§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON,
in rising to call attention to the probable interference of this country, by force of arms, in the affairs of foreign nations, and to ask for information on the subject, said, nothing could be further from his inten- 1120 tion than unnecessarily to prolong this unusually prolonged Session, or do anything to embarrass Her Majesty's Government; but it appeared to him that this was a suitable opportunity, and he did not think that any other occasion was likely to be available to him before the Prorogation, to bring forward a matter in that House which he thought ought to be brought forward. It was, in his opinion, desirable that, before the House broke up, the Government should make a statement to the House, and through the House to the country, of the position in which they now stood with regard to what was commonly called the Eastern Question. He thought the Government ought to state what undertakings they had entered into on the subject to which he referred. He was not, he thought, taking an unusual course in asking for a distinct statement as to the naval preparations made by the Government, of which they had heard so much. The House would remember the course taken by the late Government in 1878 in ordering troops from India, and the great interest manifested throughout the country in that step. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) on that occasion moved a Resolution stating that by the Constitution of the Realm no forces could be raised or kept by the Crown in time of peace without the consent of Parliament. A great Party debate ensued, and the bulk of the Liberal Party supported the noble Lord. Now, surely if it was so important to know about the raising and keeping of military forces, it must be still more important that the House should have the fullest information as to the use to which those forces were to be put. He thought that they should take the same view of these matters, now they belonged to the Party that was in power, as they did when in Opposition. In those days, when they were in Opposition, they condemned what was called the policy of surprise, and insisted that no military enterprize should be undertaken unless the character of it was first mentioned and explained to the House. If they were in Opposition, and the Government announced, as the present Government did, that they were not in a position to tell them what they were about to do, he knew what would happen. The present Postmaster General would have moved the adjournment of the House, and the present Under Secretary 1121 for Foreign Affairs would have supported him in an able speech, and a great many of the Liberal Members would have voted for the adjournment. Now, he said, let them be fair. The late Government had gone the way of all Governments, and the country had got a Government in its place which was more bound than any other Government ever was to deal frankly with the House on questions connected with peace and war. He rejoiced—no one more so—at the advent to power of the present Government, and he did so because they came into power on the good old Liberal cry of "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform." Well, what did peace mean? When he spoke of peace, he meant peace. He did not mean by it peace with all the world except with the Turks. That would not be a policy of peace, but a state of things which reminded him of the American slave-owner, who said that his political creed was that "men were born free, except negroes." Some people, in like manner, thought they ought to be at peace with everybody except the Turks. He was not going to dispute that the Turkish Government was about the worst that had been seen for a long time. He believed that the Turks were fanatical, very unjust, and extortionate. But it was not the only wicked Government in the world. The Russian Government, for instance, was a very bad one. But he did not believe that tyrannical Governments could be made to govern their subjects better by menacing them with force of arms. Nay, such a course was likely to strengthen a Government, because the more one foreign Power abused another the more likely were the subjects of the latter to overlook the evils from which they suffered in the endeavour to oppose foreign combination. This threat of war was not the way to make the Turks introduce reforms in their Government. Now, he believed in the principle of non-intervention; and, if it was a sound principle, he held that it was applicable in all cases. He wanted to know what was meant by what the newspapers called a "policy of coercion," and what was the object of the Naval Demonstration which they read about so often? Was it genuine? Was it real? There were great doubts upon that point throughout Europe as well as at home. If the reports that appeared in some papers, to the effect that the 1122 demonstration was in the nature of moral suasion, were true, the step would not be as objectionable as it otherwise would be; but it would be a sham, and something like what his Irish friends wished the Constabulary Force to be—a force which, being deprived of its arms, could do no harm. Now, he did not like shams, although they were better than wars. But he was left in great doubt as to the meaning of this policy of coercion. One Liberal paper said—"Coercion is not war, but an act of national police." But who had commissioned us to perform the functions of a national police? Another paper said—"The adoption of actual coercion is, in other words, a resort to war, and would be a matter of the utmost gravity." When authorities were opposed to one another in this way, what wonder that he should be doubtful about the meaning of this word "coercion?" He, however, believed that if coercion was to mean anything at all it must mean either war or a step to war. The views he was enunciating were views which he had held ever since he had begun to sit in that House. He had been ready to oppose the celebrated Resolutions of the present Prime Minister, and would have done so, but for the alteration they underwent; he had opposed the Vote of £6,000,000, and he had also opposed the calling out of the Reserves. Then came the bringing to Malta of the Indian troops, and now it was said that our honour was involved in the present position of affairs. That argument would not, however, in his opinion, hold water. He did not think that we were bound by the provisions of the Anglo-Turkish Treaty to interfere at all in the affairs of Turkey, as seemed to be intended; for that Treaty simply said that we would do certain things, if Turkey did not carry out certain stipulated reforms; but Turkey had carried out no reforms, consequently the conditional engagement in the Treaty fell to the ground. He, however, rested his argument upon another basis. In 1878 he had heard a speech from the Prime Minister, in which he described the policy of the Anglo-Turkish Convention as an insane policy. Well, the nation had since come to its senses, and had put sensible men on the Treasury Bench; and he maintained that they were not bound in their sane moments to that to 1123 which they bound themselves in their insane moments. But, supposing the Treaties were technically binding on us, he had high authority for saying that we were not called upon to act upon them; for, in reply to a Resolution which he had moved in that House in 1872, the present Prime Minister had stated that—"The truth was with regard to those guarantees which bound us to interfere by force of arms in the affairs of other nations, that they depended for their recognition and fulfilment very much on the national opinion of the time." The right hon. Gentleman, he might add, on that occasion quoted the words of Lord Palmerston, who said that "in accordance with the guarantee" of which he was speaking "we had a right to interfere; but that it did not constitute in itself an obligation to interfere." Now, that was his (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) case; and he maintained that, as a guarantee depended upon the national opinion of the time, the Government of the day were bound, before it took any action in the direction of carrying out those Treaties by force of arms, to consult the national opinion of the time, which could only be done by consulting the House of Commons as the Representatives of the opinion of the country. That was the reason why he took that opportunity, now that the Session was drawing to a close, of asking the Government to give some explanation as to how they stood with regard to those Treaties. As for the question of the concert of Europe, he would not say much, as it really seemed almost too ridiculous to talk about. The idea of this free country setting to work to give good government and wise laws in conjunction with Austria and Russia was one of the most extraordinary things he had ever heard of. He very much regretted, he must confess, to find that the present Government should have got into such bad company in the matter. He assured the House and the Government that he would not have brought forward the subject at that time, were it not that he felt more strongly than he could express the danger of the situation into which he was afraid the country was drifting. He entreated the Government to tell the House and the country that they would not enter upon any warlike proceedings; and he reminded them that that was not the commission which was given to 1124 them when the country put them into power. He recollected the admirable address of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, in which he said that every advance in the direction of civil and religious liberty, popular education, and matters of that kind had been the true cause of the growth of the power of the Empire. Such things it was that made a nation really great and glorious; but he believed that if we engaged in warlike demonstrations it would be utterly impossible for the noble Lord to carry out that policy. Surely we had had enough of the contrary policy. We had supped full of horrors. The country was deluged day after day with the accounts of horrible British atrocities, if he might so describe them, carried on in almost all parts of the world. The moment at which he was speaking was a most solemn one; they were holding their breath waiting for news to arrive from India which might tell that one more bloody battle had been fought—news which would carry misery and desolation and mourning into numberless homes—desolation and misery caused by one of the most unjust and infamous of wars ever waged. He therefore would beg of the noble Lord to say, before the House broke up, words which would enable hon. Members to depart in the confidence that they would not, some day, find that we had been plunged into one of those miserable wars which led to nothing but crime and discredit, and were every day becoming more and more disastrous to the country.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he was glad the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had admitted that the Liberals, when in Opposition, had not scrupled to embarrass the late Government in their foreign policy by constant interpellations and frequent attacks, and did everything they could to degrade the country in foreign parts—
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, what he stated was, that they had persistently asked for information from the late Government on subjects of which they thought the House of Commons ought to be informed.
SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFE
trusted the Conservative Party would not pursue those tactics to embarrass the present Ministry in the prosecution of their foreign policy. He should be glad, however, if the noble Marquess the Secretary 1125 of State for India could, without embarrassing the Government, give the House some information as to how matters were now going on in the East. As to the concert of Europe, of which so much had been said, he had always contended that such concerts led generally to the display of bad faith in the case of some one of the Powers which were concerned in them; and, as an illustration of the justice of that view, he might point to the fact that, while the negotiations were going on at the Conference of Constantinople, Russia was engaged in organizing her Armies in Europe and in Asia for the purpose of attacking Turkey. If, indeed, by the concert of Europe the Government succeeded in maintaining peace in those Eastern districts which were disturbed, no one could be more glad at such a result than he would be; but he found, at the present moment, while such a concert was said to exist, that the Government were unable to deny the fact that Russia was pouring officers, troops, arms, and munitions of war into Bulgaria, with, it could be, only one object—that of depriving Turkey of a portion of her dominions. He did not wish to criticize the conduct of the Government. Turkey, having accepted the Treaty of Berlin, must promulgate the reforms which she had promised to carry out. At the same time, he trusted that we would be no party to the plunder of Turkey, and he would object to any attempt to coerce the Albanian nation. The only way to reform Turkey was to decentralize the Administration; and he hoped, therefore, the Government would urge the execution of the reforms which had been so ably supported by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice in the European Commission. England had done everything to bring about the concert of Europe to force Turkey to make concessions to Greece and Montenegro and other nationalities. But she had done nothing to urge the carrying out of those conditions which were in favour of Turkey. Why had nothing been done to obtain the destruction of those fortresses in Bulgaria which were to be demolished in one year? Why had nothing been done in the way of pressure upon Servia? Why did not the Government look as anxiously to the interests of Turkey as to those of Greece and Montenegro ٭? When he had questioned his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of 1126 State for Foreign Affairs—whose absence from illness they all lamented—on this question, he had been told that we could not act alone, but must have the concurrence of the other Powers. But why had they not pursued the same course in favour of Turkey as they had against her? The Treaty of Berlin was intended to be a settlement between Turkey and her subject Provinces. No one desired the happiness of those Provinces more than he. He could not conceive a more lamentable state of things in respect of government or society than that which existed in those Provinces. But a grave political question was involved in any change of the Government and in the internal arrangements of Turkey. It would be difficult to say what course would be necessary if the Turks were turned out of Turkey. He would not, however, press the Government to tell the House more than they thought it was right to tell them. In foreign affairs, the Opposition was not entitled to embarrass the Government, or to cross-question them as to the future. In foreign affairs, the Executive Government should have its hands free. He might take this opportunity of complaining of the extraordinary conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers in concealing from the House all information in regard to the advance of General Burrows from Candahar. He had more than once asked for such information; and he must say that the answers which he had received from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) had not been consistent with that fairness which generally characterized his statements. The noble Marquess had said that he was not in a position to inform the House as to the reasons which induced the extraordinary advance of General Burrows on the Helmund. The noble Lord had referred to confidential communications. He maintained that if there were such communications he had no right to refer to them. The noble Lord had said that the advance of General Burrows was ordered by the Viceroy on the advice of Colonel St. John, the Political Agent. It appeared that, on the 27th June, the noble Lord received a despatch from Lord Ripon, and that was little more than a fortnight after Lord Ripon had been sworn in. Why had the noble Lord kept that despatch from the House? 1127 The noble Lord had said more than once that all the information which he had received with reference to Afghan affairs generally consisted of meagre telegrams. Whose fault was it that the telegrams were meagre? Surely, it would not have been a great expense for the noble Lord to have telegraphed to the Viceroy, asking him to forward such details as were necessary. A letter published in The Morning Advertiser, from an officer in Afghanistan, showed that, as far back as the 27th June, the officers at Candahar had accurate information of the forces with Ayoub Khan; and a letter to The Times, from Major Leech, a distinguished officer on General Burrows's staff, showed that they were aware of the disaffection among the Wali's troops. Notwithstanding this, they were forced to go to the Helmund, which was simply sending them to certain slaughter. ["No!"] Well, the hon. Member who said "No!" must be aware that to send 2,000 men to meet 20,000 was to send those 2,000 men to certain slaughter. But the noble Marquess did not appear to know why they had been sent; and his only account of that transaction was a telegram he had not shown to the House for two months. The noble Marquess had, on more than one occasion, endeavoured to throw discredit upon the late Government, and had stated that the Administration of Lord Beaconsfield was responsible for the force stationed in Afghanistan. No doubt, that was the case; but, if the late Government was responsible for having an inadequate and insufficient force in Afghanistan, it was the fault of the present Government that the advance of General Burrows should have been ordered, when they knew that the force was inadequate and insufficient; but the question of the responsibility of that advance the noble Lord had always avoided. Why had the Viceroy consulted Colonel St. John, Political Agent, instead of General Primrose? If Colonel St. John, with the knowledge which he must and ought to have possessed, advised that advance—as to which he felt some doubt—then, no punishment could be too severe to inflict upon him. The noble Lord said that General Phayre's reserves were ordered up; but they had not yet arrived, and, coming from Quetta and Chaman, they could not possibly have arrived in time to anticipate a Sir H. Drummond Wolff 1128 battle between General Burrows and Ayoub Khan. He contended, therefore, that it was either through ignorance, incapacity, or negligence on the part of the Indian Government, that the troops of General Burrows were sent forth to be slaughtered. He did not ask the Government to state what their policy was; but the House would like to know by whose orders, on what responsibility, and with what object General Burrows was allowed to detach his force from the garrison of Candahar, and leave it with a force of only 1,700 troops, 1,000 of whom were Natives; and whether he and General Primrose, or any of the military authorities on the spot, were consulted by the Viceroy when the orders were given from Simla; or whether the troops were moved simply on the responsibility of the Political Agent at Candahar?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, before answering the question of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and the observations of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) on the same subject, I think I had better say a word or two on the concluding portion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth's speech as to the advance of General Burrows. The hon. Member accuses me of having concealed information from the House. The hon. Member must be perfectly aware that a number of telegrams are received by the Government from India, and also from foreign Governments on foreign affairs, which are of a confidential character, and cannot be communicated to the House. With regard to the telegram I have read to-day, the substance of it was indicated to the House by me some time ago. The hon. Member says I have endeavoured to throw the responsibility of the disaster upon the late Government. I have endeavoured, as far as I can, especially to avoid any such imputation. My only desire is that injustice should not be done to Lord Ripon and his advisers; and, with that desire, I have pointed out that the force which Lord Ripon found at Candahar was decided upon, not by himself, but by the late Government; and the late Government are responsible for the amount of the force they considered necessary for the garrisoning of Candahar, and for the protection and maintenance of the Wali, whom they 1129 had established as Ameer of Candahar. The hon. Member says it had long been known that the advance of Ayoub Khan from Herat with a large force was threatened. But did the late Government think it necessary to strengthen the garrison at Candahar? Not at all. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: They mobilized a division at Scinde.] From time to time, up to the very moment of the arrival of Lord Ripon in India, rumours were received, almost day by day from Herat, that troops were about to start; and it was not considered by the Government of Lord Lytton, any more than by that of Lord Ripon, that it was necessary to strengthen the garrison of Candahar. At last, authentic information arrived that Ayoub Khan's army had actually moved, and it became necessary for Lord Ripon and his Government that action should be taken with regard to that state of circumstances. I altogether deny that the Government had at that time, or could possibly have had, any accurate information as to the amount of the force that was moving from Herat to attack Candahar; because I do not believe that anything like those numbers left Herat which eventually attacked the army of Candahar. It is perfectly evident that the force was enormously swelled on its march; and up to the last moment it seemed doubtful whether Ayoub would be able to lead his troops at all to the banks of the Helmund. The reserve, which the hon. Member says was mobilized by the late Government, was ordered to advance to reinforce General Primrose at Candahar; but it was impossible that that reserve could reach Candahar without considerable delay. All that could be done then by the Government was to decide in what way the force left at Candahar could be best used for the purpose of securing the safety of Candahar, and allaying excitement and agitation throughout the country. What could the Government do but take the advice of their responsible military advisers? They took counsel on the subject, and they came to the conclusion—and, as far as I am aware, it was not questioned by a single military man in India; and I am quite certain General Primrose would be the last man to question it—that the best step was to advance a brigade up to the Helmund, which nobody appears to doubt was 1130 quite competent to prevent the passage of Ayoub's force. It is said that the Government were, at that time, not unaware of the mutinous spirit among the Wali's forces; but I am not aware from what source that information was obtained. The mutiny did not take place until the middle of the month, a fortnight after the advance had been ordered. There was no information in the possession of the Government until a very few days previously, or any sign of mutiny or insubordination among the Wali's forces. As I said before, it is very easy to criticize after the event, and to say that the force sent under General Burrows was insufficient to cope with the enormous army of Ayoub Khan. But the House will recollect that a successful resistance to the advance of Ayoub Khan by General Burrows would not have been an isolated event in Indian history. If British forces, whether British or Native, are never to engage an enemy except when they do so on favourable terms, and when they can insure superiority, or only a moderate superiority of strength, we should not have obtained the great military successes we have obtained. I venture to say that there was not a single officer in India who doubted the sufficiency of the force that was sent forward for the purpose of coping with any force that it was likely Ayoub Khan could send against it. The hon. Member sneers at advice being taken from Sir Donald Stewart; but Sir Donald Stewart had reconnoitred from Candahar; he was intimate with the country, and was intimately acquainted with the condition of the Wali's forces; he was as thoroughly and intimately acquainted with everything connected with the position, military and civil, at Candahar, as any officer could be; and I do not know where advice could be sought for more appropriately than from Sir Donald Stewart, although he did not at that moment happen to be on the spot. I think the hon. Member would have done better to wait until he saw the Papers, which have been laid upon the Table, and will, I hope, be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow. I do not mean to say that these Papers themselves will throw complete light upon all the occurrences which have taken place up to the present time. But I am sure the House will not be disposed to indorse the severe 1131 censure of the hon. Member, until they have in their hands all the documents and Papers which show the ground upon which the Government of India acted. Above all, I am sure this House would be the last to condemn the action of the Government, taken on the best advice and the best consideration they could give, simply from the fact that, in the result, it has not been successful. As I have stated, it is easy to judge after the event; and I ask the House what it would say if a British force of very considerable amount had been cooped up within the walls of Candahar, while levies of Ayoub Khan's were driving the forces of the Wali, our protégé, before them, overrunning the whole Province, and, perhaps, cutting off our communications with Cabul? Had the Governor General of India, or General Primrose, adopted that course they would have been open to the just reproach that they were doing that which was unworthy of the honour of the British Army. Although we all deeply regret and deplore the unfortunate loss of life that has occurred, yet it is, I am certain, a consolation to every one of us to know that, at all events, as regards the courage and conduct of the British Army, there is nothing, so far as we yet know, that in the slightest degree reflects upon the character of our Army in India. A question has been asked me by the hon. Member for Carlisle and by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, with regard to the position of foreign affairs in Eastern Europe. In replying to that Question, I must say that I fail to see the precise relevancy of the precedents to which the hon. Member for Carlisle referred, in justification of the step he has taken in making this inquiry of the Government. The hon. Member referred at length to the Motions which were brought forward by us when the late Government were in Office. Those Motions have not, in my opinion, the slightest connection with the inquiry which the hon. Member now makes of us. On one occasion, certainly, we thought it desirable to raise a question as to the legality of the action of the late Government in bringing a portion of the Indian Army into Europe. Although Parliament then decided against us, we still believe that we did our duty in calling the attention of this House and of the country to what we regarded as the grave Constitutional question which 1132 was involved in that proceeding. The hon. Member spoke of what was now going on in the East as an attempt on the part of this country, and of those with whom we are acting, to improve the position of certain nationalities by means of menaces directed against Turkey. I do not know where the hon. Member has obtained that idea from. The action of Her Majesty's Government has been taken not with the view of improving the position of any nationality by force of arms. What we are doing, in strict union and harmony with our Allies, is with the view of securing the performance, by Turkey and by the other Powers, of the international engagements into which they have entered. The hon. Member for Carlisle says that while the late Government were in Office we availed ourselves of many opportunities of making Motions of this kind. During the tenure of Office of the late Government, we brought forward Motions relating to foreign affairs on three occasions. We opposed the Vote of Credit for £6,000,000, asked for by the late Government; but that matter stood upon a perfectly distinct footing from the present case. The late Government then told us that it was not so much the £6,000,000 they wanted, as to obtain the assent of Parliament to their foreign policy, and to show Europe that they were acting with the assent of Parliament. That being the case, we felt it to be our duty to give Parliament an opportunity of expressing its opinion one way or another with regard to that policy. I have already referred to the case of the Indian troops. That was a question of importance involving a Constitutional matter—namely, the power of the Crown to increase the Forces at its command in Europe. We desired to bring and did bring that Constitutional question under the notice of Parliament. The third occasion on which we brought forward a Motion of the kind was when we desired to censure—and I am glad to remember that we did so—the Anglo-Turkish Convention. That, however, was not a Motion brought forward while very difficult and delicate negotiations relating to the subject were in progress. The negotiations were concluded; and no steps that we could then take would have embarrassed the then action of the Government. It was a question on which we were entitled, in- 1133 deed, bound, to ask the opinion of the House and the country. I perfectly admit that, while these negotiations were proceeding, we did ask across this Table many questions of the Government with regard to them; but I appeal to those hon. Members who were in Parliament during the last Session, whether those questions were pressed to an inconvenient extent, or whether we did not always cheerfully accept any intimation from the Government that they could not give us a reply? Now, Sir, as negotiations are going on at present, I have, as I told my hon. Friend the other day, little more to add to what I have, and what my noble Friend in "another place" has laid before Parliament. It would be an act of discourtesy to the Turkish Government, and we are not authorized by the other Powers with whom we are acting, to state precisely the measures we shall propose to take in certain contingencies and eventualities. A great danger exists in the East, and threatens the Turkish Empire as well as the peace of Europe. In our opinion, and in the opinion of Europe, that danger is due, to a great extent, to the failure by the Turkish Government to fulfil certain international engagements into which it has entered with respect to its Frontiers, and to reforms which were to be executed in its own Provinces. We have always endeavoured to avoid, and have, in fact, avoided, the language of menace; and it is still our earnest hope that no necessity for armed coercion may arise, our object being not to embarrass, but to strengthen the Turkish Empire. If we cannot strengthen that Empire, then we wish to render its existence possible, by the settlement of those disputes and difficulties which threaten that existence. The assembling of the Fleets of the Allied Powers, with whom we are acting in perfect union and harmony, proves the determination of the Powers not to allow decisions based upon the Treaty of Berlin to be set aside either by direct opposition or by too long and protracted delay. I have said that these decisions are based upon the Treaty of Berlin; and on that point my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle somewhat misquoted the words of the Prime Minister, who has always spoken in terms of great respect regarding that Treaty. What my hon. Friend did was to speak of the policy of the Anglo-Turkish Convention as an in- 1134 sane policy, and he never applied that epithet to the Treaty of Berlin. I believe that the House and the country would be disposed to support the Government in abstaining from any declaration which might, on the one hand, lead us to use language of menace towards Turkey, and, on the other, might encourage in the mind of the Turkish Government the notion that they might set aside the decisions of Europe. I am perfectly willing to admit, what I am sure the House will admit, the perfect consistency and sincerity of my hon. Friend in his desire to avoid measures which might, at no distant future, tend to lead in the direction of war; but I must point out to him, and to many who share his opinions, that it is far more likely to lead to the result he desires to avoid, if every day he tries to draw from the Government a declaration which it is impossible for them to make consistently with their good faith and honour towards those Allies with whom we are at present acting, and from whom we have not received authority to state fully the policy on which they are prepared to act.
§ Mr. BOURKE
said, he should be careful, in the few remarks he had to make, to refrain from saying anything that could have the effect of embarrassing the action of the Government. It was true that Her Majesty's present Advisers had not made more than three or four directly hostile Motions in regard to foreign affairs when the late Government was in power; but it could not be forgotten that they asked for explanations on points of foreign policy almost every night. This was notably the fact at the time when the British Fleet was ordered up to Constantinople. It was the duty of an Opposition to take an answer from the Government as conclusive; and, when they said that further information, if given, would be prejudicial to the public interest, to leave the responsibility of future interest with the Government. But there was a good reason why the Opposition should not have harassed the Government with questions on foreign affairs, and it was this—that the avowed object of Her Majesty's Government was to complete the carrying out of the Treaty of Berlin. He would not enter upon the question whether certain eminent Members of the Government, while in 1135 Opposition, did not use language which was of a character very hostile to that Treaty, he would only remember that in Office the Government had stated that they would give effect to the Treaty. They announced that they hoped to do so with the concert of Europe; but, over and over again, the late Government stated that the concert of Europe was a most desirable end to obtain. When Lord Salisbury went to Constantinople he brought about a concert of Europe; but the late Government knew how dangerous it was to place all their confidence upon that concert, when they were not aware of the manner in which its decisions were to be enforced. They had not been told whether the Powers were agreed or not as to the means to be applied to obtain the execution of the decision of concerted Europe. It is impossible, therefore, to form an opinion as to whether this concert of Europe is wise or unwise, or in what direction it was likely to lead them. He would remind the House that, just before Lord Salisbury left Office, he proposed that a mixed Commission should go to Greece, and consider what should be the new boundaries of that Kingdom. The European concert, which it was the boast of the Government now in power to have restored, and of which they had recently heard so much, had, for the present, only led to the Fleets of Europe being brought into Turkish waters, with objects in regard to which they were utterly kept in the dark. Her Majesty's Government would, he thought, admit that they had received from the Front Bench no undue criticism. The Opposition had abstained from offering the slightest embarrassment to the proceedings of the Government, either by Questions or Motions, for as the general object of the Government had been declared, and to which no objection could be raised, they left the details to be carried out by the Government on its responsibility. It was refreshing to hear from the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) that, had his Party been in Opposition, they would have asked for more information. When these measures might bring the country to the brink of war, it was, no doubt, a very inconvenient position for the House and for the country to be told that the Government could not, consistently with 1136 the public interest, communicate information in their possession. Other countries did not adopt the system, which prevailed here, of questioning Ministers as to matters of great importance; and it therefore happened that the Government of this country were compelled to withhold information which they possessed in common with Powers with whom they were acting. With respect to the proposed Naval Demonstration, no unprejudiced person could say that its objects were not objects which were very desirable to obtain. So far as Montenegro and Armenia were concerned, there could be no doubt that the demands made on the Porte ought to be acceded to. The accession of territory to Montenegro was agreed to at the Berlin Congress; so also, in principle, was that to Greece; but he thought that, in the latter case, it was a pity that Her Majesty's Government did not carry on the negotiations which had been initiated by the late Government. He could not help saying that it was a painful thing for a Power like Turkey to have to cede so large an amount of territory as she was called upon to do. The decision of the Conference went beyond the requirements of the Treaty of Berlin; because the Conference had proposed a much larger accession of territory to Greece than was indicated by the Treaty; and, diplomatically, the Conference had laid down a fixed line, and in that respect had abandoned the mediatorial character contemplated by the Treaty of Berlin. He did not say that what was being done was wrong; but he said it was desirable we should be moderate in our judgment with regard to the action of the Porte in reference to the demands made upon it. He wished to say a few words with respect to the Naval Demonstration. There had been demands and a refusal of them; and we were brought face to face with the awkward fact that, in consequence of these negotiations, the Fleets of Europe were putting on a hostile appearance. Therefore, it was fair they should ask the Government, against whom was this hostile demonstration made? We had not the smallest idea against whom it was made. It might be against the Albanians, or against the Turkish Government, or against the subject-nationalities. Everything connected with this demonstration had been carefully concealed 1137 from the House and the country. He would not press the Government to say more, if it would be injurious to the public interests; but he really thought that, if he were sitting on the Ministerial Bench, he could give a little more information without doing injury to the Public Service. There were certain questions he should like to ask. Upon what Power or nationality was it intended that the combined Fleet should act? Had any Convention been entered into between the Powers as to the intention or object of this Naval Demonstration? Were the instructions given to the British Admiral identical with those given to the other Commanders? Had any of the other Powers declined to place their squadrons under the command of the British Admiral? He need not remind the House that this country was in a totally different position from the other Powers with regard to this question; and the consequences to us might be totally different from the consequences to them; therefore, information which the British Parliament might ask for might legitimately be refused by other Powers; and this country was entitled to receive the fullest information which the Government could give with safety. The interests of England in the East were so different from those of any other European Power that he had little confidence in the maintenance of European concert except for very limited objects. It was impossible to say what would be the consequence of an outbreak of hostilities in this region. He did not wish to allude to the excited condition of the Albanians, to the condition of the Greek Army, or to the position of Russian troops in Bulgaria. All these points, no doubt, were present to the mind of the Government; but, he must say, the risk appeared to be increased by the presence of the combined squadron in the neighbourhood of these excited populations; and he could not help expressing his conviction that this step was unwise and dangerous, and likely to bring about a state of things perilous to the peace of Europe, and calculated more to retard than to expedite the reform of the Turkish Empire. If the Government could, in the just performance of their duty, answer the questions he had put, he should be glad; if they could not, he should, at least, have done his duty in putting them, and should not 1138 be responsible for the reticence of the Government, or for the consequence of their measures.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Sir, I should not have thought it necessary to immediately follow my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bourke), but for some of his remarks with regard to the Naval Demonstration. Otherwise I should have waited until others had taken part in this debate. But one or two questions were put by him to me in regard to some of which he ought to have an answer, and in regard to others be told the reason why I cannot give him one. My right hon. Friend has asked what are the objects of the Naval Demonstration? He says the Fleet has been moved, and the House has been kept quite in the dark as to the reason. He also asks what are the arrangements made with regard to the command of the combined Fleet, what are the instructions to the officers and whether the arrangements are the same with regard to all the Powers. The arrangements as to the command and the instructions to the officers are not at this moment absolutely complete; but I believe I shall not be going too far if I say that the instructions to all the Admirals will be the same. I think I can also state that the senior Admiral will command, and will consult the other Admirals on political questions only. [An hon. MEMBER: Who will it be?] I believe it will be the English Admiral. Then he says that the Fleet has been moved for purposes as to which the House has been kept in the dark. I can only say in reply that the object of the present demonstration is mainly to show to Turkey, and to produce to her ocular proof of the absolute agreement of the Powers; and, by doing so, to exercise pressure on the Porte. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has spoken to-night in the name and as the advocate of peace; but this agreement of the six Great Powers of Europe, and the action which they are taking, is in favour of, and in defence of, the principles of peace. The action which the whole of the European Powers are taking is not only intended, but is believed to be calculated to prevent a catastrophe which would be full of danger, not only to the Turkish Empire, but to the peace of Europe as a whole. The six Powers are of opinion that the 1139 delay and neglect of the Porte to carry out certain of its obligations under the Treaty of Berlin is a danger to European peace. I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend shares that opinion, and I do not think that upon this point there is much difference between the two sides of the House. In fact, my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), in his speech to-night, or in one portion of it with which I very much agree, asked us to go much further. His complaint, apparently, was that we were only acting on certain portions of the Treaty of Berlin, and were not insisting on the carrying out of the whole of it; and I think he mentioned portions of the Treaty which pressed unduly upon Turkey which were not being carried out. But he also mentioned other portions which affect the subject-nationalities, because he spoke of the promulgation of the Statutes, and of the necessity of exercising pressure upon the Porte, not only with regard to Montenegrin, Greek, and Armenian Questions, but also with a view to a settlement of other European questions which had been dealt with by my noble Friend the Member for Calne [Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice). Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that there is not much difference of opinion between the two sides of the House as to the necessity of settling these pending questions. Now, Sir, the Powers hold this language, and are persuaded that their action is not only calculated to secure European peace, but is also calculated to preserve the power of the Porte itself, and that it is short-sighted policy of the Porte if they any longer resist the settlement of the Frontier questions which has been demanded of them by the Treaty of Berlin. With regard, Sir to this particular demonstration—the Naval Demonstration—to which my right hon. Friend has referred, from the way he has spoken, he seems to suppose that it has reference to the Greek Question. He seems to think so, because he spoke of the hardness of the terms insisted upon as regards the Porte. But the question at present preparing for solution is not the Greek, but the Montenegrin Question. It has been placed in the first rank, and is more likely than any other to lead to an actual breach of the peace. There has 1140 been, indeed, a certain amount of fighting upon the Montenegrin Frontier, and, that being so, it was thought that this was the first question to be dealt with as the one most calculated to lead to an immediate breach of the peace. Then, as I have said, the demonstration which is about to take place has been led up to by the delay on the part of the Porte to settle the question of the Montenegrin Frontier. We have every reason to believe that our endeavours to settle that Montenegrin Frontier Question will be completely successful, and that within a very short time indeed. The delay which has already taken place has, no doubt, been great; but we hope that no coercion of the Porte itself will take place, because no coercion of the Porte will be necessary. As long ago as the 4th May last, Lord Granville pointed out that the 28th section of the Treaty of Berlin had not been executed through the delay of the Turkish Government. Of course, we were in no way responsible for what is known as the Corti Compromise, which was agreed upon before we took Office; but, it having been agreed upon by all the European Powers, whatever doubts we might have with regard to its wisdom, we were, of course, bound to give the Porte the opportunity of carrying it out. Another proposition, an alternative proposition, was placed before the Porte; and it was said if the Corti Compromise was too difficult to carry into effect, a new scheme, which had been agreed upon by the Austrian and the English Consuls, known as the Dulcigno Arrangement, might be carried into effect instead. The consent of the Porte has never been given to it; but, at the same time, it has never been distinctly refused, though the Porte has made no less than three replies to that single arrangement. Those replies do not agree, and no two are exactly the same; but we have often found that the authorities at the Porte are not very good geographers, and that they sometimes refuse an arrangement simply because they do not know exactly what it is. We have, at the present moment, considerable grounds for saying that we believe that that Dulcigno Arrangement will be carried into effect. I think that the fact that the unanimity of the Powers is to be shown in this conspicuous way by the meeting of the Fleets of all the Powers at the port of Ragusa, which has been thrown open by 1141 the Austrian Government, will quicken the action of the Porte with regard to carrying out this Dulcigno Arrangement, and so of executing the 28th Article of the Treaty of Berlin; but the absolute unanimity of the Powers so displayed must also have the best effect upon the execution of the remaining unfulfilled Articles of that Treaty. I believe the unanimity shown on this occasion, which is known to the Porte to exist also upon other questions, must assist the execution of the Treaty, and must have a beneficial effect both upon the Greek and Armenian Questions as well as upon the arrangement with regard to the European Provinces, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) has spoken to-night. I may remind the House that the unanimity of the Powers exists, not only with regard to this Montenegrin Question, but with regard to the other Frontier questions also. That unanimity has been placed upon record, in regard to the Greek Question, as late as the 26th August. As to this point I wish to make a remark upon something which has fallen from my right hon. Friend. He asserts that the Conference went far beyond the Treaty of Berlin geographically. I think he also used another epithet. [Mr. BOURKE: Diplomatically.] I will not stop to discuss the question as between my right hon. Friend and myself; but that, at any rate, was not the opinion of the Conference, because as late as the 26th August the whole of the six Powers have placed their opinion upon record—I am quoting from a document already laid upon the Table of the House, which I hope will be circulated in some new Turkey Papers very shortly—that the line proposed to the Porte is in conformity with the Treaty and Protocols of Berlin, and, that being so, it has been proposed to the Porte. The Powers are equally united in regard to the subject of the reforms in Armenia, and a Note on this subject is now being prepared with the consent of all the Powers. In other points the Powers are acting completely together, and in regard to the Asiatic Frontiers the boundaries have been laid down with perfect success under the provisions of the Treaty of Berlin, while the proceedings of the European Commission under the 23rd Article have also been marked by this complete unanimity. The whole 1142 of the documents which will be laid before the House, and which are already laid upon the Table, and will be very soon circulated, show that the six European Powers, through their Representatives, have acted together, and that they have concurred in everthing that has been done. Every document has been signed by the whole of their Representatives with one exception—the Declaration with respect to the application of the law to Albania, which was signed by five Commissioners, but was not signed by the Russian Commissioner. With that single exception, the whole of the action of the Powers on the 23rd Article has been marked by absolute unanimity. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, in the course of his remarks, rather complained, as I stated just now, that we should take so active a part, as it were, against Turkey upon certain questions, and he seemed to think that we only insisted upon certain Articles of the Treaty of Berlin being carried into effect. I may say, with regard to the only two points he mentioned in confirmation of his views—namely, that of the Bulgarian fortresses and the condition of the population of those Provinces—that in both these matters Her Majesty's Government have taken so active a part that I think I may claim for them that they have taken the initiative, both in regard to the dismantling of the fortresses, and also with regard to the condition of the population; and the inquiry which has been carried out by Colonel Wilson and Mr. Stephen at Phillippopolis with regard to the condition of the Mahometan population in Eastern Roumelia is one for the inception of which we think that this country will deserve credit. I think that, in that point also, we may be said to have taken the initiative among the European Powers. It is the desire, Sir, of the Government that the whole of the Articles of the Treaty should be carried out, as the best means of preserving European peace—both the Articles which tell in favour of Turkish power, and those which may be said to tell against it. I think my right hon. Friend made one remark with regard to the concert of Europe, in which he must have forgotten something which fell from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) in "another place" not very long ago. My right hon. Friend, when he praised the concert of Europe, 1143 added that he hoped we might be able to maintain that concert. I cannot speak of that without referring to the most unfortunate remarks which some months ago fell from Lord Salisbury in "another place." I must say that the effect of those remarks was rather to ridicule the concert of Europe, or, at any rate, it seemed to me that the object of them was to cast a certain amount of ridicule on that concert of Europe which we have succeeded in carrying into effect. My right hon. Friend said that the concert of Europe had been desired by the Conservative Party; but the effect of what Lord Salisbury said was to ridicule that concert, for he spoke of the instruments playing out of tune. At the present time we have not found that. We have found that the instruments have played together, and I can assure the House that in every detail that concert has not only been maintained, but has been most successfully maintained, and we believe that there is a real prospect of its having serious effect. I hope that nothing will be said here to-night which will weaken the effect of the concert, or tend to detract from the great principles which it has in view. The question at present before us is the question of Montenegro; and in regard to that I have every reason to suppose that the concert of Europe will be found to have produced a settlement which will be satisfactory to this House, to this country, and to Europe at large.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) reminded him of a form that was used at the Foreign Office, called an "extender." Information in that Office was frequently communicated by means of telegrams; afterwards the substance of the telegram was embodied in a more extended and verbose manner in a despatch. Well, it appeared to him that the speech of the noble Marquess stood in relation to the speech of Lord Granville in "another place" exactly in the same relation that a despatch stood to the telegram on which it was founded. It stated in a good many more words precisely and exactly the same thing. The reason he called attention to that was that he was not satisfied with the reply of Lord Granville; and, therefore, he was, of course, not more satisfied with the remarks of the noble Lord. With 1144 regard to the speech of his hon. Friend who had just sat down, there was no doubt that he had told them more than they knew before in regard to the negotiations in progress at this moment. With regard, however, to the future to which they were all looking forward, he confessed that the thing which struck him most in what fell from his lips was the assertion that the European concert was to use force. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: No!] Was he in error in that?
§ MR. A.J. BALFOUR
begged pardon. He had evidently been under a misapprehension. His hon. Friend, however, had alluded in an adverse sense to the remarks of Lord Salisbury with regard to the concert of Europe, and seemed to find some inconsistency between the assertion of one hon. Gentleman that the concert of Europe was most desirable to have, and some other remarks made by the noble Lord in "another place" which seemed to his hon. Friend (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to throw ridicule on the concert of Europe. But his hon. Friend did not exactly touch the point of Lord Salisbury's remarks when he seemed to think he cast ridicule at the European concert. It was the European concert as an instrument for carrying out a continuous policy, as an instrument which was to be used through a lengthened course of international arrangements, to which Lord Salisbury alluded; and he was bound to say, regarded from that point of view, he thought everything said by the noble Lord had been entirely justified by the past, and he was afraid might be justified in the future. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said his remarks were entirely repudiated by the fact that, up to this time, the European concert had been undisturbed, or, at all events, that, so far as they knew, it had been undisturbed; but then nobody ever contended that it was not perfectly easy to get the European Powers to agree to do anything. The real difficulty was when action was demanded, and when force had to be used, which he sincerely hoped would not be required. Until force had become necessary these questions did not arise, and until that concert had been tried as an instrument for 1145 carrying out a policy of that kind it would be perfectly impossible to say whether it would or would not be maintained. At present it was merely playing an interlude and taking the parts. It was only when they were in the middle of the symphony that they would be able to see whether the instruments were in tune and would act successfully to the end of the piece. With regard to Montenegro, they ought also always to bear in mind that between the case of Montenegro and the ease of Greece there was a very wide distinction. The Porte was a party to the arrangements which the Government was now trying to induce them to carry into effect. They were bound at this moment to carry out that Treaty, and to carry out the arrangements which he understood the European Powers were pressing upon the Porte. The case of Greece was undoubtedly different. His right hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) observed that the line marked out by the second Congress of Berlin was not in accordance with the line marked out by the original Congress. That observation was met by the present Under Secretary of State, who replied that, at all events, the Congress at Berlin and the Powers of Europe maintained that they were the same; but this was not a matter of dispute, this was a matter of plain geography, and any persons who looked at the original Protocol and compared the new line with that laid down as the old one could decide it for themselves. He could not help being reminded of what his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State had himself said of the weakness of the Porte with regard to geography. It appeared, however, that it was not only the Porte that was ignorant of geography, for if the European Powers believed that the line now laid down was the line originally suggested by the Protocol of Berlin the charge of ignorance of geography might certainly be turned against those Powers. The danger with regard to Greece, however, was that we might encourage her by our action to commence a proceeding which we should afterwards withdraw from, and thus leave her in the lurch; that we should, in fact, put ourselves in the extremely awkward position of having either to use force, or to leave Greece to fight her own battle. He was 1146 sorry to say it, but he did think the action of the present Government might possibly or conceivably lead to an event of that sort, and it was a possibility which he thought ought most carefully to be kept in view. What had been the conduct of the present Government? Just before they came into Office, the late Government attempted to mediate in accordance with the Treaty of Berlin, and by means of a Commission to settle a line which should be satisfactory to both parties. That particular method of proceeding did not commend itself to the present Government. They thought they were bound to try the concert of Europe; and, at any rate, whatever their motive was, they proceeded to substitute for a foreign Commission a much more pompous, and not more efficient, machinery, by which the same object was to be obtained. That fact alone, he thought, was one calculated to raise the hopes of the Hellenic Party. There must also, however, be taken into account the action of the present Government before they came into Office. The action of certain Members of the present Government was even more suspicious. The Prime Minister in one of his speeches called the late Government to task for preventing the Congress at Berlin from handing over the whole of Thessaly and Epirus to Greece. He said that the whole of that territory ought to be given to them, and that it ought not to be watered down into a voluntary arrangement between the two Powers. They all knew, also, that many Members of the present Administration, before they came into Office, were Members of some sort of society—he forgot its exact name—which used to meet, and where they used to make speeches sympathizing with the Greeks, and pouring a certain amount of odium upon the late Government. These circumstances, and this action of Members of the present Government, all tended in the same direction. The object to be gained was to put in an emphatic form that the European concert was still unbroken, and that it was not enough to send Identic Notes; it was necessary, in addition, that our Fleet should go to Ragusa, and that there should be some kind of exhibition of physical force. He was greatly afraid, however, that the Hellenic Government, looking at all these things and weighing them, and unable 1147 to distinguish as accurately as they could between speeches before Office was attained and the policy pursued afterwards, might be misled by all these circumstances, and might be induced to take action which Europe, when it came to the point, might not feel itself in a position to assist. That would be a most serious state of things, and it was one which the Government ought most carefully to keep in mind. Though he entirely sympathized with all their objects in regard to Montenegro, and wished as earnestly as any man that every part of the Treaty should be carried out, he did think that the means which they were employing, so far as he understood them, for carrying out that Treaty were means which in future might be the cause of great danger to the peace of Europe.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, after the statements made by the noble Marquess and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he did not rise to ask for any further declaration of policy from them, or to put any further questions to them. He was sure the House had listened with the greatest satisfaction to those statements, and, perhaps, most of all, to the assurance given so strongly by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the joint action of the Powers, and the perfect harmony of the Powers, was being so well maintained. If the instruments were now playing in tune, perhaps it was because the conductor of the orchestra knew how to lead them. He was surprised that a responsible statesman occupying the position of the late Minister for Foreign Affairs should go out of his way to cast scorn upon the concert of Europe, as that was the only instrument by which the welfare of the East could be secured. It would be, he would not say more patriotic, but it would be more thoughtful, and would show a better sense of the duty of a statesman to this country and to Europe, if they were to support the Government in maintaining that policy. Statesmen like the noble Lord must know that everything said in this country was read and marked at Constantinople, and that everything tending to depreciate the concert of Europe was likely to encourage the Porte in that policy of blank resistance which at present it was so inclined to follow. With regard to the Greek Question, to which 1148 the hon. Member (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had just referred, he confessed that he was somewhat surprised that the hon. Member should have raised it at all, for he should have thought that was a page in the history of the late Government which they would certainly have been unwilling to re-open. This country was bound to do something of the Greek people entirely because of the way in which we had led on the Greek people to believe that something was going to be done for them. When the Greek people were going to take arms in order to obtain their Frontier in Thessaly and Epirus they were induced, on the solemn pledges and assurances given by Her Majesty's Representatives, to abstain; and, so far from thinking, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government could be censured for putting the Greek Question on a level with that of Montenegro, he should have thought that to England no case appealed more strongly than that of Greece. He wished also to be permitted to make one or two remarks in regard to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), because the position which the hon. Member occupied in that House, particularly among the Liberal Party, was so important and honourable that considerable value must attach to whatever he said; and it was, therefore, the more necessary that some independent Liberal Member should express generally the sentiments of the Liberal Party on the question of intervention. He must confess that he listened to that speech with admiration and sympathy—admiration for the rigid consistency with which he had followed those doctrines of non-intervention, and sympathy with the motives of humanity which prompted them. He would even go further and say that he was willing to agree with him that if it were possible for this country to pursue a policy of absolute non-intervention that it should be so. That policy was possible for America; but it was not possible for us, because we were already involved in so many arrangements that we could not make a tabula rasa and start afresh for the future. He wished to point out what the application of this fact was to the position of the country on the Eastern Question. The hon. Member seemed to think that we were not bound, in any special way, to go on and carry out the Treaty 1149 of Berlin; but he would remind that hon. Member that by the Treaty of San Stefano Russia had undertaken the protection of the subject-races to a very much larger extent even than by the Treaty of Berlin itself, and had incurred obligations which would have secured to them the reforms that they so much needed. In these circumstances this country, backed by the other Powers, set aside that Treaty and attacked it, and effaced it, amidst the applause of hon. Gentlemen opposite. There was nothing the Conservative Party prided itself more upon than that that Treaty had been set aside, and the Christian populations placed under the protection of the European Powers as a whole. That was the line taken up by the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government. If he might presume to confirm what had been said by the noble Marquess, he would like to remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman had almost praised the Treaty of Berlin for having upheld and maintained the principle of the European concert. It was only to the Anglo-Turkish Convention that he applied the term of "an insane covenant." The one point which he singled out for praise in the Berlin Treaty—a point which was re-echoed by the whole Liberal Party—was that it transferred to all the Powers of Europe those obligations to all the subject-races of Turkey which had been undertaken in the Treaty of San Stefano by Russia alone. By this act, then, we had deprived those subject-populations of the protection which Russia had bound herself to give them, and had taken that protection upon ourselves. Were we not, then, bound to carry out that policy completely, and to carry it out by all the means which our power and influence placed in our hands? He would only like to add one or two words as to the particular position in which the Eastern Question now stood, because he doubted whether the House generally had quite realized the extreme gravity of the question. Mahommedan fanaticism had been greatly excited during the last few years, and it was at present almost at explosion point; and a very little more would be needed, in the oppressions which afflicted Macedonia and Asia Minor, to produce an outbreak of massacres as terrible as those which took place in Bulgaria. The only means of 1150 averting such a catastrophe was to compel the Porte to yield. But, so far from doing that at present, the Porte seemed to be doing its best to stimulate that fanaticism. Hon. Members would recollect that a few years ago some conversation took place with regard to the dissemination, by the Imperial Printing Press of Constantinople, of inflammatory literature addressed to the Mahommedans of India. Information had also recently reached the House that a league of Kurdish Chiefs in Armenia was being organized similar to that Albanian League with the object of hounding them on still further against the Christian population, and making it still more difficult to obtain that peace and security which we had been ourselves endeavouring to secure. He should have thought it necessary to justify a course of coercion on the part of the Government in the interests of the subject-populations, but that hon. Gentlemen opposite had abstained from making any attacks upon the Government on that score. They might congratulate themselves that the tone of the House in that respect had been singularly unanimous. There had been a general admission by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government was doing no more than their duty in endeavouring to carry out that part of the Treaty of Berlin. He hoped that the House would rise content with the assurances they had had that the Government was doing its very best to secure peace, and that it was continuing in the course which it had followed since it came into Office in endeavouring to carry out the Treaty of Berlin. He hoped, further, that while they did what was needed for the cause of Montenegro and Greece, that the Government would not forget the even more pressing case of the Christians in Asia Minor. Hon. Members might, he was sure, feel confident that a Government, composed as the present Government was composed, would not resort to coercion without need; and if, unfortunately, it should become necessary, they might be sure that the Government would not use it until it had become the only available remedy, the only alternative to a disgraceful abandonment of those to whom we were pledged, and whom every motive of interest, as well as every motive of humanity, called upon us to protect and maintain.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that he wished to make some remarks on the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) on the subject of the concert of Europe. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had called attention to the remarks made by Lord Salisbury as being in the nature of a scoff at the concert of Europe. The explanation given by the hon. Member for Hertford of the view taken by Lord Salisbury upon that subject was that the concert of Europe never could, in his opinion, be regarded as a permanent instrument for the accomplishment of the object contemplated by the Powers. In his opinion, the concert of Europe could not be looked upon as an instrument otherwise than temporary in its application and character. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Temporary and occasional.] That was the extraordinary view taken by one who was a Plenipotentiary at Berlin. It seemed to him to be a most extraordinary view for a Plenipotentiary at the Congress of Berlin to take; for, if the Treaty of Berlin were looked to, it would be found to contain provisions which were intended to spread over a very considerable period. Was it meant that the Treaty of Berlin was to be an idle instrument, and that it was to be left to the goodwill of Turkey alone to give effect to it? Let them consider the provisions of the Treaty of Berlin in favour of the people of Asia Minor. Then there were the Articles with reference to the internal reforms in Turkey in Europe. Some years had elapsed since the signature of the Treaty of Berlin, and these things were not yet accomplished, and never would be accomplished, except by the pressure of the concert of Europe. The reforms n Armenia were not even commenced; and how was it possible that they could be carried out except by the action of the concert of Europe? He did say that it was entirely inconsistent with the duty of those persons who were responsible for having given the pledge of England, as well as other Powers, to the accomplishment of these objects, to turn round now and allege that the duties of England were at an end before these reforms were accomplished. The course the present Government had taken was one in accordance with the views they had always advocated. They condemned 1152 the late Government at the time of the Berlin Memorandum, because when all the Powers of Europe were prepared to press reforms upon Turkey, they used no effort to keep the concert of Europe together, so as to bring European action to bear upon the Porte. His hon. Friends around him did not, he thought, blame the late Government for not accepting the Berlin Memorandum itself. There were complaints with regard to the manner in which it was presented, and there were great objections to it. What they complained of was that when the late Government did not accept the Berlin Memorandum they did not make an independent effort to bring European action to bear upon Turkey. The Liberal Party had always maintained that that should have been done; and from the moment of his accession to Office Lord Granville had proceeded to carry out the policy which he had maintained that the late Government ought to have carried out. They had endeavoured, even at the eleventh hour, to do what they maintained the English Government ought to have done. What was the view they took at that time? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) had been able to state that the concert of Europe was entirely unbroken, and that it was acting in the direction that it always ought to have acted in—namely, to press upon Turkey those reforms which they believed ought to have been made. The late Government, after scoffing at the concert of Europe, tried their own independent action without having the concert of Europe to rely upon. They did not set Europe at loggerheads; but they said—"If we can only act alone with respect to Turkey we will reform Turkey in our own manner." They wrote single Notes to the Porte in connection with the Anglo-Turkish Convention; but they met with signal failure. Those hon. Gentlemen who ridiculed the Concert of Europe tried their own independent solitary experiment, which was an absolute and total failure. He confessed that responsibilty at that moment rested upon those who stood up, as his hon. Friend had done, to indorse the speeches of those who scoffed at the concert of Europe. His hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said that anyone who maintained that the Frontier of Greece, as laid down at the second Conference, 1153 was the same as that laid down at the first Conference, must be exceedingly ignorant of geography. With regard to that, there were individuals present at the second Conference who were also present at the first, and it was not to be supposed that any alteration could have been made without their knowledge. As to the last charge brought by the hon. Member against the Government with respect to Greece, the hon. Member charged the Government with holding out to her hopes not likely to be realized. He should like to know who had held out hopes to Greece? They knew that before the Representatives of England went to the first Conference at Berlin, they held out certain anticipations to Greece, and induced Greece to keep quiet. When the war was being waged between Russia and Turkey, and when the influence of Greece might have been a very important element in the struggle, they induced her to keep quiet by the promise that when the time came, Greece should not suffer by her tranquillity. The late Government succeeded in keeping Greece quiet; but how did they fulfil the promises they held out, and the anticipations they encouraged on the part of Greece? They went to the Conference at Berlin—he was not going to enter into any disputed questions as to the exact course taken by the English Plenipotentiaries—but what did they do? Everybody believed that it was the English Plenipotentiaries who placed Greece in the remarkable position in which she stood by the result of that Conference. It was determined to leave two parties, whose interests were absolutely and diametrically opposed, to settle matters between them. Every man of sense must feel that that was not likely to be a solution of the difficulty. How could they leave two parties, each claiming the territory of the other, to settle their differences between them? It was not likely that either would be satisfied. The manner in which the late Government left Greece, after the settlement of Berlin, was an utter failure. As to encouraging Greece with anticipation that could not be fulfilled, he thought that the persons who did so were those who led Greece before the Conference at Berlin to expect that her demands would be satisfied. He remembered that it was said by Lord Salisbury that Greece should obtain what a reasonable country 1154 might expect; but now two or three years had elapsed, and Greece had yet obtained nothing. The hon. Member for Hertford now came forward and charged the present Government with encouraging Greece with anticipations which were never likely to be fulfilled. That seemed to him a very rash and ill-advised charge to bring against the present Government. The present Government were engaged in the very difficult task of fulfilling the faith of this country to Greece, which faith was pledged to her by the late Government. There was that continuity of Administration, that, as the late Government had pledged its faith to Greece that she should receive reasonable satisfaction, it was now the duty of the present English Government to carry out that pledge. The late Government made the Treaty of Berlin, which he would venture to say was utterly inadequate to satisfy the reasonable expectations of Greece, and the present Government were placed in the difficult position of finding a way out of the embarrassments caused by the late Administration.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that he wished to explain, with reference to his remarks upon the Concert of Europe, that he had no authority to bind the Marquess of Salisbury or to speak on his behalf. What he had said was simply an expression of his own views on the subject. He might further say that he had made no charge against the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards Greece, because he did not know what their policy was. He only stated what, in his opinion, would be the consequence of what Her Majesty's Government was now doing.
§ SIR WILLIAM PALLISER
said, that his firm belief was, that had the late Government remained in Office, the disaster to General Burrows's Force would not have occurred. He grounded that belief upon the following facts. There was no doubt that when the present Government came into Office, the immediate evacuation of Afghanistan was decided upon, and was being carried out as rapidly as possible. The cause of the disaster to our Forces at Candahar was due to the weakening of the base at Quetta, and by not keeping up the transport and supplies of General Phayre in a proper manner. The base was weakened so much that, although two months had 1155 elapsed since the approach of Ayoub Khan was known, it was only now that General Phayre had been in a position to make any advance at all. General Primrose sent forward General Burrows with all the force he could spare to oppose Ayoub Khan. In point of fact, so much was this the case that the garrison of Candahar was reduced to the lowest possible state; and there was no doubt that if General Phayre's transport had been in a proper state of efficiency he would have been able to send up a strong force to Candahar, a large part of which could have been sent on to strengthen General Burrows, and to oppose Ayoub Khan. He thought that the Government ought to state why General Phayre's transport had been left in such a position.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that, in his opinion, the remarks of the hon. Member who had just sat down with regard to Afghanistan, had been answered so clearly in anticipation by the noble Lord, that he was surprised they should have been made. With regard to the Eastern Question, he did not wish to make a speech upon the subject, but only to state that he had always been a constant advocate of carrying out the resolutions of the Treaty of Berlin with a firm hand, and by coercion, if necessary. He had always differed on that point from the view held by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and he would state some of the reasons which led him to that conclusion. In this particular case it seemed to him that, if necessary, they might proceed to use coercion. In his opinion, there was a great difference between intervening on behalf of freedom and intervening on behalf of tyranny and oppression. Further, he thought it was made clear that coercion was justifiable in this case, because Turkey owed her present position solely to the intervention of Europe, and especially of England. As another reason in favour of coercion, it might, in this case, be especially needed, because, while half the Turkish Empire was in Europe, the Turkish inhabitants of the other half suffered just as much. He believed that in Afghanistan, as well as in the case of the Turks and of other Mahommedan people, they were not so much influenced by fanaticism. He did not desire to oppress those people, but he 1156 desired to relieve them from a government which was in its nature oppressive to them as well as to everyone else. The statements made by the noble Lord seemed to him to be extremely satisfactory, and he was only somewhat afraid that coercion, if attempted, might be too slow and dilatory. They had been told that the concerted action of Europe would be used to settle the Montenegrin Question. They were then in September, and the season was rapidly approaching when it would be impossible for the Fleets to act, although they had still before them the settlement of the Greek and other questions. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) in saying that there was one matter connected with this Eastern Question even more important than Montenegro, and that was the question of Provincial Autonomy. He earnestly hoped that the efforts of the European Powers would be directed to complete autonomy being granted to the Provinces as arranged by the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin. He hoped that the Turkish Government would be made to understand that the concerted action of Europe would be used for the purpose of insisting upon the entire execution of the terms of the Treaty of Berlin.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.