HC Deb 28 January 1878 vol 237 cc535-82

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


Mr. Raikes, although the statement which I have to make to the Committee is one of greater importance, or, all events, one touching upon a question of greater importance, than any which has been brought forward I think I may say in my time in the House of Commons, yet I feel sure I shall be consulting the wishes of the Committee, as well as my own inclinations, if I abstain from attempting to offer any prefatory remarks, and go straight to the point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee. I am quite sure that it is not desirable for us at such a time as this to indulge in general or exciting oratory, even if I were capable of so doing, and that it is far better that at a moment which requires careful, calm, and deliberate consideration, we should endeavour to look the facts in the face, and to consider quietly and in a businesslike way the proposals which have to be submitted to us. Now, Sir, I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee that I should very shortly endeavour to sum up the present situation which appears to exist between the belligerents, and I will then make some remarks upon the situation as a European one. As regards the belligerents, I think a very short description of the situation may be given. Turkey has been defeated by Russia, and the Plenipotentiaries of Turkey have been sent to the Russian head-quarters in order to ask for terms of peace and for an armistice. They have boon received there, and a communication has been made to them to the effect that an armistice will be granted; but only upon conditions, amongst which will be this —that the Plenipotentiaries must agree to certain bases which shall form the foundation of a future Treaty of Peace. We need not question the propriety of such a demand on the part of Russia. It was one which she had it perfectly in her power to make, and one which it was not unnatural that she should make; because she might fairly argue with herself that an armistice granted without some undertaking as to the ultimate bases of peace might lead merely to a suspension of hostilities, which might, perhaps, give an advantage to her enemies without giving a prospect of an ultimate settlement. At all events, the demand has been made on the part of Russia that the Plenipotentiaries shall agree, before an armistice is granted, to certain terms which shall be the bases of an ultimate Treaty of Peace between the two countries. Well, we are aware that certain bases have been proposed, and that those bases have been taken into consideration by the Plenipotentiaries, and that they have been communicated by them to their Government. It has also been stated to us, with more or less authority, though it has not yet been officially communicated to us by either of the Powers—but it has been stated to us with some authority that the Government of the Porte are prepared to accept, or have accepted—for we hardly know which it is—the bases which have been so submitted to it. But although we received that statement some little time ago— several days ago—still, day after day passes, and we do not hear that any armistice has been signed, and we therefore naturally ask ourselves—"What is the cause of the delay that has taken place?" On the part of the Government, I am not in a position to supply the reasons for that delay. We require to have recourse to conjecture, and conjecture supplies several circumstances which may have occasioned it. Among these there are some which I may mention; but, in doing so, I do not want the Committee to suppose that they are anything more than possible reasons, and in no case must any one be taken from me as the true solution. In the first place, it must be borne in mind that there is a great difference between the terms of an armistice and the terms of a peace; that it is quite possible the terms of an ultimate peace may be agreed upon, and yet that there may still be questions as to the terms of the armistice which may be the cause of difficulties. If it be true, as it seems to be, that in several particulars the bases of peace are somewhat large and elastic, and admit of more than one interpretation, it may well be that the Power to whom they are proposed may think that it is an object of importance that those bases should be discussed under conditions which will be fairly favourable for her when they come to be discussed; and there may be terms in the armistice as to the surrender of some important fortress or some important military position which seem to her to be of a character which would put her under a disadvantage and render it difficult for her to enter into that discussion— that is to say, there might be difficulties connected with the terms of an armistice distinct from those connected with the bases of peace. Or, again, there may be difficulties in regard to the bases themselves. It may not be true, as we have been told, that the bases which have been communicated to us have been accepted; or, again, it may be that the terms which have been made known to us have been accepted—either readily or reluctantly—and yet that there may be other terms of which we know nothing, other terms which may still be in the background, other terms which may be of the greatest importance, and which may still have to be considered, before the armistice is arrived at; or lastly, it is possible that there may be some motive on the one side or on the other which may lead them to desire the protraction of these negotiations. I have now given several solutions, any of which might be suggested as a probable cause of delay. We do not pretend to be able to say which is correct; but this we certainly do see—that day after day passes in which we are always expecting to hear of the signature of the armistice, and yet we do not hear of it; and this we are now bound to consider, that so long as it is unsigned so long it is in the right of the forces of Russia to advance; and, as it is their right, so it also appears, in point of fact, to be that which they are doing. From day to day we hear of further advances by the Russian troops, now in this direction and now in that, and this both in Europe and in Asia; and I must say we await with some curiosity the time when that advance will be put a stop to by the signature of the armistice. Now, Sir, I shall have presently to make a few general observations upon the terms of peace which have been communicated to us, and of which' we know something; but before I do so I wish to guard myself, lest in any observations which I may offer on them I should unwittingly seem to be giving advice to the Porte, or giving an opinion which may guide the Porte as to the course of conduct it ought to pursue in this emergency. Nothing has been further from the desire of Her Majesty's Government, and nothing would be more contrary to their feelings now, than to give, or be understood as giving, any advice to the Porte at so critical a moment as the present; because they feel that if they did so, they would incur a responsibility which it would be altogether wrong they should incur. The Porte has not consulted us with regard to these terms of peace. The Porte has exercised its own unfettered judgment so far as the influence of other Powers are concerned. It has exercised its own individual judgment upon the course that it should pursue; and if it were to consult us, it would be impossible for us to give it advice. If we said to the Porte that it should accede to the proposed terms, it would imply an approval of them which, perhaps, we might not be able to give. If, on the other hand, we said "Reject those terms," we should take upon ourselves a great responsibility—a responsibility involving a prolongation of the war and a prolongation of the sufferings of Turkey— the responsibility, in short, of seeing her safely through all her difficulties without having to bear our part in the decision. Therefore, as things are, absolute silence, so far as the Porte is concerned, is our duty in this matter. But, at the same time, it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to avoid expressing in their own Houses of Parliament their opinion upon the terms, such as they are, which have come to our knowledge. To avoid this would be impossible under any circumstances, but it is rendered more impossible than ever by some of the misrepresentations which have prevailed with regard to those terms; because it is said that the terms of peace are of a thoroughly satisfactory character—that they are of a moderate character; that, in fact, terms, the moderation of which are a marvel arid surprise us, have been communicated to us, and that it is utterly unintelligible—accepted as we are told they have been by the Porte—how it could be for a moment in the view of the Government to suggest to Parliament that any measures of precaution, or any measures of the character which I am about to propose, should be taken. It is therefore necessary for me to make a few observations upon the details of the terms which are before us. But here I am met with a difficulty, because we have more than one statement of terms which are said to have been made. Some of them are in detail, but are not authentic, and some that are authentic do not go into much detail, and it is rather difficult for us to know upon which of all these statements we should rely. Of course, if we had an official communication, either from Russia or from the Porte, that official statement would have been sufficient to give us a text for our remarks. But we have got no such official communication, and therefore the most we can do is to take the next best communication which we have got—that, namely, made to Lord Derby by the Russian Ambassador. It was indeed, made in a form which was not official, but which was marked private; but yet it was placed in Lord Derby's hands with perfect authority to make use of it, and to give it as an authoritative, though not official, communication from the Russian Government with regard to the terms of peace which are proposed. Among the Papers which are now laid upon the Table, and which will be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow morning, there will be found at page 14 [Turkey No. 3,1878] a statement of the bases of peace communicated by Count Schouvaloff to Lord Derby on the 25th January, that is on Friday last, and these are the terms— Bulgaria, within the limits of the Bulgarian nationality, not less than that of the Conference, to be an autonomous tributary Principality, with a national Christian Government, a native militia, and no Turkish troops, except at some points to be determined. Independence of Montenegro, with an increase (of territory) equivalent to the military status quo; the frontier to be decided hereafter. Independence of Roumania, with a sufficient territorial indemnity. Independence of Servia, with rectification of frontiers. Autonomous administration, to be sufficiently guaranteed, to Bosnia and. Herzegovina; or similar reforms for the other Christian provinces of Turkey in Europe. Indemnity to Russia for the expenses of the war; in a pecuniary, territorial, or other form to be decided hereafter. An ulterior understanding for safeguarding the rights and interests of Russia in the Straits. These being accepted, a Convention, an Armistice, and the despatch of Plenipotentiaries to develop them into preliminaries of peace. Now, the remark which I have to make on these terms is this, that be they good, or be they bad, they are, at all events, conditions of a very sweeping character. With regard to the first— that relating to Bulgaria—it is right that hon. Members should bear in mind the explanation given of the term Bulgaria—"Bulgaria, within the limits of the Bulgarian nationality, not less than that of the Conference." On referring to the Conference, it will be found that this probably refers to some such definition as is given of them by Mr. Layard. That gentleman says— I understand the limits proposed for the now Bulgarian Principality are those mentioned in page 123 of the Correspondence on Turkey No. 2 (1877). They do not include Salonica or Kavala, but it can scarcely be doubted that they extend to the AEgean seaboard. That is to say, a glance at the map will show that Bulgaria, as referred to in that portion of the Conference, takes in the whole, or nearly the whole, of the centre of European Turkey. It extends, not only down to the Bal- kans, but to the south of them, down almost to the Adriatic Sea and to the port of Salonica. The case may be illustrated roughly in this way—by supposing that you were to take England and set apart a portion beginning, say, with Northumberland and Durham, going right down to Devon, cutting off Wales, and perhaps Middlesex and East Anglia, and erecting this portion so set apart into an autonomous tributary Principality. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, now, I am not finding fault with these conditions of Russia; but I am desirous for a moment of putting it to the Committee whether they are not very serious conditions, raising very serious considerations. I would call its attention, in the first place, to the magnitude of the district thus spoken of, and to its position, as completely separating Constantinople and the small portion of territory immediately adjacent to it, from all the rest of the European dominions of Turkey. Now, what is to be the position of this State? It is to be erected into an autonomous tributary Principality. Now, hon. Gentlemen who have paid attention to the details of the discussions of last year—and I suppose this includes all the Members of the Committee—will remember that there were many and very warm discussions as to the meaning of the word "autonomy," and that there were great differences of opinion between some of the great European Powers as to the kind of autonomy which ought to be established. Everybody agreed, with regard to certain portions of Turkey, that it was desirable that an autonomy should be founded; but when it came to be considered what autonomy was to mean, there was found to be a considerable divergence of opinion. A phrase was then invented which was accepted, I believe, by all parties. The phrase was "administrative autonomy," by which was meant something in the nature of a system of local self-government under the direct authority of the Sultan. But in the phrase used here, it is not an "administrative autonomy" that is referred to, but the erection of an autonomous tributary Principality. That is to say, the Principality which is to be established is to be very much in the same position as Servia or Roumania occupied before the war. That is a matter, of course, of considerable gravity, and the question would naturally arise —"Who is to be the governing Prince, and how is he to be elected? Who, in short, is to be at the head of the State?" Upon this point we have no positive information; but among other reports which have reached us, there is one which bears some appearance of authority, to the effect that the Prince is to selected by the Emperor of Russia. Under these circumstances, you will be establishing in the heart of European Turkey a Principality of considerable extent and of considerable power, ruled by a Prince who will be devoted to the interests of the Russian Government. I am unable to say whether this is true; but it is one of the reports which have reached us. [Mr. GLADSTONE: There is no official authority for it.] My right hon. Friend seems to think I ought not to mention anything except on official authority; but as we have no official authority in regard to anything relating to the subject whatever, we are as much bound to take it into consideration as any of the other terms of peace. The bases which I have been reading, and which, of course, are to be taken as being thoroughly to be relied on so far as they go, are not given to us by the Russian Government as their official statement of the terms which they propose, but they have been communicated to us through the Russian Ambassador; and while we have no reason for doubting their correctness, we have no means of knowing whether they contain the whole of the proposals of the Russian Government. Therefore, the whole question is in a way left open to us, and there are other points besides those I have mentioned which may require consideration. I now pass from that. I say nothing as to the other portions of the Turkish Empire—the parts which hitherto have been tributary, but are now to be independent—further than to point out, and I do it with reference to what I shall have to say in a moment, that the position of Servia, the position of Montenegro, the position of Roumania, the position of Bulgaria itself—though they may be of secondary interest to us—all will be found to involve questions which will affect very great interests elsewhere, which will no doubt undergo considerable examination, and may possibly give rise to difficulties which we can hardly at present calculate. There is one other point which I would just notice, but very briefly. Among the terms of peace which I have read there is one for an indemnity to Russia for the expenses of the war in a pecuniary, territorial, or other form to be decided hereafter. Upon that point I wish to say that it is hardly to be expected— everybody must have foreseen that it could scarcely be otherwise—that Russia, after undergoing the hardships of such a war, should not ask for an indemnity; but the condition is put in such a manner as to be very large, and vague, and open. Nothing is said as to its amount, and nothing is said—or rather, I should say, something which is more significant than silence is said—as to its form. Now, with regard to an indemnity which is to be paid by a pecuniary subsidy, that is a matter which rests between the two belligerents alone; no one else could have anything to say to that; but we all know very well that the financial position of Turkey is not such as to enable her to raise a large pecuniary indemnity. Then, even if it were in her power to comply with this condition, it might be the case, from the way in which the condition is framed, that Russia in deciding how she should receive the indemnity might, in short, elect to receive it in territory; or she might insist on having partly a pecuniary and partly a territorial compensation, which would be of the greatest possible interest not only to Turkey, but to all the other European Powers. I have nothing whatever to guide me in the matter, but as I have put other hypothetical cases, if the Committee will allow me, I will also put this one—not, I admit, in the least likely to occur, but showing what may happen. Russia might say that she would take the port of Salonica, or the port of Smyrna. ["Oh, oh! "] I am not saying that she will do this, I am only putting it as an extreme case. She may undoubtedly demand some territorial indemnity; and it may be of serious importance to Europe if she does. Therefore, in examining those conditions I am examining them, not with reference to any question between Russia and Turkey, to any intrinsic reasonableness or unreasonableness in the conditions themselves; but solely for the purpose of pointing out to the Committee that they do involve and must raise questions which may be of wider interest than any which simply affect the two belligerents. That is the object with which I am making these observations, for I am desirous of calling the attention of the Committee to the necessity that there may be of having European concert and counsel with regard to those proposals. There is one other, and only one other, condition in the terms of peace which I think important, and to which I shall call attention. It is the last-—the ulterior understanding for safeguarding the rights and interests of Russia in the Straits—that is, the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. That is a condition which may mean nothing, or may mean anything. It must, however, be borne in mind by the Committee that throughout these proceedings England has always declared that the arrangements for the navigation of the Straits are a matter of European concern, and a matter in which this country takes a deep interest—so deep an interest that even at the time we were declaring our intention to observe neutrality in the war—and we only reserved those points on which we thought it possible British interests might be affected—the question was not left out of sight, and we included the arrangements for the navigation of the Straits. But the navigation of the Straits is not a British interest only; it is a European interest. And I merely now mention and call attention to this condition for the same object with which I have called attention to the others—that is, to point out that those and other matters are all matters in which no separate understanding, and no sort of engagement or treaty between Russia or Turkey can be acknowledged or admitted by England, unless the other Powers are consulted, and they are made the subject of European agreement. We have expressed this opinion openly. We have expressed it to all the Powers of Europe. We hold to the view which we have taken up, which is based on the rights we have under Treaties which exist, and especially the last, the Treaty of London of 1871. I have no doubt we shall get the support of the other Powers in upholding that position; and in regard to Austria, I may say that the repeated declarations of that Power show that she entirely shares the views of Her Majesty's Government. I have gone through these conditions with the view of pointing out how largely they will affect the interests, and will, or may, rouse the susceptibilities of the European Powers; and we cannot disguise from ourselves the immense importance of questions of this kind being raised at the present moment with regard to so great a change as is going on in the direction of Southeastern Europe. The key-stone of the political system of that district is at the present moment being removed from its place. We have for a century been engaged in maintaining a certain state of things in a country which is now evidently being made the theatre of the greatest and the strongest modifications. Turkey, which has been for a considerable time a great Power in the South-east of Europe, is in danger of being dismembered. Under the arrangement which existed until recently, Turkey might have been regarded as in one of two positions. She might either be regarded as a State which was strong enough to maintain herself against any single enemy which might attack her—a State, therefore, which might stand alone upon her own basis, and which might regulate her own internal affairs without reference to the advice or opinions of any other Power; or she might be regarded as a State which, though not strong enough to maintain herself without assistance from without, yet was a Sovereign State within her own borders, and was supported by the guarantee of other and stronger Powers, with the condition implied, and to some extent expressed, that they should have a right to advise her in her relations with other Powers. Well, taking a general view of the circumstances of the last few years, Turkey may be said to have acted on the assumption that she was able to do without, and to some extent disregard the advice of, the other Powers. Gallantly, and with a spirit which—however erroneous the view she took of her own prowess and capacity—we cannot but admire, however unfortunate we may think it—the spirit of a truly gallant nation—she has contended against tremendous odds and against a most formidable Power, and though vanquished yet she cannot be said to have been in a military sense humiliated. The result, however, of her defeat, the result; of her prostration, is that a very great change must necessarily take place in the ar- rangement of that part of Europe, and as all Europe is interested in the condition of that part of the Continent and will be obliged to have a voice in the arrangement of it, it is necessary to consider upon what footing the European Powers are to moot and discuss the subject. One thing, I think, we may very distinctly say. We must not now push forward and sacrifice the Turks by urging them to fight on for the sake of purely European objects. They have suffered enough, and it would be indeed cruel to endeavour to make them suffer still more, for the sake of objects which are European rather than Turkish. Well, then, if that is the case, what is the position of the European Powers at this moment? Russia and Turkey are engaged in the settlement of an armistice which is to include the basis of a Treaty of Peace between them. The armistice, no doubt, will sooner or later be granted, and the Treaty of Peace will be discussed and concluded, and then— but, so far as we can at present see, not till then—the Powers of Europe will be called in to consider what position they will take with regard to the terms that may be agreed upon. Well, when that time arrives we may find ourselves in a position of some disadvantage, because if Russia and Turkey came to an agreement, say, with regard to the question of the Straits or any other matter of considerable importance, the agreement between those Powers and the territorial and strategic arrangements which will be made upon that agreement may give Russia such a voice in the Council of Europe as that her voice alone will prevail, and none of the other Powers will have any chance of making their voice heard. Now, those are considerations of a very serious character, and they make it necessary for us to consider what is the position and what is the policy, and what ought to be the policy of England. I do not wish to weary the Committee by going over what is now a thrice-told tale, the policy which England has adopted throughout the contest. I need only repeat in a single sentence that our policy has been that enunciated by Lord Derby in his despatch of the 6th May— a policy of neutrality, subject to the conditions which were enumerated in that despatch with regard to points affecting British interests. Since that declaration was put forth, we have strictly followed the lines therein laid down. We have observed neutrality, and have endeavoured, as far as possible, to keep a careful watch over the interests we have undertaken to guard, and have done what we could to prevent the extension of the war, and to prevent complications which it is undesirable should take place. I cannot help, at this point, saying one word on a particular point, which is of some interest, and which I think has been somewhat misunderstood—I mean the conduct which we have pursued with regard to Greece. There is an impression which prevails amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite that the influence of England has been used in some unfair and undue manner to prevent Greece from taking the course which she was disposed to take, and to keep her from going to war with Turkey. Well, when-over we are authorized to produce the Papers relating to Turkey and;. Greece— and, as I said the other day, we shall be ready to do it the moment we obtain the consent of Turkey and Groece—it will be found that all we have done has been to endeavour as far as possible to roconcile the comparatively slight difficulties which have arisen between these Powers; that, in short, there have been only differences upon points of detail, as to which we have used our good offices, as we should have done in the time of peace, and when we were actuated by a desire to prevent small sparks from kindling into a great blaze. But we have never put any pressure upon Greece to induce her to change her policy, nor have we offered any inducement in the form of bribes or encouragement with that object. The policy of Greece has been the policy she has adopted for herself, and all we have done has been to play the friend's part in endeavouring to smooth down differences of detail which have from time to time arisen. Now, I have a few words to say upon a matter to which the Question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Mure) lately referred, with regard to the course the Government has followed within the last week or 10 days, and amongst other things with regard to the despatch of the Fleet to the Dardanelles and its recall. I could not without considerable difficulty, and without, perhaps, confusing the House, attempt to go through the whole of the changes that have occurred in the political and military affairs of Turkey from day to day since the beginning of the year; but I may say generally that, since the time when the first proposals were made for peace negotiations, a complete revolution has occurred in the military situation. At the time those proposals wore made, and when Russia, on December 29, expressed her willingness to entertain them, the forces of Russia were practically on the north side of the Balkans. Plevna, it is true, had fallen, but Sofia had not yet been taken. There were many troops in the field; there were serious operations still to be performed; the season was advanced and inclement; the Quadrilateral was untouched; a defence of Adrianople was in prospect—in a word, the position of the Russians was very different from what it is to-day. All the time the negotiations have been going on, and whether the delays that have occurred have been accidental, or whether they have been intentional— whether the necessity for sending the terms of peace by special messenger, instead of by telegraph, was duo to something very extraordinary and exceptional in the nature of those terms— something far beyond what the précis now given us would seem to indicate; whet her the so are the reasons, or whether the reason was to gain time for the advance of the armies, is a question into which I do not wish to enter. I only wish to point out as a matter of fact that the delay which has occurred has given the Russians an advantage, and has very materially altered the military situation in Turkey. And not only are the relations of the Russian to the Turkish Armies different, but it is a question into which it is necessary for me to enter as far as regards the relative conditions of the belligerents and the effect which may be produced upon the terms of peace which the Russians may demand on the one hand, and the Turks must agree to on the other. I draw attention to it for different reasons, and I wish to point out what was the relative position of the Russian Force at those points which we had expressly reserved as points to which attention had been directed, and in which British interests wore involved. We have constantly been told— throughout all these proceedings, when we have spoken of the reservations we had made in the despatch of the 6th of May—we have been constantly told— "These reservations are all very fine, but they relate to those interests which are least likely to be affected." "Nobody," we are told, "thinks or dreams that the Suez Canal will be interfered with, or Egypt, or the Persian Gulf," and it was a common remark—"Nobody supposes that Constantinople or the Dardanelles is threatened." Now, with regard to Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and the Isthmus of Suez, I need not say anything at present; but in regard to Constantinople and the Dardanelles our anxiety could not be altogether set at rest when we saw the Russian Forces advancing as rapidly as they did towards those points which were vital to those places. From day to day we received information —first, that Sofia was taken; then, that the Servians had effected a junction. Then came the important news that the Shipka Force had surrendered, with a large portion of the flower of the Turkish Army; and lastly, on the 10th of January, came the news that it was not intended to defend Adrianople. Events, in fact, were marching with a rapidity enough to take one's breath away, and at the same time came the news from one quarter and another as to the inadequacy of the defences of the lines of Boulair, the defences of Constantinople in the event of an advance upon Gallipoli, and the probability of a rapid advance being made upon the key of the Dardanelles. When those matters came to be considered, and we know what was going on, we thought it right to place our-selves in communication with Russia on the subject; and with regard to Gallipoli in particular we made a certain declaration which I will road to the Committee. But before I do so, in order to make it clear, it is necessary that I should refer to something which took place a short time previously, as far back as the 13th of December. The Committee will bear in mind that the despatch of Lord Derby in May last was a despatch communicated to the Russian Government, in which several points were laid down, the infringement of which by Russia would affect British interests, and, amongst others, the possession of Constantinople was referred to as being a matter vital to British interests. The reply of the Russian Government to that despatch was to the effect that the acquisition of that capital was excluded from the views of the Emperor, and that its future must be considered a matter of common interest. But there was nothing in the reply of the Emperor which indicated that he would not, if necessary for his purposes, occupy Constantinople temporarily, and the question was left open from that time until December—it being understood that we had the distinct assurance, on which we could implicitly rely, of the Emperor that it was not his intention to acquire Constantinople; but we had no pledge that he would not temporarily occupy it for military purposes. It appeared, however, to Her Majesty's Government in December last that inconveniences and dangers might arise even from the temporary occupation of that capital; and accordingly, on the 13th of December last, Lord Derby sent to Count Schouvaloff a despatch in which, after recounting the provious Correspondence, the noble Lord went on to say— While appreciating the courtesy and friendly character of this answer, Her Majesty's Government feel that it does not sufficiently meet the dangers against which they desire to guard. They are strongly of opinion—an opinion which the course of events tends still more to confirm—that the occupation of Constantinople by the Russian Forces, even though it should he of a temporary character and for military purposes only, would be an event which it would, on all accounts, be most desirable to avoid. They cannot conceal from themselves that if such an occupation appeared imminent, public feeling in this country, founded on a just appreciation of the consequences to be apprehended, might call for measures of precaution on the part of Great Britain from which they have hitherto felt justified in abstaining. It is with the view of avoiding what might endanger seriously the good relations happily-maintained between the two countries that Lord Derby has been charged by the Cabinet to express to the Russian Government their earnest hope that, should the Russian armies advance to the south of the Balkans, no attempt will be made to occupy Constantinople or the Dardanelles. In the contrary event, Her Majesty's Government must hold themselves free to take whatever course may appear to them necessary for the protection of British interests; but they sincerely trust and confidently believe that any such necessity will be averted by mutual understanding between the two Governments. In making this communication they think it right to add that they will be willing, as they have been from the first, to avail themselves of any suitable occasion that may present itself for assisting in the work of mediation and in the restoration of peace."—[Turkey, No. 3 (1878), p. 1.] An answer to that communication was received on the 16th of December. It was a communication from Russia sent to the Russian Ambassador in this country respecting the assurance of the Emperor. [Cries of "Bead!"] The despatch is in French, and it does not contain any expression of opinion at once; but it communicates a Memorandum, which Memorandum is to this effect— An acquisition of Constantinople is not now comprised any more than before the war in the intentions of His Majesty the Emperor. His Imperial Majesty continues to consider the destiny of that capital as a matter of common interest which can only he determined by a general understanding. His Imperial Majesty also holds equally to the opinion that if the possession of Constantinople should arise, it should not belong to any of the Great Powers of Europe. His Majesty the Emperor, at the same time, considers that it is his right and his duty to oblige Turkey to conclude a solid and real peace which shall offer effective guarantees against the return of the crises which disturb the peace of Russia and that of Europe."— [p. 3.] It goes on to say that for that purpose it is necessary that the Russian Forces should continue to advance, and it adds that— if the obstinacy or the illusions of the Porto should oblige His Majesty to continue military operations, His Majesty will reserve to himself that full liberty of action which is the right of every belligerent. It further states that after the formal assurances which Russia has several times given, and which she now repeats, His Majesty cannot understand how the interests of England, as defined in the communications of the British Government, can be affected by the course which His Majesty is pursuing; and, finally, it asks Her Majesty's Government to state what are the interests of England which they deem likely to be so affected, in order that His Majesty may endeavour to reconcile them with those of Russia. Nothing could be fairer—nothing could be more friendly than that communication; but it left the point where it was. It left it still open to Russia, and apparently indicated that it might not improbably become the duty and the policy of Russia to advance to Constantinople. I make no complaint against Russia on the subject; she was under no engagement to us contrary with respect to it. We had asked and she had given us an undertaking that she would not acquire Constantinople; but she had expressly reserved her right to occupy it temporarily if it should be necessary for her to do so for military purposes. I make no complaint, therefore, against Russia with regard to the terms of this Memorandum; but I say that it may become the duty of England to watch over the action of Russia with respect to Constantinople, and, having so distinct a warning, we were necessarily obliged to consider what might possibly be coming. We have always felt, and it has been one of the great difficulties we have had to contend with throughout the whole of the war, that we must take no step that would have the effect of encouraging Turkey to expect assistance from us which would not be rendered; and, therefore, it was that we found it necessary to abstain from making public any of these communications, because had we done so, we might have given Turkey the idea that she had but to withdraw her Forces and to tempt Russia to attack Constantinople to secure for herself British assistance. We were not prepared and we did not intend to offer her that assistance, and therefore we did not make the nature of these communications public. But in answering the communication from Russia, we were bound to point out to that Power what it was that made us so jealous of even a temporary occupation of Constantinople by her forces. Observing that, in the meantime, the Russian forces were advancing, and that they had not only obtained possession of Adrianople, but had advanced far beyond it, and were marching in the direction of Gallipoli, and that there were rumours that they might shortly reach that important point, we thought it right in a despatch, dated the 12th of January, to state— In answer to the inquiry contained in the last paragraph of Prince Gortchakoff's Memorandum of the 16th of December, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that any operations tending to place the passage of the Dardanelles under the control of Russia would be an impediment to proper consideration of terms of the final settlement between Russia and Turkey. That is to say, that Russia, seated at Constantinople, and holding the key of the Dardanelles, might gain such an important advantage in the discussion of terms, that we might be unable to meet her on a fair and equal footing. Ask Prince Gortchakoff whether he is willing to give assurance to Her Majesty's Government that no Russian force shall be sent to the Peninsula of Gallipoli."—[p. 4.] That communication was made to Prince Gortchakoff, and in reply we received a telegram from Lord Augustus Loftus to this effect— On receiving my note, Prince Gortchakoff deputed Baron Jomini to call on me as the hearer of a verbal reply, which was to the following effect:—' The Russian Government have no intention of directing their military operations on Gallipoli, unless' "—[p. 6.] [Laughter.] But this is important. I do not desire to imply that there was anything wrong in that statement, but to call attention to it for a reason which you shall hear in a minute. The statement proceeds thus— unless the Turkish regular troops should concentrate there. Nothing could be more reasonable than that—at all events, it is perfectly intelligible—Russia might well say—"We give you the promise you desire, that we will not direct our attacks against Gallipoli unless our enemies are concentrated there, and that it is necessary for military purposes that we should attack them." They further hope that, in putting the question, Her Majesty's Government do not contemplate an occupation of Gallipoli, which would he a departure from their neutrality and would encourage the Porte to resistance. In answer to that communication we replied, by a despatch dated the 21st of January, to this effect— Her Majesty's Government are glad to receive the pledge thus given by the Russian Government that they have no intention of directing their military operations on Gallipoli unless Turkish regular troops should concentrate there. You are authorized to inform Prince Gortchakoff that Her Majesty's Government do not, under present circumstances, contemplate any occupation of the position in question."—[p. 11.] So matters rested at that time; but, as I was remarking, the Russian advance continued, and not only did that advance continue, but the movements of the Turkish troops began to take a direction which caused us still more anxiety, and it appeared that Suleiman Pasha was retreating in a direction which might very possibly bring him to Gallipoli; and that, therefore, circumstances might lead to a state of things in which the Russians might, within the terms of their engagement, be free to direct their attack upon that place. That was a moment, no doubt, of considerable anxiety to the Government of this country. We had, at the time we gave that warning, thought it right to inquire whether the Sultan was disposed to permit our Fleet to enter the Straits if such a movement should be necessary; but the Sultan did not encourage that idea, and accordingly, it was laid aside. On the 19th of January, however, the Sultan asked us to take the step, and orders were sent to the Fleet to move to the entrance of the Dardanelles, to be ready when necessary; and then we found things were in this state—on the one hand, the Russians were advancing with great rapidity on Gallipoli, and it seemed possible that they might direct their course towards this quarter. On the other hand, there was great alarm at Constantinople at the advance, and it was not impossible that tumults might have arisen in the town which would have endangered life and property. Under these circumstances, for the sake of keeping the waterway open, and for the sake of protecting life and property at Constantinople if tumults should arise, we thought it right to direct the Fleet to proceed to the Dardanelles. We accordingly did so, communicating the fact to the Porto, and requesting the Sultan, whose invitation we considered to be still in force, would send the necessary permission to the Fleet. Accordingly, he sent a firman to admit the Fleet into the Dardanelles. The Fleet was ordered to sail for this purpose on Wednesday evening, the 23rd instant. On the following day, I came down here for the purpose of giving Notice of the Vote which I am now about to move. At that time we knew no more than we had known for a long time past, of what was proceeding with regard to the negotiations, and we still supposed that those negotiations were entirely hanging fire, and that it was impossible to say how long the delay, which had now lasted something between three and four weeks, might be prolonged, and what might occur in the meanwhile. It was, therefore, with a view to protect those interests in the meanwhile that we felt ourselves in a position which required us to take that step with regard to the Fleet; and it was under that view, among other considerations, that I came down and gave Notice of this Vote. But the same even- ing, and late that evening, we received a telegram which was not altogether of an authentic character, and which has proved in some particulars not to be entirely accurate, from our Ambassador at Constantinople. It contained the terms of peace as far as he had boon able to ascertain them. They were to this effect —A pecuniary indemnity; a guarantee from Turkey for payment of the indemnity in the shape of territory in the east of Armenia, including Batoum, Kars, and Ardahan; the fortifications of Erzeroum to be destroyed; Roumania to be declared independent; and so forth. Finally, the question of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to be settled, as the telegram to us said, between the Congress and the Emperor of Russia. "Such," said our Ambassador, "are the conditions which are proposed," and such was the message as it came to us; and it was entirely in accordance with the expectations which we had been led to form— that this question of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus would be reserved by Russia for discussion between the Europoan Powers generally, and would not be made a matter of separate discussion between Russia and Turkey. It appeared afterwards, however, that there was an incorrect transmission in the telegram, and it was corrected the following day; when it appeared that the question was to be settled not between the Congress and the Emperor, but between the Sultan and the Emperor of Russia. That was entirely in accordance with what we now understand to be the aim of the Russian proposals. We have received from other quarters more or loss information which throws some light upon it, and I believe I may state now without the slightest doubt—indeed, I state it on my own personal authority —that I know that the intention of the Russian proposal was that the question of the Straits—that the ulterior settlement for safeguarding the rights and interests of Russia in the Straits should be an understanding to be arrived at separately between Russia and the Porto; not, of course, excluding—because Russia could not exclude—the Powers from consequently discussing the settlement of those terms; but as between those two Powers, providing a separate arrangement could be made. So that the result would be that whenever we come to the discussion—whether in a Conference or Congress—the Porte, if her Representatives were admitted, would be precluded from taking an independent part in the discussion, and would be bound to give her voice in the way she had already agreed to do with Russia. That is a danger which we have always thought ought to be guarded against. But, as I say, the only communication which had been made to us having been received here in the form in which it came to us—namely, that the arrangement was to be made between the Congress and the Emperor, and not between the Sultan and the Emperor—we took a different view of the matter; and understanding from the form of the telegram, that the Porte had accepted, or was ready to accept, these terms of peace, we considered that our sending up the Fleet was no longer necessary; because if the Porte had accepted the terms of peace on the basis of the armistice, it was, of course, to be presumed that there would be no further advance of Russia against Constantinople, and that there would be no danger of the tumults we had apprehended. And if the question of the navigation of the Straits was to be reserved for the consideration of a Congress, there was not the occasion which we had before imagined for the Fleet to go in and keep the waterway; and it was for that reason that we sent a counter-telegram, by which the Fleet, which had. been ordered to call for orders at the entrance of the Dardanelles, was stopped, and returned from the point it had reached. That is the history which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, I believe, wishes mo to explain to the House; and it explains the ground on which that rather unintelligible movement was made. I hope I have made the meaning as well as the order of it clear to the House. Although we knew it was a strong step, and one capable of being misunderstood and misrepresented, still it was a stop which, under the circumstances, as we then understood them, we felt bound to take in order to preserve those interests which are not our own merely, but which are European also, and in order to prevent the effusion of blood and loss of property which might have been consequent on a further Russian advance. But when we believed that the necessity for such a step had passed away, when we found that the terms of peace had been practically accepted, and when we found ourselves coming after everything had been settled, we gladly and most readily recalled the Fleet which had been despatched. The Sultan had given an order, the firman was there, and the Fleet had entered the Dardanelles; but on receiving the order of recall, the Fleet returned to the outside of the Straits. It has been said—and it is one of the errors which have been much dwelt upon of late among the public—that we recalled the Fleet because we understood that satisfactory terms of peace had been offered by Russia and accepted by Turkey, and the question was asked— "If we had ourselves felt that the terms of peace were satisfactory, and that the necessity of sending the Fleet had so passed away, how could it be consistent with that view to persevere in moving the Vote which we are about to ask for to-night? "Sir, the two cases rest upon different grounds. The question of sending up the Fleet for the purpose of keeping the waterway, and of protecting life and property at a particular place was a question of the moment; the question of the attitude which England has to take in the Council of Nations which must shortly be expected is not a question of the moment. It is a question whether we are or are not to go into that Conference armed with the strength of a united nation, and whether we are or not to be able to speak with the voice of England as that voice ought to be heard. We hear a great deal that is very painful to hear with regard to the position—and, as some will have you believe, the humiliated and degraded position—of England. I believe myself that all this language is false—that it is as mischievous as it is false. England is not a weak country. I would challenge a comparison between the strength of England, and the strength of any other country you like to name; try it by what tests you please, and I say this, that England will come out second to none. There are points of weakness, no doubt in England; but we have great wealth, we have a great and well-appointed Navy, and we have a small but very well-appointed Army—an Army capable of great and rapid movements, and of quick and easy increase; we have positions which are of the utmost im- portance; but, above all, we have the support of a people who are by constitution and temperament the lovers of freedom, the supporters of all that is noble, and who are ready at any time to shed their blood and expend their treasure in any cause they believe to be right. It is not because England frequently desires peace rather than war; it is not because England is slow to draw the sword, and is quick to discover any other means of advancing the interests of which she has the charge, that anyone is to be allowed to suppose either that England has no strength, or that she is afraid to use the strength she has. My belief is that, if put to the test, and roused as we might be, our strength would be found as great or greater in proportion now than it has been in former times. But, Sir, I feel there are certain sources of weakness which we must not conceal. It is a great source of weakness that we should have among us those who perpetually go about decrying and making light of the power and the spirit of the country. I am not one of those who attach great importance to what is called prestige, or who would go and engage in the expenditure of blood and of treasure for the mere purpose of keeping up the glory of the country; but what I think is even worse than the attempt by such means to increase and maintain a false prestige is the deliberate attempt to damage and destroy the proper prestige of the country. I venture to say that if by courses such as those we see on the part of some who ought, I think, to know better—if, by the course taken by such persons, England should be by degrees forced into a position which she would at once feel in her inmost heart to be a position of real humiliation—if England should once believe that she is affronted and her interests really and seriously attacked, depend upon it there would be a re-action from that feeling which would require that the humiliation should be wiped out, and wiped out in a manner we should all regret. It is not the cause of peace that is promoted by language of such description. ["Hear, hear! "] It is not the cause, of peace that is promoted, if you are perpetually telling everyone that your country is afraid to go to war—["No, no! "]—that she is too weak to go to war, that she is too divided to go to war. ["Hoar, hear! "] [An hon. MEMBER: Name!] I most respectfully decline to give names; but I would say this—that I rejoice to hear from the expression that I gather from all quarters of the House, including that from which the rather indignant cry of "Name!" proceeds, that I am expressing the sentiments, not of a Party, but of the House of Commons. It is that that we wish to ascertain. We wish it to go forth clearly to foreign countries that on one point, at all events, there are no differences of opinion. There may be differences of opinion as to whether this course or that course is the right one to take—there may be differences of opinion as to whether this interest or that interest is worth the expenditure of blood and treasure; but as to this I venture to say there is no difference—there is no difference among Englishmen that when they are satisfied as to the cause, and when they are satisfied of the importance, of entering into war—the hand of England is not shortened, and the heart of England has not grown timid. I do not desire, Sir, to pursue language of this kind; but I am glad I have strayed for a few moments into the few sentences which seem to have evoked so general an expression of opinion—an expression which, I venture to say, will be heard and do good far beyond the walls of this House. I will resume my argument only to say that if this is the position of England—if this be the real feeling, if this is the mind and wish of the English people—let us, then, when we go into the Council of Nations, be in a position to show that it is so. We are asked—"Why are you asking for this Vote; what is the object you are going to apply it to?" Sir, we ask for this money, not necessarily that that money or the greater part of it should be expended at all, provided you give us free leave and authority to expend it if we think it necessary. We have shown, I think, by our conduct that we have not been disposed, though the accusation has from time to time been made against us, to lead the country into a war from which the country would have shrunk— shrunk not from the fear of danger it might have led to; but because it would have been a war into which they could not enter with a clear conscience. But we desire that if you believe the sin- cerity with which we ask your assistance, you should show your confidence in us by enabling us to use the force of England if the force of England it should become necessary to use. As I have said, the strength and power of England is as great as it ever was, and will stand comparison with the strength of any other Power. But you must bear in mind that the strength of England can only be measured by the power you have to make use of it. Where is the weakness of England? The weakness of England is, no doubt, in the great extent of her Dominions. If the great British Empire were concentrated, as the Empires of Russia, Germany, and France are concentrated, no doubt everyone would at once see the immense strength and power which that Empire would, possess; but, in the long communications we have to guard, in the necessity we have to look after the security of our line of communication with our distant Colonies, it is, of course, rather upon our Fleet than our Army we must rely; it is upon our naval superiority, our maritime ascendancy, we must place our trust; and it is because of our great anxiety lest the changes that are taking place, or that may take place, in the East of Europe may endanger our maritime communications, and may make, it necessary to spend larger sums in the maintenance and protection of our line of communications, that we are desirous of taking precautions for their proper security. We have, as I have already all ready said, a well-appointed, though a small Land Force. That Force could never be of use, unless there should be the means of moving it as required. Everybody knows that as well as we do. Everybody knows also that, although we have brave men at home, who could, in concert with our Navy, protect those interests to which I have referred, unless you are able to place that Force wherever it may be required it would be of no avail. Everybody also knows this—that unless you have the support of the Parliament and the country of England you have no means of supporting with energy and vigour anything you undertake. Now, we are shortly, no doubt, to be parties to the great settlement that must before long be attempted. It is desirable—we consider and. believe it essential—that in entering into this Council we should be able to speak with the firm voice that will belong to those who not only represent a free and great and wealthy nation, but represent a nation that has confidence in them, and which will support them in whatever steps it might be necessary for them to take—we desire that we shall be armed by you with the means of so going into those negotiations. We go, we should propose to go, with no desire whatever of using force; it is not for that we ask it at all, but we desire to go armed with this, which would be, not only a Vote of Credit, but a Vote of Confidence, entitling us to speak as we should wish to speak in the Councils of Europe. If you decline to place that confidence in us, well and good; it is for you to say. We must accept your decision, but under the circumstances it would be impossible we could administer matters of so much importance any longer. We ask you to give us this Vote which we now demand with full confidence that we will not make a bad use of the trust you repose in us, and We ask you to give it to us in the full assurance that such a step on your part will not lead to the danger of war; but, on the contrary, will be the wisest and most efficient step you can take for the maintenance of peace. I am tempted before I sit down to repeat in this House a few words which I hoard this morning from a foreigner of distinction—one who is not likely to take an unfriendly view towards Russia in this matter. He said—"I think what you are about to do this evening is a wise action and one that will be advantageous for the interests of Europe. We all want to be taught the lesson of prudence, and no one will be listened to unless he is strong." The right hon. Gentleman concluded by formally moving the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £6,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, beyond the Ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may he incurred, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878, in increasing- the efficiency of the Naval and Military Services at the present crisis of the War between Russia and Turkey.


I need not say, Sir, I do not rise to make any observations on the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the arrangement which was made at an earlier period of the evening is a convenient one, and that any discussion which takes place had better be confined to matters of explanation; which, however, from the very clear statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I think will be hardly necessary. I rise for the purpose of making an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say he was anxious that the debate should be resumed to-morrow. Now, I was not willing to make any protest against that proposal at the time; and, in fact, the other day, when I had some conversation with the right hon. Gentleman, I said that if money were urgently wanted for the necessities of the Services, it would no doubt be hotter perhaps that the question should be decided without delay, and that we should proceed at once to a discussion of the proposals of the Government. But the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman, based as it is upon Papers which he has read and which are upon the Table, but not in the hands of Members, has put the matter, I think, in a totally different position. The right hon. Gentleman has very frankly stated to the House, what was apparent to everyone in the course of his speech, that the Vote which has just been proposed is the form in which the Government have decided to ask this House to pass a Vote of Confidence in them. That Vote of Confidence is based not only upon the declaration now made by the Government, but also upon their past conduct in various particulars, which have only now for the first time been unfolded to the knowledge of the House. The Papers which the right hon. Gentleman read do not appear to be voluminous; but still, if we are asked to pass a Vote of Confidence—a Vote of Confidence in this form, and based upon these Papers—in Her Majesty's Government, I think it is only respectful to Parliament that Parliament should have an opportunity of deliberating for more than one or two hours upon the real nature of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot conceive that the public service would suffer if even we should all agree that this discussion should not be proceeded with before Thursday. I cannot but think that, upon reflection, Her Majesty's Government will see that this, even to themselves, will be the most satisfactory course. Surely it would not be satisfactory to the Government to obtain a Vote of Confidence from this House based on an ex parte statement and imperfectly considered Papers? If they require a Vote of Confidence, they require a Vote of Confidence which is given deliberately and after full consideration. I cannot, therefore, but think that the course I suggest is so reasonable that he will recognize the necessity of agreeing to it.


Following the example of the noble Lord, I will not now enter into a discussion of the very serious question before us; but I want to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not wish to interfere with the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, although I was much tempted to ask for a particular explanation, and I hope he will be able to give it. He stated that the Government sent the Fleet into the Dardanelles with two views. One was to keep open the waterway—I do not very well understand that —and the other was to prevent tumults, disorders, and perhaps great loss of life which might possibly occur at Constantinople during the excitement in that city under the impression that the Russian Armies were near. But I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, at the time when a communication was made to the Sultan that the Fleet was going into the Dardanelles, and that, the English Government wished it to go there, any communication of a like character was made to the Russian Government? I ask the Question because it appears to me, if the object of sending the Fleet there was only that which the right hon. Gentleman explained to the Committee, that the Russian Government, in all probability, would have been quite willing to concur in that arrangement. No doubt the Russian Government is just as anxious as our Government is—and I believe both Governments are equally anxious on that point—that there should be no tumult, or disorder, or sacrifice of life in Constantinople. The right hon. Gentleman will see that there is no reason why the Russian Government should not concur in that step; and, if that had been done, it would not have been in any degree a menace, nor would it have produced the excitement which has unfortunately been caused by it in this country. Another point is this—I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's observations that it is intended that this Vote, if it be consented to by this House, is not to be expended for the purpose of interfering by any military force in the contest between Russia and Turkey. That, I think, is to be understood. If that be the case, then I should like to have a fair explanation whether it is necessary that England should go with shetted cannon and revolvers into a consideration of this great question with the Plenipotentiaries of the various Powers in the Conference which is intended to be held. I think we have a right to know that. I am not now objecting to the Vote, or advising the Committee as to its duty with regard to it; but I think we have a right—and the people of this country have a right—to know clearly and distinctly what are the real and ultimate objects of the Government in the proposition they have submitted.


Sir, I only wish —or at least I principally wish-—to add one very easy, and as I think simple Question to the Questions put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. It relates to point of interest on which I hoard with surprise what fell from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his enumeration of and his comments upon the presumed, or I may say the proposed, bases of peace. He said he had heard a rumour that there was to be a Prince of Bulgaria, to be chosen by the Emperor of Russia. I certainly listened with great surprise to that statement. Would my right hon. Friend kindly toll us what source that rumour came from? Was it transmitted home from Constantinople? I am very desirous of having in my hands the best possible means of putting a fair value on the rumour; and if I learn that it was sent home from Constantinople, I shall know pretty well what it is worth. With regard to the question raised by my noble Friend, I would venture to say one word in support of what has fallen from him. I came down to the House under the impression that we were to be asked simply for a military Vote, based on considerations connected with military subjects, and I own that I was entirely prepared to have gone forward with the debate to-night on that issue. But my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer has himself greatly widened the area of the debate. He asks for this Vote as a Vote of Confidence in the Government, and as a Vote of Confidence in the Government on the ground of the conduct of the Government in relation to this Turkish question all along. Well, Sir, it is a serious matter, even with respect to the length of the debate—and it is an extremely serious matter in other points of view—for us to determine how far it is necessary for us to enter upon that wider ground; and I put it strongly to my right hon. Friend that, if we are to be challenged to a debate the ground of which is to rest ultimately on our opinion respecting the conduct of the Government during the long and complicated transactions of the last two years and a half, we ought not to be so challenged at 24 hours' Notice. I do not speak of it as a question of convenience or inconvenience, but upon much higher considerations. I think he will feel that my noble Friend's appeal is a just and reasonable one.


Mr. Raikes—The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not, I think, treated the House quite fairly in making this Vote of Credit a "Vote of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government." I am ready to vote as much money as the responsible Advisers of Her Majesty think it right to ask, and to vote it without delay, for defending the honour and the rights of Great Britain. But I am not prepared to endorse all the past acts of the Government, nor to express my entire confidence in them for the future. I will go farther than this, and say that I consider the whole House is pledged, by the Address on the Queen's Speech, to vote these Supplies at once. The words in the Address, which the House unanimously passed, were these— We thank your Majesty for informing' us … that your Majesty cannot be blind to the fact that, should hostilities be unfortunately prolonged, some unexpected occurrence may render it incumbent upon your Majesty to adopt measures of precaution; that such measures could not be effectually taken without adequate preparation; and that your Majesty trusts to the liberality of Parliament to supply the moans which may be required for that purpose. By voting that paragraph, Parliament committed itself to three things—First, to the possible necessity of armed inter- vention, by Great Britain, in the East secondly, to the Ministerial announcement that the Vote of Credit would be asked for before the unexpected necessity should arise, because the object of the Vote was stated as being to make "preparation" and to "take measures of precaution" against an unexpected danger; and, thirdly, to the expressed intention of the Government to act motu proprio, and without consulting Parliament, whenever they should deem it necessary to take precautions against such a danger. I am, therefore, ready to grant the necessary Supplies to Her Majesty for that object. But I am not ready to pass a Vote of Confidence in the present Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer concluded his speech by asking for a Vote of Confidence; but he began it with very numerous assertions of ignorance; such as that "he had no positive informanion"; that he was "ignorant of the bases of peace"; that "he did not know whether the bases had been agreed to by the Porto"; that "he was not aware whether an armistice had been signed"; that "he had no official communications from either Russia or Turkey upon the subject"; and so forth. Yet he calls upon the House to place confidence in such a Government! To me, the concealment of all these negotiations from the British Government reveals the contempt in which we are held by Russia, and by all Europe; and the irritation and hatred which our conduct has engendered in every Mahommedan breast. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned the "protracted negotiations" and the "unaccountable delays" in commencing and carrying on the negotiations for peace; and he attempted to assign causes for those delays. It seems to me that he has omitted all explicit mention of the one true cause—although, indeed, it appeared to crop up continually throughout his speech—I mean the intention of Russia to force Turkey to make a separate peace, and an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Russia. If anyone were to put himself in the place of Russia, and to ask himself how he would set about obtaining this end, he would at once see that he must manage to delay and prolong negotiations, which he must inaugurate between the Commanders-in-Chief; that all the while his Armies should be ad- vancing towards strategic points; and that he must convince Turkey that she is abandoned by all Europe, and will never receive assistance from any Power. That would be the only method for forcing Turkey into a close alliance. Lot us now consider what did really occur. On January 4, Lord Derby wrote a despatch (No. 16), in which, while allowing the distinction between an armistice and a peace, he said— It is clearly indispensable that the conditions on which it is to be granted should be discussed between the two belligerent Governments, and not between the generals in command. On January 8, he wrote (No. 22), that as the generals had received their instructions to negotiate—which they had not—the essential conditions had "been practically fulfilled." It was not until the 11th, he learned that Prince Gort-chakoff had not telegraphed the instructions, but had sent them by a courier— who would be a fortnight on the road— doubtless in order to create delay. But on the 10th, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, the Grand Duke Nicholas, announced (No. 32) that "the negotiations can only take place directly" between himself and the Turkish Commander, and that bases for a Treaty of Peace must first be signed before the negotiations could begin concerning an armistice. In the case of Servia, last year, and in every other case that I know of, an armistice was brought about as a step towards negotiations for a peace. In this case it was not so, for an armistice was not desired; seeing that Russia intended that her troops should advance behind the screen of protracted negotiations. Lest, however, England should regard that advance on Constantinople as a casus belli —for the Home Secretary, in May last in this House, said that" an attack or approach on "Constantinople should be considered as an infraction of a British interest, which we were bound to defend—lest we should move, Russia actually gave us notice on January 9th, saying that there were two conditions antecedent to negotiations—(1) That "the Russian armies should advance"—she gave us notice, so that we should not afterwards make it a casus belli; and (2) That "the Turks should be convinced" that England will, on no condition, give them any assistance. On the 12th, Lord Derby wrote (No. 37) to the Porte to "convince her "most positively that no help was to be expected from England, and that England would not even act as a mediator, because Russia did not wish it. With regard to the advance of the Russian Armies, no despatch demanding explanation was ever written by Lord Derby— so said the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs the other night. How did the negotiations commence? The first thing the Russian Commander exacted was a free entrance for his troops into Adrianeple; after which he said he would commence the negotiations. This was granted; and the Russians entered Adrianople, and at once advanced farther towards Constantinople, as well as towards Callipoli—the Gibraltar of the Levant. Lest there should be any mistake as to the intention of the Russians, we were informed by telegram on January 22nd, that the Russian Ambassador at Vienna, M. de Novikoff, had endeavoured to calm the fears of the Austrian Government, by informing them that, although it was intended that the Russian Armies should occupy Constantinople, yet that the occupation should be but temporary. Delays, the "unaccountable delays," in negotiation, then took place, during which the rapid and unceasing advance of the Russian Armies was maintained; and the conviction was, in the meanwhile, forced upon the minds of the Turks, that they must cease to look for any help from England. Those steps which were taken were the very means which would be used in order to force the Porto to make a separate peace, and an offensive and defensive alliance between Russia and Islam, against England. Russia says to Turkey, as it wore —"See! all your friends have abandoned you; you can hope for nothing from them; all your strong places are now in my hands, and you are completely in my power; resist me further, and I will crush you entirely; but if, on the other hand, you will join with me in alliance, I will give you the protection which Europe has denied; I will befriend you, and you shall aggrandize yourself in Persia, and extend yourself even to Hindostan; and I will always help you; and, between us, we shall rule the world, crushing the nations of the West, who have so meanly abandoned you." This evening we have, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, been told the heads of this separate peace; and every single one of them is fatal to the power of England. These heads were first made known on January 25th. The first head which he mentioned was "the autonomy of Bulgaria, after the model of Servia "—of Servia, for whose good behaviour we became surety in 1867, when we persuaded Turkey to give up to her the Turkish forts. What did Servia do? Servia made a rebellion and levied war against her Suzerain in 1876; and then we saved her from destruction, and obtained for her a peace on the principle of the status quo, again becoming surety for her good behaviour. Within the year she again played false, and levied war on her generous Suzerain. Now, after this model, we are asked to create a Bulgarian State, which shall include the southern slopes of the Balkans—the last defence of Constantinople— as well as a port on the sea! This State is, moreover, to be ruled by a Prince selected by the Czar. This head of peace undoubtedly means that Russia shall have the power to swoop down and seize Constantinople at any moment which may suit her. The second head was "the Independence of Roumania;" and the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that such a provision could not be objected to by anyone. Let us look into it. There are only two Powers on the Black Sea—Russia and Turkey; Turkey with a powerful Fleet, and Russia without a Fleet. As soon as a war breaks out, the whole commerce of Southern Russia is destroyed by the ships of Turkey, and she loses the sinews of war without having the power to prevent it; for your Declaration of Paris cannot be made to apply to such a case. But constitute an independent State on the Black Sea, and Turkey can no longer stop the trade of Southern Russia as long as the Declaration of Paris is recognized; for all the Russian trade will flow through Roumania—which will remain at peace for the purpose—and be covered by the neutral flag of Roumania. The third head was "the freedom of the Dardanelles." For this, the Chancellor of the Exchequer invented a euphemistic expression, and he called it "a safeguard for the rights of Russia in the Dardanelles."[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: It was Schouvaloff's expression.] Schouvaloff's? I do not wonder; every Russian Ambassador is a great master of phrases, a weaver of euphemistic expressions, an inventor of fallacies and amphibologies, to delude the million. But what right has Russia in the Dardanelles? Under the Treaty of 1856 Russia bound herself not to keep any ships of war in the Black Sea, except a few light ships for police purposes in the Black Sea. She chose to declare herself free from that Treaty in 1870, and Austria and Italy advised our Government to resist it by war, promising us their active alliance; even France, who was at war with Prussia, promised us her Fleet if we would resist. But England feared, because Bismarck threatened, although Prussia had her hands full with the French War. In 1871, however, Russia again bound herself by the Treaty of London. If, then, Russia has no right to ships in the Black Sea, what right has she to an egress for ships from the Black Sea? Why does she even want it? She has nothing to defend in the Mediterranean; it must be for purposes of attack. Or, rather, the purpose is, probably, to anchor in front of Constantinople, without warning, and compel submission. This head, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, is to be settled between the Sultan prostrate and the Czar triumphant—as an article of the separate peace and offensive and defensive alliance of which I have spoken. The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hardy) said at Edinburgh that we shall never recognize a separate peace between the Czar and the Sultan. Who will care whether we do or not? We shall not fight about it, as we shall, henceforth, have to fight both the Turkish Fleet and Russian Armies. What, then, shall we do? "We shall hold a Conference," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What? Have you forgotten the Conference of last winter? Was that so successful that you can wish for another? Did that so cover you with glory that you have appetite for another? Was not every basis on which the holding of a Conference was agreed to shamelessly violated as soon as it met? Wore not law, and right, and Treaties set aside by it? Was not your policy of non-interference set at nought by it? Were you not cajoled, bamboozled, outwitted, and befooled enough at that Conference without wishing for another? But Russia is not thinking of a Conference; she is aiming at a separate peace, and an offensive and defensive alliance between herself and Turkey. On January 22nd we learned a confirmation of the assertion that Russia had ordered, in Germany, 41 torpedo boats for service in the Baltic. Are these for a Conference and for peace? On January 26th we were informed that the Cabinets of Copenhagen and Stockholm had appealed to our Government, saying that Russia and Germany were preparing to seize the Sound and close the Baltic. Germany will, of course, take Holland, as well as Denmark, and Russia may easily seize Sweden and Norway; and the two Powers will then threaten the shores of England. Then what will you do? Appeal to Treaties? Treaties in those days are waste paper, and you, yourselves, have ignored the obligation of Treaties. Perhaps the just retribution of Heaven is even now being prepared.


Sir, there is a good deal in the suggestion of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) that the debate on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be adjourned until Thursday next; because, whilst many of us, or, indeed, most of us, would be prepared to vote money in advance, yet the reading of those despatches, and the momentous issues which are raised by the point submitted to the House, render it desirable that the Government should cheerfully acquiesce in postponing the discussion until Thursday next. De-pond upon it, if their policy is good, the Government will lose nothing by the adjournment, and the House and the country will be quite as ready and willing to support thorn in the issues which have been raised as if those issues were brought on suddenly. However, my object in rising was rather to refer to a Question put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). He said— I think that a very false impression would got about if we supposed that the money asked for would he for the purpose of going with shotted guns and revolvers into a Congress of Peace. I feel sure that the House of Commons and the country will believe that the money which is now asked for will not be employed unless it is absolutely necessary. They have stated as much. It is meant to be employed solely and only for the honour and interests of England, if these interests are imperilled. But it certainly should not go forth to the country to-morrow morning, without an emphatic contradiction of such an insinuation, that the Government tonight have asked for money for the purpose-—to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham—of going with shotted guns and revolvers into a Congress of Peace. There is another point—one raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) —who, I think, misinterpreted the use of an expression of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that it was a Vote of Confidence as well as of Credit. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did use those words; but I recollect exactly the same phrase being employed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he asked for a grant of money during the war between Franco and Germany. He then expressed himself in terms, although, perhaps, not in words, very much as follows:—"Place in our hands that credit, and place confidence in us that we will only use it in the event of the interests of the Empire being imperilled; place confidence in us in such a manner as to believe that we will employ it in the interests of the country." I suppose I may be wrong; but my impression is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant to say—"Grant us this money and place confidence in the Government that they will employ it only on a fitting and necessary occasion." If, of course, a Vote of Confidence is to be passed in the policy of the Government that is a totally different question. But I think the Chanceller of the Exchequer did not say that. He did not say it shall be a Vote of Confidence in the policy of the Government, but it shall be a Vote of Confidence in the Government as regards this particular grant of money; though I believe that if a Vote of Confidence in the policy of the Government wore wanted, it would be responded to by a very remarkable majority. He asks for the £6,000,000, in my judgment, to enable the Government to snow a bold front if it be necessary, and as a proof of the confidence of Parliament that the money will be expended rightly and properly.


I hardly need say that I do not intend to follow either my noble Friend behind me or the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Peel) by any remarks upon the general question of the Supplementary Vote; but I understand that an arrangement or understanding was come to at the beginning of the evening that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman had been made we should report Progress and consider it on a future day; and I think hon. Members must now see that such a course is absolutely necessary, as we have not got the materials before us upon which we can form an opinion. I merely rise to support the appeal of my noble Friend, seconded by the right hon. Baronet opposite, that we should not be asked to continue the discussion to-morrow. The Government might have pleaded the immediate necessity for action; but I understand that the right hon. Gentleman did not make any such appeal. He used the words that the despatch of the Fleet was a question of the moment. Undoubtedly it was, and the countermanding of the order was also a question of the moment. But he added that the question which he now brought before the Committee was the attitude which the Government should take in the Conference; but as the appointment of a Conference is not a matter of a day or two, we ought not to be asked for a decision before the materials are laid before us. I am not going into the question as to the exact interpretation to be placed upon the right hon. Gentleman's closing words. I understood him to end with an appeal to the House—especially to Members on his own side—for a Vote of Confidence. But taking the interpretation placed upon these words by the right hon. Baronet opposite, there is, at all events, an appeal for a Vote of Confidence in the last acts of the Government. We do not know what they are. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of a part of thorn; but he referred to certain despatches, and until those are before us we can really form no opinion what over either on the recent conduct of the Government, or upon the actual condition of the country as represented by the Government. Therefore, it does seem to me that the Government can hardly refuse to give us, at any rate, an opportunity of looking at the Papers, in order that we may consider what steps we should take. I think it is hardly necessary to enforce that appeal by reminding the right hon. Gentleman that my noble Friend asked for the Papers on Thursday, and it was understood that, if possible, they should be given on Friday.


hoped the Government would be firm and not give way. If they did, everybody knew what would happen. The country would be agitated from one end to the other.


said, he hoped the hon. Member would remember that what was asked for was a Vote of Confidence, in whatever sense the words might be used. The hon. Gentleman had his confidence ready made; but he and others had to pick their confidence with great difficulty out of the Papers which would be laid before them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


wished to know from the Government, seeing that the decision of Wednesday last to send the Fleet through the Dardanelles must have been of the greatest importance, since it had led to the resignation or contemplated resignation of two Ministers, one of them no less a person than the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether our Admiral was instructed, should a Turkish force have retreated to Gallipoli and there been attacked by an advancing Russian force, to take part in the operations in support of the Turks?


said, under ordinary circumstances it was difficult to resist a demand for time to enable hon. Members on both sides of the House to read the Papers in order that they might make up their minds on an important question. It would, no doubt, be in the recollection of the House that a certain number of hon. Members had declared in and out of the House that, under no circumstances, would they vote a shilling of money in connection with the contest between Turkey and Russia. His objection to delay was that by assenting to it the Ministry would appear to the country to falter in their policy and to have some misgiving as to the purposes for which the present Vote was proposed. A habit had sprung up lately which, in his opinion, did not conduce to the dignity of the House or its proceedings—he alluded to the system of telegraph wire pulling on questions on which its Members did not happen to be of one mind. There was no one in that House who had a greater respect than he had for the deliberate, cool expression of the opinion of the nation; but he now protested, and always should protest, against degrading the Members of the House into the position of delegates, and against a system of what he might call wired-up agitation on a subject of the most extreme gravity, for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear upon them. He hoped the Government would hold on to their course and take all the responsibility upon themselves. That the meetings got up in the country upon this question expressed the deliberate opinions of the people he denied, and he objected to be ruled by the mobocracy.


I am surprised to hear the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire denouncing public meetings. I saw a report of the speech of the hon. Member the other day—he had a St. James's Hall of his own—which he had made at a great aristocratic society, presided over by a noble Duke, in which he spoke in favour of war. [Mr. C. BECKETT-DENISON: The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite incorrect.] I read the speech, and am therefore fully able to judge. I say that the speech and the meeting was to press upon the Government to enter upon the war, and the hon. Gentleman who has been denouncing public meetings in the country in favour of peace, was the man who went to St. James's Hall to join in the agitation in favour of war. It was not an open meeting, but a select, social meeting, because neither he nor any other member of the War Party dare hold any such meeting. And now he has appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a Member of the Conservative Party, to be in a hurry to get a Vote of Confidence in the Government of the country. They are going, then, by the advice of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, to snatch a verdict, because they cannot afford to postpone the discussion for a day in order to see whether public opinion would pronounce against it. I do not do injustice to the Government and his Party to suppose they will adopt so unworthy a suggestion. I will now address myself to something which deserves your consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put his case upon one very material matter. The great part of his speech was occupied in the order of the British Fleet to enter the Dardanelles. I do not know whether it was an order or a revocation of the order—it might be both—but it was a serious matter, because the entry of the Fleet into the Dardanelles was an act of war. It was an act of war. I venture to say, there is no statesman or jurist in Europe who will deny that to enter into the territory or the territorial waters of the belligerents for the purpose of interfering with the acts of those belligerents is an act of war. I will not say whether it was a justifiable act on the part of the Government. We shall see, when we have the Papers before us, what justification there was for doing an act of war—an act of war which was ordered by the Government on Wednesday last. On Thursday they give Notice of the Vote in the House of Commons, which has been summoned three weeks before the usual time. They never told the House of Commons then that they had ordered the Fleet to the Dardanelles. That was on Thursday. The resolution was taken on Wednesday. The order was standing at the time—the Fleet was actually sailing for the Dardanelles—at the time the Chancellor of the Exchequer stood at that box and announced this Vote, and he never told the House of Commons they had done it. Now he asks us to place confidence in the Government for the future. There may be grounds in these Papers for asking that confidence. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered very loudly when he said—"It is a monstrous thing that you don't place confidence in the Government; you ought all to do so on both sides." Well, then, what a curious thing it is that two years' old Colleagues don't place that confidence in you. You ask us to place this confidence in you without Papers. You are quite right, because your Colleagues, who did see the Papers, did not place confidence in you. It is a most extraordinary demand for a hurried Vote of Confidence. Let us see the Papers and discuss them, and then lot us see whether this Vote of Confidence is so well founded, and whether we shall be as much convinced as your Colleagues were that such confidence ought to be placed.


said, the hon. and learned Member (Sir William Harcourt) seemed to have for- gotten, when making an attack upon him, that the House was in Committee, and that an hon. Member so attacked had a right to reply. He was not disconcerted by anything which the hon. and learned Member had said of a personal nature. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that the meeting to which he had alluded was a packed meeting. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: I did not say it was a "packed "meeting.] The meeting in question was held for the purpose of hearing a lecture, which was given by a gentleman (Mr. Borthwick) well known and much respected in that House, in order to disseminate information on this subject. It fell unexpectedly to his lot to propose a vote of thanks to the Chairman, and that was all. The hon. and learned Member had therefore gone out of his way to found a personal attack upon what he had said in proposing that vote of thanks. But a few days before, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, addressing his constituents at Oxford, quoted one of the proverbs of Solomon. He was afraid that the hon. and learned Member was going to throw at their heads another proverb from the same authority, but the hon. and learned Gentleman had spared them that infliction. In his speech to his constituents, the hon. and learned Member said, if it came to be a question of interfering with the interests of England in regard to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal, he, in his great goodness and superior wisdom, would permit one citizen of Oxford to shed his blood, but under no smaller circumstances would he permit him to do anything of the kind. The hon. and learned Member would have an opportunity a few days hence to put his promise to the test. He would like to know where the hon. and learned Gentleman would draw the line. Perhaps if the Suez Canal were attacked, he might go farther back and say—"When one of the sources of the Nile is attacked I will permit it." The hon. and learned Member's patriotism was to go down to the vanishing point; and all that he did now—as he had done on every public occasion—was to embarrass and throw difficulties in the way of Her Majesty's Government.


wished to put a Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to his answer to him (Mr. Childers) on Friday last. He had asked the right hon. Gentleman what the nature of the Vote would be; and the reply he received was that it would be simply a Supplementary Estimate for a large amount required for the service of the year 1877–8. The right hon. Gentleman also read certain words from what appeared to be the Estimate itself, as it would be laid upon the Table of the House. Those words contained no mention of a Vote of Credit; but they did contain a passage to the effect that the sum to be asked for would include the cost of the "further increase of the Land Forces." The Estimate in question had now been converted into a Vote of Credit, which would be apparently applicable to no particular year. It was now drawn something like the Votes of Credit for the Abyssinian and the Ashantee Expeditions, except that the word "Estimate" did not appear in it anywhere. He therefore wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman—Was this to be a Supplementary Estimate for the current financial year, so that any balance unpaid on the 31st of March would be surrendered to the Exchequer; or was it to be a Vote of Credit available in the coming year?


With regard to the Question just put to me, it certainly is a point whether this ought to be a Supplementary Estimate, or a Vote of Credit, but this is the form of it— Vote of Credit for the sum required beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878, in increasing the efficiency of the Naval and Military Services at the present crisis of the War between Russia and Turkey. That is the form of the Motion now in the Chairman's hands.


begged to repeat that, on Friday last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer read distinctly from a Paper which he gave the House to understand was to be a Supplementary Estimate; and the right hon. Gentleman said not one word about a Vote of Credit. The Paper since distributed among hon. Members stated nothing about Supplementary Estimates, but spoke only of a Vote of Credit; but the form was that of a statement explanatory of the Vote, no Estimate for which had been printed. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Vote provided for an increase of the Land Forces; and as there appeared no mention of them in the Paper that had been circulated, he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Land Forces were to be increased?


With regard to the last point, the omission of the number of men, I am not at this moment able to explain what exactly was done by the War Office, as to the striking out of these words. What is still included in the Vote is pay and staff allowances. There would, of course, be a separate Vote required if men should be wanted; but I understand that the men will not be required at present, because there are men enough for a service for which they might be needed. With reference to the expression "Vote of Credit," I have no doubt that this is properly so called. It states that it is a Vote of Credit to the 31st March, 1878, and any balance is to go back into the Exchequer. I consulted the highest authority in the Treasury on such subjects, and he said—"You were wrong technically in describing it as a 'Supplementary Estimate;' you ought to have said 'Vote of Credit.' But, after all, it is only a technical difficulty." The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) may rest assured that any portion of this sum of money not expended before the 31st of March next is to be surrendered to the Exchequer. It is not to be, as some old Votes used to be, a Vote to go over the year and expire with the year. Several Questions have been put to me, to which I will give the best answer that I can. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) asked where the rumour as to the possibility of a Russian Prince being put at the head of the Bulgarian Principality came from? Well, I only gave it as a rumour, and I was stating it to show the uncertainty which attaches to the terms of peace, as we have them, and to show that they are not definite enough to exclude such a possibility. I stated that I had heard many rumours. I should not have mentioned a rumour if it had not been one that had sufficiently attracted my attention; but I do not think it right or proper to say from whom it came, and I was arguing upon it, not as if it were a real argument against these terms of peace, but as a reason for our being careful how we expressed our opinion with regard to them until we knew more definitely what the bases meant and covered. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Did the rumour come from Constantinople?] I must decline to answer. I do not say it came from Constantinople. My right hon. Friend puts Questions in away that many people do. He says—"Now I am going to ask you about this. Is it or is it not so? If you won't answer me I shall know of course that it is so." From the very beginning to the end of my right hon. Friend's catechism I beg to oppose an obstinate silence. There was a Question put by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) as to whether, when we ordered the Fleet to go to the Dardanelles, any communication was made to the Russian Government? Well, no communication was made to any Government, because it was so very shortly afterwards countermanded —[Laughter] —yes, because it was so soon countermanded—and I may answer both the right hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) upon that point by the same statement. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford complains that we came down to the House on Thursday and gave Notice of a Vote to-day without stating that we had already given this order to the Fleet. The right hon. Member for Birmingham asks whether, at the same time that we gave the order, did we communicate to the Russian Government why we gave it? We did neither the one nor the other, and for this reason—that a movement of that sort could not be made unless precautions were taken to prevent any possibility of its being intercepted by information being prematurely disclosed; but, as has already been stated—I think by the Prime Minister in the House of Lords—we had prepared a communication to be made, not only to the Russian Government, but to all the Governments of Europe, as to the grounds upon which the Fleet was so sent; and I may also state upon this point that there is no doubt whatever as to the manner in which the Fleet was to be employed. In answer to the other Questions of the right hon. Gentleman, I will read the orders that were sent to Admiral Hornby on the 23rd. These were the orders— Telegram sent to Admiral Hornby, January 23, 1878. Most Secret. Sail at once for the Dardanelles, and proceed with the Fleet now with you to Constantinople. You are to abstain from taking any part in the contest between Russia and Turkey; but the water-way of the' Straits is to be kept open, and in the event of tumult at Constantinople you are to protect life and property of British subjects. Use your judgment in detaching such vessels as you may think necessary to preserve the waterway of the Dardanelles, but do not go above Constantinople. Report your departure and communicate with Besika Bay for possible further orders, but do not wait if none are there. Keep your destination absolutely secret. Well, certainly it would not have been necessary to tell the Admiral to keep his destination absolutely secret if we had published it in this House. My noble Friend the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) asked me as to a separate peace between Russia and Turkey, and also with regard to certain proceedings of the Russian Government of which he has heard, but about which I am not in a position to give him any information. My noble Friend can form his own judgment upon them. I can only say that the whole gist of my argument was that I presumed that a separate peace would be made between Russia and Turkey, and that that would render it necessary for us to be on our guard as to what effect it might have upon the interests of Europe. I have now answered most of the Questions which have been put to me; but there is one remark which I made, and which I must beg pardon of the Committee for having made in a manner which has led apparently to its being misunderstood. I had no intention whatever to describe this Vote of Credit as a general Vote of Confidence in the whole policy of the Government in connection with the war and the Turkish question. It would have been most unfair for me to do so; but what I wanted to do was this. It was possible, of course, that I might have come forward and said—"We ask you for £6,000,000, which will be spent in such or such a way. We tell you precisely what purpose we want it for, and what is to be done with it; "but I came forward and said—"We do not ask for it on these terms; we ask for it in order that we may be able to go into Conference and into negotiations with the force of England at our back." "Oh," the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham says, "we are to vote loaded cannons and revolvers." That is not the way in which such a proceeding ought to be described. We ask for the strength of England; and I say if we are to be of any use in these Conferences, if the voice of England is to be heard, there must be some evidence, some outward and visible sign of our being possessed of the confidence of England in the course we must take. If we are to be told upon all occasions—"Yes, it is all very well to say you insist upon such and such terms, and you object to such and such terms; but who are you? We must refer back to the other—the real—voice of England, which does not speak through you." I say our position would be one which would be not only humiliating to ourselves but detrimental to the country, and that if you will not give us this with the amount of confidence which we ask you to show in asking you to give that money to dispense in the manner that we may think necessary, you had better not give it us at all. That is the point, and of course the House will bear in mind that it is impossible for us to take any steps of a warlike or of an important character without its becoming speedily known in this country and in Parliament. You always have a check over us; but if you think we are not to be trusted, then I say the sooner we leave power in the hands of those who can be trusted the better. There is only one thing more, and that is when this debate is to be resumed. I had certainly hoped that when this proposal was made the Committee would have been willing to go on with it at once, but the noble Lord suggested that a reasonable time should be given; and I cannot deny that if there is a strong impression upon the part of those who wish to take part in the debate that they ought to have rather more time to examine the Papers that are laid upon the Table, it would be wrong in us to refuse to give it. As this is a point upon which we challenge the general confidence of the country, we shall consent to report Progress, and consider the matter further on Thursday.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.