, in rising to "call attention to the Despatch (No. 159, of Papers No. 1) addressed by Lord Derby to Sir Henry Elliot on the 5th of September 1876, and to make inquiries from Her Majesty's Government with regard to the 'Treaty Engagements' of the Country therein referred to," said: Mr. Speaker—Sir, it is my first duty, and it is a very agreeable duty, to return my cordial and grateful thanks to my hon. Friends, three in number, who have so courteously given up the precedence they had obtained on the Notice Paper in order to enable this House, at the earliest and most convenient hour, to enter on the discussion of this question. I am well aware that I should be wrong if I pleaded that merely as an act of personal courtesy. It was, in my opinion, also due to the consciousness of my hon. Friends that this question is 471 one of supreme and paramount importance, at the present moment, to the people of this country, and that it must continue to be so until, in some way or other, it has arrived at a settlement. At the same time, I do not presume—and, indeed, it would not be consistent with the terms of the Notice I have given—to enter upon the whole of the wide and almost boundless field of the Eastern Question. It is scarcely possible—as one may say with confidence—even after labouring a good deal upon the 1,200 pages of information supplied to us by Her Majesty's Government, to confine within the limits of a speech, however large might be the indulgence of the House, all the points connected with this great and absorbing subject. But it has appeared to me that the point to which I shall call especial attention tonight is one of great importance; and I will go to it without attempting to detain the House by any collateral matters not strictly relevant to the issue. I should wish, however, perhaps, I may say, for the entertainment as well as the information of the House, to make one exception which will not occupy more than a minute, because in a paper conducted with great ability in the North of England I read this morning a statement, not from one of the public, but from what is termed "An Occasional Correspondent," which I am rather desirous to contradict. It was a statement to the effect that a most formidable plan had been in operation for the purpose of dethroning the Sultan of Turkey and placing upon his Throne His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The promoters of this plan are four most formidable individuals. They were, in the first place, Prince Bismarck; in the second place, the Emperor of Russia; in the third place, the Earl of Beaconsfield; and in the fourth place, Mr. Gladstone. I may venture to assure the House, that whatever may be the dangers and the possibilities of the Eastern Question, that there is no truth whatever in that statement. Now, Sir, I go to the despatch to which I desire to call the attention of the House, and which is in the hands of hon. Members. It is a despatch dated September 5, 1876; and the points in that despatch to which I wish to invite attention are two, one of them being that on which I intend principally to dwell. The first is, that on that date, 472 and, indeed, as it would appear at a considerably earlier date—namely, the 22nd of August—Her Majesty's Government had arrived at a very important conclusion with respect to the state of feeling in this country. Lord Derby informed Sir Henry Elliot that—any sympathy which was previously felt here towards Turkey has been completely destroyed by the recent lamentable occurrences in Bulgaria. The accounts of outrages and excesses committed by the Turkish troops upon an unhappy and, for the most part unresisting population, has roused an universal feeling of indignation in all classes of English society, and to such a pitch has this risen that in the extreme case of Russia declaring war against Turkey Her Majesty's Government would find it practically impossible to interfere in defence of the Ottoman Empire.Sir, that particular passage in the despatch appears to throw a good deal of light—more than I, for one, was previously possessed of—on the intentions of Her Majesty's Government previous to that epoch; because, when they conveyed to Turkey the fact that, in their judgment, certain recent disclosures had made it impossible for them to interfere in defence of the Ottoman Empire in the extreme case of war being declared by Russia against Turkey, it certainly does appear to imply that until these disclosures were made they had distinctly cherished that intention. I wish the House to take notice of that fact. If I am wrong it is, of course, for the Government, if they think fit, to correct me in the inference that I draw; but I must say that it is something rather beyond anything that I, for one, at any rate, who am supposed to be pretty decided in my opinions on this matter, have found it necessary to lay at their door, and it is a circumstance which, if true, is of very considerable importance. However, the main matter is re-opened by the next paragraph of the despatch, which runs as follows:—Such an event" (namely, a declaration of war by Russia against Turkey), "by which the sympathies of the nation would be brought into direct opposition to its Treaty engagements, would place England in a most unsatisfactory and even humiliating position, yet it is impossible to say that if the present conflict continues the contingency may not arise.The despatch then goes on to urge the Turkish Government, on that account, by all means to avoid driving matters to an extreme issue, and leaves it to the 473 discretion of Sir Henry Elliot to choose the language in which he shall make his communications on the subject to the Turkish Government. Now, we are told here that, in the event of war between Russia and Turkey, the sympathies of the nation would be brought into direct opposition to its Treaty engagements. In the first place, I am extremely sorry that it was thought to be necessary at all to lay down any abstract proposition whatever, such as is here involved, at that epoch, on the Treaty engagements of the country. There was no necessity for it, as I conceive. It is most unsafe, as a rule. Her Majesty's Government had already, by a despatch which was lately laid on the Table, limited themselves in regard to Turkey to what is called moral support. They had stated to Sir Henry Elliot, on the 25th of May of last year, that the Turkish Government must not expect from Her Majesty's Government more than a moral support. I may, perhaps, make an observation on the nature of this moral support, which is tolerably well, though, perhaps, not universally understood. It is moral support as opposed to material support, but not moral support as opposed to immoral support that is meant by the Government. Now, that declaration had been made, and Turkey had no expectations—according to these despatches—had no title to entertain expectations of material support from Her Majesty's Government. But one of the difficulties encountered in reading through these Papers is, that, while everything that is declared in them has every appearance, and every just appearance, of being straightforward and decisive, there yet seems to have been somewhere or other under-currents of communications which were constantly counteracting the best declarations and the best intentions on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. And we now know that down to so very recent a period as, I think, the 8th of January last, the two principal persons in the Turkish Government were confident in their declaration that they were to have the support, in the last extremity, at any rate, of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Derby. This is a very serious matter, because in the despatch that I have quoted you have not only the declaration of the Foreign Minister, but it was open to Sir Henry Elliot to make the communication to the Turkish Government. It approached, therefore, very nearly to the 474 nature of an engagement to the Turkish Government. I do not well see how Sir Henry Elliot could avoid making that communication, because the purpose of the declaration in the despatch was to bring him to exercise great pressure on the Turkish. Government in order to prevent them from driving things to extremity. Now, how could he best bring that pressure to bear upon them? Of course, by developing the very argument that Lord Derby made—namely, that, if Turkey drove matters, or allowed them to be driven, to extremity, the consequence would be that we should be placed in a position where we could not fulfil our Treaty engagements. Sir, I object to all those declarations that England is going to be put in a position where she cannot fulfil her Treaty engagements. I differ from the Minister as to what those Treaty engagements were; but I certainly do not admit that we have been, or are, or are likely, or can be placed in any position in which we should decline to fulfil our Treaty engagements. Now, Sir, what is the nature of these Treaty engagements? Where were they to be found? There are two Treaties which bear on this subject, and which contain the engagements taken by this country on behalf of the Ottoman Empire. The one of these Treaties is the more stringent of the two in its terms, but then it is more limited in regard to the parties concerned in it, and as to the parties who have a locus standi for the purpose of putting it into execution. I mean what is called the Tripartite Treaty, a Treaty between England, France, and Austria, to which Turkey is not a party, and which binds those Powers as between themselves jointly and severally to treat an invasion of the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire as a casus belli. Now, I apprehend I am justified in saying that Lord Derby could not possibly have had that Treaty in view; Turkey not being a party to it, it was not a matter that could have been introduced into this despatch. As I do not expect that it will be a subject of debate, I need make no further reference to it on the present occasion. But what are we to say of the engagement given under the Treaty of Paris—namely, the Treaty of March, 1856? What is the nature of the guarantees it contains? In the first place, let us look at the terms 475 of the Treaty and see how much they amount to. I cannot understand how it was possible to found upon the provisions of that Treaty any such doctrine as Lord Derby has here laid down. In the 7th Article of the Treaty, which is the only one bearing on the case, there are three declarations. The 8th Article refers to a case that has not arisen; but the 7th first declares that the Sublime Porte is to participate in the advantages of the public law and system of Europe, and then it contains these three engagements, first, for each Power to respect the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. That evidently has nothing to do with the case. The second is to guarantee in common the strict observance of that engagement, which could not be the matter which Lord Derby had in view according to any just construction of it, because in this despatch to Sir Henry Elliot he was not speaking of what England's duty might become in the event of a common resolution of the European Powers, but of the engagement the obligations of which England would be under upon a declaration of war by Russia. In the third place, the Powers are bound to consider any act tending to the violation of the engagement as a question of general interest. That covenant clearly is very important, but it is totally different from making war in the event of such an act as a declaration of war by Russia upon Turkey. When I referred just now to the Tripartite Treaty I did so in the belief that my statement would not and could not be contested, but there are certain signs which seem to indicate that it is not admitted by Her Majesty's Government, and, therefore, I must say a few words on the subject. This question, I think, arises, What is the nature and force of these guarantees in general? Are they to be understood as an abstract, literal declaration, wholly irrespective of all the circumstances which may intervene before the possibility of being called upon to act upon them arises, or do they depend, in particular, on the conduct of the party to whom the guarantee is given? I may, without offence, and with some advantage, perhaps, refer to the view of the case which I have often heard from the mouth of Lord Palmerston in the Cabinet, which I have heard in this House, and which I believe is, and certainly was up to a recent time, 476 perfectly well known in the Foreign Office as a tradition. Lord Palmerston, who could not but be regarded as a great authority on a subject of this kind, used to contend, without much or any qualification, that the nature of these guarantees was to give the right of interference, but not to impose an obligation of interference. I name that proposition on account of the weight attaching to it from the high position and great ability and experience of its author, without, at the same time, inquiring whether it is necessary to go so far as to embrace it in its whole breadth. What I contend is that it is impossible to separate from any of these guarantees not only the general alteration of circumstances that may occur, but also the conduct of the party on behalf of whom the guarantee is given. My contention applies more especially when the guarantee at the time it is given has reference to certain presumed conduct which the party concerned is to follow, and when that conduct has not subsequently been followed, but, on the contrary, all that has been presumed and engaged fails to be fulfilled. In such a case it appears to me the liberty of the guaranteeing party is completely re-established. I say this because I was astonished both at this declaration of Lord Derby, which appears to me a most rash declaration on general grounds, and totally unwarranted by the terms of the Treaty, and because I find that his declaration, wide as it is, has been even further widened by Sir Henry Elliot. In his despatch of the 30th of September Sir Henry Elliot says—The Protocol on the subject of internal reforms in Turkey would constitute an infringement of the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, for it would confer on the Powers the right of interference in the internal administration of Turkey from which by that Treaty they were debarred.Such is the doctrine of Sir Henry Elliot. I meet his allegation directly, and I say that from such interference, by the Treaty of Paris, the Powers were not debarred, and in proof of that view I would refer to contemporary exposition—to the debates of 1856 in this House and to the letter of the Treaty itself. There is nothing whatever in the letter of the Treaty which debars the Powers from interference. What the Powers are debarred from is claiming a title to 477 interference on a special ground, and that special ground was the fact of "the communication made to them by the Porte of the Firman which had been issued." That interference is entirely debarred and repudiated, and most properly; because, if not, it is quite plain that the issue of that Firman constituted an engagement on the part of the Porte, and had there not been a caveat of that kind either the whole of the Powers or any Power whatever would have been able to renew the incessant and general interference which it was one of the main objects of the Treaty to bring to an end. But the Treaty never denied the general and indisputable proposition that, with regard to any State whatever, especially with regard to a State constituted like Turkey, the effect of its conduct upon the general principles of humanity or upon the peace of Europe might be such as not only to warrant, but to compel, interference. From those general rights of interference, which, no doubt, ought never to be put forward except on the most substantial cause, there was no debarring of the Powers, and how in the world an able gentleman like Sir Henry Elliot, being Ambassador to the Porte, should have made so rash an allegation, it is to me wholly impossible to conceive. But we have it from his pen and we have seen, too, that Lord Derby held the opinion that we were under a Treaty obligation to take up arms against Russia should she declare war against Turkey, and that on account of the popular feeling in this country we should not be able to fulfil that obligation, and should thus be placed in a humiliating position. I know not which of these propositions is most to be deplored. I earnestly hope they form no part of the present creed of Her Majesty's Government. At the exposition of the Treaty in Parliament in 1856 Lord Palmerston entered fully into the question, and I think the upshot of what he said was that the moral right of interference on the part of the Powers must remain unquestionable. His assertion was certainly not less broad than that. I have noticed with some surprise that there has been an argument of late which was born on the Lord Mayor's day at the Guildhall, and which has received a great deal of additional weight and authority from the mouths of various Members of the Government since, to the 478 effect that something happened in 1870–1 which gave a new force and authority to the provisions of 1856, just as if they had a fresh origin at that period. This has been so positively stated by the Prime Minister—and it was repeated, though in a less positive form, by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House a few evenings ago—that I must entreat the House to bear with me while I state the nature of the occurrences of 1870–1. They are perfectly simple, I think, in themselves, and they show that nothing whatever was done in 1870 or 1871 which could possibly give to the Treaty of 1856 any stringency or any scope greater than that which it had previously possessed before these occurrences. What happened was this—In the very hey-day of the Franco-German War the Russian Minister took his opportunity of making an announcement to Europe. I will not cite the despatch in question; I will simply state the three propositions which on the 31st of October and on subsequent dates were advanced by Russia. In the first place, the Minister distinctly repudiated the provisions of the Treaty which limited the naval armament of Russia in the Black Sea. In the second place, he endeavoured, not successfully, I think, to justify that repudiation upon the ground that other Articles of the Treaty had already been broken by the other Powers; and that as they had been broken by some of the Powers for their own convenience, or to suit their own views, it was not to be expected that Russia would consent to remain under the galling pressure of those Articles which were most inconvenient and, as he thought, most insulting to her. Thirdly, he announced on the part of Russia that that country still adhered to the general principles of the Treaty. Well, Sir, this was, on the part of Prince Gortchakoff, a very formidable announcement, and we had to consider with care the course we were bound to pursue. First arose the question, should we resist this proceeding of Russia by war? The effect of this would have been singular, for it would not have been possible to make war upon Russia upon account merely of objectionable words. The war would not, therefore, have meant an immediate result. It would have been a contingent war, dependent on the proceedings of Russia. We should have waited till we found 479 her giving effect to those declarations, and augmenting her naval armaments on the Black Sea. Well, Sir, I believe that would have been a novelty in the history of the world. Certainly it would have been an engagement of the utmost inconvenience, to say the least. But now, let us look at the mode in which, and the means by which, such a war could have been carried out. It would have been a war in which—although I know it was suggested by the noble Earl who was then the Leader of the Opposition (the late Earl of Derby) that we had betrayed our duty in not doing something very terrible in regard to Russia —I am not aware that he ever said explicitly what it was—but it would have been a war in which we should have stood absolutely alone, without a single ally in Europe. For what were the declarations of the Powers upon this Russian announcement? Every one of them disapproved it. Prince Bismarck said he disapproved it highly, but he was so busy with his own war that he did not mean even to send an answer. France was engaged in the same war, and suffering very heavily from its calamities, and it was impossible, therefore, to extract from her any declaration of a positive nature. Austria said that if we were disposed to be energetic, she would be energetic with us, but the energy she thought it would be proper to exert was energy in the direction of a moral pressure, with the view of retrieving the mischief which had been done, and establishing firmly the sound principle applicable to the modification of Treaties, as opposed to the principle on which Russia appeared to have proceeded. Turkey herself was not an objecting party to this proceeding of Russia, for—I think it was in the month of November, the original declaration having been made at the end of October—Sir Henry Elliot informed us that lie had had a conversation with Ali Pasha, and that in the opinion of the Porte it was useless to hope to perpetuate the existing limitations of the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea. It was quite impossible, as far as Turkey was concerned, to ignore the national considerations which must influence Russia as to her position in the Black Sea. Such was the position in which we found ourselves; and yet in that position, when we were a party to nothing but a joint engagement together 480 with the other Powers, we were very much reproached with not having adopted some startling course, with not having threatened some tremendous exercise of the force of this country—a threat not to be carried out at once, but to be held over the head of Russia till she had given effect to her declaration. But what was our position? Why, every Power in Europe had turned its back upon us. Well, Sir, in those circumstances, we in our great pusillanimity—[Ironical Ministerial cheers and laughter]—it was, no doubt, great pusillanimity, was it not—perhaps you would have done quite otherwise, and a very pretty mess you would have made of it—we, I say, determined not to adopt the course of making war. Well, there was another plan which some say ought to have been pursued, or, rather, some say was pursued. Some say that as we determined not to make war, but to proceed diplomatically, what we did amounted to a fresh start in the negotiations, such as had been made in 1856; that we went through substantially the same process as in that year, and re-settled the whole affairs of the East of Europe. That is the allegation. Well, Sir, an allegation more absurd, in my opinion, never proceeded from the mouth of man—absurd, inasmuch as it ascribes to us positively the minds of idiots. [Laughter.] Who but an idiot could have proposed to retry the whole of that great subject, and re-settle the affairs of the East of Europe, at a time when Germany and France were totally incapable of taking part in it, with Russia in opposition to it, when Turkey did not ask for it, and Italy did not wish to meddle? It appears to me absurd on the very face of it. Yet, judging by his cheer just now, my right hon. Friend appears to think we had reached such a pitch of fatuity that we were on the point of entering upon that task. Another course, and, I think, the only one for men of common sense to adopt, was to endeavour to stop the leak that Russia had made, to repair the mischief that Russia had undoubtedly done when she repudiated—improperly, I think, as to the authority she assumed, but not improperly as to the thing desired, because I do not think the thing was in itself unreasonable—when she repudiated an obligation under the Treaty, and justified, or attempted to justify, that repudiation by alleging 481 that other Articles had been already broken, thereby giving a shock to the whole credit and authority of the Treaty. It was our duty to replace the Treaty as nearly as we could in the position it had occupied before the declaration of Russia. That is what we endeavoured to do. We did not reopen the great provisions of the Treaty. We regarded the Black Sea provision as one on which Russia had issued her repudiation, and as being in the same position as before Russia had taken that course; we made certain amendments in the Treaty as regarded some matters of detail and of pure convenience, particularly as to the mouth of the Danube, and otherwise merely affirmed generally the provisions of the Treaty. There was no choice but to re-affirm them, unless we were prepared to re-try them on their merits. Was it possible to re-try them on their merits? And if it was impossible to re-try and re-settle them on the merits, what else could we do to restore the credit of the Treaty but give a general re-affirmation? Why, something analogous occurs frequently when an amendment is made in a will, and the whole of the unamended provisions are repeated, in order to prevent any possible doubt, but without implying that they have undergone any revision or fresh examination. The Treaty of 1856 was replaced by the proceedings of 1871 in the position, as far as possible, in which it was placed before the Letter of Prince Gortchakoff in the month of October, and, indeed, it was placed on a better footing. But then it is said—"You ought to have re-tried it; you ought to have re-examined it; you ought to have known everything that was going on in Turkey; you have no business to complain of what has been going on lately if you did not complain then." I entirely disclaim that proposition. The question of the conduct of the different Governments since 1856 with regard to what was going on in the internal condition of Turkey is a subject very likely to excite interest in this House, and I think an hon. Gentleman gave a Notice yesterday with reference to it. If it is desirable—and I think it would be perfectly legitimate—to have an inquiry into the matter, let it be a thoroughly full and complete inquiry. I cannot now presume to speak with certainty, not being in office or having the command 482 of the official records; but, trusting merely to my recollection, I hold myself entirely responsible for every material proceeding of the Foreign Office during the time when I was Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has a special responsibility. It is the duty of the Foreign Office to bring under his notice everything of importance that goes through the Department, and it is his duty to make himself master of every one of the Papers. I am not conscious of having failed in that duty. Not wishing, however, to trust entirely to my own memory, which never was infallible, and is growing more fallible year by year, I have consulted my noble Friend who was then Foreign Secretary (Earl Granville), and neither he nor I can recollect that during the period of the late Government we were flooded with complaints as to the internal government of Turkey. I have no objection to inquiry; but at present, all I can do is to show that about the time to which I have been referring there was nothing before us which would have given us the leverage and moral power necessary for the purpose of raising up the whole question of the internal condition of Turkey. For this purpose I shall make a brief extract from the debates of this House. On the 5th of August, 1872, the late hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) asked this Question of my noble Friend (Lord Enfield) then at the Foreign Office, filling the post which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bourke) fills so well at present—Whether the authorities of the Ottoman Porte are giving effect to the provisions contained in various edicts issued by the Sultan of Turkey during recent years in favour of his Christian subjects?It will be seen that that was a very general question, and not limited to the occurrences of the moment, but referring rather to a general state of things. Well, the Answer of my noble Friend (Lord Enfield) was as follows:—Sir, the latest report from Constantinople, received two days ago, states that, as a general rule, the edicts in favour of the Christians are fairly carried into effect, and that, as a class, they have no reason for complaint."—[3 Hansard, ccxiii. 454.]Whether that was a true statement of what was going on, or whether it was not too sanguine, I have no means of saying, but that it was the exact truth, 483 as far as Lord Enfield knew, I am certain. Whether he was correctly advised, after what has recently happened, I am not so sure, but that shows what our information was at the time with regard to the interior of Turkey. Well, so much then for the supposition that this question of Treaty engagements is in some extraordinary and mysterious manner affected by the proceedings which occurred when Russia repudiated the limitation of her naval force in the Black Sea, and when we in consequence obtained from her her signature to a solemn Protocol in which the principle was distinctly and even elaborately set forth that it was not in the power of any single State to withdraw itself from the obligations of the Treaty. These proceedings lay down in the most stringent terms this principle, to which Russia gives her signature, that it is an essential principle of the the Law of Nations that no Power can liberate herself from a Treaty unless with the sanction of the contracting Powers, by means of amicable arrangements. Therefore, we did all that in us lay to replace the Treaty of 1856 in a position of credit, but we did nothing to give a new stamp to its engagements. Now, I have said that by this despatch of September 5 we were most unnecessarily and most unwisely committed to the assertion of a most dangerous proposition with regard to the obligations of that Treaty; but I am bound to say, and I say it with satisfaction, that I do not find that there is a rigid uniformity—I think my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House called it a slavish uniformity—in the declarations of Her Majesty's Government on the documents proceeding from the Foreign Office. On the contrary, these declarations have more the character of a flower garden. If we turn to the Prorogation of 1876 and the whole of their declarations last Session, we shall see that the great object of the Government then was to maintain the obligations and the Treaties to which I am referring. This was evidently in the mind of Lord Derby in writing the despatch of the 5th of September, and in the gracious Speech in which Parliament was dismissed from their severe labours at the close of last Session I find that Her Majesty is made to speak of "the duties imposed upon Me by Treaty obligations, and those which arise from con- 484 siderations of humanity and policy." Par be it from me to say that Her Majesty has not borne that in mind, but undoubtedly in the Speech delivered from the Throne at the opening of Parliament there was no evidence given of its being borne in mind, for then the note was changed, and we were told what the Queen's object had been throughout. On the 8th of February, her object had been—To maintain the peace of Europe, and to bring about the better government of the disturbed provinces, without infringing upon the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire.There is no obligation there to go to war in defence of the Turkish Empire. That is an important point, and is distinctly embodied in the despatch of the 5th of September; but to my great satisfaction, when I heard the Speech from the Throne, that had been erased from Her Majesty's political memory, and found no place in the Speech. Now, as late as the 9th of November, in the speech of the Prime Minister, the doctrine of Treaty obligations was full blown and exhibited in the most magnificent proportions. It was the key-note of the speech, but very shortly after he began to tumble down, to shrink, and to collapse, and unquestionably, if I understand it in the declarations of Lord Salisbury at Constantinople, it at any rate insinuated, a very different doctrine, for he says that "If Turkey refuses the advice of the Powers her position will have undergone a total change in the face of Europe?" Now what is the total change she has undergone? I do not think it is a change in her moral character, for that could have been estimated before quite as well as now. I think her moral character was estimated by her refusal to join in the proposals of the Powers. It must, then, have been a political change to which Lord Salisbury referred, and if so I do not know what change Turkey has undergone in that sense unless Lord Salisbury meant that she is no longer entitled to expect, under the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, any material help from anybody whatsoever. We then come to the 8th of February and the declarations of that date. I must not refer particularly to the speeches which were then made by Members of the Government; but so far 485 as I am able to comprehend their character through the medium of the reports of them which have appeared, they are totally irreconcilable with the despatch of the 5th of September. Now to that despatch I do not wish any evil, except that it may disappear and may no longer dwell on the minds of men as portion of the practical materials with which we have to deal. And if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, or my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, should follow me in this debate, I would wish to hear from him not so much a justification of this particular despatch—that is a matter of indifference to me—as a sound doctrine, applicable to the present state of things. I do not doubt that many Members of the Government who may have held the particular doctrine of which I have been speaking in the month of September have since changed their opinions. They may say that the refusal of the advice of the Powers by Turkey was in the eyes of all an offence, and that that offence having been committed, they now hold themselves altogether free to act as they may think fit. But, at all events, the House will feel that this despatch is one of so formidable character, and the whole subject is one of such difficulty, that it was necessary it should be brought under the notice of the House. We shall have much to reflect upon and much to say and to consider in respect to the kind of policy which this country may have to pursue on this great Eastern Question, which is neither settled nor, so far as I can see, has made much visible progress towards a settlement, except in two points of secondary importance connected with the making of peace between Servia, Montenegro, and the Porte. It is most important then, in my opinion, that we should know before we proceed further how far our hands are tied by Treaty engagements in the judgment of those by whom we are represented in the face of Europe, and how far we are free, on the contrary, to do that which is just and right in itself. I therefore will ask Her Majesty's Government these three Questions, and will sum them up thus—First of all, whether the words "humiliating position," mentioned in the despatch, mean the position of a State bound by a Treaty to go to war in a certain event, but disabled from doing so by the national sentiment; secondly, it having been the 486 opinion of Her Majesty's Government on the 5th of September that we were then bound by Treaty to go to war for Turkey, if she were attacked by Russia, did they then consider her title to our aid was not affected by her breach of faith in regard to the reforms promised? And lastly—and I think it is the real material question—is that still their opinion, or do they now consider that we are absolved from the obligations asserted in the Treaty of 1856, and that we are free to act as policy, justice, and humanity may seem to direct and require.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The speech, Sir, in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) has just addressed us has, I must say, been one of great calmness, and has not been calculated to excite any of those passions and emotions which some of his speeches on former occasions may have tended to produce. He has put certain Questions to the Government, and I wish he had formulated them on the Notice Paper, as we had reason to expect he would, so that I might be able to quote them more fully in replying to them; but I hope, at the same time, I shall have no difficulty in referring to them pretty accurately. Now, let me say at the beginning, and it may be taken as an answer altogether, that we do not consider ourselves to be set free from the obligations of the Treaties to which we were parties in 1856, and in the Treaty which was made in 1871.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I was merely giving a general answer to the right hon. Gentleman in the first instance, that he might understand our position. I will come to what I have to say on that subject a little later, but I am obliged to look rather at what recently fell from the right hon. Gentleman in this House with respect to his view of these Treaties. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say upon the first night of the Session that he was prepared to argue that Turkey was entirely outside the Treaties to which she was a party with us, but that we remained still bound to the other parties.
I said that Turkey had lost her rights under the Treaties, not that she was not bound by Treaty obligations.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Well, we have at least got the statement that Turkey is to be thrust into the cold, outside the Treaties, without any rights or claim on any one connected with them, but that she is still to be saddled with all the obligations which they impose. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] I hope I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman. I am most anxious not to do so, because it is only a waste of time to reply to arguments which have not been used. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say, first of all, that Turkey had no right to call upon us for the fulfilment of the obligations into which we have entered with her, and that, upon the other hand, we have a right to call upon her to fulfil the obligations into which she entered with us. [Mr. GLAD-STONE: I made no mention of that at all.] Now, when I am asked whether we are bound by a Treaty, I should like to know what view ought to be taken of the position of our co-partner in that Treaty, and how far is she bound. I want to know this—Is Turkey bound to Europe by the Treaties of 1856 and 1871 or not? If she is, then I say boldly, peremptorily, and strongly, that Europe is bound by those Treaties to her. You cannot escape from that position. It cannot be possible that there should be a bargain made between two parties, and that the consideration which is given by one party and which is the ground by which the other is bound should be taken away so as to set that party free alike from the obligations as well as from the benefits of the bargain. Was such a thing ever heard of as that after having entered into a treaty with a man, you should say to him—"Now, you have behaved so very ill, that I will have nothing more to do with you. I promised you a good deal on my part, and you promised something on your part. I hold you to your bargain to fulfil that which you have agreed to, but do not look to me to fulfil any part of my obligations." Now, I want to know whether that is the position which I have to contest. The right hon. Gentleman says he will not say what the obligations of Turkey are. But I am obliged to say, because unless all my co-partners in the Treaty are bound I am not bound. Why was the Treaty renewed in 1871? Because certain Articles were taken out of the Treaty of 1856, and negotiations were entered into for 488 the purpose of renewing that Treaty. Why? Because otherwise we should have been released from our obligations under that Treaty by the very different form it had assumed. Unless we had become partners to it in a new form, Turkey and Russia might have agreed between themselves about the Black Sea, but we had a right to be consulted, and if they had entered into a Treaty regarding the Black Sea we should surely have been released from the former one. It was therefore necessary that the Treaty of 1856 should be re-settled and confirmed, which was done; and when the right hon. Gentleman says, as he does, that we are taking some extraordinary view as to this Treaty of 1871, as if there was some new force and new origin given to our obligations to Turkey—that is a contention which I never heard, and is entirely owing to great misapprehension. It has never been argued that there is any new stringency or force in that Treaty beyond that of 1856. What was alleged was this—You say—"Turkey has forfeited her rights." When did she forfeit them? I find that in 1860 Russia was complaining of exactly the same conduct with respect to the Christian subjects of Turkey as she has been complaining of since. I find that there have been since the cases of the Lebanon and Crete, instances which called special attention to the conduct of Turkey towards her Christian subjects. And when the right hon. Gentleman, who has been forming a long catalogue of Turkish abuses, tells us that the crime of Turkey extends even to her origin—that she is so anti-human in herself, that she has never been able to be human on any occasion—it is a lame and valueless answer to us, when we ask whether, in 1871, she had not arrived at such a climax of iniquity as to be put out of the pale of civilized society, to refer to a Question put in this House to Lord Enfield, and which was answered to the effect, that up to that time the edicts seemed to have been fairly fulfilled. Such was the state of information at the Foreign Office in 1872. What has been said with respect to the information of Sir Henry Elliot? When Sir Henry Elliot had been remonstrating again and again, and calling the attention of the Porte to these things, yet because he did not know of a certain transaction in a certain place, he was held up to the scorn 489 and execration of the world for having neglected his duty. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that Turkey was covered with a network of Consuls and Vice Consuls — officers who could not have avoided seeing these several things which occurred. Why, Sir, even at the time the right hon. Gentleman speaks of, there were even more Consular and Vice Consular officers than there were last year, because the number had been diminished; and one of the grievances that has been complained of has been that we were not sufficiently fortified in our number of officers, so as to be able to watch what was going on in those countries. Therefore these things have happened, and not sufficiently early information of them has been given. I find that so far from it being the case that you have these Consular officers everywhere, Sir Henry Elliot complains that there were not enough of them, and if you look at his despatch you will find there were only three who could give him any information on this subject at all, and that they could not guarantee its correctness. This is the reason why we alluded to the Treaty of 1871. We say that when you came to re-consider the position of Russia as regards Turkey and the position of Russia and Turkey as regards yourselves, it was your bounden duty to inquire into the position of things which existed at that time. And I will ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. Were not the negotiations appertaining to that Treaty protracted negotiations? Were there not constant interviews between the parties? The right hon. Gentleman tells us that Germany and France were so engaged in war with each other that they could not attend to it. But each of those Powers was represented as signatories in the Conference which took part in resettling that Treaty. It is idle, therefore, to say that, because they were engaged in war, they could not give attention to the matter through their Ambassadors or Envoys who were here. These Representatives entered into the negotiations, and they had an opportunity of going fully into the delinquencies of Turkey, and deciding if she were to be thrust out into the cold. The question before us now is not whether we should have gone to war at the time of the re-settling diplomacy, as it is called, in 1871. The question is, 490 whether when they undertook to resettle this Treaty of 1856 in 1871 it is a fair argument for anybody to say—You entered into a Treaty with people who you considered had sufficiently clean hands to unite them with yours, and if it be true that Turkey since 1856 had been utterly neglecting the duties which you say she had stipulated to perform, it follows as an irresistible conclusion that you who made the Treaty of 187I have no right to turn upon us now and say we are to be blamed because we maintain that it is our duty to fulfil the obligations which you then undertook. The Treaty of 1871 goes into great detail as to those parts of it which affect the questions which were before them. By Article 8 it says that—The high contracting Parties renew and confirm all the stipulations of the Treaty of March 30, 1856, as well as its annexes as moth-fled by the present Treaty.Then the right hon. Gentleman has read to us the Protocol, which laid down as a principle that one party to the Treaty should not be able to annul that Treaty, and take advantage for himself by getting rid of some stipulations to which he is a party. Well, be it so; but then has any one party to a Treaty, do you think, the right to say without consultation with the others, that another party to the Treaty is thrust outside of it by some conduct of its own, they electing of themselves to say how far that one party is disqualified by its conduct to be one of the co-partners in the Treaty? Have they a right to say they will thrust that party out and acknowledge no duties and obligations towards it for the future without coming to that amicable settlement with the other Powers, which they would have to do in order to get rid of any stipulation in respect of themselves? But, Sir, did Turkey enter into a stipulation? I am unable to find it. As to the particular point upon which the right hon. Gentleman has relied, it is not a stipulation. Turkey undertook to her own subjects that she would issue certain Firmans, and give them certain liberties. Well, she did issue those Firmans, and, according to Lord Enfield, up to 1871 it appears that the edicts had been fairly fulfilled. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] I am only taking the information of the Foreign Office in 1871; and I must say 491 the right hon. Gentleman did not seem very much to rely upon that. There the information was, however.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
In 1872 Lord Enfield said that as far as he knew the edicts had been fairly fulfilled.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Up to 1872, then, it comes to this—that there appears to have been no knowledge as to how the edicts were fulfilled at all; but upon inquiry in 1872, Lord Enfield was enabled to say that at that time they were being fairly fulfilled. They had got so far. Holding, then, as I do, that the release of a person from the benefits of a Treaty is a release also from the obligations of a Treaty, I want to know whether bad conduct on the part of a member of a Treaty to its own subjects is a sufficient ground for excluding it from the European advantages, and for excluding Europe from the advantages she derives from that Treaty? I remember hearing once what was thought a very extraordinary thing with regard to bank notes, and this seems to be quite as extraordinary. You have made a Treaty with Turkey, not for the benefit of Turkey. That is an entire mistake. Last night I happened to be looking at the last volume of the Despatches of the Duke of Wellington—a work to which I would ask hon. Gentlemen to refer on the Eastern Question. You will find that Lord Ellenborough, as long ago as 1829, used almost the very words which I have used just now. He said—This was not for the benefit of Turkey, but for the benefit of Europe. The Ottoman Empire stands not for the benefit of the Turks, but of Christian Europe—not to preserve Mahomedans in power, but to save Christians from a war of which neither the object could be defined, nor the extent nor duration calculated.I could not express myself upon the question in any shorter or better language than that. Well, according to the right hon. Gentleman, you have not entered into these engagements with Turkey for the benefit of Europe; and you are suddenly to say that Turkey has no right to call upon you to carry out any part of that Treaty. Then, I say, it follows as a matter of course that Turkey has a right to say she is released 492 from all the obligations of that Treaty. Then it comes to this—that, because somebody has ill-treated somebody else, that you are to deprive yourself of the advantages which he is bound to give to you. It is exactly the story of the Irishmen who when they quarrelled with the bank, burnt its notes, because they thought thereby to inflict punishment upon the bank, whereas they were really inflicting it on themselves. In other words, you have treated me very ill; you have given me a bank note, a promise to pay, and inasmuch as you have behaved very ill, I decline to accept your promise to pay, and burn your note. That does not seem to be a satisfactory mode of dealing with a great question. The right hon. Gentleman asks me whether under this Treaty we are bound to go to war. Sir, under this Treaty we are not bound to go to war, nor is there anything in the Treaty which can compel us to go to war. The Treaty of 1856 is a Treaty which says that under certain circumstances things shall become matter of general interest. That is the whole of it. But conjointly with the Great Powers of Europe we guarantee the independence and integrity of Turkey. Now, with respect to that I want to know up to what period we have acted with the Great Powers in respect to that guarantee. We say it was at the very beginning and foundation of the Conference. The basis on which the Conference acted began with the very words—that it was to be assumed they were acting in the interest of the independence and integrity of Turkey, and that is as binding on us as on the other Powers. My hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir William Harcourt) has raised a somewhat curious question on that Treaty, but it is one to which I can only allude in passing, this not being the time to discuss it. I understood my hon. and learned Friend to contend that the Conference sat under the Treaty, and that by virtue of the 8th Article of the Treaty the resolution of the Conference had a specially binding force. Now, I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich that this Conference—and, indeed, the interference in the affairs of Turkey—had nothing whatever to do with the Treaty itself, nor with the powers given us under the Treaty. In 1856 Lord 493 Aberdeen raised that very question, and said—"Are you going to take from yourselves the power of interfering when you see wrong done in Turkey?" and Lord Cowley answered, "Very far from it." All that was provided by the Treaty was this: The Porte having made a communication to the Powers, they said "We do not claim under this Treaty any right of interference in consequence of that communication; but we retain all our old rights of calling your attention to certain things"—and this of course would be more pressing in the case of Turkey than in the case of other Powers. But the right hon. Gentleman will remember that with respect to Italy and Spain there were the most extraordinary steps taken. When we talk of' the strong despatch of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), I do not suppose that anything could be much stronger than the despatch of Lord Palmerston to Spain, which led to the Spaniards sending away our Ambassador. I believe we have been acting in respect to the Conference quite irrespective of the Treaty; it is a different subject we have gone upon, and not that at all. Well, the Questions which the right hon. Gentleman has put appear to me to depend mainly upon one despatch, that of Lord Derby, No. 159; and in the first place I would remark that it is a despatch not addressed to any Minister of Turkey, nor in its terms for their particular use, in the form in which it is couched. It is addressed to Sir Henry Elliot, but it is not ordered to be read to any Turkish Minister. It says—Her Majesty's Government leave it to your Excellency's discretion to choose the arguments which you shall employ, but you will see from what I have stated how essential it is that the Turkish Ministers should be made alive to the position in which the conduct of their own authorities have placed them, and. you will understand that you are warranted in using the strongest language, should the occasion require it, to enforce upon the Porte the expediency of a pacific policy, and of moderation in the terms to be proposed.Now, Sir, I am prepared to say that circumstances might very well have happened which might have put this country into a very humilitating position. The right hon. Gentleman supposes that Lord Derby alluded only to the Treaty of 1856, to which Turkey was a party. I say, on the contrary, that my noble 494 Friend alluded to all the Treaty obligations to which this country, is a party. He alluded to the Tripartite Treaty between Austria, France, and ourselves, and I say that it would be a great humilitation to this country if being called upon by France and Austria to fulfil our obligation under that Treaty we were compelled to say that, although the obligation was binding upon us, as we were bound to admit, yet nevertheless, in consequence of the feeling of the country—or it might be of the country and the House of Commons—we were unable to have regard to it. That, I say, would be an extremely humiliating position, but whether such a thing is likely to occur is another matter. I do not think we are likely to be called upon by France or Austria to fulfil our obligation; nor do I think that Turkey has any right whatever, not being a party to the Treaty, to call upon us to do so. What, then, is our position? It was explained very clearly the other day by my noble Friend. I do not pretend to give his words, but in substance he said that under the Treaty of 1856 we were in no degree pledged to go to war; that as early as May last year we had given full notice to the Porte that the feeling of the country was very different from that which prevailed at the time of the Crimean War, and that they were not to expect from us material assistance. That this was urged in conference with, and I believe put forth in conversation with the Minister of the Porte here on more than one occasion, sufficiently appears from the despatches in the hands of the House. There, was, therefore, no concealment of our position. We have held that language throughout. We have endeavoured to use the moral influence of this country to attain two objects—the maintenance of the peace of Europe and the maintenance also of the independence and integrity of Turkey. The right hon. Gentleman has not gone on this occasion into the question as to what was meant by the independence and integrity of Turkey, and I gather from the words he has used as to other discussions that are to come on, that he did not desire to go into that question now. But I assume that having agreed with all the Great Powers that that was the basis on which we rested, we were to maintain the independence and integrity of Turkey in the sense the 495 words imply. On that point I would be quite ready to meet the right hon. Gentleman, should the necessity arise. Then the right hon. Gentleman said—though he did not dwell upon it—that he considers the despatch of the 5th of September was not in conformity with what subsequently occurred. I was not able to follow the right hon. Gentleman on that point, for he did not say, and I cannot see, what the difference to which he alluded was. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of certain expressions in the Queen's Speech at the close of last Session, as to the independence and integrity of Turkey, and of certain other expressions in the Queen's Speech at the opening of the present Session, and said that they differ; but I maintain that substantially they mean precisely the same thing. The only difference appears to be that in one we use the words, "without infringing on the integrity and independence of Turkey," and in the other "maintaining" is substituted for "not infringing." The right hon. Gentleman, who knows something of the difficulty of composing Queen's Speeches, ought not to bind us to a particular word in our mode of stating our case. And here let me say that throughout the whole of these proceedings much verbal criticism has been indulged in. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the Blue Books extending to 1,200 pages, and no doubt they are very full and elaborate; but I will undertake to say that, so carefully has my noble Friend done his work, that perhaps less merely verbal criticism can be made with respect to them than with respect to any other Blue Books extending to the same length and written on any other occasion. Last autumn speeches were made by some of my right hon. Friends near me. I was fortunate enough not to have been a speaker, or I dare say I should have been similarly dealt with; but when one of my right hon. Friends made a speech anywhere his words were compared with the words of other speeches made in other places—a course of criticism which I have yet to learn is conducive to the interests of the country or to the freshness and originality of the Government, and by which a Ministry should not only be tied to a policy, but to the very words and arguments which each Member of it may use. But there was no contradiction in what they said; 496 on the contrary, there was the most complete real agreement in the speeches of my right hon. Friends. Members of the Government may not have so fortunately hit upon a coincidence of arguments and quotations as has been the case with Members of the Opposition, for I remember that on the first night of the Session the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), almost by inspiration, hit upon the exact quotations and despatches which were used by a certain noble Lord in "another place." If it were not that Conferences are not very popular in certain quarters, I should almost have thought that a Conference was held upon the speeches to be made on that occasion, and that an agreement was arrived at. But my right hon. Friends spoke with perfect freedom on passages that do not affect the policy of the Government — and it was only by casuistical and verbal criticism on those passages that that policy was attacked. I, too, will speak perfectly openly upon this subject. I have nothing to add to what my noble Friend said in "another place," but if the right hon. Gentleman would favour me with the Questions he has read, I would rather reply to them having them before me, than from memory.
, remarking that he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman could not make out the writing, read the following Questions:—First, Whether the words "humiliating position" in the despatch meant the position of a State bound by Treaty to go to war in a certain event, but disabled from it by the national sentiment? Secondly, It having been the opinion of the Government on the 5th of September that they were bound to go to war for Turkey, if that country were attacked by Russia, did they consider that their title to aid her had not been affected by her breach of faith with regard to the promised reforms in her dominions? Lastly, Was that still their opinion, or did they consider that they were now absolved from the obligations which they then asserted were incurred under the Treaty of 1856, and that they were free to act as policy and justice and humanity seemed to advise and require?
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Well, Sir, I have already answered the right hon. Gentleman's first Question. I say 497 that this despatch did not mean that we were to go to war, certainly not under the Treaty of 1856, and, with respect to the Tripartite Treaty; I have said that circumstances might happen—I do not say that they will—they are certainly very remote—under which this country might be called upon to fulfil its obligations under that Treaty. Then, with respect to the second Question, the right hon. Gentleman wants certain things to put an end to this; but he has finished his speech without telling us what Turkey has done or has not done. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that Turkey has issued certain Firmans to her subjects, and has not carried them out? If so, at what period did that take place? It is important I should know that, in order to answer the Question. As I have stated, the basis of the Conference was the maintenance of the independence and integrity of Turkey, and I will add that even at the end of the Conference it is quite obvious that the same state of things remained, for General Ignatieff speaks of the very object of the Conference having been to maintain this independence and integrity. The real fact is, the whole proceedings have had that object. It is true, as my noble Friend said "elsewhere," that a man may put his affairs into the hands of trustees for a while, intending to resume their management himself at a later time, and all that has been done and proposed by the Conference has been of a temporary character, and with a view to restore Turkey to her full independence in the event of her carrying out certain reforms submitted to her. With respect to her integrity it has been just the same. The right hon. Gentleman himself wishes to respect that integrity, but certainly not exactly in the way I should think that integrity ought to be respected. If you were to make Yorkshire an autonomous and tributary State to England, I do not think- that England would be the integer that she had been before. If that is the right hon. Gentleman's view of autonomous tributary States, I am bound to say I cannot agree with him. The subject has been very much narrowed by the right hon. Gentleman. I think I have answered his Questions distinctly and clearly. I hold that, to the end of the Conference, we were bound by the Treaties under which we have been acting since 1856, and which have been 498 confirmed by the Treaty of 1871. We have proclaimed, and I proclaim again, in the strongest language, that we should be wrong in every sense of the word if we were to endeavour to employ material coercion against Turkey. It is a serious thing to draw the sword, and, although I am charged with a particular Department specially charged with military duties, I perhaps feel it the more on that account, and I say most distinctly that I should feel that if, at this period and after what we have said and done, we were to undertake to draw the sword against Turkey for the purpose of material coercion, we should be doing an act for which there would be no justification—an act which ought to bring shame into our faces, because we should have falsified our promises and been faithless to our engagements. Besides, I deny altogether the right or the duty that is said to be imposed upon us by anything which up to this time has occurred. No human being can know what circumstances may arise, and as to the future I decline to give promises or pledges on hypothetical questions. It is sufficient for us to say that as we have promised, so we will perform. We stated when we went into the Conference—and it was distinctly understood—that as the Italians had said to us there must be nothing but moral coercion, so we said all we would employ was the moral pressure at our disposal. And, in the position in which we now stand, we should not only do wrong in connection with the Treaties to which we are parties, but, in my opinion, we should do wrong even to a higher and greater law, for we should do wrong to the first principles of right, we should do wrong to the first principles of religion, if we were to undertake, under the present circumstances, to attempt to govern and to lay down the systems of government for another country by the sword; and without that you could have no material coercion. We have resisted occupation because, like Lord Russell in 1861, we felt that occupation was only the begining of the end. Do not let it be said, then, that we are without sympathy for the Christian subjects of Turkey. I have said nothing on this subject hitherto, but I venture to say there is no man who has felt more with respect to the sufferings of the Christian population of Turkey than I have done. But I say this, that 499 when we differ as to the means of healing their wrongs and redressing their grievances, that is a totally different thing from any apathy or want of feeling. With respect to those sufferings and grievances, Sir, I trust that this House of Commons—I trust that this country—will remain true to the principle upon which we have generally acted in regard to the internal government of other countries—namely, that the responsibility is far too great for us to lay down accurate rules for them, or to enforce those rules by violence. It was very wise and prudent to endeavour to enforce on Turkey everything necessary for the good of Turkey and for the wellbeing of the Christian subjects of Turkey, oppressed as I feel they bays been for so many years. It was right we should do everything in our power, using all the influence which our long association with Turkey ought to have given us—it was right we should use all that moral pressure, and even yet I hope that that great pressure, combined, as it has been, with the moral pressure from all the other Powers of Europe, will not be without its effect upon Turkey, and that much will be done for the amelioration of the future condition of her Christian subjects. The hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs, in a pamphlet he has published, has talked of "difficulties solving themselves." He raises some very extraordinary difficulties, and his answer is that they will probably solve themselves. That may be so in this instance. But this I will say—that, if the knot be difficult to untie, the time has not yet arrived for this country to apply the sword to cut it. And, therefore, I end, Sir, as I began, by saying that, without being obliged to go to war for Turkey, we are pledged, not to Turkey alone, but to Europe at large, to maintain the faith of Treaties which we have no right to violate.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
thought it important the House should clearly understand what were our Treaties with Turkey, and to what we were bound by them. He confidently asserted that those Treaties did debar us from interfering between the Sultan and his Christian subjects. Many hon. Members would remember the Congress which met in Vienna towards the end of the Crimear War. Count Nesselrode proposed what was then called a consolidation of the 500 rights of the Christians, which was equivalent to the phrase now employed—the "guarantees" for the good government of the Christian subjects of the Porte. Lord Russell refused to agree to the proposal made at the eighth sitting of the Congress, and it was broken up. At the Conference of Paris on the 28th of February, 1856, the Russian Representatives—Count Orloff and Baron Hübner—desired to insert in the Treaty the measures taken by the Ottoman Government regarding the Christians, making the execution of those measures an obligation on the Powers, but without touching the independence of the Porte. Austria, France, England, and Turkey objected, and the Proposal (Protocol II) was withdrawn. On the 25th of March, on Protocol XIV., the proposal was renewed by Baron Brunnow, with the stipulation that it should not give a right of interference to any Power. That was objected to by Lord Clarendon, and at length the proposal of the French Minister, Count Walewski, was adopted, based on the proposition that Russia had no greater interest in the condition of the Christians than any other Power. This became Article IX. of the Treaty. He therefore maintained that the promises of the Sultan did not enter into the contract, and that the Treaty was binding, whether the promises of the Sultan had been carried out or not. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had used an unfortunate expression when he spoke of "restoring" Turkey to independence. He surely could not mean by that to imply that the independence of Turkey had been destroyed. he (Lord Robert Montagu) repudiated the right hon. Gentleman's the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone's) interpretation of the effect on a Treaty of the conduct of the party guaranteed. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Frome and Taunton concerning the Treaty of Paris of March, 1856, and the "second Treaty, more stringent still, passed a few months after the Treaty of Paris between Austria, France and England," went on to say:—If these Treaties are in force, then we are bound towards Turkey, not only to the general recognition of its general independence and integrity, but likewise to that which is much more important—viz., to a several as well as a joint 501 guarantee. In truth, it is impossible for national engagements to be stronger. …If the Treaties are in force, you are bound hand and foot by them. …This is, to a great extent, the hinge of the whole subject.On the 14th of July Lord Derby stated that by the Treaties we are bound to defend the Sultan from murder, but not from suicide; and that meant from murder by the hand of Russia. In despatch No. 1,053 Prince Gortchakoff said that the London Cabinet would adhere to the letter of the stipulations without taking into account the 20 years that had elapsed, and that by these stipulations European action in Turkey had been reduced to impotency; therefore he desired that the independence of Turkey should be made subordinate to what he called the interests of humanity. The verbal promises given by Turkey did not affect the contract, particularly as it was mentioned that those promises were not to give a right of interference. At the Congress of Vienna a Protocol was signed by which Russia undertook to give a free Constitution to Poland, which had not yet received it, and had suffered greater atrocities than Bulgaria; and, nevertheless, the Treaty was still considered binding. That was a complete answer to those who supposed that Treaties ceased to be binding because of the conduct of one of the contracting Powers. He was afraid, however, that Lord Salisbury was a Nobleman who, though he sat in the Cabinet, agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. He (Lord Robert Montagu) had gathered some of the opinions of that Nobleman from the great Conservative organ—The Quarterly Review—in which appeared in October, 1874, an article on the Eastern Question, with which, he thought, he had good reason to credit the noble Lord. That article said—Already executed on the elder criminal (the Papal throne), that sentence, though delayed, cannot fail of ultimate execution on the younger; and to hinder or delay it is no part of England's duty.…To Russia, mistress of the Central Asiatic line, belong of necessity the destinies of Northern Turkey," &c.After Lord Salisbury had written this, it was not surprising that he should have sent home the despatch of January 4, 1877, in which he said—The independence of the Ottoman Porto is a phrase which is, of course, capable of dif- 502 ferent interpretations. At the present time it must be interpreted so as to be consistent with the conjoint military and diplomatic action taken in recent years by the Powers who signed the Treaty of Paris. If the Porte had been independent in the sense in which the Guaranteeing Powers are independent, it would not have stood in need of a guarantee. The military sacrifices made by the two Western Powers twenty years ago to save it from destruction, and the Conference which is now being held to avert an analogous danger, would have been an unnecessary interference if Turkey had been a Power which did not depend on the protection of others for its existence.This argument meant that criminal acts which we were bound not to commit were to determine our future conduct, as if a burglar claimed immunity because he had broken into your house before. If it were to be said that a Power was not independent because it was guaranteed, what became of the independence of Belgium, Holland, and Greece? The results of such an argument would reduce it to an absurdity. The sacrifices we had made for Turkey were not comparable to those we made between 1792 and 1815 for every country in Europe except France; and was it to be said, therefore, that no countries in Europe were independent except England and France? Yet this was the result of the argument the noble Lord had used. It was said that because Turkey had refused to act on our advice, we were no longer bound to carry out Treaties; but surely that was not a legal view of the question. It was obvious to any one looking at the map, that if Turkey fell under the control of Russia, the position of Constantinople, as the key of the Euphrates Valley route to India and of the Red Sea made its possession by Russia a matter of great importance to us, particularly considering what might result from an alliance of Russia with Persia and Afghanistan; and if the Czar could seize Constantinople, he would displace the Greek Patriarch there, who was the acknowledged head of the Greek Christians, not only in Turkey, but in parts of Southern Russia, where they were almost always in rebellion against the Czar. On the 11th of September Lord Derby, in a despatch, said—The reasons which induced us to set a value on the territorial integrity of Turkey are permanent and real, and I hold that it is sound policy now as much as it was in 1856 to adhere to that which diplomatists called the territorial status quo. It is possible that the language which is being used may induce foreign politi- 503 cians and Governments to think that England has changed her mind on that subject. If that impression is produced it will be a misfortune to us and to all the world.He asked, then, with these dangers in view, whether they could regard with any peace of mind the tendency of Russia to mix herself up in Turkish affairs? He now came to the opinion of Her Majesty's Government with which he did not agree: the Treaties were binding, they said, but the sympathies of England ran counter to them, therefore the Government must stand by and not carry them out. Up to the 19th of May, 1876, and prior to the agitation which followed the atrocities, what did Lord Derby say? Why, in effect it was this—"Do not interfere; stand aside and let them fight;" and to Turkey he said "Use more vigour; commit atrocities, if you will; but for goodness' sake make an end of fighting." He refused to agree to the armistice which was proposed, lest it should be injurious to the military position of the Turkish Government. The late Leader of that House (the Earl of Beaconsfield) held very much the same language. He told them that he enjoyed a civil war above all things, and that he enjoyed it about as much as we did a boxing match, or a debate in the House, or as our forefathers did cockfighting—["Oh! oh"! and laughter.] [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: On what occasion?] The language which the right hon. Gentleman used on the 13th of November in addressing his constituents was this—Possibly it may be in some cases that a civil war may have something to be said for it when it comes to be a struggle between two great forces growing up in an Empire which can find no other solution of their difficulties than the melancholy solution of war.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he did not wish to imply that Lord. Beaconsfield had used these words. Then came the Bulgarian atrocities, which created so much sympathy in this country. But it was a hysterical paroxysm of philanthropy which he objected to as being got up for the occasion. Why did we not show our philanthropy in 1860, when Russia showed such cruelty to the Poles? Where was our philanthropy when the Russians entered Khiva? 504 It did not then suit our purpose to put forward philanthropic views. It had been said that the newspaper correspondents had exaggerated the cruelties inflicted with the avowed object of creating a strong feeling against Turkey, and a despatch was telegraphed to Sir Henry Elliot, dated August 22, from which he (Lord Robert Montagu) made this quotation—To such a pitch as this "[universal feeling of indignation]" risen that in the extreme case of Russia declaring war against Turkey Her Majesty's Government would find it practically impossible to interfere in the defence of the Ottoman Empire. Such an event, by which the sympathies of the nation would be brought into direct opposition to its Treaty engagements, would place England in a most unsatisfactory and even humiliating position.Sir Henry Elliot on August 29, in reply, said—I am assured that the unconcealed object of some of the newspaper correspondents in the tone they have adopted, is to create in England such a strong current of public opinion against the Turks, as to oblige Her Majesty's Government ultimately to abandon the policy which has at all times been followed towards this country; to cease from allowing themselves to be regarded as interested in its maintenance; and to assume the position of protectors of the Christians against their Mussulman oppressors.On the 5th of September Lord Derby, in a despatch, said he had always maintained that policy, but because the sympathies of the country ran counter to it he was prepared to change it. And this the noble Lord did, although he held that the course they wished to adopt would lead to ruin and destruction. This was acting unlike a statesman whose duty would be to show the danger, and say, his should not be the hand to strike the blow. On the 14th of July the noble Lord, speaking to a deputation, complained that—He did not always receive his instructions from his employers beforehand, but was left to guess what it was that they would desire him to do, and he only ascertained their real feeling when he found that he had gone against it.Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom he (Lord Robert Montagu) regarded as the coming man, on December 14, in the course of a speech made in Devonshire, treated the "atrocity" meetings with some contempt, and said that few Englishmen knew anything about foreign affairs; but he admitted that they were stepping beyond the arrangements of 505 the Treaty of Paris of 1856—interfering in the internal affairs of Turkey—not by the invitation of Turkey, for Turkey objected on the ground that it was contrary to the Treaties. He did not know whether there was any difference in the Cabinet or not, but he was delighted to see that the Earl of Beaconsfield, having escaped from the anxieties of popular election and attained the dignity of an aristocratic altitude, had expressed a somewhat different opinion. The Earl of Beaconsfield said—It would be affectation for me to pretend that this "[being backed by the country in their foreign policy]" is the position of Her Majesty's Government at this moment.… This country has arrived at a conclusion" [what, not to fight for Turkey?]" which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, if carried into effect, would alike be injurious to the permanent interests of England and fatal to any chance of preserving the peace of Europe.It appeared, therefore, that the Earl of Beaconsfield was opposed to the views of his Colleagues, but acquiesced in what he considered would be injurious to the permanent interests of England and fatal to any chance of preserving the peace of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had spoken of the House of Commons, rolling down the hill at Greenwich; but in his (Lord Robert Montagu's) opinion, Lord Derby had taken the country and rolled it down the hill at Greenwich into the slough below. He (Lord Robert Montagu) contended that this country must fulfil the contracts into which it had entered at all hazards. At present it appeared as if Treaties were not binding, but were mere waste paper. We had continually disregarded them, and owing to our policy towards Austria in 1859, Denmark in 1863, Hanover and Austria in 1866, and France in 1870, we were without allies. In former days we used to say that such and such Powers were bound by certain Treaties, and used to calculate on their observing them. But now the whole system of Europe rested on big battalions and 100-ton guns. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich boldly said that Treaties were not binding. Her Majesty's Government had adopted another opinion. They said Treaties were binding, but, as the sympathies of England were adverse, they would not carry them out. The third principle was, that Treaties were 506 binding, and that we ought to carry them out; and that was the right principle. He could not but liken Her Majesty's Government in this case to the Vanguard. She was steaming slowly in a fog; the Iron Duke was steaming faster behind, and ran her down. The Government thought they would take a middle course, but he predicted that the Liberal party would come behind them and run them down, and sink them.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he did not think any question more important or more deserving our attention than that which referred to the nature of the obligations we were under with respect to this Eastern Question, and of the several Conventions and Treaties to which we had agreed. These Conventions and Treaties were the Treaty of March, 1856, and April, 1856, and the Treaty of 1871. A great deal had been made in the country, and something was made this evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, as to the renewed obligation which the Treaty of 1856 received from the Treaty of 1871. In his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich made it clear that the act done in 1871 was confined simply to that clause of the Treaty of 1856 which referred to the rights and powers of Russia on the Black Sea; the rest of the Treaty of 1856 it left unaltered. It was quite true that there was a clause in the Treaty of 1871—the clause read by the Secretary of State, the 8th—which said that the high contracting parties renewed and confirmed all the stipulations of the Treaty of March 30, 1856, as well as its annexes. If that renewed confirmation gave the original obligations of the Treaty of 1871 any fresh force, the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to dwell upon it. But, before doing so, he should refer to the Preamble of that very Treaty; and if he did, he would find that the object was to deal with the clauses of the Treaty of 1856 which related to the navigation of the Black Sea and the mouths of the Danube. The Plenipotentiaries of 1871 had nothing else before them than these clauses; and the real meaning of the 8th clause of this Treaty was that what they had done in altering these clauses was without prejudice to the other clauses of the Treaty of 1856. Now, what were the obligations of this Treaty 507 of 1856? There was a point which had not been made very clear as yet, but which ought to be brought out in full light. It was this. We were under certain obligations with respect to the Treaty of March, 1856, but to whom? We were under obligations towards the Guaranteeing Powers, but towards Turkey we were not, and, what was more, we never had been. The obligations which we undertook by that Treaty were obligations towards the co-Guaranteeing Powers; towards Turkey we entered into none. And if this question were asked—"What has become of the obligations of Turkey towards us?" his answer to that question, as to the other, was that Turkey had no obligations to us whatever by that Treaty. That would be rendered plain by the words of the 9th Article. And if Turkey was under no obligations to us, was it to be said that we were under obligations to Turkey. Would it be contended that there was a unilateral obligation? The 9th Article of the Treaty communicated on the part of the Sultan an intention to issue a Firman for the purpose of improving the condition of the Christian subjects of his Empire, and the contracting parties recognized the high value of that communication. But that Article gave the other Powers no rights towards Turkey; and this being so, upon what principle of law could it be contended that those Powers entered into obligations towards Turkey? He was aware that the 7th and 9th Articles had been connected for the purpose of making out mutuality. But Article 7 contained no words to raise a suggestion that we bound ourselves to Turkey. We did, indeed, enter into some obligations towards the other Powers who combined with us. Each of the contracting Powers pledged itself to the other Powers to respect the independence and integrity of Turkey; and we went on to guarantee in common the strict observance of this engagement. But there was no word raising the presumption that we had bound ourselves towards Turkey. The true reading of the document was that, for the sake of the interests of Europe, and not of Turkey, in order to ensure the peace of Europe, we agreed that we would respect the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The obligation, then, being between the Guaranteeing Powers, could not be ap- 508 pealed to by any one outside them; and if the Guaranteeing Powers chose to retire from that obligation, the obligation, whatever it was, ceased altogether. He rejected, therefore, altogether, the notion that Turkey had deprived herself of the advantages of this Treaty by what she had done. The 9th Article, indeed, said that Turkey was not responsible to us under that Treaty for what she might do. The true view of the matter, then, was this—that if even the instrument might be so construed as to give Turkey any interest under it, she being put under no obligations towards us, it would be what civilians called a nudum pactum, an agreement without a consideration, and therefore binding only as long as we might choose to uphold it. He did not think it necessary to consider the obligations created by the Treaty as between the Powers themselves. As the Foreign Secretary had held in the case of Luxembourg, it had been shown that the obligation taken upon us by the Treaty of 1856 was a common obligation, binding all the Powers to act together, so that if one Power retired there was no obligation upon any of the rest. It might be said that this was an ingenious rather than accurate view of the Treaty, and that if we were really not bound to Turkey under it, nor Turkey to us, how were we to defend even that limited interference with Turkey which was proposed by the Conference? The answer was that States had powers and obligations with respect to one another which were independent of Treaties, and the power exercised at the Conference was derived, not from Treaty, but from the public law of Europe. If there arose in any country a condition of things which threatened the peace of surrounding countries, those countries had a right to interfere as in this case. Such a right had been exercised in many cases, the principle being appealed to sometimes with, sometimes without, a concurrence of facts. This was the principle upon which the three Powers interfered when Poland was a source of continual disquiet to her neighbours. The same principle led to the interference between Belgium and Holland, and to the interference of Austria in the affairs of Northern Italy. It was a principle easily explained by the jurisprudence of any individual State. You need not have recourse to a contrat social to justify 509 you in preventing a person from going about unvaccinated. There was an inherent power in the members of a community to compel any one member to observe the conditions necessary for the public safety. And so in the community of States there was a right on the part of other States to prevent any one of their number from becoming a danger to the peace of Europe. It was upon this ground alone that the Conference was to be justified, and upon this basis alone it must be placed. He would not now enter into the question whether, as a matter of fact, the Conference was justifiable. But the principle was clear, and the ground for our interference did not refer back to the Treaty of 1856. The Tripartite Treaty rested on a different basis. Under that Treaty, France, Austria, and England jointly and severally agreed to guarantee the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire, and we were liable to be called upon either by France or Austria to act under that guarantee. In contemplation of that liability Lord Derby had said there was no chance that either of those Powers would so call upon us. He ' (Mr. Courtney) could not, however, think that the chance of our being required to discharge this liability was so remote as Lord Derby appeared to suppose; and as this guarantee was now primâ facie binding upon us, it behoved us to pay special attention to this question in order to see whether we could possibly avert the danger. If Austria called upon us to act with her under the obligation of this Treaty, it would be an exceedingly unsatisfactory answer to say that the people of England did not like the obligation. But was there any existing liability remaining valid in fact? Were we to say that an obligation once entered into was perpetual? That was a question much discussed when Russia announced to us her intention to treat as abrogated the Articles of the Treaty of 1856 relating to the Black Sea. The text writers agreed that it was absurd to suppose that a Treaty was to be binding in all circumstances and under all conditions. He was aware that an awkward Protocol, which had been already mentioned, was agreed to by the Powers in 1871. But, in its unqualified form, neither authority nor reason supported the proposition that any number of States, whether in Europe 510 or anywhere else, agreeing together must be bound for ever and ever by the obligation they then contracted. A high authority, Hefter, maintained that any convention entered into which interfered with the development of the freedom of a civilized people was altogether void. He was not prepared to go to that length, but this seemed to be a sound position—that any convention must be considered to remain in existence only so long as the conditions under which it was contracted remained reasonably the same. Rebus sic stantibus, the obligations remained; but if the circumstances altered, the obligations disappeared. Again, if the obligation were immoral, the obligation was also void. The same doctrine held good in moral philosophy, as anyone might see by referring to no more abstruse moralist than Archdeacon Paley. If, then, the obligation under which we lay here was one the execution of which would be immoral, it was thereby void. Now, he believed that for many reasons—both on the ground of the wrong which would be done to South-eastern Europe, the injury which would be done to our own interests, and the total change of circumstances which had occurred since 1856—we were entitled to claim the right of withdrawing from this Treaty with Austria and France. He did not consider that the danger of being called upon to fulfil the obligation of the Treaty was so small as Lord Derby supposed; and he therefore pressed upon the Government the duty of intimating to Austria and to France that we no longer considered ourselves bound by the obligation of the Tripartite Treaty. He did not wish to say to Austria and France that in no circumstances should they act in the way that might be necessary under the strict covenants of the Treaty. All he wanted to suggest was that in the future action should be based upon conscientious views as to the most useful course to be followed, instead of the hands of the Powers being tied by the strict terms of the Treaty to which he was referring. Lord Derby objected to agree with the Berlin Note, because he thought that to do so would bind him to proceed to more efficacious measures. The caution of the noble Lord in reference to this matter was to be admired, though of course it was obvious that he would have had the right to reject those measures if improper. If, however, this 511 country wished not to be bound in reference to the taking of coercive measures on one side there ought to be freedom all round. Let them have freedom in their dealings with South-eastern Europe. Let not this happen, that thereafter Austria should come to them and say—"We cannot stand what is going to be done; we claim your help to prevent it," and then that they (Her Majesty's Government) should have to say—"We cannot interfere." It would be more honest and honourable to insist upon this line of action at the present moment than to let it so far remain open as that at some future time any one of the countries interested should be able to insist upon the carrying out of the guarantees contained in the Tripartite Treaty.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
thought the debate would be useful in producing a more accurate definition of our Treaty obligations than at present existed, eliciting as it had done the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He would take that opportunity of urging upon the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition the importance, now that he had evoked a declaration of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, of stating how far he considered himself bound by the speeches made outside by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), and other Members of his Party, and also whether he adhered to the views which he himself expressed on the opening night of the Session. As far as he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) understood the speeches to which he was referring, they anticipated the arrival of a time when England might be under the necessity of joining Russia in exercising coercion upon Turkey, but if that was their view, was it based upon any Treaty obligation whatever? Could anything in history justify using coercion, based upon humanitarian or other grounds, towards a Government with respect to their action towards their own subjects? During the war of the Spanish Netherlands, notwithstanding the strong feeling in England, they had not interfered. When the Revolution of 1789 took place, and the streets of Paris were flowing with blood, had they recalled their Ambassador? No. When war was declared by the French Republic, yet we did not wage war with France. 512 In whatever steps we took, it was declared that we would not interfere with the internal affairs of France. To propose any such course was to depart altogether from what he understood as the Liberal tradition; and he was certainly surprised to find among the leaders of the new crusade the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, the apostle of peace, had said that he would like to join a crusade. A crusade for what? To carry on a war against a great Power and to exterminate the Turks from the face of the earth if possible. He had gone far beyond the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who would only have them removed, "bag and baggage." He (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) supposed this meant the expulsion of the Turks from the country. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] He believed that it had been explained to mean only a change of Government—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Yes]—and that certainly was not so bad as extermination. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken much about doing certain things in the interest of humanity; but in his speeches, and certainly in his pamphlet, which had been translated into Russian and circulated in that country, he had done so much to mislead the Russian Government that he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) would go the length of saying that, but for the pamphlet, peace would have been restored before now. It was unlucky in the interests of humanity that the right hon. Gentleman made those speeches and issued that pamphlet, for the Russian Government were misled by the manufactured excitement got up by the right hon. Gentleman—an excitement which was produced by appealing to the generous instincts of the English people, instead of relying upon the only policy which could be regarded as dignified, safe, and worthy of the British nation. In this matter, their's must be an English policy. England had a Colonial and an Indian Empire to maintain, and in doing this one of her first duties was to prevent Russia from taking possession of Constantinople. Had hon. Gentlemen considered what sort of Government they were going to put in the place of the Turkish Government? The Russian Government? He referred to this, 513 because the speech of Lord Shaftesbury delivered in July last, in which he said he would rather see the Russians than the Turks in Constantinople, furnished the key-note to the speeches which had been delivered on the side of the question which he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) deprecated. What was Lord Shaftesbury's opinion of Russia in 1860? In a debate that occurred in the House of Lords in that year, the noble Lord charged the Russians with having been guilty of foul and horrible outrages, and referred to the pestilential influence of the Russian Government. He wondered, under such circumstances, that the great Party opposite could bring themselves to support the Russian policy, and could ask that this country should take part in coercing Turkey and in supplanting the Turkish by the Russian Government. He was, therefore, happy to have had the opportunity of hearing in that House—though Turkey had not done what was expected of her in respect to her Christian subjects during the past 20 years—from the lips of an influential Member of the Government, that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to bind themselves to a policy which would not be creditable to this country.
MR. GRANT DUFF
said, that they had heard a good deal of their obligations under the Treaties of 1856; but if they had certain obligations, were they not bound to take adequate means to fulfil them? The first condition with reference to fulfilling those obligations was to have sufficient means of knowing what went on in the Turkish Provinces, and he thought the English Government had not had sufficient information. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had referred to the conduct of the late Government with regard to the suppression of Consulates, and attributed to that suppression the want of means for procuring sufficient information. He (Mr. Grant Duff) did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. What he contended for was that before the Consulates were suppressed, we had not the means of ascertaining what was going on in Turkey. The system which had been pursued was an imperfect one. What many wanted to know in this and other countries was why, in the midst of profound peace, had the richest country in 514 the world allowed itself to be so incompletely informed with reference to the state of affairs in Turkey as it had been from the end of the reign of the Great Eltchi up to the present time. He was not going to make any reflection whatever upon any one of our Ambassadors, Secretaries, Attachés, or Consuls during that long period. Everybody who had given attention to the subject knew that among these some were good, some were bad, and some were indifferent; but that was not his point. He could not but regret—and the remark applied quite as much to one side of the House as to the other—that, in spite of warnings the most clear and most precise which could be imagined, no Prime Minister and no Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs" took the pains to see that the Foreign Office was provided with anything like adequate means of information about the state of things in European Turkey. In the year 1864, the late Lord Strangford, who know as much about the Eastern Peninsula as almost any then living Englishman, published an extremely brilliant paper, which was read, or should have been read, by everyone who cared about European politics, in which he pointed out how very little accurate information was procurable about Turkey, especially the European part of it, warned the Government of the day that great trouble might at any time arise in that country, and entreated it to spend a little money in strengthening the hands of our Ambassador at Constantinople by giving him the help of a few men whom he might send about to become thoroughly acquainted with the outlying Provinces of that composite Empire, so as to be able to know far more accurately what was going on in distant parts of it, than he could do by means of the existing diplomatic and Consular organization.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present—
MR. GRANT DUFF
proceeded to say that he wanted to know why this proposal was never carried into effect. Perhaps there was some good reason against it. If so, those who from 1864 down to the present had believed that it ought to be adopted might venture to ask if they might hear that reason. But was 515 Lord Strangford's proposal ever seriously considered at all? He did not believe it, and yet he was as firmly persuaded as he was of his own existence that if it had been considered and adopted when Lord Strangford first proposed it, even at a much later date, it would have prevented most of the miseries which we were at present deploring. Supposing Lord Strangford's idea had been realized, one of the travelling Secretaries of the Constantinople Embassy would, on his arrival at the capital, after a short sojourn there to learn certain things which lie could best learn from the Ambassador and persons in his entourage, have been told off to study on the spot the whole circumstances of the Bulgarian speaking districts both north and south of the Balkan. In two years a man of the proper kind would have had a thorough acquaintance with these, and would all the time have been pouring a stream of information about them, first into the Embassy at Constantinople, and then through it into the Foreign Office. He would have made personal connections all over the country, would have become the friend of the leading Christians and of the leading Mussulmans, and have known everything that was going on. If Sir Henry Elliot had had such a man by him, was it possible to imagine that he would not have been warned of everything that happened last May? Would he not have known all about the intended insurrection, and have been in a position to bring his great influence to bear upon the Porte in order to its being dealt with in a satisfactory manner? A very small sum would have been wanted to give the Foreign Secretary all the information that he could possibly require in order to enable him to deal with any imaginable crisis that could have arisen in the vast dominions of the Sultan. If the clouds which now lay so thick over the European dominions of Turkey passed away without sweeping the Sultan and his Government into destruction, he sincerely hoped that the question whether it was not necessary to strengthen the Constantinople Embassy in the way to which he had alluded would be most anxiously considered; and what was absolutely necessary with regard to Turkey was equally necessary with regard to another great Empire, whore some untoward event might at 516 any moment upset the exquisitely-delicate systems of balance upon which its life depended, and bring Europe face to face with difficulties even more terrible than those of to-day, difficulties with which our Foreign Office in its present absence of full information would be perfectly powerless to deal.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, he had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), but he thought that that speech would fail to convince the majority of that House or of the country that the view taken of Treaties by that right hon. Gentleman was to be preferred to their plain and commonly-received interpretation. It was distinctly laid down in the Treaty of 1856 that the Powers were not to have the right either separately or collectively of interfering between the Sultan and his subjects, or in the internal administration of his Empire. He agreed with the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane) that the time had come, early as it was in the Session, when they ought to inquire into the meaning of the tone assumed by the Opposition on the first night of the Session, and also throughout the Recess. Nothing, in his opinion, could be clearer than the conclusion that they had a War Party in this country, although, by a strange coincidence some of its most eminent adherents belonged to the Peace Society. It was not necessary to go far into the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite to show that this, although parodoxical, was a true statement. Even the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), who did not show in his speech to his constituents any of that virulent animus against Turkey to which they were accustomed, said it would be disgraceful to the Government and the country to retreat behind the arms of Russia from the consequences of Lord Derby's despatch. What did that mean but a threat of coercion? The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) pointed to the example of the Crusades—not to denounce the barbarity and cruelties of the feudal system—but, as worthy of admiration, and to stir up the religious prejudices of the past, for which purpose he did not scruple also to recall the recollection of Bethany, Calvary, and the Mount of Olives. The 517 Duke of Westminster also, as President of the meeting at St. James's Hall, asked why the Fleet and Army of England were not sent to Constantinople, not to defend it against Russia, but, if necessary, to coerce Turkey? Again, although "the bag-and-baggage" policy did not distinctly appear in all the Recess speeches of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, yet the spirit of that policy underlay the whole of them. The right hon. Gentleman said that his views had never been repudiated at any public meeting; but it was equally obvious that the opinion of the country could not be gathered from the cheers of a few idle persons loafing about railway stations. The people of England were averse to war on that question—not because they did not wish the subjects of Turkey to be better governed, but because they did not see the means by which the object was to be attained. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition on the 8th instant taunted the Government with having changed their policy, losing sight of the fact that different circumstances required different language. The noble Lord was also forgetful of the difference in his own key now from that of his speeches last Session. He had listened with great satisfaction to that change of key on the part of the noble Lord, because it showed that he was satisfied in the main with the position this country now occupied on that question. He had also heard with much satisfaction the statements which had come from the Ministerial bench that evening, and he hoped that no pressure which might be applied would cause them to depart from the policy thus announced. The policy of coercion without any intention of putting it in force was not unknown in this country. It was largely in favour with hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in power. They all remembered, during the progress of the war between France and Germany, when the policy was tried, for which the right hon. Member for Greenwich was chiefly responsible, of seeing what advice would do with Prince Bismarck, accompanied with a threat which there was no intention to put in force—a policy which failed, and deserved to fail, ignominiously, and which brought discredit on this country and on the Ministers who advised it. He did not know whether the Government intended to renew negotiations in any 518 shape now that the Conference had ended; but he hoped that they would not assume an attitude towards Turkey or use any language to the other Powers which would either force then into a cruel war with a friendly Power against the interests and the traditional policy of this country for an end it might be good in itself, but the means of attaining which were dark and inscrutable, or would oblige them to withdraw from plain intentions which they had authoritatively announced.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
said, he would have been glad to have seen the debate confined to our Treaty engagements; but the hon. Member who had just sat down and the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane), both belonging to the enthusiastic order of foreign politicians, had so greatly misrepresented what had been said by some Members of the Opposition during the Recess that he felt bound to reply to them. It had been sought to make out that many Liberals had advocated the duty of a war against Turkey on behalf of its Christian subjects; and, in fact, desired to carry on a crusade against what might be called a crescentade. They had never said there was any duty of the sort imposed on us—the only duty in the case being for this country never again to support Turkey in maintaining her oppressive dominion over those subject races. But they further said, and he now maintained that if our Government sincerely apprehended such great dangers to the interests of this country as they alleged would arise from a war between Russia and Turkey, then it ought to come forward and prevent that war in the only way it could be prevented—namely, by coercing Turkey to give way to the demands of united Europe. Who could have a doubt that Turkey would have yielded at the Conference if she had known that the greatest naval as well as the greatest military Powers in the world were about to unite against her? And even now, if she knew that the power of England would be exerted against her, she would give way and make peace. It was simply an Ottoman doctrine that they must yield to superior force; but the Turks did not believe that Russia alone was a superior force, and they would not yield at the Conference because they believed they could deal with Russia 519 single-handed. He quite agreed with Lord Derby that we ought not to threaten unless prepared to put our threats into force; but he protested against beginning by saying to those whom we wished to influence in a certain direction that we would not use force to obtain that which we were going to ask for. That was what had happened now. On the 19th December Lord Derby informed the Turkish Ambassador that Her Majesty's Government did not contemplate any measures of active coercion. That was volunteered; and if the House wanted to compare with this a case in which coercion was allowed to remain as possible and see the different effect, they must go back to November, and they would see that the Conference was forced upon Turkey against her will. On the 13th November, 1876, Sir Henry Henry Elliot wrote:—"I replied to the Grand Vizier that it had been decided that there must be a Conference." And if they went still further back, to what occurred in 1860, when French troops were sent to the Lebanon, they would remember how promptly the chief culprits were executed—a great contrast to the wretched results of our despatch of the 21st September. This was the alphabet of the whole thing. Nothing could be got out of the Turkish Government without force; and why not acknowledge it at once? If the Government thought it better to leave Russia to apply force, let them say so. If they believed it to be contrary to our interests to allow that, then they on that side of the House said that it was the duty of the Government to obtain what was wanted in conjunction with Russia and some other Power. The Secretary of State for War had said that the Government did not take action sooner in regard to the atrocities in Bulgaria because they had not sufficient evidence of them at first, and he insinuated that the blame rested with their Predecessors in office—the Liberals—for reducing the number of Consuls in Turkey; but the present Government did not at any rate appear to have missed them, as it was obvious from the reply given to him (Mr. Ashley) on a former occasion last Session by the Prime Minister, after conferring with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) that the Foreign Office had received dispatches from the Consul at Philippopoli, although there was no 520 longer one there at that time. The right hon. Gentleman had also observed that "history repeats itself." Well, whether history would repeat itself to the extent of our remaining too long aloof from active interference with regard to the protection of the Christian population of Turkey remained to be seen; but the right hon. Gentleman would do well to remember that the result of the campaigns of 1827–28 was not very favourable to the Turkish Empire. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had alluded to some observations of a near relative of his (Mr. Ashley's) as being the head and front of the whole agitation respecting the Bulgarian atrocities. What Lord Shaftesbury had said was, that he would sooner see the Russians at Constantinople than that things should be left as they were, and that nothing should be done.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
The noble Lord's words were, "He would rather see the Russians at Constantinople than the Turks in Europe."
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
said, the context would show that what was meant was, that sooner than that things should remain as they were, he would rather see the Russians at Constantinople than the Turks in Europe. The alternative, however, was not necessarily one between Russia and Turkey—it was between some government and no government at all. The Liberals could have no sympathy with Russia, who was 200 years behind the rest of the world, and ever seeking to increase her overgrown Empire. The reason of the meetings held in the autumn was a general conviction that Her Majesty's Government had failed to convince the Turkish Government of English horror of the massacres, and that this country would not stand by it. Lord Salisbury, in a despatch to Lord Derby, dated December 26, 1876, speaking of his interview with the Sultan, said—He appeared to be fully convinced, in spite of my assurances to the contrary, that the alienation of a large portion of the English people was due rather to the repudiation of the Turkish debt than to the atrocities in Bulgaria.Was it the speeches of Lord Beaconsfield; was it the articles in the Tory Press, which at so late a period led the Sultan to believe that England did not care the least in the world about the atrocities, but was influenced only by the repudia- 521 tion of the Turkish Debt? Lord Salisbury continued—His Majesty laid much stress on a law to which he had assented, by which the repudiation of last year was repealed, though it had not been possible as yet to make any provision for the payment of the debt.The Sultan also "dwelt in terms of felicitation on the liberal measures contained in the Constitution," and His Majesty might also have added, with fitting irony, "though it had not been possible as yet to make any provision for their execution." One thing, however, was certain—namely, that this country would never allow itself to be drawn into a war to support the domination of Turkey by any technical interpretation of the words of Treaties which., as the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had well said, died of inanition, from the exhaustion of the soil in which they had been planted, and under altered circumstances had become of no force.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
protested against the notion that the protest which had been raised in this country against the horrible acts perpetrated in Bulgaria had emanated less from Members on the Ministerial side than from Gentlemen on the other side of the House. When those questions were the subject of debate last Session, they were discussed by himself and others near him in no Party spirit. He himself had seconded the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), the object of which was to secure guarantees of good government for the Slavonic Christians. He remembered, however, that onto when the atrocities of Bulgaria were under consideration there were absent from the front Opposition bench the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), who had so much distinguished themselves during the Recess. He considered that when the Government were engaged in difficult and delicate negotiations with foreign Powers, in which peace or war was involved, it was the duty of all who desired to maintain the influence of the country to support rather than to thwart the efforts of the Ministry. The duty of the latter was difficult enough without needless obstruction being thrown in their way. 522 But the Opposition had not acted in accordance with that spirit. The difficulties of the Conservatives, even under such trying circumstances, had proved the opportunity of the Liberals, and they might henceforth expect to find foreign complications made, if possible, the stepping-stone to office. He now maintained that Her Majesty's Government were not responsible for the conduct of Turkey towards her Christian subjects and for other things deemed objectionable in the conduct of Turkish affairs. Sympathy for the Christian subjects of Turkey was not only not a monopoly of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House; and if those populations were still in an unfortunate condition, it was owing as much as anything else to the neglect and even the insult with which they and their interests had been treated by successive Liberal Administrations. He would quote, in the first place, from a despatch dated July 3, 1862, from Lord Russell to Sir Henry Bulwer, written with reference to Servian complications existing at that time. Lord Russell wrote—All those Powers who signed the Treaty of 1856 must be aware that there exists a conspiracy, scarcely concealed, in all the Provinces of European Turkey to throw off the rule of the Sublime Porto, and to substitute for it some kind of anarchy. Some persons talk of a Slave, some others of a Greek Empire: all look to plunder, to power, to revenge, to bloodshed. In this position of affairs it is incumbent on the Great Powers represented at Constantinople to give the most striking proof of their fidelity to their solemn engagements, their regard for a Power whom they have admitted into the European system, and their determination to preserve unbroken the general peace.A Conference was held at Constantinople the same year with regard to the bombardment of Belgrade, and Lord Russell wrote to Lord Napier on the 10th of July, 1862—I have to instruct you to state to Prince Gortchakoff that Her Majesty is determined, in the Conference, proposed at Constantinople, to maintain the engagements contracted by Her Majesty in the Treaty of Paris of 1856.At that time exactly the same remonstrances were made by the Court of St. Petersburg with reference to the Christian provinces of Turkey as had lately been made; and if Her Majesty's Government were to blame for the course they had adopted, it must be for following the precedent set by Lord 523 Russell and his Colleagues. There was a despatch he would road from, which had never been officially published, but which appeared in the newspapers in 1862 at a time when public attention was occupied by other topics—chiefly by the American War—and little regard was paid to Eastern questions. There had been a rebellion in Herzegovina, simultaneously with the bombardment of Belgrade, but having nothing to do with that event; and after strong representations had been made on the subject by the Court of St. Petersburg, Lord Russell wrote, on the 30th of September, 1862, to Her Majesty's Representative at that Court—Her Majesty's Government have to express their regret that they cannot agree with the views of Prince Gortchakoff either on the general question of interference in the affairs of Turkey or in the particular question of Montenegro. Her Majesty's Government have always understood that when Turkey was allowed to form part of the system of Europe she was to have all the advantages and be liable to all the duties of an independent State. She was, in short, to be as independent as Prussia or Portugal, Sweden or Saxony, and, on the other hand, to be bound like those States, by the faith of Treaties and the ties of international comity and goodwill. If this be so, it is not justifiable when Treaties are silent to interfere without necessity or provocation in a case where an insurrection has broken out in Turkey, and that insurrection has been supported by a neighbouring Prince. Such was the case in Herzegovina, where an insurrection broke out, and in Montenegro, from which it was fomented and supported. If the Prince of Montenegro was a vassal, the Sultan had a right to reduce him to obedience and to impose such conditions as will secure that obedience for the future. If he was an independent Prince, the Sultan had a right to force him to accept such terms of peace as would prevent a renewal of such aggression.… I will not conclude without giving, in a few words, the views taken by Her Majesty's Government of what is going on in Turkey. If the Slavonic and Greek subjects of the Sultan rise in insurrection and that insurrection is suppressed, the weight of authority will be made heavier, privileges will be withdrawn, and the money which ought to he expended in making roads and harbours, and in promoting improvement, will be diverted to the pay and maintenance of a large military force. If, on the other hand, the darling scheme entertained in some quarters of overthrowing the Turkish rule should be successful, Greeks and Slavonics will quarrel, each Province will claim supremacy, civil war will ravage the counties where the authority of the Sultan shall have been thrown off, and an appeal will be made to the Great Powers of Europe to put an end to this anarchy by dividing among themselves the Turkish Provinces. But the European Powers would hardly be able to perform this task without giving rise to fresh conflicts— 524 probably to a general war. Such are the views which induce Her Majesty's Government, while sincerely desirous of improving the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte, to refuse all countenance to projects which in Greece go by the name of the 'great idea,' and which, whether Greek or Slavonic, tend to the disruption of all existing ties of allegiance in the Turkish Empire, and are more or less connected with the criminal intrigues of which Turkey feels the effects in Servia, and which aim no less at the subversion of every Monarchy in Europe than at the integrity of the Ottoman Empire.That despatch was written by a Member of a Government to which belonged the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich and the Duke of Argyll; and he thought that before they ventured to utter such taunts against the Government, and to bring to bear upon them the terror of their influence throughout the country, which had been so strongly manifested in that House that night, he thought they should take a little pains to read up the history of the past. The policy indicated in that despatch was defended by the right hon. Member for Greenwich himself, who, on May 29, 1863, in the absence of Lord Palmerston, said in this House—It is not now necessary to go back to a discussion of the causes of the Crimean War, but I am bound to say that when we speak of nonintervention in Turkey—when we speak of repudiating all ideas of resisting the natural and general development in force, numbers, and intelligence of the Christians of that Empire—we by no means mean to assert that the ancient policy of this country is to be repudiated, and that we hold it henceforth a matter of indifference what schemes are formed by any foreign Power against the existence, or against the territorial independence, of the Ottoman Government. And I am bound to say also, that while a real and lively sympathy does exist throughout the country for the Christian population of Turkey, on the other hand there does exist a belief that the principles on which the Crimean War was waged were sound principles…Let us endeavour to inculcate on the Ottoman Government a spirit of liberality and justice, so as to induce it to seek its strength rather in the mild and equitable treatment of its Christian subjects, than in straining its power against them; but let us remember that with the general obligations of humanity and prudence in regard to the subjects of that Government must be combined those special obligations of good faith which we have undertaken towards the ruling authority itself."—[3 Hansard, clxxi. 145–147.]The same policy on the part of the Liberal Party could be traced up to the time of the Treaty of 1871. It must be borne in mind that meanwhile Reports were regularly received from the Consuls about the state of the Christian 525 Provinces, and that those Reports showed as then existing the very same grievances which ultimately caused the people to rise—namely, denial of justice, the oppression of the zaptiehs, and grinding taxation. The right hon. Member for Greenwich said the other day in an off-hand way, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to the Treaty of 1871, the Government were not bound in making such a Treaty to know the state of every province in the Empire. This was a curious doctrine. As a matter of fact, the Government declared that it did know the state of the Provinces in question. But to show what the views of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Liberal Government were in 1871, he would read an extract from the proceedings of the House on March 30 in that year. Lord Enfield said, in answer to a Question—The sacrifices of this country during the Crimean War of treasure, and the yet more precious sacrifice of blood, had not been thrown away. The position of Turkey since the Crimean War had been ameliorated. Turkey had been able to equip, man, and hold a Navy which was in a creditable state of efficiency, and her Army was in such a condition as would enable her to hold her own against hostile visitors. The internal condition of Turkey had also improved since the Crimean War. The Danubian Provinces had secured autonomy; the Christian population and subjects of the Porte were no longer as hostile to her rule as formerly …. It (the Treaty) assured her (Turkey) of the material support of her allies, not only in times of actual and existing danger, but when danger might only be apprehended."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 965–971.]The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich also spoke on that occasion, and said he was perfectly satisfied so far as the position of the question was concerned in connection with the action of the Government, to let it rest on the speech of his noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was clear, therefore, that the state of Turkey appeared to the right hon. Gentleman then to be satisfactory, notwithstanding the Consular reports, and the Treaty was, in consequence, renewed, and she received increased guarantees. If the Government of that day now disowned all knowledge at that time of the state of the Turkish Empire, why had a favourable construction been then alleged as the reason of the Treaty? But up to a later date the policy of Her Majesty's present 526 Advisers was approved by right hon. Gentlemen opposite; and he was, therefore, at a loss to understand why it was that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition in that House the other day took the Government to task for the despatches which had been written before the Recess. The noble Lord gave his approval to the action of the Government up to the 31st of July last, when he disappeared from the House to find himself, no doubt, in some pleasanter quarter. The noble Lord, on the occasion to which he referred, used these words—From what I have said it will be clearly seen that I have no desire to place upon record any condemnation of the conduct of the Government. I think that, in the main, the policy which they have adopted is right."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxi. 224.]Coming from the Government side of the House that language would have been considered a general approval of the policy of the Government—coming from the noble Lord it was a positive benediction. He could not, however, conceive anything more calculated to damage the character of public men than the attacks made on the speech delivered on the 9th of November by Lord Beaconsfield at the Mansion House. We were at that time about to enter into the Conference. Lord Beaconsfield knew that the Russian Army had been mobilized, and that large masses of troops had been collected in the Caucasus, and wherever they could be placed in a menacing position to Turkey. He also was aware that the Austrian Army was in a state of high efficiency, and that France, Italy, and Germany were heavily armed. It was, therefore, the duty of Lord Beaconsfield to point out that we were not going into the Conference with fear; but that, so far as our ability to carry on a war was concerned, we were on a footing with the most powerful nation. Last year, when a discussion bad been raised by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had said that our position was analogous to that in which we stood in 1853, when the Russians had crossed the Pruth, seeing that the Servians had crossed the Drina and that our fleet had been sent to Besika Bay, where, if it had been sent sooner in 1853, the Crimean War, as had since been admitted by a Russian diplomatist, would never have occurred. There were 527 certain analogies also in the case of speeches at the Mansion House. It was notorious that we had drifted into the Crimean War owing to the vacillation and the timid utterances of Lord Aberdeen's Government. That noble Lord, on the 9th of November, 1853, made a speech at the Mansion House in which he said—In a country such as ours, and in a height of civilization such as that in which we live, the real triumphs of a Minister must consist in promoting the progress of industry and the development of the national resources. Such a course is the object of Her Majesty's present Government. I trust that nothing may happen to impede our onward progress, and that whatever reforms may be necessary will be carried on in the absence of any disturbing causes, whether foreign or domestic. When last I stood up in this room as the guest of your Lordship's predecessor, I declared that the policy of Her Majesty's Government was a policy of peace. I desire now to repeat that declaration, and I go further and say that no other principle of policy will ever be announced by me. But, emphatic as those words may be, let me not be understood as conceiving the impolicy of war, because the occasion may arise when war cannot be avoided, except at the expense of our country's honour. All I can say is that, as far as I am concerned, war will never be undertaken except with reluctance and when imperatively demanded by the honour and interest of the country. Such I believe to be the duty of an English Minister as I am sure it is that of a Christian man.But that very morning Lord Aberdeen had received a manifesto showing that war had been declared by Russia against Turkey, and two days before a Circular had been sent to Her Majesty's Ambassadors abroad stating that the English and French Fleets had been ordered to enter the Dardanelles. Within three weeks occurred the disasters of Sinope. Which, then, he should like to know, was the more likely to preserve the honour and interests of the country, the speech of Lord Aberdeen in 1853, or that of Lord Beaconsfield in 1876? And if the speech of the latter noble Lord was felt to be a menace to Russia—which it was never intended to be—it was only because for Party purposes attention had been called to his words by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and some less prudent practitioners who "darkened wisdom with words without knowledge." As to the discussion of that evening and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, what struck him most about them was that they really meant nothing. He might say the same 528 of the right hon. Gentleman's Questions, which were answered by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who gave great proof of his capacity in being able to reply to inquiries so hazily conceived. As to our policy, he believed the proper course to pursue was to maintain concert with the other Powers and neutrality, but armed neutrality, as at the present moment. There was, however, great difficulty in preserving that concert, and the reticence shown by the Government as to the reports from Germany and France, showed how delicate was the task. In that absence of concert he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite did they intend to act with Russia alone? And here he would remind those who, like a noble Duke in "another place," urged the adoption of a course similar to that which was taken in the case of Syria, that there had been great difficulty in terminating the occupation of that country by foreign troops, although France had to send her soldiers to a great distance from their centre. If, then, Russian troops were once to enter the insurgent Provinces of Turkey, the difficulty of getting them out again, the House might rest assured, would be more formidable than hon. Gentlemen opposite perhaps foresaw. He, at the same time, had a great admiration for Russia and for her Ruler. He admired the devotion of the Russian people to the Czar and to their religion; but unfortunately that devotion too often showed itself in a desire to extend their Sovereign's dominion over territories which were not his, while their religious fervour was strongly tinctured with political rapacity. He believed the peaceful professions of the Czar were sincere, but the Russian people were often too strong for the Government. He could not forget the incorporation of Khiva, notwithstanding promises which had been made, nor the fact that in 1853, after the Russian Government declared that it had no intention of attacking Turkey, they immediately destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope. "But," as Lord Palmerston said in March, 1854—The real question is, not what you would wish to sec established in the Turkish Empire, but that which you are determined shall not be established—it is not what might be, but what, for the interest of all Europe, ought not to be. And that which ought not to be, and that which I trust Europe will take care shall not be, is the transfer of those countries to the sceptre of the 529 Emperor of Russia." — [3 Hansard, cxxxii. 278.]He had but a very few words to add. He did not appeal to the mercy or forbearance of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they could displace the Government, let them do it. But they could not, for he knew that the Government was supported by Parliament and the country, with the exception of one or two little boroughs, which were of scarcely any consequence. The country desired to continue Her Majesty's present Advisers in office, because it could not hand over its interests to men whose vacillation had brought on the Crimean War, or who were steeped to the chin in the humiliation of the Alabama Treaty. If the question were ever brought to issue, it would, at all events, be decided not by the cries of partizan disappointment, Hot by the petulance of tempestuous Dukes, nor by the balderdash of provincial Reform Clubs, but by the calm and deliberate perception and the earnest recognition by a Representative Assembly of a righteous policy and a sterling national purpose.
stated that having been for 18 years in the service of Russia on the shores of the Black Sea, he might perhaps be permitted to say that that Power was but very little known, either by the House or by the Government. In dealing with the Government of Russia they were dealing with men of the highest rank; but with the exception of the Emperor, who was the best man in his dominions, he had no hesitation in saying that the Members of the Government were adepts in lying—that they were full of deception, and that if any Minister believed what they said, unless it answered their own purpose, he would be very much mistaken. Although Turkey was bad enough, unfair blame had been cast upon her. To his own knowledge there had not been a good Governor in Servia, Bosnia, or Herzegovina, whom Russian corruption had not soon got hold of. All the advantages she had gained in those countries had been obtained by bribery and corruption. It had always been the case with Russia. These were matters which ought to be borne in mind. If he had a choice as to whether the Turks or Russians should have Constantinople, he should say the Turks. They were truthful and honourable, which was more 530 than could be said of the Russians. In his opinion, if Her Majesty's Ministers had not sent the Fleet to Besika Bay, there would have been war long before now. If Russia knew that Turkey would be assisted by any European Power, she would consider a good deal before she went to war, for any European Power could crush her easily. He did not think she was a formidable naval Power. He was interred in Moscow in 1854–6, during the Crimean War; and, although it was said that Russia did not suspend cash payments, people had to pay 20 per cent in exchanging notes for gold. Moreover, if anyone went to the Bank to change a £5 note, he had to wait four hours before he got the money. He liked the Russian people, and he knew no nation that would be more useful to England than Russia, if only she would give up her aggressive designs. England would also be very useful to her, for she had many things which we wanted, and we had hundreds of things which she wanted. For instance, he did not know of a single invention of any sort that ever emanated from Russia, and he did not think any hon. Member could mention one. The same could not be said of any other nation in Europe. He would give an instance of the ignorance of the English Government—or rather of their servants—at the time of the Crimean War. When the English Fleet appeared at the mouth of a river, and remained there five or six weeks, a single frigate might have sailed up the river to the town, and have destroyed everything there; but, when he suggested it to the officers, they said they could not get up the river. These things ought to be known. They could not let Russia take possession of Constantinople. He did not know a greater evil that could happen to Europe. With respect to atrocities, it was a repulsive subject; but he had mentioned to many people facts that he had known himself, injuries inflicted by their own people upon honourable married women, as bad as ever were inflicted by the Turks. Therefore, if anyone were to say — "Fight for Constantinople," he would fight. He believed no greater misfortune could befal Europe than the extension of Russian rule to Constantinople.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, that after the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, he found it 531 difficult to understand what the Treaty engagements were which, in the words of Lord Derby's despatch, might "place England in a most unsatisfactory and even humiliating position," because "the sympathies of the nation would be brought into direct opposition to those engagements." The only Treaties that could be alluded to in the despatch were the Tripartite Treaty of 1856 between England, Austria, and France, and the Treaty of Paris of the same year, and he did not think that Lord Derby had referred to the former, for it was an almost impossible contingency that Austria and France should call upon England to go to war in defence of Turkey. Besides, in a despatch of the 6th December, 1876, to the Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Derby said that though this country would not use any military or naval force against the Porte, yet the Government of Turkey must understand that they must not expect any assistance from England. That was said, notwithstanding the Tripartite Treaty which he had just referred to. Could the despatch apply to the Treaty of Paris of 1856? The Secretary for War had said that that Treaty did not bind this country to go to war for Turkey; and, therefore, in neither case could the attitude of this country in the autumn be the cause of any peril to our Treaty engagements. It had been argued with great force that that Treaty did not bind this country to go to war for Turkey, but what it did was this—England, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and Sardinia engaged to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. They promised and guaranteed so much at all events. Now, there had been no question throughout these discussions about the territorial integrity of Turkey, which meant that the Porte should have titular sovereignty over the provinces, whatever might be the local administration. The right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) in May last said he was not ashamed to state that he would maintain the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire. Then, as to its independence. What had been done during the past 18 months? It was laid down by Wheaton and other jurists that every foreign State might freely exercise its own rights without interference, and yet lie found that instructions were sent to Lord Salisbury 532 which would lead to the most direct interference with the Ottoman Government, and Turkey had protested against this as an attack upon her independence. He did not say that Her Majesty's Government were wrong; on the contrary, he thought, they were right, but it was an interference with the independence of the Porte. By the common law of nations they had no right to interfere with each other, and the Treaty of Paris made that stronger. His object was to point out that as they had gone so far they need not be very squeamish in going still farther. He said that this country was in this dilemma—either it was bound by Treaty not to interfere, in which case it had broken that Treaty already, or it might deal with the Ottoman Government free from any Treaty engagement whatever, except that of the Tripartite Treaty, which Lord Derby said would not be put in force. Taken from any point of view, the hands of the Government of this country were practically free, and England might follow the dictates of justice and humanity. The agitation of last autumn had been much misrepresented and unfairly attacked. He took no part in that agitation because he did not want to do anything that might have the semblance of hostility to the Government. And whatever some impetuous orators might have said, there was no wish on the part of the great majority of the speakers to displace the Ministry. The people having had no distinct declaration of the intention of the Government not to go to war in favour of Turkey, thought it necessary to express the feeling of the nation. Lord Derby said to a deputation, which he (Mr. Forsyth) had himself attended, that he wished to know the feeling of the people of England; and it was not unnatural that when the minds of the people were stirred to their inmost depths by what had taken place in Bulgaria, they should resolve that, come what would, they would not go to war in defence of Turkey.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
Sir, as this Eastern Question presents itself to my mind as one of nationality, the House, I am sure, will extend to me for a few moments its indulgence. It is evident from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Greenwich, and of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, that the line of demar- 533 cation between Government and Opposition must be more clearly defined than at present, before either Party can venture to indulge in the language of censure, or lay claim to be the true exponent of the national feeling. Both Parties are animated by an intense desire for peace—peace, I should say, almost at any price; and the difference in policy, if any real difference there be, has regard, not to the end, but to the means by which that end may be most effectively secured. The noble Earl, the head of the Government, in the early stage of the complication, conceived (and it must be acknowledged not without a show of reason) that the best way to preserve peace was to present a bold front to Russia; while Leaders of the Opposition imagined that the best way to attain the same end was to threaten Turkey. The threats (some of them at least) are very fierce on paper; but if examined minutely, they will appear to be harmless enough. The Liberal Party said, in effect, to Turkey—"We have sustained you so long, but your Bulgarian atrocities are more than we can sanction. If you imagine that for the sake of a traditional policy we will turn Bashi-Bazouks, and aid you in the perpetration of nameless horrors, you are mistaken. Our high morality forbids us going that length, and we indignantly disclaim all responsibility for such practices." Such, so far as I am able to make out, was the policy, and such the morality, of the Liberal Party—a policy of "Cease to do evil," but unequal as yet to the morality of "Learn to do well." At present the policies, or no-polices, of both sides of this House, bear so close a family likeness, that it is impossible to distinguish between Cossacks and Osmanli in this House. The technical point under consideration obliges us to look further back than the Aylesbury speech, or the Guildhall speech, or the Conference at St. James's Hall—to the time when the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Birmingham, uplifted his voice in this House in manly protest against a wanton war. Russia crossed the Pruth in virtue of a Treaty right, as the acknowledged protector of the Christian subjects of the Porte, who stood in need of protection then as now, and I totally deny that a regard for the welfare of these oppressed people entered into the motives of the allies. The motive of the Em- 534 peror of the French was purely dynastic—for French interests pointed then, as they point now, rather to alliance with Russia; the motive of Piedmont was Italian unification; and the motive of England was jealousy of Russia. The Treaty of Peace explains very clearly the motives of the Allies and the real objects of the war. It crippled Russia, it exalted Turkey, and it placed the Christian populations in a more helpless condition than before. So solicitous, indeed, did the Powers show themselves to be for the welfare of the poor Christians, that they emphatically abdicated all right to intervene for their protection in the future. They consigned them to the tender mercies of a Hatti-Houmayoun — whatever that means; but they bound themselves individually and collectively to abstain from interference in the internal affairs of Turkey, and to support her independence and integrity. The Hatti-Houmayoun was from the first a dead letter; yet in face of that fact, that notorious fact, we find the Treaty of 1856 renewed in 1871, and by the right hon. Gentleman, who now, in terms no less just than severe, denounces the crimes of Turkey—crimes, nevertheless, directly traceable, in no small degree, to that Treaty of 1856 and that renewal of 1871. I do not pretend to fathom the statesmanship, that having guaranteed the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire, that having condoned the violation of the Hatti-Houmayoun, commissions its Plenipotentiaries at Constantinople to turn the household of Turkey in Europe inside out, and arrange and disarrange everything from the kitchen to the garret. That the Powers individually and collectively, Treaty or no Treaty, had a moral right to remonstrate with Turkey, and suggest improvements, is a proposition which does not stand in need of demonstration; but it is by no means clear that the Conference, in adopting as its basis the Treaty of 1856, and as its first principle the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire, did not occupy from first to last an illegal position. A consciousness, indeed, of this illegality evidently weighed on the Plenipotentiaries throughout, for when the Porte objected that this proposition affected its independence, and its integrity, they felt that they had no resource but to give way; and so conces- 535 sion followed concession on a sliding scale—minimum, reducible minimum, irreducible minimum—till the European concert, which opened with a flourish of trumpets, closed with a penny whistle. I do not share the regrets expressed t what is termed the failure of the Conference. Its success I should have regarded as a calamity, for it would have prejudiced most materially the cause of the oppressed peoples by what would have been construed as a declaration on the part of Europe that with such a modicum of reform they ought to be satisfied, and it would have operated as a renewal of the lease of Turkish domination in Europe. Now, happily, all parties are free, and there is an end, no less by the action of the Porte itself, than of the Western Powers, of the Treaty of Paris. I hope that this Eastern Question will come before this House in a more regular form, and I am confident that, discarding Party considerations, and unterrified by the spectre of Panslavism, it will rise rise to the level of this great argument, and bring to bear on the discussion the light of those principles which give to this House its dignity, and will cause its voice to fall on the hearts of Kings and peoples as the echo of humanity. In the political system there are not only States but peoples, not only Powers but nations, and the most important consideration is, how are these latter affected by the Treaties in question? For though, Panslavism is indeed a fiction, a thing as baseless as the fabric of a vision, Slavism on the Save, the Danube, and the Drina is a reality, a fact, a verity. It struck its roots there before the Turk set foot in Europe, and four centuries of foreign domination have failed to eradicate it. A single battle has often sufficed to end a dynasty or overwhelm an Empire, but it has never in the world's history destroyed a nationality. An Empire went down at Kossova, but the soul that informed it found in Montenegro a refuge and a home. That soul passed into Servia, and when on that Palm Sunday, in 1815, Milosch unfurled in the church of Takovo the national flag, she sprang to her feet, and with the cry "Time and my right," flung the Crescent from the Rudrik mountains. Among the rugged mountains of North Albania a gallant tribe have preserved, pure and untarnished, alike the faith which St. Paul preached to the Thessalonians and the 536 sword which Scanderbeg waved on 20 fields of victory. With Servia free, with Montenegro free, with Moldavia and Wallachia free, what can justify the belief in any rational mind that Bosnia, the Herzegovina, and Bulgaria can continue enslaved. The Bosnians and the Herzegovenese are one in race, in faith, in language, and in history with the Montenegrins and the Servians—why should they not be one in freedom? It is not alleged that the Bulgarians are inferior in physical, moral, and intellectual attributes to the Wallaches—why should their political condition be one of degrading inferiority? We behold at the Antipodes a cluster of young free States, happy and prosperous in the enjoyment of equal liberties, and owning free allegiance to the common Crown of this world-embracing Empire. Let us suppose, for a moment, that the responsible Government, which all now possess, had been conferred on two or three only of these colonies as the reward of successful rebellion, while their sister colonies continued to be governed as vilayets by Pashas from Downing Street — what would be the consequences? That the Bosnias and Herzegovinas of Australia would rise, that the Montenegrins and the Servians would make common cause with them, and that a united people in arms would face the alternative of a common subjection or a common freedom. No matter what the diversity of race, the same passions operate, the same interests prevail, the wide world over. The principles of right, justice, and equality are unaffected by degrees of latitude and longitude. Self-government and foreign domination in southeastern Europe have borne respectively their natural fruits. Roumania, Montenegro, and Servia are comparatively prosperous and progressive, because of their freedom; Bosnia, the Herzegovina, and Bulgaria are withered and decrepid because of their servitude. Is it not manifest that this absurd and ruinous inequality must end, and that all must be reduced to the same level of subjection, or lifted to the same eminence of freedom? A common subjection being an impossibility, common freedom is a necessity. What, then, is the Eastern Question? It is not Russian domination—the Czar disclaims it, the Slays would not brook it, Europe would oppose it. It is not Austrian domination—Austro- 537 Hungary disclaims it, the Slays would not tolerate it, Europe would resist it. It is not Christianity against Islamism, for the gates of Janus were closed when the Prince of Peace was born. It is not the constitutionalism of Midhat Pasha, the sunburst of the Guildhall, or the humanitarianism of St. James's Hall. It is simply national independence as represented by Servia and Montenegro against foreign domination as represented by Turkey. If the provinces would unanimously agree to accept the nominal Suzerainty of the Porte, there would appear to be no insuperable obstacle in the way of a pacific solution. But that is a matter which rests entirely with the populations themselves, and which they must decide for themselves in a spirit of absolute freedom from external control. It must be assumed that they are the true judges of the degree of political independence which would satisfy their national aspirations; and these aspirations, whatever they be, should be the barometer of Europe in their regard. In any event it must be admitted that they have fulfilled the conditions which could alone justify European intervention. They have put their case clearly and intelligibly before the world; they have proved the reality of their grievances and the sincerity of their patriotism; they have risen, they have faced the hazards and the sufferings of war; they have enkindled a conflagration, whose glare is reflected from the walls of all the palaces and all the halls of legislation—these are the conditions, and they have been fully complied with. Is it reasonable to suppose that a people who have challenged the arbitriment of the sword, who have deliberately encountered the desperate risks of a war of independence, and who have not been beaten, will placidly accept a measure of administrative reform emanating from Constantinople, as a panacea for their wrongs and a fulfilment of their aspirations? They were in arms when the Andrassy Note was endorsed by the Powers and accepted by the Porte; yet they did not lay down their arms, but fought on more desperately than before. They rose, not to wrest a Magna Charta from a Sovereign whose sceptre they acknowledge, but to sever the connection with an Empire whose sway they repudiate. Had representatives of the Slays and the Greeks been admitted to the Con- 538 ference, much valuable time would have been saved, for I have no doubt that they would have informed the Plenipotentiaries that what their countrymen required was not an ameliorated servitude, an improved provincialism, a mollified subjection, but liberty, independence, and their lands; and that they were making bricks without straw in attempting, out of such materials as their pourparlers, their menaces, their concessions, their reforms, and their Protocols, to construct an edifice of peace. But it must be borne in mind that this Eastern Question has also an Hellenic aspect—that there is, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has taught us, an Hellenic factor in the Eastern problem. And how will the Greeks be affected by the Treaties under discussion? The intelligence of her sons, her history, the wrongs inflicted by the Turks, the bloodshed in the War of Independence—all forbid Greece to rest, while Grecian lands, where the Greek element preponderates, are held and ruled as Turkish Provinces. There are no people in the world among whom the sentiment of national unity more largely prevails than the modern Greeks, and the common aspiration of them all is the establishment of a Kingdom which shall embrace the whole of the Greek race. From whatever island or shore they hail, whether from Candia, or Macedonia, or Thessaly, or Epirus, they all consider themselves to be as rightful citizens of the Kingdom of Greece as if they had been born within the narrow limits imposed by European diplomacy as the boundaries of the Hellenic Kingdom. The Greeks cherish a grateful recollection of George Canning; they have reason also to feel grateful to General Maison, who commanded the French auxiliary force in the Morea; and reason above all to hold in reverence the memory of the Emperor Nicholas, who, with his sword-hilt, stamped at Adrianople the Charter of of the independence of Greece; but they have little reason to feel grateful to those diplomatists who, after one of the most heroic struggles on record, handed them over a kingdom restricted to the dimensions of a municipality. Pericles advised the Athenians to base their greatness rather on money and ships than on population and territory; but our modern diplomatists evidently 539 expected the Hellenic Kingdom to spring into greatness without either territory or population, while she drew her money and ships from the Clouds of Aristophanes. Or, perhaps, anticipating the discoveries of Dr. Schliemann, they intended Greece should fatten on the bones of Agamemnon. I am not unmindful of the cession of the Septinsular Republic, or Ionian Isles; but that tardy surrender was made at a time, and under circumstances, that deprived the act of half its value and all its grace. The indiscreet disclosure of Sir John Young's despatch left the British Government no alternative but to withdraw as the nominal protector, or remain as the avowed oppressor of the Ionians. It chose the better and the more prudent course. And now there are some magnanimous critics who delight to contend that the Hellenic Kingdom has failed to fulfil the expectations of its generous patrons, the diplomatists of England, France, and Russia. I know not what those expectations may have been, but it is susceptible of the clearest proof that Greece has fully justified the hopes of her real friends. If we regard her materially, by the light of official documents, it will be found that in population, trade, shipping, imports and exports, she has, within the period from 1834 to the present date, progressed in a ratio greatly exceeding that of most European States. Athens has been entirely rebuilt since the termination of the War of Independence. I have been assured that 50 years ago there was scarcely a house standing in Athens. If we regard her intellectually, her national University at Athens will compare not unfavourably with some more venerable and richly endowed institutions of learning. Every town of any importance in the Kingdom has its Lyceum for intermediate education, supported by the State, and the communal schools bring primary education within the reach of every Hellenic child. The English critic at least ought to be sparing in his comments, when he is reminded that even under the reign of King Otho, more money was applied annually to public instruction by the Greek Legislature, than was voted annually down to 1831 by the Parliament of Great Britain in aid of the education of the English people. In truth, the intellectual activity and development displayed 540 by the Greeks are wonderful amongst a population so recently escaped from bondage. I question if, regard being had to population, the modern literature of Greece, that which has sprung up in a few years under the inspiring influence of freedom, will suffer greatly in comparison with that of any country in the world. In whatever aspect viewed, then, the Hellenic Kingdom, most unwisely and unjustly restricted as it was in dimensions, must be recognized as a conspicuous political success, a beacon light to the whole Hellenic race, and an inspiring example to the oppressed of every clime. Had the poet-hero of Missolonghi, like his comrade, the gallant swordsman General Church, lived to see the tree of liberty which he planted put forth such foliage, he would be the first to testify that his fondest dreams had been more than realized in the Greece of King George. Among the monuments that adorn or disfigure—it is a matter of taste—this metropolis, designed to perpetuate the memories of men, more or less great, or more or less small, the eye rests on no memorial of him who twined his hopes of being remembered in his line with his land's language. Perhaps it is better thus—that neglected by his own, the world may more freely claim as its inheritance a genius so splendid, and, with all his errors, a soul so grand. I feel proud, as an Irishman, of the privilege of placing an humble wreath on the tomb of him who gave to Greece his earliest song and his latest sigh, and whose first speech in the House of Lords was delivered in defence of the expiring liberties of my country. The revival of a Byzantine Empire, with a renewal, I suppose, on the Bosphorus of the exploits of the Heracleidæ, may be, and most probably is, a delusive dream; but an enlargement of the European Kingdom of Greece is an aspiration, a purpose of the Hellenic race which must be satisfied before there can be a settlement of the Eastern Question. When, after the battle of Navarino, limits were assigned by European diplomacy to the Kingdom of Greece, Thessaly, and Epirus, at least, and the islands of the Ægean Sea, together with the Ionian Isles, the populations of which, mainly Greek, had shared the hazards and sufferings of the War of Independence, ought, in justice and in sound policy, to have been included as a portion of inde- 541 pendent Greece. Had this been done, there would have been no need of an Anglo-French occupation of the Piræus during the Crimean War; no need of a Conference at Paris in 1869, to tie the hands of the Greek Government, and prevent it from openly identifying itself with the cause of the Cretan insurgents; no need of the pressure brought to bear last year at Athens, and the delusive promises made, with a view to repress the disposition of the Greeks to war; no need, perhaps, of the Conference at Constantinople, for, stimulated by the example, and sustained by the sympathy and support of a strong free State, the Slav provinces of European Turkey would, in all human probability, ere this have settled for themselves, and in the only way in which such causes ever can be settled, the relations which should subsist between them and the Ottoman Porte. The same considerations of justice and sound policy which ought to have dictated this course in the year 1828 are as cogent now as they were at that time. Yet I do not maintain that it would be expedient for foreign Powers to originate an attempt to rescue this population from the domination of their oppressors, because nations can seldom enjoy true liberty and independence unless they win these blessings by their own efforts and sacrifices; but at least such efforts and such sacrifices should not be discouraged by the Powers of Europe. Slavery may be imposed on a people—liberty cannot be, she must be won—and as a rule the greatness of the effort made to win her is the measure of the fitness to receive her, the best preparation for her enjoyment, and the surest guarantee of her permanency. The Greeks, at all events, have proved themselves, and doing so have shown that the spirit of nationality, like the spirit of nature, is imperishable, and survivesWhat Goth, and Turk, and Time hath spared not.Temple and monument moulder into dust — silent the oracle; but the cleft mountain and the caverned waterfall are unchanged, and the Fountain of Castalia still sends forth its sparkling rill. The obvious duty of Europe, it seems to me, is simply to second the designs of nature, and help those who show a disposition manfully to help themselves. 542 There are interests, we are told, which must be protected; but if they be bonâ fide interests, there ought to be no difficulty in finding a mode of protection without trenching on the rights of oppressed peoples. I grant that until the time shall have arrived for determining who shall be the eventual masters of Constantinople, it is for the interest of Western Europe that the status quo should be maintained on the shores of the Bosphorus. But with a view even to such an eventuality, I ask if a free Bulgaria, and a free Thessaly, Epirus, and Macedonia, would not be of legitimate interests, a surer and more becoming defence, than Turkish forts on the Danube, or fortified passes in the Balkans? The forts and passes may be captured — it is an affair of science, of strength, at the most, of time; but free institutions, upheld by hearts and hands of free-born men, form against lawless adventure an impassable barrier. If—which I do not believe—the first line of defence of the Indian Empire must begin on the Danube or the Balkans, let free institutions span the river and guard the passes. The small States of Belgium and Holland fulfil a most important function in the European system, and I fail to comprehend what interest in the East or in the West would suffer detriment from the establishment of a South-Eastern Belgium and a South-Eastern Holland. The spirit of the age, and the accepted morality of fait accompli, favour the accumulation of large Empires, and save where here and there a little Switzerland, a Portugal, a Denmark, a Belgium, or a Holland gleams like an oasis, the map of Europe is a wilderness of incongruous immensities. Does not a wise statesmanship dictate the policy of omitting no opportunity of helping into life similar small communities? The material is there — it only awaits the artist's hand to mould it into form. From where Danube pours his impetuous flood through the "Iron Gates," to where the Attic wave beams with its "countless smiles," from Black Sea to Adriatic, there stretches a fruitful and romantic region, the home of historic races; and I can picture for statesmanship no loftier ambition, for power no prouder prerogative, than to aid the struggles of such countries and such peoples to emerge from the tomb in which for centuries they have lain, and 543 rejoice at last in the dawn of their Easter Sunday. History repeats itself, and now Europe is perplexed by a problem similar to that which 50 years ago exercised its statesmanship and put in motion its arm. Europe has grown older, and become, perhaps, more selfish and less chivalrous; but the cause in issue now is the same as was in issue then, and good reasons, I submit, must be shown to justify a departure from the policy prescribed by the genius of Mr. Canning and of Lord Palmerston. I decline to believe that the Republic of Mac Mahon is less disposed to sympathize with and to aid noble causes, than was the Monarchy of the Bourbons. Napoleon the Third, on sending the expeditionary force to Syria, said—Wherever the flag of France is advanced, the nations see that a great cause precedes, and a great people follow it!And surely a still glorious flag never shed its halo round a cause more sacred than that of a people struggling to be free. The form of government, whether it be despotic, or aristocratic, or democratic, or mixed, which may prevail in any country, is a matter of secondary consideration. The one thing needful is that she be independent. Wanting that, she is nothing — a mere geographical definition, covering a certain space on the world's chart, but unknown and unreckoned in the sphere of humanity. Russia to many is a name of terror. I am no Russo-phile. Where I a Circassian, I would have been a follower of Schamyl; were I a Pole, I would have been found in the ranks of the scythe-armed men; but when Russia is in the right, as by the admission of Europe she now is, she is entitled to the sympathy, the respect, and the support of Europe. In championing the cause of the oppressed in the Turkish Provinces, she may be actuated to some extent by selfish motives—what nation is not so actuated at times?—but to those who attribute to her sinister motives I would say, look to Berlin, where perchance you may find the commodity, and be spared the journey to St. Petersburg. The same motives, no doubt, actuate Russia now as in 1829, but we saw her pause then in her career of victory to give freedom to a nation. The same influences which induced her then to dictate peace at Adrianople would be equally efficacious, I should think, now to induce her 544 to pause again in a career of conquest, and dictate another peace, wider still in its scope, and destined, it may reasonably be presumed, to prove more beneficent still in its operation. I take for granted that the Treaty of 1856 can never more be appealed to—that it is no longer law in Europe. Every Power, the Porte included, has recovered its freedom of action—so, too, have the nationalities, the Slays and the Greeks, and they now, not the Powers, are masters of the situation. If they choose to accept the reforms of Midhat Pasha, and furl the flag of independence, no Power will be called on to intervene—it is their affair. If, however, as is most probable, rejecting the reforms and the constitutions, they resolve to renew the strife and fight on, not for the irreducible minimum, not for a foreign Committee, so truly described by the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as the worst Government any country could have, but for political autonomy pure and simple, then intervention becomes a necessity, imposed by duty, and sanctioned by right. Why should the work of pacification, for such in its true sense it is, be cast upon Russia alone? Why should the destinies of an important portion of Europe, and of millions of people, be left to the disposal of three Emperors? What Power is there that, having commissioned a Plenipotentiary to Constantinople, and having expended a Black Sea of philanthropic ink in denunciation of Bulgarian atrocities, so blinded by egotism as to imagine, for a moment, it can fold its arms and remain benevolently neutral, while another Power sheds her blood for objects about which it could only scribble and declaim? This country, though, offered a powerful alliance, stood benevolently neutral while the last struggle of the Poles was being terribly suppressed; benevolently neutral while the Duchies were wrested from Denmark; benevolently neutral while Alsace-Lorraine was torn from France—and, I trust I may be pardoned the expression of a hope, that, should a similar ignominious policy now prevail, she may be debarred from appearing even as a gleaner on the harvest-field of the Danube. What though the triumph of the Slav liberty on the Balkans should open to Russian vessels of war the Straits of the Bosphorus and the 545 Dardanelles? On what ground of justice, or even expediency, can the existing prohibition be defended? The argument of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Birmingham, is irrefutable. These Straits are not to be compared to rivers which have their sources in Turkish territory—they are natural highways, connecting sea with sea—but the prohibition operates as a blockade of a wide sea, fed by great rivers having their sources in Russian territory, and on the shores of which that Power predominates. The Treaty imposed by Cimon of Athens on Artaxerxes contained, it is said, a similar prohibition—that no Persian vessel of war should navigate between the Black Sea and the coast of Pamphylia; but that was before the era of free trade, and at the close of a series of wars which shed imperishable lustre on the Grecian arms. Russia has never sustained any such reverses at the hands of any Power, or of any combination of Powers. I never could discover what danger the West has to apprehend from Russia. Her destiny impels her eastward, and there her mission must necessarily be one of civilization. But this question is not, and, unless through sheer mismanagement, never can become, one of territorial aggrandizement. The principles which control it, co-extensive with the human race, and immortal as the soul, lift it high above the sphere, and will preserve it from the contamination, of vulgar ambition. We hear much of Turkish armaments, the concentration of troops in Bulgaria, and a powerful fleet under the command of an English admiral in the Sea of Marmora; but, if a genuine sentiment of nationality animate the hearts of Slays and Greeks, if the passion for independence, like the old Greek fire, has kept on burning beneath the waters of persecution, armaments and fleets will perish, as perished the hosts of Sennacherib before the hand of the destroying angel, and the down-trodden of centuries shall resume their place of honour yet in Israel.
said, he did not rise to answer the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, or to enter at length on the Eastern Question, believing that other and more convenient opportunities would be afforded for its full discussion. He agreed in every word which had fallen from his 546 right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. The position assigned to Turkey by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) with regard to the Treaties appeared to afford a remarkable illustration of the old saying —"Heads, I win; tails, you loose." His object in rising was to make some inquiries, in order, if possible, to make that line of demarcation more distinct which the hon. Member had just referred to, and to ask one or two questions of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, from whom the House was entitled to demand some explanation. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be able to give a distinct and definite answer. He could not complain of this course. He had taken an exceedingly active part in the discussion which had arisen during the Recess in regard to this question—as many people thought an exceedingly mischievous part, and not by any means calculated to assist, but to retard any wise and happy solution of this momentous question. He need not remind the House of the course which the right hon. Gentleman had thought proper to take. They could not forget the deliberate and persistent attempts which had been made throughout the Recess — not by the Liberal Party or the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) opposite—to their credit be it spoken—but by a certain portion and clique of that Party, headed by the right hon. Gentleman, to regulate the foreign policy of this country by pamphlets, by speeches at public meetings, and by a so-called national Conference, instead of leaving it in the hands of the Executive Government, who alone could possibly possess the requisite information which enabled them to deal with the question. That was a mode of proceeding obviously open to very great objection. It must be attended with great inconvenience to all parties concerned. He was not prepared to say that the policy of every Government under all circumstances, and at any time, must be accepted as a matter of course, without cavil or dispute by its opponents or by the country; but he did say this, that such a course as that pursued by the right hon. Gentleman must entail on those who adopted it the most immense responsibility. It was a course which nothing could justify, but circumstances of the most supreme ne- 547 cessity. [Cheers and counter cheers. Whether that justification or that necessity existed in the case—as he gathered from the cheers he heard—was a matter on which there would be very considerable difference of opinion; but it was clear that the right hon. Gentleman accepted the position and all the responsibility which it entailed. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] More than that, he had told them distinctly, while admitting the full responsibility and the immense weight of censure he would justly incur in the absence of full justification for the course he had taken—he had told them in what he considered his justification was to be found. He said at the Conference held in St. James's Hall on the 9th of December—and that was his excuse for attending the meeting and taking part in the agitation—he said—We believe that the power, the influence, and the reputation of England for a long period of time with regard to this enormous question have been used for a purpose and to an effect directly at variance with the convictions of the people of this country.[Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He was quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and that was the sum and substance of the indictment against Her Majesty's Government contained in the whole of his speeches, and a graver or a more serious charge to bring against any existing Administration it would not be easy to imagine. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman was correct in his views as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government at the time, or if he was infallible in his judgment of the feelings of the people of England, then there would be much to be said for the course which he had pursued. But they knew that the right hon. Gentleman, far from being infallible, was often extremely mistaken as to his views of the people. From the last General Election and from various other sources he could show, if it were needful to do so, that the right hon. Gentleman had been mistaken before, as assuredly he had been mistaken in this case. Nor was that much to be wondered at, if they considered the sources from which the right hon. Gentleman sought his information. Where did the right hon. Gentleman look for it in this case in particular? Not in that House from the legitimate and direct Representatives of the public opinion. No: it had been from very different 548 sources, which he (Mr. Chaplin) would tell to the House. It was from public meetings, for the most part arranged and prepared for his reception by local Party organizations; from the cheers of the populace brought together by Liberal clubs at various railway stations, where the right hon. Gentleman, of course, chanced to be passing; and last, not least, from the so-called "National Conference" in St. James's Hall, which, as far as he could discover, was little else than a packed meeting of the right hon. Gentleman's supporters, to which each of them was admitted by ticket. He would say, without scruple or hesitation, from his place in that House, that, so far as its national character and national name were concerned, a more barefaced, audacious sham and imposture could not be imagined. These were the sources to which the right hon. Gentleman looked for his information. Now, there were many on that side who were and had been warm and consistent supporters of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and who therefore, being probably regarded by the right hon. Gentleman as accomplices in their misconduct, were placed in this totally false and unfair position — that while they had been the victims so long of all the charges and accusations of the right hon. Gentleman's torrents of eloquence, there seemed to be no disposition on his part, now that he was brought face to face at last with those whom he had so long greatly maligned, to test the opinion of Parliament as between him and them, or give them the benefit of an appeal to that tribunal from which alone we could hope to learn the true, real, and deliberate voice of the people of England. The speeches and writings with which the right hon. Gentleman had flooded the country bore this construction, that the misconduct of the supporters of the Government lay chiefly in this — that while the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to go to war for the coercion of Turkey, they were not prepared to adopt so extreme and violent a course. In these circumstances he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman these questions—Did he intend by a definite Motion to test the truth and the justice of his accusations, and to take the opinion of Parliament on the misconduct with which he charged Her Majesty's Government? Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to 549 meet or to evade that obligation? One of two things, the right hon. Gentleman must do. He must make good or withdraw his assertions, that was clearly a duty from which he could not escape; for he (Mr. Chaplin) held, without a shadow of doubt, that when a Member of Parliament in a position so eminent as the Member for Greenwich traversed the country from north to south, and from east to west, levelling charges and accusations broadcast against his opponents, especially at times when he knew they could not be there to repel them. There was no other course which it was open to a man of honour to follow. ["Order."]
I wish to put to you, Sir, whether it is competent for the hon. Member to instruct me as to the only course which it is open for me as a man of honour to follow?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman in making use of that expression has exceeded the limits of Parliamentary discussion.
said, he withdrew, of course, any expression he might have used which was not in accordance with Parliamentary custom, and begged to offer an apology to the right hon. Gentleman. Then he would say there was no other course which, in his humble opinion, it was the right hon. Gentleman's duty to follow. Secondly, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he appealed in the passionate terms which he did in his last speech at Taunton to the people of England, to grapple with the great duty which they had to perform, and to emulate by their own deeds the glorious deeds of their forefathers, to tell them what was the great duty which he meant them to undertake, and the means by which he considered it could be performed? The Conference had just then come to an end, and he (Mr. Chaplin) understood it to mean that they should coerce Turkey in order to make her accept those proposals. Turkey, it was perfectly clear, would not now be coerced without war. Whether Turkey, at one time, might not have listened to England if it had not been for the suspicions of England engendered by the right hon. Gentleman and his unsparing onslaughts upon 550 her, was a matter which was open to room for some doubt. These were the questions which he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman, and to which he was bound to give a definite and distinct answer. The right hon. Gentleman in one of his speeches claimed the position of an independent Member of Parliament. He (Mr. Chaplin) also claimed the same position, and, speaking from his place on that side as an independent Member, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman he could not now shelter himself under that plea. If there was one thing made clearer than another during the Recess it was this—that the Leadership of the Opposition in the country had been entirely dissociated from the Leadership of the Opposition in that House; and having accepted that position in the country the right hon. Gentleman could not escape the obligations or the legitimate consequences which it involved in that House. Upon every ground of decency and justice it was his duty to test the opinion of Parliament as to the conduct of the Government. It was true by the Forms of the House the right hon. Gentleman could not meet that challenge to-night; but if the House wished it, he believed it was perfectly competent for him to provide the right hon. Gentleman with that opportunity by concluding with a Motion. But first let him say that above and before any mere question of the position in which hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were placed by his very unusual course, there was one point yet to consider which the right hon. Gentleman would himself admit was of surpassing importance. The peace of the Continent at this very moment was wavering in the balance, Peace or war at this moment depended on the action of Russia, and the action of Russia he firmly believed, depended and waited on the public opinion of England. The right hon. Gentleman had been the first to rouse that opinion elsewhere. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman here in his place in the House to invite the expression of the opinion of the Imperial Parliament—the only source from which they could ever measure the depth and the strength of the national voice. God forbid that that voice should be for war; if it were the immediate action of Russia was contain, and he feared to think where such 551 a policy might end. But if on the spot Parliament distinctly rejected such a bad and monstrous proposal, he would hope against hope that peace might even yet be secured. Then England would have much cause to rejoice that her councils were no longer swayed by one whose voice during the Recess had done so much to impair that respect and esteem which they on all sides felt for him in that House, and to shake to its foundation the great and splendid reputation of a man whom England had long learnt to regard, and as he and all admitted him to be, among the greatest of her sons. He begged to move the Adjournment of the Debate.
Sir, I rise to second the Motion for the Adjournment. For the first time in the course of a public life, approaching nearly half a century, I have been accused by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken of a disinclination to meet my opponents in fair fight. "He cannot," the hon. Gentleman modestly says of me, "meet us face to face." He further tells us he learns the opinion of the country from public meetings. Why, I ask, did not the hon. Gentleman come to those public meetings? He says that I have been east and west, that I have been north and south. If that be true, there has been plenty of opportunity for him and his friends to attend those meetings. Then the hon. Gentleman says that the Conference in St. James's Hall was a packed meeting; and it was a packed meeting, in the sense in which I believe every meeting held by a Conservative Club and a Conservative Association is a packed meeting. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: National, national!] I will deal with the noble Lord next, if he likes, to make another attack without making these interlocutory speeches. Meanwhile, let me say that if the hon. Gentleman, to whose speech I was adverting, had had a hundredth part of the experience I have had of the feelings of the people of this country, so far from charging me to-night with having gone east and west and north and south fox the purpose of inciting public meetings, lie would have known what every man acquainted with me knows—he would have known what every person whom I have visited, Tory as well as Liberal, is perfectly acquainted with — that I have on every occasion shrunk from 552 meeting the public. ["Oh!"] Yes, Sir, I repeat it, and I will supply the hon. Gentleman, if he likes, with the names of those Tory gentlemen to whom he may appeal in confirmation of my statement. But such is the depth and strength of the sentiment that has taken possession of the mind and heart of England in reference to this question, that I, in my poor and feeble person, simply because I have been associated with that sentiment, have felt it almost impossible to avoid the manifestation of this almost unexampled national and popular feeling. As to the St. James's Hall Conference, not only in point of form, but of substance, it was entitled to the name of a National Conference; because it aimed at expressing — and believed it was expressing—the sentiments of the nation—[Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: That is a mistake.]—just as in former times—I think about the time when the noble Lord was born—there was what was called a National Anti-Corn Law League, which was derided on the same ground as the noble Lord, with his mature experience, derides the St. James's Hall Conference.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman says I derided the national sentiment. I beg to say that I did nothing of the sort.
The noble Lord has risen to Order, but I think he is very disorderly. Nor did I say that he derided the national sentiment, but that he derided the assumption of the title of "National" by the Conference at St. James's Hall; and I said that whatever the propriety of that title might be in point of form, it reminded me of another title assumed by another private association—the National Anti-Corn Law League—which was equally derided about the time of the birth of the noble Lord. But it proved its nationality, first by overcoming the obstinate resistance of the Party to which the noble Lord belongs. That Party existed—a fact which he does not seem to know—before he was born. If he thinks it came into existence with himself, I assure him it is a mistake. And that League proved its nationality, secondly, by this—that it came to express the universal sentiment of the nation, so that now no man ventures to lift up his voice and say, "I am a vindicator and 553 an apologist of the Corn Laws." This is an answer to the noble Lord who interrupted me. The hon. Gentleman has put to me some questions, under circumstances which, I suppose, he thought most convenient, upon a subject relating to the rather dry matter of the interpretation of Treaties, on which I endeavoured to confine myself in the strictest manner to the terms of my Notice. The hon. Gentleman, as he said, did not propose to follow the eloquent speech of the hon. Member who preceded him—a task which he might have found rather difficult, but he produced instead his prepared interrogatories, and the well-arranged sentences by which they were wound into a series. That is a specimen, forsooth, of the courage with which the "Knight of the Shire" instructs me, after my long service in this House, as to my duty in public life, and reproaches me with unwillingness to meet a champion equal to himself. He says, Sir, that I have been an inflammatory agitator, and that as soon as I have got into this House I have shown no disposition to chant in the same key. But before these debates are over—before this question is settled—the hon. Gentleman will know more about my opinions than he knows at present, or is likely to know to-night. I am not about to reveal now to the hon. Gentleman even the insignificant secrets of a mind so inferior to his own. I am not so young as to think that his obliging inquiries supply me with the opportunity most advantageous to the public interest for laying out the plan of a campaign. By the time the hon. Member is as old as I am, if he comes in his turn to be accused of cowardice by a man of the generation next to himself, he probably may find it convenient to refer to the reply I am now making, and to make it a model, or, at all events, to take from it hints and suggestions with which to dispose of the antagonist that may then rise against him. The hon. Gentleman says there is a tremendous feeling abroad in the country—tremendous it is, not in its violence, but in its depth of force, and, thank God, that it is abroad; and the hon. Gentleman says it was I who was the first to arouse it by pamphlets and by speeches. It is unquestionable that I published a pamphlet on the 5th or 6th of September of last year, and it is equally unquestionable that I made a 554 speech to my constituents on, I think, the 9th of the same month; and it seems from the speech of the hon. Gentleman that owing to this pamphlet and speech the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been terribly disturbed. The whole country, we are told, has been disturbed from end to end; and peace has been prevented from settling down upon Europe. I really feel such a temptation to accept the gigantic and exaggerated compliments of the hon. Gentleman; the incense which he offers upon my altar, so to call it, is so fragrant and rises in such a steam to Heaven, that I am almost sorry to be called upon to enter into conflict with the hon. Gentleman. But, Sir, I cannot, notwithstanding the force of this temptation, forget my allegiance to truth; and if I am told that by the pamphlet I wrote and the speech I delivered I have done all this mischief and agitated Europe and the world, let me ask why the hon. Gentleman did not, by writing another pamphlet and delivering another speech, put the whole thing right? Am I the only man to whom it is permitted by law to write a pamphlet, or to whom is given the permission, according to Constitutional practice, to address his constituents? It was the public arena of discussion into which I descended, most reluctantly and very late, but with the deep and full conviction—with regard to which the hon. Gentleman has not in the least overstated my case—that the responsibility was great, that it was impossible, in my opinion, to justify questioning the course of the Government on a matter of most important national policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs, unless upon a plea as broad as that which I advanced—namely, that in my deep and firm conviction they had unintentionally misrepresented the sentiment of the country, and were using its power and influence for purposes which were in direct antagonism to the best and deepest wishes of its heart. That is the justification on which I stood and stand. But the hon. Gentleman says I did it, and I heard another hon. Gentleman say tonight that I did it. Really, to a certain extent, it administers an agreeable irritation to whatever vanity one may possess to hear such immense results attributed to so trifling forces. But if anything was done by me, it was done in the same way that a man applies a match 555 to an enormous mass of fuel which has been already prepared; and the indication of a point towards which the public sentiment should be directed was all that could possibly be required. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane) in the early part of his speech said that I had done all this, but a little later he seemed to have forgot what he had said, and ascribed the whole of what he had previously attributed to me to Lord Shaftesbury, in the course of a speech which he delivered in St. James's Hall. I therefore feel the greatest satisfaction in making over to Lord Shaftesbury the palm and the prize. I rejoice that he was my leader, and that I was his follower in a cause so noble and so good. But we have some other evidence before us. This dreadful pamphlet of mine—which, it seems, nobody thought fit to answer, and by answering to paralyze—was published on the 5th or 6th of September. Aye, but what was said on the 22nd of August? The literature of the hon. Member, with all the time he has taken, and all the careful preparation of his speech in every sentence, has not been able to get deep into the confidence of the massive Blue Books. On that day Lord Derby telegraphed, in effect, to Sir Henry Elliot that—Any sympathy which was previously felt in England towards Turkey has been completely destroyed by the recent lamentable occurrences in Bulgaria. The accounts of outrages and excesses committed by the Turkish troops "notably Bashi-Bazouks—"upon an unhappy, and for the most part unresisting population, has roused an universal feeling of indignation in all classes of English society, and to such a pitch has this risen that in the extreme case of Russia declaring war against Turkey, Her Majesty's Government would find it practically impossible to interfere in defence of the Ottoman Empire.This was written a fortnight before my poor pamphlet was published and 10 days before it was even announced. Therefore, it is that, flattered as I am by the attack of the hon. Gentleman, and tempted as I am to appropriate what I regard, coming from him, as praises, I must, in deference to truth, point out that I was simply an humble collaborateur with the English people in a work which they had taken into their own hands. In a matter of humanity and justice they required no instructor. It was the nation that led the classes 556 and the leaders, and not the classes and leaders who led the nation. Let me ask what are the questions of the hon. Gentleman? He asks whether I will test the opinion of this House? I have a great respect for the opinion of this House; but does he want me to test the opinion of a traditional House of Commons, or of the particular one in which he happens to sit? I have had the felicity of sitting with the hon. Gentleman in other Houses of Commons; but I do not recollect that he had in those earlier days the same respect he now professes for the opinion of the House, or that he regarded them as the infallible indicators of public opinion, that he seems to think this House must unquestionably be. I will tell the hon. Gentleman something in answer to his questions, and it is that I will tell him nothing at all. I will take my own counsel, and beg to inform him that he should have no reason whatever to complain when the accounts come to be settled and cast up at the end of the whole matter of any reticence or suppressions on my part. He asks, further, what it was that I recommended to the people of Taunton? On that question I will tell him a little more than I did on the first. As a rule, the hon. Gentleman keeps the best of his arguments and of his eloquence for this House, but I have been reading him in a local newspaper, and have been able by that means only to follow him into his own county; for though I have travelled east, west, north, and south, I have not been so happy as in my own person to reach that part of England. But I see he adapted himself to what he considers apparently the meridian of a local audience. He told them I had appeared at Taunton, and that I found by accident that I had an hour an a-half to dispose of, and that, having an hour and a-half to dispose of, I went out upon the stage and addressed such of the people of Taunton as happened to be present, upon the merits of the Eastern Question and most important topics of International Law. The hon. Gentleman has fallen into the most ludicrous of mistakes. He is not aware that there are in this country most useful publications under the denomination of railway time-tables, and that if a man will look into these railway time-tables he can see for several days, or for a whole month, beforehand, when his 557 trains will arrive and when they will depart. That is a very useful piece of information, and I hope he will not forget it. By the diligent use of these railway time-tables I was enabled several days beforehand to calculate my movements through Taunton with the same precision with which our astronomers calculates the coming comet or eclipse. Therefore, my arrangements, instead of having the romantic air of novelty with which the hon. Member sought to invest them, not in this House, but in another meridian, were really stereotyped affairs, settled beforehand in the dullest and most prosaic manner, though they seem to have effectually puzzled the mind of the hon. Member. If he wants to know what I recommended to the people of Taunton, I have a mind to tell him that if he will ask the people of Taunton, they will tell him that they understood me very well. I understand that my hon. Friends who represent Taunton have found that I was perfectly well understood. But, in brief, what I told the people of Taunton was this—that, in my opinion, it was absolutely necessary for them to watch the policy of the Government; that in the acts, in the language, and in the tendency of Lord Salisbury I had great confidence; but that I did not know whether the Government has one policy or two policies. This I know—that all the newspapers that are in their confidence every now and then take the opportunity of letting fly at Lord Salisbury. This I know, that when I read the Blue Books—over which I suspect the hon. Gentleman has not spent half as many minutes as I have hours—I find in one page the arguments of Lord Salisbury for a proposition, and in another page those of Sir Henry Elliot against it. This is a state of things which impressed me with the belief that it was time yet and time still for the people of Taunton to be upon their guard; and, therefore, as far as my powers of exposition did go, I did endeavour to lay before them that the people of England had still a very great work to do. We have, I think, the most solemn and the greatest question to determine that has come before Parliament in my time. It is only under very rare circumstances that such a question—the question of the East—can be fully raised, fully developed, and exhibited, and fully brought home to the minds of men with 558 that force, with that command, with that absorbing power which it ought to exercise over them. In the original entrance of the Turks into Europe, it may be said to have been a turning point in human history. To a great extent it continues to be the cardinal question, the question which casts into the shade every other question, and the question which is now brought before the mind of the country far more fully than at any period of our history, far more fully than even at the time of the Crimean War, when we were pouring forth our blood and treasure in what we thought to be the cause of justice and right. And I endeavoured to impress upon the minds of that audience, not a blind prejudice against this man or that, but a great watchfulness, and the duty of great activity. It is the duty of every man to feel that he is bound for himself, according to his opportunities, to examine what belongs to this question, with regard to which it can never be forgotten that we are those who set up the power of Turkey in 1854; that we are those who gave her the strength which has been exhibited in the Bulgarian massacres; that we are those who made the Treaty arrangements that have secured her for 20 years from almost a single hour of uneasiness brought about by foreign intervention; and that, therefore, nothing can be greater and nothing deeper than our responsibility in the matter. It is incumbent upon us, one and all, that we do not allow any consideration, either of Party or personal convenience, to prevent us from endeavouring to the best of our ability to discharge this great duty that now, at length, in the East, in the midst of this great opportunity, when all Europe has been called to collective action, and when something like European concert has been established—when we learn the deep human interests that are involved in every stage of the question, that, as far as England at least, is concerned, every Englishman should strive to the utmost of his might that justice shall be done.
§ Motion made, and. Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Chaplin.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I cannot wonder, Mr. Speaker, at the cheers with which the eloquent 559 language of the right hon. Gentleman has been greeted, and I cannot but echo the concluding words of his speech; but I do venture to come before the House and to remind them what our position is. Nothing can be graver than the position which we occupy. In the eyes of this country and in the eyes of Europe this House occupies a position which may make every one of us pause and think well over every word we say and every step we take. In the midst of the anxious expectation of the people of England, and perhaps of many more people, as to what course was likely to be taken by the House of Commons in particular upon this question which is now occupying our attention—at this critical moment of negotiation, when the question of peace and war is hanging in the balance, and the voice of England may decide the destinies of nations for years and years to come—my right hon. Friend chooses to invite the House of Commons to hear him put a solemn question to the Government. He takes steps for obtaining the best possible means of putting that question, and of making the statement with which he proposed to accompany it. Attention is excited, the House is full, every one is awaiting what he has to say. My right hon. Friend comes forward and puts in language which he himself has described, and truly described, as language of a most moderate and temperate kind, the questions which he wishes to put. He puts them accompanied by explanations which are intended partly, no doubt, to explain the question, but much more, as it seems to me, intended to offer apologies for the conduct of his own previous Colleagues and himself upon critical occasions. He comes forward to tell us how he and those with whom he has been associated have formerly acted on the matter to which they now draw so much attention. He comes forward to tell us what they meant when they made the Treaty of 1856, and still more what they meant when they renewed it in 1871. He called attention to a particular despatch of my noble Friend the Secretary of State, and he asks us questions with regard to the meaning of certain expressions in that despatch. He was answered, and he was answered I think satisfactorily. He was answered, and I think answered conclusively. He was answered frankly and fully by my right hon. 560 Friend the Secretary of State for War What was the object which my right hon. Friend had in putting those questions? I suppose it was not merely for the purpose of casting some taunt, if he thought he could do so, against Her Majesty's Government. I suppose it was not for the mere purpose of justifying himself and his Colleagues with regard to past transactions. No, Sir, I attribute to him a higher motive than that. I believe he wished to ascertain fully and clearly what the views of Her Majesty's Government were with regard to some of the most important questions which we have to consider at the present day, in order that he might elicit at some proper opportunity the sense of Parliament upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Government and upon the views which they entertain upon this subject. There has been an interesting, though a rather irregular, debate. A large number of topics have been introduced which went beyond the scope of my right hon. Friend's question, but which it is not surprising that Gentlemen who had come to the House expecting the whole Eastern Question raised should be anxious to give utterance to. But as matters went on, towards the end of the evening a natural anxiety began to manifest itself on this side of the House to know what all this meant. A natural impatience was felt at the moment by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) to know what is the course which my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, and those Members who agree with him on this subject, intend to ask Parliament to adopt; or can it indeed be true that they do not intend to ask Parliament to take any course at all? As we get on in the course of the evening we become excited by the eloquent language that we hear on different sides of the House, and unhappily we may get into a frame of mind in which expressions are sometimes used which had better not be used. Expressions are used in the heat of debate which those who use them are afterwards prepared to withdraw when they are found to give offence and pain. I think that whatever may be said upon that point the House is anxious, and properly anxious, to know whether it is or is not to be consulted on this matter. My right hon. Friend, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for 561 Mid-Lincolnshire, referred to the precedent of the National Anti-Corn Law League with regard to the conduct of this matter. Every one knows what the National Anti-Corn Law League was and is, that although it operated at private meetings and by various other ways in its endeavours to arouse and instruct the popular mind upon the question of free trade, yet it took very good care to come before the House of Commons small as the minority at first was in favour of free trade. It did not keep its arguments for free trade halls or public meetings. Members of that Association came forward like men and like statesmen, and argued the question in the House of Commons, and by degrees and by force of arguments in and out of this House. These results of which we are cognizant were produced. I want to know whether for those who have taken the leading part which some Gentlemen opposite have taken in the discussions on this question in the country during the autumn there is any excuse for not coming forward to propose a censure of the conduct of the Government on the Eastern Question. [Mr. GLADSTONE: There is plenty of time yet.] We do not want to press you—choose as early a day as may be convenient; but if you desire time it appears to me to be rather a questionable policy to employ the present time in starting a flight of questions on this or on the other point, with no apparent object but either to insinuate something which may be odious, or for the purpose of laying a trap to catch a different meaning in the answer to something in the Blue Books. That is not the way to deal with subjects of this magnitude. You are bound, if you respect your own consistency—if you have a regard to credit and honour and the interests of the nation—you are bound, I say, to do one of two things—either to challenge the conduct of the Government when they have an opportunity of answering the charges you bring against them; or you may say—"We made our charges in ignorance of the policy you pursued; we made them under a false impression; and we have therefore no intention to challenge your conduct." Will you say that? One or other of those things you ought to do. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire has given expression to that opinion in language 562 more energetic, perhaps, than polite, but it does not diminish the truth and force of the opinion which he has given. My right hon. Friend opposite implies that he has doubts about the advantage of bringing this question before the House, which he does not think will give him a majority, and he finds that for some reason or other that would be a waste of his powers. But surely this House has as much right to be taken into the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman as have the people of Taunton. There are, says the right hon. Gentleman, time-tables which tell the time at which trains arrive at Taunton station. We also in this House have a time-table, in the shape of our Notice Papers, and we shall be only too glad should my right hon. Friend avail himself of one of the opportunities which that time-table will afford him if he will take us into his confidence and tell us in what respect he thinks the conduct of the Government needs watching. He does himself injustice if he would have us believe that with his quick perception he has not mastered his case and made himself sufficiently acquainted with the Blue Books to be able to show us the general rule which he thinks it is his duty to follow. He says that the Blue Books indicates a difference of opinion between one person and another person who is responsible for these negotiations, and he told us, as he told the people of Taunton, that he desires that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government shall be scrutinized and jealously scrutinized. Sir, we do not for a moment object to the most jealous scrutiny of our conduct. We demand that jealous scrutiny. We demand it not only as a matter of justice to ourselves, but, what is of much more importance, in the interest of the country, and even in the interest of Europe. It is of the highest consequence that this country should speak with no doubtful voice. We have heard of two Russias—we have heard of two Austrias—but we do not want two Englands; and I do not believe there are two Englands. I do not say we may not have some persons who take peculiar views and who are disposed to lay greater stress on one set of considerations than on another; but I believe, if we could bring this matter to a fair issue—if we could get out of the region of inuendoes and taunts of every kind; if, instead of mere criti- 563 cal and negative arguments, objecting to this thing, objecting to that, and questioning the other, you would bring forward a statement of the policy which you think we ought to pursue; if you would give us your reasons for preferring this policy to that which you believe we are pursuing, and give us an opportunity of arguing this matter out, it would be most satisfactory to us and I believe most beneficial to the national interests. I do regret, in one sense, that this evening, which began like a lamb, should be going out in a much more tempestuous manner. But it could hardly be expected that some warmth would not be elicited in the course of our discussions. I think it would now be too late and too much at variance with the feeling and temper of the House to enter into anything like an elaborate discussion or criticism of the arguments which have been brought forward tonight, especially as we have no issue before us. I would not say that a reconnaissance en force such as this may not have in some respects its advantages if it be meant as a prelude to a more serious and regular engagement. If hon. Gentlemen have been endeavouring, as some suppose, by putting these questions and raising this discussion to see—as the common phrase is—"how the cat jumps" they will have observed what is the spirit which animates Members on both sides and have had something instructive. But I hope and trust we shall not allow this discussion to degenerate into a mere squabble of a personal or Party character; nor, on the other hand, allow it to close without this practical result—that we shall understand from those who are in the responsible position of Her Majesty's Opposition, and of my right hon. Friend who has taken so leading a part, whether they have or have not any serious intention of bringing this matter under the notice of Parliament. If they agree to do so, I can assure them we shall give them every assistance we possibly can in arriving at a conclusion.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I rise, Sir, only to say a very few words with regard to the Question which is actually before the House, as to which it is somewhat strange that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of this House, who ought, one would suppose, to have some knowledge of its Rules and Orders, should have spoken a considerable time 564 without saying one single word. The Question before the House is the adjournment of this debate, and I am rather inclined to think, after the somewhat stormy conclusion of the debate this evening, that it would be desirable that the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire should be agreed to, and that the discussion should be resumed when a more calm consideration can be given to the important questions which my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich has raised. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after a very long preamble, put to hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House the question—"What does all this tend to?" And he seemed to find it to be impossible to conceive that the questions and inquiries which have been addressed to the Government by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich could have any object unless they were intended as a foundation for future proceedings in this House. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman is very plain and simple. All this tends to what it purports to tend to, and to nothing else. My right hon. Friend has called attention to a despatch written by Lord Derby in September, which I think the House will admit contained some very grave statements and gave cause for grave reflection. Lord Derby said that a state of things might arise at any moment which would place this country in an inconvenient and perhaps a humiliating position. What we want to know is, has that state of things continued since and does it exist now? because the state of things upon which Lord Derby formed that opinion has existed, as far as we know, from that day to this. If, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, DOW, as then, our Treaty engagements bind us to support Turkey by force of arms, and if now, as then, the feeling of the country makes it impossible for the Government to act up to our Treaty engagements, why then we have been since that date, and we are still, standing now on the very verge of that position which has been described by Lord Derby as an inconvenient and a humiliating position. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us that a question designed to obtain from Her Majesty's Government assurances, whether we have stood and whether we still stand upon the verge of a humilia- 565 ting position, is a question which ought not to be put in this House except, forsooth, it is intended to lay foundation for a future Parliamentary attack? The right hon. Gentleman tells us charges have been made against Her Majesty's Government, and that we are bound to go further, and either to repeat and renew them or else to acknowledge that they were made under a false impression. I think it quite possible that Her Majesty's Government may yet have an opportunity of entering upon a full defence of their policy. But, at all events, I am not prepared to admit that those charges were made under a false impression of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. If we should refrain from challenging the policy of the Government now it is not because we admit that at a former time we were under a false impression as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but because the policy of Her Majesty's Government now is not the same as their policy was then. What did we know in August, September, October, and up to November of the policy of the Government except what we gathered from such speeches as were delivered by Members of the Government? What we say now is that the policy developed in the Blue Books, especially in the later ones, is not the policy—has no resemblance to the policy—which was developed in those speeches; and if we refrain, as we may or may not do, from challenging the policy of the Government, it is because they have listened to the voice of the people as expressed in those meetings on which so much contumely has been passed. If we do challenge the policy of the Government it is not because we think they are persevering in the Aylesbury and Guildhall policy, but because we still have some doubts remaining in our minds as to whether, if they have changed their policy, they have changed it frankly and fully. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he thought the inquiries of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) had been fully and satisfactorily answered by the Secretary of State for War. I must admit I did not think the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself with all the clearness and precision which we are accustomed to from him; and I think there are many Members on this side of the House—some to my own knowledge 566 —who have some observations to offer on his speech. Looking to the turn which the debate has taken during the last hour, it is impossible it can be resumed to-night with that calmness which its importance demands. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will best consult the convenience of the House by allowing the debate to be adjourned.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
pointed out that it would be inconvenient to adjourn the debate on the Motion for Supply, which was the only Motion before the House. A much better course, in his opinion, would be to put down the subject on the Paper if it was thought desirable to discuss it further, so that the House might know what they had to deal with.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, he wanted to know whether there would be any objection to having this debate put down on nights of Supply?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the question was, whether the House was to continue the discussion or not. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had exploded a torpedo to-night. They had come to discuss solemnly and seriously the question of what were the Treaty obligations of England. It was really preposterous to say that the House of Commons could not discuss those Treaty obligations without coming to a vote. They were matters for calm and deliberate discussion. The Chanceller of the Exchequer said, very properly, that the speech of the Secretary of State for War was conclusive. It was very natural that one Cabinet Minister should think the speech of another Cabinet Minister conclusive; but it was part of the business of the Opposition not always to think the speech of a Cabinet Minister conclusive, and to endeavour to show by argument that it was not. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire had indulged in a very irregular proceeding that night, one which, after the dressing he had received, he was not likely to repeat. He hoped such an exhibition might never be presented in that House again, and that they would not suffer from a spectacle which would not present them in an agreeable aspect to the world, which was looking upon their conduct and expecting them to act with dignity. Whatever they did he hoped they would not 567 resort to a practice of asking questions of people who they knew were not in a situation to answer them. There was a code of honour forbidding it which he hoped would be adhered to in future by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The question was, what were they to do with this debate? It did not seem to him to be a proper course on the part of the Government to say—"We have given our answer; that is conclusive, and we don't want any further debate. What you must do is to come here with a Resolution which we will vote down, and so get rid of the Eastern Question." ["No, no!"] That was what they wanted; but he ventured to say they could not vote down the Eastern Question. It was much too big, even for the Conservative majority, which for that purpose was absolutely in vain. None of their taunts and challenges would alter for a moment the course which the Opposition meant to take. They meant to submit this question to public discussion; and however much Gentlemen opposite might despise public meetings, the time was coming when, in consequence of an Act of Parliament known as the Septennial Act, they would not be able to treat those meetings with the contempt manifested by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire. There was a time when even county Members would have to face public meetings, and when the Opposition would be able to meet them. There were also odd occasions when vacancies arose when they would also have to face public meetings. He was pleased to see his hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. Samuelson) again occupying his seat below the Gangway. There were occasions when public meetings could not be treated with the scorn which the Conservative Party, with its existing majority, had treated them. Let them not, therefore, expect that upon a question of that kind they would force them to bring down a cut-and-dried Resolution in order that they might bring up their majority and so dispose of the Eastern Question. That was not a practical or statesmanlike way of dealing with the question. A question of very great importance had been raised, and the House had had a very serious statement from the Secretary of State for War—namely, that, in his opinion, we had Treaty engagements, which if we were called on to fulfil and 568 did not fulfil would place us in a humiliating position. He had a question to ask of the Government on that. How were they going to deal with that situation in respect of the English nation? It was nonsense to ask the Opposition how they were going to deal with it. That was for the Government, who had got the majority, to say. By the voice of a Cabinet Minister that evening—not a mere diplomatic despatch—they had been told that we were under Treaty obligations which if we were called upon by one or two foreign Powers to put in force we should be placed in a humiliating position. The people of England, in those meetings which were so much despised, had told the Government—"You shall not make war in defence of Turkey." When, before those meetings, had there been any declaration on the part of a Member of the Government that they would not go to war for Turkey? Why, the Government sent a Fleet to Besika Bay; and he well remembered hearing the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), who had taunted the Opposition that night with being a War Party, congratulate the Government on having sent the Fleet to Besika Bay. No; hon. Members on the Ministerial side were not a War Party now, because they could not fight the people they wanted to fight; they could not fight the people they would gladly have fought. But if nobody gave the Government an indication of what was the opinion of the country, they could hunt the game as they liked, and the hounds were then in full cry. What was the object of the Government in sending the Fleet to Besika Bay? It was said it had been sent there for the defence of the Christians; but was that the fact? Some very remarkable light was thrown upon that event in the Blue Books. Lord Salisbury found the Fleet at Besika Bay, and he, who at all events was in earnest in endeavouring to give effect to the policy which he had been sent to Constantinople to carry out, wrote a despatch in which he said—Admiral Drummond finds it necessary to leave Besika. I have requested that he may take the Fleet to Athens instead of Salonica, in order to avoid misconstruction, and to support my assertion that no assistance is to he expected from Her Majesty's Government.Lord Salisbury, therefore, took that step 569 in order to convince the Turkish Government that our Government was in earnest at the time when it said it was not going to support Turkey; and he should like to know what meaning was attached by the Turks to the sending of the Fleet to Besika Bay? Upon that point the House was not left in doubt, because it was stated in a remarkable despatch from Sir Henry Elliot, dated the 29th of August, what was the real object for which the Fleet was sent to Besika Bay. It was said it was to protect the Christians, and simple people at home thought the crews of the Fleet were to go on shore and defend the Christians if they were attacked by the Turks. That, however, was not the policy of the Government. On the contrary, their object was to protect the Christians by giving the Turks the assurance that they would have English support, so that they might not be led through panic to massacre the Christians. Sir Henry Elliot said—The knowledge that the British Squadron was at Besika Bay made them believe that they were not entirely deserted, and they did not give way to those feelings of desperation under which they would have laid waste the whole country.That was the way in which the presence of the Fleet protected the Christians, and were not those who sat on his side of the House justified, he would ask, under the circumstances, in saying that the conduct of the English Government did require watching, and in protesting against it? The charge of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire against his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich that he had caused the agitation which had sprung up throughout England, and had embarrassed the policy of the Government, was therefore absurd. In a despatch dated the 30th of August, days before his right hon. Friend had either spoken or written a word on the subject, it was stated that—The sympathy of the Russian people in the Servian cause had already reached such a height that if the war continued the Government would inevitably be obliged to declare openly in its favour, and there was not a Power in Europe to which the Porte could turn with the slightest hope of meeting with support. Public feeling in England had been so much outraged by all that had taken place in Bulgaria, that even if Russia declared war against Turkey, it would be impossible for Her Majesty's Government to interfere in her behalf. The Ministers expressed 570 lively indignation at the manner in which they had been treated by Europe.[Mr. CHAPLIN: I did not say that the agitation was caused by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich.] But was there or was there not good reason why his right hon. Friend should be disposed to distrust the policy of the Government? In a despatch of Sir Henry Elliot's, dated September 3, he said, speaking of the Turks—They are perfectly aware that they could not carry on a war with Russia with the slightest prospect of success, and yet they seem ready to risk the utter ruin it would bring upon them rather than give way to the representations of the united Cabinets of Europe.Sir Henry Elliot went on to say—As long as they could hope that, after following our advice, they had more chance of material support from us, if the necessity for it should arise, our words had more weight with them than can be expected when they believe that we should rather abandon them to be dealt with by their enemies, than interfere actively in their behalf.After such a statement it was impossible to suppose that hon. Members would not express their opinion on the policy which the Government were then pursuing. It was quite out of the question that a solemn discussion on so serious a matter as this should be concluded by an explosion of temper such as had just occurred on the other side of the House. That was not the manner in which a Government or its supporters ought to deal with a question like this. Instead of encouraging these violent attacks and outbreaks of temper on the Benches behind him, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not fulfil his high office if he did not restrain them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
With regard to the Busness of next week, there is Business on Monday and Thursday which it would be inconvenient to defer. The Universities Bill is down for Monday, and other Government Bills are to be proceeded with on Thursday. What I propose is this—that if the right hon. Gentleman opposite desires to renew this debate, it would be better to allow it to stand over with the view to its being taken on Friday next. [An hon. MEMBER: Monday.] I think it would be more convenient that it should be renewed on Friday.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
It would be a great inconvenience to 571 adjourn a debate of this importance for a whole week. It is, I think, rather early for the Government to appropriate a private Members' day. There can hardly be any urgency about the Order which tands on the Paper for Monday.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
May I suggest that the Resolution before the House is of a very indefinite character. Would it not be better to join issue with the Government on some distinct point?
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he was one of the private Members who had given way in order that the question might be brought before the House. He should unwillingly give way again unless it should be deliberately settled that the Eastern Question should be directly taken up and directly debated by the House. In his opinion, the Treaties of 1856 had come to an end. Lord Salisbury had himself torn up those Treaty engagements of the past, and taken a new departure in concert with the other Powers; and the question now was not as to the past but as to the future.
§ LORD ELCHO
It was with extreme pleasure I heard from the Secretary of State for War that the Government, as a Government, are not prepared to have recourse to force with reference to the internal administration of the Turkish Government. The speeches from the other side which I have heard and read seem to imply that they are prepared to throw this country into war for the question involved in the internal administration of Turkey. If they are in earnest the matter should be decided; if they do not mean what they say, the sooner there is an end to their speeches the better. This question should be decided one way or the other before the eyes of Europe, and in the interests of our common country some one on that side ought to come forward and test the opinions of the House of Commons upon it. If no one opposite will do that, some one should be found to do so.
said, he hoped no hon. Gentleman on that side of the House would be led to adopt the course recommended by the noble Lord. Let the House be first made aware what the policy of the Government really was. For his own part, he could not tell from the speeches of Members of the Government what, or, rather, which, was the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ EARL PERCY
desired to call the attention of hon. Members to the Question immediately before the House, which was the Question of adjourning the debate. To adjourn a debate on a question of this importance, on which no decision could be arrived at, would either simply impede the business of the country or deprive private Members of an opportunity of discussing their Motions. If the Opposition chose to raise an issue as to the policy of the Government or the effect of our Treaty obligations it could be debated in the usual way.
§ MR. ANDERSON
contended that if the Government went to the country they would find a very different result from that which so astonished them at the last Election.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ In reply to a Question as to the day for resuming the debate,
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the Amendment would now stand as the first Question when Supply was called on. It usually rested with the Government to fix the order of Business on Monday and Thursday, and it seemed to him reasonable that the adjourned debate should be taken as the First Order for next Friday.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday next.