HC Deb 14 February 1878 vol 237 cc1624-50

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


said, that before the House was finally committed to the measure, he wished to say a few words upon the position in which the House found itself with regard to this Vote. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) the other night had emptied his mind, and out of it came things both bitter and sweet, and now he (Mr. E. Jenkins) proposed to empty his head, and possibly there would come out of it elements of strychnia and aloes. They had been brought into their present position—which was one both of danger and of deplorable humiliation to this country—by an invertebrate Government upon one side of the House, and upon the other a flabby and mollus- cous set of Gentlemen clinging like limpets to the rock of the front bench; but helping in no way to give anything like backbone to the policy of England. That might be a strong thing to be said by a young Member, but he was sure in saying it he was speaking the sentiments of a large number of people in this country. It would be a deplorable and mortifying thing to run over the history of the transactions of Her Majesty's Government during the last two years. ["No, no!"] He repeated it. At this moment the country was placed in a position of the greatest danger, because there was on one side of the House a Government who, having no backbone of their own, were subject to the pressure of a section of their Party, which was holding meetings and bringing the whole of its influence to bear in the direction of an act almost of lunacy in the foreign policy of this country. The right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), for whom he entertained great admiration —an admiration which was, however, tempered with discretion—went down the other night to that arena of humanity and philanthropy, Exeter Hall, and made a war speech—a speech against Russia —towards the close of which he said that he felt there "was a spirit rising within him." He did not state at what hour in the evening this embarrassing phenomenon had appeared; or whether it had visited his head, or his heart, or what other portion of his body. But the spirit to which he had given utterance on that occasion he (Mr. Jenkins) would venture to say was not a spirit of sound sense or a spirit of high policy in relation to the interests of this country. It seemed to him that what they saw, not only on that side of the House, but on the other, was, that men seemed incapable of looking at this question in the manner that befitted Englishmen, who, conscious of their own strength, felt that they might calmly observe great international passages of arms and great re-distributions of territory, because, whenever our interests were really attacked, they knew that we should be able to defend them. As for the right hon. Baronet The spirit that he had seen might be a Devil, For the Devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape. It seemed to him, looking at the course of the movement which had taken place in this country with regard to the Eastern Question, that a spirit had taken possession of hon. Members, blinding them to the true interests of this country, and leading them to utter with respect to a friendly Power sentiments that could only excite the resentment of its people. Nor was it only among the Party of which the right hon. Member for Tamworth was an elevated type that such expressions of feeling were to be heard. There had also proceeded from the front bench expressions insulting to the dignity of the Emperor of Russia; and he asked whether at such a time as this, when delicate negotiations were going on, and questions of the utmost delicacy were arising, it was right that such speeches as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary or the Secretary for War should be telegraphed to St. Petersburg to be reported and discussed by the Russian Press? He had that evening put to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer a Question which the right hon. Gentleman had thought it not expedient to answer. He alluded to this now for the purpose of emphasizing the fact, of which he must try to speak in Parliamentary terms, that statements were made by statesmen in that House which were supposed to be, or which purported to be, statements of entire candour and frankness; but in regard to which they were afterwards obliged to admit that certain modifications and qualifications must be made. The case was this—The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day made a statement of great importance with respect to the movements of the Fleet, and read the secret instructions given to Admiral Hornby as to the manner in which the Fleet was to be employed. Well, a report had appeared in a Scotch newspaper that the Fleet had been ordered to be ready to force the passage of the Dardanelles if necessary; that the Admiral had received written instructions to do so; that the officers had been ordered to be ready for action, and had been furnished with plans of the Turkish forts and distinct directions as to the course they were to take if the passage of the Fleet were opposed. Yet anyone who had heard the words of the right hon. Gentleman must have supposed that he had stated the whole of the truth in regard to the instructions that were sent to the Fleet. The honour of our Ministers was a matter of the greatest consequence. He had seen a short time since in an Italian newspaper a quotation from one of the English journals—probably The Daily Telegraph — where the quotation was given under reserve, because it came from an English newspaper; but he trusted the day would never come when a statement would be so given under reserve because it came from an English Minister. The right hon. Gentleman told us at one time that the Cabinet was unanimous, although within 10 days we had proof that there was a grave diversity of opinion in it. He was not needlessly offering the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of making explanations. He might tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had felt, and many people felt, that such statements as these from the front bench tended in no small degree to diminish the confidence of the people of this country in their Government, and naturally to damage and deteriorate the character of English statesmen. He came now more immediately to the important question which was before the House. The other night the Government succeeded in carrying by a large majority the Vote for the £6,000,000, and now they asked that the House should consummate that action. Had anything happened in the interval since the Vote was brought forward to increase our confidence in the policy of the Government? They were reticent; we did not know what they were doing; we only knew that they had taken a step of the utmost danger, and every step they took seemed to be taken under pressure, not from the brains of the Party, but from that part of the Party which was most light-headed—that part of the Party which had seemed least to have studied the question, which was most prejudiced, and which seemed least to care about what was really just and right with regard to it. From day to day he heard hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, and also, he regretted to say, on his own side, reflecting on the action of the Russian Government simply because it was the action of the Russian Government, and as if it must therefore of necessity be unjust. For his own part, up to that moment he had felt no suspicion or jealousy of the Russian Government. Up to that moment the Russian Government had behaved with greater dignity, greater straightforwardness, and greater generosity than our own had done. ["Oh!"] Well, it was time that somebody should say that in that House. He did not say that he supported the policy of the Russian Government, but in his opinion the conduct of that Government had been more straightforward and generous than that of Her Majesty's Government. The more he considered their conduct the more he blushed for English statesmanship. It was either ungenerous, or it was inept — one thing or the other, whichever hon. Members liked. The way in which Her Majesty's Government were at this moment conducting their negotiations appeared to point to a most perilous result. Instead of striving to maintain friendship with Russia, which he believed was possible, we were only doing what must tend to excite her hostility. It could not be denied that we had. had most friendly assurances from Russia, and it was a point which yet remained to be cleared up why Her Majesty's Government had suppressed the important document which was forwarded to them by Colonel Wellesley, and which Lord Beaconsfield might have had in his pocket when he made that second warlike and insolent speech of his at the Guildhall. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get up and vindicate English statesmen from aspersions which must be injurious to their character. It appeared to him that the line now taken by Her Majesty's Government was dangerous and impolitic; that it was calculated to excite the Russian Government to hostilities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), in a speech he had listened to with admiration, and which was full of wisdom and far-seeing political sagacity, the other night pointed out to the Government what were the aims this country ought to keep in view, and said one great aim which the people of this country were determined to carry out was that of delivering the enslaved people—the subject-races of Turkey— from that bondage under which they had suffered for now nearly 400 years. The people of this country were resolved that on no account whatever should we contribute, in connection with Austria or otherwise, to limit the designs of Russia in regard to the liberation of those enslaved races. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might say—"That is not our policy;" but he (Mr. Jenkins) would, ask, how could they be allied to Austria without agreeing to carry out the designs of Austria, which were necessarily to clip and curb the efforts that were being made for the liberation of those peoples? But, on the other hand, hon. Members opposite, honestly and sincerely jealous of Russia, said of the design of Russia that it was simply to bring these people under her own control, and use them as her tools. Might he give the views of one Englishman at least upon that view. He did not hesitate to say—"Better for that part of the world that it should be entirely Russian, and that all the Slav races should be united, than that it should fall back under the horrible rule under which it had hitherto existed." His hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), in a speech of rare eloquence, talked the other day of the policy of Russia towards Poland. He knew that there was a very deep sympathy with Poland in this country. He thought it had been more sentimental than wise; but his opinion, from reading history, was that Poland was the greatest nuisance that ever existed in the centre of Europe, and that no better thing was ever done than the abolition of the Polish Government. It was an oligarchic despotism of the worst and lowest type. Of course, one felt, when one read that history, some pity with regard to it; one admitted the partition was a great crime; but his conclusion was that, after all, it was simply the very best thing that could have happened for Poland. ["Oh!"] Of course, he was only stating his own opinion, and hon. Members were entitled to theirs; but he ventured to say, at all events, whatever might be the feelings in this country with regard to Poland, Richard Cobden, in a pamphlet published in 1835 or 1836, had pointed out, that while in Poland there were no chances whatever, and no possibility whatever of reformation from a terrible system of despotism, in Russia there were even then hopes in that direction. Prom that time Russia had been improving; the Slavs were improving; and, depend upon it, whatever this country might strive to do, when the energies of 80,000,000 of people were directed to unite themselves with 20,000,000 of others who were fellow-Slavs, and who ought to be free, one might as well endeavour to stop the Thames at London Bridge with his little finger as to prevent them. If this country were to lend itself, in conjunction with Austria, to a policy which tended to check that great movement, we might depend upon it, whatever might happen in the next few years, and however successful we might be in our military or naval enterprizes the British race and Empire would have to stand face to face with those against whom we had fought, but who would not be subdued, and who would be our enemies for generation after generation. He appealed to the House whether it was worth while, because British honour had been flouted by this or that act of Russia, that they should spend £100,000,000 sterling for such a result. If the policy of Her Majesty's Government were not to join with Austria in endeavouring to limit the action of Russia in freeing the enslaved peoples of Turkey, then what did they mean to do? A very significant article, which appeared to be inspired—God knew how leading articles in the newspapers were inspired now-a-days!—in The Standard, gave notice to Europe that henceforth our Government were not going to be the cat's-paw of Europe, but were going to act simply and solely for the protection of British interests. If that were really the policy of the British Government, one would feel some satisfaction; but one would like to know what it meant. Was it possible that Her Majesty's Government had in view some great surprise for Europe—that she was going to occupy Egypt or Mytilene, or to take possession of Constantinople? Was it likely that these things would be permitted by the Mediterranean Powers without some protest? The Government were going to carry off the £6,000,000; but the House was entitled, before absolutely parting with it, to have some indication of the line of policy which they intended to carry out; and, for his own part, he was prepared to divide the House unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to give the assurance that in no case would the money be used in any way to limit the amount of liberty which was to be conferred on those subject-peoples under the arrangements made between Russia and Turkey. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not feel that he had exceeded the proper limits of criticism in the remarks he had felt bound to make on the action of Her Majesty's Government. He trusted that the time had come when Her Majesty's Government had abandoned all idea of Turkish independence and integrity, all thought of setting Turkey on her legs again, and had resolved to leave her to be treated as she deserved by the Power which had succeeded in crushing her. He also asked the Government to appeal to the country to place on the acts of Russia a more generous construction. Do not let it be said that everything done by that Power was necessarily unjust. An hon. Member came and told him yesterday, as if it were a very flagitious act, that the Russians had threatened to occupy Constantinople in the event of the English Fleet entering the Dardanelles. His reply was that they were quite right in doing so. Russia was perfectly right in doing whatever she could to secure and defend herself against the action of Her Majesty's Government, for whatever they might say about their friendship, their words had been hostile and menacing. Again and again had the kindly words of some Ministers been counteracted by the speeches of other Ministers, and by the language both of their newspapers and of hon. Members opposite. If they could only hope that the Government would not be carried away by any fear, that they would feel that Britain was strong and able to resent any hostile action that could betaken against her interests, that they might calmly await the solution of this matter, whether by a Conference or the issues of war; if they could believe that in any case England was strong to maintain her dignity and interests when really attacked, then he believed they would be able calmly to contemplate the perturbations around them, and the Government would be free to take that generous course, which was the only course which befitted the Government of England. In conclusion, he begged to thank the House for listening to his remarks, which were almost wholly unpremeditated.


Sir, I do not know whether the House would desire on this occasion to renew the general debate on this question; but, although the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee has made certain observations which might tempt one to follow him, I do not desire to do so. I only rise for the purpose of making a single observation upon that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech which seemed to bring a charge of want of candour against the Government in general, and myself in particular, with regard to the orders that were given to the Fleet. That is the sort of charge which I think should not remain unanswered. I entirely dispute the right of the hon. Gentleman to make such a charge. What happened, I think, was this—that in the course of a general speech or of remarks made in answer to a Question, I forget which, I stated what the orders were that had been sent out to Admiral Hornby with regard to the movements of the Fleet; and as to the use that it was to be put to, I stated that it was for the purpose of protecting life and property and keeping the waterway open, and I read the telegram in which those orders were given. Of course I did not attempt to give specific and detailed instructions as to how Admiral Hornby was to carry out those general orders, but I should think that the terms "keep the waterway open" would show pretty clearly that these would be instructions necessary as to what would have to be done in the event of any obstacles arising. I do not see that there is ground for saying there has been the slightest unnecessary reserve on the part of the Government in this matter, or that I omitted anything which ought to have been said. Our desire has been to treat the House with the utmost candour, and I put it to the House whether they would expect that detailed orders as to the precise course to be adopted by Admiral Hornby should have been stated.


The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) in his speech dropped an observation which leads me to make an appeal to him. He referred to a matter which I, for one, hold to be of the very greatest consequence—namely, the relations in which this country may stand to Austria with regard to the course of these negotia- tions. I know no larger or deeper question connected with the settlement of the whole of the Eastern affairs of Europe. It is one which I look upon with great anxiety, and upon which I, for one, am determined, health being spared me, to do my duty in this House if occasion arise. The hon. Member has expressed an aversion, in which I entirely and absolutely share, to any combination whatever with Austria or any other Power for the purpose of limiting the freedom to be granted to the Slavs. That is an issue, upon which, if it became necessary to raise it, we may boldly make our appeal to all classes and descriptions of Englishmen. I own that I do not feel that it would be fair to ask the Government at this moment to make a conclusive declaration upon the subject. The time has not come, so far as we know, when any considerable progress has been made between Russia and Turkey in describing and formulating fully the provisions of the Treaty as between these two Powers; and until considerable progress has been made in that opera-ration, I do not know that we should be justified in asking Her Majesty's Government for any conclusive declaration upon that subject; and, therefore, I hope my hon. Friend may be disposed to re-consider the announcement that he made, that unless he obtained such a declaration from the Government tonight he would divide the House. "We have been fairly heard upon the subject of the present Vote." We have fully laid before the country our views, and I own I am in the entire belief that our views are those of the great majority of this nation. [Ironical cheers, and cries of "No, no!"] These are my views. It is not necessary to argue in support of them at length, but I feel myself not less competent to form an opinion than some of those hon. Gentlemen opposite whose derisive cheers I have just listened to. I do not want to enter into the matter at all. I am only using it as an argument with my hon. Friend why I do not think it necessary to challenge the judgment of the House at the present time, nor will I enter upon the subject of the recent orders for the Fleet to proceed to Constantinople, nor the quasi-hostile proceeding in the face of the protest of the Porte. There will be opportunities for discussion on that subject; but there is one point on which I shall be very glad if—I do not say to-day, but on to-morrow, or on a very early day— the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give us a little information. It has been publicly stated in The Times newspaper of yesterday, and in a communication from St. Petersburg, that the Austrian Government, on or about the 30th January, had made a formal communication to Prince Gortchakoff which was in the nature of a definition of the special Austrian interests which they considered to be involved in the present negotiations. Of course it is only the statement of a newspaper correspondent, but still it is a positive statement telegraphed from St. Petersburg to The Times of yesterday. I could certainly have understood the setting forth of especial Austrian interests on many questions connected with the Black Sea, and particularly with questions as to the absolute freedom of the Danube, who is to be its custodian, and everything connected with the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. These, however, according to the statement, were not the matters put forward as special Austrian interests. The words used are these— The matters especially affecting Austrian interests were the situation in Bosnia and the Herzegovina, the territorial aggrandizement of Servia and Montenegro, and the temporary occupation of Bulgaria by the Russian troops. I would not think of asking now, independently of the fact that my right hon. Friend has spoken, for any answer on this subject; but I will venture to ask to-morrow, if that be convenient, whether my right hon. Friend is able to give to Parliament any communication on the subject of such communication from Austria to the Russian Government? I venture to hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his Resolution.


Sir, I wish to make one or two remarks on the speech of the hon. Member who opened the debate. The hon. Member went over the whole question in a speech which he informed the House was wholly unprepared. If that were the case, what must his prepared speeches be, for his language and diction were perfectly splendid? The hon. Member paid me the compliment of passing considerable eulogiums on me; but the hon. Gentleman made use of expressions for which, if his speech had been prepared, I should have called him seriously to account. I do not wish now to enter into the policy of the Government, I only wish to say a few words with respect to what has fallen from the hon. Member. I certainly did not expect to hear it laid to the charge of Ministers on the Treasury bench, by a Member of any Party in the House, that they had not considered the dignity of Russia. What they have to consider is the dignity of this country. That is their sole and only duty—while being just and fair towards other States, to consider, not the dignity of this or that Power, but the dignity of England. But when I heard the hon. Member make other remarks, I confess I was not surprised to notice the expressions with which he was greeted. Did not the House listen with shame to what has fallen from the hon. Member with regard to Poland? I venture to say there is not one man in the House who concurs with the hon. Member in thinking that Poland has been a nuisance. Sir, if the hon. Member knew anything of Poland, if he had lived, as I have lived, for two years of his life in the closest intimacy with illustrious exiles of that unhappy country, he would not have dared to make use of such an expression. The hon. Member then alluded personally to me, and to some remarks I made in Exeter Hall. Now, it is perfectly true that I did speak in Exeter Hall, and I must confess that I spoke as I thought to the enthusiastic gratification of not a packed meeting, but a meeting of several thousand persons who seemed desirous to express their confidence in the Government. The hon. Member has said that I made a very warlike speech. That is a charge often thrown out against hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. Nothing can be more unfair than to charge hon. Members sitting here with a desire for a war policy; and nothing, I am sure, can be further from the desire of the Government than to be thought to favour such a policy. I must admit, however, in common with everyone who has witnessed the proceedings of the last seven days, that I have felt considerable anxiety and alarm. Not that we wish to see this country drifting into war—on the contrary, we wish to have some certain sound of policy which may guide the Government and the country. I think the statement which has now been made by the Government, not- withstanding the hesitation of the few days, that they will consider British interests only, and that the Fleet has proceeded to the Sea of Marmora to protect the lives and interests of British subjects, shows a determination and a policy which will be hailed with satisfaction by the country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich has said that it will be very dangerous for the Government if they join in a certain course of action with Austria, and the hon. Member for Dundee, in his wholly unprepared speech, has made the same remark. I must admit that I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I have watched the policy of Austria for many years, and I recollect her conduct during the Crimean War—how she planned solely with a view to preserving and conserving her own interests. She is not perhaps to be blamed for this; but nevertheless her policy requires to be watched. History tells us how in the earliest period of this century Austria has invariably played a false game towards those States which placed confidence in her. And even so recently as during the Franco-German War, we all know how the promises by Austria to Louis Napoleon proved illusory. No one denies all this, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that great discretion must be shown in forming any connection with Austria on this question. But I believe the danger comes from another quarter—that the real root and origin of all this trouble in Europe springs from Germany. If, in the beginning, Germany had acted with a straightforward policy towards Europe, this war might have been stopped, and I am not sure that even now, if the Chancellor of the German Empire were to tell Russia that if she were to offer any further outrage to the feelings of Europe, Germany would not regard it with indifference, all difficulty would be at an end. Therefore, while agreeing with my right hon. Friend in a feeling of distrust towards Austria, I confess to even a greater distrust of the policy of Germany. I do hope, from the statements we have heard from the Government to-night, that we are not drifting into war, but that we are proceeding upon a policy based solely and only upon British interests; and I also hope from what we have heard to-night, there will be no longer that feeling of hesitation as re- gards the action of the Government which certainly and undoubtedly has pervaded the minds of very many during the past few days, that if we are not drifting into war, we are actually on the brink of war. I shall, therefore, be glad if some Member of the Government can get up and give us still fuller explanations than we have hitherto received. I think the House of Commons is entitled to it. At this most critical juncture of affairs, the Government are bound to take the House of Commons into its confidence, and to let it know really what weight may be attached to the conflicting and harassing rumours which daily obtain currency and unhinge the public mind. I trust there is no danger of our being on the brink of war; but if we are not, let us be told so. The country, I believe, is with the Government; the House of Commons is with them; all we want is that we may know at this critical juncture where we stand. No one knows better than Her Majesty's Government that the spirit of the British nation is certainly never hostile to a straightforward and honourable policy, when that policy is carried out solely and only to assert, if necessary, British interests, and to vindicate, if necessary, national honour.


Sir, I rise to call attention to a fallacy which has just been propounded by the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone). He generally does come down to the House with some new fallacy which, if not astute, is at least likely to beguile and mislead. He has just said that "he entirely and absolutely shares the aversion of the hon. Member for Dundee from any combination whatever with Austria," and that we should guard against "limiting the freedom of the Christian populations of the East." Sir, I am as anxious for the liberty, the real liberty, of the Christian, and of every other population of the East, as the right hon. Member himself can be. I am a lover of liberty, and desire that mental condition, not for our own country alone, but for all other nations also. But, Sir, the right hon. Member, in order to prove his case, must start from the assumption—although he does not express it—that the Turk is a tyrant, and that the Christian populations of the East have been oppressed by the Porte. To this I demur. On what evi- dence does that proposition rest? On the venal reports concerning atrocities, which have been written by newspaper correspondents, who afterwards boasted that they had invented those stories of atrocities in order "to write down" the Turks; reports which were speedily disproved and contradicted by our diplomatic agents in the East. I do not, therefore, accept the dictum that the Turks are intolerant or tyrannical. Yet, for argument's sake, I will grant it to the right hon. Member, so as to take him on his own ground. Now, I ask him what it is that he has all along desired? To drive out one tyrant in order to bring in a greater tyrant? That, Sir, would be the greatest possible "limitation on the freedom of the Christian populations of the East!" I need not go over the history of Russia, which, during the last 100 years, has been written in blood, and uttered in the shrieks and groans of the oppressed. I need not go back to Poland and her partition in 1772; nor to her wrongs in 1831, and in 1863. It is enough to point to the Blue Book of last year, concerning the heartrending and horrible persecutions of the United Greeks in Chelm. A brutal soldiery quartered on the inhabitants; a free use of the Cossack whip; women, and children even, flogged almost to death. Men and women and children driven by Cossacks over the snow, and through a river, up to their necks in water, and to a neighbouring church, where they were bidden, at the point of the Cossack's lance, to sign a memorial praying for admission to the Russo-Greek Church. Those who refused were martyred. One old woman received 100 blows of the heavy Cossack whip. A number were driven away from their homes, and from religious ministrations, to a distant and desolate country. The fact must ever be borne in mind that the Russo-Greek Church, with the Czar at its head, bears as bitter a hatred to the Greek Church —whose head is the Patriarch of Constantinople—as it does to the Catholic Church and to Islam. The Greek Church regards the Czar as Anti-Christ, because he claims adoration as a semi-Deity, and calls himself the infallible and omnipotent head of the Christian Church. We have all, doubtless, read in a recent Blue Book, the vehement protest, or Encyclical, of the Patriarch of the Greek Church against the invasion of the Ottoman Empire by the Czar. In that Encyclical he proclaimed, in the name of the whole Greek Church, that they would all prefer to live under the tolerant sway of the Turk rather than under the grinding oppression of Russia. In a despatch of our Ambassador at Constantinople, dated last May, the same was stated on behalf of the Armenian Christians; they prefer the Turkish sway to Russian tyranny. Yet you are content to leave Russia, in those countries, to "limit the freedom of the Christian populations of the East." You desire to see them ground to powder under the iron heel of a ruthless oppressor. You have allowed the Turk to be driven out and replaced by the Czar, who is a bloody tyrant; and this is applauded by hypocritical lovers of liberty in this House. I am indignant—


Sir, I rise to Order. I heard the word "tyrant," as applied to a Ruler who is in alliance with us, and on friendly terms with this country. I wish to know whether the noble Lord is in Order in using such an expression?


It appears to me, Sir, that it must have been from an involuntary deviation from the Rules of this House that the noble Lord has spoken of Members of this House as "hypocritical lovers of liberty."' I wish to know whether that term is in Order?


The language employed by the noble Lord was not respectful to a Sovereign who is an Ally, and friendly to this country. It is also out of Order to attribute motives to Members of this House, by calling them "hypocritical." The noble Lord will doubtless think it advisable to withdraw the expressions complained of, and I call upon him to do so.


I am quite ready to do your bidding, Sir. As to the Czar, I will withdraw the word "tyrant," and substitute any synonymous term which you may designate.


The noble Lord should withdraw the assertion altogether.


Very well, Sir, I will do so, and not say anything, in substitution, about the Czar. In using the terms "hypocritical lovers of liberty," I will not apply it to Members of this House, but only to persons who have spoken outside the House, who have pretended to desire liberty, and yet favour the despotism—there can be no objection to that word—the grinding despotism, religious and civil, of the Czar.


But you did use the term in regard to Members; you said "hypocritical lovers of liberty in this House."


Did I? Then I am very sorry that I mentioned Members of this House. I thought I had used the term generally, without pointing at any individuals. Well; but if you do not desire that the Russian power should remain in European Turkey and in Armenia, why do you cast dirt at Austria, and warn the Government to turn from "every combination whatever with Austria," for fear of "limiting the liberties of the Christian population of the East?" Austria alone protested against the partition of Poland in 1772. On January 3, 1815, Austria signed a Treaty with France and England, and combined with Turkey, with the intention of re-constituting Poland. When we were preparing to enter upon the Crimean War, I believe that Austria refused to join us except on condition that we should undertake to restore the liberties of Poland, and give them that Constitution which the Czar had contracted by the Treaty of 1815, and sworn to maintain. "The loss of Russia's western frontier territory," which Prince Albert spoke of in his Memorandum of March 8, 1855, seems to allude to it. Why, then, do you say that Austria is so averse to the liberties of Christians in the Ottoman Empire? Without Austria, how can you now do anything? Before this you might have done so; but you have let the time and opportunity slip away. Now, you can do nothing without Austria, and everything with her. Your Fleets are at Constantinople. Of what use are they there? If they are to do anything, the Black Sea is the only place for them. They are even in great danger where they are. The Straits have forts on each side, and the waters may soon be filled with torpedoes, so that your ships will be unable either to advance or to return. The Russians have been collecting a number of torpedoes and torpedo boats, and have brought thousands of sailors to the South. So you will not be able to do anything, as you cannot advance to the Black Sea. Nor will you find it easy to get back through the Dardanelles; and so you will be starved out where you are. Whether there exists a Treaty of Alliance, offensive and defensive, between the Czar and Sultan, or not, matters not now. You have allowed the Sultan to fall completely under the power of the Czar, and he must do whatever the Czar wants him to do, or else be crushed to powder, and yield his dominions to Russia. It is now either Russia, or a Russian vassal at Constantinople. Therefore, if Russia wants the Straits to be plugged with torpedoes, it will be done. Because Russia wished it, you have got your Fleet up now into the mouse-trap. Yet, whatever you do, must be done in the Black Sea. If you mean war, you must stop supplies from coming to the Russian armies, from Odessa, Sebastopol, Asia, or even across the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmora. You must stop all supplies by water. What then? You cannot land 300,000 men to cut off the Russian communications, so you must have recourse to Austria's aid, or do nothing. On the other hand, if you mean peace, then you want a Conference. Every Conference I fear. Every Conference has always ended in a limitation of the liberties of peoples. Moreover, you are always outdone in diplomacy. Yet you wish to go to a Conference, and be "strong in the voice of England." How can you be strong in Conference and in voice, when every Power in Europe knows that you are weak and helpless now, and can do nothing? How, then, can you in Conference insist on the liberties of the Christian populations of the East? How can you alone free them from a grim tyrant's grip? You can do so only if you have the help of Austria, which you repudiate; but with the help of Austria, whom you vilify, you may do all that you desire in the cause of real liberty. The same exactly may be said of Austria. Without your Fleet to stop supplies, Austria can do nothing. With your Fleet she can do everything. But if nothing is done, Austria will directly fall to pieces and be undermined by treachery; and the turn of England will come directly after.


said, he did not wish to prolong the debate, and did not propose to attack any foreign country. He had heard with regret the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins). In saying that the Russians were entitled to enter Constantinople, he believed the hon. Gentleman had not expressed the feeling of any considerable number of persons in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer correctly expressed the feeling of the country in stating that the action taken by our Fleet—as to the wisdom of which he would not express any opinion — would not in any way justify the Russian troops in entering the Turkish capital. At the same time, they must all feel that this moment was a most critical one, and nothing ought to be done without the greatest consideration. The hon. Member for Dundee proceeded to attack Austria. There had been times, no doubt, in her history, when she had not done what she ought to have done; but the same might be said of other countries. She had now a Constitutional Government. He thought we ought not to assume that the policy of Austria would be to restrict the liberties of the Christians of Turkey; but if she should hereafter adopt such a policy, then we need not join her in pursuing it. He also regretted the attack which had been made by the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) on Germany, after what he had said in defence of Austria. Our best hope of maintaining the peace of Europe and arriving at a happy settlement of that great question rested on a cordial cooperation between Germany, Austria, and England.


said, he could not vote for this Bill, because, after the declarations made that night, it seemed to him that the movement of our Fleet meant war or a very great risk of war. In fact, we had already committed an act of war by forcing the Dardanelles. We had thrown down the gauntlet and it only remained to see whether others would take it up. He would not now attempt fully to discuss the policy of the Government; but he did wish to record his deliberate opinion that our interests in Constantinople were not sufficient to justify us in taking that isolated action which might lead to war; because our interests there were not the only interests, or even the greatest interests, as compared to other European nations. We had broken the European pact, and had entered the waters which by the Treaty of 1856 were to be shut to ships of war. By this act we had imperilled the greatest of all British interests—peace—and our interests in the East were not sufficient, he contended, to justify our entering into an act of war alone without concert with the other Powers.


said, he had taken no part in the long debates upon the Vote, nor did he intend to do so now; but as the situation had been referred to, he would say a few words upon it. He would not attempt to define the situation. They all knew what it was, and they all felt it. Certainly, during the 37 years he had been in Parliament, he had never had occasion to feel as he and the nation had felt during the past few days. He did not wish to point out by whose action this situation had been brought about—whether it was the result of the action of Ministers or ex-Ministers, or persons within this House or out of it—but simply to say that our position was most critical, more critical than it had been for the past 30 or 40 years. Now, although there was a denial of the fact by some hon. Members on the other side of the House, there had been an expression of feeling throughout the country within the last 10 days or a fortnight, which manifestly showed that the common sense of the English people—of a people jealous and proud of its history, its traditions, and its Empire—had at length asserted itself, and that it was prepared to support Her Majesty's Government in whatever policy they might deem necessary to maintain the honour and interests of this Empire, and likewise to uphold good faith and public law and morality as between nations, as well as to vindicate our Treaty rights. On the other hand, he thought the nation had a right to expect on the part of the Government that, while they were as cautious and as prudent as the occasion demanded, they should not be wanting at the same time in firmness, determination, and courage; but would be in deed as well as in name the Representatives of a high-hearted, sensitive, and courageous race. In doing so, they would have the support of the great majority of the nation. If this great crisis passed away and the country went into a Conference, he hoped the Government would not have their hands too much tied, and would not sit on the Congress merely to register the ukases of the Russian Emperor. The Protocol to the Treaty of 1871 admitted that no one nation had a right to set itself free from a Treaty without the assent of the other nations who were parties to it; and in asking, at that time, for an alteration of the Treaty of 1856, the Representative of Russia affirmed, on the part of the Emperor, that it was his intention to maintain intact the conditions of the Treaty defining the position of Turkey in Europe. It appeared to him that the question of Treaties and Treaty rights had been too much overlooked and merged in that of British interests. British rights existed in those Treaties in which British interests were embraced, and it would be better, in the interests of the public and of international morality, that they should hear as much of Treaty rights as of British interests.


said, the hon. Member for Klirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) seemed to have expressed his intention to force a division.


said, he should say "No" when the Question was put; but, so far as he was concerned, he did not know that he would press for a division.


hoped that no other hon. Gentleman would take a division; for it was clear that in voting against the Bill, which affirmed a decision already arrived at with regard to a certain grant of money, they should in no sense be giving an opinion on the question raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins). Their objections to the sending of the Fleet through the Dardanelles, and to the intimation to Russia as to a possible occupation of Constantinople, were not dealt with in the question before the House; and therefore he hoped there would not be a division. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), and the noble Lord who had just spoken, said that the country had shown its confidence in the Government. It was true that the public had been appealed to in many meetings. Two had been held in London, at which resolutions professing confidence in the Government had been moved or supported by Members on the other side of the House. He wished to point out that the right hon. Baronet, in the speech which he had made that evening, had expressed suspicion and distrust of the policy of the Government.


said, he must protest against this statement. He merely said that within the last seven days there had been certain indications of indecision which had caused him and many others great pain and anxiety.


The words of the right hon. Baronet, which he took down at the time, were "distrust and alarm," caused, he understood, by want of any indication of a clearly defined policy. A meeting was held at Cremorne Gardens on Saturday which was attended by some hon. Members opposite, who protested that it was the duty of everyone to show absolute confidence in the policy of the Government; but he observed by a paragraph in a morning newspaper, which had not been contradicted by hon. Members whose names were mentioned, that many hon. Gentlemen who had been at that meeting had, within three days later, been engaged in attempting to oust the Foreign Minister from the Cabinet. Surely there was some inconsistency here. He only wished to point to that to show that hon. Members on the Liberal side had some right to say that within these few days past they had shown as much disposition, at all events, as was shown on the other side to trust Her Majesty's Government.


said, it would be remembered that, in the early part of the debate on the Vote of £6,000,000, he had expressed his opinion that it would be the right and the duty of hon. Members on the Liberal side to oppose that Vote by all the Forms of the House. But, to use the words of the Prime Minister on another occasion, a great many things had happened since then, and the most important was that it had come to their knowledge that Turkey was virtually and finally crushed. He thought they could not carry on that debate without remembering that such was the case. Therefore, the danger which he apprehended at an early period of the discussion—that this country might be led into a war for Turkey— seemed not as great now as it was then; because, if there was any intention of carrying out a warlike policy, it was clear that the war must be carried on against Turkey and Russia united; and he had too much regard for his hon. Friends on the other side to attribute to them such lunacy as would lead them to pursue a policy like that. They were all now very peaceful. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) rose, he expected to hear from him a warlike declaration, but was delighted to hear the peaceful strain in which he spoke. He thought the right hon. Baronet was a little wrong about the feeling of the country and the meetings. He doubted very much whether the meetings represented the true feeling of the country. If they did, it was a bad feeling. His hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) attended one of those patriotic meetings in his own borough, and some of the patriots robbed the hon. Member of his watch and other things. He did not think that was a proceeding which showed much respect for British interests. Before finally voting that money, he wished to say that he agreed with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the country and the House were entitled to some more definite statement, even now, of the proceedings of the Government than they had yet heard. In his opinion, the whole thing, after all, lay in a nutshell. If the Russians got possession of Constantinople, did the Government mean to fight them or did they not? Let them give a straightforward answer to that question, and they would allay a great deal of excitement and bad feeling which prevailed. Let them not commit the error committed 25 years ago, and drift into war from any want of straightforwardness on the part of the Government. He did not believe that anybody who thought over this matter wanted to fight. His hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) made one of the most eloquent speeches ever made in that House; but he felt sure, even though the speech was a most warlike one, that he was not prepared to support Her Majesty's Government if they should really adopt a warlike policy. Perhaps the Government might be very glad that speakers on the Opposition side should get up to do them good rather than harm, for a man's foes were often those of his own household. He felt some concern when he read yesterday, in an influential morning paper, a statement respecting the proceedings of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, which he would read. It was this— It may be taken, nevertheless, as an accomplished fact that the large body of Conservatives are bent on bringing a certain force to bear on the policy of the Government, and there is some reason to fear that the action has already taken effect in an invigorating sense. The gentleman who has been elected as chairman is Sir Lawrence Palk, a county Member, of good family, and great possessions. This statement threw a light on the policy of the Government. He had wished in vain to find out from the other side of the House what was the object of the £6,000,000. He saw now, however, that the Government were determined to have that large sum in hand in order to counteract the great possessions of the chairman of that committee. Hon. Members on the Liberal side would cordially support the Government against the rebels who had risen up under the hon. Member for East Devon. Again, he asked the Government to be bold, to throw aside all equivocation, and say plainly whether they meant to fight Russia out of Constantinople or whether they did not. If they said they did mean to fight, he for one, and he thought other hon. Members also, would use every means in their power to prevent them getting a penny to carry out that policy until they had put it fairly and distinctly before the country. If, on the other hand, the Government declared they did not intend to go to war, they would greatly calm the present mischievous excitement in the country, and secure the support of the Liberal Party; and he was sure that by so doing they would act much more in accordance with British interests than by adopting a warlike policy.


said, he thought it quite unnecessary that a direct answer should be given to the question which had just been put by the hon. Baronet. Everyone who saw the dispirited and broken attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that night, so utterly different from what he had exhibited during the previous stages of the measure, and the altered demeanour of his supporters, must have perceived that all intention of carrying out their threats towards Russia had been definitively and decidedly abandoned. He did not think there was any necessity for the hon. Member (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) to be the first to initiate a policy of obstruction on this subject in—dependently of the fact that the Speaker would probably order him into the custody of the Ser-geant-at-Arms as a wilful obstructionist —the necessity for obstruction had passed away. He would, therefore, advise the hon. Baronet to reserve his powers for some fitter opportunity. The Government had got their way in one respect. The Russians had beaten them, but they had beaten the Opposition. They had got their £6,000,000 and their Vote of Confidence, and, to a certain extent, had saved their Parliamentary credit in the House of Commons.


said, that when the Fleet was in the Sea of Marmora, it was time the Government stated explicitly what was the object they had in view. It was true that in the statement of last year the Emperor of Russia had declared that he would not occupy Constantinople merely for the sake of military honour, but only if it were rendered necessary by the march of events. The march of events had probably rendered it expedient, from a Russian point of view, to occupy Constantinople; and, before voting the £6,000,000, he thought they had a right to ask the Government whether they had received communications from our Ambassador, to which reference had been made that evening. He believed they were drifting hopelessly and helplessly into war, and the question was, for what purpose were they going to war? Why, against the will of Turkey, were the Government sending the Fleet into the Dardanelles? There had been no explanation of that manœuvre, but they were told they must have confidence in the policy of the Government. For his part, he mistrusted their policy, because he felt sure that it was at present undeveloped and unmatured. He sincerely trusted some Member of the Government would tell them what their policy was, and why the Fleet had been sent to Constantinople.


said, he was of opinion that the open-air meeting at Cremorne on Saturday, which was only attended by 5,000 people, showed only a small amount of interest on the part of the people of London. We were now in a very strange position, for England had committed an act of war against Turkey, and, as a consequence against Russia, as those Powers were now Allies. He would not be surprised if the British Fleet, after going into the Dardanelles, surrendered to Russia and Turkey; because he had never heard of an iron-clad being built that a cannon-ball had not got through.


said, he rose for the purpose of appealing to the hon. Member for Dundee not to put the House to the trouble of a division at that stage of the proceedings. He, like other hon. Members, felt an intense anxiety with regard to the present position of affairs, and all of them felt the responsibility that belonged to a Member of Parliament at such a time; but he was of opinion that every English interest, and certainly the interests of peace, would be better served by not continuing the debate. He entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and should be very glad if the Government were able to give more information as to their actual policy; but if they felt that they could not say more at that moment, he did not think that Members ought to interpret, or that the country would interpret, that refusal to mean that they were going to hasten the country into war. He was one of those who believed that, notwithstanding the excitement of the last two or three days, there was as yet no ground on which the country ought to go to war. And he felt persuaded that the Government, like any other Government, would not bring on the country such an incalculable calamity and commit them to a policy which, if not necessary, was wicked, without letting the country know why they took such a course. Therefore, he relied upon it that the Government would not take any such step without informing the House. He, of course, had his opinion; and, although he should be very sorry to see the Russians enter Constantinople, and though he agreed with the Government that the step which they had taken, with regard to the Fleet, whether it was right or wrong, was not in itself a justification for the Russians to enter that city, he could not allow it to be supposed that he was one of those who thought that the temporary occupation of Constantinople by the Russians was a sufficient ground for war. Upon that point, however, he did not wish to enter into a fruitless discussion. He would again strongly appeal to the hon. Member for Dundee, in the interests which he him- self had at heart, not to force the House to a division; but he must say that if the hon. Member did insist upon a division, he (Mr. W. E. Forster) should find it impossible to avoid voting for the Government, and for this reason—they had not the policy of the Government now before them, and they had not before them the question whether the Vote of Credit should have been originally asked for or not. It had, by a very large majority, been declared that the Government ought to have the money, and after that it appeared to him the logical result was that they must find ways and means of carrying out that decision. He should feel himself under a logical necessity to vote for the Government; but it must not be supposed from that that he had in the slightest degree changed his opinion as to the impolicy of the Government and their want of grounds in first asking for the Vote.


said, there appeared to be a strong opinion that a continuation of this discussion must be very injurious to public interests. Hon. Members opposite had on various occasions endeavoured to provoke sharp retorts; but he was not going to seize the opportunity which now presented itself, as others would arise hereafter. As Turkey was no longer a free agent, and was not an Ally of Russia, he denied that Her Majesty's Government had committed an act of war under those circumstances.


was of opinion that an act of war had been committed, but said he could understand the difficulty of the Government in answering at the present crisis questions as to their policy. He therefore asked the hon. Member for Dundee not to go to a division, as there would be an opportunity to take a vote on the subject when the House went into Committee or when the Bill was read a third time, and the Government might, at a later stage, be in a position to give fuller information. In deference, however, to the feelings of hon. Members, he hoped the Government would not take the Committee stage to-morrow.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.