Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [29th July].
That, whilst this House has learned with satisfaction that the troubles which have arisen in the East of Europe have been terminated by the Treaty of Berlin without a further recourse to arms, and rejoices in the extension of the liberty and self government of some of the populations of European Turkey, this House regrets:—
That it has not been found practicable to deal in a satisfactory manner with the claims of the Kingdom of Greece, and of the Greek subjects of the Porte:
That by the assumption under the Anglo -Turkish Convention of a sole guarantee of the integrity of the remaining territories of Turkey in Asia, the Military liabilities of this Country have been unnecessarily extended:
That the undefined engagements entered into by Her Majesty's Government in respect of the better administration of those Provinces have imposed heavy responsibilities on the State, whilst no sufficient means have been indicted for securing their fulfilment:
And that such engagements have been entered into, and responsibilities incurred, without the previous knowledge of Parliament."— (The Marquess of Hartington.)
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the first word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for communicating to this House the Treaty of Berlin, the Protocols of the Congress of Berlin, and the Convention between Great Britain and Turkey; assuring Her Majesty that this House has learnt with deep satisfaction the termination of the late unhappy War, and the conclusion of a Treaty between the Great Powers of Europe; and expressing an earnest hope that the arrangements made and sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government may, under the blessing of Providence, avail to preserve peace, to ameliorate the condition of large populations in the East, and to maintain the interest of this Empire,"—(Mr. Plunket,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.645
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
Sir, the hon. Member who closed the debate last night —the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian)—seemed very much troubled in his mind, in endeavouring to determine to whom ought to be assigned the credit of what he called the triumph of the Treaty of Berlin. The House will recollect that he spoke a great deal upon the question as to whether the triumph was to be given to one side or another — whether to the Government or to any of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the front Bench opposite. Now, Sir, I beg to say that the view which Her Majesty's Government take of this matter is far different from that which the hon. Member supposes. We are not in the mood to be claiming for ourselves a great, a brilliant triumph in reference to that Treaty. The country has been brought much too near to that most dreadful of all things—a general European war—and we have been much closer than, perhaps, many hon. Gentlemen believe, or are aware of, to that dire calamity—to make us approach in any tone of vain-glorious triumph the great events which have taken place. Instead of viewing the matter as a triumph for ourselves, we have only one feeling with regard to it—that of great thankfulness to Almighty God, who has enabled us to bring about the happy result of peace without resorting to the terrible extremities of war. Nor would it, I think, augur well for the future peace of the world, if any hon. Member of this House—much less if any Member of Her Majesty's Government—were to try to assume that we have triumphed over neighbouring and allied Nations in the great events which have taken place in the recent Congress at Berlin. We desire once for all to say that we do not entertain those unworthy views of triumph; we do not wish it to be considered that one Power has triumphed over another; we do not wish to claim that we have triumphed over Russia. We put aside these things— but what we do say, and what we do boast, has triumphed, is the good sense and the good feeling of the nations of the world, who have shown that they have profited by the growth of the humanities of civilization.
The noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of 646 Hartington) has said most truly that the policy of the Treaty of Paris has failed, and that another policy must be substituted for it. I quite agree with him on this point. The noble Lord also said that the reform of the Turkish Empire, as attempted under the provisions of that Treaty, has proved to be an impossible undertaking, and I will admit, generally, the fact, though the cause of the failure has been, in my opinion, different from that assigned to it by the noble Lord. I fully admit that the attempt to secure joint action on the part of the European Powers with regard to Turkish affairs has failed, that the policy laid down by the Treaty of Paris has been unsuccessful, and I most fully concur with the noble Lord that the time has arrived when a fresh policy must be substituted for the old one. Her Majesty's Government knew this well enough long ago as regards these transactions, and they therefore approached the question with the deepest sense of the responsibility under which they were acting, and with a full knowledge that a new point of departure must now be taken in reference to Turkish affairs, and that a new order of things must henceforth be established, which must vitally affect every Power in Europe. It is on this account, that we have never hesitated to state how grave we considered the situation to be. This new position of affairs has been set forth with great clearness by that distinguished Frenchman, M. Gambetta, who certainly, by his political bias, cannot be held to be disposed to view this question with an eye prejudiced in favour of England, or of the Conservative Party. M. Gambetta, in discussing the new position created in Europe by the Treaty of Berlin and the Anglo-Turkish Convention, said to The Times' Correspondent—I quote from an important document recently published in that journal, the authenticity of which has, I believe, been never doubted—. . . . Austria is placed as sentinel at one end of the Eastern area; while, at the other, England has been called upon to mount guard. The return of England to a less narrow policy rescues the two States, France and England— the two most liberal, most commercial, and most productive countries in Europe—from the temporary isolation into which they chanced to fall.647 I accept his description of the present state of affairs, and I hold that the new departure which has been taken by England and by Europe, in consequence of the action of Her Majesty's Government, is very well set forth by that statesman in those few, but pointed words. Further, when we look at Turkey herself, as she has been left by the Congress of Berlin, we find she has got an entirely new position. She has now got a concentrated power in Europe which will be more easy for her to wield than the dispersed power which she formerly possessed. We may, therefore, fairly consider that, under this new state of things, she may become far stronger than she was before.
Considering, then, the gravity of the position, looking at the new departure in the politics of the world, acknowledging the changes which we have now either caused or sanctioned, Her Majesty's Government feel that we have no right to complain of the fullest criticism; but I venture to say that in criticizing our policy, not only Her Majesty's Government, but also the country itself will expect that the criticism of hon. Members opposite should be fruitful —that it should not be merely a lamentation over the past—but that they should suggest some alternative policy for the future in place of that which has been adopted by the Government. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and on behalf of the interests of the country, I feel that I cannot press this point too much home. While I put this strongly, I need hardly add that I am confident that there is not a Member of the Government who would not -willingly agree that faults may have occurred here, and occurred there, in our policy with regard to the Eastern Question at a time of fearful perplexity, when Europe was convulsed from end to end. To expect that the Government of the country should make no mistakes or even blunders during four years is, to me, a matter too absurd for argument. We, however, believe that, taken as a whole, our policy has been a right and a just policy, and we claim, now that its main conclusions can be appreciated, that, in criticizing it, some alternative policy should be brought forward by those who disapprove of it. It is of the utmost im- 648 portance to the country, as well as to the Government, to ascertain, with a view to the future and to the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite, what other practical scheme of action could be suggested. The House will, therefore, I am sure, forgive me if I take up some little time in endeavouring to find out what it is that our opponents really suggest.
In commencing my search for this alternative policy, I must confess that I can find no alternative policy in the Resolutions which have been brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs. They bear the old stamp of extreme mildness, of which we have seen so much in the forms of the attacks which have been made upon us in Parliament by the acknowledged Leaders of hon. Gentlemen opposite in former Sessions, and they evidently show no intention of entering into a real fight on the question. Look at the Resolutions—they are even milder than those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), which dwindled before the scathing criticism of this House and of the country some twelve months ago. As then, I cannot find an alternative policy in the Resolutions, I must look for it — where we have been led to look for it before— in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, which, as the Resolutions which they propose to this House increase in mildness, seem proportionately to increase in violence of expression, both inside and, still more outside, these walls. Looking, then, at the speech—not at the Resolutions of the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs last night, I find towards the close of that speech, the key to the position of hon. Members opposite. The noble Lord said—And we wished, further, to prepare the way, if possible, when the time for reflection should come—as come, I believe, it inevitably will—so as to enable the country while there is time, to retreat from this false, and as I think, ill-advised course with honour, and to retire from a position which we believe that neither its interest, nor its duty demands that it should assume.As far, therefore, as the noble Lord is concerned, I gather that the alternative policy of hon. Members opposite is to reverse 649 that of the Government. Looking also at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), delivered at the dinner of the Cobden Club on the 20th of July, I find that that right hon. Gentleman said—. . . It will be our duty and your duty, not merely in Parliament but out of it, through good report and ill report, to do the utmost to prevent the country being absolutely committed to this dangerous policy, and, if possible, to seize the first opportunity of reversing it.[Cheers.] I am glad to hear those cheers from hon. Members opposite, because they confirm distinctly what I am assuming — that the alternative policy put forward by the Liberal Party is the reversal of the policy which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government. Very well, that is clearly understood now. You mean to reverse our policy. But let us get rid of mere words. What does reversal mean? In the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs last night, one leading feature seemed to shine forth with peculiar prominence, and that is that he did not see why Russia should not have Asia Minor. There could be no doubt as to his opinion; he treated the subject very distinctly; he said he did not see any difficulty in the matter as regarded our Indian interests, and, in fact, he led us to suppose that that might be one of the reversals of our policy of which he was dreaming. Then the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Grant Duff), who held an important office—that of Under Secretary of State for India—in the last Liberal Government, also gave us another little hint as to the way in which he thought the policy of Her Majesty's Government ought to be reversed, for that hon. Gentleman had no hesitation in saying that a European Prince ought to be placed upon the Throne of Constantinople. That, certainly, is a definite policy. I should be inclined to say more, I should call it a startling policy; and I venture to say that I cannot yet bring myself to believe that either of those hon. Members is really ready to propose a reversal of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government in the direction which their speeches to which I have alluded would lead us to suppose. ["Hear, hear!" and counter cheers.] Well, if they do mean to do so, 650 Her Majesty's Government will be very happy to meet them when they go to the country on the question that Russia should take possession of Asia Minor, and that a European Prince should be placed upon the Throne of Constantinople. They seem, however, to me to be propositions impossible to be accepted by men of sense at this moment — so impossible, that I decline to entertain them as intended to be serious suggestions for practical consideration at the present time. Evidently, then, we have to look further for this alternative policy, and I, therefore, again put the question, what does this reversal of policy mean?
In order to ascertain this, there will be, I think, nothing so useful as to study for awhile the history of the treatment of Turkey by England during the last 20 years, since the Crimean War —that is to say, during the last 20 years which have elapsed since England joined with the Great Powers in endeavouring to improve the administration of affairs in Turkey, on placing her within what was called the concert of the European Powers. It will throw much light on various things —on the plans of the Opposition for the future, and also on the views have guided Her Majesty's present Government in the course they have adopted. During three - fourths of the period I have named, there was a Liberal Administration in power. I will divide that period of 20 years into three parts, because I think they have each very marked features and I commend to the notice of the House, as giving invaluable information as to this question, the Blue Book published, I think, last year, containing the despatches from the Foreign Office from 1856, respecting the treatment of the Christians, and administrative and financial reforms in Turkey. For some 10 years or more, this country was governed by Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, putting aside the very short interval in which the Conservatives held the reins of Office; then there was the period of five years when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was at the head of Her Majesty's Government; and then there are the four years during which the present Government has held Office. Now, to be begin with the period for which we are responsible, with re- 651 gard to these last four years, I cannot think that anyone will assert, when they consider what the position of Turkey has been during the greater part of that time, that we could have done very much to carry out the intentions of the Treaty of 1856 in support of useful reforms in Turkey. We found that country almost or completely bankrupt; she was distracted by years of foreign intrigue; her Government was shaken by domestic insurrection; her Ruler was dethroned, and met with a miserable death; several of her leading Ministers fell by the hand of the assassin; and, during a great part of the period, she has been at war with her great and overwhelming neighbour. Well, during those four years we have, nevertheless, seized every opportunity of expressing, in various ways, our strong wish and anxiety that the reforms, which are necessary for the improvement and comfort of the people, should be introduced in Turkey; but how anybody could suppose that a country could introduce large reforms under such circumstances, I cannot myself for one moment imagine. For my part, the real marvel has been how Turkey has managed to keep peace at all in her Asiatic dominions, and to send the great armies into the field as she has done, instead of its being a matter for astonishment or blame that she has not reformed and remodelled her institutions and administration at such a crisis in the affairs of the nation. So much for the four years for which we are responsible. Let us now go back to the 10 years immediately following upon the Treaty of 1856, when men of great distinction belonging to the Liberal Party—Lord Palmerston, Lord Clarendon, and Lord Russell — were prominent Members of the Government of this country. If you look into the despatches of that period, you will find that England was constant in her watchfulness over Turkey; that she was continually pointing out and suggesting reforms, and doing all she possibly could do to secure their being carried out, in order to ameliorate the condition of the various races of that Empire, and to secure its stability. That is in accordance with the best traditions of the Liberal Party, and the improvements which were then made were very 652 considerable. Now—to confirm what I have said as to the real improvements then effected—I appeal to most impartial testimony. Hon. Gentlemen cannot have forgotten the most remarkable memorial which was said, and I believe truly, to have been presented to the German Emperor on behalf of American I missionaries in Turkey—just before the late war broke out—who are the ablest of European agents in Turkey—[Laughter]—I mean the ablest civilizing agents of the West. I speak from personal knowledge gained on the spot of the labours of not a few of those remarkable and distinguished men. The Memorial requested him, if I remember right, to use his influence to prevent the transfer of Turkish territory to Russia. And why? After stating that they had lived in all parts of Turkey, they represented to the German Emperor that the improvement in that Empire since the Crimean War had been considerable; that there was much greater security for life and property, that kindliness of feeling between creed and creed was on the increase, that the advancement in education had been great, and that though much was still to be desired, the real advance had been so considerable, and toleration of all religious and civilizing agencies was so complete, that a change to Russian rule would be a misfortune for the people. Our Consuls also, if hon. Members will look over many of their Reports, tell the same story. But I will appeal to better evidence still. In 1871, shortly after the late Government—that, be it remembered, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone)—came into power, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was asked about these matters; and in connection with these questions, it must be remembered that any answer given on large questions connected with Foreign Affairs, must be held to convey the views of the Prime Minister of the day, as the Prime Minister is always held to be specially cognizant with, and responsible in concert with the Foreign Secretary for, these matters. Sir John Gray asked—Whether the Sultan's Government has recently taken steps in favour of civil and religious liberty; and, whether any advance has been made in securing that Christian evidence shall be admitted in Courts of Justice on a 653 footing equal to that of testimony given by Mahomedans?Viscount Enfield, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in answer, said—All accounts from Turkey agree in confirmation of the progress made in that country by the Sultan's Government towards toleration, and much has been done of late years towards raising the position of the Christian population in Turkey. The Imperial Ordinances promulgated by the Porte within the last few years have granted to its subjects, irrespective of religious distinctions, privileges and immunities hitherto accorded to its Mussulman subjects alone—namely, equality as regards the levying of the taxes, the just administration of the laws, and the right of admission into the public service of the Empire; but up to the present time it is only in mixed causes that Christian testimony is on an equal footing with that of Mahometans. I may add that recently a Christian has been nominated to a seat at the Council of Ministers at Constantinople." — [3 Hansard, ccviii. 313.]In answer to another Question by Sir John Gray in the following year, namely—Whether the authorities of the Ottoman Porte are giving effect to the provisions contained in various edicts issued by the Sultan of Turkey during recent years in favour of his Christian subjects?Viscount Enfield said—The latest report from Constantinople, received two days ago, states that, as a general rule, the edicts in favour of the Christians are fairly carried into effect, and that, as a class, they have no reason for complaint."—[3 Hansard, ccxiii. 454.]In answer to another Question in the succeeding Session, namely—Whether any advance has been made in securing that the evidence of Christians shall be admitted in Courts of Justice in Turkey on a footing equal to the testimony given by Mahometans; and, whether certain inhabitants of that country at present suffer from disabilities in reference to military service and the devolution of landed property?Viscount Enfield replied—The latest reports from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople state that in all the Turkish Courts, excepting those administering the Koran Law, there has been an advance towards placing Christian evidence on a footing of equality with that of Mahometans. In all criminal cases, without exception, Christian evidence is admitted in the new Court. Christians are not taken for military service, and pay a tax instead; but this is now regarded by them more as an advantage than as a disqualification. With regard to landed property, Sir Henry Elliot says that the subjects of the Sultan, of whatever creed, as well as all foreigners, are stated to be upon the same footing."—[3 Hansard, ccxvii. 900.]654 In answer to a Question by Mr. A. Johnston, during the same Session—What information has been received by Her Majesty's Government as to outbreaks of Moslem fanaticism in Bosnia; and, whether they contemplate any representations on the subject to the Sublime Porte, in concert with other Christian Powers?Viscount Enfield further said—No information has been received at the Foreign Office, either officially or otherwise, as to outbreaks of Moslem fanaticism in Bosnia, and the latest despatches from Her Majesty's Consul at Bosna Serai makes no mention of any such circumstance."—[3 Hansard, ccxvi. 1786.]Surely, Sir, I am now justified in asserting that real improvements and reforms had been spreading in Turkey during the 10 years when the old policy of England towards that country was maintained by the Liberal Ministers of that day. I now proceed to examine the third portion of the 20 years—that is to say, the five years when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich guided the affairs of the nation, and had with him the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and Lord Granville. Now, these are the Gentlemen whom I can hardly be wrong in saying have taken the most prominent part—amongst our public men —since we have been in Office, in urging upon the country the paramount duty of providing for the welfare of the subject-races of Turkey; in season, and out of season, sometimes in Parliament, oftener at public meetings, sometimes under the trees of their parks, sometimes even at railway stations, they have poured forth their feelings on this subject, and denounced the apathy and neglect of the Government; indeed, there is hardly a place of public resort which I can think of where they have not proclaimed to England their intense anxiety for the Christian subjects of Turkey. Quite lately, again, at Southwark, the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) has re-iterated the assertion that the cause they had supported from the first was the cause of the subject-populations of Turkey. ["Hear, hear!"] Quite so. I am glad that hon. Gentlemen opposite acknowledge the accuracy of my description; but I am afraid I shall have to ask some disagreeable questions, 655 because when a Government, with a majority of 100 behind them, are in power for five years, as was the case with the Government of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), we have a right to expect them to be able to show some practical proofs of this sympathy for the subject-races of Turkey; a sympathy which can hardly have only sprung into existence at the moment when they ceased to direct the counsels of England, and could no longer speak in her name. Well, what do we find was done by the late Government in regard to these matters in which they now affect to take so deep an interest? I have looked through the despatches of that period, in the Blue Book to which I have already referred, and I find that during the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, from 1869 to 1873, there are only 10 despatches at all on administrative and financial reforms in Turkey, while with respect to the condition of the Christians, there are only three despatches, and out of this small number of despatches, spread over four years, some consist of 12 lines and under, dealing with most important subjects. Does this look like intense sympathy with the subject-populations? Then I glance at the few telegrams which passed on the subject between the Foreign Office and the English Ambassador; and, surely, when I read them, the House will agree with me that that Government was either very careless or very ignorant—or something else that I cannot imagine — with regard to the whole subject. For instance, Lord Granville, on the 1st of August, 1872, sent this telegram to Sir Henry Elliot—Let me know, if possible, by 2 o'clock tomorrow, whether the Turkish authorities generally may be said to be giving effect to the several edicts in favour of Christians.Again, in July, 1873—a year after—the Foreign Minister sent another telegram as follows:—What answer can be given to the following Questions to be asked in the House of Commons: —Whether any advance has been made in securing that the evidence of Christians shall be admitted in Courts of Justice in Turkey on a footing equal to the testimony given by Mahometans; and, whether certain inhabitants of that country at present suffer from disabilities in reference to military service and the devolution of landed property?656 To think that the Foreign Secretary of the right hon. Member for Greenwich should, after three or four years of Office, be obliged to telegraph to Constantinople on such fundamental matters affecting the condition of Turkey, and should only so inquire in consequence of Questions in the House of Commons! Why, Sir, these Questions covered, in fact, the whole condition of the Christians and of the subject-races of Turkey, and involved, as everyone must have been aware, the peace of the East and the very existence of the Turkish Empire. I understand, of course, that during the first year or so of the existence of a new Government, while Ministers are, so to speak, getting into their saddles and arranging the scheme for their policy at home and abroad, close attention to the details of foreign affairs is not, perhaps, in ordinary times, to be expected; but here we have these questions affecting the very life of Turkey and the peace of Europe telegraphed about by a Foreign Secretary after three or four years of Office. The Government, then, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had clearly no knowledge on these subjects; and if I am asked what action was taken by the powerful Government of that day on these important matters during the five years it was in Office, I am afraid the answer must be—Simply nothing. Surely, Sir, there must have been some policy in all this. Was it because the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey was so good that there was no occasion for English interference? You must be careful how, from your side, you advance that excuse, for, if it was so good up to within four or five years ago, there is no reason why it should not be so now again, nor why these reforms should not now be re-commenced, seeing that peace is being re-restored to the country. What, then, was your policy? If, on the other hand, the condition of Turkey was so wretchedly bad, why on earth did you not take some step to try and interfere effectually in that unhappy country on behalf, at any rate, of the Christians and the subject-races, if not for the sake of humanity, and in the interests of the general peace? Was it through neglect that you did not do so? I do not presume to say that for one moment. Was it from ignorance that your position was such as I have 657 described? I do not think you can really plead ignorance as an explanation for your policy. For you yourselves were summoned to Paris to sign a Treaty which tore up that of 1856. You there met the Representatives of Europe, and they doubtless told you that there was a new departure then being inaugurated respecting the Eastern Question, and that the meaning of that change was that Russia was coming more to the front; and, surely, if Russia was coming more to the front, you ought to have endeavoured, at any rate, to provide that Turkey was ready to meet her, and that in the best way, by having a happy and contented population. General Ignatieff had been at Constantinople long before the new Treaty of 1873, and you must have known—it was a matter of common notoriety—what his course had been there; you knew of the reckless expenditure which was being encouraged and incurred at Constantinople; you could not have been unaware, during those five years of your Liberal Government, that that period was one of the great turning points, for good or for evil, in the history of Turkey, and you must have had some reason for your policy, which I have demonstrated could not have been one of ignorance, which I cannot think could have been one merely of careless neglect, but which was clearly a deliberate policy of leaving everything alone, and letting everything drift.
Well, I will now come to my point; I will show you why I have been so anxious to discover what was your policy respecting Turkey, when you guided the course of England, over and above the interest of observing the action of right hon. Gentlemen opposite — the great friends of the subject-populations and of the Christian races—when, in former years, they had the power to serve them. Well, everyone now acknowledges that the present Government have a clear and distinct policy respecting Turkey; it is the policy which has been followed by Lord Palmerston, Lord Russell, Lord Clarendon, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and other eminent statesmen, with this addition—that we virtually give the Sultan a guarantee of peace, as far as Asia is concerned, and we, for ourselves, obtain an absolute right to insist upon reforms. If the Opposition reject that policy, what, I want to know, do they propose in its stead? Now, it is 658 always better to judge people by their acts than by their words; and, therefore, it is that I have been at so much trouble to find out and to explain what was the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite respecting Turkey during their recent years of Office. The noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) has acknowledged that there must now be a substitute for the policy of 1856; but the only policy which you offer as an alternative for it is that old policy of five years ago, which I have just described—that of leaving everything to drift—a policy which simply can only lead to anarchy and massacre; a policy which not only eventually must lead to such results, hut which, I am afraid, has actually had only too great a share in producing all those miseries which that hapless Empire has been undergoing during these latter years.
I now come to your criticisms upon the Government, and when one wants to find out what is important in them, one has, as usual, to turn one's eye away from your Resolutions, which speak with a timid and faltering voice—and I may remark in passing, that one of this forlorn crew of Resolutions which might possibly be held by some to be, at first sight, of some little importance—that which states that certain engagements had been entered into without the knowledge of Parliament — was actually dropped still-born, so far as his speech went, by the Leader of the Opposition. What, then, is your real criticism? I think I saw in the speech of the noble Lord the glimmering of an idea that we ought to have got these results before the war, and without the war. The hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey-Vivian) seemed to take the same view, and said that if our old friend the Berlin Memorandum had been adopted by this country, war would have been avoided. More important still is a passage in a speech delivered a few days ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in which he says—Inconsequence of the obstacles placed by England—that is, not by the people of England, but by the Government of England—in the way of the joint action of Europe, there broke out a horrible and bloody war.Now, if this is really intended, it rises far above a mere criticism, and is about as serious an accusation as could well be made against a Ministry; and if such 659 views are really entertained, I do not think they ought merely to have been hinted at by the Leader of the Opposition, but should have been boldly stated, as a matter of distinct and formal censure, in the face of this House and of the country. I cannot, however, let even such hints pass, and I deny entirely that if we had adopted the Berlin Memorandum it would have saved us from war. What reason have you to suppose that Turkey would not have resisted by force of arms that threat of war which the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) appeared to hold out, of war against that Empire by England, in conjunction with the other Powers? Turkey was at that time confident that she could hold her own; and it was well known to be her feeling that if she was to yield to Europe, if she was to fall at all, she preferred to fall in the open field, rather than by a timid and cowardly surrender. It may be said that the measures alluded to in the Berlin Memorandum did not mean war; but I cannot have any doubt myself that the right hon. Member for Greenwich, at any rate, was prepared for war. In a speech made in this House in 1877, the right hon. Member said—But if I am to look at the tone and tenor of the declarations of the Government for the last two or three months, I am sorry to say that they seem to me to be relapsing into a position in which the outrages inflicted by the Government of Turkey are to be contemplated as matters of sentimental regret, and for idle and verbal expostulations. . . .How are these terrible evils, which afflict Turkey and disgrace Europe, to be met? Are they to be met by remonstrances and expostulations only? The answer echoed back from the Ministerial benches is—' By remonstrance and expostulation only.' Now that, I believe, human nature, the conscience of mankind, and the civilization of the nineteenth century will no longer bear. . . . It is time to remonstrate against remonstrances, and to protest against protestations."—[3 Hansard, ccxxiv. 409–416.]And later still, this year, quite recently, at the Southwark meeting, the right hon. Gentleman uses these words—Because, as we were told by Her Majesty's Government, we ought to rest satisfied with sending in to the Turkish Government remonstrances upon paper, which we knew to be perfectly worthless, and because the firm, united voice of Europe, addressed to Turkey, and the prohibition to the Turks to carry over men and means of war from Asia to Europe, would absolutely and at once have precluded the Sultan from pursuing a course of resistance to the dictates of Europe.Do you call that peace, or do you call 660 it war? By all the laws which exist between nations — unless you are prepared to maintain that you ought to treat Mahomedan nations differently from all others—were you to prevent a Sovereign from carrying his men and materials of war from one part of his Dominions to another, and presume to say that you are at peace with him. Why, it is simply and unmistakably an act of war. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was therefore prepared to accept the Berlin Memorandum, with the fearful alternative attached to it, in case the Sultan did not obey its behests, to which it sought to pledge those who would sign it, of plunging all Europe into war. Have you ever faced the difficulty into which such a war would have brought you? But, before you answer this, what right, I ask, human or divine, had you to go to war with Turkey in the way and for the reasons proposed by the Berlin Memorandum? Everyone must, of course, confess that you had, undoubtedly, no Treaty right, and, by what possible moral right could you have interfered in that way with Turkey? But, putting aside the morality of the matter, and supposing that you had committed that immoral act, what would have been the difficulties in which you would have placed yourselves, and what would have been the result? You would have had all Turkey alienated; and where, then, would have been your chance of getting her to make reforms? Our best hope now is that she will again listen to the good advice of England, as she listened years before. Moreover, the only nation which was prepared to join us actually in a war against Turkey was Russia; and England and Russia were to sail in the same boat in order to attack that great Mahomedan Power. You seem to think that is a trifling affair; but I suppose you will agree that you are an Asiatic as well as a European Power; and I wish to know how the Mahomedans of India would have liked your immoral and unreasonable attack upon the Head of their faith? Again, after you had crushed Turkey, were you and Russia likely to have agreed on the most suitable reforms to be carried out in Turkey, and would you not have been sowing the seeds of the most frightful war between Russia and yourselves, when you came to settle the future condition of 661 that country? So much, then, for your specific of the Berlin Memorandum as likely to have averted the late war. I think I have shown that it would probably have brought on a much more serious one—a war in which England herself would have been engaged—the extent and misery of which it is difficult to conceive. Beyond this, I cannot find anywhere a shadow of an argument to confirm the insinuations, rather than the assertions, of some of the Liberal Party that the peace now obtained, and the advantages which attach to it, could have been secured by Her Majesty's Government before the war broke out, and that thus its horrors might have been avoided.
I turn, then, to the more formal attacks which are made upon our policy in this House, and I take up the first Resolution of the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), as regards Greece, and who can deny that it has evidently been written with very trembling fingers? It almost answers itself in its own words, inasmuch as it expresses a vain regret that it is not practicable to do more for Greece. Do you expect the Government to do more than is practicable? As a matter of fact, we have done a great deal, and England may well be proud of her work; for we have saved the Greeks, where they are the larger element of the population, from the dominion of the people whom they particularly dislike — the Slavs. We have saved them from a rearrangement of their institutions by a Russian Commissioner, who was to have re-cast the whole condition of the Greek and Slav Provinces; we also have saved them from a two years' occupation by a Russian Army to be not exceeding, and, therefore, probably amounting to, 50,000 men. And as for the rectification of the frontier of Greece, surely hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot presume to treat as a slight matter that which has received the unanimous approval of Europe? The frontier proposed for Greece is that which King Leopold I. of Belgium urged should be made her frontier, and the refusal of which caused him to decline the Crown of Greece. Surely, hon. Gentlemen will not stake their knowledge of Greece against the deliberate opinion of one who was always held to be one of the astutest men in Europe. As no statesman in Europe would pro- 662 pose the partition of Turkey, knowing all the horrors to which such a proposal would give rise; as such a view was the opposite to that universally expressed at the Berlin Congress; and as the object of England and of Europe is to diminish as far as possible the partition of that Empire, which seemed to be the effect of the Treaty of San Stefano, it would obviously have been the greatest of mistakes to start a new crusade of partition on behalf of the Greeks. I cannot, then, but express the hope that the Government of Turkey, with that increasing wisdom which they show every month — [A laugh] — I do not know why the Turkish Government, as well as other people, should not learn experience by the lapse of time—will see that there is no humiliation in this rectification of the frontier, and that it is to their own interest to strengthen Greece. They will remember that the Great Powers have sanctioned these arrangements; and they will recolleect, too, what England did in the matter of the Ionian Islands, when, on it appearing to her to be a matter of English and European policy to strengthen Greece, neither she nor the world generally thought it any degradation to herself to give those islands up and add them to the possessions of the Greek nation. I would, then, express the earnest hope that Turkey will take the same view, and will see no humiliation in that rectification of frontier, when it is a matter of State policy both for herself and for Europe to strengthen a friendly neighbour.
I come, then, to another criticism—the attack upon the preliminary Agreement between England and Russia, which has been gravely denounced by hon. Gentlemen opposite as the "bad means" by which the Treaty of Berlin has been obtained. I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to put it to themselves, in all soberness and frankness, how were we to obtain the Congress at all without it? The all-important object was to get the Great Powers of Europe into the Council Chamber: the peace of the world, as far as man could see, turned upon that issue. Russia, with her victorious Armies in a strong position at the very gates of Constantinople, had refused all previous offers to subject the whole Treaty of San Stefano to the verdict of civilized Europe. Hon. Gentlemen will, I conclude, have not forgotten that there 663 was a long interval between that refusal and the meeting of the Congress; and, surely, they are not so ill-informed as not to know that during that interval communications were constantly going on between all the different Courts in Europe as to the means of obtaining such a settlement as would make the meeting of the Congress a hopeful one? Lord Derby himself — whose opinion has lately appeared to have acquired extraordinary weight with hon. Members opposite—has said that no Congress ought to meet without some such provision, and without something more than a mere chance of coming to an agreement; and I think that if you will consider what has passed, you will come to the conclusion that Germany, at any rate, judging from the very late date at which her invitations to a Congress were issued, was not at all willing that the Congress should meet unless there was some probability of the two Powers most opposed to one another having arrived at an understanding. Of course, Sir, communications were passing between every Court in Europe, and every Court knew well that we were in fact acting as the champion of European views in the face of Russia; that any Agreement we made with Russia would represent the general wishes of Europe —with whose wishes we had made ourselves intimately acquainted, and of whose views we were the interpreter— and every Government was well assured that, after all, the Anglo-Russian Agreement would necessarily be subject to the reversal of Europe after full discussion in the Congress. I would ask hon. Members to consider carefully the position of Russia at that moment. Unfortunately, she had a strong idea, very much owing to the persistent assertions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that England, or the English Government, wanted to go to war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich had made that statement in every part of the country, and from the benches on your side of the House, and from half the Dissenting pulpits of England, had gone forth the cry that Her Majesty's Government desired war. Do you think that Russia had not heard those announcements? Unhappily, she had heard them, just as before she heard those assertions of the right hon. Gentleman that we should never go to war— 664 assertions which paralyzed the right hand of England at a time when her voice would otherwise have been most potent in the interests of humanity and of peace. At that moment, Russia, believing with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in spite of our most solemn denials, that the English Government, which was evidently supported by the country, really desired to go to war, of course, required some assurance, before she went into the Council Chamber and agreed to be bound by the verdict of Europe, that all the fruits of her campaign would not be torn from her, and that she would not be obliged to leave the Congress in utter discomfiture, and to plunge into all the uncertainties of another struggle at a later period of the year, with England better prepared, owing to the delay, and herself in a worse condition. That is the real state of the case, and to taunt us with that Agreement, and with having entered into it secretly and against the wishes of the Powers of Europe, simply shows that there is a want of appreciation of the real circumstances of the case, or a lack of consideration of what has been occurring, on the part of hon. Members opposite, and that they have not observed that not a Power in Europe has protested against the Agreement.
I proceed to deal with another of the leading criticisms upon our action in these momentous transactions. The Government is attacked on the subject of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and hon. Members opposite attack the Guarantee of Asia Minor by England against further aggression by Russia—our increased responsibilities, as they call it—and they are profuse in their condemnation of the secrecy which we maintained respecting this affair, also—namely, the transaction by which that Convention was obtained. Now, Sir, in regard to this, what was the position of the Government? It was, indeed, a most grave one. Certain facts had become known to us before the Congress of Berlin, and we had ascertained, from communications with the other Powers, that there was a general disposition to allow Russia to retain her Asiatic conquests—I need hardly add that what actually passed at Berlin fully confirmed the opinion we had formed respecting the views of the Governments of Europe as to non-interference with Russia's Asiatic acquisitions — when, therefore, it be- 665 came clear that Europe would not interfere to prevent Russia from keeping the Armenian fortresses, and when it also became clear that Russia would not give up these fortresses unless forced by a war to do so, surely all this made up a very serious state of things, which those who had charge of the destinies of England had very carefully to consider? It must be remembered that if we had taken no steps to counteract the subjection by Russia of these Armenian fortresses, a great deal more than that would have been implied—than the mere material extension of Russian territory and power. India would have seen, the whole of Asia and Egypt would have seen, the world would have seen, that all Europe banded together was not prepared to prevent the Russian advance in Asia Minor, and they would have seen that England was not prepared either, or was not able, to check it. When it was seen that England, fully armed as she was seen to be at that moment, was not prepared to prevent that advance, what would have been the inference which the populations of the world would have drawn from this? It would simply have been inferred that whenever Russia liked she might step into Asia Minor. That, surely, was a most grave position, and the Government had consequently to consider the alternatives with the utmost care. Were we to go to war for Kars, Ardahan, or Batoum? I do not believe there is any hon. Gentleman in this House who would have wished to do that. Were we to leave matters alone, and allow the old drifting process to go on? I do not believe any hon. Gentleman, after calm consideration, would say that he really thinks that would have been a wise course. Were we to try the effect of a European Guarantee of the integrity of Asiatic Turkey, if we could persuade the other Powers to adopt such a course? I do not think, after the experience of the broken reeds of the various Treaty barriers of 1856, anyone will be found to contend that a general Treaty Guarantee of the integrity of Asia Minor would have been very much worth having. What, then, was the determination of the Government? We determined to do all we possibly could to oppose the retention by Russia of these Armenian strongholds; but we felt bound, knowing what was the general 666 feeling of Europe, to take a security of our own, and to face by ourselves, and relying upon ourselves alone, our own responsibilities. Accordingly, the Anglo-Turkish Convention was decided upon, by means of which we determined to secure ourselves against the dangers of anarchy and disturbance which were immediately imminent, and against the perils to the interests of our Empire, which were as surely threatened by the new position which Russia would thus have obtained. Well, then, you ask us as to the corresponding obligation which we have put upon the Sultan. You ask us to give details as to the Article relating to the administrative reforms in Asiatic Turkey which the Sultan is pledged to us, by this Convention, to introduce. Respecting these points—matters, I agree, of the highest interest and importance—I would observe that the whole of Europe assembled at Berlin concurred in our view, that it was a matter of the last policy to respect, and in every possible way to maintain in future, the authority and independence of the Sultan; and that being the case, I would ask those who press us to give details, could anything be so fatal to that independence and authority, which all Europe, as well as England, desires to uphold, as to go into such a matter at present and to discuss in this country the details of a scheme of reform which has not yet been communicated to a Sovereign who, I believe, earnestly desires reform?—for the many transactions which we have had with him have convinced us that he is a Ruler of most generous aspirations and full of desires for the improvement of the condition of his people. [A laugh.] I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have hailed that fact with delight; but, however that may be, I think I may venture to say that we must have better opportunities of forming an opinion on this subject than hon. Gentlemen opposite can possibly have. At all events, then, though, in the very interest of the object we all have in view, we must decline to discuss these matters in detail, it must be quite clear to everyone what must be the broad features of the reforms which are absolutely essential — the doing away with the farming of the taxes, an improved administration of jus- 667 tice, a more certain tenure of office for the Judges, the establishment of a sound police system, and a prolonged and secured tenure of office for the Governors of Provinces. These are all points from which the best and greatest results may be expected, and I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite would feel perfectly assured that we should lose no opportunity of pressing them upon the Sultan. They will be so pressed, and we have every confidence that in His Majesty we shall find a willing response to whatever pressure we may bring to bear in the interest of the general welfare of his Empire. And, now, as to the allegation of secrecy. The secrecy respecting the Anglo-Turkish Convention seems to press very heavily upon the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, surely, they are exaggerating greatly the amount of that secrecy of which they so grievously complain? The actual arrangements were, no doubt, secret; but they cannot have omitted to observe that in every journal in Europe, as well as in every Council Chamber, it was a matter of general notoriety that England would find it absolutely necessary to take up some new point of defence. Why, Sir, the thing was treated as a matter of course in every corner of the world, except, apparently, on the Opposition Benches of the British Parliament. Do not hon. Members know that Egypt, Syria, and an Island in the Ægean, had all been openly suggested from various quarters? It is no secret that Egypt and Syria have even been urged from influential foreign quarters upon the attention of the Government; and, as for a military post in the Ægean, I remember the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, who sits opposite, wrote to the newspapers, urging that Mitylene should be seized by the Government. [Sir HENRY HAVELOCK: I recommended that the Island should be purchased, not seized.] Well, that it should be acquired by the Government in some way or other. In the face of such circumstances as these, the allegations of surprise and intense secrecy break down altogether. As to the actual arrangement, which was made when hours were valuable, and when the peace of the world was daily, I may say hourly, at stake, it was essential that a long discussion should not take place, and it 668 was absolutely incumbent on the Government to take the responsibility on their own shoulders and not to shrink from deciding upon what, to the best of their judgment, and with knowledge such as others could not possibly possess, they thought right and just, leaving the country to do hereafter in regard to the Government what they thought right. We refused, then, to take as military posts any one of those places which would be likely in any way to be offensive to other friendly Nations, or which would interfere with the general Sovereignty of the Sultan, and we determined to occupy, with the consent of Turkey, the Island of Cyprus, which had been of no value to the Sultan for many years, but which might be made prosperous, and which we considered to be the place whose acquisition by England would be least likely to wound the susceptibilities of other great Continental countries, or to be held injurious to their interests.
There is one other point of criticism to which I will refer—which has been alluded to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke)— and that is, that these communications ought all to have been laid before Parliament. It is said, in an off-hand way, and as a matter which will be conceded at once, that Parliament ought to have been consulted. But, to look at it first from the practical point of view, when the peace of Europe was hanging in the balance, when the decision, peace or war, was a matter of days, how, I ask, could Parliament have properly been consulted? As a practical matter, what would have occurred; and what encouragement have we had, in our experience of the last two years, to consult Parliament upon this Convention at such a critical moment, when time was everything? Why, Sir, who can doubt what would have happened? We should have had discussions without end; hon. Gentlemen would have said that the time had now arrived when obstruction was legitimate; we should have spent our nights in divisions; and we should have had every sort of arrangement for interfering with the proceedings of the Government. With that prospect most certainly and surely before us, should we have been justified—ought we ever to have been forgiven—in the interests of Europe, of Russia, of Turkey, and of England—in the interests, I may almost 669 say, of the human race—in putting off indefinitely the settlement of the Congress, because there was some fanciful desire on the part of some hon. Members that Parliament should be let into the secret earlier? I use the words "fanciful desire" advisedly. Looking back upon precedent, what do I find? I find that in the year 1853 a most important Treaty was negotiated and ratified between England, France, Norway, and Sweden, which bound the Powers, in case Russia sought to obtain a settlement on, or a cession of territory in, Norway or Sweden, to put their Military and Naval Forces at the disposal of Norway and Sweden, in opposition to Russia. Was Parliament consulted before that great Guarantee was entered into? I have looked in vain for any record or evidence of such a consultation. Then there was the Treaty of 1839, guaranteeing Belgian independence. I am not aware, again, that Parliament was consulted in regard to that Treaty before it was entered into. Then there was the cession of Corfu; the first intimation Parliament had of that event was in the Queen's Speech, in which Her Majesty said that She had already offered to cede to the Greek Government the Ionian Islands, if they could arrange a stable Government. In that case, also, the nation's honour was pledged previously without the authority of Parliament. I come now to a more important matter still—the Declaration of Paris—an act which altered the whole of our maritime position, which abolished privateering, which altered the law affecting neutrals—I may be wrong, but I do not remember that Parliament was consulted before the Declaration of Paris was entered into. Therefore, with respect to the cry that Parliament ought to have been consulted, as far as precedent goes, it is all against you, and I think the judgment of all men of common sense, who desire peace, and look at the matter from a practical point of view, will also be against you.
I feel I owe the House an apology for having occupied its time at so great a length; but there can hardly be a graver question brought before the House than the one we are now discussing, and one which calls for more careful and thorough examination. Hitherto, our mouths have been necessarily to a great extent closed, in the interest of the negotiations which have constantly been going on, 670 and we have been content to bear much misrepresentation and misapprehension. Now, we welcome the moment when silence is no longer necessary. I have acknowledged fully, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that it is a new departure—the starting point of a new state of things, both for Europe and the East. I have shown what are and were the alternatives offered to us, and I have proved, I hope to the satisfaction of the House, that those alternatives are either so fanciful, or so perilous, or so very full of evil omen to the most precious interests of the whole Empire, as practically to offer no alternative course at all. I have proved, I trust, that the only policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite are seriously able to offer to the country, is a policy of drifting and neglect, which must, if carried out, end in anarchy and disaster. Cannot you, then, forget for one moment that it is a Conservative Government which is carrying out this national policy; and may I not for once appeal with good hope of success to the Liberal Benches, whether it is not possible for them to rise above Party differences —whether it is not possible for them to take the view of Lord Russell, Lord Clarendon, Lord Palmerston, and their other great Leaders in the past, and only to think of the welfare of the hapless populations of those historic lands, whose good government they are so anxious to promote, and who have for so long suffered from the lack of those blessings which we are now endeavouring to secure for them, and only to consider the great interests of England and of the civilized world? Not seldom, during the last 25 years, I have myself wandered under the glorious winter sun along the valley of the Nile; and during springtime and early summer over the flowery plains and hills of Syria, or have traced the course of the Tigris and the Euphrates—those noble rivers so worthy of their ancient fame — I have wandered, too, amongst the Armenian mountains — and amidst many another scene of beauty, or of ancient renown, the glories of the wonderful East—and the one same longing cry has always reached me—and every Englishman who knows these races will confirm what I say—the one same cry has always arisen from all the best in all ranks of these toiling and long-suffering 671 populations—" When are you coming?" [A laugh.] Yes; "When are you English coming? " Are you surprised; are you ashamed that they should wish for the advent of England? Are you not proud that the oppressed and the suffering should invoke the great name of your country? Hon. Gentlemen opposite may interrupt me if they like—but the deed is done, and England is coming at last to those peoples. She is coming —but in far different guise from the conquerors of old, who have so often trod down those lands. She is coming, not to dispossess the Sovereign of those vast realms, but to strengthen his hands and to confirm his rule, and with all those various races longing for her advent and her succour. She is coming— but not selfishly and alone. She invokes the aid of all civilized Europe. She invites to join her the German, the Italian, the Frenchman—and may many a son of France, of like type as the noble-minded M. de Lesseps, assist us in the high enterprize. Yes, we are coming— and we hope, if security from foreign attack and peace and justice at home is secured to those lands, to bring in our train, by the enterprize of our people, those good things which our civilization, our long peace, our just government, have long ago brought to us— the railroad, the steam plough, the manufactures, and all the varied blessings of commerce, and all the arts and employments of peace, by which we have so greatly benefited. May it thus, indeed, be our happy lot to be the pioneers of the return of civilization to the East, whence the arts originally sprang, and to bring to her fertile shores all the arts of the West, with the happiness and prosperity of which she has been so long deprived. We acknowledge fully the difficulties before us; we do not underrate a single one of them; but the responsibilities of the position are there already—and not of our making — and cannot be avoided by declining to face them. If, then, as I believe I have proved, there are no safe or honourable alternatives, let us not shrink from the glorious enterprize; and if, unsought, and by the very necessity of things, in addition to all the blessings which have been bestowed upon England, it should appear that there may be added to all these the crowning honour—that noblest of all en- 672 joyments, the pleasure of communicating the good things we have to others—the prospect is purely one worthy of our greatest enthusiasm. Yes, let us gird up our loins for the accomplishment of the noble task; let us invite the civilized world to join with us; let us thank God and take courage—Such blessings peace to happy Britain brings, These are Imperial works and worthy Kings.
*: Mr. Speaker, I desire, in the first place, to discharge one of the most agreeable portions of my duty. I cordially congratulate the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) on his first appearance as a Member of the Cabinet, in one of the great debates of this House. He had long, in my poor judgment, before he became an Adviser of the Crown, given evidence of his capacity to take a responsible part in the conduct of public affairs; and it is with very sincere pleasure, both on account of those from whom he descends in the last two generations and on his own account, that I see him occupying his present position, and that I have heard the doubtless very able, certainly very eloquent, but I am afraid I am obliged to add, in my opinion, somewhat imaginative speech, which he has just deliveries. Whether it was that the noble Lord found the subject before us so intricate, or so narrow and limited, I know not; but it happened that he quitted the field of that subject, and that one-half, at the very least, of his speech was occupied by a discussion of the conduct and policy of Liberal Governments in former years, with relation to the Eastern Question. I think I am within the mark when I speak of that proportion of the noble Lord's speech. I am unable, Sir, to follow the noble Lord with fulness into that part of his discourse. What I have to say is unhappily a great deal too much, perhaps, for the patience of this House; certainly too much to allow me, with any sense of moderation, to deal with matters which appear to me to be very indirectly and partially connected with the great, complex, and difficult subjects of this debate.
I will only take notice that the noble Lord has, with great fairness, admitted on behalf of the Liberal Governments, down to 1866, that, in his opinion, they pursued a very good and useful course 672 with respect to the Sultan of Turkey and the condition of the Turkish Empire. But the noble Lord has drawn a contrast to the disparagement of the late Government which I regret, and regret the more because I am not prepared to argue with him in detail at this time. He says that answers were given, in the time of the late Government, by the then Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount En-field), to Questions put in this House, with which I, as Prime Minister, and as therefore specially conversant with the business of the Foreign Department, must have been acquainted before they were given. Now, before the noble Lord made that statement, did he refer to his hon. Friend the present Under Secretary of State, to know whether the Under Secretary refers to the Prime Minister of the present Government all the answers which he gives in this House to Questions put to him, even upon matters in themselves of great importance, in the Department of Foreign Affairs? The noble Lord is entirely wrong in supposing that such answers, if unconnected with the actual transactions of the day, commonly come before the Prime Minister. With those replies I had no concern. I do not, however, hesitate to admit, in the ain, the allegation of the noble Lord. When the late Government was formed, Lord Clarendon, who was Foreign Minister, considered carefully in what way he could make himself most useful with reference to the East; and he determined, with my entire concurrence, that by far the best mode of applying his efforts at the time would be to endeavour to arrive at a modus vivendi—a good under-standing with the great Empire of Russia, as regarded our relative positions in the regions of Central Asia. The interest attaching to that question was the same as that which appears now to supply a governing motive for many hon. Members forming the majority, of this House —namely, the safety of our Indian Empire. That design was actively and successfully prosecuted by Lord Clarendon during his too contracted term of Office. Unhappily for his country, he died in the summer of 1870, and immediately after his decease, there broke out the Franco-German War, with a train of serious questions attaching to it, and with the effect of engrossing the 672 care and attention of Europe. These matters had hardly reached a settlement when we found it our duty to confront that singularly delicate and difficult controversy with the United States, which ended in the Arbitration of Geneva, and not very long before our expulsion from Office. And the noble Lord, who cannot but know of that state of foreign affairs, in the years to which I have referred, of the profound disturbance of Europe in 1870 and 1871, of our own anxious occupations in 1872 and 1873, in. relation to the American Settlement, and who must also know what was our condition in this House, and the arduous course of legislation in which we were incessantly engaged, notwithstanding, does not scruple to bring against us the great, and, as he thinks, damning accusation that, with mind and time so charged with all these subjects, we did not likewise make a spontaneous and thorough investigation into the condition of the Turkish Empire, both in Europe and in Asia, and that at a period when nothing had occurred which would suffice to give to the question a place in the thought and care of the Powers of Europe. The noble Lord, I must say, does not appear to me to have made himself master of the elementary facts which bear upon every such case. It is not in the power of any European Government to raise the Turkish Question effectually at its own will and pleasure. It cannot be raised, unless circumstances occurring elsewhere, and generally within Turkey itself, give it that position in the view of Europe which compels attention, and which obviously requires, in the general interest, that it should become matter of practical consideration. Such was not the case when we were in Office, but such has been the case ever since the beginning of the rebellion in Herzegovina.
I am now, Sir, obliged, with much regret, to advert to a personal question. Twenty-four hours ago I had not the smallest intention of touching upon a matter which is to me extremely repulsive. I mean the question of personal charges introduced into political controversy. Some words which fell last night from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), in moving his Amendment, rendered it necessary for me to notice the subject, although I do 672 not in the least degree complain of those words. But, in addition to his remarks, I became aware this morning of language which was used last night, and which enhanced my obligation to take notice of this matter. A declaration was made by Lord Beaconsfield, which led me to think it my duty to address to the noble Earl a short letter, and that letter, with the permission of the House, I will now read—July 30, 1878.Dear Lord Beaconsfield,—I find you are reported in The Times of to-day to have made last night a reference to a speech delivered by me at Oxford, and in which you stated that I described you as a dangerous and even a devilish character. I shall be obliged by your informing me on what words of mine you found this statement. You are likewise reported to have said that during the controversy on the Eastern Question I have indulged in criticisms replete with the most offensive epithets upon your conduct and in description of your character. Will you have the goodness to supply me with a list or selection of those offensive epithets, applied not merely to your measures, but to your personal character, and with a note of the times and places at which they were used? If you have been inaccurately reported, I ask your pardon for having troubled you with this letter, which is, I need hardly add, of a public nature.I thus addressed the noble Earl, because, if it can be shown that I have made use of such epithets and indulged in such attacks, it would be my plain duty to make apology for them. I have not yet received an answer, and I could hardly have expected it; for the letter has not been for very many hours in the hands of the noble Earl to whom it was addressed.
The allusion of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University was to a passage in a speech delivered by Lord Beaconsfield on Saturday last. I had had no intention before this allusion of referring to the subject at all, and I would only now say of it that, when I read it, I reflected with some pleasure and some comfort upon the fact that it gave a much more innocent account of me than had been given in a speech delivered by the same noble Earl at Aylesbury about two years ago. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he regarded the speech of Lord Beaconsfield on Saturday, in this portion of it, as jocose. It was hardly so regarded by the author, who was delivering at the very same time an entirely opposite account of it. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said it was the result of provocation, 672 which provocation had been given partly by me. I had referred to the Government, it seems, as speaking in the accents of "lisping babes." I do not suppose it is necessary for me to dwell upon that phrase. But I had also spoken of the policy of the Government as dishonouring to the country. I had so spoken, without doubt; and it was my duty so to speak; and it will be my duty so to speak again. But I deny that the fact that I had declared the policy of the Government to be a dishonouring policy for the country constitutes a personal provocation, or can be rightly regarded as a personal attack. I claim in the fullest and largest sense for all Members of this House the right and duty to describe, if they conscientiously and advisedly believe it, the acts and the policy of the Government of the day as dishonourable in themselves, and as calculated to bring dishonour on the country. I am the first to admit that they exercise this duty under a great responsibility. They ought not to make such charges lightly. They ought not to make such charges without a full examination of the facts. They ought not to make them, except in a spirit of readiness to confess themselves mistaken, upon adequate proof that they are wrong. But, subject to this limitation, I believe that the doctrine of the hon. and learned Gentleman is totally untenable. If you forbid Members of this House to denounce, when they see cause, the policy of the Government as a dishonouring policy, I would almost go as far as to say that you may soon proceed to shut the doors of the House. By such a doctrine you will be denying to Members of Parliament what I will not now call a privilege, but what is one of their most sacred obligations. You will likewise take from the country one of the best guarantees it can possibly have against abuse and malversation in the conduct of public affairs. I bog the hon. and learned Gentleman, of whom I make no complaint whatever, to understand that however painful it may be— and it is most painful—to resort to these hard and condemnatory terms, they are, nevertheless, when the occasion arises, an absolute necessity of free Parliamentary discussion. The liberty of speech which we enjoy, and the publicity which attends our political life and action, are, I believe, the matters in 672 which we have the greatest amount of advantage over some other countries of the civilized world. That liberty of speech is the liberty which secures all other liberties, and the abridgement of which would render all other liberties vain and useless possessions.
I now pass on to some very grave matters, of which the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) seems to think he has satisfactorily disposed. I, however, having listened to the admirable speech in which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington), moved his Resolution, and to the able speeches delivered last night in its support—I refer particularly to two which I was so fortunate as to hear from the hon. Members for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian)—cannot think he has disposed of or answered them in any adequate degree. The noble Lord seemed to me—taking a wide range over an unbounded field—to overlook the fact that we are now gathered together primarily for the purpose of examining in detail the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, in the course of most important negotiations which necessarily—I refer to the Treaty of Berlin—have not been until within the last few days within our knowledge. I have a serious charge to make against the Government with respect to their attitude and conduct at Berlin. Having such a charge to advance, justice requires of me that the Government shall have no reason to complain of want of minuteness and precision in the references I shall make to the different portions of the subject, and in the evidence I shall produce to support my statements.
Now, Sir, in regard to the Treaty of Berlin, I must, in common with every other reasonable person, contemplate it, in the first instance, as a Treaty which brings us an assurance of peace. In that view it must be to us all a matter of infinite thankfulness. That is a statement which I freely offer to the noble Lord; but I fear that I must part company from him when we come to consider the questions how and by whom it is that peace has been brought about, and what amount of gratitude we owe in this respect to Her Majesty's Government. I state nothing new to hon. Gentlemen opposite, when I repeat my previously expressed opinion—that for many 672 months past we have been unable to discern any danger to the existence of the peace which was re-established at San Stefano, excepting in the opinions, and the warlike preparations, of Her Majesty's Government. From no other quarter has there proceeded any act or indication which appeared seriously to threaten the peace of Europe.
When I come to examine the work done by the Congress at Berlin, I find it capable of being sketched in general outline as follows:—Roumania, instead of remaining a tributary State as heretofore, has become independent, and has received some accession of territory, on which I shall have further to remark. Servia, which was also tributary, has acquired its independence, and like wise an enlargement of its bounds. Montenegro, which was independent, but whose independence had not, or had not recently, been acknowledged by Turkey, has obtained from Turkey a recognition of that independence. It has also received a slight enlargement of territory, crippled, I am sorry to say, both in amount and by means of invidious and unworthy regulations, without a word of objection from us, and in consequence of the selfish jealousy of Austria. Moreover, the Treaty intends, and partially provides, that the frontier of Greece is to be somewhat enlarged. In all these points we are dealing with an absolute alienation from Turkish rule, and, upon the whole, the effect of this portion of the Treaty is that, in round numbers, 7,000,000 of persons who were formerly either under the direct Sovereignty or Suzerainty of the Porte, are to be henceforward as free from it as we are. It appears to have been said, upon high authority, that it is a great mistake to suppose that Turkey has suffered partition. However, the first great fact at which I have arrived is that 7,000,000 of people formerly under her rule, either absolute or modified, are now entirely and, as I trust, for ever, exempted from the yoke.
I come now to another class of cases, and I look first to Northern Bulgaria. I find that it is to be a virtually independent Province, though it will nominally remain in a condition of vassalage. That vassalage, as I understand, will be marked by no other feature than that of an obligation to pay tribute to the Porte. Such a state of things is 672 very nearly equivalent to a total emancipation.
I next come to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and here I must make an observation in answer to the noble Lord. The noble Lord says I have claimed to have been from the beginning in favour of the subject-populations of Turkey. I had made that claim, but in saying it was so from the beginning, I did not mean from the beginning of time, or from the beginning of the century; but I meant at the moment no more than this—It was from the beginning of the present Eastern Controversy in 1875–1876. My meaning, Sir, was that, for one, I utterly repelled the doctrine that the power of Turkey is to be dragged to the ground for the purpose of handing over the Dominion that Turkey now exercises to some other great State, be that State either Russia or Austria, or even England. In my opinion, such a view is utterly false, and even ruinous, and has been the source of the main difficulties in which the Government have been involved, and in which they have involved the country. I hold that those Provinces of the Turkish Empire, which have been so cruelly and unjustly ruled, ought to be regarded as existing, not for the sake of any other Power whatever, but for the sake of the populations by whom they are inhabited. The object of our desire ought to be the development of those populations on their own soil, as its proper masters, and as the persons with a view to whose welfare its destination ought to be determined. Applying this test, Sir, to the next case which comes before me— namely, the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I can speak of the arrangement made at Berlin with only a partial satisfaction. Those Provinces have been handed over to Austria under terms of studied ambiguity. The populations have not been placed in a position to assume for the future paramount control of their own destinies. But although they have not attained to an absolute freedom from external control, they have been as completely severed as Servia and Roumania from the dominion of the Porte; and I am free to admit that there are circumstances connected with their internal condition which may render it expedient that, at any rate for a time, the military strength of a great Power, and its regular organization, 672 should be made available to secure for them the blessings of an orderly, and in many respects, of a free government.
If that be so, Sir, then, in addition to 7,000,000 of people who have been absolutely cut off from the Ottoman Empire, there must be, as I reckon, 4,500,000 more, in round numbers, who, although not formally separated from Turkey, yet practically have bid to her a final farewell. Before the late war, there were not less than 17,000,000 of people who were subjects of the Ottoman Empire, in absolute or qualified subordination, and out of those 17,000,000, it appears that not less than 11,500,000 have undergone a total change in those relations—most of them by the possession of formal independence, the others by the attainment of what is, in effect, practical liberation.
Now, Sir, if even this were all, it seems a little difficult to lay down the doctrine that there has been no partition of Turkish territory. We have, indeed, been told that the rule of the Sultan in Europe has been concentrated exactly in the same sense as a man's body is concentrated when his limbs have been amputated. It is reduced, curtailed; it is hemmed in on every side by absolute or qualified freedom. If that be concentration, it is concentrated; but not otherwise. There was a partition of Poland in the last century — almost exactly 100 years ago. Now, what do we mean when we speak of the first partition of Poland? Poland had a population of about 12,000,000 before that partition. By that partition it was reduced to between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000. In the case of Turkey, a population of from 17,000,000 to 18,000,000 has been reduced, as we learn upon official authority, to 6,000,000; and yet we are gravely told, upon the same high official authority, that it is quite a mistake to suppose that there has been any partition of the Ottoman Empire.
I have not, Sir, however, gone through the whole work of the Congress. We have had most important engagements undertaken by the whole of assembled Europe with respect to Armenia. The noble Lord appears to be under the impression that although Russia has acquired a new frontier for herself in Armenia, that is all which has occurred, and that with the excep- 673 tion of that single change, the entire field of Asiatic Turkey has been left open to us by the Treaty of Berlin. The noble Lord must have overlooked that Article of the Treaty which refers to the future condition of Armenia. It is not a field left open to us. The whole of the Powers of Europe have required from the Porte the reformation—which means the transformation—of the government of Armenia. They have obtained from the Porte a Treaty stipulation to that effect. That Treaty stipulation has been concluded by Turkey, not only with all the Powers, but with each Power. In the Treaty of Paris, in 1856, the Powers made provision against the single action within the Turkish Empire of any among them. There is no such settlement in the Treaty of Berlin. The covenants of Turkey are covenants with all, and are likewise covenants with each, and each Power with which the engagements have been contracted would be entitled to call Turkey to account for the breach of those engagements. There is, therefore, a most important provision made for the future intervention of Europe in the internal affairs of that portion of Asiatic Turkey which borders upon the Russian frontier. I must, however, Sir, revert to Turkey in Europe, with which I have not yet completely finished.
Eastern Roumelia is to be constituted as a separate Province, with local autonomy. In Lord Salisbury's Agreement with Count Schouvaloff, this territory was described as Southern Bulgaria. It appears to have been thought by the British Government that an essential change would be effected in its future condition by altering its name to Eastern Roumelia. However profound that conception may be, I very greatly regret that it has not been in the power of the Congress at Berlin to give more full development to some of the essential portions of its plan, and among them to the meaning of local autonomy in Eastern Roumelia. So much has been left, both here and elsewhere, to be worked out by subordinate agencies, that a great amount of uncertainty still attaches to many and very important portions of the work of the Congress, and a doubt is even cast upon the final issue which its labours may take, and upon the probable duration of its arrangements. What, for instance, is 674 to be the meaning of local autonomy in Eastern Roumelia? There is in these words an elasticity such as may admit of a return of all the old abuses; or, on the other hand, of the establishment of a system under which life and property and the honour of woman will be secured, and the management of the local affairs will be virtually committed to the hands of the population. All this, we find, is to depend upon an International Commission. We do not know precisely in what way that Commission is to be appointed—how it is to be composed, under whose influence it will act, what spirit will animate its proceedings; and I deeply lament the uncertainty which hangs over this and other portions of the arrangements vital to the happiness of the subject-populations; but yet I hardly recognize the principle on which it proceeds, especially in this aspect— that neither the Regular nor the Irregular Turkish Forces are to act for any purpose within Eastern Roumelia. The Irregulars are absolutely forbidden; the Regulars will simply have a right of military passage for the defence of the Northern frontier. This is a most important gain in the cause of civilization; and although we are told that Roumelia has been restored to the direct political and military rule of the Sultan, yet, if its government is to be settled in conformity with the spirit of the promises that have been made, much will have to be done, if not for absolute political freedom, yet for the extinction of the horrible mischiefs and the debasing influences to which it has hitherto been subjected under the rule of the Porte.
I come now, Sir, to the case of Crete and of the Hellenic Provinces. With respect to Crete, I find that what is called its organic law is to be taken as the starting point. I do not much care what is the starting point, as compared with the direction in which we are starting, and the distance to which we are travelling. The organic law of Crete is not a good law. In that Island there are, at the very least, as I believe, four Christians to one Mahommedan, and a fundamental provision of the organic law is this—that in the representation of the population the Mahommedans, who are one-fifth, and the Christians, who are fourth-fifths, are to have respectively an equal number of representatives. The Governor of Crete has 675 been a Mahommedan appointed by the Porte, I believe, without any effective limitation, and the organic law of Crete has, I fear, been little better than a dead letter. However, it involves an admission of principle that may work itself into something worth having. We must not criticize too much the minute details of a great arrangement. Taking the whole of the provisions of the Treaty of Berlin together, I most thankfully and joyfully acknowledge that great results have been achieved in the diminution of human misery, and towards the establishment of human happiness and prosperity in the East.
It is impossible, Sir, not to be struck by the contrast which these great negotiations present in their bearing upon two great races—the Hellenes and the Slavs respectively. There are, unhappily, as I think, many Slavs remaining in Eastern Roumelia, and the work of the Congress is fundamentally defective so far as they are concerned; yet, upon the whole, and subject to deductions in detail, a great work of emancipation has been accomplished for the Slavs of the Turkish Empire. The Slavs relied upon Russia, and this is the reward which they have received. But there is a population which has, for us, perhaps an even greater, certainly a more fascinating, interest. This population did not rely upon Russia; they, indeed, very studiously severed themselves from Russian interests. During the war a portion of the Hellenes of the Turkish Empire—I do not speak of those of the Kingdom—a portion of the Hellenes of the Turkish Empire put up prayers in their churches against Russia. They sent to the Ottoman Government voluntary contributions to aid in carrying on the war against Russia; they declared themselves in very strong language to be hostile to Russia and to her designs; and what is the treatment that they have received at the hands of the Congress? Does it not cause to you, the majority of this House, some pain and some misgiving when you examine the different results of the different courses which have been taken by these two different nationalities? The Slavs who relied upon Russia have, in the main, obtained what they desired; the Hellenes, who relied upon England, have, in the main, failed to obtain it. So much for the work of the Congress at large. One 676 word as to the bearing of that work upon Russian designs. I do not see that Russia, in what concerns herself, has much to complain of. If her purposes have been at all crippled, it has been, not in what she sought for herself, but in what she sought on behalf of others. She has obtained the sanction of Europe to her territorial conquests; she has established, free from all European interference, her title by Treaty with Turkey to a large war indemnity. As respects that indemnity, she is subject to no other pledge whatever than that she will not interfere with revenues already under hypothecation—a limitation which I conceive to be of a very narrow scope. When we look to the reduction of the Bulgaria of Berlin as compared with the Bulgaria of the Treaty of San Stefano, I do not find in the change which has been effected any interference with those projects of intrigue which you conceive to be the incessant purpose of Russia. On the contrary, if it be true that Russia is perpetually engaged in the prosecution of such intrigues among the subject-races of Turkey, you could not possibly have provided her with a finer field for them than you have provided in your arrangements for the political severance between the Bulgarians on the Northern side of the Balkans and the Bulgarians on the Southern side, in the valley of the Maritza. Within a few miles there will be two portions of one and the same race, with the same language, traditions, religion, and ecclesiastical organization, but differing materially in the possession of political privileges; the one virtually independent, the other, as we have been told, under the direct political and military rule of the Sultan. Such a distinction in the condition of men who are nationally brothers in the strictest sense, offers to Russia an admirable opportunity for intrigue. A small Bulgaria would enable Russia to retain a far greater influence within its limits than a large Bulgaria; and a Southern Bulgaria, though called Roumelia, will supply her with further opportunities.
I now come, Sir, to touch upon a question of the most serious character—namely, the attitude and action of the British Pleniotentaries in that great Assembly at Berlin—for a great Assembly it was— with respect to the series of points brought successively under their notice. 677 And here justice requires me to state that if, at a former period, in speaking of the two noble Lords by whom we have been represented, I have drawn a distinction between Lord Beaconsfield and any other Member or Members of the Administration, I am not about to revert to any such distinction on the present occasion. It appears to me that the two British Plenipotentiaries who did the main part of the work at Congress were acting together in perfect harmony. I do not now speak of Lord Odo Russell, who discharged, as he was sure to discharge, his duties with great ability; but whose labours were chiefly in a province different from that of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury. Now, Sir, what, as an Englishman, I am disposed to expect and to ask from the English Plenipotentiaries in a European Congress is this. They represent a country which holds itself up to be the freest of all nationalities in Europe, by its traditions, by its institutions, by its principles, by its feelings. We are, therefore, entitled to expect that when the great States of Europe meet together in Congress, our Plenipotentiaries shall be Representatives of the views and principles which prevail in England; that they shall lean towards the side of freedom and away from the side of servitude. Has that been the case with our Plenipotentiaries in the late Congress at Berlin? I state with deep regret, with a readiness and desire to be confuted if I am wrong, but, for the present, with a too firm conviction, that the course adopted by our Plenipotentiaries at the Berlin Congress has been precisely the reverse of that which I have pointed out. I have reluctantly arrived at this conclusion after a careful study of the whole of these Protocols. Now, I admit most fully that I ought not to make such a statement as that just made without showing precisely what I mean by it.
Before I proceed to do this, let me first specify that which is to be set down on the other side of the account. In two points, I admit that the British Plenipotentiaries took the right side. The first of them was the great activity shown by Lord Salisbury on the subject of the admission to the Congress of the Representatives of several of the minor States. Upon this matter, a zeal almost exuberant, at any rate ample, was evinced by the Representatives of England; and 678 there can be no doubt that it excited sanguine expectations in the minds of those who represented the minor States as to the results which would follow their admission, and at the very least as to the course which England would adopt in defence of their interests. But, Sir, I am compelled to ask this question— Did any one of these minor States take one sixpence-worth of benefit from the admission of its Representative to the Congress? I have examined, as well as I could, the circumstances and particulars of those admissions. The Envoys were most courteously allowed to enter the doors. They, no doubt, made their bows with due ceremony. They submitted the statements they had to deliver, and they were bowed out again; and this, no question, with the same courtesy as that which had attended their entry; but it does not appear that in any one single instance any one argument or statement made by them had the most remote, or even infinitesimal, effect upon the decisions adopted by the Congress. I would almost go so far as to say that their admission to the Congress was not worth the railway fares and the hotel bills which their respective countries would have to pay on account of the mission of these gentlemen. Another point on which the English Plenipotentiaries showed a great zeal was that which related to the establishment of perfect religious liberty within the emancipated States. Absolute and perfect equality, civil as well as ecclesiastical, political as well as civil, was required to prevail in every one of these new States. In the case of Lord Beaconsfield, it is appropriate to remark that he, who had, with a courageous consistency, insisted on the emancipation of the Jews at home, was taking a part very appropriate in insisting on this provision in the arrangements abroad. I cannot quite say the same with regard to his brother Plenipotentiary, who had been a stout opponent, to the best of his ability, of political enfranchisement among us. It is likewise a little amusing to observe with what edifying zeal all the great States of Europe united to force religious liberty upon those new-fledged bantlings of politics, on their first view of the light of day; and yet these great States have hardly in any case learned—perhaps we ourselves have not perfectly learned—to adopt it at home. It cer- 679 tainly does not exist in France, where the most distinguished preacher of his generation—the Père Hyacinthe—delivers religious discourses in Paris, not in the enjoyment of aright given him by law, but under a permission renewable from time to time by the Government. It certainly does not exist in Austria, where the Old Catholics have had to send their children to schools of which they did not approve. But I perceive tokens on the part of one or two hon. Gentlemen, which remind me that I am entering into details that can very well be dispensed with. I thank them for the intimation, and will at once proceed to matters more important to the present issue. I must, however, point out that, in this instance, where the British Plenipotentiaries were right, there was virtually no contest in the Congress. Except upon a single point in reference to a single State, all were of one mind.
I have already said that, as a general rule, the British Plenipotentiaries took the side opposed to that of freedom. Now lot us see what part they actually played. When the Congress came to deal with Bulgaria, which was to have full practical emancipation from the Turkish rule, what do we find? We find, simply, that they directed their attention to limiting in the utmost possible degree the local area of the new State, even to the extent of taking from it districts inhabited by a pure Slav population. So far as regards the striking off from the Bulgaria of San Stefano districts inhabited by Hellenes, they were perfectly right; but so far as they severed the Southern Slavs from the larger privileges of their Northern neighbours, they worked against liberty as well as against policy.
Next, when I look to Roumelia, I find that the British Plenipotentiaries laboured to extend its limits as against Bulgaria; but, at the same time, to limit its internal liberties as against the Porte. The views of those Plenipotentiaries are fully set out in the Protocols. I can prove what I have said by an abundance of references, but I am content to take only the proof to be found at pages 76 and 79 of these Papers. It will there be seen, with regard to Roumelia, what the English Plenipotentiaries proposed to provide in case disorders should arise within that State. They proposed to provide that 680 the Governor General should have the right to call in Ottoman troops without any limitation, when he deemed it necessary; but they left it to the French Plenipotentiaries to suggest that, in the exercise of his power of sending troops into that State at the call of the Governor General, the Sultan should be bound to make known the measure to the States of Europe, together with the reasons for it. This is the form of the Article as it stands. Now, I say that in this instance the British Plenipotentiaries clearly leant towards the side of servitude in proposing that the Ottoman troops should be called in, and they left it to the French Plenipotentiaries to introduce the important qualification leaning towards the side of freedom, by requiring that the Porte, when it sent in those troops, should be responsible to Europe. ["No!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite will run a risk of obliging me to do that which I have no desire to do —namely, to multiply the citations by which it is but too easy to prove that the Plenipotentiaries have acted in the manner that I have described.
Even in the ease of Montenegro, the proposal was that the Treaty of Berlin should state that the independence of that country was definitively recognized. The word "definitively" was not an unimportant word, because, at a former period of the history of that heroic State, her independence had, if I am not mistaken, for once, at least, been already recognized by Turkey, and the recognition had been withdrawn or neutralized by after events. The word, therefore, had a substantive meaning on behalf of freedom; but who was it that proposed to strike out that word? It was the British Plenipotentiary. I will not now detain the House by instituting a detailed comparison between the limits of Montenegro as settled by the Treaty of Berlin, and as settled by the Treaty of San Stefano. I do not pronounce upon the changes with universal censure; but, on the whole, the alteration is not to the credit of Europe. It has evidently been dictated by the will of Austria, and wrung from the necessities of Russia.
Now, with respect to Austria—the favourite Power of Her Majesty's Government. We know perfectly well that her history has been one long series of efforts to resist and repress freedom wherever it arose. She opposed the 681 emancipation of Greece; she opposed the union of Italy, and put down, by violence, all the efforts made by the people of that country. She opposed the union of Germany. And, although Constitutional government has been established within her own dominions, it was established, not by free will, but by compulsion; and even now, when it has been so established, it does not in the least degree appear that the spirit of her Parliamentary Government has become favourable to the extension of freedom among neighbouring peoples. Nay, for once in his life, even the Turkish Plenipotentiary appears to have made a more liberal proposal than Austria with regard to Montenegro. But the British Plenipotentiaries supported the Austrian proposal as against the proposal of Turkey.
I now pass to Servia. A question arose with respect to the annexation of a very small district to Servia under the name of Vranja. It was apparently a matter of limited account; but, however limited it was, we find, as usual, the British Plenipotentiary on the side hostile to the emancipation of the people, and a piece of the district had to be cut off in order to neutralize his opposition. A further question arose with respect to Servia. It had already been required by the Congress that she should, in respect of the territory added to her, bear a portion of the Turkish Debt. This was quite right; but there was a further question, whether she should still be liable to pay tribute to Turkey—that is, to pay it by redeeming it in a capitalized form. I do not enter into any review of the conduct of Servia in this matter; but I look simply to what has taken place in the Congress. Servia had obtained her freedom fairly and adequately, in a military sense, by the share which she took in the Russian campaign. Why was she to be saddled with the liability of paying tribute to Turkey, when she had effected her own liberation? So thought the Congress; but not so thought the British Plenipotentiaries; and here the British Plenipotentaries are found, as they are always found when there is a practical issue, on the side least favourable to freedom.
I now come to the question of the cession to Russia of a portion of Bessarabia, which she had lost in 1856, and which she required to be restored at the cost 682 of Roumania. When we arrive at the discussion of this question in the Congress, we find that the British Plenipotentiary delivered an eloquent speech against the separation of Bessarabia; but this speech was made before an assembly of gentlemen who had been previously informed, on unquestionable authority, that England had already made known her intention to agree to the Russian demands, unless Russia, persuaded by British rhetoric, should think fit to recede from them. I admit that a protest was made in brave words. Braver words one could not wish; but they were words alone. The British Government, so far as we know, had taken the lead in assuring Russia that she had only to hold to her point and that Bessarabia should again be hers.
But let us take the matter upon the most favourable issue. The British Government had thus reluctantly been compelled to perform, or to sanction, a cruel act towards Roumania. Surely, then, it was quite obvious that in all other matters it would do the best it could for Romania. Well, Sir, there arrived an opportunity for testing its intentions in a practical manner. There arose a question with regard to the imposition of a tribute upon Roumania, or, which is the same thing, of a pecuniary redemption of tribute similar to that which had arisen in the case of Servia. Now, Sir, nothing in the world could be clearer, nothing higher, than the title of Roumania. She had committed no act liable to an imputation of bad faith towards Turkey. During the whole of the earlier troubles, during the whole war of 1876, she had steadily maintained tranquillity, and had done nothing to add to the embarrassments of the Porte. When she did enter into the war in 1877, it was under circumstances which amounted very nearly to physical, and, at the very least, to a full moral, compulsion. Having taken her part, she fought with a gallantry surpassed by none. Unaccustomed to arms, her children acted in such a manner as would have done credit to veteran warriors, and to a nation inured to military pursuits. If ever a country fairly and honestly had gained its independence, it was Roumania; and yet there arose for Roumania, also, this question of tribute to Turkey. The Congress determined that Roumania should not pay 683 any such tribute; but, even here, there was an opponent, and that opponent was the British Minister.
I say then, Sir, that in this Congress of the Great Powers the voice of England has not been heard in unison with the institutions, the history, and the character of England. On every question that arose, and that became a subject of serious contest in the Congress, or that could lead to any important practical result, a voice had been heard from Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury which sounded in the tones of Metternich, and not in the tones of Mr. Canning, or of Lord Palmerston, or of Lord Russell. I do not mean that the British Government ought to have gone to the Congress determined to insist upon the unqualified prevalence of what I may call British ideas. They were bound to act in consonance with the general views of Europe. But within the limits of fair differences of opinion, which will always be found to arise on such occasions, I do affirm that it was their part to take the side of liberty; and I do also affirm that, as a matter of fact, they took the side of servitude.
I come now, Sir, to the question of Greece, with respect to which we have already had some remarkable experience. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) stated, most ably, the case with respect to Greece, so far as it stood upon the Protocols; but my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea enlarged on that statement by particulars which, at the time, were imperfectly authenticated, and he was at once challenged by the Under Secretary of State. The question, however, which was put to him was, whether those particulars were included in the Protocols? They were not so included. Yet the Under Secretary of State, when he rose, did not contradict the statement of the hon. Member for Chelsea. The noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) who has followed to-night on the side of the Government, has not contradicted it. I have myself received information which tends to corroborate that statement. I must now regard it as a statement substantially authenticated, at any rate, until it shall have been pointedly dealt with by the Government. Let me consider, then, Sir, what, according to that statement, combined with the contents of the Protocols, is the history of the relation between England 684 and Greece in respect to this most important matter? The Greeks formed an opinion that they were entitled, under the circumstances of their ethnical relationship, to the possession of Thessaly, Epirus, and Crete. I know not upon what conditions of tribute or otherwise they were to be taken over from Turkey, and I do not enter into those details. Well, what did Her Majesty's Government declare under those circumstances? It has been stated that at a former time they had informed the Greeks that they must not look to territorial acquisitions. I have nothing to do with the former time. I look to the Circular Despatch, written by Lord Salisbury, on the 8th. of last June. That despatch contained the authentic and formal instructions of Her Majesty's Government to the Plenipotentiaries, and at page 3 of the Book of Protocols, hon. Gentlemen will find the short passage to which I now refer. Lord Salisbury there says— knowing perfectly at the time what were the claims of Greece—The claims which will no doubt be advanced by the Government of Greece, in reference to some of these Provinces, will receive the careful consideration of Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary, and will, no doubt, also receive the careful consideration of the other Powers.Now, I want to know whether those words did not bind the British Government to favour some not inconsiderable territorial claims?
§ An hon. MEMBER: "Will the right hon. Gentleman read the whole of the paragraph?
I am perfectly willing to read it, but it would waste the time of the House, and it has no relation whatever to the subject. Now, let us see what actually took place, and what sort of careful consideration was given by the British Plenipotentiary to the claims of Greece. I refer, of course, not merely to the Protocols, but to the preliminary pourparlers; and I say that the information, as it is now before us, is to the following effect:—The French Government, through its Plenipotentiaries, made a proposal, and endeavoured to obtain the assent of Europe to the proposal, that Thessaly and Epirus should be added to Greece. The particular condition of the arrangements we do not know; but they are matters of comparatively small consequence, which might and ought to have been treated, as I 685 think, in a manner liberal to Turkey. This proposal of the French Plenipotentiaries, as we are given to understand, was met by a counter proposal of the English Plenipotentiaries; and they, instead of handing over Thessaly and Epirus to Greece, proposed—as we are now told by Lord Beaconsfield—to extend the frontier of Greece in the manner now described in the Treaty of Berlin. The French found their suggestion resisted by England, and they thought it expedient—nor can we wonder at, or blame, their conduct—to abandon it accordingly. But was that proceeding of England agreeable to the traditions of England upon this particular subject? I have stated in this House before what I now state again, what I know as matter of personal experience, and what is known likewise to official persons living, and connected, at least, with one other Power. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, on the cession of the Ionian Islands, sustained by the opinion of all their Colleagues, were desirous to take practical measures in the year 1862 for procuring the cession of Epirus and Thessaly to Greece. The Porte was unwilling to agree. There was no disturbance in Turkey at the time, and the Porte never makes any concession, except under the pressure of political necessity. I am not making a complaint against Turkey; I am only stating why, at that period, the plan did not take effect; but the tradition of England and its former intention were entirely abandoned on this occasion. The proposal was left to the Plenipotentiaries of France; and when it was made by them, it was resisted by the Plenipotentiaries of England. We are now told that what I may call the minor proposal—that is to say, the frontier described in the Treaty of Berlin, was the original proposal of Lord Salisbury. This statement is not sustained by anything that appears in the volume of the Protocols. But this is not all. This minor proposal is not a definite proposal at all; it is only a recommendation to the Porte, though some say it is a recommendation of a binding character. Some information has been supplied to me with regard to the diplomatic force of the French word inviter, and certainly it seems that inviter is a word that is occasionally, perhaps frequently, employed in an ultimatum; so that if you invite, in the French tongue, 686 another party in a negotiation to accede to something, it means that if he does not accede you will compel him to submit. However, I pass on with the expression of the hope that these words will be found strong enough to carry force with them; but I wish to refer to what Lord Beaconsfield said about them, in a speech on Saturday last. The French Plenipotentiaries, having been defeated in the larger plan, adopted the smaller one, and proposed it to the Congress. When it was so proposed, although we are now told it was the original proposal of Lord Salisbury, the first Plenipotentiary of England said it was open to objection; but he consented to waive the objection in deference to, or for the sake of, procuring the unanimity of the Congress. Thus far, Sir, we perceive nothing but a persistent hostility, limited only by the more favourable desires of others, on the part of England to the pretensions of Greece. Lord Beaconsfield, who said a limited concession to Greece was open to objection, has not relinquished his idea. Indeed, it is but justice to him to say that he very seldom does relinquish any idea. And on Saturday last, in order, apparently, to reduce to nothing, if he could, the value of what the Congress has done for Greece, he stated in a speech that the Congress declared it did not feel justified in appealing to the Sultan to adopt even a step which might prove advantageous to his own interests; but that it expressed an opinion which he doubted not the Sultan was prepared to consider, in that spirit of conciliation which he had so often displayed. Here are two points— first, the spirit of conciliation displayed by the Sultan; secondly, the intention, which Lord Beaconsfield said, the Congress declared not to coerce him. What is the spirit of conciliation the Sultan has so often displayed? Is it that spirit in which he rejected the recommendations of the Conference at Constantinople? Is it that spirit in which he rejected the Protocol of London, toned down to the feeblest and most limited form consistent with any assertion of a practical interest on behalf of the subject-races? Is it that spirit in which, when Lord Derby made an urgent application for the punishment of the Bulgarian assassins, the Sultan met him by adopting a course which saved every 687 man among them of the slightest consequence from capital punishment, or any severe punishment, and which, in regard to the arch-assassin of them all, Chefket Pasha, at whom Lord Derby had particularly pointed, exhibited itself by selecting him for almost immediate honour and promotion? This is the spirit of conciliation which the Sultan has displayed. It is his calamity as much as his fault. He is the unhappy heir of bad traditions and of triumphant wrong. Now, let me exhibit the effect of Lord Beaconsfield's last declaration. He says the Congress has declared it did not feel justified in compelling the Sultan to adopt any step with respect to Greece. I want to know where the Congress has made that declaration? I say, if it has made such a declaration, I cannot find it on record. If it be upon the record, I beg of you, here, and now, to point it out. I do not wish to detain you by any inaccurate assertion, but I have sought for it in vain. I find no such declaration upon the record. Why is it alleged in the speech of the Prime Minister? Is it thus alleged in order to have the same effect on the coming negotiations between Greece and Turkey, as the occasional or unofficial messages conveyed during the Conference at Constantinople, to the effect that England would not be, in any circumstances, a party to compelling Turkey to do that which the Conference had recommended? We remember the effect of those messages, the lively expressions of gratitude which they produced from the Sultan and from the Grand Vizier. As far as the facts go, the recent declaration of the Prime Minister, wholly unsupported by anything on the Protocols—nay, at variance with the Protocols as they stand —the recent declaration was probably intended to convey to the mind of the Sultan that, so far as England is concerned, he is perfectly safe, may do what he pleases, and need not give to Greece an acre or a yard of land. Surely such an intimation merits another of those grateful telegrams from the Grand Vizier and from the Sultan. Such, Sir, is the case with Greece, as it stands upon the evidence at present before us. The statement of it does not require to be heightened by the use of epithets—it is sufficiently exhibited by the facts.
I come now, Sir, to the Agreement made between Lord Salisbury and Count 688 Schouvaloff. And I wish to ask the Government, at this part of the case, in what manner they reconcile the conclusion of that Agreement with the distinct professions upon which they had been standing for three or four months before, in the face of Europe? Nothing had so much excited the public mind in the early part of this year as the notion that there were, or might be, secret Articles of Agreement between Russia and Turkey. It would have been so wicked— would it not?—for Russia to have made a secret agreement in conjunction with the Treaty of San Stefano. But at last this phantom was laid. The Russians declared, in the most explicit language that they, at any rate, had no secret Agreement. We then contended that the whole matter of the Treaty of San Stefano was for the free, full, unbiassed consideration of Europe; it modified European law, and, therefore, it must go fully and freely to the consideration of Europe? Did it go fully and freely to the consideration of Europe? No; a secret Agreement was made between Russia and England; for all we know, it may have been intended that it should continue a secret Agreement, even down to the conclusion of the proceedings of the Congress. We owe the acquisition of a most valuable piece of knowledge, by the publication of this Agreement, to an agent to whom we are, I conceive, not particularly anxious to owe anything at all. Through that agent we came rapidly to the knowledge of its contents; and we found that, after all that had been said about the free deliberation of Europe, two of the Powers who were, or thought themselves, most interested in the whole matter, had consented together, in binding terms, as to the limits within which, not upon one or two, but upon every one of the most essential points, their action in the Congress was to be confined. Is that proceeding between two such Powers compatible with the full and free reference of the entire Treaty to Europe? It appears to me, I frankly own, that these two things are not compatible; nor will I rest satisfied with an opinion. I will go back to a precedent; I will cite the precedent of the Berlin Memorandum. Why was it, that when you refused the Berlin Memorandum, and that—most unwisely as I thought—you offered no substitute for it? In that unconditional 689 refusal, as I have never dissembled, you clearly carried with you, to a very great extent indeed, the approval of the people of this country. Sir, it was because that Berlin Memorandum was a preliminary Agreement between three of the Powers of Europe; it was because England had been shut out from the preliminary declaration and conclusion; because it was felt, and justly felt, that a preliminary Agreement between some of the Powers on questions of importance, even although the supreme jurisdiction of Europe might, in the most explicit terms, be reserved, yet, notwithstanding, was a measure that greatly tended to limit the practical freedom and the legitimate authority of Europe in dealing with the entire question. I do not say you resisted the preliminary Memorandum on this ground exclusively. You set forth a number of arguments upon the case—arguments very far, in my opinion, from being conclusive. But that, I believe, was the ground on which the country supported you. Having resisted the Berlin Memorandum on that ground, and then having insisted that Russia should carry the whole of that Treaty without prejudice and without restraint into the counsels of Europe, you then proceeded to agree with Russia upon a secret instrument, which limited the discretion of two of the greatest Agents that were to appear in the Congress, by a compact binding each of them to the other, and thereby necessarily limiting the discretion of Europe itself. Sir, I should be very glad to know how, with reference to this part of the case, the Government can show the proceedings in the matter of the Salisbury-Schouvaloff Agreement to be conformable to that perfect good faith which ought to prevail in all the transactions of the Powers; which ought, especially, to prevail between this Power and the rest of Europe; and to which I, for one, had fondly dreamed that this country would cling, even were every other Power to show itself ready to compromise the high standard of its principles.
The last great subject before us tonight, and unfortunately the largest and most complex of all, and which, even if a long speech were exclusively devoted to it, could not be exhaustively discussed, is the Anglo-Turkish Convention. I am sorry to say, it is, perhaps, the most painful subject. I wish to say this 690 plainly, and to give my reasons for what I say, waiting and hoping to be confuted, if happily I may be confuted; ready to apologize, if I speak in terms stronger than our debates shall require, upon these proceedings, which appear to me to lie entirely outside, not only the limits of all former precedents, but the limits of all rational policy. I believe this Convention to be a complete and absolute novelty in our political history; partly as to its contents and aims, and partly as to the manner in which it has been concluded, and upon which I am bound to say I feel even more strongly than with respect to its contents.
Now, Sir, what is this Convention in itself? What I have just said is applicable to a certain construction of it; but there are two constructions of it, and they are wide as the poles asunder. If you take it according to one of these constructions, then, I think, it justifies the very strongest epithets that can be used as to its unprecedented, and even its monstrous, character. If you take it according to the other description, it becomes a poor shadowy product, of an uncertain and precarious life, which may perhaps die of inanition at any moment, excepting, by-the-bye, upon one single point—the possession of Cyprus. It is provided, in the Convention, that if Russia shall surrender her territorial acquisitions in Asia, then Great Britain shall surrender Cyprus; but it is not provided that if Great Britain gives up the prosecution of the gigantic task to which she has committed herself in Asiatic Turkey, from the Black Sea down to the Persian Gulf, and to the Southern bounds of Arabia, that then also she shall, upon her desisting from her task, surrender Cyprus. Excepting in the case of a surrender by Russia, Cyprus would be, so far as it goes, a solid residuum.
I am bound to state that, upon the evidence of the facts, it appears to me that the acquisition of Cyprus has been the Alpha and the Omega of the conclusion of this Convention. The noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) holds us responsible for having been sufficiently informed as to this acquisition. He says it was spoken of in the newspapers. One newspaper wrote of Mitylene, another of Cyprus, another of Egypt, another of the coast of Syria. Therefore, says the noble Lord, in conse- 691 quence of these isolated notices and comments, we ought to have been prepared for the production of the scheme now before us. This scheme, says he, is only a conditional Agreement; we have only demanded of Turkey that she should perform certain great operations. She has agreed to do so, by-and-bye. It is extremely likely that she may not perform them, and if she does not perform them we retire, and in retiring we have a convenient Island in the Mediterranean, which some people think may be very valuable to us. I do not agree in that opinion; but the Convention, in that case, would be reduced to very moderate dimensions. I am not sure whether this is the reading of the Convention adopted by the noble Lord. I am afraid it is not a true reading as adopted by Her Majesty's Government generally. It may be one not unreasonable. I do not believe that Turkey can or will perform the conditions that must be exacted of her; and, therefore, it appears, on this mode of construing the instrument, that the obligation towards Turkey may lapse and determine.
But then we have professed to enter into that obligation on the ground that the maintenance of Turkey in Asia is necessary for British interests. If so, it may happen that we may be compelled, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, to adopt this Convention under the more substantial of its two positive forms. We are not to assume the government of Asiatic Turkey. We are to proceed upon certain plans which the Under Secretary of State says he will not produce. He seems entirely to forget that all these things have been planned 10 times over at earlier dates. He forgets that a perfect scheme of reform for Turkey was published in the year 1839; and. that another perfect scheme was published in 1856, after it had been framed under the advice of men of quite as high character, and quite as strong wits, as any of those who have taken part, or who are likely to take part, in the present proceedings. The Hatti Humayoun of 1856 is, as I believe, at this moment the law of Asia Minor, the law of Syria and Mesopotamia, and of Turkish Arabia. Are you going to repeal that law? Do you mean to sweep away all that was done by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe? You are going to undertake an enormous work. 692 The Prime Minister says that you mean to produce order and prosperity out of chaos and anarchy. The noble Lord (Viscount Sandon), in an elegant peroration, which proved to me so strongly the extent of his imaginative powers, developed largely the view of the Prime Minister. To produce order and prosperity out of chaos and anarchy—out of the chaos and anarchy of 18,000,000 of people dispersed over a territory larger than Western Europe, is what is undertaken by Her Majesty's Government. All this they are to do, not with the united authority of Europe—they are to do it single-handed; they are to do it by the force of moral suasion; they are to do it by the force of that moral suasion which they have been employing for years, without the smallest effect, in pressing and urging Turkey to reform her government. What is the condition, all this time, of our own public affairs? Have we, the British nation, a great spare fund of energy applicable to this gigantic purpose? Why, Sir, our public affairs are in such a condition—I do not say it is mainly owing to the action of the present Government—but they have been taxing their brains to discover this and that Lilliputian method of expediting the labours of the House of Commons, which is already over-taxed more and more egregiously from year to year. Our own business is in enormous, and I fear, hopeless, arrear. Obstruction has become a most powerful instrument, which is due in a large measure to this arrear. Yet they are not afraid to undertake new and also boundless responsibilities. Turkey in Asia is to be managed as an outpost of British power; it is to be maintained and to be reformed. We have never been able to reform Turkey at all. We have never been able to effect reform in India, even with absolute power in our hands, through the medium of a Native Government. We have always been compelled, in order to effect reform, to take the direct Administration and Sovereignty into our hands. We are now going to attempt that which is wholly unheard of. An immense military responsibility is likewise to be cast on us. We are to defend, at the moment when Russia shall please to attack it, a frontier of a difficult and almost inaccessible character, 2,000 or 3,000 miles distant from our own resources, but conterminous with the whole 693 mass of the unbroken territory of Russia. Together with this military responsibility, we undertake a complete social and political transformation. We are to re-construct the police of Turkey, the Judicature, the fiscal system, and the Civil Service. Memory fails me in the attempt to enumerate all the many-sided particulars of Ministerial benevolence. We are to reform the appointment of Governors, and, finally, we are to staunch all the fountain-heads of corruption in Constantinople itself, which have hitherto vitiated all the benevolent schemes that have been formed for the improvement of Turkey. This is the plan proposed for our acceptance, not for our own free consideration, but for our acceptance upon the responsibility of the Government. The proceedings of the Government have been carefully concealed from us in their inception and negotiation— concealed from us until the disclosure of them was of no use, weight, or value, because the full force of the Covenant, whatever that Covenant may be, has already been brought to bear upon us by the action of the Administration. Sir, I do not disparage the importance of reform in Turkey; but we ought to have regard to the amount of that which we undertake, to the success which we have hitherto achieved, to the means which we can bring to bear upon its accomplishment; for otherwise we run the most serious risk of practising delusion upon ourselves and others, delusion which, at a certain point, degenerates even into imposture.
What are the reasons for this unheard of—nay, in the sense I have described, this mad undertaking? I want to know at what period of history, and by what British statesman, such an act as this has ever been done? I have had some knowledge of those who have taken the leading part in the foreign affairs of this country for the last 40 years. I have sat in the Cabinet by the side of the Duke of Wellington, of Sir Robert Peel, of Lord Aberdeen, of Sir James Graham, of Lord Lansdowne, of Lord Palmerston, of Lord Clarendon, and of Lord Russell. I have known their modes of looking at these affairs; I have known the measure which they took of the rights, and duties, and powers of England, and of the limitations placed by a higher authority on all human power. Knowing the men, and the modes of 694 action of the men, I do not hesitate to say that there was not one of them who would for one moment have consented to look at such a scheme as has been contrived and accomplished in the dark, by the Members of Her Majesty's present Government. It would be presumptuous for me, were I to speak, in the face of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in a tone equally confident of the late Lord Derby; but I have sat also with the late Lord Derby in the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel, and I have the strongest conviction that if such a scheme had been presented to him he would, like his distinguished son, have entirely declined to be responsible for it, in part or in whole, as a device not within the limits of rational or practical politics.
Now, Sir, let us look at some of the reasons which have been given for undertaking some of these extraordinary responsibilities. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says that other people have assumed responsibilities, and shall we take none? He seems to complain that we are entirely without responsibility. I had thought that in the condition of the British Empire we were tolerably well supplied. He says Russia is going to assume responsibilities. What responsibilities is Russia about to assume? For nine months she is to maintain possession by her troops of the territories that they occupy, and after that she will act only in concurrence and in partnership with Europe. What separate responsibility has Russia undertaken? Has the Under Secretary got another Schouvaloff Memorandum, not yet disclosed to us? No other responsibility of Russia is mentioned in the Protocols or in the Treaty. But Austria is going to undertake responsibilities. Undoubtedly she is. She will be responsible for a territory of limited extent, inhabited by 1,200,000 or 1,500,000 people, and that territory already surrounded, as to more than half its circumference, by her own territory. This responsibility she has undertaken, in the face of day, by the mandate of Europe. Her mode of obtaining it, whatever I may think of her general policy, has been perfectly honourable. No one is entitled to find the slightest fault with her procedure. She has obtained the consent of Europe, and the authority of Europe; her task is, at any rate, within limits; she is not going 695 to take charge of half a continent; she is not going to proceed under an agreement made with closed doors, and imposed by her Executive Government upon her own people, on its own single responsibility.
So much for the responsibilities of others. But the Under Secretary has produced an argument much more extraordinary even than this. I really felt, when he used it last night, that there was something in it in full harmony with the high-coloured Oriental character of these proceedings. The hon. Gentleman has discovered that Russia is in the greatest possible want of recruiting ground; she has such a small population, and so very few men in proportion to her means of subsistence. Now, Sir, I have always been under an impression, in which I must have been completely wrong. My impression had hitherto been that Russia was a country with comparatively small means of subsistence, and a comparatively large number of inhabitants. Were this so, the business of recruiting is the easiest operation that could be conceived. It is also backed by the system of conscription. But as to the character of the recruiting ground of the hon. Gentleman, which he really might have drawn by copying from The Arabian Nights, I tell him this—that, if he has not got information contrary to mine, so far from Russia getting or requiring recruiting ground in Armenia, Russia, long ago in possession of Georgia, has not even extended her ordinary system of conscription to the South of the Caucasus. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to contradict this statement? I have learned that the country of Georgia, into which I believe a year ago, or two years ago, Russia had not thought it worth while to extend her conscription, is a better territory for recruiting, has more population, and is better able to yield her soldiers, inhabited as it is exclusively by Christians, than that Armenia which has possessed and inflamed the imagination of the hon. Gentleman, and filled him with terrors, lest Russia should make use of it for her recruiting ground. Russia has not even carried her own system of recruiting into her present territory, towards the frontier of Turkey, and yet the hon. Gentleman tells us that it is her great scheme to acquire this Turkish territory, evidently 696 less adapted for the purpose, to supply a poverty of men which does not exist, and under which she has never suffered, and is not likely to suffer. A more extraordinary piece of information than that given by the hon. Gentleman, proceeding as it does from an official source, can hardly be imagined. But I do not blame the hon. Gentleman. I believe that this strange conception is entirely owing to the poverty of his materials. It is, in reality, of a piece with the general idea and structure of that singular production which is called the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and which I am convinced will be the astonishment—it may possibly be the calamity—of our children and of our children's children.
It would not be well, Sir, however, that the whole business of supplying arguments should fall upon the Under Secretary. The Secretary of State has also made a contribution towards the discovery of reasons to be urged in favour of this scheme. It is to be found in the despatch which has been for some days in our hands. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs considers that throughout Asia Minor, as a consequence of the recent war, there will be a great disintegration of Ottoman rule, amounting nearly to a dissolution of society, so that if there is to be any hope of order or peace in that country, there is an absolute necessity for some kind of intervention. Now, Sir, in the first place, I beg you to compare this most deplorable state of things with the other reports which we have heard as to the concentration of the Turkish Empire. Why, if the Turkish Empire is concentrated, as is insisted upon by Her Majesty's Government, and not "partitioned," as other and foolish people have imagined, just as that concentration would enable the Ottoman Power to manage its affairs in Europe with more efficiency, why should it not do the same thing in Asia? The Turkish Empire will be concentrated in Asia, as an effect of the concentration in Europe, and will be concentrated in Asia by the abstraction of the territory which Russia has taken from it. But that is not all. In Europe the concentrated territory is to be administered under great difficulty by a minority of Mahommedans among a majority of Christians, by a Government of the Turkish fashion, with Governments of a very different and far 697 better fashion upon the frontiers at short distances. In European Turkey the Porte has constantly been troubled by revolts. In Asia, so far from her having greater difficulties to contend with, her difficulties are infinitely less. Who has heard of revolts in Asia Minor or in Mesopotamia? Who are the inhabitants of Asia Minor in its centre? I do not speak of Armenia; but even in Armenia the Armenians are in a minority. Who, I ask, are the inhabitants of Central Asia Minor? They are the best and most solid of the Mahommedan population in the whole of the Turkish Empire, except that of Mesopotamia and the extreme South-east. Will the hon. Gentleman venture to contradict my statement? I am quite sure he cannot; and yet my statement is one which, if it be true, is perfectly fatal to the argument of the Secretary of State. Kurdistan may be a lawless tract; but I do not speak of Kurdistan, I speak of Central Asia Minor. Captain Burnaby is a good witness to call. I hope I may call him so, because he has been led accidentally to put into my mouth all manner of things which I never said, and consequently I hope that the mention of his name will be received with much favour by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He is without doubt a competent observer of things which fall within his own view. He has given a very interesting account of his ride through the heart of Asia Minor, and he writes that it is inhabited by a population mainly of Mahommedans, and enthusiastic in its loyalty to the dynasty and the Mahommedan religion. The fact is, that there is no evidence of the state of things stated by Lord Salisbury; it is entirely due to his imagination. This has been the least troubled portion of the Turkish Empire. Bad government prevails in it, but only as it prevails everywhere. Who has ever heard before of the doctrine set up by Lord Salisbury? Show me the documents in the voluminous records of the Foreign Office, of any anterior period, which are in harmony with this despatch of Lord Salisbury, and which represent a specially hopeless state of things in the interior of Asia Minor. I cannot but affirm that it is a despatch made to meet the case. I do not mean that Lord Salisbury has not persuaded himself of the truth of the statement he has made; but he is in a 698 position of great difficulty—he has to find a justification for an extraordinary and an unheard of measure. Rebellions in Asia Minor are things unheard of. Grievances in Asia Minor have never yet produced that result. Tour own witness (Captain Burnaby) is against you, and there is not the smallest pretence for saying that society in Asia Minor is in a condition of anarchy in a sense inapplicable to other portions of the Turkish Empire. And if it were so, this Convention does not refer to Asia Minor alone; it refers just as much to Syria, and Mesopotamia, and Arabia.
But the noble Lord says—"You have not given us an alternative policy!" My answer is, the Congress itself, so far as Armenia is concerned, has concurred in providing an alternative policy, and one most rational. Here is one of the most extraordinary among all the extraordinary parts of this unexampled proceeding. The principle of British policy for very many years has been to regulate everything relating to Turkey, so far as it was to be touched at all, by the common consent of Europe. On that principle the Treaty of Berlin has been framed with regard to the Province of Armenia. All the Powers that have signed that Treaty have taken from the Sultan an engagement for the good government of Armenia, and they are one and all entitled to enforce that engagement. With regard, then, to the very same matters and at the very same time, the same Government has been a party to providing for two totally different jurisdictions—the one of a higher and the other of a lower authority; the one of European authority, with the consent of Turkey, the other of the authority of a single Power, with that same consent. Each of these may come, and is likely to come, into conflict with Turkey; but they may come also into conflict with one another. On the 4th of June, you signed a Treaty with the Sultan, under which the Sultan binds himself to you to settle with you certain reforms that are to be introduced into Armenia, among other countries. On the 13th of July, you signed another Treaty of Berlin, with the Sultan also, and with a great many other Powers, representing an authority far higher than that to which you and the Sultan can pretend; and this authority, with perfect parity among its members, provides that the Sultan, 699 in concert with each, and with the whole of them, shall introduce reforms into Armenia. What security have you, or have we, that these two authorities are to arrive at the same judgment on the reforms? There is very little doubt which of the two is superior. You may well talk of an alternative policy. You have provided, so far as Armenia is concerned, an alternative and a conflicting policy yourselves.
And how came this about? What we find is, that you had made your own secret arrangements with Turkey, withdrawn from the knowledge of the European Powers, and when the question of Armenia was raised in the Congress at Berlin, you were apparently not in a condition to disclose to the Congress—at all events, you did not disclose—that which you already had agreed upon for Turkey. The consequence of your alternative policy was that the Congress at Berlin adopted a system totally different to that to which you had agreed. The doctrine of the Government is that something was to be done. But something was done. The Sultan was already under obligations to Europe to execute reforms in Asiatic Turkey by the Treaty of 1856. If we wished to give effect to that obligation, why did not we invoke the authority of Europe? Is it not higher and stronger than ours? Do we mean to set up our own authority as greater than that of Europe? Do you think that we have a monopoly of humanity? Has our conduct, with regard to Turkey, been such as to show that the care of the subject-populations has been our interest alone, or has been more studiously propagated by us, than by other Powers of Christendom? Do you think that intervention in the Sultan's affairs is prejudicial and unwise when it is attempted by others, but beneficent and wise, when done by you single-handed? Now, suppose that the Sultan had made an agreement with Russia, to do, in a certain portion of his territory, that which he has agreed with you to do in far the larger part of it. Suppose a Russian Minister had said—"We are going to reform the Judicature, the police, the finances, the Civil Service of Turkey, and stop the progress of corruption in Constantinople." Would you have commended Russia for taking that course? Would you have allowed 700 Russia to take that course? No; nor yet to do a tenth part of what you have done. You would have inflamed the country, and called out your Reserves, and adopted your military measures. Sir, the whole tendency of what Her Majesty's Government has done is to establish one law for others, and another for ourselves. Lord Salisbury has been speaking with some contempt of the philosophical historian, and he has said —if he be correctly reported—that the philosophical historian has often given countenance to wild and speculative ideas, which are not suited for the councils of statesmen. In my own opinion, the philosophical historian, when he gets his turn—and he will get his turn—will make a very formidable rejoinder; he will say that it is from the councils of statesmen, or councils which are called such, that, upon this occasion, there has proceeded the most extraordinary crop of wild and speculative ideas which were ever grown in the hottest of all the hot-houses of politics.
What, Sir, are the Ministerial representations of this design? It is said that, in order to defend the Turkish frontier from Russia, England must watch over the good government of Turkey in Asia; and, in order to enable her to watch over it effectually, she must take possession of Cyprus. I should not be at all surprised if the philosophic historian, when he comes to handle the subject, should be inclined to give a totally different version of the matter, and should repeat it in a manner something like this. No doubt, he will greatly improve the form; but he may say something of this sort—"England"—that is to say, an English Ministry—" wanted to get possession of Cyprus, that it might have something to show to the people of England, by way of averting the reproach of defeat, or of presenting the semblance of triumph. In order to induce the Sultan to make them a present of Cyprus, they undertook to defend the Turkish frontier against Russia; and in order to make the defence of that frontier decent, in a philanthropic point of view, they took from the Sultan stipulations for the good government of Asia," which all experience had shown to be worthless.
I cannot complain, Sir, that we have had no explanation of the motives which induced the Sultan to enter into this Con- 701 vention. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State, in a moment of candour and great communicativeness—a quality in regard to which Her Majesty's Government have not signally erred on the side of excess—last night, did allow himself to tell us why it was that this Convention had been especially kept back from our knowledge. It was for this reason—If it had gone forth to the world, some ill-inclined persons would have persuaded the Sultan not to sign it. It was necessary, in order to make sure of the Sultan's signing it, that it should be done in the dark. That is not my statement; it is the statement of the hon. Gentleman who made it on the part of the Government. But why is it not good for the Sultan, as it is for everybody else, that he should do what he is called upon to do, after every opportunity of knowledge and information? If it had been known that this Convention was in the course of being negotiated, then there, as here, all the world would have had an opportunity of giving an opinion, and of giving information upon it. "No," says the hon. Gentleman, " that would have been utterly fatal; the Sultan would never have signed it. Secrecy was necessary in order to bring him to such a point." And is that, Sir, the account given by a British Minister of the motives for a British negotiation? Publicity would have exhibited all the facts, opened every mouth, thrown the full light of day on the entire transaction; but that, as we now know, in the judgment of the Government, would have been fatal to the signing of the Convention by the Sultan. It appears to me then, Sir, as I will say again, that we are truly in the region of The Arabian Nights, more than in the region of practical politics, as that region was known to the generation of our forefathers, or to my own earlier public life. The whole matter is so strange that, as we pass on from point to point, new wonders continually open upon us. It is not a matter of astonishment that—as has been stated so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea—a large portion of the people of England has been so silent on the subject of this Convention. I do not believe that now, in this debate, however it might be prolonged, we should be able to view it in all its lights, or to open up one-half of the contingencies, 702 or one-half of the dangers which, in the real and substantial conception of the scheme, it involves.
But, Sir, passing on from the matters which this Convention contains, I go to what is, if possible, more serious; and I want to know from Her Majesty's Government what is really their doctrine, and their view, about the binding force of Treaties? Upon this subject I am entirely and hopelessly confused. This country made a Declaration on the 17th January, 1871. I now tell Her Majesty's Government that I am going to attack their title, in point of honour and good faith, to conclude the Anglo-Turkish Convention in the way in which it was concluded. I say that they had no title. I say that the Convention, as it stands, is an offence against European law. I say that upon their own principles it has no legal force until the Powers of Europe shall have agreed to it. I want to know the opinion of the Government upon that subject, and if they do not agree with the opinion I have now given, I want to know how they could depart from a principle of their own which they have laid down in their own language, and on which they have strongly insisted during the present year? I go back, Sir, however, to the 17th January, 1871. The Assembly of Plenipotentiaries spoke thus—They recognize that it is one essential principle of the law of nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a Treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the contracting Powers by means of an amicable agreement.Now, Sir, I desire to know whether the Convention of the 4th of June does, or does not, modify the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris? I hold that it does modify those stipulations. I say that the cession of Cyprus to England — veil it as you like under the terms of "occupation" and "administration"— the delivery of Cyprus into the power of England, and all that legislative power over Cyprus, which you are going to claim, and which you are going to exercise—I presume under the authority of the Sultan—is totally at variance with both the spirit and letter of the Declaration of London, in its application to the Treaty of Paris. By the Treaty of Paris, every Power in Europe is bound to take an interest in that question, for it bears upon the integrity of the Tur- 703 kish Empire. It is a matter of common concern, and particular signatory Powers have no right to deal with it by separate arrangement. Supposing that Russia had taken Mitylene; juridically, the question would have just been the same, and it would then have been true, as it is now true, that her assumption of it had no legal validity without the assent of Europe. That is not my opinion alone. What was your own language a few weeks ago? Lord Derby said, on the 8th of March, in this year, on your behalf, in a despatch—It will be desirable to have it understood, in the first place, that no alteration in the state of things previously established by Treaty should be acknowledged as valid, until it has received the assent of the Powers.That was the language of Lord Derby on the 8th of March. Accordingly, the alterations made by the Treaty of San Stefano in the state of things previously established have either been reversed, or have since received the assent of the Powers of Europe. But what title have you to make other alterations on your own motion only? If you may thus act, may not Russia thus act? If Russia may not thus act, what right have you to take such proceedings? If the Porte is entitled to give over Cyprus to you, is she, or is she not entitled, I ask again, to give over Mitylene to Russia? If she is entitled to do the one and not the other, show me the international and juridical grounds on which you found that difference. It is quite time that the question should be asked, and that the question should be answered. I am profoundly alarmed at the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the faith of Treaties. A few months ago they were gaining infinite credit from Europe—I admit the fact— as the champion of public law. They had made demands upon Russia which led them, undoubtedly, to a diplomatic victory. They required Russia to submit to the meeting of a Congress, on terms much narrower and closer than had been pressed on any other Power at any former period. They brought the Congress together under limitations imposed by their will—limitations which, as far as I know, had never been previously pressed upon the Parties to a European Congress. But Russia did submit; and by making their demand, and carrying their demand, Her Ma- 704 jesty's Government obtained credit, as the champions of public law. But what have they, since then, been doing with public law themselves? They sent their Fleet into the Dardanelles, and kept it there, even in the time of peace. Was not that a violation of public law? A hon. and learned Friend of mine, the Member for the Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Watkin Williams), gave Notice of a Question on this subject to Her Majesty's Government, impugning the legality of their act; but the Notice of his Question was received on the other side of the House with such stormy manifestations as cannot easily be forgotten. It was a simple Question on a point of law; but whether, on account of its inconvenient character, or on some other ground, this method of meeting it was adopted, and with such effect that my hon. and learned Friend appears to have thought that, after all, discretion was the better part of valour, and that perhaps his Question had better not be put.
In the meantime, the British Fleet remained, and for a time, undoubtedly, without any sanction ever made known to us, within the Dardanelles in time of peace. Well, Sir, what declaration do we find before us in the Protocols, about that Article of the Treaty of London, which lays down the law of Europe with respect to the Straits? We find that Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary has taken upon himself to declare on behalf of England, without the consent of the other Powers of Europe, that we should determine for ourselves in what way we shall hereafter understand and construe that Article of the Treaty of London, which refers to the closing of the Dardanelles. What right has the British Plenipotentiary to make any such declaration? Lord Salisbury has inserted in the Protocols these words—Considering that the Treaty of Berlin will modify an important part of the arrangements sanctioned by the Treaty of Paris of 1856, and that the interpretation of Article 2 of the Treaty of London, which is dependent on the Treaty of Paris, may thus become a matter of dispute:—'I declare on behalf of England that the obligations of Her Britannic Majesty relating to the closing of the Straits, do not go further than an engagement with the Sultan to respect in this matter His Majesty's independent determinations in conformity with the spirit of existing Treaties.'With respect, then, Sir, to that very 705 Treaty of London, which was concluded for the very purpose of establishing the doctrine that no single Power could either depart from, or modify, the stipulations of any engagement, England has claimed to record a declaration with regard to the closing of the Straits that she will not he bound by the letter of the Treaty, but will fall back on its spirit, and make herself alone the judge of that spirit. It seems to me that this is a breach of the Treaty; a flat violation, as it stands, of the Treaty of London. The Russian Plenipotentiaries not unnaturally met it by recording their counter-declaration that the principle of closing the Straits was a European principle, and that the stipulations concluded in this respect in 1841, 1856, and 1871, confirmed at present by the Treaty of Berlin, were binding on the part of the Powers in accordance, not with the spirit only, but with the spirit and the letter of the existing Treaties. Well, Sir, I use those citations mainly as illustrations of the vital and fundamental inquiry, what is the ground on which you claim your title to make this separate Treaty with Turkey, and to modify the law of Europe without the assent of Europe? I confess it appears to me that it is a clear infraction of the principles declared in London in 1871, and declared by yourselves in the earlier portions of the negotiations.
Now, Sir, have foreign Powers no ground to complain of the manner of our proceedings in this matter? We brought them to Berlin under the full belief that we ourselves were there for the purpose of maintaining a very high doctrine about European law, and of contending that the provisions of 1856 were unalterable, except by European authority. Under that belief we carried them through all the important parts, or very nearly all the important parts, of the Treaty of Berlin, and it was only at the close of the negotiations that they found out that we, in the meantime, not by European authority, not even with the knowledge of any Power in Europe, as far as we are informed, had, in concert with the Porte, and, as the Under Secretary has told us, keeping even Turkey purposely in the dark, lest the Sultan should refuse to sign—we had altered the Treaty of 1856, behind the back of Europe, by establishing a sole Protectorate, and a single-handed right 706 of intervention in Asiatic Turkey, and by assuming the administration and occupation of the Island of Cyprus.
Now, Sir, this was in direct contradiction to the doctrine laid down by all previous authorities, and notably by Lord Clarendon, in a despatch, dated the 22nd July, 1854. Lord Clarendon says—If such reforms are to be promoted by any foreign influence, it can only be by means of friendly counsel and advice, and not by an interference grounded upon Treaty engagements into which no State could enter without abdicating its independence.In defiance of this principle you have taken a Treaty engagement with Turkey, and you have taken it alone. Now the great object of the Crimean War, and of the Treaty of 1856, was first of all to defeat and to prevent all sole interference with Turkey whatever, and to lay down the principle that whatever concerned Turkey should be the concern, not of one Power, but of Europe. Not only so, but there was another, and a noble portion of the policy of that time, which you have completely reversed. When England and Prance went into the Crimean War, they went into it as the champions of public law; and one of the first and most solemn acts which they performed was to contract a mutual engagement that, come what might, contending as they did for public law in the general interests of Europe and of civilization, neither the one nor the other should turn to her own profit the issue of the war, or use it for her own aggrandizement. What have we now done in connection with the principle involved in that engagement? Into the recent war we did not go. For the subject-races we lifted no arm of strength. What has been done for them has been done without us, has been done morally in spite of us. We contented ourselves with diplomatic war, not in their behalf, but against their cause. This war we carried on very actively through our Ambassador at Constantinople, against the Power engaged in the endeavour to liberate those subject-races—against her in that war, and in the best of her acts, although we aided her in her criminal proceedings in respect to Bessarabia; proceedings against which we protested, no doubt, in the face of the Assembly at Berlin, but with a written document, known to every one of its 707 members, that, if only she would hold to her point, we were ready to concur with her. Now, Sir, that self-denying engagement on the part of France and England was a noble and an honourable act, and it stands in the most glaring contrast with what has lately been done. It had the entire approval of the people of this country; and I have yet to learn that the people of this country will approve of the reversal, by a stroke struck in secret, of the policy it embodied. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government in going to Berlin, and negotiating there in the guise of maintainers of that public law which they themselves knew that they had just set aside, appears to me to be of a character of which foreign Powers have a right to complain as a proceeding tainted with duplicity. It is not enough to say that no Power in Europe protests against it. It is not a very dignified thing for any great Power to protest, unless it has well considered the means it it may possess of giving effect to its protests. It is not bound to protest at a given moment; it may choose its own time; but we are bound now, and at every time, to proceed upon the principles which we believe to be the principles of justice, and to test the conduct of the Government by the application of those principles.
Is it possible Her Majesty's Government can believe that they have been behaving in a manner worthy of England to, for example, all the Mediterranean Powers? They say that they have spared the susceptibilities of France. I will not now speak especially of Italy, though I might do it, as she is a Power whose coasts are only in the Mediterranean; but I speak of France. How have you spared her susceptibilities? By making a secret contract with the Sultan, which extends to the government of the whole of Turkey in Asia, and so includes the region of Syria, of the historical relations of which with Prance you cannot but be aware. You have stepped in between France and her historical relations with Syria; you have affected her position in the Mediterranean by the acquisition of Cyprus; you have forgotten the honourable and leading part which France has already taken in matters of vital consequence connected with the internal condition of Turkey in Asia. Do you 708 think that France has not cause to be jealous of these proceedings? As to her declarations, I do not pretend to be in possession of authentic evidence; but I listened with much astonishment to the language of the noble Lord tonight. The noble Lord to-night quoted a speech of M. Gambetta, which he thought favourable to the recent policy of England; and he said it would be admitted that M. Gambetta could not be considered as a friendly witness. Surely, Sir, the noble Lord could have given no attention whatever to the course taken by a portion of the French Press during the Eastern controversy. The reputed organ of M. Gambetta in the French Press—I speak of that which I believe is notorious—is The République FranÇaise. I have read The Répubtique FranÇaise from time to time during these transactions. I have never seen a notice in it of my own course, except in terms of the severest condemnation, and that journal has appeared to be nearly as much devoted as some of the journals of this Metropolis to the support of the policy of Her Majesty's Government upon the Eastern Question. I do not now enter into motives; but such is the fact. The Journal des Débats has maintained, as far as I know, a tone nearly similar. At the same time, in The Journal des Débats, within the last few days, I find this passage—Let England represent to herself what her feelings would have been if France in the days of her power "—"In the days of her power!" what a bitter reflection for the French writer at the moment!—done what England has just accomplished, and if she had done it in the same manner.Sir, had France taken such a proceeding, I know very well what England would have thought. The writer in The Journal des Débats goes on to refer, and to refer with perfect justice, to the opinions expressed in this country at the time as to the annexation of Savoy and of Nice. That annexation was one of trifling political consequence in itself. Nay, more; I will venture to say, as regards Savoy, what I could not state as regards Nice, it was an annexation which was not otherwise than agreeable to the real nature of the circumstances at the time. The annexation of these 709 two Provinces was effected under circumstances which did not cause public scandal; yet such were the feelings aroused in this country, that I give it confidently as my opinion, that if it had not been for the commercial negotiations with France, and for the French Treaty of the same year, it is too probable that we should have found our way to war with France, out of jealousy against those annexations. A course tending manifestly in that direction was recommended in this House, not under the name of war, but under the name of a "Continental combination" against France, from this Opposition Bench, near which I now stand, by a Gentleman who then principally expressed the opinions of the Conservative Party on foreign affairs in Parliament—I mean Sir Seymour Fitzgerald. Sir, it would perhaps be agreeable neither to the recollections, nor to the hopes and aspirations of France, that she should commit herself to a protest at a time when prudence might recommend that her protest should be in words alone. But when I look back upon all the phases of this Eastern Question, I say of France, whether she protest or not, that I am grateful to France for the part she has taken on more than one occasion; and that I feel ashamed of the treatment to which she has now been subjected. The union of the Danubian Principalities, which was stoutly resisted by hon. Gentlemen I see opposite, was, perhaps, the very best thing that had ever been accomplished towards the liberation of the Christian populations in the East, towards establishing a barrier against Russia, and towards the general settlement of the question, within the last 20 years. That union was mainly due to the energetic agency of France; it was likewise mainly due to France that the intervention in the case of the Lebanon was instituted, and was carried to a close with the energy which the case required.
Allow me, Sir, to point out that that intervention ought, in my opinion, to have supplied a model for the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government. If they thought that the condition of Asiatic Turkey, as I strongly think, required the notice of other Powers, it was open to them at the Congress at Berlin to have proposed that principles such as have been laid down for Armenia should 710 be carried into effect in other portions of Asiatic Turkey, and likewise that the provisions adopted in the case of the Lebanon would have supplied a precedent for giving shape to those provisions. That history, Sir, of the mode in which the disturbances in the Lebanon were dealt with was creditable to all concerned; but it was especially creditable to France. By the use of firm language, which always has its effect with Turkey, France, England, and Russia interposed to stop effectually a state of things which had reached the extremest horror in Syria. I heard to-night the description of Syria given by the noble Lord; but from that description it did not appear that he had ever so much as heard a whisper of the transactions to which I now refer. However, those transactions brought about an intervention of the Great Powers. Despatches were written, couched in intelligible language, and with the intention and determination that they should take effect; not as in September, 1876, when high words were idly wasted, but in a very different temper, and with very different courage and determination. Turkey was required to execute a great criminal—a person whose rank was no less than that of a Pasha, and that Pasha was executed accordingly. Arrangements were made for the government of the Province, with respect to which, avoiding all detail, I will only say they were of such a character that, under a variety of Governors, it has since, as I believe, enjoyed at least comparative peace, order, and happiness. I am happy to say that the British Government of the day vigorously co-operated to bring about those arrangements, which you have not condescended to copy, and which you have not sought the aid of Europe to extend in other portions of Turkey in Asia, choosing rather other methods of proceeding, more visibly connected with selfish and separate interests; but I am bound also to admit that of the honour, which was reaped by the whole of the intervening Powers, the principal share due on that occasion was due, not to England, but to France. And now France, in her comparative weakness—in the days, at least, when she thinks reserve still most befits her policy—is to see us, who in that affair were content to follow in her wake, and who, on the question of the Principalities, rather resisted than aided 711 her, step in between her and her historical associations, and the just claims growing out of them. Are you sanguine enough to believe that such facts as these will not be unremembered by her in the days of her prosperity and her strength?
But, Sir, if foreign Powers have reason to complain of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, what shall I say of that conduct in its bearing upon the dignity and the rights of Parliament? The Treaty-making power in this country is a power of which I have some special right to speak at the present moment, because I have had the opportunity of declaring my opinions on a recent occasion, in the presence of important personages connected with Government. It is a power, Sir, of Prerogative, which in the abstract is difficult to defend; but which has been endured because it had been uniformly used with moderation, with careful regard to precedent, with a just estimate of the rights of the people, and with due knowledge of the existing sense and convictions of the people. When it ceases to be so used, and comes to be used in another manner, it is a power that becomes, in one word, intolerable. The British Constitution instead of being, as it has been largely admitted to be, the admiration of the world, would be, not the admiration, but the derision of the world, unless due regard were paid to the rights of Parliament in matters thus largely and profoundly affecting the welfare of the country. Now, Sir, have, or have not, Her Majesty's Government paid due regard to the rights of Parliament? They have yet to state their own case upon the subject; but at present it appears to me that they have made an imprudent, and even an unheard-of use of the Treaty-making power. They have gone beyond the limits of precedent; they have not adhered to known principles of action; they have not marched in concert with the convictions of the country, but have acted entirely without its knowledge or expectation. They have not only not developed and fulfilled the policy of former proceedings, but they have actually reversed that policy. The Treaty of Paris, as I have shown, rejected altogether the sole interference of any Power in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire; but you have laid hands on the Island of Cyprus, and you will 712 keep it as long as you please; and you have taken powers under which your sole interference with Turkey will have no limit, except such as you yourselves may choose to attach to it. You have, therefore, employed your power upon principles the direct reverse of those on which Parliament had a right to suppose you would act. The Treaty-making power has hitherto been safe, because those who used it took care to have a knowledge of the public sentiment, and took care also that the country should be aware of the general aims which they were prosecuting, and the direction in which they marched. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea employed an excellent expression when he said it had been usual that all the general lines of negotiation should be known to the nation; and I believe you cannot show an important stipulation in a Treaty, or if you can it would be the very rarest exception, and one of comparatively insignificant weight, of which the general lines had not been known and familiar to the people, before the faith of the Crown was committed. Of all the cases quoted by the noble Lord opposite, and which have, no doubt, been collected by official care, there is not one that was secretly negotiated, and the negotiation carrying it to a point, placing it beyond the control of Parliament. The whole proceedings about the Ionian Islands— which he triumphantly cited—extended over many months; they were in the full knowledge of the country, and it was perfectly in the power of Parliament before the work was accomplished to interfere and arrest it if it pleased. The offer made by the Government was one in respect of which it was perfectly well known that it must depend upon the state of opinion in England. I now call upon hon. Gentlemen to produce, if they can, one instance of a Treaty of great importance, involving large and remote responsibilities, certain, in given contingencies, to impose heavy sacrifices upon the people, entirely beyond the lines of ordinary precedent, and reversing, as I have shown, established and vital principles of policy, which has been negotiated in secret, ratified in secret, and produced to Parliament only when it had received the final seal.
Sir, I must add that it is almost ludicrous to examine our relative positions with regard to the Treaty of Berlin and 713 with regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. At this moment, if we had found, as we have not found, the Treaty of Berlin to be on the whole a bad Treaty, which it was our duty to defeat if we could, we find ourselves at liberty to make the attempt. We have not yet passed the day of ratification. This House of Parliament may declare itself in decisive terms against any Treaty before ratification. The intervention of a Parliamentary Chamber, by well-understood precedent, can stop the ratification of a Treaty. That is to say, the Government which chooses to stop the ratification of a Treaty, in consequence of such an intervention is not liable to a charge of bad faith. I speak from precedent, and from recollections which I think are tolerably clear. I refer to the case which happened in the year 1841 or 1842—but I think the former year. The question, which was of very great difficulty and importance, and was, at that time, of very considerable soreness between the two countries, related to the right of search at sea for slaves. A Treaty had been framed between the Governments of England and France. After that Treaty had been concluded and signed, the French Chamber manifested a spirit of ungovernable hostility towards it, whether by vote or any other form I do not now recollect. The French Government refused to ratify the Treaty, and the British Government accepted the decision of the French Government, and admitted that, however the act was to be lamented, it was within the rights that that Government possessed. And so we stand now with regard to the Treaty of Berlin. There is nothing in it which stands, perhaps, precisely as we should have anticipated; but everythings stands within a certain measurable limit of deviation, so to call it, from what we might have anticipated, and from what we were bound to anticipate. And yet there it would be in our power to interfere. In the case of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, on the contrary, we have a new and strange disclosure, almost like a revelation from another world, on matters totally unheard of in English politics, totally unknown to the course of our precedents, and no means are allowed to us of intervention or rejection. The ratification is carefully effected several days before the existence of the Treaty is made known. We 714 are not told that it was kept back in order that it might be placed beyond our reach; but only that it was kept back lest the Sultan, if it were brought into the light of day, should refuse to sign it. Sir, the noble Lord who has last sat down is totally incapable of mockery or of unkindly action of any sort. Were it not so, I should have been tempted to suppose that he was mocking us when he said—" You ought to have known quite enough about it, for hints of all kinds were cast about."
This to my mind, Sir, is a most serious matter. I think we have lost greatly by the conclusion of this Convention; I think we have lost very greatly indeed the sympathy and respect of the nations of Europe. I do not expect or believe that we shall fall into that sort of contempt which follows upon weakness. I think it to be one of the most threadbare of all the weapons of Party warfare when we hear, as we sometimes hear, on the accession of a new Government, that before its accession the Government of England had been despised all over the world, and that now, on the contrary, she has risen in the general estimation, and holds her proper place in the Councils of Nations. This England of ours is not so poor and so weak a thing as to depend upon the reputation of this or that Administration; and the world knows pretty well of what stuff she is made. I am not quite sure however, that the world has the same clear and strong conviction with respect to the standard of our moral action as it has with respect to the standard of our material strength. Now, I am desirous that the standard of our material strength shall be highly and justly estimated by the other nations of Christendom; but I believe it to be of still more vital consequence that we should stand high in their estimation as the lovers of truth, of honour, and of openness in all our proceedings, as those who know how to cast aside the motives of a narrow selfishness, and give scope to considerations of broad and lofty principle. I value our insular position, but I dread the day when we shall be reduced to a moral insularity. I desire that sympathy should be cherished with every country, be its name what it may; and I fear that the conclusion of this Convention will be injurious to the action of that sympathy. The proceed- 715 ings have all along been associated with a profession as to certain British interests, which, although I believe them to be perfectly fictitious and imaginary, have yet been pursued with as much zeal and eagerness, as if they had been the most vital realities in the world. This setting up of our own interests, out of place, in an exaggerated form, beyond their proper sphere, and not merely the setting up of such interests, but the mode in which they have been pursued, has greatly diminished, not, as I have said, the regard for our material strength, but the estimation of our moral standard of action, and consequently our moral position in the world. If that be so, Sir, with respect to foreign countries, with respect to Parliament, I believe the case to be graver still.
I am reluctant to trespass further on the patience of the House. I have already the opinions which I have now declared about the exercise of the Treaty-making power, I had not long ago an opportunity of expressing in the face of an important personage associated with Government. I must now add that I had the satisfaction of hearing commendation from that quarter given to the principles I had laid down, as to the manner in which the Treaty-making power ought to be exercised— that is to say, that it should be exercised with regard to the actual state of the convictions, and the knowledge, and the desires of the people, and not merely according to the idea that a particular Government might, however sincerely, conceive as to their interest. I am at a loss to reconcile those commendations.
I am afraid, Sir, that we have reached a state of things in which Her Majesty's Government have done great and needless harm to the rights and Prerogatives of Parliament. I do not even hesitate to say that although I believe the Treaty-making power has stood on firm foundations in this country down to the present year, and although it is most deplorable that anything should be said, or done, to bring it into question, yet such proceedings, as these most recent proceedings of the Administration, have a direct tendency to produce that effect, and, if persevered in, will undoubtedly end in raising controversies with respect to that power, which we should all of us be desirous to avoid.
716 I will not fail, so far as my powers carry me, in the duty of protesting against that course. I grieve over that which has been done. I am obliged to recall words which I used some 15 months ago in this House, with regard to the contingencies of the war which had then just broken out. I said that if the work of liberation was to be done, but was effected, without the approval, nay, rather under the ban, of England, as a man I should rejoice, but as an Englishman I should hide my head. That is the result which has actually arrived; and now, even at the last moment, and even in the Congress at Berlin, after the war had been concluded, with final results favourable to the freedom and happiness of mankind, the action of the English Government has not been directed to the extension of the work of liberation; but, on the contrary, to its contraction. I had myself begun to cherish the expectation and the desire that these keen debates —for keen they could not but be—on the great Eastern Question, were about to reach or even had reached their close; but while we were indulging in these fond anticipations, Her Majesty's Government were preparing a new stroke for us, and we were startled with a novelty even greater than any that had gone before. It is also one in respect to which we have, I fear, as yet, no justification for assuming that it is the last. On the contrary, we are perplexed with the apprehension that as long as these proceedings continue to be sustained by a majority in this House, and as long as the country has had no opportunity of passing its final and conclusive judgment, they will be repeated and renewed, from time to time, as may seem good to the Ministers in power. More and more damage will thus be done both to the great name and honour of this country, and to the Prerogatives and rights of Parliament, bound up, as they are, with the liberties of the people. First, we have the setting up of British interests, not real but imaginary. Then, we have the prosecution of these supposed British interests, by means of strange and unheard of schemes, such as never occurred even to the imagination of statesmen of other days. Then we have those strange and unheard of schemes, prosecuted in a manner which appears, as I conceive, to indicate a very 717 deficient regard to the authority of the law of Europe, and to that just respect which is due to all foreign Powers. Then we have, associated with this grievous lack, a disregard, a neglect— it may, perhaps, even be said, a contempt—for the rights of Parliament. Lastly, along with all this, we create a belief, a belief rather strengthened than weakened by the evident absence of any eagerness on the part of Her Majesty's Government to give us financial information, that the result of those operations of the Government, so unsound in their foundation, so wild in their aims, is likely to be an increase of responsibility, with no addition, but rather with a diminution, of strength; a loss of respect abroad; a shock to constitutional instincts and practices at home; and also an augmentation of the burdens which are borne with such exemplary patience by a too confiding people.
§ MR. SIDEBOTTOM
*: Sir, during the whole of the protracted debates which have taken place upon the momentous question which has so long agitated the public mind of this country, and of all Europe, I have never troubled the House with any observations; but as it is a subject in which I take the deepest interest, and upon which I feel very strongly, I hope the House will grant me its indulgence for a few minutes. Now, it would be most presumptuous in me to attempt to follow the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I am one of those who have often sat spell-bound under the influence of his surpassing eloquence, and have thought that his magnificent orations might well bear comparison with any of those most celebrated in either ancient or modern times; but in view of the peril to our common country, from which we have now so happily escaped, I had hoped that we had heard the last of these Party recriminations, that we should have laid aside all petty, personal, and paltry Party feelings, have risen equal to the occasion, and, instead of attempting to damage and weaken Her Majesty's Government, should have remembered that, whether Liberals or Conservatives, we are Englishmen alike, and have supported the Government in the difficult position in which they are placed. Now, to form an accurate judgment on the merits of this great question, it is necessary to take a broad, a 718 wide, and comprehensive view of all the facts and circumstances connected with it. For ages the Eastern Question has been a problem from the solution of which statesmen have shrunk, and which has weighed like a nightmare upon the minds of the leading public men of Europe. A quarter of a century ago, in alliance with France, we fondly hoped it had been solved in the trenches of Sebastopol, and on the blood-stained heights of Inkerman and Alma. That hope was vain. The same causes which led to the Crimean War have been at work since, and have ultimately brought on the far more dreadful war which has now happily come to an end. It is vain to speculate, it is useless to argue, whether that war was caused by the chronic mis-government of Turkey, or by the reckless and insatiable ambition of Russia. There will probably never be any positive agreement on this score; but one thing is clear—it is perfectly certain that it was not caused by any act or deed of England; but that, on the contrary, every effort was used by our Government, in the first instance, to prevent the war, and afterwards to limit its area and bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible. And their motives for thus acting, and for pursuing that policy, are perfectly plain and obvious. Apart altogether from the abstract desire which every right-minded person must entertain to prevent the horrors and carnage and bloodshed of war, we had the strongest reasons for wishing to preserve peace. We have a great Eastern Empire in India, with the safety and prosperity of which it is scarcely too much to say the prosperity and greatness of England herself are inextricably involved; and we have, therefore, the most direct and cogent reasons for deprecating interference with the existing order of things in those regions, and for watching, with the greatest anxiety, that our direct road to that immense Possession shall neither be tampered with, or even remotely threatened, by any great European Power obtaining possession, on one pretext or another, of any of those countries or places which either directly or indirectly command the route. Hence the great interest manifested by this country in the Eastern Question; hence the instinctive feeling of the people that the action of Russia imperilled our in- 719 terests; hence the firm resolve, clearly manifested by the vast majority of the nation, to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government in resisting her encroachments, and maintaining and upholding our own interests. Now, what are the facts? Russia went to war with Turkey ostensibly for the protection of the Christians. That war was carried on with varied fortune; but in the end she was completely victorious, and Turkey compelled humbly to sue for peace. Terms of the greatest harshness were offered, unnecessary delays interposed, and, in open defiance of the most solemn promises, the Forces of the conqueror pushed steadily forward towards Constantinople, till its towers were actually in sight. The negotiations for peace wore conducted with the very greatest secrecy, and there can be no moral doubt whatever that, but for the firm, decided, and straightforward action of Her Majesty's Government in sending our Fleet into the Dardanelles, with instructions to keep open the water-way, Russia would have gained possession of those Straits, the command of which has been her ambition for generations, and would never have surrendered it, till torrents of British blood had been shed, and she had been expelled by force. If that was not her real object and design, why was our Government for so long kept studiously in ignorance of the real terms of peace? Why were we amused with all sorts of contradictory rumours, seemingly purposely intended to mystify and deceive? Why, when Turkey lay prostrate in the dust, and was humbly suing for peace, almost at any price, was the march of troops on Constantinople and the Straits pushed on with such impetuous haste? And why were torpedoes carried with the columns? There can be but one answer — because Russia fondly believed the glittering prize she had so long coveted at last lay within her grasp. Turkey was prostrate, France held in chock by Germany, Austria the same, whilst England was supposed to be paralyzed and divided, and it was hoped that the story of the Bulgarian atrocities, and the line taken by some of our most distinguished statesmen, would render any decided action on our part impossible. It cannot, indeed, be doubted that a general feeling of horror was excited amongst us by the accounts of the dreadful atrocities in Bulgaria; but the 720 sober sense of the nation soon perceived that there were far deeper matters to be dealt with; that it was of little use dealing with the effect, whilst the cause remained; that it was puerile attempting to heal the sore, whilst the cancer lay festering within; and more than a suspicion was raised that the best feelings of a generous people had been purposely excited and made use of in order to close its eyes to the deadly wounds deliberately intended to be inflicted on an ancient Ally and upon its own British interests at one and the same time. Well, Russia was soon rudely awakened from this dream, and enlightened as to the real and true state of public opinion in this country. The Government took prompt and determined action. The British Fleet passed the Dardanelles, a Vote of Credit was granted, the Reserves were called out, the Government were supported by overwhelming majorities in Parliament, and the whole country was roused to a sense of the danger with which we were threatened. I will not weary the House by recalling the indignation expressed when the terms of the infamous Treaty of San Stefano became known, nor the attempt by Russia to withhold its provisions from the consideration of the Congress. We all remember how these difficulties were overcome by the decided action of Her Majesty's Government, and by their great stroke of policy in summoning a contingent of Native troops from India, thus showing all the world that besides being a great naval Power, we were also one of the greatest military Powers. These events are now matters of history; but I have recalled some of them to the attention of the House, so that we may be better able to form a correct opinion on the question now raised. There seems to be little difference of opinion as to the advantages of the settlement made by the Congress in the Balkan Peninsula, therefore, it is unnecessary to occupy the attention of the House by dwelling upon it. All parties must admit its importance, and a comparison of the map showing the actual arrangement, with that of the Treaty of San Stefano, at once proves the immense results obtained by the labours of our Plenipotentiaries, and the reality of the concessions extorted from Russia; and I apprehend no such propositions as those of the cession of Cyprus and the Convention with Turkey 721 as to Asia Minor would ever have been brought forward but for extraordinary exceptional circumstances. Certain facts, however, appear abundantly clear, and stand prominently forward. Russia, though foiled in the attempt to extend her sway to the very walls of Constantinople, has, as a result of the late war, obtained possession of certain positions in Asia Minor, which either directly menace, or may be used as a base for hereafter menacing our communications with India; therefore we have entered into this arrangement, to a great extent, in self-defence. And what are the objections raised? It is said—and the Resolution of the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) embodies the objection—that the action of the Government has been taken in the dark, and without the knowledge and consent of Parliament. Well, that is, no doubt, true; but the answer is obvious. Secrecy was necessary to the success of the negotiations, which might have been seriously compromised if our intentions had been proclaimed beforehand to all the world. The subject of Greece has been so much dwelt upon by previous speakers that I will not weary the House by repeating and enlarging upon the arguments already used. It is also asserted—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich has given great prominence to the statement—that we have given great umbrage to foreign Powers, especially to France. Well, if true, that would be a great misfortune, and a deep and lasting subject of regret. But where is the evidence of its truth? The matter is, at least, doubtful, and the recent utterances of a distinguished French statesman would seem rather to imply that he considered the arrangement as, on the whole, satisfactory and advantageous to his country. At all events, we have given strong proof of our desire to pay every regard to the wishes and susceptibilities of France, by having only occupied such an island as Cyprus, instead of Egypt or Syria. It must not be forgotten that from our connection with India, we have a more direct interest in those regions than any other European Power; and in undertaking the responsibility we have, we are really defending the interests of France, as well as our own. No one lamented the misfortunes of France more than I did, and no one, when her 722 trials were greatest, and her humiliation deepest, more confidently predicted her early restoration to her old position in Europe. That restoration has taken place sooner, probably, than would have happened with any other nation, and depend upon it, our true policy is to draw the bonds of friendship as close as possible, for the interests of both nations are, to a great extent, identical from their geographical position, their free institutions, and their advanced civilization. Great blame has also been attached to our Plenipotentiaries for permitting Roumania to be despoiled by the cession of Bessarabia. Well, that is certainly to be deplored; but surely they who have persistently advocated and supported the policy of Russia, both in this House and elsewhere, should be the last to complain. Russia distinctly stated she would not give way on this point. Would they have had us go to war with her for Bessarabia then, though not for our own British interests. If not, what alternative course would they have suggested? If the Congress had been broken up, and we had gone to war on such grounds, it is easy to imagine how emphatically such a policy would have been denounced, both in Parliament and throughout the country. But the chief objection seems to be that after protesting against secret understandings and special Treaties, we have ourselves, in taking Cyprus, appropriated a portion of the Turkish dominions; but the Government are also blamed for guaranteeing the dominions of the Turkish Government, described as the worst in existence, and I apprehend the last proposition is a conclusive answer to the first. We have not taken Cyprus by force; but have provisionally occupied it, with the consent of Turkey, for the very purpose of guaranteeing and maintaining her remaining dominions against the encroachments of Russia, and it seems somewhat inconsistent that the very same men should now blame the Government for occupying a comparatively small Turkish island, who even yet complain of our not having joined with Russia in coercing Turkey, who would have employed the British Fleet in preventing the Sultan reinforcing his armies in Europe by troops from Asia, and who have not scrupled to advocate the bag-and-baggage policy. The truth is, such an arrangement as that 723 just concluded must always, to a certain extent, be a matter of compromise, and a broad and comprehensive view of its whole provisions should be taken. It forms part of a large policy connected with the whole future of Turkey, which we may be permitted to hope may conduce to the peace and prosperity of that distracted country; and when we have plainly stated our resolves, there is surely much less danger of our drifting into war, than if they were doubtful, and our conduct uncertain. We must remember that we have a great Empire to defend, vast interests to protect, and most complex questions to deal with. Russia commenced this war under the most solemn promise that she had no selfish ends in view, that she wanted no territorial aggrandizement, no increase of territory, was perfectly disinterested, and was actuated wholly, solely, and entirely by motives of philanthropy, and for the protection of the Christians. Well, it is as vain as it is useless to complain of her subsequent conduct. She has simply pursued the course which anyone who has studied her history might have from the first predicted. For generations she has coveted Turkey, and hoped one day to inherit its splendid domains, alike in Europe and Asia. From the time, indeed, of Peter the Great, through all the tortuous mazes of diplomacy, she has steadily, and patiently, and persistently waited, and intrigued, and fought for its possession; because she knows it would give her virtual command of the Mediterranean, enable her at will to close the Euxine Sea, and convert it into a huge Russian lake, go far to make her the first naval and military Power in the world, and enable her continually to threaten our highway to India. From the very first, her tale of making war to protect the Christians was a plausible pretext, a specious pretence. She herself soon threw off the mask, like Brennus of old, cast her sword into the scale, and scarcely any longer deigned to draw a flimsy veil of secrecy over her designs. With one foot on the Black Sea, and another on the Straits, with the real defences of Constantinople surrendered, and her armies, flushed with victory, encamped within sight of its walls, the prize seemed already at her feet, and the object attained which for generations had been her aim. This was the state of 724 affairs with which the British Government had to deal, and in estimating the difficult work of the Congress and the value of its results, all these matters should be remembered and fairly considered. It may be that, as a purely abstract question, and without taking the surrounding circumstances into account, the policy of assuming such an undoubtedly great responsibility in Asia Minor may be open to question; but I apprehend the surrounding circumstances must be taken into account. They cannot be ignored, and the real question was, must we assume this responsibility, or must we allow Russia gradually to acquire possession of the country? We must remember, also, that these great results have been accomplished without one drop of British blood being shed, and that, in the eloquent words of the Prime Minister, our Plenipotentiaries have brought us back "Peace with honour." But besides peace, inestimable as that blessing is, we are by no means destitute of other countervailing advantages for any responsibility we have incurred. At such a moment as this, when peace and war have so long hung in the balance, and the swiftly-flying hours have borne with them the fate of Empires and the destinies of Europe, it may appear but of secondary importance to glance at the commercial aspect of the question; but when partial paralysis seems to have overtaken well-nigh every trade and every industry in this country, it is surely no light matter, nor one of the least advantages to be looked for from the labours of Her Majesty's Government, that there is now every prospect of a settled order of things being inaugurated both in Cyprus and in Asia Minor, of there being a good and staple government there, with security for the permanent well-being of the country, I think we may look for an extended and extensive trade, not only with Asia Minor, but with the countries adjacent, into which new life and vigour will be infused by giving full play to free and new national life. And when we contrast this state of things with what would have existed if Russia had been allowed to carry out her plans unchecked, we may well congratulate ourselves upon the improved prospects presented to us. It would, indeed, be the extreme of penny wisdom and pound folly — it 725 would be in the last degree short-sighted —to permit Russia to carry out her ambitious and long-cherished designs without opposition. Setting aside for a moment the danger to our communications with India, what would be the effect upon our commerce if Russia became the mistress of Asia Minor and paramount in the Levant? Remember what is her commercial policy—that it is strictly Protectionist—which means, in her case, permitting no goods to be sold throughout the Dominions over which her sway extends, except such as are the produce of her own manufactories. Depend upon it, few more deadly blows could be aimed at British commerce and at British trade than Russia gaining supremacy in these regions. English merchants and English manufacturers might in such a case make up their minds to bid a final adieu to trade there. Depend upon it, our commercial and trading interests owe her nothing. But, disastrously as they would have been affected by the extension of her dominion, the damage to our reputation in India would have been a more serious matter still. To take no higher ground, India is one of our largest consumers, and anything which even indirectly threatens India is a direct blow to our trade. If, indeed, from any unfortunate conjunction of circumstances, we lost India, the blow would be well-nigh fatal to the manufacturing and trading interests of this country, and those who have so glibly cried "Perish India," ought also to have added "Perish Lancashire," and "Perish England's trade." The Government have been placed in a most difficult and trying position under circumstances as momentous as history records; and, in my humble opinion, we owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their untiring energy, their wise measures of precaution, for their warlike preparations, for averting from us the dangers of a great war, and for securing an honourable peace. Never was the truth of that wise saying of the ancients more strikingly exemplified— "Si vis pacem para bellum." A hope has been expressed that "before long the time may arrive when they will pass under the view of the people." When that time does arrive, I, for one, have no doubt of the issue—no fear of the verdict. I believe the vast majority 726 of the English people thoroughly approve and support their policy. They are deeply grateful for peace, for such a peace as has now been secured—a peace which in no respect compromises the safety, the honour, or the interests of England. They would have welcomed no other, for the ancient spirit of our race was fully aroused, and one single untoward event, one more forward step by Russia, would have raised a feeling, and evoked a warlike enthusiasm, impossible to control. When, indeed, does our history show it to have been otherwise? We may be styled "a nation of shopkeepers;" peace at any price principles may be promulgated, martial spirit may be supposed dead within us, but the first blast of the trumpet has ever blown such theories to the wind; and when we remember the position we occupied, and the estimation in which we were held by foreign nations but a few years ago—when we call to mind that besides being, beyond dispute, the first naval Power in the world, by bringing over Indian troops, combined with other wise measures, the Government have shown that we are also a great military Power, that, at the Congress just concluded, our wishes carried the greatest weight, and that, without striking a blow or losing a man, this country has been raised to a position higher than she has ever occupied since 1815. I, for one, say honour to whom honour is due, and that the whole nation ought to say, Aye; and when the proper opportunity is afforded, I am persuaded the majority will say that Her Majesty's Government have, by their conduct of foreign affairs, deserved well of their country.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, at present he could neither see any prospect of the Treaty of Berlin being the unalloyed blessing which it was said to be, nor any symptom of the revival of trade which had been anticipated as one of the results of the Congress. The debate had ranged far and wide; but there was one point on which hon. Members opposite had touched with very sparing hands. Hardly any reply had been offered to the forcible challenge of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who affirmed that this was probably the first time in history when they were committed to a distinctly new policy, not only without 727 a formal communication to Parliament, but without a word, a hint, or a whisper being vouchsafed to the Representatives of the Nation. That was a course which they were bound, in the exercise of their duty to their constituents, again and again, to protest against. In fact, they had entered on a new phase of Ministerial responsibility. Commit the country to engagements absolutely unlimited both in duration and extent—plunge it up to the neck in liabilities of which no man living could see the issue, and then, when the irrevocable step had been taken, come down and tell Parliament what had been done. That was the new theory of Ministerial responsibility which they owed to a Constitutional Cabinet. It was idle to speak of the power of the Crown, for its Prerogative had never been stretched to its theoretical limits, and there was not a precedent that would apply. The Treaties of 1839 and 1856 were made in the light of day; but the Anglo-Turkish Convention was a clandestine compact, hatched in the cellars of the Foreign Office "of Cerberus and blackest midnight born, "and which was avowedly not made known, lest one of the contracting parties should shuffle out of it. Never before could it be said that Parliament sat to register the decrees of the Prime Minister; never since the days of Sir Robert Walpole had a Prime Minister treated the House of Commons with such ostentatious indifference and contempt, as had the noble Lord the present Prime Minister, of whom it might be said—He doth bestride this narrow worldLike a Colossus: while we petty menWalk under his huge legs and peep aboutTo find ourselves dishonourable graves.Hon. Gentlemen would wake up one fine day and find the Government had muddled away bit by bit the whole of the British Constitution. If they wanted to know the policy of the Government, they must look for it, not in the House of Commons, but they must go to the office of The Daily Telegraph, or, possibly, the Bow Street Police Court. They were on an inclined plane, the bottom of which was personal government. The purchase of the Suez Canal shares came upon the House like a clap of thunder; then came the transport of the Indian troops to Malta; next the Salisbury-Schouvaloff Agreement, of which they had not yet 728 heard the whole truth; and, lastly, the Anglo-Turkish Convention; and the result of such a systematic course of dealing with the House of Commons was a mistrust, an uncertainty, and a disquiet so widespread that many people not unnaturally believed they had not yet got to the end of the business, and that there might be another Supplemental Treaty of some kind, or that some fine morning, about November or December, we might read in The Daily Telegraph an announcement that the whole of the Euphrates Valley had been annexed—a fact which would, probably, surprise no one. How about other nations? The Resolutions were not aimed at one of the most vulnerable points in the whole transaction; for there were two Powers who would not have gone to the Berlin Congress, if they had known of the existence of the Convention. They went with a secret Treaty in their pockets, and not until the negotiations had proceeded so far that it was practically impossible to break them off, did they spring it upon the astonished Representatives, like a man who played at cards with the ace of trumps up his sleeve. But things which would, in private life, be stigmatized as sharp practice, when done by a country attorney, were regarded as master-strokes of policy in a Prime Minister. This was not their traditional policy, for in 1855, Lord Clarendon was sounded by the Emperor Nicholas as to whether they would accept the Island of Crete, and Lord Clarendon replied that England desired no territorial aggrandizement, and could come to no understanding which was to be kept secret from the other Powers. Hitherto, their boast had been that if their hands were empty, at any rate they were clean; and though the English nation could afford to do many things, it could not afford to labour under the slightest suspicion of double-dealing. To find a parallel to what they had done, they must go back to the annexation of Nice and Savoy, from which France had never recovered, although there were differences in favour of France; she purchased the cession with blood, and they obtained Cyprus by a species of jockeying; she took the sense of the people, but they transferred Cyprus like a bale of cotton, or a barrel of herrings. It was a dangerous game, this game of annexation. To recur to 729 the simile of the hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff), it was all very well for the vultures, but what about the geese? It was said they were never on better terms with other Powers; and if the statement referred to the Governments, he could not question it; but if it referred to the peoples, he did. There could be no doubt of a permanent ill-feeling in France and Italy. The articles in The Journal des Débats, and in the organ of M. Gambetta, on the subject were not very pleasant or edifying reading to an Englishman; while as to Italy, having visited that country almost every year, and having friends there, he knew, on independent authority, that a change had come over the feelings of the Italians towards this country. The slight put upon them at the death of Victor Emmanuel was made worse by the unfortunate explanation in "another place." Some years ago English friendship was the pole-star of Italian foreign policy; now there was not a better hated nation in Italy than England. The hostility of Italy was a factor which would have to be taken into account in any future European complication. He should have thought that, as Italy was rapidly becoming a great naval Power, possessing as she did the third largest fleet in Europe, and as she lay across our road to India, a consideration for what were called British interests would have induced Her Majesty's Government to have adopted a line of conciliation towards that Power, instead of treating her to a course of what he might call judicial snubbing. So much for Italy; now a word as to Greece. He had always thought the true counter-balance to the Slavonic was the Hellenic element. The natural right of reversion to Constantinople belonged to Greece; but they managed to prevent her from making war upon Turkey, not by direct promises, but by vague hints that if she would only bide her time, she would hear of something to her advantage. What was the fact? It was not England, but France and Italy, that urged the claims of Greece at the Congress, and all that we did for the Greeks was to tell them that they were an interesting people, " and could afford to wait." The result of the present position would be that there would be a Grecian, instead of a Slavonic question to settle in the future, and the last stage of the Eastern 730 Question would be worse than the first. But it was not so much to the Berlin Treaty that serious objection was made on his side of the House; it was to the Anglo-Turkish Convention they objected — a Convention entered into spontaneously and secretly. A great deal had been said about Cyprus; he had read a good many accounts of it, but they did not appear to be very consistent. One traveller, Mr. Clarke, wrote—There is hardly upon earth a more wretched spot. Few words may forcibly describe it; agriculture neglected, inhabitants oppressed, population destroyed, pestiferous air, contagion, poverty, indolence, desolation.On the other hand, it was said that it could be of no possible use as a naval station, there not being a harbour in it. With the strategical value of Cyprus he was not competent to deal; but to suppose that it could bar the road of Russia to India was absurd. They might as well say the possession of the Isle of Man would prevent the Germans from occupying London. The question was, whether Cyprus was worth the price— the almost unlimited guarantee we were giving for it? He disliked guarantees in private life and also in Imperial matters. They were like post obit bonds, for the sake of a little present relief, they might involve a heavy, though distant, liability. The present guarantee was absolutely unlimited, both in duration and extent. Supposing Turkey was found to be unable to perform the promises she had given, what was England to do? It had been said that they could back out of this engagement at any moment. That would be unworthy of a great country like England, after having entered into a Treaty; but he did not believe that it could be done. The real effect of the agreement would be, for the future, to put it in the power of Turkey to decide what English policy should be towards Russia; while the fortunes of England would be indissolubly linked to those of Turkey in Asia. In that case, they must either support one of the most corrupt Governments in the world, standing by and doing nothing, or they must take the bull by the horns and annex the whole of Asia Minor; and in doing this latter, many difficulties would have to be encountered. It was all very well to say that pressure would be put on Turkey; 731 but of what use had been the pressure put on Turkey in the past? They must remember that the Turks were Asiatics, who were unaccustomed to government, and who could be ruled only by the sword. Surely one India was enough. The reason why they governed well in India was, that they had the country free to themselves, having no rival there; but that was not the case in Asia Minor, for there they would come into contact with foreign Consuls, and others, who materially interfered with them; and the hardy mountaineers of Asia Minor, and the Italians, who had the trade of the Levant in their own hands, would be very different men from the servile Maharajahs of India. He had heard a great deal about the enthusiasm at Cyprus when the Queen's flag was hoisted; but he believed that every one of the Greeks who cheered on that occasion would be prepared to become Englishmen for two piastres. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) said, that those who supported the Resolution were bound, not only to oppose the policy of the Government, but to say what they would themselves have done. His answer was simple; it was—"Keep what you have got, and don't commit that most unpardonable of strategic errors, of trying to defend an indefensible outwork." India was large enough to satisfy the most immoderate and insatiable ambition. There were two roads only to India. One lay over a salt and sandy waste, terminating with the most tremendous mountain barrier in the world; the other lay over an element over which we reigned supreme. His advice would be to keep the former route closed and the latter open; but by the policy they had adopted in Asia Minor, they would do neither. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were to say what was really in their hearts, he believed they would candidly object to the mode in which England had acted in this matter. Her Majesty's Government had gone into the Congress professing that the integrity of the Turkish Empire was essential to the peace of Europe, and come out of it with a slice of Turkey in their pockets. They had begun by declaring that the Sultan ought to be supreme in his own dominions, and had ended by entering into an arrangement which would practically make him a vassal to England. Napoleon III. at one time proposed to 732 Lord Palmerston to take one or two islands from Turkey, in return for allowing France some territory on the main land; but Lord Palmerston replied that he could be no party to repeating in Turkey the partition of Poland, and added, significantly, that he believed such a step would shock the moral sense of Europe, and be fatal to any Government who should propose it. Whether the latter part of this reply was likely to be true, he did not know. They had been a good deal " educated " since Lord Palmerston's time; but of this he felt sure, that when the first feeling of exultation had died out, when the Brummagem lustre of this so-called victory had passed away, England would wake up, and discover, to her cost, that, instead of placing a chaplet of laurel on her brows, the Government had only succeeded in riveting a mill-stone round her neck.
§ MR. BIRLEY
said, that complaints had been made that the Treaty with the Porte had not been submitted to Parliament; but he believed that, as a matter of fact, it would be found that there were many instances of Treaties negotiated, even within the present generation, by the Government of this country, which had not been so submitted. In 1840, for instance, Lord Palmerston negotiated a Treaty of that kind against France. Well, that Treaty had never been submitted to Parliament; and, in the present case, it must be remembered that the Treaty could not have been carried out had it been submitted to Parliament before it was ratified, seeing that it was probable, as the noble Lord had intimated, that interminable debates would have taken place upon it. The Government were ready to submit the Treaty to Parliament now; but he had not gathered from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich what should have been the action of Parliament if the Treaty had been submitted before it had been completed. In the other House of Parliament no serious attempt had been made to raise this objection. It had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Treaty interfered with European rights as regarded Turkey, as if the question was merely one of annexation; but the fact had not been noticed by those hon. Members that the Treaty had been entered into only as an alternative for the acquisition by Russia 733 of Batoum. If Russia dropped her unjust claim to that place, the Treaty-would be at an end; and that would now be the best thing of all. It must also be recollected that we did not enter into this Treaty for our advantage, but for the benefit of the population of Asia Minor, upon whom we should confer great advantages; and we, therefore, entered into it with clean hands. He believed it would also be of the greatest benefit to Europe at large. He agreed with those who thought it was quite possible that we should derive direct, as well as indirect, advantages from this Treaty. We were perfectly ready to receive into the island, upon equal terms, every Frenchman, German, and Italian who might come there, and he did not think there was any ground for apprehending that the Italians would be jealous of our position in the Levant, and it was significant of that, that neither from Italy nor from France had any word of complaint come. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in his speech that evening, had surpassed himself; it was a speech almost unexampled for ability, power, and severity; but he must point out that it was quite inconsistent with the tone of that delivered by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), and with the Resolutions he proposed. While the noble Marquess and the hon. and learned Member who had last spoken (Mr. Osborne Morgan) said the Treaty of Berlin, if it stood alone, might have been accepted—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich handled that Treaty with as much severity as the Anglo-Turkish Convention. It reminded him of the language used out-of-doors by some societies and clubs, which he thought was rather more passionate than discriminating. The right hon. Gentleman had raised some principles which were enough to make one's hair stand on end. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to treat Thessaly and Epirus as if they belonged to the British Plenipotentiaries, and as if the latter had a right to do with them as they pleased. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke as if on one side of the Balkans there was always to be good government, while there would be oppression on the other side. But it was quite possible that the government of Eastern Roumelia would be as good as 734 that of Bulgaria, if not better, should Bulgaria be entirely exposed to Russian influence; and he (Mr. Birley) did not doubt that the arrangement in regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina was a wise one, and that it might be made to work advantageously, remembering the fact that the misgovernment of those States had, for the last year or two, given rise to great dissatisfaction. But he did not hold himself bound to endorse and defend every detail of the Treaty; indeed, he did not suppose the British Plenipotentiaries endorsed every part of the Treaty. They had to give and take, in order to avoid what might have broken out at any moment—namely, a terrible European war. All that he was concerned to do was to defend it as an arrangement, upon the whole, advantageous, and one infinitely preferable to the war which it had been the means of averting. It was hardly possible, however, that every disposition of the Treaty of Berlin would give complete satisfaction, or be perfectly free from objection; but when they saw Russia take up such a position as she had acquired on the Euxine, it was time for England to take some decided step, and such a step had been taken by the Convention with Turkey. He trusted that the question would hereafter be discussed with less heat and passion. He had no doubt Her Majesty's Government would be able to give a very good account of their operations. They did not rely merely on their numerical Party majority in the House, but on the feeling of the country, which had been pretty fairly expressed already; and he was sure that if it became necessary to appeal to the constituencies, their verdict would be in favour of the Government.
§ MR. EVANS
desired to make a few remarks which, perhaps, would not find great favour on either side of the House. In the first place, he would briefly explain why he could not support the Resolutions of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, nor the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket), and he intended to ask a few questions of the Government. No doubt, they might agree to the first Resolution, taken alone. As to the second Resolution, one part of it expressed regret that additional territory was not given to Greece. Well, if there were any territory going begging, it would be very well to let 735 Greece have it; but he did not see how territory could be got, unless Turkey were dismembered to a greater extent than he considered desirable. The Resolution also regretted that the country had undertaken such enormous responsibilities. He agreed with that; because, although he did not say the incurring of those responsibilities could not be justified, he maintained that nothing had yet been said by the Government to justify them. The difficulty he should feel in voting for the Resolution was that it would seem to imply we ought to do nothing, and to such a proposition he was unable to assent. Considering our position as a great Asiatic Power, it would be most disastrous if anything occurred which caused us to be overshadowed by Russia in allowing her to extend her power into Asia Minor. Therefore, he could not vote for the Resolutions. Then, as to the Amendment, it was perfectly idle for any man, and more especially the Prime Minister, to say that this country had not assumed a great responsibility in Asia Minor. The Government had bound this country to see that the dominions of the Sultan should be properly governed, and he hoped the Government would give the House some further explanation upon the course they intended to pursue. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) said, it would probably be necessary to institute reforms in regard to the police, and in requiring that the Sultan should appoint competent Governors to manage the Provinces in Asia Minor, and that they should not be dismissed without good reason; but unless the Turkish police, for example, were entirely superseded by Englishmen or a force from the Punjaub, in case the Turkish Government should be unable to reform them, no good would be done. But what power had the Government got to take such a step; and so with regard to the appointment of Governors, and the means of defeating Russian intrigue? How would the Sultan carry out these reforms? The Government had promised to defend Asia Minor against all comers, and that it should be governed in a proper and decent manner; but it was too late in the day to expect that the Turkish Government would do that, as their promises had been broken over and over again, and it would be most 736 unfortunate if this country had entered into these obligations without being able to carry them out. If the police should be placed under an able man, some good might be done; so if the Governors were like Sir Bartle Frere, Sir Richard Temple, or the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), and the people were compelled to obey them, then the country might be prosperous; but, otherwise, the whole thing would be a mockery and a delusion. Unless their powers were commensurate with their responsibilities, all expectation of their being able to regenerate Turkey might be given up. In regard to Cyprus, he had no doubt the Government of this country would introduce order and good management there, and that that would be a great benefit to the island; and if they were to defend the Sultan's possessions in Asia Minor against all comers, it was necessary that this country should have a station somewhere near them. In conclusion, he had only to say that he was one of those who were not satisfied with the Treaty of Berlin, and that for that reason it would be impossible for him to vote for the Amendment. A result of it was that the great disturber of Europe had been rewarded and aggrandized by it, and a very bad example had been given, which would encourage, instead of checking, aggression and advance, and this country had undertaken a responsibility of a very serious nature indeed.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
observed, that while he frankly allowed the eminent ability of the speech delivered that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, he deeply regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have brought such a grave indictment as he had, not only against England, but against everything which had been done in the Congress at Berlin. The object of the Government in going there was to obtain that peace for which everybody pined. The two principal causes of complaint of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be the small amount of the concession to Greece, and the Anglo - Turkish Treaty, under which the Government had accepted certain responsibilities. He maintained that the language of the Resolution was vague and indefinite, and the charges of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in reference to the atti- 737 tude of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury towards Greece was entirely undeserved. It was quite evident from the Papers that our Plenipotentiaries, particularly Lord Salisbury, took special care that the interests of Greece should be protected by the Treaty of Berlin; and that in this direction Lord Salisbury went even further than the Representative of France, for his plan of protection would have included the questions of Macedonia, Thrace, and Crete, whereas the French plan only included Epirus and Thessaly. As regarded the Anglo-Turkish Convention, it seemed to him that Kars, Ardahan, and Batoum being in the hands of the Russians, they, by means of their occupation, would be able to command the trade of Armenia, and through Armenia to Persia, which trade now was admitted to be chiefly English, and which before the war amounted to some £6,000,000 a-year; and it was absolutely necessary, therefore, that some understanding between England and Turkey should be arrived at to enable that extensive and legitimate trade and influence being taken away from us and destroyed. He failed to understand the great objection which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich entertained to the principle of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The Tripartite Treaty of 1856 was not only a collective, but an individual Treaty—that was to say, it gave each individual Power the right to interfere with Turkey. Consequently, England had a perfect right to agree with the Porte as to the best mode of carrying out her engagements towards the Ottoman Empire, and the acquisition of Cyprus was a means to that end. The cession of Cyprus was made for the purpose of enabling England—should the necessity arise—to protect the Asiatic Dominions of Turkey and her own interests in the East. But England had undertaken no obligation that did not rest on her under the Treaty of 1856. That Treaty was broken by the late war, and when it was seen that Russia was about to obtain Kars, Ardahan, and Batoum, England was bound to take the steps she did by entering into the Anglo-Turkish Convention—one which, he believed, would be beneficial to Europe as well as to Turkey. When he was in Turkey last year he was told by the Minister of Marine that what Turkey 738 wanted from England was real rather than moral support. It was a mistake to suppose that Turkey only appointed Mussulman Ministers and other officials to manage her affairs. Her Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was a Greek, her Minister of Finance was an Armenian Christian, many of her other Ministers were Christians, and her chief Plenipotentiary at the Conference was a Greek. If the Convention was carried out fully and fairly, and without cavil on the part of foreign Powers, it could not fail, in his opinion, to achieve the good results which its framers confidently expected from it. There would, by this means, at all events, be a long rest in the Eastern Question, and trade, which had been paralyzed, would revive. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in the complaints he had made as on behalf of France and Italy, appeared to constitute himself the Representative of other nations in this matter; but until complaints were forthcoming from the nations themselves, the indictment which had been preferred by the right hon. Gentleman was simply an attempt to show that they had received injuries of which they had themselves said nothing. He could not but regard the course pursued in this matter by the right hon. Gentleman as being unpatriotic; and, great as must be the admiration produced by his ability, he believed and hoped that when his speech of that evening was calmly looked at, there were few men in the country who would not see that it was an unpatriotic speech, calculated to arouse the jealousies and ill-feeling of other countries against England, and to hold out to the populations of Turkey a direct inducement to unite their lot with Russia in rebellion against the arrangements which had been made by the Powers at Berlin. Indeed, he (Mr. Goldney) believed the right hon. Gentleman himself would, in his cooler moments, regret much that he had said on the present occasion. At all events, he (Mr. Goldney) was convinced of this— that the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government would meet with the approval of the House and of the country, and would be beneficial to the nation at large; and, above all, would secure the blessing of peace to Europe, and increased and increasing civilization and welfare to Turkey.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he had listened with great pleasure to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, which he thought might be truly described as unparalleled. He had had considerable experience of the House, and during the whole of his experience he had never heard an address which could compare with that delivered by his right hon. Friend on this occasion for ability, eloquence, comprehensiveness, exhaustiveness, and crushing power. Indeed, the question itself was too vast and complicated to be fully treated, except by his right hon. Friend. In following that speech, he would not travel over the whole subject; but confine himself to those points of which he had personal experience. The Chancellor of the Exchequer complained on Monday night of the tameness and dreary character of the debate; but he (Mr. Stansfeld) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would no longer entertain any apprehensions on that subject, and would not attempt to repeat his statement. Indeed, it should be acknowledged that its character had been first raised by the noble Viscount who reopened the debate (Viscount Sandon). The noble Viscount's speech was full of power and animation, and, as had been said, it did not lack the quality of imagination, seeing that the arguments which it contained were rather directed to a criticism upon the conduct of the Liberal Governments during the last 25 years, than to a defence of the position and policy of Her Majesty's Government, and of the Amendment which they had adopted. The noble Viscount said he was so struck with the mildness of the Resolutions proposed by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) that he thought their object was to avoid coming to a fight. He (Mr. Stansfeld) did not think that the noble Viscount could have made—he would not say a more unfair—but a more mistaken criticism. Turning to the Resolution of his noble Friend, he found that it rejoiced in the establishment of peace, and also in the extension to the Christian subjects of the Porte of the rights and blessings of self-government and liberty. The Amendment of the Government— for he had a right to regard the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) in that light—was entirely silent 740 upon the point. He did not wonder at that, because it was an admitted part of the Eastern policy of the Government, in fact, it was perfectly clear when the House considered the terms of the Amendment, that they went into the Congress not to promote the liberty and self-government of the misgoverned and misruled native Christian subjects of Turkey, but, as far as possible, to prevent Russia from obtaining the legitimate results of her victories, and to re-instate Turkey. The Resolution of his noble Friend raised two distinct issues —one as to the treatment of Greece, and the other as to the unnecessary extension of our military liabilities, on both of which points the Amendment before the House was significantly silent, except, in so far as it expressed a vague hope that the issue of what had been done might promote the interests of peace, an amelioration of the condition of the native populations, and the maintenance of our Empire. The noble Viscount who commenced the debate that evening seemed to be under the impression that the policy underlying the proposals of his (Mr. Stansfeld's) noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition was that Russia should be allowed to possess herself of the whole of Asia Minor; but he appealed to the recollection of the House whether there was anything in the speech of his noble Friend to justify any such inference. They had been told that it was vain to look back at the past policy of the Government on this subject, and that the question to be decided was narrowed to approval or disapproval of what had been done. This was more particularly the case with regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. He propose to confine himself solely to that branch of the general question, and to consider, firstly, the policy of the Convention, and, secondly, the constitutional character of the means by which it had been brought about. In order to do this, he should traverse the propositions contained in the Amendment, the first of which was that the Convention was calculated to promote peace and to ameliorate the condition of the populations concerned. There had been constant difficulty in understanding the policy of the Government—a policy which had throughout been veiled in mystery, and confused by ever-recurring statements, each of which. 741 was inconsistent with the other. This feature had been remarkably apparent in the course of the present debate, more particularly with regard to the moving cause which had led to the making of the Convention. About the cause of the arrangement with Turkey there could be no doubt, because it was apparent from Mr. Layard's Correspondence. It had been said that the Berlin Treaty was not the policy of the Government, but that they had redressed its deficiencies by the Convention; and it appeared from the Correspondence that the object and intention of the Convention was altogether Asiatic. At any rate, in order to meet the danger, the Government had undertaken by the Convention most serious responsibilities —responsibilities, the serious character of which no man would deny. They had undertaken not only to guarantee the Asiatic Possessions of Turkey against Russia, but they had undertaken practically to secure to them good government at the hands of the Porte. He did not think that it would be denied that nothing but a pressing necessity and a good prospect of success could have warranted them in pursuing that course. The position taken up by Lord Beacons-field was this—that if they did not interfere, Asia Minor was destined to become either a victim of anarchy, or the possession of Russia. What the Government had to show the country was that the means they proposed were the best for averting either of these things. He, however, denied both the propositions of the noble Lord. In England they believed almost universally in the decadence of Turkey. That had been the groundwork of their general view of this question. As a matter of fact, they believed that Turkey was a Power which had lost the faculty of governing subject-races; and, so far as Europe was concerned, her doom was only a question of time. He was not, however, prepared to extend this proposition to Turkey in Asia. He believed that Turkey might have a future in Asia. The result of the war, though Turkey had been crushed, was to show not the strength, but the weakness of Russia, for she had been exhausted, both in money and men. Lord Beaconsfield did not talk, like the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, of the imminent danger of Russia possess- 742 ing Asia Minor as a recruiting ground; he talked of the possibility of the renewal of the war in 10, 15, or 20 years. If that was so, Turkey had time before her which she could have employed most usefully, if we had not interfered with her, in the management of her Asiatic affairs. If she was utterly incapable of doing this, there could be no blinder policy than that of binding up our fortunes with hers—a country destined to decay. Let the danger, however, be as great as they liked and as imminent, was this Convention the best way to meet it? He thought it was advisable that there should be a clear understanding and plain speaking between England and Russia; but one thing he could not understand, and that was binding ourselves to Turkey, placing ourselves in the hands of Turkey, and in the hands of Russia at the same time. They had engaged to defend Turkey against Russia. They had taken away that sense of danger which was necessary to supply the motive to Turkey for the good government of its Provinces. He was unable to reconcile the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as to the conditions under which the Guarantee would cease with what had fallen from Members of the Cabinet. He found no condition in the first Article of the Convention. The undertaking to defend the Asiatic Dominions of Turkey was given unreservedly. They had bound themselves, as the Turks well knew, to protect their Asiatic Provinces. What would be the almost inevitable consequence of an engagement of that kind? Turkey would no longer have the motive which she might otherwise have had to reform. By guaranteeing the Turkish Provinces, we had taken away from her the necessity of acting in her own defence. We had really entered into the arrangement, not for the sake of the Turks, but to defend our Indian Possessions, and this the Turks perfectly well understood; and so, being secured by us, she would not exert herself to defend her Asiatic Provinces. She would rely upon our guarantees, and upon our jealousy of Russia. Russia, on the other hand, if she were the intriguing country the Government said she was, would have every motive, temptation, and opportunity to intrigue, and she would further have the power, at any time when we 743 might be engaged in war or in danger of war with other Powers, to choose that moment to compel us to fight in Armenia or elsewhere, at a great distance from our base of operations. Russia would never dream of attacking us in India, unless she had some other inducement than merely attacking our power in India. We had, in fact, laid the basis of her attack close to her own resources, and that without bringing our Indian Empire one mile nearer. If the Convention was conditional, the most probable end of the arrangement would be that, in the fulfilment of our obligations, we might put a pressure on Turkey until she threw herself into the hands of Russia, and then we would be holding Cyprus against both Russia and Turkey. These views were not based upon a narrow view of the duties or the interests of this country. The noble Viscount who spoke first to-night devoted a great part of his speech to an attack on the late Government, rather than to a defence of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount attributed to the policy of the late Government a love of peace at any price and indifference to the safety and dignity of the Empire of England; but zeal for the safety and dignity of the Empire was not an appanage or monopoly of any Party in the State, and in his (Mr. Stansfeld's) views, the distinctive policy of the present Government; as he read it in the consequences of this Convention, was not higher than the policy of the late Government, but it was rather to be distinguished from it by the tying of our hands, and, consequently, diminishing of our power, against which he protested. If at any time the Empire of England should be threatened, England would know how to defend her own. Being of that opinion, he objected to an attempt to force the hand of England 10 or 20 years hence. The England of that time would, judging for herself the conditions of the time, know how, when, and where it was best to defend herself without the necessity of any legacy of instruction from this Government. Before that time came, it was his confident expectation that this Treaty, which in his conviction diminished our power, and might harass and impede the exercise of it, would have been condemned by the sober and permanent judgment of the country as a failure, as not being calcu- 744 lated to secure peace, to ameliorate the condition of these populations, or to maintain our Empire in the East, and that it would have ceased to exist.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
My noble Friend who opened the debate to-night (Viscount Sandon) has been accused by two right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House of having unnecessarily entered into the history of the transactions of former Governments so far as the Eastern Question is concerned. I am not going to continue that story, because we have heard a good deal about it already on both sides; but I am bound to say, in justification of what fell from my noble Friend, that I think the charge he brought against the late Government was perfectly founded on fact, and that no one can remember the assumed or real indignation—assumed in some parts, and real, no doubt, in others—shown by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when the horrors of Bulgaria were first prominently brought before the country, without feeling—
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
I say assumed elsewhere, and real here; and this is what I mean to say in reference to that indignation. The greatest possible fault was then found with the Government, who had only been in Office for a short period when these atrocities occurred; and who, therefore, could not be held responsible for the conduct of Turkey, which had brought about that state of things; for such a state of things could not be brought about in a moment. We have heard to-night, and it has not been denied, that during the first 10years of the Liberal tenure of Office after 1856, matters were reported to be improving in Turkey, and no one can suppose, simply because we passed into Office in 1874, that it was owing to anything we did, or neglected to do, that so soon afterwards these atrocities occurred. I am bound to say, therefore, that the only conclusion that I can form in regard to the faults then found by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen with the Government and with the Consuls were unjust; because they themselves, when in power, ought to have seen what was going on in Turkey. If any one thing struck me more forcibly than another, in con- 745 nection with, that injustice of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, it was their treatment of the Ambassador at Constantinople (Sir Henry Elliot), whom we did not appoint but whom they appointed.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Not Ambassador, but being at Constantinople, he became Ambassador; and it was Sir Henry Elliot against whom taunts and indignation were directed, in language such as, I believe, never had been addressed to an Ambassador of this country. I pass all that by, and now I will come to the subject immediately before us. I am bound to say, so far as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is concerned, he has not been fortunate hitherto in the Motions he has brought forward, if we regard the success of his Party. We have had these Motions brought forward in different ways. We have had two sets of Resolutions at different times, most of which have been summarily withdrawn; and at last, when a question arose with regard to the employment of the Indian troops, upon which an issue as to Constitutional Law and other matters, might fairly have been raised in both Houses, a serious attack on the Government was made for the first time, so far as I am aware, by a Motion in this House of Parliament only—although the question at issue was certainly one which might have been debated on an actual Motion with great advantage in a House where most of the Constitutional Lawyers of the Kingdom have naturally their proper seats. I presume the noble Lord was so charmed with the success he achieved on that occasion—for he did actually succeed at that time, at all events, in inducing the House of Commons to come to a division —that he thought it wise to take the same course on the present occasion; although I am bound to say that, if ever there was a case in which a challenge ought to be given to the Government not simply in this House, where we are, of course, ready to meet it, but also in the other House, where the two noble Lords (Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury), whose conduct had been most violently assailed, would be able to 746 defend themselves, that case is the present. Why such a Motion as that we are discussing should not have been brought forward in the House where these noble Lords sit passes my comprehension. I quite grant that in a matter of this grave character, the function of the Opposition is one of proper criticism, acute criticism, if they like; and I have great pleasure in tendering my humble testimony to the noble Lord who brought forward this Resolution (the Marquess of Hartington), that not only was it likely that the Opposition would bring such a matter forward, but that it was the proper duty of the Opposition to criticize all the actions of the Government in this case. I will go further, and say that no man could have brought the matter forward in a more frank, manly, and proper manner than the noble Lord. But having said this, I am bound to say that I must place the noble Lord in this dilemma—If legitimate criticism was the object of his speech, I grant that he has entirely succeeded, only he ought not to have brought forward this Motion. If, on the other hand, his Motion was meant as a direct challenge to the Government in this matter—a challenge which, if he obtained a majority, the noble Lord must know, would displace the Government at present in power— then, I think, his speech was utterly unworthy of the occasion. Now, I can no the of thinking that when he brought forward, his Motion, the noble Lord did not seriously intend to make that attack on the Government which has been made to-night, unless, indeed, there has been that of which we have already heard something, and may, perhaps, hear still more, before the debate closes— namely, some secret understanding, or convention, or agreement, between the noble Lord and some other Member of his Party. I think I shall be borne out by every hon. Member in saying that not only the speech of the noble Lord, but the whole tone of the debate last evening, and the listlessness of the House from one end to the other, justified the assertion of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene), that after all that was to be said, the debate could easily be concluded in two nights. To-night, however, a secret Convention has been laid on the Table. The right hon. Gentleman the Member 747 for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), under that secret Convention, exercising the function which he is quite entitled to exercise, has come down and made a totally different speech from that of the noble Lord. He has made a speech which, at all events, in my opinion, would have warranted a Motion for turning the Government out of Office. But it is a totally different matter to get the House to support him. I do not know in what capacity the right hon. Gentleman came down to make that speech—whether as the Mentor and former Leader of the noble Lord, to teach him what he ought to have done last night; or, as his Rival for future place; or, whether he came as a humble Follower of the noble Lord, in support of the Resolution which he moved last night. At all events, judging from the speeches made to-night, and not long ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, the right hon. Member may be taken to wish—although I can fancy the noble Lord having great doubts on the point—that the Government should receive what he calls "a mild but effectual dismissal from Office." But, unfortunately, there are two objections to that course. In the first place, the large majority of this House are entirely opposed to such a course— I do not say the Conservative majority, but the large majority—and not only a majority of the House, but a majority of the country also. That is, indeed, admitted, although the right hon. Gentleman apparently cannot fathom the cause why the country on that occasion, as in many instances during the last few years, has chosen to differ from him. The second reason why the noble Lord, and many others, would regret if that Motion should succeed is that, whether rightly or wrongly, it is an accomplished fact that this Convention does exist. No one can deny it, and from the time that this Convention has been known to exist, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, not only in the House, but in the country, also, have proclaimed on the house-tops that they could not understand how such a Convention could be possibly carried out. Well, as they have so loudly proclaimed their inability to devise any means for carrying out that Convention, I presume they will not be sorry that it is left for a short time to those who, although aware of the diffi- 748 culties, do see a way of carrying it out with benefit to the East, to England, and to Turkey. Now, I feel bound to say that the only fault I have to find with the noble Lord is that his Motion has been hastily drawn and hastily put on the Paper. I think anyone can see it is not the work of one hand. You can almost discover the particular fingers that have based the drafting of each paragraph. One of the most important paragraphs of the whole Motion has been considered by the noble Marquess of so little account, that he actually forgot to say a single word about it. The Motion has been hastily placed on the Paper, because I remember the noble Lord saying, when he gave Notice of it, that he had some regrets at not having been able to see the Protocols of the Treaty of Berlin; but that he still thought he had ample information on which to draw up the Motion of which he gave Notice. Now, considering the gravity of the question, and the fact that the whole matter turns upon the proceedings of the Congress of Berlin, I am justified in saying that a Notice placed upon the Paper without any acquaintance with those Protocols has been hastily drawn up, and that if it had been drawn up after seeing the Protocols, we should have had a very different Motion. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich into the whole of his criticisms on this Treaty. I am not going to do it for two reasons. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman went into great detail on the matter which somewhat detracted from the effect of his speech. It would have had a better effect if only the broad features of the case had been placed before us. In the second place, I do not think I should be justified in taking up the time which the right hon. Gentleman was fully justified in taking up. I will lay the broad features of the question briefly before the House. The noble Lord has compared the Treaty of Berlin with the Treaty of Paris, and has said that the two principles involved in the Treaty of Paris—namely, the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire —have absolutely disappeared from the Treaty of Berlin. He said—"Why did you not prefer the proposals Russia made before the war to the Articles you have now agreed to?" 749 The answer to that question seems to me to be absolutely clear. When the proposals were made in the year 1877, Turkey was a strong military Power, and the same reason that induced the Government to refrain from joining in the Berlin Memorandum influenced them also in not pressing those proposals on Turkey at that time. Why? Because we should then have been following a course which the country said we had no right to follow—namely, that we should have been practically forced into a war for the purpose of coercing Turkey. The question came to this— What should we in our position do? We knew that at that moment Turkey would have no more listened to these proposals than she would listen to the proposals of the Berlin Memorandum. We believed that at that moment Turkey, if even the whole of Europe had gone against her, would not have been coerced without a terrible and bloody war. The event has shown that the Government were right; and if we are asked why we do now consent to press upon Turkey the terms that were proposed before the war took place, my answer is as clear as the day, that the circumstances have been altered by the war. But when the noble Lord says that the Treaty of Paris has been torn up by the Treaty of Berlin, I deny it. The very grave question that always lies beneath the Eastern difficulties arose. The question was, who was to rule at Constantinople, and how? Was the Sultan to be maintained there, or was someone to be put in his place? If the Sultan is to be kept there, is he to be kept as the Vassal and Slave of any Power of Europe; or is he, so far as Europe is concerned, to be practically an independent Sovereign? The result of the Treaty of Berlin, in my opinion, came to this—the Treaty of Berlin has provided the Sultan with a real frontier for his Kingdom, and it has also provided that he shall have military and political power sufficient, at all events, to maintain his authority abroad, and to protect the lives and property of his subjects at home. Those were the principles laid down by our Plenipotentiaries at the Congress. If they had not been so, and .we had followed the Treaty of San Stefano, the Sultan would have been a Sovereign without power, and it would have been much better to have found a 750 new way of dealing with Constantinople than to have left him in that way. Therefore, the noble Lord had no right to compare this with the Treaty of Paris. What was maintained in the Treaty of Paris is maintained in the Treaty of Berlin—namely, that the Sultan is to be maintained with a real frontier to his country, and with real power; and for that reason, and for that reason alone, the possession of the Straits is to be left practically untouched. Therefore, so far as this Treaty is concerned, the Treaty of Paris is maintained; because, though the effect of the war may have been to diminish the extent of his territory, yet it still leaves him practically Sovereign in his own country. I pass at once to the Anglo-Russian Convention. From all I have heard to-night, and notwithstanding all that has taken place in this House, I am bound to say that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not appeared to appreciate the real state of the case. The first question is, what is the object to be gained? The next, would the Guarantee obtain that object, or, in other words, is the object to be gained worth the price which was to be paid for it? The view of Lord Salisbury, which is also the view of the Government, is that the Asiatic Tribes looked up to Turkey as a strong Power able to defend its own; but the power of the Sultan has been weakened by the late war, and if war broke out again what would be the result upon those Tribes? I believe they would be likely to withhold their allegiance and tend to gravitate towards the strong, while they abandoned the weak. In Eastern countries strength is an enormous power—it is strength that is looked up to; but England is also entitled to be looked up to as strong; it is necessary that in the present state of affairs she should appear as a strong Power, and Her Majesty's Government consider that if those Asiatic Tribes were to gravitate in any direction, they should gravitate towards England rather than towards Russia. We have enormous possessions in the Eastern part of the world; it is absolutely necessary that we should appear to have the power to protect them, and that the display of strength should rest with us and not with Russia. The noble Lord asked what was to be gained by the Convention? I believe 751 that what has been gained is, practically, the prevention of future wars. The advance of Russia in Asia Minor has been stopped, and that will tend to strengthen our influence in the East. I say that by the Convention we have gained two things—first, the security of our Eastern Possessions, and, secondly, security for the good government of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey. Both these points have been attacked in the Resolution of the noble Lord, who said that our responsibilities have been unnecessarily extended, and that we have entered into indefinite engagements, which we cannot practically carry out. I admit that all guarantees involve responsibility and danger, and that they should only be entered into under necessity; but, in the present case, the danger already exists—it has not been created by the Guarantee into which we have entered. If we have not a strong position, it might be dangerous, although necessary, to go to war. If one possessed estates, it might be necessary to go to law, and if one had a house, it might become necessary to defend it. But the danger of our position lay in the condition of things in which we found ourselves, and it is for that reason the Government have followed, as I consider, the wise course of looking forward and taking the necessary precautions, while the danger is still distant, to avoid that which, I believe, in future years, would otherwise be inevitable. It has been said that the Guarantee is seductive, because it does not cost anything at present. For that reason, it is the duty of the Government to explain to the House and the country what, in their belief, are the risks and dangers to which we are exposed, and they have been fully explained. I will explain them more fully, if the House wishes me to do so. It is said you are in a dilemma; you have undertaken to protect a country against aggression; you have undertaken to protect an abominably bad Government—or you have, at all events, undertaken to reform the internal administration of that country, which it is impossible that you should be able to do with a divided government and a divided responsibility. I deny that we have undertaken anything of the kind. It is quite true that we have undertaken to defend Turkey in Asia from the attacks of Russia, but it is on the express con- 752 dition that Turkey should reform herself. We are not to reform her; but the reformation is to be carried out in a way to be agreed upon between the two Governments. We are to have a voice in the reformation; but I do not see why it is impossible that Turkey should reform herself. Why should Turkey, knowing the great gain our assistance would be for her, run the risk of losing that assistance simply by refusing our advice in the reform of her institutions? But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen go further, and say—"You have not simply guaranteed the Sultan's Dominions against external aggression, you have also guaranteed him against internal revolt." I should have thought that the greatest possible security against internal revolt would be, not the arms of England, but her advice pressed on the Porte to secure the good government of the Provinces. I read the other day, with astonishment, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) had gone so far as to say that there was one thing which we had taken away—the natural punishment that would fall on the Porte for the misgovernment of its subjects. I have never been able to understand why Russia should be put forward as the vindicator of good government. Why did hon. and right hon. Gentleman, both in and out of the House, say that when Turkey undertook to introduce reforms it was impossible for her to do so? The right hon. Gentleman, at all events, said that by the Treaty of Berlin, Russia is not to carry out reforms in Bulgaria. That is so; but by the Treaty of San Stefano she was to do it, and the voices of hon. Members opposite were not raised against what was then intended. But if Russia could see that reforms were possible, why should not England? Is Russia a more civilizing Power than England? Is Russia more free? Religious liberty is one of the grand principles upon which we insist; does Russia grant religious liberty? Her Majesty's Government have been told that, by their course of action, they were giving bribes to place-hunters, to traders, to speculators, and the greatest bribe of all to philanthropists. But I would put the case in another form, and say, they have taken steps to insure fair play to everyone; and that, while, undoubtedly, persons must be employed, they have taken steps, as far as human 753 means could go, to insure that in the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey there should be good government and security for life and property, so that English and European capital might flow in and render them what they had been in former years—some of the fairest in the world. But the right hon. Gentleman said—"Why are you afraid of Russia in Asia Minor? Why are you going to interfere in Asia Minor, and not in Asia Major? That is the direct road to India, and if you want to protect your Indian Provinces, why not go there?" Well, I have an opinion that the people of England would be sorry to see any part of Asia Minor in the hands of Russia. There was one sentence of the noble Lord to which I listened with pain, and which I cannot but think in his calmer moments he will regret having uttered. The noble Lord said— "As far as I can see, our interests in India are not in any way affected by the question of Asia Minor." I differ from him absolutely. At all events, in former times, battles were fought for the key of Asia, and there existed flourishing cities which were called by that name. The noble Lord went on to say—It had been said that at some future day there might be a Euphrates Valley railway; but I fail to see that even if such a railway were constructed, and got into the hands of Russia, it would affect us much; because it must end at the Persian Gulf, where the Russians would find themselves confronted by a Fleet of British iron-clads.Now, that being the doctrine of the noble Lord, and of the right hon. Gentleman who cheered him, I hope they will not flinch from it when they go the country. At all events, I will take it that they do not think our interests in India would be in any way affected if the Russians got hold of the Euphrates Valley.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I should like to know from what report the extract just read had been taken, as I wish it to be understood that I do not admit its literal accuracy.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
It is taken from the best authority. It appeared in The Times of this morning. The noble Lord can, of course, correct any words which he thinks to be wrong; but whether he hesitates to affirm the principle or not, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich cheered it a minute ago.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
I gather from the report which has just been read, and which is the best I could obtain of what was stated in the House, that, at any rate, the noble Lord would not go to war if Russia advanced as far as the Persian Gulf. The right hon. Gentleman said that not Asia Minor, but the other parts of Asia formed the road to India. There is not much help to be had from railways at the present time in that land of desert; but if the Russians came down from the North, the question of Persia's falling into their hands would arise. That is a very grave question; because, if anyone looks at the advances made by Russia in later times, he would see that, as a matter of detail, her practice was to go round first on one side of a district, then on the other, and afterwards to in close the middle. How could we prevent Persia's falling into the hands of Russia, if the latter Power once obtained possession of the Euphrates Valley? I do not want to say more than is absolutely necessary against Russia; but I wish to point out that if she once got possession of the Euphrates Valley, we could do practically nothing to prevent her taking Persia. At present, Her Majesty's Indian Possessions are defended by a large chain of mountains, running from East to West, and it is my opinion that every care must be taken, as far as this country is concerned, to prevent the encroachment of Russia upon this boundary. The right hon. Gentleman asked, what are we going to do, and what is the change which we desire to make in the government of Asia Minor? I think so many things have already been shadowed forth in the Andrassy Note, and at the Constantinople Conference, that it will not be necessary to detail them again. What is wanted is not military display, nor enormous expenditure on works for the regeneration of Asia Minor; but security for property, security from invasion, rest from extortion, and rest from military service, and enforced labour—the great remedy is rest and security. These being guaranteed by the help of England, not only will English but European capital flow into the country in the course of a few years, and constitute a greater security than could be afforded by English arms 755 or the English Navy for the good government, the safety, and the happiness of those Provinces in Asia Minor belonging to Turkey, which will then become thoroughly happy and prosperous. There are one or two points which have been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, to which I am obliged, for a moment, to allude. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about Lord Salisbury's despatch, and what he called the dissolution of the Turkish Power. I have already referred to this, when I explained that Lord Salisbury meant that if the Turkish Power was weakened, the Asiatic Provinces would gravitate rather towards Russia than England. Again, he said that—"We have shadowed forth an alternative policy, and that the Convention means one policy, and the Treaty of Berlin another." I deny that altogether. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that we were in this dilemma. By the Treaty of Berlin it had been decided that these Provinces should be governed according to the views of all the Powers, including, of course, England; whereas the Anglo-Turkish Convention said that they were to be governed according to our own views alone. That was the alternative proposition suggested by the right hon. Gentleman; but his view is a mistaken one, because, under the Treaty of Berlin, the Provinces are not to be governed by the other Powers at all. A clause in the Treaty of Berlin says—The Sublime Porte undertakes to carry out, without further delay, reforms—not demanded by the other Powers, but—according to the local requirements.The Powers have no authority to initiate reforms; it is for the Turks to introduce reforms, and all that the Powers have to do is to see that they are carried out under the Anglo-Turkish Convention. On the other hand, Turkey has a distinct engagement with us to consult with us as to the reforms to be introduced. There is, therefore, no alternative proposition, and the other Powers have no right to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman also said a good deal about the binding power of Treaties. I have only to observe, on this point, that if, within the last 12 months, one country has stood up more than any other for the binding power of Treaties, that 756 country is England. "We said that we would not allow Russia, without our protest, to break the Treaty of Paris, by going to war with Turkey; and, again, when Russia concluded a Treaty with Turkey, we said that we would not allow that Treaty to be ratified without it was submitted to Europe. The right hon. Gentleman said Her Majesty's Government had broken their Treaty obligations by the Anglo-Turkish Convention; but that I altogether deny, and defy any hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to contradict me. There is no obligation in the Treaties, either of Paris or Berlin, that has been broken by the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The right hon. Gentleman said the acquisition of Cyprus was a breach of Treaty obligation. Had we annexed the Island in war, we should, doubtless, have broken the Treaty of 1856, the whole object of which was to maintain the Turkish Empire against all comers; but there was no provision in that Treaty which prohibited Turkey from making such an arrangement as we have entered into with her. I am not going too far in stating that if Turkey had said—"If you choose to buy Cyprus, we will sell it to you," there is nothing in the Treaty of Paris to prevent the purchase. There is, besides, no Article in the Treaty of Paris which prevents our assisting her in carrying out reforms, and there is none in the Treaty of Berlin. Therefore, when it is said that we have broken them, I am bound to reply that there is not the slightest foundation for the statement. The right hon. Gentleman said, that of all the crimes committed by Her Majesty's Government the worst was that of keeping Parliament in the dark. Curiously enough, that is a point about which the noble Lord who moved the Resolution never said a single word. He did not think it worth while to mention it in his speech, probably, because he did not consider it of vital importance. No doubt, the noble Lord remembered other Treaties of the greatest possible importance, which had been entered into and ratified without the knowledge of Parliament. It has been said, moreover, that we have entered into an engagement, by Treaty, which the country knew nothing about. If ever there was a case in which this country was placed under the strongest possible obligations, it was that of the 757 Tripartite Treaty. By that Treaty the high contracting parties were jointly and severally bound to maintain the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and the Anglo-Turkish Convention does not bind England to anything like those obligations. But it is said—"Aye, that is true; but the other Powers who were parties to it must combine before you can take action upon it." I, for one, do not take that view. It is quite true that the other Powers must join; but it is equally true that England is bound. She has signed the deed, and, if called upon, she cannot avoid paying the money. When the right hon. Gentleman, the other night, said that for the first time in history a Treaty of this kind had been entered into without the authority and knowledge of Parliament, he forgot the Treaty of 1856. That Treaty was made, it was signed, it was ratified, before Parliament knew one single word about it, and it binds this country to obligations ten times stronger than are incurred by the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1878. I want to know, then, how the right hon. Gentleman, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, can say that this is the first time a Treaty has been made behind the back of Parliament, which binds the country to obligations of which Parliament knows nothing. I do not think I should be justified in taking up the time of the House longer, having, as I believe, answered every point made by the right hon. Gentleman in his long speech. If I have not met every point, I sincerely apologize to the right hon. Gentleman, for I meant to do so. In conclusion, I will ask—and I hope we shall have an answer—putting aside the policy of the Berlin Memorandum—which was one for the coercion and destruction of Turkey—what policy has been suggested by right hon. Gentlemen opposite? If they are aware, as they seem to be, of the advances of Russia, what steps would they have taken to counteract her influence? They have opposed every attempt made by Her Majesty's Government to do so. When the Government asked for the Vote of £6,000,000, it was opposed. The same course was taken when the Fleet entered the Dardanelles; on the calling out of the Reserves; and again, on the employment of the Indian Forces. There is not 758 a single step which Her Majesty's Government have taken—and which are absolutely essential for the maintenance and security of peace, as proved by the fact that peace now exists—there is not one of those steps which they did not oppose. And I ask them, before they call on the House to condemn those steps, which I believe will secure, for a long time to come, the blessings of peace to this country and good government to the inhabitants of Asia Minor and the adjoining Provinces, to state what policy they would have adopted other than that carried out by Her Majesty's Government? I can only say, and I say it most sincerely, that, in my opinion, the country ought to be and is thankful for the blessings of peace. It ought also to be satisfied with the means by which that peace has been secured; and I, for one, most deeply regret that, after the Congress has taken place, some of the Powers which have remained in perfect and absolute friendship with this country should have been told by the House of Commons, or a section of it, that they had been used in such a manner by Her Majesty's Government as is calculated to stir up strife where there should be peace. I have been particularly sorry to hear language of a kind likely to lead to such a conclusion used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Lowe.)
wished the right hon. Gentleman to understand exactly in what it was he contradicted him. His interruption was for the purpose of explaining that what he said was that it rested with the Government to prove that their conduct with respect to the Treaty of San Stefano was consistent with good faith.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that before the adjournment was carried, there was one question to which he should like an answer from the Government. In the course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had referred to, and quoted from, documents which were not on the Table of the House. In the first place, he had entered into an explanation of what was the Agreement between this country and Russia, and what course 759 was taken in the Conference with regard to that Agreement; but he had subsequently given a more full explanation of the nature and character of the document. The general Rule of the House was, he believed, that documents were not to be commented upon by Ministers unless they were laid upon the Table of the House. Into the general object of that Rule he need not now enter; but it must be perfectly obvious that it did not conduce to the fairness of debate that Ministers should be able to give their own explanations of Agreements, which it was not denied were in writing, while the documents in question were not equally open for reference to Members of the House generally. He would ask the Government, before the debate was concluded, whether, as an Agreement had been distinctly referred to, they were ready to lay it on the Table of the House.
wished to put another question to Her Majesty's Government, which it would be greatly to the convenience of the House to have answered. A good deal of discussion had taken place with reference to the signature and ratification of Treaties. The dates on which they took place ought to be brought into comparison with the dates of the discussions thereon in Parliament. In his opinion, it would be greatly for the convenience of the House if Her Majesty's Government would cause a table to be prepared and laid on the Table, showing the dates of the signature and ratification of the political Treaties of the last 30 or 40 years?
§ MAJOR NOLAN
objected to the debate being adjourned at that early hour. It was quite right that the leading spirits should take up the best part of the evening; but when it became late, he thought the minor Members, who, in many cases, represented very important constituencies, should be allowed to have their say. After the best speakers had finished, it was only fair that they should be allowed to speak; but he was not allowed even to put in an interjectional remark. The real point was that if the Treaty were carried out, his constituency would have to pay £1,000,000 for a war; and he, therefore, wished, on the part of his constituency, to protest against the Treaty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the understanding 760 was that the Committee on the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill should be resumed that evening on the close of this debate. But that was, of course, a matter for the House to decide. He rose for the purpose of answering the observations that had been made. In the first place, with regard to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, there could be no objection to what he had asked for, and the Government would take care to have a table, showing the dates of the signatures and ratification of the Treaties prepared and laid before the House. With regard to what the noble Lord had said, undoubtedly the Rule of the House was that Ministers should not quote or make use of documents which were in their possession, but which were not known to the House. That Rule did not exactly apply to the present case, for no Paper had been made use of by the Government for the purpose of founding any argument upon it that was not in the possession of the House. But certain publications which had appeared in the newspapers had been made the subject of comment by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and upon those publications, and the way in which they had been commented upon, his right hon. Friend, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, had made some observations. He thought, therefore, that the Rule to which the noble Lord had referred did not apply in the present case.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT,
in that case, supposed the publication in The Globe was now authentic; because, while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, he watched very carefully what he said, and he alluded to an argument which had been founded upon a previous understanding between Russia and England, in what was called the Schouvaloff-Salisbury Agreement. He was a little surprised when the right hon. Gentleman, who had had considerable legal experience, began dealing with that document in a manner which he ventured to say was a little extraordinary. The Rule was stated by him to be exactly the same in that House with reference to written documents as at the Bar— namely, that if reference was made to a written document, the party so referring to it was bound to produce it. The Home Secretary set to work to explain the conduct of England with re- 761 ference to Bessarabia, and, after explaining and defending the Agreement which England had come to, proceeded to argue upon the contents of that Agreement. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Agreement stipulated that—"We should be at full liberty to discuss the subject of Greece; but that, in that Agreement, we made an acknowledgment that we should not be bound to go to war." It was utterly impossible for any person more explicitly to state the effect of the document than the right hon. Gentleman had done. At the time, he (Sir William Harcourt) observed to his right hon. Friend beside him, that he wondered how far the Home Secretary was going in referring to this document, and his right hon. Friend read from his book the paragraphs of the document as they were referred to by the Home Secretary. It was thus clear that the Home Secretary stated at full length the contents of the document. But what was the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He said—"You have got the document, and you all know its contents, and the Rule only applies to documents of which the Government are the possessors, and not the rest of the House." According to this statement of the Rule, the House was possessed of the document. But where? In The Globe newspaper. And to that document all sorts of epithets had been applied. It was called unauthorized, unauthentic, and inaccurate, because incomplete. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the Rule did not apply, because all the world was possessed of the document. In that case, the Government must take one of two courses—they must either lay The Globe newspaper on the Table of the House, or produce the document itself. If the Government would lay The Globe newspaper on the Table, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, it would answer all purposes.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished to correct an inaccurate expression which had been used by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford. The hon. and learned Member said that the document which had been referred to had been described as inaccurate, because it was incomplete. He wished to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that what he had stated was, that as an exposition of the policy of Her Majesty's Government the document in question 762 was incomplete, and therefore inaccurate.
§ MR. BULWER
said, that the Secretary of State for the Home Department had expressed a wish that the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich would be fully dealt with by the Lawyers of the House. He sincerely trusted that no such event would take place. After the exhibition they had had from the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), he earnestly hoped that the House would not be troubled by anything more from the Lawyers. The hon. and learned Member had endeavoured to throw legal dust in the eyes of the House, by telling them of a Rule of the House analogous to a rule of law to the effect that no Member of the House was at liberty to allude to a document unless it was laid on the Table.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that what he had stated was that a Member was not at liberty to state the contents of a document which he did not produce.
§ MR. BULWER
accepted that correction; but the hon. and learned Member had forgotten to inform the House that it would have been the duty of the Speaker, if there was an analogy between the proceedings of the House and those of a Court of Law, to tell the right hon. Member for Greenwich, when he was alluding to the contents of that document, that he was not entitled to do so; for in a Court of Law neither the plaintiff nor the defendant were at liberty to refer to the contents of a written document which was not produced. But, in the present instance, the right hon. Member for Greenwich and the noble Lord were allowed to found an argument upon the existence of a document of a particular character, and then objection was taken because a right hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side, when he attempted to answer those arguments, necessarily referred to that on which those arguments were founded—namely, the supposed contents of that same document. He trusted the House would not allow itself to be misled by any such reasoning on this occasion.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID
remarked, that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bulwer) was entirely mistaken. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had very correctly said, that 763 the Government had no right to refer to a document that was not before the House. Then the hon. and learned Member opposite retorted that the Speaker ought to have called the right hon. Member for Greenwich to Order, because he had referred to that document; but the hon. and learned Member forgot that that document was under the control of the Government, and not under that of the right hon. Member for Greenwich. The contention on his side was that if a document were under the control of the Government, they ought to produce it.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY
observed, that hon. Members on his side quite understood the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. As hon. Gentlemen opposite had been informed, there were matters in connection with that document which foreign Governments objected to have produced. Therefore, those hon. Gentlemen wished to force the Government to lay upon the Table a document which was incomplete, and gave only a partial explanation of matters to which it referred. Reference had only been made to it in so far as was necessary to answer arguments on the other side founded upon it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.