have done. You have not only put it in the power of Russia whenever she pleases to destroy the Protocol, but you have also put it in the power of Turkey, which was not a party to the Protocol at all, to destroy that Protocol. If Turkey by her own faults, by her own recklessness, by the increase of her armaments, even if threatened by Russia, had wished to put an end to the Protocol, Turkey would by that conduct have made it impossible to disarm, and by your own language the Protocol would ipso facto have become null and void. And here I cannot help referring to a sentence which appeared the other day in the foreign correspondence of one of the daily newspapers—one not badly affected in any way to the Turkish cause—I allude to The Daily Telegraph; and I do not quote the passage as having authority, but because it expresses what appears to me to be the truth in very plain language. It says—What Turkey most ardently desires is the disunion of the Powers. If she manages matters so that the Protocol shall become a dead letter, she to a certain extent breaks up the coalition of Europe. Can any reasonable man doubt what, under such circumstances, Turkey's line of action will be?Well, no reasonable man being able to doubt that the object of Turkey must be to break up the concert of Europe, what are we to think of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which has placed, by this Declaration, in the hands of Turkey the power—without any fault of Russia or of any other Power—of breaking up and destroying the European concert, and rendering the Protocol of no effect? But this is not all that has been done by the unfortunate Declaration of Lord Derby, or by the policy which prompted it, for you have provoked the Russian Declaration, which bids fair to be the immediate cause of an outbreak of hostilities. Your foreign policy has been described—I do not say whether correctly or otherwise—in the words "No demobilization, no Protocol." But that is not exactly what you have 1090 got. You have not got demobilization; but you have signed a Protocol; and in spite of a stipulation that under certain circumstances it is to become null and void, I maintain that there is a great deal in the Protocol which in no circumstances can ever become null and void. There are contained in it certain assertions as to matters of fact, assertions as to principles, which cannot be affected by anything that may happen to the Protocol itself. The Declaration to which you have set your hands remains the Declaration of Her Majesty's Government, and all you can say is null and void is the engagement into which you have entered. There is, therefore, much in the Protocol which can never be unsaid; but you are credited with having raised the question of demobilization, and if you had been content not to raise that question it is possible—I do not say it is certain—that Russia might have been satisfied with the promise, although it was a deferred promise, of European action, and might, of her own accord, have undertaken to demobilize. But you have pressed the Government of Russia to say that she would demobilize. Before the Protocol was signed, you raised the question in such a way that Russia, thinking her dignity and her honour were engaged, appears to have declined to undertake the making of terms of demobilization as you required. You consented to sign the Protocol; but you insisted upon appending your Declaration to it, and. that resulted in the Russian Declaration, which seems likely to cause an outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Turkey. I must refer for a moment to the terms of the Declaration. I can hardly imagine that in a document so long and carefully considered there could have been any haste or ambiguity as to its terms; but I nevertheless hesitate to believe that the plain and obvious meaning of that Declaration was the one which Her Majesty's Government attached to it. The terms of the Declaration are contained in the following words:—It is solely in the interests of European peace that Her Britannic Majesty's Government have consented to sign the Protocol proposed by that of Russia, and it is understood beforehand that in the event of the object proposed not being attained—namely, reciprocal disarmament on the part of Russia and Turkey and peace between them—the Protocol in question shall be null and void.I maintain that the plain and obvious 1091 meaning of that Declaration and of the signing of the Protocol was not that the one was made and the other signed with a view to obtain a better government of the Christian Provinces of Turkey, or to remove the causes which disturbed the tranquillity of Europe. The obvious meaning of the Declaration was that action was taken solely in order to secure peace, even though it might only be temporary, between Russia and Turkey. I hesitate to believe that such was the meaning of Her Majesty's Government; but I repeat that it was the only interpretation to be attached to the text of the Declaration. I hesitate to believe that Her Majesty's Government would have desired in this way to contradict the statements contained in the Protocol, the Instructions given to the Marquess of Salisbury before he went to the Conference, the statements which the noble Marquess made in the course of the Conference, or the statements over and over again repeated by Her Majesty's Government; but so it is. At this supreme moment, when the Christian subjects of Turkey are anxiously waiting to know whether it is to European concert or to the action of Russia alone that they are to look for protection—it is at this critical moment that Her Majesty's Government append their signature to a Declaration which, at all events, is susceptible of the construction that Her Majesty's Government cared for none of those things to which I have alluded when they assented to the Protocol, but only for the preservation of European peace. It is not for me either to defend or to condemn the terms of the Russian Declaration, which was made in consequence of the Declaration of Her Majesty's Government. It is not incumbent upon us to discuss the conduct of a foreign Government, except in so far as that conduct may form the basis of action to be taken by our own Government. I have no wish to defend the language in which the Russian Declaration is couched; but the more there may be in it for condemnation, the more it is to be regretted that Her Majesty's Government should have taken a step which should in any way have led to that Declaration. These, then, Sir, are the results which Her Majesty's Government have accomplished after more than 12 months' negotiations. They have laboured for peace, perhaps not in the 1092 highest and largest sense—not in the sense of removing the causes which, until they are removed, must continue to disturb the tranquillity of Europe—but they have laboured ardently and anxiously to prevent the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Turkey. What, however, is the result? It is now understood—I hope the Government will be able to contradict it—that Europe is on the very verge of war. Her Majesty's Government have laboured to obtain some improvements in the condition of the Christian inhabitants of Turkey, but no such improvements have been realized. They have laboured to maintain the Treaty of 1856, but the Treaty of 1856 can hardly be said any longer to exist. They have laboured to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, but that Empire is at the present moment threatened with an attack more dangerous to its existence than any which has occurred within this century. These are the results of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. ["No, no!"] These, I say, are the consequences of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. ["No, no!"] And surely this requires explanation and justification. I have admitted that the justification may be forthcoming; but I contend that it is not contained in the Papers at present in the possession of the House, and that if further Papers, upon a perusal of which the House and the country can form an accurate judgment, are in the possession of the Government, they ought to be produced. As to the Papers for which I have asked, I cannot, of course, define the particular documents, but I have a right to assume that such documents exist, or ought to exist; and if I am told the Protocol did not emanate from our Government, but from that of Russia, and that for that reason our Government is unable to produce the Correspondence, I should reply that when Russia presented her Protocol to the Powers she made it the property of Europe. Further, I should say that the time has arrived when Europe ought to know what are the views of Russia; and that I have a further right to ask that the draft should be produced. If, however, I am told that the Papers are of a confidential character, and cannot be produced without injury to the Public Service, I need hardly say that I shall not press for 1093 them, as I do not ask for anything which the Government cannot be called upon fairly to produce. But, at the same time, I must say that if such is the case, it proves the necessity which existed for the course which I have taken; because, if the documents cannot be produced, Her Majesty's Government ought to give such verbal explanation as it is in their power to afford of a policy which now appears to me to be inexplicable. One only other observation. I need hardly say that before raising this discussion I considered as carefully as I could whether at this great crisis any evil could result from a discussion of the kind. I have long thought that it was improbable that this tangled web, composed of semi-civilized forces of fanatical rivalries, national and religious rivalries, religious jealousies, and political intrigues and ambition, could well be unravelled without an appeal to the sword. But, Sir, the evils of war are so tremendous, and the dangers of the extension of the war are so tremendous, and are so thoroughly understood and so justly dreaded by the people of this country, that I can quite sympathize with Her Majesty's Government in having directed all their efforts towards the preservation of peace, even if it be the hollow peace which has been so well described on a former occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and I need hardly say that I should be the last to utter any word in this House which, in my judgment, could tend to hasten even by a moment the outbreak—perhaps the inevitable outbreak—of war. But, in my opinion, that cannot well be the effect of a discussion on this subject in this House at the present time. If the last word of England and of the other European Powers has been spoken—if Turkey or Russia, or either of them, desire war—then war is inevitable. There is only one chance, if there be a chance remaining, for peace; and that is that both Powers are sincere in their protestations that they desire peace, and that a way may yet be found whereby the honour and dignity—or the fancied honour and dignity—of both nations may be preserved without a resort to arms. There is only one way now in which the honour and dignity of Russia can be preserved, and that by the mode pointed out by Prince Gortchakoff in the Circular of 1094 June 13—namely, that Europe should make this question her own, and so prevent Russia from resorting to force. And there is only one way in which the honour and dignity of Turkey can be preserved, and that is by making her feel that the demands made upon her are the demands of Europe, and that she has no more chance of evading those demands, if made by Europe collectively, than if they were enforced by Russia alone. If Her Majesty's Government can, even at this last moment, say a word which will give this assurance to Russia and to Turkey, and which will strengthen what they have already done with regard to this grave subject, it may be productive of much good; and if I have given them an opportunity of saying that word, then, however imperfectly I may have discharged the task I have undertaken to-night, I shall feel that the course I have taken has not been altogether fruitless, and shall be satisfied with the result. I now move the Motion which stands in my name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, further Papers on the Affairs of Turkey, and particularly the Draft Protocol presented to Lord Derby by the Russian Ambassador on the 11th of March, and also any Correspondence with reference to the Russian Circular of the 19th of January and the Protocol of the 11th March,"—(The Marquess of Hartington,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Mr. Speaker, I will for one moment allude to the remarks of the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) which he has made with respect to myself, before I go to the general question. The noble Lord seems to think that I shall be in the position of having to apologize for the terms I used on a former occasion, and that I shall have to-day to say that I erred in the couse which I then took; that I have made a mistake in the policy I then advocated; and that, as representing the Government, I shall be obliged to retreat from the position which I occupied on that occasion. The noble Lord is entirely mistaken. T have no- 1095 thing to retract; I have nothing to unsay; I stand in the same position as I did on that occasion; and I venture to defend the course of the Government upon the same principles as I defended it then. Leaving myself, as a matter of very little importance in this discussion, I will come to the important question which the noble Lord has put before us. The noble Lord, in his attack upon the Government—not a very moderato attack, though moderately expressed in some respects, having charged us with offering a blind opposition to Russia and with having given a blind support to Turkey—strong terms to use with respect to the Government of this country —instead of asking Parliament to censure by vote the Government which has been guilty of such conduct; instead of adopting the old course, which the right hon. Gentleman upon that bench said should have been followed in the case of Denmark and was the course of our forefathers—that when they attacked a Government they would at least attempt to censure it by vote, concluded by moving for certain Papers. Now, let us dispose of these Papers in the first instance. The noble Lord complains, first of all, that the Government has given him too many Papers up to a certain period and too few since; and he knew that, at this very moment, a large number of Papers are on the point of being printed and submitted to the judgment of the House, so that the history of these transactions may be completed from the beginning to the end. I venture to say, on the whole, that on no occasion has any Government displayed its hand and showed the course of the negotiations which it has undertaken more fully than the present Government. That course we are still prepared to adopt. But with respect to the Papers which the noble Lord has called for, I will tell him at once what answer we shall make him. With regard to the original draft Protocol the noble Lord foresaw what might have been the case. The Government has made application to the Powers interested in that question, and in consequence of their reply we are not at liberty to produce it. So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, I will say most distinctly that we have no objection to the production of this document. It is not our document, however, and we have no right to produce it without the assent of the European Powers. 1096 With respect to the Correspondence as to the Circular of Prince Gortchakoff, there is the Correspondence already given in the Papers, and so much as regards the Protocol itself—that is which has reference not to the draft Protocol of the 11th of March, but to the Protocol of the 31st of March—there will be laid on the Table in due course all such Papers as the Government can properly produce. With respect to the present Motion of the noble Lord to have the Papers laid upon the Table—those he has moved for—I must distinctly say, "No," and proceed to the Order for "Supply" instead of agreeing to the Motion he has made. The noble Lord begins with the question of Prince Gortchakoff's Circular. And I must here observe that it was very difficult to judge what course the noble Lord might take upon these various questions; and I was obliged to listen as well as I could to the points which he made, and I will endeavour, as far as I can, riot to omit any one in the reply which it is my duty to make. The noble Lord has properly put forward the Gortchakoff Circular as the foundation of these proceedings, and, as I understand him, he condemns my noble Friend (Lord Derby) for not having at once made an answer to the document. Now, in the first place, if we delayed to give an answer to that document, we merely acted in concert with all the other Powers of Europe. At one time, the Government are told that they are to be of one mind and always to act in concert with Europe; and then, when we do that, the noble Lord turns round and asks why we do not act separately and at mice reply to the document; yet he admits it to be perfectly true that Prince Gortchakoff begged that we would not reply immediately or hurriedly to the document at that time. When Lord Derby announced that he did intend to reply to it, he was pressed by the Russian Ambassador to delay, and requested not to make that reply at that time. It was perfectly obvious that Russia was then contemplating other action. It always seems to be supposed by hon. Members opposite that the whole of the action going on in these matters in the East is going on between England and Russia alone. But the question has been going on between Turkey and Russia and all Europe, and all the Great Powers of Europe have to 1097 be consulted in these things. Therefore, when hon. Members think they are making an attack upon England, they are making an attack, practically, not upon England alone, but upon all the Powers acting in concert with England. And then the noble Lord spoke of the only mode of vindicating the honour of Russia. That is a strong thing for him to say—to lay down what he considers is the only mode for Russia. Having said he would not discuss the conduct of Russia, because it is a difficult thing, as it undoubtedly is a difficult thing to discuss—still more difficult and improper for a Member of the Government than for a Member of the Opposition—the noble Lord having said that he will not discuss the conduct of Russia, lays down what he thinks is the only course which can vindicate its honour; I say that seems to me as if the noble Lord himself broke the conditions, and that in a manner that may be more likely to lead to war than anything else. The noble Lord says he does not know whether the last word has been spoken; but that he has no doubt that the last word of England has been spoken. The noble Lord has, I think, taken a great deal too much upon himself, to say that either with respect to England or the other Powers of the Continent. The noble Lord, if I understood him correctly, said that the Treaties of 1856 have ceased to exist. [The Marquess of HARTINGTON assented.] Well, that I entirely dispute. Under the Treaty of 1856 it is provided that one of the Powers should not go to war with another without calling in the mediation of the other Powers. That Treaty remains in force at the present moment. But, besides that, does the noble Lord suppose that the Powers who have been labouring for peace, however ineffectually, up to this time will not still be labouring for peace as long as there is the slightest chance of obtaining it? Therefore, I say the noble Lord is wrong in saying that the last word has been spoken either by England, or by any other Power. The noble Lord has asked for Papers. Upon the Table will be found at least one Paper which the Government has shown no delay in laying before the House—the answer of the Porte to the Protocol and the Declaration. That will be laid upon the Table to-night, and I am bound to say it is an unconciliatory document, that it does not ring of peace; 1098 but, at the same time, we disguise nothing, and it will be in the hands of hon. Members very soon. Still, even in the condition of things which now exist, and with that document before us as the answer of the Turkish Government, I say, even yet, the last word has not been spoken. The noble Lord says the Government had no right to call in aid, in justification of their delay in answering this Circular of Prince Gortchakoff, the fact that the Prince had himself relieved us subsequently from the answer. It is not in the least necessary for the Government to call in that aid, except so far as this—that it shows the prudence of the Powers of Europe in not answering too hastily. Russia had changed her own conduct; she saw there was a difficulty in the way; she saw that there were circumstances to be met differently, because she had changed her conduct, and therefore, laying aside the Circular—to which she had at first seemed to press for an answer—she proposed that the Government should resort to other means which might be more efficacious in our dealings with Turkey. The noble Lord has again repeated that which I must say I most firmly deny as I have denied it before. The noble Lord says we were treating Russia in all these proceedings as if she were counsel for the plaintiff, as if she were the only Power having any regard for the sufferings of the Christians or the bad government of Turkey. That is, I say, wholly unfounded. It is as unfounded as that Russia had a right to a Protectorate of the Christians of Turkey. I will not go into the Treaty of Kainardji. Hon. Gentlemen can read it for themselves, and it does not require a lawyer to read it—to see that it is a promise on the part of the Sublime Porte to treat their Christian subjects well. It then goes on to give power to Russia to interfere with respect to a certain church at Constantinople, and those who are connected with that church. If ever there was a case of the exclusion of the general Empire of Turkey from the Protectorate of Russia, it is done most conclusively and decisively, as every lawyer and everyone else who reads the terms will admit. By the admission of certain churches to the Protectorate of Russia, everything else is excluded. Now, I cannot help for one moment adverting to what was said the other night on 1099 this subject, because it is said that all writers on it have taken different views from mine. I do not profess to be deeply acquainted with great writers on International Law; but, as I understand, Dr. Phillimore, who is a great authority on this subject, has most distinctly negatived the view that this Treaty gives any such power; in fact, it was a very disputed thing when Russia claimed it, and I believe she had never claimed it to the full extent until 1854. When she did claim it then, it was at once disputed by all the Powers, and, in fact, it was not destroyed by the Crimean War, because it had not had a real existence. I come next to what passed after the Government had got rid of the Gortchakoff Circular. When I say "got rid of," I do not mean it in any offensive sense; but we had passed to a new condition of things, and I will now call attention to what took place with respect to the Protocol. And what is the ground-work of the Protocol we were asked to sign? Before I do so, however, let me recall what has been the conduct of the Government throughout these transactions. The Government, I may say, has throughout laboured for two things. It has laboured for peace, in the first place, with a full view of all those -evils which the noble Lord has said might result from war. It has laboured also most distinctly, and has always kept in view, and always will keep in view, in spite of all that is said against it, the British interests, the interests of this country as a great nation, not allowing them to be interfered with, if it can be possibly avoided, and not bringing ourselves into collision with others so long as we can avoid it and those interests are not threatened. But the Government has taken one decided course throughout, and while they are ready to join Europe in pressing upon Turkey a better administration and a better treatment of all her subjects, Christians as well as Turks, a better treatment throughout her whole government —that has been pressed upon Turkey through the whole time of these negotiations—we have as distinctly kept our hands perfectly free as we have kept them free in regard to the Protocol, and nobody will be able to say that the Government have engaged themselves, under any circumstances whatever, to join in forcing at the point of the sword any of these 1100 obligations upon Turkey, and which we are ready to recommend in concert with Europe. It is notorious, as anyone who reads the Papers can see, that Europe, as well as ourselves, was not prepared to resort to those measures of force which I understand the noble Lord thinks that we ought to have taken. The noble Lord is somewhat vague on the subject. In fact, we never can come to a conclusion with the noble Lord and his Adherents upon this point. The noble Lord talks of bold and vigorous demands, and of the certainty of the means which he said should be changed for action. He says these things must necessarily mean coercion. I tell the noble Lord distinctly that they do not, and never have meant coercion, and that the Declaration attached to the Protocol, to which I shall afterwards call attention, most clearly shows that to be the case. Now, the noble Lord said, first of all, that in this Protocol there is practically nothing for the Christian subjects of Turkey; and it is very remarkable that he afterwards said that the Protocol had been made null and void because of the Declaration, because by that Declaration the Government do not profess the least care about the clauses in the Protocol which did provide something for the Christians of Turkey; that the Government threw that overboard, and used it as if they had no regard for the Christians at all. Well, if there was nothing in the Protocol which concerned the interests of the Christian subjects of Turkey, it seems to me that it was not of much consequence what the Government might say in the Declaration with the view of getting rid of it. But there was something said, and that was said in the Protocol which we have said all along, which we have been pressing—it may be ineffectually, and that I admit; but we have pressed it throughout with one object and one view—and this is the amelioration of the condition of the subjects of the Ottoman Porte, at the same time combining with it that which we thought essential—the preservation of European peace. Nor do we believe that the way to benefit the Christian subjects of the Porte is by an armed interference; we do not think that the only way to peace and prosperity is to wade to it through slaughter. We do not think the devastation of those fair Provinces, 1101 which might be made so much fairer, is the best way to lead to their happiness and prosperity; and, above all, we feel that we who have been engaged ourselves by Treaty, at least, in former times, who have had no personal wrongs done to us, have no right and DO commission either as a country—or, as I may say, from on High—to take upon ourselves the vindication by violence of the rights of the Christian subjects of the Porte. However much we may feel for them, however much we may suffer with them—and I cannot deny, for I believe it to be true that the Government of Turkey has been unspeakably bad—I do not hesitate to say that that does not give us, without some commission which I cannot see either from earth or from Heaven, the right to be the executioners of Turkey, and destroy her because she has been guilty of destroying others. If, indeed, she offended against us, and if she interfered with our nationality, if she proceeded in such a way with respect to our own people as to interfere with the interests and the honour of this country, it would be the duty of this country to interfere. Yes, I will not hesitate, when speaking in an Assembly of the subjects of Her Majesty, to say, in my abhorrence of war, there is nothing except the interests of the country itself which can justify resort to force. We are not to draw the sword as Crusaders because our feelings have been offended. We are only to it in the interests of justice and right as regards ourselves. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) has used language on this subject which he was perfectly justified in using if he took that view; but I take a different view. But, if the hon. and learned Gentleman, like Jehu, is driving his chariot to the destruction of his enemies, let him show who sent him; let him have his commission to show who sent him and who gave him his authority. He derives it neither under Treaty obligations, nor by international rights. He derives it only from feelings which do him credit, but which those who take a totally different view may have just as strongly as himself. Well, then, we come to the Protocol. The noble Lord says that we ought to carry out this Protocol upon only logical measures. But surely those who agreed to the Protocol must judge 1102 of what are the logical measures to be derived from it. Remember it is not our Protocol, and the reason why we signed it was solely in the interests of European peace. The noble Lord says the Government threw over the Christian subjects of the Porte. Quite the contrary. Anyone who reads that Declaration will see that it bears no such meaning whatever. What the Government say is—"We are ready to join with the other Powers in carrying the Protocol into effect, but we do not believe the Protocol in itself is a very satisfactory mode of coming to a conclusion. You, however, press it upon us, and we will sign it." But why was it pressed upon us? It was not pressed upon us on the ground specially of the interests of the Christian population of Turkey. Allow me to read what was said. In the despatch of Lord Derby to Lord Augustus Loftus, in which the noble Lord explained the mode in which the Protocol had been submitted to him, he said—After the sacrifices which Russia had imposed upon herself in the stagnation of her industry and of her commerce, and the enormous expenditure incurred by the mobilization of 500,000 men, she could not retire nor send back her troops without having obtained some tangible result as regards the improvement of the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey. The Emperor was sincerely desirous of peace, but not of peace at any price. The Governments of the other Powers were at this moment preparing their answers to the Russian Circular. The Russian Government would not express any opinion by anticipation on these replies, but they foresaw in them the possibility of a great danger.Then he explains why the Circular of Prince Gortchakoff was not answered, and he goes on to say—Under these circumstances it appears to the Russian Government that the most practical solution, and the one best fitted to secure the maintenance of general peace, would be the signature by the Powers of a Protocol which should, so to speak, terminate the incident"—[Turkey, No. 8, 1877. p. 4.]England, then, did not prepare the Protocol. But Russia, in order to carry its object into effect, in order to withdraw from a position which was crippling her resources and wasting her population, in order to get back into the position in which she was before she armed herself—Russia thought that if the Government would sign a Protocol they would assist her in taking such a step. Surely, then, the Government 1103 has again and again shown its interest in the objects which were in the Protocol, they have shown their interest in them long before the Conference in despatch after despatch, and also the objects they had in view in the Conference, all of which were those embraced in the Protocol. That being so, the Government said—"We will sign the Protocol, but with the view to that European peace which you say will result from it." European peace was very much in the hands of the two Powers who were opposed and who were standing face to face with one another. Russia had it in her power to disarm, according to the noble Lord opposite; but she could not disarm without dishonour, and so she placed before us a document by which she says—"If you sign this, we shall be able to disarm. We will not make it a part of the Protocol, but we will give you an assurance that if Turkey will take steps to disarm, we, also, will take steps to disarm." The result is, that we will not make it a part of the Protocol, but we will give an assurance to disarm if Turkey will. But, says the noble Lord, you would not sign it without demobilization. We have a stronger word than demobilization. Demobilization is a very vague and difficult word to interpret; it may mean nothing more than the mere withdrawal of troops from the position they are in at the present moment; it may merely mean their withdrawal from the cantonments in which they now are, without the selling of a horse or the removal of a gun; but disarmament is something special and clear—it is a word that has a meaning. Demobilization might have been turned again into mobilization in a few weeks; but disarmament is a step which cannot be reversed without very much greater efforts than the removal of mere mobilization; and, therefore, when we are blamed for signing this document, and saying that we are bound by its logical consequences; what were the logical consequences, I may ask, that Russia put on it Peace and escape from embarrassment to herself, and freedom from her enormous armaments, from a position which she would be glad to be rid of. And compatibly with it she considered that the interests of the Christian subjects of the Porte might be maintained without force, which the noble Lord thinks is so essential. Either 1104 Russia thought that the interests of the Christian subjects of the Porte could be obtained if she withdrew her armaments or not; and if she thought they could not be maintained without, at the same time, maintaining her armaments, she could not, according to the noble Lord and the terms she used formerly, withdraw formally from that position; because she said that she would not withdraw without obtaining tangible results for the Christian population. But she goes on to say that if Turkey will adopt certain measures of reform, prepare to disarm, and will send an Envoy to Russia, she will receive the Envoy and accept the proposal to disarm. What follows? That the European concert can be maintained, having regard to the interests of the Christians in Turkey, with Russia disarmed, with Turkey disarmed, with all the Powers of Europe disarmed. Unless that is true, Russia could not possibly have meant to disarm at all. She could not have meant to disarm, if she supposed that the Christians in Turkey could not possibly be protected except by force of arms. But it is a little strong for the Opposition to call upon us to follow Russia in arms in order to thrust these reforms on Turkey at the point of the sword when Russia thinks that they can be accomplished without. The noble Lord has said one thing which I am sorry he did say, because it is an incorrect statement of what has been done by the Government. The noble Lord says that whenever Questions are asked of the Government with respect to the outrages in Turkey, the Government always puts itself on its defence, as if it was responsible. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] I am not at all surprised at that cheer; I always know where such a cheer comes from; but I undertake to say that what has been stated by the noble Lord is not the fact. My hon. Friend (Mr. Bourke) has had to answer a great many Questions. I want to know what the House requires from a Foreign Secretary or from the Under Secretary of State, who represents that Department in this House? Do they wish him to tell them what is agreeable only to their own wishes, or to tell them the truth? The hon. Gentleman who fills the Office of Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in this House has to apply for information, not to newspaper correspondents, but to 1105 those who officially represent the Foreign Office abroad. If you think that they are the representatives of falsehood, bring their conduct before the House and condemn them; but when a Consul sends to his Department statements which he vouches for as a result of his inquiry, I say, whether right or wrong, it is the duty of the Foreign Minister to state to the House the official information which he has received, and if it turns out to be false, it is the duty of the Foreign Office to dismiss him from his post; but not, for the sake of giving pleasure to certain hon. Gentlemen who have made up their minds that certain things have happend, whether they have happened or not, to disguise that information. It is unfair that hon. Gentlemen, because they are dissatisfied with the reply, should say that the Government has taken upon itself the defence of any particular act. It is not long ago that hon. Gentlemen opposite were saying that Lord Derby had addressed to the Porte on the subject of the outrages language such as no British Minister had ever used before. And I repudiate, on the part of my noble Friend, and on the part of the Government, the unjust insinuation that we have identified ourselves with any of these outrages that were perpetrated in Bulgaria. On the contrary, we have done all in our power to check those outrages and wrongs. ["No, no!"] Well, we have done all that we think is in our power to do to check them. We have acted in that respect with the sole and only object, and with a view to the interests of those populations, and it is not because we take a different view of the best way of reaching the object it is wished to attain that we are less feeling or humane—Christian, if you may so put it to these Christians than others. We believe that you on the opposite side of the House would take the wrong course; we believe that we are taking the right. The noble Lord then went to this point—that these things never could be put an end to except by force, and that coercion was the only thing that could effect these changes. I hope I am not misrepresenting the noble Lord.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
What I said was that force might effect that object. And I asked you if you knew of any other means.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I understood the noble Lord to say that it was absurd to talk about the Porte effecting these reforms, but that force might do it. I take issue with him on that statement. This is not a question of destroying a Government, it is a question of good government, and I say that the way to good government is as we intend to pursue it. The noble Lord says that only by a European concert in arms you could effectually bring this to a conclusion, and redress the grievances of the Christians. I know that he will say, as has been said by many hon. Members already, that, assuming a European concert which was engaged to use force, Turkey would be sure to submit; but I am sorry to have to differ entirely from that opinion, because when you once say—"We are going to coerce," it is evident that the ultimate resort must be to the sword. If Turkey will not submit, you must use the sword. The supposition, then, is that an army composed of the Forces of the six Great Powers is to take possession of Turkey, and proceed to divide it into autonomous States, or what you please; and you have the unwisdom to expect that European Powers who might agree to destroy the Turkish Army will agree to carry on the government. Because Turkey will net make the reforms you wish, you make a most unwise proposal—to bring an army composed of different States together in order to compel her to do so. With all deference to the right hon. Gentleman who declaimed so strongly the other night against our setting up English interests (Mr. Gladstone), because other nations would do the same, I am sorry to say that my opinion of the world in general is that they all do do it. My strong opinion is that Russia in all these transactions is setting up her own interests; and so are Germany, Austria, and France; and England would be very much behind in the race if she did not also consult her own interests. If, then, you get the European concert up to a certain point, you are then to suppose that you can also maintain a unity as to the division of the spoil and the rearrangement of things after the fray. With the world in arms, if not an actual impossibility, it would, I believe, be almost such. The only chance you will ever have of getting good government for the Christians by European concert is a 1107 peaceable one, a persuasive one; not going to its object through bloodshed, and so raising up enemies in every path, and enemies among themselves also; by an agreement in peace, and never by an agreement in time of war. It is not, therefore, a question only whether you shall put down something, but whether you shall also set up something else. In looking forward to an agreement of great nations in arms, it is an absurd notion with regard to the history of nations to suppose that each will not be actuated by its own interests, and be actuated by what it considers most advantageous to itself. We are no better than our forefathers, and there never has been a time when nations, like individuals, have not consulted their own interests, and there never will be until we arrive at that condition of things that peace will be universal and men never quarrel over individual, political, or social questions. It is difficult enough for the two Parties in a great House like this to agree together on any subject. It is a very difficult thing to get any one small part of one side to agree with the other. And I am convinced of this, that looking on nations and things as they really are—with Ministers changing, as views on questions change—and that going on in the six countries of Europe, all aiming at the aggrandizement of their own position and the advantage of their country, to suppose that when they were all armed together they would agree like lambs, for the sole benefit of the country they have entered, and come to no quarrel, is to suppose something so monstrous and absurd that I do not think it necessary to answer it in the way of refutation. The noble Lord said—"You will say that time is of value." Yes, Sir; I do say that time is of value. I do say that to have kept those two great Powers apart so long; that is one great object which has been achieved. I say that the peace which has been maintained since the commencement of these transactions has had enormous advantages, because it shows that the Great Powers of Europe made great efforts together in every possible way without drawing the sword to bring about that condition of things in Turkey which all thought so desirable. I say, therefore, I do not take to myself any shame so far for having been a party to these transactions. I rejoice that there has been less of bloodshed than there 1108 would have been had a great war been begun; and I congratulate my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for having placed himself, with his calm, impartial judgment, between these contending parties, and imploring them to consider every other means tending to a more merciful solution of the difficulty, before resorting to war; and I say that the country will honour him for that conduct which has shown so little of the advocate and so much of the Judge. He has made himself respected in Europe, if not revered, for his endeavours to bring about a peaceful end to these transactions, and he will be looked on by all Europe as a man to whom they may look in a last resort. Now, then, I come to the Declaration of which the noble Lord speaks so slightingly. I have argued before that the Declaration was the honest statement of the view which England had always taken. She had said—" We enter into this with a view to preserve peace." She said this long before, at the time of the Andrassy Note, and again at the time of the Conference. She never pretended to do a thing from which she would shrink. She never said that she would use coercion to get redress for Turkey; but what she has adopted is a moral and not an armed force. It has been her object throughout to do without the armed force of Europe. I venture, with great deference to the noble Lord, to say that the use of the word "solely" in the Declaration has no reference to the contents of the Protocol, but to the signatures. The Protocol contains the sentiments of the Government, and the Declaration is the Declaration of England—that though she would desire to see the objects proposed accomplished, she would not have joined unless assured that it was the best means of obtaining peace; and the other Governments agreed that such a Declaration was the best means of securing that peace which the noble Lord says we have been labouring for from the beginning. We used the same terms as were used by Russia, She knew the conditions and accepted them, and used the very terms we were using, including the word "disarmament" which we have used, also in order that she might conform to our Declaration; and she showed that we were entering into an agreement in this matter, which was an open transaction, not with 1109 a view to ulterior measures, which we always refused—we guarded ourselves from the beginning against the mesures efficaces which we suspected might be intended. We declared that our object was the maintenance of peace, and that we did not believe that the way to secure peace was to rush into war. With regard to the Russian Declaration, I will not comment upon it. It is commented upon in the documents laid on the Table of the House, and you will see what the Turks think on that subject. Hon. Gentlemen may comment upon it if they think proper. I believe that I have gone through, as far as I know, every topic which the noble Lord addressed to the House with a view to the censure of the Government. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I say that as we have laboured for peace, so we are still labouring for peace; and as we have laboured to ameliorate the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte, so we are still labouring to ameliorate their condition. If, however, the noble Lord and his Friends wish to show us that we are not following the path which they are following, and that they wish to condemn us for it, let them appeal to the voice of the House on this subject. We are entitled to ask it, for it is not just or fair that we should be condemned for a blind support of Turkey, or that we should ever have these covert attacks made upon us. It is nowhere to be found in any of the Papers that we have shown a blind opposition to Russia, for, on the contrary, if you will look back, you will find that Russia thanked Lord Beaconsfield for the initiative which he had taken. We have pursued one steady policy from the beginning; we have gone on steadily with that policy, and when we have condemned the outrages, we have condemned them the more emphatically because they were worse than any that had preceded them. So we are prepared to go on. We will not subject ourselves to the necessity of drawing the sword against Turkey, and were only a party to a Protocol which falls to the ground by itself if war breaks out. But if, and when it unhappily does so, we reserve to ourselves the position which we have always held, that on such an occasion every great country has a right to look to its own honour, interests, and dignity, in consulting which we shall still watch 1110 anxiously over the interests of the Christian subjects of the Porte. But, at the same time, we shall also not be neglectful of the trust which has been reposed in us as Ministers of the Crown, to maintain and support here, and in every part of the world, the honour and interest of the United Kingdom.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, if the Motion and speech of his noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition required any justification, it would have been found in one sentence, at least, in the speech they had just heard—he thought almost the only sentence he had heard with satisfaction—that the last word of England on this question had not been spoken. In such circumstances he thought his noble Friend, in the position he occupied, was bound to call on the Government for an explanation of the course they proposed to take, and the policy that was likely to guide them in respect of the serious crisis in which Europe now found itself. The explanation of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down with reference to the Motion before the House was a rather extraordinary one, and the Correspondence to be withheld was that which was asked for. First of all he said, with regard to the Protocol, that Russia objected to its being produced. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: The other Powers had to be consulted, and they objected.] But what was wanted was the Correspondence which had passed since Prince Gortchakoff's first Circular. Great delay had taken place. He wanted to know what the other Powers said, and what Her Majesty's Government said to them, with reference to that pertinent question of Prince Gortchakoff, "What do you mean to do, then?" As none had been given, what was the reason for declining to produce that Correspondence which bore most materially on this question? The right hon. Gentleman promised to give the Correspondence relating to the Protocol. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: Yes; but not on this Motion.] Did the right hon. Gentleman really think such special pleading would conduce to the dignity of this discussion?
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The Motion is for Papers relating to the Protocol of the 11th of March, and those will be produced with the Protocol itself. I never promised the Corre- 1111 spondence relating to the draft Protocol.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman distinguished between the Protocol as altered and the Protocol in draft; but the Correspondence with regard to the draft Protocol was part of the Correspondence with regard to the Protocol, for how could it be distinguished. When the peace of Europe was at stake he did not think this kind of special pleading should be resorted to. The right hon. Gentleman ended with that taunt—why did they not propound a Vote of Censure? But right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not approve the conduct of the late Government in the negotiations with reference to the Alabama claims; why did they not propose a Vote of Censure on that occasion? And yet the present Chancellor of the Exchequer strongly condemned those negotiations. Why did they not propose a Vote of Censure on the late Government for the negotiations with reference to the Black Sea Treaty? Yet those negotiations were continually debated in that House, and the Government were criticized with respect to their conduct in the matter; and hon. Members opposite went into almost every town in the country, and made speeches in which the policy of the Government was denounced. The eloquent speech to which they had just listened was inadequate, in that it did not furnish any answer to the questions which had been asked Her Majesty's Government that evening—What is your policy, and what are the means you are taking to give effect to it? The cardinal principle of the Protocol was that what was essential to the peace of Europe, which the Government regarded so much, was a reform of the government of Turkey; and he thought the House might have relied upon the Protocol itself for that policy. The right hon. Gentleman asked what our commission was to reform Turkey; and an answer might be given in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had said—I believe it to be impossible really to secure the peace of Europe unless we take steps also for the improved administration of the Provinces of Turkey. As long as you leave that sore open, as long as you do nothing to heal what is at the bottom of the cause of these disturbances, any peace you may promote for the moment will be but a hollow peace, and be but as a patchwork —a piece of sticking-plaister put over a wound 1112 while there is festering matter still below."—[Speech at Bristol, Nov. 13, 1876.]We had tried that sticking-plaster policy; we had tried Conference, Notes, and Protocol; and the question remained, instead of adhering to it, what the Government were going to do next to secure the peace of Europe? Our authority, our commission to interfere, was furnished in the words of Lord Derby, who had said—As to the obligation imposed upon us by Treaty to do what in us lies to protect the subject-races of Turkey from misgovernment, our obligation to interfere for the protection of the Turkish Empire from outside attack implies a corresponding duty of control. There is an Article of the Treaty, no doubt, which seems to preclude such interference; but I read that article as in no way prohibiting a joint intervention in the interests of humanity, the intention being clearly to guard against the exclusive interference of any one Power.The policy which he (Sir William Harcourt) and the Opposition advocated was the policy laid down by Lord Derby in that sentence, and that was joint intervention in the interests of humanity—the intervention being to guard against exclusive interference by any one Power. The Protocol declared that a reform of the government of Turkey was essential to the peace of Europe. It declared that having entered on that path, they ought not to desist until it was accomplished. It then stated that it was the right and duty of England to watch over the conduct of Turkey in that respect, and it ended by the statement that in case of the failure of Turkey to perform this duty, other means ought to be tried. The right hon. Gentleman had never attempted to answer the question of his noble Friend—what other means have you got? The Conference had failed. The Protocol had failed, because it had been rejected. And now they had a right to ask what were the other means which existed. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Those means are not coercion." But what, then, were they? The right hon. Gentleman had not answered the only question he had to answer; he had not given the country the slightest indication of what, in the opinion of the English Government, were the other means that would be used; and, unless the Government knew what those means were, and applied them, they would have done nothing to secure the peace of Europe. The Pro- 1113 tocol laid down a number of sound and valuable principles, but it disposed of the rubbish of the Ministerial print, that this was no affair of ours. The Protocol said that this was an affair of ours, and that was admitted by the Government, because they owned that it was for the interest of the peace of Europe. A great deal had been said, and the Government had also admitted, that it was on account of our special Treaty obligations; but there was not a word in the Protocol about Treaty obligations. The Parties to the Protocol were Parties to the Treaty of 1856; but now they made no reference to it, and it was not necessary to argue the point. He was willing to leave the matter exactly where it was left at the Conference by Lord Salisbury's Declaration — that the Treaty could not be one-sided, but that it placed Turkey under obligations she had not performed; and, therefore, the obligations on the other side were at an end. The arrangement, Lord Salisbury said, was founded upon the assumption that Turkey would reform herself, and that assumption had been falsified. With that statement we might be satisfied, and it followed that the Protocol was signed on the assumption that the 9th Article of the Treaty, forbidding interference in the internal affairs of Turkey, was not in force. The Treaty of 1856 contained a general guarantee; what had become of it now that we had warned Turkey that we would not support her against Russia? That Declaration, in effect, terminated the arrangements of 1856. Why? Because they applied to a Turkey which did not exist at that time, which never had existed, and which, he believed, never would exist. They referred to Turkey, not as she was when the Treaty was made, but they referred to what Turkey promised to become under the Firman which was issued at the time. She had never fulfilled those obligations and had never entitled herself to the guarantees which were dependent on the performance of her pledges. These were the principles of the Protocol, as distinct from the manner in which effect was given to them, and they were the principles held by the great majority of the English people. They had been told that the agitation of the autumn was a great mistake, and that they on that side of the House 1114 ought to be ashamed of that agitation—["Hear, hear!"]—but many hon. Members who said "Hear, hear" took part in it themselves, and there were many Conservative speakers at the meetings; and therefore they were not in a position to condemn the agitation. They might be ashamed of it; but he and others were not. It was said it was a fire in the straw which blazed up and disappeared, leaving nothing but empty ashes behind; but a scandal more foul was never levelled at the reputation of the English nation. If this statement were true, the English people were the most shallow-hearted, the most fickle, the must faithless race that could be found anywhere within the confines of Europe; but he did not believe that that aspersion upon their character was true. He believed they desired now what they desired then, and what had been declared at the Conference by Lord Salisbury and expressed in the September despatch by Lord Derby. It was not of the good intentions or of the sentiments of the Government he complained; he believed they had good intentions enough to pave half-a-dozen Hades; but what they now asked the Government was—What have you done to give effect to those valiant despatches? By what policy do you intend to give effect to these admirable sentiments? They had done little enough, and the result they had produced was small enough. In the Easter Recess he saw a somewhat satisfactory announcement, for the youngest Member of the Cabinet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) not finding the government of Ireland sufficient to occupy his attention, announced to his admiring constituents that England, or the Government of England, were the leaders of Europe. If so, how had we led Europe, whither had we led her, and to what were we now leading her? If, as the Chief Secretary for Ireland boasted, we upset the European concert by refusing to join in the Berlin Memorandum, and had installed ourselves as the leaders of Europe, we were responsible for the position in which Europe now found herself. As "leaders of Europe," the Government had written letters or despatches in the name of the Queen to demand satisfaction for the outrages in Bulgaria. But those despatches had been treated with contempt. Then they sent Plenipotentiaries to Constantinople, but they 1115 had returned, and nothing had been done. They had withdrawn Ambassadors and were now going to send them back. They had signed a voidable Protocol, and that had been civilly refused. That was what was called leading Europe. That had been the result of the policy of remonstrance and persuasion on which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had passed such a glowing eulogium. Now what really was our position? It was a position of ignominious failure. And why had we failed? The reason was this—that they had never convinced Turkey, and never taken the means of convincing Turkey that they were in earnest. They signed the Andrassy Note "with great regret;" they rejected the Berlin Memorandum because it contemplated ulterior means. The Protocol also contemplated ulterior means, with this difference, he supposed, that the means it contemplated were not to be efficacious. Nor was that all. For fear the Protocol should be too strong, even with the inefficacious means in it, they appended to it a Declaration, showing the parties how to put an end to it when they liked. Then during the negotiations the attitude of Europe was disturbed by two Ministerial speeches with which he had been much struck. To one of these he had just referred. The other, which was delivered by a more important and more experienced Member of the Government, the First Lord of the Admiralty, complimented Turkey on her "indomitable pluck." By this was meant, no doubt, the pluck she had displayed in rejecting the advice and remonstrances of Europe. What other interpretation, at all events, would the Ministers of Turkey put upon it? That was the course taken by Cabinet Ministers to convince Europe of the sincerity of the course which they recommended. They had proceeded with the policy of remonstrance and advice, and, in order to cure that terrible gangrene in the East of Europe, had said they would accept nothing but effectual guarantees? Now, he would ask, where were those guarantees? They were nothing but waste paper. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that he would have nothing to do with a sticking-plaster policy. That was what in America would be called a shin-plaster policy. But they had altogether failed in their 1116 policy, and the question now was, what were they going to do next? What was it they had to deal with? He was far from disparaging the sacred cause of peace, but he was convinced that until the anarchy caused by Turkish misrule was cured, they could never hope to have more than a fitful and feverish truce and never peace in Europe. It was said, and it might be true, that the difficulty and agitation in the Christian Provinces of the Porte was due to foreign instigation; but what was it that occasioned those insidious enterprizes and that made them succeed? Why, it was but the presence of a populace always ready for insurrection, because they were bound down by intolerable tyranny and oppression. Round and about the decayed and decaying carcase of the Turkish Empire the eagles were hovering. They might be scared away for a moment, but they would sooner or later swoop down upon their prey. Everything which had induced the Government to interfere at the time of the Andrassy Note was still in force. As for the Turkish Constitution, he was content to leave it where it remained after the criticism of Lord Salisbury, and the good-natured contempt which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had displayed for it on the first night of the Session. He believed the Government had missed several opportunities of securing peace upon a solid and durable basis. Had they not broken up the agreement of Europe at the time of the Berlin Memorandum, Turkey might have been induced to enter upon a path of reform. They might again have settled the difficulty by means of the Conference, if they had not taken care that the Conference should be a sham by telling the Turks beforehand that they might reject its recommendations with impunity. It was the spectacle of disunion which prevailed, and in which the English Government set the most prominent example, that had encouraged Turkey in a resistance which had culminated in the refusal of the Protocol. It was that course of conduct which had hardened the heart of Turkey, and she now found it hard to believe that this country was not now on her side. Facts ought to be looked in the face. The situation, bad as it was, would grow worse day by day, and it would never be cured by pieces of paper which meant nothing, and which changed nothing. 1117 No doubt it was the fashion to distrust Russia, and that distrust in which he certainly shared, he would add, was a just penalty which Russia had to pay for many acts of insincere policy. But how unwise and unstatesmanlike it was for us to be betrayed by that fear into playing Russia's game by allowing her to become the champion of the oppressed Christian subjects of the Porte! The Government had declared that they could not aid Turkey, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said that if this country were called upon to perform the stipulations in the Treaties it would be placed in a humiliating position. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by that? Why, that, though technically bound to support Turkey, it would be a humiliation to do so, and that it would be a humiliation which the people of this country would never submit to. He knew there were hon. Gentlemen who regretted that declaration. But it had been made by the Government and could not be withdrawn. There were two policies which the Government might have pursued. The first was that which they had feebly attempted and had weakly abandoned—namely, that of saying to Turkey—"You must and you shall be reformed, and then we will protect you." That was a policy which the Conference might have effected, if the Conference had been a reality and not a "sham." But now what did the Government say to Turkey? Why" You may do as you like about reforming yourself, but if you don't reform yourself we won't protect you." Well, Turkey had not reformed herself, and she would not reform herself, and if anything made that reform, as far as regards the Christian Provinces, more impossible than it was before under a prudent Minister, it was the existence of a mock Parliament with a fanatical Mahomedan majority who had the absolute control over the great majority of the population, who were non-Mussulman. Heretofore Turkey had been regarded as a stop-gap in Eastern Europe, and it had been our policy to maintain her; but nobody believed in the success of that policy now. Turkey was a stop-gap which decency and humanity forbade them any longer to maintain, and they would have to seek some other barrier in Eastern Europe. The Govern- 1118 ment said to Turkey—"We will not protect you, but we will leave you to the mercy of Russia." What would be the consequence of that? They might protest as much as they liked, but Russia would become the executioner of the recorded justice of Europe. He deeply regretted the apparently cynical, but eloquent language in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Hardy) had referred to a cause which was most dear to them all. That language was absolutely inconsistent with the European concert which it was the professed object of the Protocol to preserve. If it went forth to-morrow that England had no concern in the affairs of Europe except as far as they affected her own interests, they would ask in vain for the co-operation of Europe. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dissented.] He was glad to receive that disclaimer from the right hon. Gentleman, and on that assurance he would take it that he must have misunderstood the language of the Secretary of State for War. English interests in that matter were European and not exclusively insular. He did not disparage the interests of England; he believed they were of supreme importance, and the reason why he disapproved of the policy of the Government was because he believed it had fatally compromised those interests. Whether Turkey could have been reformed from without, and so preserved, it was too late to speculate, and they would never know. He thought it was an experiment which ought to have been tried, but it was hopeless now. They were in presence of another contingency, which he believed was as morally certain as anything could be that had not actually happened, and that was the dissolution of the Turkish Empire, it might be by force, or by internal convulsions and anarchy. When that event occurred, it might, in one sense, be a great calamity—he would not say it would be a great misfortune. It would, however, leave a dangerous void which Europe would be called upon to fill up. And it seemed to him that by the policy the Government had pursued they had done much when that great crisis arose to surrender to Russia the vantage ground which they might have and ought to have secured for England. He knew there were shallow politicians who sought only to tide over the perils 1119 of the moment, utterly regardless of the far greater dangers of the future. Living only from hand to mouth, they would glide quietly down the stream, heedless of the cataract that roared below them. But that was not a difficulty that would blow over. The consciences of Europe and of England had been thoroughly awakened, and would not sleep again till that question had been settled. It was true that those sitting on his side of the House had no power to direct the policy of England; all the responsibility rested on the Government, and they on that side did not pretend, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite did, to be the Leaders of Europe. The Government had declared that there were three objects of their policy. The first was the peace of Europe. Where was the peace of Europe now? Their second object was the amelioration of the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey. What had they done at the Conference to accomplish that amelioration? Their third object was to maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Where would that integrity be, it might be to-morrow, or next month, or next year? It was the business of those on his side of the House that night, and on every occasion which it was proper to seize, to assert their profound conviction that it was only on the principles of right and justice that they either could or ought to seek a solid and durable peace for Europe.
§ MR. FORSYTH
thought the House ought not to press for the production of these Papers, and if the Motion went to a Division, he would certainly vote for the Government. He doubted whether anything would be gained now by criticizing the policy of the past. They had to consider the present crisis and to look to the present and the future. He stood almost alone on that (the Ministerial) side of the House in regard to his views on the question of Russia and Turkey. In the Ministerial Press, and among many hon. Members on that side of the House, the utmost jealousy of Russia was shown, and he confessed he was astonished at the language some-times applied to Russia by Conservative speakers. She was characterized as a faithless, an aggressive, and a barbarous Power—language which was calculated to endanger the relations between Her and England. Russia was the oldest 1120 Ally that we had on the Continent. He was no thick-and-thin defender of Russia. No one was more sensible than he was of the iniquity of the dismemberment of Poland; but that crime must be shared by Austria and Prussia as well as by Russia. During eight successive wars between Russia and Turkey we had been neutral in all except one, and we had never been on the side of Turkey against Russia save in the Crimean War; while in one war, at the beginning of this century, we had been on the side of Russia and against Turkey. As regarded the alleged aggressiveness of Russia, she had once taken the territory of Finland, she had seized the Crimea, and she had advanced her territory to the north side of the Black Sea; but, with these exceptions, he defied anyone to show that we had anything to fear from Russian aggressiveness as regarded the West and the South. In 1828, when the question was the independence of Greece, a war broke out between Russia and Turkey. Russia had a perfectly just cause of quarrel with Turkey, and in the course of two campaigns she laid Turkey at her feet. What happened? Did she seize Constantinople? She had taken Moldavia and Wallachia, she had taken Bulgaria, she had crossed the Balkan, she had gained Adrianople. She signed the Treaty of Adrianople, and gave back every yard of the territories she had taken in those two campaigns. Turkey knew that she made a great mistake in rejecting the proposals of the Conference, and she now found herself face to face with a Power with whom she had been repeatedly in conflict, and by whom she had always been worsted except when she received foreign aid. Her position in consequence of her rash act might well lead her to exclaim—Ah me ! they little knowHow deeply I abide the boast I made,Under what torments inwardly I groanWhile they adore me on the throne of Hell.During the war against Revolutionary France and Napoleon, the constant cry against England was that she was carrying it on for her own selfish interests. Referring to that charge Mr. Canning in 1809 said—" I thank God that delusion is destroyed." He (Mr. Forsyth) was sorry to say that the delusion as to the wish of Russia to seize Constantinople was not destroyed. He hoped 1121 some hon. Member in that debate would show that we had good grounds to fear that Russia, if she engaged in a death-grapple with Turkey, would do more than secure to the Christian Provinces of Turkey that good government which in vain they demanded from Turkey, and which, he believed, Turkey would never give. Our great security in the war between Russia and Turkey was this—that although Russia might be perfectly right in occupying Bulgaria by her forces for the purpose of giving something like decent government to it, if she were to show the cloven foot and reveal that she was going to seize Constantinople as a permanent possession, Germany and Austria, and most likely France, would enter the field to contest the prize of Constantinople. He thought the policy of Russia in this Eastern Question did not require any defence or apology. He did not believe that Russia from the first had been desirous of going to war with Turkey. He believed that the object of Russia had been to obtain better government for the unhappy Christians of the oppressed Provinces of Turkey. What had she done? The first thing was the Andrassy Note, in which Germany, Austria, and Russia agreed, and to which this country gave a reluctant assent. This country, therefore, agreed in that Note, and there was nothing in it so strong as Lord Salisbury, in the name of the English Government, demanded from the Turkish Government. That Note fell through. Then came the Berlin Memorandum, and the terms of it showed that the demands made by it were really less than had recently been required at Constantinople. That Memorandum was not signed by England, and came to an end. Then came the Servian war, caused, no doubt, by the rejection of that Memorandum. Then came the Conference, and it was found that the demands of Russia were so moderate that the tone of the Press was changed, and they said that Russia was afraid to go to war with Turkey, and that Russia was bankrupt in her finances. That was the way in which persons in this country had been deceived. Could they doubt that a nation the same in religion, and in blood, and other things which bound nations together, would not attempt to do something for Bosnia and Herzegovina when the insurrection in that coun- 1122 try broke out two years ago? What would the people of England have felt had the population of these countries been Anglo-Saxon? They would have given their blood and treasure to rescue the people from their position. What, then, was Russia to do? Was she to abandon the people to their fate? Their position was not a bit better than it was two years ago. What had been done by Protocols and diplomacy for the Christian populations of Turkey? Was Russia to hold her hands and do nothing for them? It was quite impossible to believe anything of the kind. It was said that Turkey was going to turn over a new leaf. If it was the first time that was said we might be willing to believe it; but what was the experience of the last 50 years? During that period she had made promises over and over again, and broken them over and over again. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who had struggled to believe in the faith of Turkey, had said that abuses swarmed in every department of Turkey. A day or two ago the Under Secretary of State read a letter from Consul Holmes containing some strong Turcophile expressions; but the same gentleman, in a despatch written by him a few years ago, said that the grievances of the Christians in Turkey were equally shared by the Mussulmans, and that when an edict in favour of the people was issued, there was not a man who was not too ignorant, too bigoted, too corrupt, or too stupid to carry it into effect. The Government in Turkey was, in fact, just as bad now as it was 100 years ago. Turkey had rejected the Protocol and had thrown down the gauntlet, and in one sense she was right. It was a farce to talk of the independence of Turkey under the Treaty of Paris and to treat her as we had done. We had prescribed certain reforms to be adopted by the Turkish Government, and had told Turkey if she did not carry those reforms into effect we should withdraw our Ambassador from Constantinople. He asserted that this was a direct attack upon the independence of Turkey, and that we had no right to invoke the Treaty of Paris and to hold at the same time such language. What would be thought if the five Great Powers of Europe met in London and declared that Home Rule ought to be established in Ireland? Was there an Irishman in this House who would not resent this as 1123 an attack on the independence of the United Kingdom? Turkey must be sensible by this time that she had made a great mistake. She now found herself face to face with a Power which, upon every occasion, had single-handed been more than a match for her. Turkey was willing enough to make promises when she found herself under the eye of the police of Europe, and to a certain extent she might perform them. Nothing less, however, than a strong coercive power and the dread of armed interference would induce Turkey to fulfil her engagements to Europe.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
could congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the fiery Party speech he had delivered, and on his being a worthy Successor of a Politician who was distinguished for his powers of sophistry and brush-daubing when he wished to make his adversary's picture ridiculous. He must, however, express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have represented the coercion advocated by any responsible politicians as an indiscriminate attack by the Powers upon Turkey and a quarrel over the division of the spoil. Coercion had been applied before now in Turkey, when the nations which undertook it were under the guardianship of statesmen who knew perfectly well the meaning of a local pressure. The action which gave Lebanon so excellent a form of government as she now possessed was the direct armed intervention of French and English troops; and, in the case of Greece, of Russian, French, and English force. Yet we never were at war with Turkey during the whole period of intervention, and there was no question of quarrelling over the spoil. The right hon. Gentleman seemed unable to understand the difference between carrying on a joint general war, and the combination to attain some specific, defined, narrow, and local object. The two cases were, however, as different as possible; and if the Powers of Europe, which were now said to be led by England, combined for the latter purpose, there would be no difficulty in attaining their object by means of a Russian or Austrian military force, and a British naval force as the mandatories of Europe, and all the horrible results which the imagination of the Secretary of State for War had painted 1124 would, he was convinced, be found to be non-existent. He had been astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman appealing to the prejudices of his followers, and asking them what right we had to interfere for the good government of the Christian subjects of Turkey. The right did not come from earth, and he did not believe from heaven; but from the acts of the Turks themselves. It was not once or twice only that we had saved the Turkish Empire from destruction. In 1839 we interfered to save it from disruption at the hands of a powerful vassal of the Sultan. In 1829 we restored to Turkey those subject dependencies—Crete and Samos—that had won their liberty by their own right hand. One of the gravamina of his charges against Her Majesty's Government was that they were so unwilling to recognize the grave and special responsibility of England in this matter. As the right hon. Gentleman had declared that the Treaty of 1856 remained intact and valid, he would remind him of our actual obligations under that Treaty. What was Lord Palmerston's opinion as to the true interpretation of the Treaty of 1856? In his speech about the Treaty, he said—The Firman is not included in the Treaty, and no Power, therefore, has a right to say, Here by Treaty I am entitled to come to you and to tell you that you have violated your Fir-man with regard to this villager or that priest, or that peasant or that merchant, and I am to be the party to judge between you and your subjects.'But he went on to say—The transactions which have taken place at Paris, and the stipulations contained in the Treaty, will give all the Powers a right to watch whether the Firman (under which the promised reforms were to be effected) was carried into effect, and of remonstrance in case of violation of it.It gave the Powers—when the Protectorate of Russia was transferred to them —the right of watching and remonstrating, and of acting together in fulfilment of the trust they had undertaken. Well, they had had Andrassy Notes, Berlin Memorandums, Conferences, and Protocols, and how many verdicts of guilty, he asked, were to be returned before the Powers, which constituted the tribunal, took action in the matter? If we had no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, then Her Majesty's Government had no right to disturb the country and agitate men's minds 1125 by professions and remonstrances which were idle and worthless. They had all been drenched with Blue Books and saturated with Protocols, and any bewildered Englishman might ask whether we were one step nearer to the solution of this Eastern Question than we were three years ago? Well, we were a considerable step nearer to a solution of these difficulties than we were; but it was humiliating to confess that the progress which had thus been made was ascribable to the inexorable march of events, and not to any wise action on the part of our Government. More than that, the progress which had been made, and which was being made, at the present moment was neither in the mode nor in a direction which was conducive to the prestige or honour of this country. Well, the past was irrevocable, but the future was still in our power; and if the country was to regain its prestige there must be a change, and that no halfhearted one, in the policy of our rulers. The remedies heretofore tried had failed, owing to the obstinacy and impotence of the Ottoman Porte. Europe was some little time ago prepared to overcome that obstinacy, and to supplement that impotence, to carry out the needful reforms, and in a way which was at once safe and peaceable—namely, by union and harmony among the Powers. All the Powers were so prepared with the single exception of this country. The Berlin Memorandum had disappeared in order to reappear 12 months later under a different name, and, which was much more serious, under very different and disadvantageous circumstances—after wars and massacres had embittered the combatants, after impunity had roused the fanaticism and raised the self-confidence of the victors. The Protocol of London, which had just been signed, was the posthumous child of the Memorandum of Berlin; but the estate to which it succeeded had been grievously battered and torn since the decease of its parent—so much so as to render it very doubtful whether there was anything left for it to be busy about, and the birth of that Protocol had been accompanied by acts and declarations which had emasculated it and destroyed all its influence. All through these negotiations there had been no sufficient recognition of the fact that this was a struggle of race and nation, and not a mere conflict of Cabinets; all through 1126 the acknowledgment of our responsibilities had been tardy; all through there had been an eager desire to snatch at every opportunity, and accept any excuse to do nothing. Not only so, but it would be observed that there had been all through a disposition on the part of the Government to "hedge." No sooner was anything said in one direction that savoured of coercion or expressed the feelings of the English people than another despatch was written, perhaps not to see the light for a long time, which neutralized the former declaration and destroyed its effect. Then all through there had been a suspicion of Russia, now insinuated, now stated. [Admiral Sir WILLIAM EDMONSTONE: Hear, hear!] He would remind the hon. and gallant Admiral who cheered the statement that the keynote of the Government policy had been "willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike." [Admiral Sir WILLIAM EDMONTONE: Oh, no, not at all.] The consequence of this policy had been that the Government had not turned Russia from advancing to her ends, and had strengthened Turkey in the belief that England would come to her assistance. Austria, who was proverbially too late, and never moved her Army until the battle was over, had been the guide, philosopher, and friend of our Government in this Eastern Question, and one more untrustworthy or one more likely to draw us into difficulties he could not conceive. Up to January, 1877, Her Majesty's Government had not succeeded in impressing on Turkey that she must stand alone in her struggle with Russia, for in that month Lord Salisbury wrote that the Grand Vizier said that a general war would result from an invasion of Turkey by Russia. No doubt it was the belief that some European complications would arise that had encouraged Turkey to resist the demands of the Powers. His strong opinion was that within the last two years England had never had such an opportunity of extending and perpetuating her influence, and that the opportunity had been lost by the Government. Coercion did not mean war; but he hoped that it meant what was tantamount to war—that was to say, that, without gratifying the passion for conquest of any particular Power, it would, by the application of force, secure what united Europe believed to be just and right. Even at this, 1127 the eleventh hour, if England were to say to Russia and the rest of the Powers that she was willing to assist thorn in compelling Turkey to carry out in the Provinces whatever reforms might be decided upon, he believed Russia would hand over the matter to Europe. If the united voice of Europe informed Turkey that she should be deprived of the government of Bulgaria, it would teach her the lesson that every unpunished massacre would cause her the loss of a province. He did not think it possible that Turkey would venture to resist united Europe. If she did, her resistance would be short. England need not fire a shot, but simply send out her Fleet to blockade the Turkish Fleet inside of the Dardanelles. This prospect would greatly influence the Turks, because it would enable Crete to obtain her independence, and would deprive Turkey of the assistance of troops from Egypt, on which she relied so much. Russia would then be easily able to enter Bulgaria, to transfer its government to Servia, and then to retire in fulfilment of her plighted oath, which, when embodied in a solemn Treaty, she had never yet been known to break. England owed something to the Christian populations of Turkey, because the policy of the Government had made their condition worse than it was two years ago. They had irritated and goaded the Turk without curbing him; they had roused his savage passions without taking from him the power to wreak his vengeance on the unhappy Christians. He believed, if the object which the Government so much desired were obtained, and the Russian Army were demobilized and withdrawn, the scenes of massacres in Bulgaria would be repeated. One important lesson which the whole of these negotiations—now probably about to end in war—ought to teach them was that statesmen without active sympathies were statesmen who could not understand, much less lead or control, the great movements of the times in which we lived.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
Mr. Speaker, the House has heard two eloquent speeches from two hon. and learned Gentlemen of the Long Robe, both of whom have thought it their duty to defend Russia. I have listened, Sir, carefully to, the debate, and I am unconscious that anyone has attacked Russia. The hon. and learned Member 1128 for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) stated that Russia, in 1828, had Constantinople at her feet. I must deny that, Sir. I admit that history records that Russia overran Moldavia, Wallachia, Roumania, and part of Roumelia; but I deny that history relates that the Turkish Government were then at the mercy of Russia. On the contrary, I have so read history that I believe the matter was quite the other way; and that Russia, by the Treaty of Adrianople, adroitly escaped from a very great dilemma; that, if the Turks had really known the state of things, the Russian Army would never have re-crossed the Balkan. As regards the hon. and learned Member for Poole (Mr. Ashley), I regret very much that he went out of his way to attack our ancient Ally, Austria. The hon. and learned Gentleman will, I have no doubt, rise to eminence; but, before he becomes Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I trust that he will either alter his views relating to our ancient Ally; or that he will cease to think it prudent, at a juncture like the present, to say disrespectful things of the Emperor of Austria. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that to my mind, discussions, if not attacks on the Government, of the character of tonight are at such a time very much to be deprecated. It is well for the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) to state that this is not a censure on the Government; but he must know that these Motions are in the eyes of the public out-of-doors, not only in this country, but still more in Europe, completely misinterpreted. It is everything at this moment, surely, that our country should not only be, but appear united; and I must protest against this movement, which can do no good; which must, to some extent, embarrass the Government, and which may end disastrously for the peace of Europe. There is one point, Sir, which I have not seen noticed, either to-night or at any other time, in the many discussions and speeches on this most important subject. It has been assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by those who hold their views here and "elsewhere," that the coercion of Turkey is an easy matter. The Turks have been spoken of as if they were bales of goods, to be carted away when they were inconvenient, or abused like noisy children, that 1129 could be sent to the nursery, and dealt with as the stronger Powers choose. I believe this to be a complete fallacy. I do not believe that the ancient and warlike race that occupies the south-eastern corner of Europe can at all be dealt with in this easy manner. Could you, by a political combination, avoiding jealousy and repressing disunion, bring the combined arms of Austria and Russia to the walls of Constantinople; could you, at the same moment, anchor the British Fleet in the waters of the Bosphorus; could you intimate to the Turks that, unless your demands were immediately complied with, the destruction of their city would at once ensue; I believe that you could not, even in these desperate circumstances, enforce your orders upon that fanatical and fierce people. A comparison, Sir, has occurred to me which I will venture to produce to the House. One of the most awful chapters in the history of mankind contains particulars of the fall of a once mighty city, situated, like Constantinople, on the shores of the Mediterranean. That city far transcended Constantinople in its beauty, though not perhaps in its situation. Public edifices of almost sublime grandeur adorned it, and its civilization was certainly higher than that of Constantinople at the present day. The mighty city I speak of was Carthage. What happened there? A vast Roman Army and Fleet invaded Carthage. The military prowess of the Romans, aided by engineers of consummate skill, at last placed the Roman general in a position that made Carthage untenable. Having believed that nothing could seriously menace the safety of their capital, the Carthaginians found themselves at the mercy of their hated rivals. The Senate of Carthage behaved, under the circumstances, like dignified and practical men. With heads bowed down and in the deepest sorrow, they advanced from the city to meet the Roman general. They acknowledged that their capital was at his mercy; and, simply expressing a hope that unnecessary humiliation might be spared them, they requested him to name his terms for surrender? What was the result? No sooner did the inhabitants of Carthage discover what had been done, than, regardless of their lives, regardless of everything but submission to their 1130 hated rival, they rose in tumultuous insurrection; massacred the Italians residing among them; mark that! formed barricades in every street; and every citizen's house became a fortress. So tenacious were they that, after three years' siege, it was only by entering the houses and forcing a passage through them from one to another—much as we have seen in a neighbouring city in modern times—that the Roman Army at last arrived, passing over the corpses of myriads in the streets, at the Capitol. There they found a few thousand devoted men who, sooner than surrender, even when all hope was gone, voluntarily perished in the flames. Carthage, as we know, was ploughed over; and that ancient city became nothing but a name in history. The horrors of this scene filled the imagination of the world for many years. A century later, they inspired the great Roman poet with his powerful, his graphic description of the imaginary fall of Troy. We are familiar with the splendid passage in which he describes the awful circumstances of a great city destroyed, that ends—Crudelis ubique,Luctus, ubique paver; etplurima mortis imago.Such, Sir, would be, I firmly believe, the fate of Constantinople, if this coercion, a word so easily used, were applied to its warlike inhabitants. The Turks are a brave but ferocious race: Yes, I use the word "ferocious," for it is the truth; and you should not forget that fact when you have to deal with Turkey. Inspired by religious fanaticism, I believe that the inhabitants of Constantinople would enact a tragedy such as has not been seen in modern days. That the Turkish troops have committed enormities, no one denies. They are, as you well know, as much deplored on this as on that side of the House. There is not one of you that dares rise in his place, and impute to any one of us the slightest sympathy in these crimes and the criminals who committed them. We no more believe in the innocence of these men than you believe in the Christianizing influences of Russia. I do not wish to say one word which would rest on my conscience as having been an aggravation to the awful position in which Europe at this moment stands. For anything we can tell, war may have broken out, or be 1131 about to break out in a few hours. Surely let us, at this supreme moment, forget the animosities, the honest animosities, of Party, and show to a civilized world a united England! And now, Sir, a word for a race and a Government that has received more obloquy than any that has ever existed. I speak of the Government of Turkey. Let us reflect on the unlimited difficulties in which they have been placed. Abdication, dethronement, assassination, all have taken place in the last 12 months in. Turkey. With a powerful and unscrupulous enemy on their frontier, civil reform has been insisted upon. They have been ordered to form a Constitution whilst the enemy was thundering at their gates. No allowance has been made for political weakness. No generous interpretation has been put upon their efforts. Everything that they have done has been held up, in a manner that those who so acted ought to be ashamed of, to the execration of Europe; while no justice has been done to their good sense and their patient endurance. Amidst all this the Turk has shown two qualities which Britons love with a passionate love, Courage and Dignity. No one can deny that. Sir, I can understand the Turk, amid the confusion of his real friends, his false friends, his indifferent friends, and his pretended friends, feeling that he can do no more; and that open war, whatever be its result, is better than a tension which is unendurable. I can fancy his exclaiming, in the words of the Greek Ajax—If Greece must perish, we thy will obey;But let us perish in the face of day.
§ DR. KENEALY
said, that he fully concurred in the observation of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir William Fraser) that this discussion was not in the least calculated to lead to any useful result, but rather to the reverse of useful; and he regretted that the noble Lord should have inaugurated it. The present aspect of the Eastern Question was pregnant with alarm. A month, a week, even a day, might involve Europe in the horrors of war; and light up such a conflagration as had not been witnessed since the century began. Already, the hon. and learned Member for Oxford saw in prophetic or poetical vision the eagles floating in the air above the 1132 dying body of Turkey, and prepared at any moment to devour it—he did not say whether they were Russian eagles, though he thought no one would doubt to what climate they belonged. Yet it was at such a time that the noble Lord brought forward his proposition, and used language that could not serve the general interests of Europe. Much had been said of the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministry, in having at one period given the Ottoman Porte reason to suppose that it might get support from this country in the event of danger threatening its existence; but what was to be said of Her Majesty's Opposition, who had given perpetual encouragement of a similar kind to Russia? If it was wrong for the Government to cheer the one, could it be right for the Opposition to support the other? He thought he knew the feelings of the English people upon this subject as well as those who had acted the part of firebrands throughout the nation during last autumn; and he was perfectly satisfied that the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers, with reference to the Eastern question, had raised them enormously in public opinion. If the necessity arose, the English people, he felt sure, were prepared to go to war sooner than see Turkey absorbed into Russia, or Constantinople fall into the hands of the Czar. It was essential to the interests of Europe and of this country—interests which he had been astonished to hear hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House talk of with contempt — that Constantinople should never become an appanage of the Russian Empire. That great dominion was in this position—that, for the advancement of its interests, it must get an outlet to the sea, somehow or somewhere. At present it had only one, the passage through the Baltic; and that was not always practicable for her fleets. Russia, therefore, regarded it as of the first importance to her future welfare that she should by some means, no matter what, get possession of the City of the Dardanelles. ["Why not?"] That was a question which a Russian might ask; but, looking at it in the interests of Europe and of peace, which alone he could consider, he would reply, "Why should she?" Russia was a great aggressive Power, which wanted an outlet to the Mediterranean, not for commerce, but for purposes of conquest only; and it 1133 was their duty to impede such purposes if they could. The interests of Europe were to be regarded more than the interests of Russia—certainly more than the interests of those Bulgarian Christians, of whom they had heard so much. He was really almost sick of those Bulgarian Christians; not because he was devoid of sympathy for true or suffering Christianity, or for human sorrows, but because, with a view to mislead the public mind, there had been only cant talked about those Bulgarians, and the hardships which it was pretended they were enduring under Turkish rule. A great writer in the last century had talked of the "cant of criticism"—but the cant of hypocritical Christianity was the fashion of the present day. He had read the Blue Books of last Session with the greatest care—with the most anxious desire to find out under what particular religious oppression or disability those persons laboured; and the only hardship he had been able to discover was, that those suffering Christians were not allowed to have bells to their churches. And why not? Formerly they had bells, but they abused this privilege; and whenever the muezzin went to the top of the mosques to summon the Mahommedans to their usual prayers, the Christians rang their bells and drowned his voice. And it was for this reason, and for this alone, that they were now denied the use of bells. There was another alleged hardship under which those "Christians" suffered, and of which a great deal had been said by the itinerant statesmen of last autumn; and that was that they were not allowed to carry arms. He looked upon the Order Book for this evening, and he found there down for discussion a Bill brought in by some Irish Members, for the purpose of allowing the Irish people to form Volunteer regiments of their own. We did not allow Volunteers in Ireland, because we were afraid that they might one day turn their arms against us; how then could we complain of a similar precaution by the Turks? But there were Gentlemen on the "Liberal" side who went about the Kingdom, bitterly and indignantly complaining that the Bulgarian rebels were not allowed to carry arms; and yet when that particular Bill to which he had alluded came to be discussed, these very Gentlemen on the Liberal side would; in all probability, be 1134 found arrayed against allowing arms to our Irish Volunteers. Was he not right, therefore, in saying that these complaints were only hypocritical cant? Those itinerants had also had a good deal to say on the subject of autonomy —it was one of the hardships that formed their stock-in-trade. Now what was autonomy? It was Home Rule. They were anxious to give Home Rule, in the liberality of their hearts, to disaffected Servia and insurrectionary Bulgaria; but to our own Irish people, who were perfectly loyal, those wandering statesmen persistently and almost virulently refused it. He did not believe in such statesmen, or in their sincerity; nor had he any faith in the sham howl for Christianity which had been raised, and which had almost disgusted him with the very name. In his opinion great praise was due to Her Majesty's Ministers for having so long and so faithfully stood out against the cabals which had been formed against them on this question. A great deal had been said on the subject of Treaties, and particularly upon the Treaty of 1856—the Treaty of Paris—which we were urged by those Gentlemen of the Opposition to disregard, even to violate. Those hon. Members declared on their platforms that we need no longer observe it. It was always dangerous for an Empire like this to propound a breach of faith; a violent disruption of Treaty obligations; and if we once began he wanted to know where we should. stop? He fancied, but was not quite certain, that we were bound by Treaty to maintain the integrity and independence of Greece; he was quite certain that we were so bound with regard to Belgium. Was the time at hand when a violation of those Treaties would be preached as part of our public duty, and we should be called upon in the face of the world to trample upon solemn Conventions? He sincerely hoped that England had not advanced to this. Some hon. Gentlemen had spoken in the House of centuries of Turkish misrule over her Provinces. But what was our own rule over Ireland? the rule of England, which boasted so much of her Christianity and her civilisation; and which her wandering orators now contrasted with the barbarous and savage Turk? As a matter of fact the Turks had owned those Provinces for about 400 years, while We 1135 had owned Ireland for 700 years; and he believed that there was hardly a statesman present who would deny that for that long period we had misruled and misgoverned that country. If we, with all our boasted civilization, religion, and enlightenment, had failed to govern Ireland on honest, and just, and Christian principles, ought we not to make some allowance for the Mahommedan Turk, instead of loading him with obloquy? But the Turks, it seemed, had resorted to considerable violence in suppressing rebellion. All our best feelings were sought to be stirred up to blood heat by the exciting and often exaggerated descriptions of atrocities and impalements to which we had been treated. But had this country never resorted to great violence and even cruelty for the same purpose? The House was full of hon. Members who could harrow us with an account of what Lord Castlereagh and we did in Ireland in 1798. The furious massacres of Vinegar Hill, and other places—fields of blood—would ever be remembered. There were Members present who probably had themselves witnessed the savage and frightful manner in which we had repressed mutiny in India. We had dragged the Brahmins of that country, men of pure lives, and of the highest intelligence and of exalted rank—we had dragged them through blood, and had blown them from our guns. We were, therefore, nice persons to hold up our hands against atrocities." In later times, during the reign of the chief Leader of those autumnal complaints, we had crushed out rebellion in Jamaica by similarly sanguinary means. Let anyone who doubted the feeling on the subject enter into any Baptist meeting-house, or Independent congregation, or chapel, and he would hear denounced the horrible cruelties which we had practised. He was not speaking up for these cruelties. But unfortunately there were times and occasions when all countries thought themselves justified in resorting to any and all means for the repression of rebellion; and considering that almost every page in our history was red with the blood which we had thus fiercely shed, it was hardly consistent, or even decent, for us to tax the Turks with the cruelty of which they had been guilty. If the present matter went to a division, he would vote with the Ministry. Ex- 1136 cepting a recent telegraphic despatch from Lord Derby, which had cast a doubt upon the willingness of this country to support Turkey against Russia by force of arms, he approved of the policy of the present Government. He thought that it was most fortunate for the interests of Europe, and of England preeminently, that the Tories were now in power—having regard to the statements which had been made by the leading mouthpiece of the late Administration. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that we must look to our own interests in this matter; and he was astonished at the outcry raised against such a sentiment. Such an outcry could not have been sincere, for it was to protect the interests of England, and not to look after the interests of Bulgaria, that the right hon. Gentleman was appointed Minister. And how did the Chiefs of the late Administration advise us to act? They invited us to use coercion—to put down Turkey by physical force—to deluge the land with slaughter and with blood. That was a strange mode of evincing the Christianity in whose name they summoned us to action. It was language of that kind which really urged on Russia in her violent course; which had encouraged her Government in all that it had done. It was language of that kind which had plunged us into the Crimean War; and if another Russian War of the same sanguinary kind should now follow, he should always regard the Members of the late Ministry who had so committed themselves—who had preached those doctrines of coercion, terror, and blood, as the true authors of such a war, with all its attendant miseries and calamities.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I wish to express, in a very few words, what I think upon this question. I have no feeling for one political Party or the other. On this occasion, as on most other occasions of my life, I am not committed to either side; and I shall merely express the opinion of one who has long studied politics, who has passed a long life in this House, and is pretty nearly ending his days, on a great question which may influence in a large measure the nation to which we belong. The question before the House has been put in a very convenient form for those who do not wish in any way to incur responsibility 1137 for themselves. It ranges over a vast subject, without reference to any danger that they themselves may incur, and they may express opinions for which they may not hold themselves responsible. But I think it would have been more consonant with the character of a Party of English politicians who have fought many a political fight here, as Englishmen should do, had they come forward in an open, plain, and honest fashion, and called upon the Ministry to account for their conduct to the country. Instead of this what do they do? They carp at the policy which has been pursued, and they call in question, in very dangerous times, the proceedings of the governors of this country, without any reference to the infliction of any evil upon the country itself. This, I repeat, is conduct not altogether consonant with that high character which ought to belong to a Party in this House. The present Ministry came into power—as every Ministry in England does—bound, not by their own policy alone, but by the policy of their Predecessors. They came into power bound by Treaties and engagements with foreign Powers, and by the traditions of their country. Now, in what position did the present Ministry find itself, when it came into power with reference to the Eastern policy of this country? They came after an Administration that had taken part in the great Crimean War; they came following upon a system of policy which protected the Turkish people and the Turkish Empire; they came forward following an Administration which had done its utmost to withstand the progress of Russia—an Administration who had always expressed themselves exceedingly jealous of that Power, and who never spoke of Russia with any feelings of admiration until they had become opponents of the Gentlemen who are forced by circumstances to take part against Russia. It was in that position that the Bulgarian atrocities found the present Ministry. They used the servants of the preceding Government as Consuls in the Eastern part of the world. Not like the American Government, the Governments of this country, when they come into power, do not dismiss from their offices all persons who hold them, but they accept as their servants those placed in office in a great measure by their Predecessors; so that the present 1138 Administration had to depend for information as to what was going on in the East very much upon the Consuls appointed by their Predecessors. Now, if the Consuls in Bulgaria—if the Ambassador to Turkey of the Whig Party in politics —if Sir Henry Elliot had been the appointment of Lord Beaconsfield instead of the Party on this (the Opposition) side of the House—["No!"]—I say if he had been, I want to know what then would have been the statement made? "Oh, you have sent men of your own Party to Turkey; you do not get information because you do not desire it, and because you employ agents who study your feelings and opinions." But, unfortunately, this could not be said. The Ambassador at Constantinople, whose duty it was to report upon the condition of Turkey, was appointed by the preceding Government; and if the Government did not receive from him the earliest information it was no fault of theirs. This we know—that as soon as they learnt what had occurred they expressed their opinion, and to this hour nobody has dared to say that the Gentlemen on that (the Government) bench feel any sympathy with the perpetrators of the Bulgarian atrocities. Lord Derby from the beginning expressed, in the strongest language the English language could afford him, his horror of what had occurred, and warned the Turkish Government that if they permitted that state of things to continue, they were not to expect sympathy, far less support, from England. What could the Government do more? Well, accusations are now brought against the Administration. "Why did you not do something?" it is said. Now, that is all very well; but why do not the Gentlemen who put that question point out what they would have done? From the beginning of this business I have been very anxious to learn what possible course the Government could pursue that they have not pursued. I know one course which they could have pursued—and, if there is any meaning in language, hon. Members on this side are in favour of that course—which is the declaration of war against Turkey, in conjunction with Russia. But do you think the people of England would have borne that? Do you think at this moment they would bear it? [Mr. WHALLEY: Yes.] I hear some one say "Yes." I wonder 1139 at the audacity of that hon. Gentleman. I know many of my countrymen, and often meet large bodies of them, but I have never yet found among them any desire to go to war with Turkey; and sure am I that if the Administration had taken measures to foster war—designedly to foster war—if they had called upon Russia to make war upon Turkey, their tenure of office would not have been worth 10 minutes' purchase. What they have done from first to last has been to say—"Our great object is peace;" and for that they are blamed. "Peace!" say these Gentlemen; "peace! do you not want anything more?" Yes; we certainly do want something more—namely, all that would lead to peace; and, if it were absolutely necessary for the maintenance of peace that the Christian subjects of the Porte should be protected, and inasmuch as we can protect them, I am sure the Government of this country would declare their feelings in the strongest manner in favour of those peoples. They have done so. They have told the Turks that they must treat their Christian subjects properly, and that unless they do so, England will in no way support them. What more did hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House intend should be done when last autumn the minds of the people of this country were stirred by the reports from Bulgaria, and when an attempt was made to raise a cry against the Administration, as if they had been the supporters, the perpetrators, or the suggestors of those massacres? Why did the Members of the Opposition do this? Oh, they wanted peace, and goodwill, and kindness, and affection for their Christian brethren! To my mind they had another motive. It appears to me that they were animated not so much by a desire to benefit the Christian subjects of the Porte as to injure their political opponents. No doubt, at first, the people of this country — being a generous, sympathetic, and kind-hearted people—were moved with horror at the massacres which had occurred; and when eloquent and violent men came forward and described those things in Homeric language and in Homeric figures, the people were necessarily aroused at the moment, and it was thought—more especially by the persons who created the disturbances—that the doom of the Ministry was sealed. But, 1140 Sir, the people of England, while a sympathetic and generous people, were a cautious, prudent, and honest people. They learnt that the matter before the Government was a very difficult one; they learnt that the Government had acted like honest men; like wise and prudent men; and true friends and rulers of their country. It was on that account that the storm thus raised suddenly went down to a dead calm. It is now a calm, in spite of all the attempts made to stir it up again. "No wind follows the bellows blowing;" and I feel certain that whatever may ensue—if the Russians do go to war, it will not be imputed to the Administration which now governs this country that they have made the Russians go to war. If they go to war, you may say what you like about Russian honesty and the honesty of Russian diplomacy; but I shall believe that it has been thoroughly dishonest. From the beginning to the end they have put forth pretence, and not reality. We are told that Turkey is doomed. I am not a prophet, Sir; but of this I am sure—that, whatever may happen, England will not see Turkey pass into the hands of Russia. Austria will not see it; Germany will not see it; Italy will not see it; and France will not see it. ["Hear, hear!"] Aye, it is all very well to say "Hear, hear" now—I wish your "Hear, hears" were loud enough to be heard in St. Petersburg. It is for that purpose that I desire to refer to that great dream or expectation of the Russian people — you cannot meet one of them without feeling that they cherish it — the expectation that they will one day be at Constantinople. Doubtless, the climate of Moscow and St. Petersburg is such as would make it an agreeable exchange to go from it to that of Constantinople; and the passing of the Czar from the frozen North to the beautiful banks of the Bosphorus would be a very happy translation for him. But let him not deceive himself. Let him not lay that flattering unction to his soul. The Russian will never be permitted to take possession of Constantinople while England has a ship at her command, or a soldier whom she can send out. If we are to have war, the consequences and the responsibilities of that war must rest on the Russian Government, and on the late Administration of this country. [Laughter.] Hon. 1141 Gentlemen may laugh; but I believe the people of this country think what I say. I do say that the conduct of the late Administration last year was anything but that of patriotic statesmanship. It cannot be said of them that they sought their country's interest, and not their own. The responsibility of a war — if war is to come — must be shared by the late Administration. This, I know, many Members will consider a bold assertion. ["Hear, hear!"] Aye, you cry "Hear, hear" It has never been my habit to disguise the opinions which I entertain. It has been my habit in life to express myself in very plain language. I do so on the present occasion; because I feel satisfied that when the time shall come when posterity will decide—for posterity will have to decide—upon the share to be given to all who have taken part in these great transactions, their praise will be given to the present Administration, and their reprobation to the last.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he thought the House must have seen from the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down what was the true reason of all the hesitation which had been shown by the Opposition in bringing forward that question. It was not the serried phalanx on the Ministerial side that they were afraid of, but the divided state of their own Party, with its Radical and its Home Rule sections. It was the more honest Members of the Opposition who were not afraid to say what they thought on this question; and if they appealed from that House to the country, they found that when au election took place it was not this "burning question" which stirred the people — for they were one upon that question—but it was simply and solely truckling to Home Rule. The cry of humanity was a "sham," especially as raised by Russia, who came before them with hands reeking with the blood of Poland, of the Caucasus, and of Turkestan. The autumn before last the same battle cry of humanity was raised by the Opposition; and when it afterwards came to be asked in that House who were responsible for the Slave Circular, it was found to be the very men who had set up that cry. Now, they had a repetition of the same old story; and it was again found that the policy the Government were asked to undo was the policy of the very man whose voice had been loudest 1142 in asking them to undo it. For 20 years the right hon. Member for Greenwich had always been in power, if not in office; his influence had been paramount in the country; and, unfortunately, during all those 20 years the misery and misrule of Turkey had increased from day to day. With the fall of the right hon. Gentleman the power of the Sultan and everything in Turkey which by his indifference he connived at was giving way. The right hon. Gentleman, who was the friend of popular rights, the supporter of the Crimean. War, and rallied around him the friends of toleration, liberty, and free trade, now asked the people of this country to join him in backing up the one despotism now remaining in Europe, and asked them to fight in behalf of the miserable intolerance of the Greek Church. They did not blame the humanity of the right hon. Gentleman, he only wished he had a little more. "Cruel and stupid" as those on his side of the House might be, they had learnt with astonishment and surprise that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) last autumn, when raising the banner of civilization and humanity, did not think it inconsistent with his policy to palliate and defend, with all the zeal and enthusiasm he could command, the cold-blooded and wholesale butchery which had marked the progress of Russian conquest in Turkestan. Why was it that Russia when she committed crimes of that kind was to be defended, while Turkey met with nothing but words of sternest condemnation and no justice? And now, when the people of Turkey were coming into power and a Constitution was being tried there, why was Turkey to be attacked or to have no fair play given to her, and why were our arms to be joined with those of Russia, so as to make the working of the new Constitution impossible? He believed that Russia was less aggressive since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had gone out of power—but why was that? It was because we had got Ministers with a little more backbone—Ministers who were not frightened by Russian cannon nor influenced by the soft blandishments of Russian emissaries. With regard to the opinion of the country on this question last autumn, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich published a book with a sensational 1143 title, which sold by thousands and tens of thousands. About a month ago the right hon. Gentleman published another pamphlet with even a more sensational title, but hardly one man out of a hundred had read a single line of it. That showed either that the country did not believe the story the right hon. Gentleman told or did not believe the right hon. Gentleman himself. He believed that those who understood the question thoroughly were convinced that Turkish government was as bad as bad could be, and not a man had been found to palliate the Bulgarian atrocities; but a part of the indignation that had been expressed at the perpetration of those atrocities ought to have been reserved for those who by their intrigues had urged on these atrocities. He knew that some persons disbelieved in Russian intrigue; but they could only do so by disbelieving reports of their own Consuls, Englishmen like themselves, who protested against misgovernment. A noble Duke declared the other day, from what he might call the housetops of Europe, that he did not believe a single word that our Consuls had written. He (Mr. Hanbury) was ashamed that anyone could think so ill of his countrymen as to make that declaration. Another charge brought against Turkey was that she had not punished the perpetrators of these outrages—the more shame to her for it; but let them hold the scales of justice with an even hand, and if they were to call upon the Porte to punish the chief offenders in Bulgaria, were they not also to call upon the Russian Government to punish those who took part in what occurred in Turkestan? Was it not a fact that the chief actors in those transactions had been decorated and rewarded by the Russian Government? The consciences of some men had been touched by the fact that we fought for Turkey it the Crimean War; but the fact was that we did no such thing. The right lion Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was responsible for that war, and if we fought for Turkey more shame for him. But we did nothing of the sort. What we fought for then, and what we should fight for now, if necessity arose, was English interests. Those interests were the same now as then. It was utterly impossible that in these provinces the Christians should at present govern themselves. He honed the day would 1144 come when they could be trusted to do so, for he felt that those men were the surest bulwarks against Russian aggression. If they drove out the Turks from those provinces they would practically put their government into the hands of the Christian Bishops, who, he was sorry to say, were amongst the most corrupt and vile. Every rich man was the oppressor of his poorer brethren; there the taxgatherers were not Mahometans, but Christians. They had to bear all this in mind when they undertook a re-distribution of power in those provinces. They had practically to choose between Russia and Turkey; and if they allowed Russia to go into Bulgaria, what was there to prevent her from going into Armenia, and Jerusalem as well? They must recollect that both Russia and Turkey were Asiatic and almost barbarian Powers. Both of them meant war; for he was certain that neither Memorandum or Protocol would save then now, and for the reason that they had been goaded on. He felt the utmost sympathy for the Russian Czar, who had been anxious to prevent this war. We must recollect, in justice to Russia, that with reference to the excitement in that country as to the atrocities in Bulgaria, fuel was added to the fire by pamphlets circulated through the length and breath of Russia, which were written by one who had been an English Minister, and who ought at that moment to be sitting on that (the front Opposition) bench and ready to take part in the debate and to defend himself. Russia had still one of the most intolerant Churches, and no doubt if she got into Turkey, where there were at least 20 different Churches, 19 of those Churches would be swept away. But if, on the other hand, we looked at Turkey, we found that she was actually reforming and making the greatest experiment a nation ever made. She had adopted a Constitution, and we should recollect the vital importance that Constitution had for us—that ultimately it might affect not only Turkey, not only Russia—who was terribly afraid of that Constitution —but might spread civilization to the gates of India. It was a matter of vital importance that that Constitution should have fair play, and not be stifled and crushed by this movement of Russia. All we had to do was to maintain our interests in the East. He believed that 1145 by maintaining English interests in the East, much more than by regarding the local interests of Bulgaria and Bosnia— that by holding our position in the East, as a stronghold of civilization there, we should do more for humanity and for this country than could be done by any other plan. We might hope even yet that war would not arise. That, he feared, was a vain hope. But of this, at any rate, he was sure — that the English soldier when he fought for the English Empire fought for the cause of freedom everywhere.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
(who rose with Mr. Butler-Johnstone) said, he was sorry to stand between the House and the hon. Member for Canterbury, the more so as the rumour had gone round that they were to-morrow to lose the services of the hon. Member—at all events, that he was going to Constantinople, where he trusted he might be the new Grand Vizier; but as the last four Members who had addressed the House had spoken on the same side, it might, perhaps, be time for some one to address the House on the other side. He repudiated the assertion of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) that the two preceding speakers were Members of the Liberal Party, for his hon and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) began his remarks with the utmost fairness by distinctly stating that he was not a Member of the Party, and that throughout his Parliamentary career he had wished to be regarded as unconnected with either Party; and as to the other Member (Dr. Kenealy) he was not returned by Liberal votes, nor did he represent the opinions of hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House. He gave more votes to the Conservative side than he did to the Liberal, and he almost always spoke with Gentlemen opposite. The cheers with which he was greeted were not the cheers that were given to a Member on the Liberal side who occasionally made a speech in favour of the Government. They were the cheers with which he was habitually greeted because he was a Member of an old Tory Party, and ought properly to sit on the other side. Some of the Members who had recently spoken had diverged considerably from the subject, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir William Fraser) having talked for some 1146 time about the fall of Carthage and the sorrows of Queen Dido, and the hon. Member for Stoke (Dr. Kenealy) having gone considerably more wide of the question. The last speaker said no one had defended the Turks; but he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought the hon. Member must have been absent from the House when those two Members spoke, for they defended the Turks very strongly, and the hon. Member for Stoke went so far as to say that he was sick of the Bulgarian atrocities, and that the only grievance of the Christian subjects was that they could not get the power of ringing their church bells. Now, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought that a Member who made such statements did not deserve to be heard on a question in which the claims of humanity were concerned.
§ DR. KENEALY
rose to explain that what he said was that the only grievance he could discover in the Blue Book published last year was a declaration as to the power of ringing bells.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, when the hon. Member for Hackney's (Mr. Fawcett's) Motion was on a fortnight ago, the Secretary of State for War congratulated him on his followers. He thought he might congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his followers to-night. Damaging attacks were made on him by the hon. and learned Members for Oxford and Poole (Sir William Harcourt and Mr. Evelyn Ashley), and no one was put up to reply to them until the four hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth had taunted those sitting on that side of the House for not having proposed a Vote of Censure. Let him say at once that he wished a Vote of Censure had been proposed, and that he hoped one might yet be proposed; for, though such a Vote would lead to a division in which there would be a large majority against him, he believed it would be a wise course to pursue. He must, however, protest against any attack being addressed from his own side of the House upon the front Opposition bench for the course they had pursued to-night. he thought the speech of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) was an ample vindication of his Motion. He had pointed out the hiatus in the Papers; some important ones had been left out, and others had been printed twice over, apparently to fill up a space. The right 1147 hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had told the House not to assume that all action in the matter had been confined to England and Russia; but where was the evidence of the action of the other Powers—where were the documents? There must have been vast quantities of despatches between the 19th of January and the 11th of March, many of which, no doubt, were comparatively unimportant; but they ought all the same to be presented to the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had attacked them for being in favour of coercion; and the Secretary of State for War had gone so far as to say that there was no Member of the House who could lay such a policy to their charge; he gathered, however, from Papers presented at the beginning of the Session, that at one time the Government had advocated that course. If that was not the case, what did the Government advocate? They had backbone, to use the expression of the hon. Member for Tamworth, towards the end of last year; but since then their backbone had been extracted, and they now showed as much weakness as they had then displayed strength, though the Secretary of State for War had said that there had been no change. But had there really been no change? Lord Derby, in a despatch in September last, said that the Christians of Turkey had a right to such reparation as it was possible to make—but which they had never received — and to some signal punishment of the offenders—which had never been inflicted—and also that some steps should be taken to secure them against the recurrence of similar abuses. But what were the steps to be taken? These were very strong words, and hardly bore out the mild statement of the Secretary of State for War. On the 14th of December Lord Salisbury went very far at Constantinople, and proposed that English troops should occupy Bulgaria; a suggestion which he subsequently altered by the proposed substitution of Belgian for English troops, and the English Government offered to pay the cost. The Government, so far from disapproving of Lord Salisbury's suggestion, replied that it might be desirable, if Turkey were willing. Now, the words which they used at the time stopped them from saying that all depended upon the willingness of Turkey, for Lord Salisbury had written to Lord 1148 Derby that the Turks would probably object—that that objection applied to all suggestions of reforms, and ought to have no weight, and yet the Secretary of State for War now declared that the policy of the Government had been one throughout. The Government did not disapprove of Lord Salisbury's suggestion, but replied that it would be desirable that the Belgian troops should be introduced; and Lord Derby, knowing that the Porte would oppose that suggestion, wrote on the 18th of December that the occupation should only appear to be made at the request of the Porte—not that it "should be" made, but that it should "appear" to be made. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had a great suspicion of Russian policy; but he should like to know what the House would have said if it had found that despatch in a Russian Blue Book signed by Prince Gortchakoff? They would have said that it was one of those tricky, dodging pieces of stratagem for which they believed Russia to be celebrated; and he, for one, blushed to find such a passage as that to which he had referred in an English Blue Book. A good deal had been said about coercion. Now, there was coercion of two kinds—a policy of European coercion, and also a policy of undignified and dangerous coercion, by means of which Russia might put the screw upon Turkey; and, whether the Government were favourable to the policy of European coercion or not, at all events, they were now taking advantage of the policy of Russian coercion. As one of the strongest opponents of Russia in that House, and as one who had repeatedly spoken against its acts in Poland, he deprecated the placing of ' Russia in that position. The Eastern Christians would well know from whom their protection came. The only Power that would fight was Russia, and in future the Christians would not forget their obligation to that nation. The feeling of distrust of Russia which had hitherto prevailed would be changed for one of gratitude, and that would have a serious bearing upon our interests. He would have preferred to speak in support of a Vote of Censure rather than in support of a Motion which, like the one before the House, was only a Motion for Papers. At the same time, when hon. Members opposite attacked the front Opposition bench for not proposing a 1149 Vote of Censure, it must be remembered that there was a great deal to be said in defence of the course which had been taken. Had they proposed a Vote of Censure up to a few days ago they would have been told that negotiations were pending which they might disturb; had they proposed a Vote of Censure in the present week they would have been told that they were tempting Russia to begin a war; and the very Members opposite who taunted the Members of the front Opposition bench had refused to support him in 1871 when he had moved a Resolution attacking the conduct of the Liberal Administration in respect to the "denunciation" of the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of 1856 by Russia. At the same time, while he thought that there was ample ground for a Vote of Censure in Lord Derby's Declaration, there was also much ground for the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition for further Papers. The noble Lord was very likely wrong in asking for the draft Protocol of the 11th of March; but there were many missing despatches which he could not be wrong in asking for. There was a hiatus in the Correspondence between the 19th of January, the date of the Russian Circular, and the 11th of March, and there was hardly any Correspondence between the 19th of January and the 31st of'' March—that was to say, between the' date of Prince Gortchakoff's Circular and the date of the signature of the Protocol. Now, an enormous amount of Correspondence passed in this period. The House had been over and over again informed during it that the Government were negotiating with their Allies, and a knowledge of these negotiations was essential to a proper understanding of the Government case, inasmuch as we had before us only the opinion of Russia as to the steps to be taken after the failure of the Conference, and not the opinion of any of the other Powers. They had not even the opinion of our own Government, for the Government had refused to give a despatch for which he had asked, which was indexed in "Turkey No. 2" as "Possible failure of Conference. Measures to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government," but which was omitted from the volume. The Papers being missing, and being refused, what had they before them? Nothing but the Protocol and Lord Derby's Declaration. 1150 By these, then, as they stood the Government must be judged. He warmly approved of the Protocol, especially the phrases in which the Powers stated that they had. "undertaken in common the pacification of the East," and that the treatment of the Eastern Christians was "incompatible with their interests." Even the word "moyens" was a very strong one, and the "means to be taken to secure" were a repetition of the "securities" and of the "guarantees," of which they had heard so much and seen so little. When, however, he came to the Declaration of Lord Derby his satisfaction was turned into dismay. He confessed that he thought the Declaration absolutely untrue, inasmuch as it declared the object of the Protocol to be that which palpably was not its object. The object of the Protocol was obviously from its first line to its last that improvement of the position of the rayah population of Turkey which was not so much as mentioned in Lord Derby's Declaration. He objected to Lord Derby's Declaration both as regarded the fact of its being made and the language in which it was made, and held that the Declaration had altogether destroyed the effect of the signature of the Protocol by England. Even if he tried to put himself in the position of a supporter of the Government Lord Derby's Declaration would equally seem to be bad. It destroyed the effect of the signature of England to the Protocol so far as Turkey was concerned; but it would not destroy the effect of that signature so far as the other Powers and our own future position towards them were concerned. No Declaration could destroy the effect of the Protocol on the Treaties of 1856, or replace those Treaties in the position in which they had stood before the Protocol was signed. No Declaration could destroy those statements in the Protocol, which were statements of facts, to which in the future, Russia would. bold us bound—such, for instance, as that in which we solemnly declared. that the position of the Eastern Christians was "incompatible with our interests." Still, as regarded Turkey, the Declaration had been disastrous. He knew of no precedent for Declarations so entirely neutralizing the effect of the documents to the signature of which they were attached, as did those of England and Russia made on this occasion. As regarded the 1151 Declarations of England and Russia made on the 31st of March, he wished to ask—and here was a reason for further Papers — which Power set the bad example to the other? One declaration or the other must have been suggested first. If Russia first knew of Lord Derby's intention to make his Declaration, then they must maintain that Lord Derby's Declaration caused the Russian Declaration, and so produced the present dangers of the European situation. If, on the other hand, Lord Derby first knew of the intention of Russia to make the Declaration that she made, then he ought not to have been a party to the hollow mockery of the signature of a useless Protocol—a signature which could do no service to anyone not upon the Stock Exchange. Hero was a further reason for asking for more Papers. Not only in this one case, but all along, the result of the conduct of the Government had been to destroy the effect produced by European concert upon the Turks. The refusal to join in the Berlin Memorandum, the sending of the Fleet to Besika Bay, intended, as Sir Henry Elliot said, "in order that the Turks might feel that they were not altogether deserted;" the speech of the Prime Minister in favour of the independence and integrity of Turkey at the end of last Session; the repeated statements of Sir Henry Elliot; the declaration of the English Plenipotentiaries at the Conference on the 14th of December that "the English Consuls did not believe in the danger to the Christians" ("the Ambassadors of each of the four other Powers stating that the Reports from their Consuls were in the opposite sense"), the phrase used by England to describe the withdrawal of her Ambassador, which differed wholly from that used by the other Powers; the announcement in the Conservative Press that Sir Henry Elliot was to return to Constantinople; and the ultimate determination to replace him on his retirement by an Ambassador as Turkish as himself—all these acts of English isolation directed against the concert of the Powers were of one piece. He condemned, therefore, both the language of the Declaration and the fact of making the Declaration, and believed that but for the English Declaration, there would have been no Russian Declaration; and that but for 1152 this Declaration, intended, Lord Derby said, in the interests of peace, the Protocol could not, accompanied by the Russian Declaration, have been presented by Russia to Turkey as an ultimatum. He maintained that the Government policy had been tried and had failed, and that it was now, perhaps, too late for them to revert to their policy of September and November last. The peace of Europe, the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey, and of the Treaty of 1856, had been the declared objects of their policy—none of these had ever stood in a more precarious position than they did at the moment at which he spoke. As to the word "interests," he had never before heard such a gospel of selfishness preached as fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to-night. British interests, and nothing but British interests, were his theme; and hearing right hon. Gentlemen speak almost made one forget that England was the country which years ago made sacrifices not only of blood, but of money, in putting down the Slave Trade. We then tolerated direct interference in all parts of the world—interference on behalf of humanity—and that interference had its success. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government had got a stronger word than demobilization, and that was disarmament. But what did the word matter if they had not got the thing? The armistice terminated with Montenegro last night, and that day, the 13th of the month and a Friday, regarded as an unlucky coincidence in these parts, was perhaps the unhappy day which had seen again an outburst of the conflict which had desolated Eastern Europe. The Secretary of State for War had told the House that Her Majesty's Government had two objects in view—peace and the defence of his famous British interests. He would only say that if England was to appear before the other Powers in the light in which she had been placed by the right hon. Gentleman's speech, much as he disliked Russia, he would sooner be a Russian at the present time. [Ironical cheers.] He was proud of being an Englishman — no man prouder; but if we were to look forward in this country to living for nothing but the selfish purpose proclaimed by the right hon. Gentleman, 1153 he would sooner belong to a nation which, whatever the doctrines of their Government, had risen superior to selfish considerations, and had laboured for the emancipation of their oppressed brethren in the Turkish Empire. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had laboured in the interests of peace; but there might be war tonight, or to-morrow there might be a Circular from Russia, playing the game it had played from the beginning of wishing to show moderation. Would any man in that House get up and say that peace had been achieved by the Government? The right hon. Gentleman said that Lord Derby came between the Powers, and, at any rate, kept Russia and Turkey apart for a time. Possibly it was mud or snow which came between the Powers, but certainly not the English policy; and when the conflict came the verdict of posterity would be that it had been at least accelerated by the present Government.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
said, he thought the hon. Baronet who had just spoken fully vindicated his claim to be considered one of the Leaders of the Liberal Party. The hon. Baronet denied that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) represented the Liberal Party; but that hon. and learned Member had many times been a representative of something even greater and better—a representative of the sentiment and courage of the English people; and when he challenged the House to declare its opinion in respect to a policy of coercion, there was only one hon. Member who held up his hand in its favour. It was an ungrateful task to criticize the policy of one's own Government; and if he ventured to criticize their policy in this matter, it would be because, having refused their signature to the Berlin Memorandum, they took on themselves to propose the Conference. He thought they ought neither to have signed the Berlin Memorandum, nor proposed the Conference. The present Prime Minister, when Leader of that House, gave expression to what he thought a generous sentiment, when he said that the Berlin Memorandum had not been presented, and he hoped it would not be presented, because the late Sultan, who was the cause of so much evil, had been deposed by the people, and it would be ungenerous in Europe not to give the new Sultan 1154 and his policy a chance. That sentiment was cheered on both sides of the House. But why, within a few weeks, should there be a Conference proposed to administer the internal affairs of Turkey? That was the critical fault of the Conference. The International Commission was to he a guarantee for the good conduct of Turkey; but who, he would ask, was to guarantee the International Commission? What order of good government could come out of that? It might have been foreseen from the commencement that the Conference must fail. It was said they ought to guard the integrity of Turkey; but it was too late to save her independence. To destroy the integrity of a country—what did that mean? It was to lop off limbs from an Empire. Empires and States had lived shorn of limbs and deprived of Provinces; but to destroy the independence of a country was to destroy the soul, the very essence, of a country, and to do this in the name of good government was a solecism indeed. This was the leading idea of the Conference, and therefore it must have failed. The Protocol was the natural corollary and issue of the Conference, and could not help bringing about the same result—failure—and leaving us on the verge of a European war. By what right did we seek to press terms upon Turkey? We did so in the name of the European concert. It was said the Roman Augurs never met without laughing at the manner in which they were able to impose upon the public, and some such hilarity must have pervaded the Members of the late Conference when they were assembled at Constantinople. It was impossible there could be any agreement between them. When had the European Powers ever concocted together for any good purpose? He only remembered two instances in which they acted in concert—one when they met for the partition of Poland, and the other at Verona, to crush the rising liberties of Spain. Then, as to Europe itself, was there such a thing as Europe? He would be the last man in the world to take away a lady's character; but Europe was such an old and notorious offender that she had no character to lose. She began life as the kept mistress of Jupiter, and ended by being the handmaid of Russia. It was said that the Treaties of 1856 were not binding, but Treaties represented in- 1155 terests, and those remained; and we entered into obligations for the maintenance of the integrity of Turkey because the interests of this country were involved. Even if the Treaties ceased to be binding, the interests remained. Turkey might be destroyed; but the result would be that 30,000,000 of people who had always been friendly to us arid to English domination in the East would become the allies of our rivals and competitors. We might do away with the binding obligations of Treaties; but we should never get rid of English interests in the East. With the old English statesmen —with Lord Chatham, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Palmerston—the maintenance of the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire had always been cardinal points. Lord Chatham would not even condescend to discuss the question. Prince Metternich, who was a great statesman, regarded the maintenance and integrity of the Turkish Empire as cardinal, not only to Austrian, but also to European policy; and he recorded this opinion in the despatch of the 5th of February, 1848, in which lie said he would defend the interests of the Porte as among the most direct and precious interests of Austria, as well as of Europe; and so far from allowing Russia to compromise those interests he would, if necessary, join issue with that Power. In later times new ideas and a new policy had been propagated. No man had better right to advise the people of this country than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), though he should be the last man to run in the teeth of the history and traditions of England. For his own part, he would he the last person in the world to blame the right hon. Gentleman for the campaign which he undertook in the autumn of last year—indeed, he never admired the right hon. Gentleman until then. It might be a proud thing to be a successful Leader with a triumphant majority at his back; but to be in a minority and to dictate the policy of this country, this was a thing of which any man in his personal capacity might be proud. Our constitutional arrangements left the right hon. Gentleman no other course of action than that which he followed. Was it to be supposed that a man who, for a long time, had dictated the policy of this country and filled the highest offices in 1156 the State, when a great question like this arose, involving the most vital interest of the country, on which he came into conflict with the policy of the Cabinet, was to sit still with his arms folded, while he believed the country was being committed to a fatal policy? He did not think anybody would for a moment suppose that. On the other hand, could anything be more unfitting, inexpedient, and disastrous than that a great question like this, which required to be deliberately debated, should be decided on the heath, in the market-place, and at the railway station? We did not allow the most trivial domestic matter to be decided in such a manner. In ancient times a place was provided for statesmen like the right hon. Gentleman. Questions involving the permanent interests of this country—like the Eastern Question or the Treaty of Paris, or the fighting capacity of this country in all future wars—were not in former times decided by Cabinet Ministers or First Secretaries of State alone, but by the Privy Council, and in that Assembly sat statesmen of all Parties, who had served the Crown in high office, and who were regarded as the permanent advisers of the Crown. If the ancient Privy Council still existed, a place would have been provided for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. A legitimate sphere for his activity would then have existed, and we should not then have hail the great question of the East decided in the streets as it had been during the autumn. That right hon. Gentleman had successfully dictated the policy of the country on this question, and had made them turn their backs on the ancient traditions of the country. The result of these negotiations had been that we had falsified the meaning of the English language, and had become involved in equivocal expressions and secondary intentions. We talked of maintaining the integrity and independence of Turkey, and put her at the same time under a warlike tutelage. We spoke of coercing Turkey, but it was not by involving her and ourselves in a bloody war; but it was coercion in some abstract and metaphysical sense which should act on her mind while leaving her batteries and ironclads intact. It struck him that it was the independence of our own minds which we ran the risk of losing on this subject. 1157 We ran the risk of being the victims of the superior subtlety of foreign diplomatists—of being coerced into cowardice and Protocolled into imbecility. The Government laid down for itself a spirited foreign policy; but what had been their treatment of Turkey? They had Noted, Memorandumed, Conferenced, and Protocolled Turkey. Huge armies had been collected on her frontier; but when all her energies were absorbed in her self-defence, we chose that moment for putting her under the microscopic eyes of Europe, and we held up every blot and foible of her administration to the indignation of the world at large. There was not a murder or an outrage which was not telegraphed to Europe by newspaper correspondents, and still greater publicity was given to these transactions by Questions asked in Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had talked with great gusto of the conscience of Europe, which, he said, was outraged by Turkish mal-administration. These appeals to humanity were very moving; but, for his own part, he did not know anything so much resembling the conduct of Mr. Pecksniff when he turned poor Tom Pinch out of doors as a duty he owed to society, as the proposal to turn Turkey out of the comity of nations in the name of humanity. Humanity was a fine name, and the conscience of Europe was a sacred name; but had hon. Members nothing to say about humanity when the conduct of Russia was concerned? What had been the conduct of Russia in Poland? He was not talking of what happened 14 years ago, because that was the suppression of an insurrection; but of the conduct of Russia in Turkestan and in Poland. What was the deliberate policy at the present day of Russia in Poland towards the United Greek Church? A sort of Star Chamber was established to induce the professors of the United Greek Church to return to the Orthodox Faith. The popes and priests were compelled to sign a Petition to the Emperor to be allowed to return to the Orthodox Church, and if they refused these popes or parish priests were banished from Russia. To send those bishops and priests into banishment was equivalent to sentencing them to starvation. But not only did they so suffer, the peasants also were bound to go into the orthodox churches, and Cos- 1158 sacks were employed to drive them there, ay, and to administer 50 stripes of the Cossack's whips to men who refused to go, five to women, and 10 to children. He challenged the Government to deny that they were cognizant of those facts. More than that, many peasants belonging to the United Greek Church refused to obey, and 40 of them took refuge in a barn, set fire to it, and were burnt to death rather than join the Orthodox Church. If such things happened in the broad day, what could they say of those who roared like lions when Turkish misdeeds were concerned and cooed like sucking doves when Russian misdeeds were spoken of. Only the other day in Servia, when hundreds and thousands of Volunteers crossed the frontier in violation of all International Law—ay, and under the sacred symbol of humanity to kill Ottoman soldiers—was one single protest made against the proceeding in the name of humanity? There was a time when European humanity would have spoken out loudly on such an occasion as that. The truth was that Mr. Pecksniff was a very fine fellow, but extremely discriminating in his humanity. He could quite understand those who were indignant with the maladministration of Turkey up to a year ago; but after the Turkish people, on the deposition of Abdul Aziz, had shown their desire for reform, to talk of a "paper Constitution," and of the will of the whole nation as manifested in their Parliament of to-day as being unreliable, was not only ungenerous, but was not even common sense. How could a people reform itself, when its every nerve and every energy was engaged in defending its independence? In one breath they talked of 500,000 Russians on the Turkish frontier; but if it were England that was menaced, where would their administration be then? There would not be a nerve that would not be strained to hurl back the invasion. What people under the sun could reform themselves when every farthing of their money went for police and gendarmes—not for soldiers, for they were willing to fight without pay, and to receive as their remuneration a little rice? That was the moment they chose to say there was no reform in the administration of Turkey. The generous and trite words of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had struck the right key- 1159 note when he said that it would be not only a national crime, but a sin, to coerce Turkey. They could not divorce religion from politics; and to coerce a nation like Turkey, which had never done us an injury, on the contrary, which had singled us out of all nations for special regard and consideration, would be a national crime and a foul and heinous sin, deserving, not only the contempt of nations, but the indignation and punishment of Heaven.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that when the ringing cheers which greeted the concluding words of the speech of the Secretary of State for War were still in the ears of the House, it was rumoured that an intelligent foreigner had rushed from the Gallery under the impression that peace was assured in the East, and the proper treatment of the Christians of Turkey secured. These ringing cheers were taken to have been called forth by the conclusion of peace, the obtaining of securities for the good government of the Christian population of Turkey, and it was thought that it was a triumph the House were celebrating. But what was it that was being celebrated? It was the celebration of a speech which explained how the House of Commons—to use an expressive phrase of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat clown—had been "Protocolled into imbecility." The record of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was that England bad been baffled by Turkey and checkmated by Russia. ["No!"] Had England not been baffled by Turkey? Shefket Pasha had not been punished. The letter written by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and presented in the name of the Queen to the Sultan had not been obeyed. [Interruption.]
§ MR. E. JENKINS
Mr. Speaker, I ask that the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Kidderminster be taken down.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
Mr. Speaker—I repeated the word "obeyed" after the right hon. Gentleman. That word, Sir, "obeyed," applied to the Sultan of Turkey in his relations to the Sovereign of this country, I consider most improper in the House of Commons.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If any expression is used in this House which is opposed to Order, it would be my duty to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman is quite 1160 in order, and is at liberty to proceed with his address.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he should proceed in the discharge of his duty as well as he could consistent with the interruptions of the other side. He said that the English Government had been baffled by Turkey. [" No, no! "] It was surely not the custom for Members of that House to prevent free and fair debate. He repeated that Turkey had baffled England. ["No, no!"] Those hon. Gentlemen who were causing the interruption ought to remember two rules they had learnt during their school days. The first was that they should give fair play in a fair stand-up fight, and the second that they should not holloa when they were whipped. The Liberal Party, which had been taunted with a fear of their opponents, were now face to face with them in honest debate, and wished to discuss the question with them in the interests of the country and of their constituencies. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), alluding to some cheers which were heard in the course of his speech in reference to what had been done in Russia, said that those cheers would be heard in St. Petersburg; but he (Mr. Goschen) wished it also to be remembered that other cheers which encouraged Turkey would be also heard at Constantinople, and would be interpreted as meaning that a section of the House of Commons approved any resistance she might be disposed to offer to representations and advice made by the English Government in the interest of peace and of the Christians inhabiting the insurgent Provinces. He had heard with regret the inarticulate assent given in the course of the debate to statements which were calculated to buoy up Turkey with the idea that Her Majesty's Government, as represented by the Marquess of Salisbury at the Conference, was not giving utterance to the views either of the country at large or of the Party in Parliament to which he belonged. It would be a disaster to Europe if such an idea went forward; and, on the other hand, he hoped nothing would be said or done that could encourage Russia to suppose that England sympathized with any isolated action she might be inclined to take apart from European concert. The great complaint of the Liberal Party against the Government 1161 was that by their Protocols, their Declarations, and their general display of weakness, they had made Russia mistress of the situation. They would be delighted if even at the last moment the Leader of the House could inform them that hopes existed of a durable, an honourable, and a safe peace; a peace which would combine security for the Christian subjects of the Porte with the other objects which Her Majesty's Government desired to attain. Two charges had been brought against the Liberal Party. One was that while criticizing the policy of their opponents they had no policy of their own to announce. The other charge was in connection with the autumn movement. With regard to the charge that they had no policy, he would quote the words of one who was regarded as being a very high authority on the Ministerial side of the House. The noble Lord (the Earl of Beaconsfield), when in Opposition, had stated that—It is not for any man in this House, on whatever side he sits, to indicate the policy of this country in her foreign relations. It is the duty of no one, but of the responsible Ministers of the Crown. The most that we can do is to tell the noble Lord what is not our policy, and we will not threaten and then refuse to act.How apt were the words—"We do not threaten and then refuse to act." Her Majesty's Government had threatened Turkey in the strongest language and had then refused to act. True it was that, in language scarcely couched in diplomatic courtesy, they said in their Protocol that they were going to consider the means whereby they would compel the Porte to listen to their advice; but the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in his eloquent speech, had not condescended to inform the House what were the mysterious means which the Government intended to adopt, and by which their views were to be enforced. He trusted that when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer addressed the House he would take them more into his confidence on this point. He regretted to see no sign of acquiescence on the right hon. Gentleman's face. It was evident, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government were content to set aside the objects upon which the country had set its heart in connection with this question, It was 1162 charged against the Opposition that by the autumn agitation they had rendered the course of the Government in the most serious circumstances more difficult than it otherwise would have been. he wished to know whether that agitation was confined to the Liberal Party, and whether it was discountenanced by Her Majesty's Government? The hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Hanbury) sat between two hon. Gentlemen while he was speaking, and condemning the Liberal Party for the course taken by it in the autumn. He sat between the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond. Wolff) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard). The hon. Member for Christchurch had, in the midst of his constituents, taken part in the movement; and had hon. Members opposite forgotten the great meeting in the City, and the deputation that waited on Lord Derby? Who were the two chief spokesmen on that occasion? One was an eloquent exponent of Conservative opinions—namely, the late Lord Mayor—and he was accompanied by his (Mr. Goschen's) right hon. Colleague. Those two Gentlemen made speeches, which were as strong and as much directed against the independence of Turkey as any language that had fallen from any Member of the Liberal Party. He was not quite sure, but he believed the right lion. Gentleman the Member for the City of London said that Turkish authority must cease north of the Balkans. That was pretty well for a supporter of Her Majesty's Government; and after that it could not be said that the Liberal Party alone had taken part in this agitation. The Lord Mayor said the time had come when the traditional policy of England could no longer be pursued towards Turkey. Hon. Members opposite forgot these observations of their friends and the language of Lord Carnarvon on this question, which were not discountenanced at the time even by Her Majesty's Government. If the memory of hon. Members was so short, it was well that they should hear one passage more from Lord Derby's despatch—The Porte cannot afford to contend with the public opinion of other countries.The Conservatives now, by their cheers and by their attitude, were assuring the 1163 Porte that it was safe so to contend. The despatch says—Nor can it suppose that the Government of Great Britain or any of the Signatory Powers of the Treaty of Paris, can show indifference to the sufferings of the Bulgarian peasantry under this outbreak of vindictive cruelty.Those were the words of Her Majesty's Government. The next were—No political considerations would justify the toleration of such acts.But Her Majesty's Government were going to tolerate them. They were tolerating them at this moment. The authors of those atrocities were still unpunished. But in the autumn the view of the Government was different, when they said—No political considerations would justify the toleration of such acts.Lord Derby further says—One of the foremost conditions for the settlement of the questions now pending must be that ample reparation shall be afforded to the sufferers, and their future security guaranteed."—[Turkey, No. 1 (1877), p. 238.]Had that future security been guaranteed as demanded by the Government? The Protocol was already null and void. It had no real existence by reason of the action of Turkey and Russia. Was there any defence of the Protocol. One of the Members, who spoke on the Conservative side of the House, said that it was a wretched Protocol.
§ MR. HANBURY
I entirely disclaim that statement. What I said was—I consider the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor boroughs must be looked upon as a wretched Motion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the Protocol was null and void now, so it did not much matter what the hon. Gentleman's opinion was. Then the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) had spoken with the greatest contempt of the Protocol. He now wished to make a few remarks on the Protocol and the Declarations. In the first place, he wished that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had been more clear on this part of the question—namely, how these two Declarations pertained and attached to the Protocol. Although he listened with the greatest possible attention, he could not make out—and he did not believe the House at the present moment 1164 understood—whether it was by the action of Russia or by the action of England that these extraordinary Declarations were appended to the Protocol. What was a Protocol? It was a record of the past and a minute of the present. This, he believed, was the proper definition of a Protocol among diplomatists. Now, what were the nine paragraphs of the present Protocol? In the first the Great Powers "recognized:" in the second they "took cognizance;" in the third they "considered;" in the fourth they "considered again;" in the fifth they "invited and recognized;" in the sixth they "took special cognizance;" in the seventh they "believed they had grounds for hoping;" in the eighth they "proposed to watch;" and in the ninth they "thought it right to declare, and they reserved to themselves to consider." They "considered," they "recognized," they "took special cognizance," they "considered again," and they "declared;" but all their consideration and all their cognizance were declared null and void. Was it to be null and void as regards the whole of the six Powers, or as regards England alone? Lord Derby said it was solely with a view of patching up peace that we had consented to sign the Protocol—he presumed at the dictation of Russia; because this was implied and insinuated by the words—"We have consented to sign." If disarmament did not ensue, then the Protocol, it was said, was to be null and void. They now asked for Papers. Had the other Powers accepted the Declaration or not? What did they think of it? Did they approve the breaking-up of the European concert in the very document that was to establish it? Did they consider that the Protocol would be null and void as regards them? After all, it was not of much importance whether they considered the Protocol would be null and void, because there was nothing in it that could, by any power of language, be made null and void. You could not say that your cognizance of past acts was null and void. There were only two points which could by any straining of language be considered null and void. They were "that they proposed to watch," and "that they reserved to themselves to consider." Therefore, possibly, they abandoned the proposal that they would watch Turkey if Turkey refused to disarm, in which 1165 case she ought to be watched more than ever. Again, the Protocol might possibly be null and void when they "reserved to themselves to consider" in common; and, in his belief, we must look to this last phrase for the intention of the Government in saying that the Protocol was to be null and void. As his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had pointed out, this last phrase was contrary in fact to the 9th Article of the Treaty of Paris. That Treaty was not repealed in terms by the Protocol, but a heavy blow was dealt at it; and therefore Gentlemen on that side of the House were not very surprised at the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War not speaking at such length this evening as he did on a former occasion on the obligations of Treaties. The right hon. Gentleman had changed his ground, and dwelt rather on the absence of any mission from heaven to insist on reforms in Turkey than on the obligation of Treaties which would prevent us from doing so. He apprehended the meaning of the provision attached to the Protocol was that the English Government would not "consider in common," and would refuse to take the united action which was contemplated in the Protocol if either Russia or Turkey should refuse to disarm. Was not that putting a premium on Turkey's refusing to disarm, and was not that precisely what happened? If, at the present moment, there was danger in Europe, if Turkey was obstinate, had not the Government laid the ground for the state of things by telling her that if she declined to disarm, then the Declaration would establish that that watching over her which he had mentioned would not take effect. The declaration of the Government evidently pointed to the whole efficiency of the Protocol itself; so the country now found itself in the position that the Protocol, having been signed by all the Powers, owing to the attitude of England, who, with a certain ostentatious isolation, attached a particular interpretation to it, Turkey was now giving what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War called an unconciliatory answer—an answer which might please some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, as had been pointed out by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford, with 1166 respect to the First Lord of the Admiralty, would, at a moment like the present, like to encourage Turkey in her pluck, and who thought she should be enabled to continue the course of baffling the united efforts of diplomacy. he had spoken of the Protocol and of the English Declaration, which, as he had shown, was a direct inducement to Turkey to refuse to accept the Protocol, and thus to get rid of an inconvenient document; but our Government, by consenting at the same time that the Russian Declaration, which was even more offensive to Turkey, should appear, made it still more certain that the Protocol would be of no avail. After the experience of the Conference the Government could hardly have supposed that when Turkey was summoned to disarm in such a manner by Russia she would be likely to obey. If the position had been taken that there should be a Protocol in the name of all the Powers or none at all, then we should know where we were; but to issue a document which was to be at the mercy of Turkey and Russia, was to break up the European concert at a moment when it was most necessary that it should be maintained. He did not think that the speech of the Secretary of State for War was, under the circumstances of the case, very re-assuring. The right hon. Gentleman had, indeed, made a clean breast of what he regarded as the English view to Europe; but he (Mr. Goschen) trusted that was not in reality the English view, which had been so eloquently described by his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) as the gospel of selfishness, which the right hon. Gentleman had preached. But even taken on the grossest and most vulgar ground of English interests, was it, he would ask, for the true interests of England that we should entirely abstain, and so ostentatiously declare our abstention, as had been done by the right lion. Gentleman? He said on no occasion would England draw the sword unless it was to promote her own peculiar objects. Fortunately that was the statement of a Conservative Minister, whose denunciation he should like to have heard if the Opposition had ventured to proclaim such a doctrine of non-intervention. Their doctrine of non-intervention was non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, but 1167 the Government had gone far beyond any such declaration; and he might tell the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone), who seemed to know nothing of European concert, that there had been such concert for the suppression of slavery and on several other occasions for the good of mankind. The Government were by a majority to determine their policy, and they would do it. A great deal had been said about humanity, or, as it had been expressed, the "cant" of humanity. He considered it a libel on the people of this country so to employ the word "cant," or to give that description to the great movement which swept over the country last autumn. But what did the Government themselves say about English interests? They said they thought it right to declare that "such a state of affairs would be incompatible" with their interests and those of Europe in general. They said that the pacification of the East and the security and good government of the Christian provinces was a matter not only of humanity, but of great and vital interest to the English people. Were we to have no hand in the pacification of the East, and in the settlement of this great question? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulties we should have in applying coercion. He spoke of the dangers of wading through blood in order to improve the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte; and he spoke of the position in which we should find ourselves at the end if we applied coercion in partnership with other Powers, all of whom would be animated by special and selfish interests, he asked, in the name of common sense, if this question was, so to speak, to sleep till one of those Powers had made war by itself; and, when war had actually broken out, did the Government intend that this question should be settled without the voice of England at all? If England then was to say her word, did they think they would find the Powers more ready to deal with when they had refused to join in any concerted or united action? They spoke of the difficulty of wading through blood, but would the condition be worse if there were Russian bayonets in the Christian provinces? Would not all those dangers which were pointed out by the Government as menacing their action be intensified if one 1168 Power took the settlement of this great question into the hands of itself? He wanted an answer to that question. Did the Government see their way one step beyond the signature of this Protocol and these Declarations? Did they know what would happen when those forces were let loose, which they might have controlled if they had remained true to the policy of concerted action which they followed for some time, but which they had weakly abandoned? His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford spoke of a Minister who had said that he was proud that England had kept the lead. He was not the only Minister who had expressed that cry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, in addressing a Yorkshire audience last year said he was perfectly certain there was no man who was not proud that England had assumed the lead in this matter; and two Cabinet Ministers expressed that view during the Easter Recess, as if they could not contain themselves with their sense of its pride and glory. Possibly they would have had their justification if peace had been secured and they had been successful and able to carry out the objects at which they had aimed. But what was the position? Peace was not secure; the Russians might be at this moment marching their troops across the Pruth; but England had got the lead. The Christian provinces might consider their case more hopeless than ever after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, yet England was taking the lead. Shefket Pasha, Tossoun Bey, and Achmet Agha, and the authors of the Bulgarian atrocities, might still be unpunished; yet the Government congratulated themselves that they were taking the lead. Where had they led us to? To this Protocol, which was now null and void. It was said that the Protocol was to be the bridge of gold over which Russia could retreat. He (Mr. Goschen) thought more than one Power had endeavoured to cross at the same time over that bridge—more than one Power had endeavoured to retreat from a diplomatic position; but the bridge was not strong enough to bear their united weight. Beneath that bridge was the mine by which the British Government blew up the very bridge they had constructed. Rather would he say that it was not a bridge of gold at all, but a bridge of snow, cleverly built 1169 by Russia during the time of her own snows. So soon as this April had come with its warmer suns the bridge of snow melted, and Russia did not require any bridge over which to retire, and, in defiance of the English Government and the concert of Europe, followed a policy of her own.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, nobody can wonder, and nobody can complain, that the noble Lord and those with whom he acts should have called the attention of the House of Commons to the state of foreign affairs, and to the position, so far as it is before the House, of our negotiations with respect to the political events in the East. Nobody can complain if the noble Lord, and those with whom he acts, having had the experience they have had for a considerable time as responsible Ministers of the Crown, have found that the time was suitable, and that the occasion was one on which they could conveniently and without danger, or rather with advantage to the public interest, bring this matter forward by putting Questions, suggesting a policy, or passing censure on our administration. Nobody will for a moment challenge them for exercising that discretion. I must frankly say, however, that I think there has been a little inconvenience in the mode in which they have chosen to bring the subject before us. It has not been inconvenient, perhaps, to themselves; but it has certainly been somewhat inconvenient to the House that a question should be raised neither with the object of eliciting information nor for the purpose of discussing anything in the nature of a Vote of Censure upon the Government, or a remonstrance against their policy. What they have done has been to carry on a sort of mixed discussion in which we have, from time to time, found ourselves cross-questioned as to certain portions of the negotiations, and subjected to tolerably severe and frankly-expressed criticism and censure, not only with regard to the latter portions of these negotiations, but with regard to the conduct of the Government at various periods within the last 12 or 15 months. The noble Lord should, in my opinion, elect which of these two courses he intended to take. If his course was to elicit information he should have confined himself to putting Questions; or if, on the other hand, he intended to challenge 1170 the course of conduct of the Government, it would have been more convenient to have given a Notice which would have enabled us to understand what the nature of the challenge was to be, and a discussion might have taken place on definite and practical points. However, I do not desire in any way to evade the topics which the noble Lord has brought under the notice of the House. I shall be ready, as far as is necessary after the excellent and exhaustive speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, to explain what it is thought necessary I should explain with regard to the policy of the Government; and I shall be pleased to offer one or two remarks upon definite criticisms which have been passed by some right hon. Gentlemen in the course of the discussion. Now, Sir, before I proceed to say anything more upon the general policy of the Government, I do wish, on behalf of my right hon. Friend—and not only on his behalf, but also of the Government, and of every Gentleman sitting on this side of the House—to repudiate emphatically the unfair and inaccurate construction that has been put upon a portion of the speech of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend spoke with warmth and spirit as to the causes for which alone it would be right for England to draw the sword and to plunge Europe into war; and he said—and it was applauded by those who listened to him—that he could not see the right on the part of England to plunge Europe into a war, or to enforce her views at the point of the sword, unless it was for some object in which British honour, British dignity, or British interests were concerned. With characteristic candour many of those who have commented upon the speech of my right hon. Friend have left out all reference to the words "British honour" and "British dignity." The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) spoke in a spirit of cynical criticism of my right hon. Friend's speech, and the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) still more emphatically described it as the gospel of selfishness. I appeal to those who listened to my right hon. Friend as to whether there was anything in the tone of his speech which would justify the use of the expression "gospel of selfishness." I shall venture in a moment to vindicate the 1171 conduct of Her Majesty's Government upon the general question. I say that we have pursued from the first moment that we have been connected with these affairs a line of policy which has been in its main and guiding principles uniform throughout. We know very well that we are taunted from one side and from the other with regard to this, that, or the other particular of our conduct. But we refuse to be taunted out of the policy which we have deliberately adopted, and we say that that policy is expressed in the instructions which were given to Lord Salisbury when he went to the Conference at Constantinople. I mention that particularly, as it was a critical moment—it was a time when our views were, perhaps, more solemnly expressed than at any other; but that policy had been expressed on numerous occasions by Her Majesty's Government. It is and has been our view that we were anxious and ready to join with Europe in endeavouring to bring about an improvement in the condition of the government of Turkey, because it was our great object to labour for the peace of Europe—not merely for a hollow and patched-up peace, but for a sincere and durable peace. And we have from time to time expressed the opinion that no solid or permanent peace would be possible unless the original cause of difficulty—the misgovernment of the Turkish provinces—were dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Therefore we have undertaken, in concert with our Allies, to do what in us lay to remove this cause of difficulty and danger from the European system. But, while we have announced that that was our policy, we have also at the same time announced in what manner we would, and in what manner we would not pursue it; and we have distinctly said that we would not bring about, or be parties to bringing about, any reforms of that kind by the use of force and by a resort to war. We have never said that no circumstances should induce England to draw the sword; but we have said, with reference to this particular point, that we have refused—and consistently refused to exercise the coercion by physical force, by a recourse to arms, which some have recommended as the only mode of bringing about these reforms in Turkey. Now, we are of opinion that in adopting that line of policy we have been adopting 1172 a line of policy which was not only consistent with the honour and the interests of England, but which was the one best adapted for the attainment of the very object itself that we have in view; because we did not believe that by coercive measures, forcible and military, we could attain the object that is aimed at—a real improvement of the government of Turkey. We may have been wrong. Others may be of a different opinion, and may be right. We believed that although, as I ventured to say on one occasion, it is possible by coercion to compel a Government to give up a Province or to make any particular concession, it is not possible by the mere use of force to compel a nation to govern properly. You may say you will take away provinces and put them under some other Government. That is a policy which is intelligible. But is that the policy advocated? We want to know what is the policy that is put in opposition to ourselves. We want to know what is suggested even. We do not want you to declare a policy, but when you blame us because we do not adopt a certain policy, we have a right to say—"Do you really want it?" If you do, I say it is your duty to bring that matter fairly forward and open the question and let us discuss it. Allow us here in the British Parliament to consider and fairly discuss the question whether that is the right course to be pursued. You may say there is no use in discussing it, because we happen to be a majority and you are a minority. I say that is a miserable reason to give. I say if your policy, your views, are founded in reason—if you are able to develop them in fair argument and to meet the objections with which they would be encountered—it is your duty to take that method to educate the mind of the country and show that your arguments cannot be answered. Does anyone venture to say in so many words—"I am an advocate for coercion." I am told—unfortunately I was not in the House—that the hon. and learned Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) went very nearly to that point, if not quite, in the course of this evening. I do not know whether I am misrepresenting him—he will correct me if I am wrong —but I am told he said something to this effect—that he recommended coercion, by which he did not mean war, but 1173 something tantamount to war. [Mr. EVELYN ASHLEY assented.] We have heard something to-night about a special plea. I really think that this is a matter which requires a little consideration to meet very well. It would require the acute examination of some eminent special pleader, if we had one among us. But I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman has in his mind some subtle distinction by which we may appear to go to war and gain all the advantages of war without in reality going to war at all.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
May I explain that I proceeded to enlarge upon that, and to say that I meant, not a general war for the general purposes of war, but a special coercive act, which had a special and limited object?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I greatly regret for my own sake, and I have no doubt that there are many others here present who must also regret, that they had not the advantage of hearing this interesting illustration. I am told that he went on so far as to give an example of the sort of coercive act which he recommended—that is that somebody, I do not know that he said who, should take Bulgaria away from Turkey. [Mr. EVELYN ASHLEY: North of the Balkans.] Is that supposed, then, not to produce a general war? But, Sir, there are others who, I think, are not prepared to be quite so practical; who go very far indeed on the lines of coercion, and yet do not mean to bring matters actually to the arbitrament of arms; who think that if you threaten with sufficient show of force, you will probably carry your point, and that if you fail—you may in that case not do anything. That would be to fall into the error which Lord Beaconsfield protested against some years ago when he said he was not ready to say what his policy was, but he would not threaten and then refuse to act. If there has been anything like weakness on the part of England in these transactions it is not attributable to Lord Derby, who has from the first expressed the opinion — and his Colleagues have maintained it — that he would not use threats of employing coercion and then not act. We have refused to join in certain documents, such as the Berlin Memorandum, because that document contained threats, When I use the word 1174 coercion I do not mean force. Is there any other kind of coercion? Certainly there is; and it is less than military force, and when successful it is more efficient than military force—I mean the use of it as moral pressure, and. when it is so pursued, and with vigour, it leads to more favourable results. Can we imagine any circumstances unfavourable to moral pressure? Yes; and it is when military coercion is threatened at the same time. The effect of moral pressure is then neutralized by the spirit of a nation being called up—the pride of a nation—a brave and gallant nation I will say—and then that spirit of opposition is put forth against moral argument; and the common sense and feeling of the country are overborne by the idea of being subjected to military force. The Conference might have been more successful than it was, though I do not now admit that it was without any results. But the Conference would have been far more successful than it has been had it not been that the presence of the Russian Army and the threatening attitude of the Russian Army throughout the negotiations complicated the position and made it the more difficult for Turkey to give way. Well, what was the situation in which we were at the end of the Conference? We were in this situation. Turkey had proposals made to her and pressed upon her by every argument that could be used, and with all the influence that could be brought to bear, and Turkey refused. I will not take notice of the steps which the Turks took within their own dominions in consequence of what passed. But, as far as the recommendations of the Powers assembled in the Conference were concerned, Turkey rejected them. What was to be done? That was a natural question for any Government to ask; but it was especially natural that the Russian Government, which had taken so prominent a position, and had taken so decided a step as putting her Army under arms, should be the first to ask. The question was put, and it was at once found that there was some considerable difficulty in answering it as long as the attitude which Russia had assumed was maintained. It was evident that the position of the Russian Army, which had been one of the causes of the difficulty at the time of the Conference, would continue to 1175 be a cause of difficulty. Well, what happened? Russia came forward, after having put this question, which would not and could not be conveniently answered, and which it was not desired by Russia should be answered, and she told us what would be sufficient. She said" If these proposals cannot be accepted you may at least put matters on a footing which will be sufficiently satisfactory, and which will show sufficient evidence of progress to enable me with honour to disband my troops. "We have all heard about" this wretched Protocol," and every expression of contempt has been heaped upon it. But allow me to remind the House that the Protocol is not the invention of the British Government; it is the proposal of the Russian Government. And what happened? Precisely this. Modifications were introduced, but these modifications were accepted by Russia as a sufficient ground for the demobilization and disarmament of the Russian Army, provided the Protocol was accepted, and there appeared to be a prospect of Turkey acting in accordance with what was then contemplated. Then it is said by some" The Protocol is good enough in itself, but it is destroyed by the Declaration." What is the history of this Declaration, which appears to be such a stumbling-block to the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke)? The hon. Gentleman approved the Protocol; but the Declaration is such a stumbling-block to him that he says the Declaration made by Lord Derby is the cause of the Declaration made by Count Schouvaloff.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
explained that what he said was that either the Declaration of Lord Derby was the cause of the Declaration of Count Schouvaloff, or the Declaration of Count Schouvaloff was the cause of the Declaration of Lord Derby.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
But I think even a glance at the Papers on the Table might have shown the hon. Baronet that what really happened was that the Declaration was arranged by Russia before any declaration was made by Lord Derby. It is perfectly obvious. For what was the position? Russia having her troops under arms comes forward, and says" If you will sign this Protocol we will be prepared to take the step of disarmament." We say—"Very well; 1176 will you put that in your Protocol?" Well, there were difficulties in putting it in the Protocol, and the Russians said—"We made a Declaration," and this Declaration is true. Though it is not part of the Protocol, it is of equal authority, as showing the intention of Russia, and what the considerations were which induced us to sign the Protocol in the hope that it would be the best step to the reciprocal disarmament of Russia and Turkey and conjure away the dangers of war in Europe. That is the simple explanation of our policy, and we believed if that war could be conjured away, even if only for a year or less than a year, it would afford a breathing time, and an opportunity for pressing upon the Porte those measures which had been more or less concerted and agreed upon at the Conference, and in the communications connected with that Conference, as being steps and measures which would bring about the better government of Turkey. That is the simple explanation of the case; and I think there is nothing in that which can be considered as being in any way derogatory to the character of England in what she has done. It was an effort, and an honest effort, and an effort made in good hope that we might be able to get rid of the great difficulty and danger that threatened Europe and seemed to us to stand in the way of a settlement in Turkey. But I am not prepared to say that all hope for the maintenance of peace is at an end. Certainly it is true, as my right hon. Friend has stated, and as hon. Gentlemen will see to-morrow morning, that the Turkish answer is not by any means of a favourable character, and therefore there is room for grave anxiety; but it is by no means a case in which it seems to me to be absolutely hopeless that even yet the dangers of war may be conjured away. But, say the right hon. Gentlemen opposite—"You have, by these Protocols, made Russia the mistress of the situation." Now, I cannot see that. The Declaration made by Lord Derby was intended to prevent our being entangled by this Protocol in any engagements which, in the event of a war, would enable other Powers to come to us and say that, in consequence of that Protocol, we were bound to act with them. We wished to keep our hands free, and keep the country free; and it was only in consideration of the 1177 great advantage that would be gained by the demobilization and disarmament of the Russian Army, that we joined in this Protocol, which—whether its language be strong or weak—does record various points of recognized importance in this discussion, and the importance of which is proved by the fact that Russia was willing to accept it as a sufficient reason for abstaining for the present from the use of force. Whether there is room for hope or not—whether there is to be peace or war—we believe the attitude this country has taken is one worthy of her, and one which she will be able to maintain, and that we shall be free from all entangling engagements, except those which have bound us in time past, and which are still binding upon us. It is said the object of the Protocol was to set aside the Treaty of Paris. I confess I do not see in what way it is to set aside the Treaty of Paris. I sometimes hear it said that any engagement or any proposal on the part of the European Powers to watch over the proceedings of Turkey, or to keep an eye upon the condition of her subjects, is contrary to the stipulations of the 9th Article of the Treaty of Paris. I cannot understand such language from anybody who has the Article before him. The Article says that the Porte, while communicating certain Hatti-Humayouns to the Powers, does not thereby give the Powers any right of interference; but there is nothing in that Article which takes from the Powers any right to concert among themselves with regard to those matters which, in Turkey or elsewhere, may seem to them dangerous to the peace of Europe. Every nation has a right to watch what its neighbours are doing, if they are doing anything which is likely to be dangerous to the peace of Europe; and we have maintained that right still. My right hon. Friend was taunted with speaking of our caring only for the interests of England. We maintain the honour of England; we maintain the faith of Treaties; we maintain the right England has always desired for herself—that of endeavouring to use her influence in such a manner as it may best be used in the cause of peace and humanity. Reference has been made to one of the brightest jewels in the Crown of England — the suppression of the Slave Trade; and the spirit which animated England in suppressing it is a spirit 1178 which is not dead among us. It lives, and is as vigorous as ever. Whatever may be the course of events, it need not be feared that those who have the honour and responsibility for the time being of directing the counsels of the Sovereign of England will fail to exhibit that spirit which has animated their Predecessors, and which still animates the nation. I am quite certain that if any Ministry were to fail in maintaining in a proper manner the honour and interests of England, they would very soon, whatever their temporary majority in the House of Commons might be, find what it is to forfeit the honour and confidence of the English people.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Perhaps the House will allow me to say that, after what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War with regard to the Motion, I have no alternative but to ask permission of the House to withdraw the Motion. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that although no Papers would be given in reply to this Motion, some Papers would be presented, and that the others were confidential, and could not be laid on the Table. Under these circumstances, I have no ground on which I can press the Motion; and, if the House will allow it, I will withdraw it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The proposal of the noble Lord is very fair and reasonable. The Motion has been brought forward for the purpose of raising a debate; and the noble Lord knew it could not be pressed.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee deferred till Monday next.