§ MR. RYLANDS
, in rising to call attention to the Anglo-Turkish Convention; and to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there shall be laid before this House Copies of all Despatches and Papers on the subject of the Anglo-Turkish Convention which have passed between Her Majesty's Government, or Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, and the Turkish Government, and which have not already been laid before Parliament,said, that the Anglo-Turkish Convention was a remarkable instance of the exercise of the Treaty-making Prerogative of the Crown. In former Sessions he had called the attention of the House to the exercise of that Prerogative, and had urged upon the House the grounds which rendered it highly important and necessary that all Treaties should be submitted to Parliament before ratification. The Prime Minister had stated that, in practice, there was generally an interval between the conclusion of a Treaty and its ratification during which Parliament might interfere. The declaration of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject was highly important, and was contained in the speech which he made upon the Berlin Treaty on July 30th, 1878, when ho said—This House of Parliament may declare itself in decisive terms against any Treaty before ratification. The intervention of a Parliamentary Chamber, by well understood precedents, can stop the ratification of a Treaty. That is to 1274 say, the Government which chooses to stop the ratification of a Treaty, in consequence of such an intervention, is not liable to the charge of bad faith."—[3 Hansard, ccxlii. 713.]The right hon. Gentleman, in justification of that statement, referred to the well-known precedent of the Eight of Search Treaty which was entered into between England and Prance in 1841, but which met with so much opposition in the French Chambers that the ratification was not proceeded with. The Anglo-Turkish Convention, however, was not only negotiated in secret and completed in a clandestine manner, but it was ratified before Parliament had any knowledge of its existence, and it was, therefore, absolutely impossible for this House to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman had urged another justification for the existence of the Treaty-making Prerogative. He said that the power could only be exercised by the Crown under the advice of Ministers, and under the important limitation that Treaties so entered upon should be in accordance with public opinion and the known views of Parliament. But the Convention absolutely violated these recognized conditions. It had been denounced by the right hon. Gentleman himself as an "abuse" of the Treaty-making Prerogative. It was sprung upon Parliament, and, to the amazement of the public, it was found that, without any note of warning, the country had been involved in enormous responsibilities. It was a mockery and a delusion to say that Parliament held the purse-strings of the nation, if it could be committed by secret Treaties of that kind, ratified without its knowledge or sanction, to obligations which might entail the expenditure of vast sums of money. That Convention, which in its conception and birth bore all the marks of illegitimacy, still existed, and the position in which they were placed by it demanded the serious attention of the Government and of Parliament. It was at least satisfactory that the Liberal Party were perfectly free to re-consider the question. It was said, in reference to the annexation of the Transvaal, that the Liberal Party were committed to its approval by the declarations of Lord Kimberley in the House of Lords and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. FORSTER) in this House. But no such allegation could 1275 be made in respect of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The moment it was brought to the knowledge of the Liberal Party they denounced it. It was denounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in his Mid Lothian speeches. He said it was "an insane Convention." [Mr. GLADSTONE: I said it in this House.] The right hon. Gentleman had said it in that House. The noble Marquess who led the Liberal Party in that House in the last Parliament (the Marquess of Hartington)moved a Resolution condemning the heavy responsibilities and undefined engagements which this country had incurred under that Convention; and, in favour of that Resolution, the great body of the Liberal Members in the last House of Commons voted. Those "undefined engagements" and "heavy responsibilities" against which that protest was made still existed. The noble Marquess, in the powerful speech which he delivered on moving his Resolution, anticipated that theTime for reflection would inevitably come when the country would retreat with honour while there was time from this false and ill-advised course.The time for reflection had now come. The false glamour which surrounded Lord Beaconsfield's meretricious Eastern policy had passed away; and now, so far as the people of that country were concerned, they might appeal from "Philip drunk to Philip sober." Some hon. Gentlemen had said in reference to his Motion—"Why not let sleeping dogs lie?" But sleeping dogs had not unfrequently the habit of awakening at an inconvenient time. He did not believe in a drifting policy. The Government had allowed things to drift in the Transvaal; and, although he highly honoured the wise determination they had ultimately arrived at, still it could not be denied that the delay in making their decision had occasioned most deplorable results. At any moment serious events might arise in the East which might place us in circumstances of great difficulty under the Convention. Let him remind the House of their obligations and pledges. That country had undertaken the responsibility of the good government of Asia Minor, a country containing 660,000 square miles—a territory larger than 'France, Spain, Italy, and the British Islands put together—with a population 1276 of 16,000,000 or 17,000,000, under the worst possible government, overrun with, predatory tribes, and inhabited by distinct races, divided by religious animosities. The scheme was so wild, so extravagant, so impossible, that people escaped from the Convention by saying it was so monstrous it must be treated as waste paper. But that was not a creditable position for a great Power like England. If they did not mean to keep their pledges, they ought to withdraw from them. But the Convention, went still further. This country had assumed the Protectorate of Asia Minor. They had undertaken to defend the frontiers of Armenia from Russia. The late Government, under the Treaty of Berlin, recognized the possession by Russia of Kars, Batoum, and Ardahan, and thus having enormously increased the power of Russia on the Asiatic Frontier, and having given her a strong basis of operations for attacking Turkey, they had undertaken the impossible task of preventing her advance. Surely, that was the very insanity of statesmanship. There was no mistake as to the obligations entered into. The 1st Article of the Anglo-Turkish Convention was most explicit. It ran as follows:—If Batoum, Ardahan, Kars, or any of them shall be retained by Russia, and if any attempt shall be made at any future time by Russia to take possession of any further territories of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, in Asia, as fixed by the definitive Treaty of Peace, England engages to join his Imperial Majesty the Sultan, in defending them by force of arms.It has been said that this was merely a "sham" Convention; but that was not the opinion of the late Government, and he supposed was not now the opinion of the Conservative Party. On the 6th August, 1878, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) said—The Convention is a very real Convention, and it was adopted with the substantial intention of Her Majesty's Government to give, in a serious and solemn manner, effect, as far as they can do so, to the proposals of that Convention. No doubt we have taken a very serious liability by undertaking that we shall defend Turkey against the invasion of Russia."—[3 Hansard, ccxlii. 1368.]The declarations of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury left no doubt as to I the moaning and intention of the Anglo-' Turkish Convention. Lord Beaconsfield, in the House of Lords, on July 18, 1878, said— 1277Yielding to Russia what she has obtained, we say to her, 'Thus far, and no further.' "—[3 Hansard, ccxli. 1772.]Lord Salisbury justified the Convention by condemning the Tripartite Treaty and similar guarantees given by the Powers of Europe conjointly as beingMisty and shadowy guarantees which bound you to everything in theory and which turned out in practice to bind you to nothing;and he claimed that the Government hadMade a pledge which will be easily understood by those whom it concerns.Lord Salisbury added that, while former pledges derived from the "concert of Europe"had misled" Turkey, and had been despised by Russia," they had adopted theBetter and simpler form of engagement, in which, only two Powers being mixed up, there can be no doubt of the pledges being fulfilled.It was argued that the Convention fell to the ground in consequence of Turkey not fulfilling her promises to adopt reforms; but, unless we explicitly withdrew from the Convention, he could not see that the plea for its nullification that Turkey had not redeemed those pledges could be maintained. No time was fixed for the carrying out of those reforms in Turkey. The Convention stated that—In return, His Imperial Majesty promises to England to introduce necessary reforms, to be agreed upon later between the two Powers, into the government, and for the protection of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in these territories.In Lord Salisbury's covering despatch, all that the British Government insisted upon was—That they should be formally assured of the intention of the Porte to introduce the necessary reforms.And he significantly added that—It is not desirable to require more than an engagement in general terms.Again, at a great meeting at Manchester, on October 17, 1879, Lord Salisbury said—What I think ought to be carefully considered by the English people is this—that however important it is that Turkey should be reformed, and although they will rightly require of their Government that every exertion should be made in order to carry these reforms into effect, the question of reformed or unreformed Turkey does not affect the necessity of keeping Russia from Constantinople and from the Ægean.1278 Lord Salisbury was now the recognized Leader of the Party opposite, and it was to be presumed that, on a change of Government, he might become Prime Minister. The House and the country, therefore, ought clearly to understand what his views were. The fact was, that the promises of Turkey were a mere secondary consideration. The late Government knew perfectly well what the promises of Turkey were worth. The undertaking to make reform was a mere shadowy engagement and a sham. But there was a real price insisted upon in return for their engagement to protect Turkey from Russia. They took Cyprus. In the Convention it was stipulated that—In order to enable England to make necessary provision for executing her engagement, His Imperial Majesty further consents to assign the Island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England.The fact that Cyprus was now found to be a worthless possession did not alter the matter. It was the bribe we asked for, and it was now in our possession. No doubt, the return of Lord Salisbury from Berlin with the Cyprus Convention in his pocket, which he had purchased by involving England in great responsibilities, was very much like Moses Primrose returning home with a gross of green spectacles in exchange for his horse; but the bargain, however foolish, was actually made, and the House should realize the fact that the Convention actually existed and they might be called upon at any moment to fulfil the obligations they had incurred. If hon. Members had read the Blue Books on Armenia, they must have been horrified at the state of that country. The despatches were full of accounts of murders, robberies, and oppressions without redress. Criminals were protected by the ruling classes—the honour of Christian females was at the mercy of Mahommedan libertines, and taxation was only another name for plunder. All these horrors presented a great contrast to the state of things in Russian Armenia. There the population had exhibited during the past generation wonderful moral and intellectual progress, and had increased in numbers from 350,000 in 1830, to 800,000 at the present time. It could not be doubted that, unless reforms speedily took place in Turkish Armenia, the people would rise against 1279 their oppressors. The embers of conflagration were smouldering in that country and might burst forth into flame at any moment. They might talk about "Russian intrigues;" but it required no foreign influence to rouse into insurrection a people who were crushed by the intolerable cruelties of Turkish despotism. An insurrection in Armenia would be followed by Turkish atrocities. Armenia would become a second Bulgaria, and Russia would certainly advance into Turkey to protect the Armenian Christians. Turkey would then call upon England under the terms of the Convention to defend the territories of the Porte by force of arms. What should they do then? He did not for a moment suppose that the present Government would attempt to resist the advance of Russia by force of arms in order to fasten on the necks of the Armenians the cruel yoke of Turkey. It would be a folly' and a crime. the Government would ignore this insane Convention; but they would again call down upon themselves a storm of obliquy. They would be charged with forfeiting the honour of England and the pledged word of the Queen. Probably, some hon. Member would say that they were again making the British Lion run away with his tail between his legs. [Mr. WARTON: Hear, hear!] Ho was bound to admit that such a position would not be exactly creditable in the eyes of Europe. It would be a far more prudent and honourable course to withdraw from the Convention explicitly, and to give Turkey full notice that their obligations under it had ceased. Government might already have taken that course. He asked for further Papers in the hopes that that might be so; but, at all events, the Papers already presented showed that the Government had acted exclusively under the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin and had apparently ignored the Anglo-Turkish Convention. He considered that that was a wise policy, and that the only safe course of dealing with Turkey was by maintaining the concert of Europe. But if they with-drew from the Anglo-Turkish Convention, what were they to do with Cyprus—that damnosa hœreditas from the Tory Government? Their title to Cyprus was bad—it was an infraction of the Public Law of Europe, which declared that no alteration in existing Treaties 1280 should be made by any Power except with the consent of the other contracting Powers. The late Government had violated these stipulations by the possession of Cyprus, which was an evil example to other Powers. How was it justified? Lord Salisbury, at Manchester, in October, 1879, gave the grounds of the policy of the late Government in taking Cyprus. He said—The occupation of Cyprus was merely carrying out the traditionary policy of the English Government for a long time past. When the interest of Europe was centred in the conflicts that were waged in Spain, England occupied Gibraltar. When the interest was centred in the conflicts that wore waged in Italy, England occupied Malta—and now that there is a chance that the interest of Europe may he centred in Asia Minor, or in Egypt, England has occupied Cyprus.That had been truly called a "Bandit policy." That evil example was now being followed by France; because it could not be doubted that the present Tunisian question took its root in the action of the British Government in 1878. When the terms of the Anglo-Convention became known, they excited dissatisfaction and distrust in Europe. In Franco, especially, there was naturally much irritation, and on July 21, 1378, M. Waddington wrote a despatch, in which he spoke of the "outburst of surprise and uneasiness" which had been called forth in France. That despatch, was concealed from Parliament for some months, and on August 1, 1878, the noble Lord the late Postmaster General (Lord John Manners) denied that there was any irritation in Franco, and declared that—Not a cloud has arisen We have proceeded throughout these difficult and entangled negotiations in complete harmony with the French and Italian Governments."—[3 Hansard, ccxlii. 904.]But it was well known that the French Press was loud in its denunciations of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Suddenly the excitement was closed, and the diplomatic rupture avoided. They now knew how Franco was pacified. There was another clandestine engagement involving the honour of England. There was a secret conference between Lord Salisbury and M. Waddington, which suggested the idea of bandits meeting together dividing their spoil. M. Waddington naturally complained of the bad faith of England in taking Cyprus 1281 from Turkey. "Oh," Lord Salisbury, would reply—"that is easily arranged. Why not filch another slice of Turkish territory? Take Tunis." [Laughter.] That nefarious bargain was struck, and, when it oozed out, of course it was denied, in his usual manner, by Lord Salisbury. There was a despatch on August 7, 1878, to Sir Richard Wood, the Consul at Tunis, in which Lord Salisbury distinctly asserted that—No offer of the annexation of Tunis to France has ever been made by Her Majesty's Government to the French Government.There was a similar denial in that House by the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke), who proved himself quite capable of supporting the line taken by his Chief. His (Mr. Rylands') hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardine (Sir George Balfour) asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on July 16, 1878—To explain whether there are any grounds for the rumours about changes in the Mahommedan territories of Tunis and Tripoli as respects their transfer to Italy or France?The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bourke) replied—"No, Sir; we have not heard anything on the subject." Well, the matter had now been cleared up, and the House was in possession of evidence distinctly proving that the bargain was entered into. Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed just now when he described the conversation which had probably taken place between M. Waddington and Lord Salisbury; but his description was fully justified by M. Waddington's account of the transaction. Immediately on returning to Paris from Berlin, M. Waddington placed on record an exact record of the conversation he had had with Lord Salisbury. It was contained in a despatch to the Marquess d'Harcourt, dated the 26th of July, 1878, and in it he said that Lord Salisbury,—Anticipating of his own accord the feelings he supposed us to entertain, gave me to understand in the most friendly, and at the same time explicit language, that England had made up her mind to raise no obstacle against us in that quarter; that in his view it would be solely for ourselves to settle, as suited our convenience, the nature and extent of our relations with the Bey; and that the Queen's Government accepted beforehand all the consequences which the natural development of our policy might entail on the ultimate destiny of the Tunisian Territory. 'Do at Tunis what you think proper,' his Lord. 1282 ship said—'England will offer no opposition, and will respect your decisions.'[Sir. H. DRUMMOND WOLFF: Read the answer.] He would do so. It practically confirmed the accuracy of M. Waddington's statement, and was contained in a despatch from Lord Salisbury to Lord Lyons, dated the 7th of August, 1878, in which he said that he had made no note of what he described as theVery satisfactory conversations which he had with M. Waddington at Berlin on the subject of Tunis;but that—Without being able to confirm the exact phrases attributed to me, I have great pleasure in bearing witness to the general justice of his recollections.The Conservative Government, at that time, evidently thought that they were in possession of a long lease of power, and might act as they thought proper on the subject of foreign affairs without fear of being called to account. He believed that there were other despatches in existence on the subject, and he challenged the Government to produce them. Why were they not produced? He supposed that it was because Lord Salisbury objected to their being laid on the Table. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Oh, oh !] The hon. Member for Hertford disputed that statement. Let him stand up in his place, and say that his noble Relative was willing to have any further Papers produced. It was impossible to deny that the responsibility of the present state of things in Tunis belonged to the late Government. The bargain between Lord Salisbury and M. Waddington was now being carried out. There was no difficulty in France finding pretexts for a policy of aggression. He (Mr. Rylands) regretted the course which had. been taken by France; but he could not understand the outcry made by Conservative Members at each stage of the development of the French policy of annexation of Tunis, when they knew that their Leaders had positively committed the British Government to acquiescence in the designs of France. But how, he asked, while we retained possession of Cyprus, could the British Government protest with any degree of consistency against the action of the French Government with regard to Tunis? While we held Cyprus our hands were not clean. That view was put forward by M. Barth é lemy St. 1283 Hilaire in a despatch to Lord Lyons dated the 16th of May, 1881, in which he said—It is quite evident that, just as the English Government, when it has assumed the responsibility of the administration of foreign countries, has considered that it was bound to alter the existing state of things, and to procure for the population of which it assumed the guardianship the advantage of a civilized and regular Government, so also France, in whose hands the superintendence of affairs in Tunis is now placed, cannot shirk the duty of inviting that country to share the benefits which our administration has already conferred upon Algeria.The possession of Cyprus under the present title was altogether unjustifiable. It weakened the moral power of England in the Councils of Europe, and gave the sanction of their example to a policy of aggression. Its possession was further objectionable, because it was weighted with such heavy obligations, and because, under the present tenure, it was quite impossible to administer the Island satisfactorily. It was still Turkish territory under the suzerainty of the Porte. They were the tax-gatherers of the Sultan; and the uncertainty of the tenure of the Island necessarily interfered with the investment of capital upon it. The Under Secretary of State for the Colonies had laid Papers on the Table which would, no doubt, throw much light on the condition of the Island; but they were not yet in the hands of hon. Members. The local newspapers published in Cyprus were full of complaints of its administration. The people complained of the heavy taxation now levied in a manner injurious to industry. There was an enormous expenditure in salaries of local officials, &c, amounting to £75,000 a-year, in addition to the £100,000 paid to the Sultan. Complaints were also made of the constitution of the Courts of Justice, and of the Legislative Council, and of the denial of municipal privileges; and generally it was said that—The people could not see any great difference between the present joint-stock proprietorship with Turkey and the original Turkish misrule.
§ The present Government had wisely and boldly reversed the dangerous and criminal policy of their Predecessors in Afghanistan and South Africa, and it now remained for them to carry out the principles avowed by the Prime Minister by withdrawing from the Anglo-Turkish Convention, which was a danger to Bri- 1284 tish interests, and an evil example to the European Powers. He begged, in conclusion, to make the Motion of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. BAXTER
, in seconding the Motion, said: The last time, Sir, I ventured to address the House of Commons on foreign affairs—and I have too much respect for the time of this House to address it often on any question—was in June, 1875, when, returning from a protracted tour in the East, I thought it my duty to tell my fellow-countrymen that the Party that used formerly to believe in the possible regeneration of Turkey had entirely disappeared, and that men of all nationalities, of all religious creeds, and of all political principles universally believed that the last hour of Turkey was very nearly come, and that nothing could save her. On that occasion I warned the House, and told it to be prepared for three things—first, the revolt and the separation from Turkey of some of her finest Provinces; secondly, the massacres that astonished Europe; and, lastly, the total collapse of Turkish finance. Well, many Turkish bondholders were very angry at what they were pleased to call my wild statement—namely, that no Turkish bondholder would receive a shilling, either of principal or interest; and 1 am sorry to say that the speech I made then in this House was received with so much discouragement and incredulity both here and elsewhere that I felt rather chap-fallen, although some months afterwards I had the satisfaction of receiving several letters from gentlemen who acted upon my humble warning, and who saved themselves from ruin by selling all their Turkish investments. A great deal has happened since. A great warning has been given to the public of this country in regard to the true condition of the Ottoman Empire, and we hear very little from our Friends on the other side of the House of the "independence and integrity" of our ancient Ally. But, Sir, it is because I believe that no one, or very few, at all events, actually realize at present the rotten condition of the Turkish Empire; because I believe, if they have made themselves acquainted with its present condition, they must allow that it is a great deal worse than it was six years ago, rendering any alliance, political, 1285 financial, or otherwise between us and the Porte to be eminently foolish and dangerous—that I desire, in seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend, to say a few words more on the subject. I do not think any hon. Gentleman who has read the recent Blue Books on the question, and that very remarkable despatch written by Sir Henry Layard just before he left Constantinople, in which he conclusively showed the utter impossibility of doing anything to regenerate Turkey, will be surprised to hear my statement that, without exception, every recent traveller to the East has bore this testimony—that the Empire throughout is thoroughly rotten. Mahomedans and Christians alike in every part of the Empire are every day becoming more dissatisfied and exasperated against the Central Government. We are told—and I believe it is true—that of the vast armies that were raised in Asia Minor for the late war, not one man in 10 returned to his home. In consequence of that, large tracts of land are going out of cultivation, mosques are falling out of repair, whole districts are relapsing into a state of absolute lawlessness; and all travellers bear witness to this, that all portions of the population, from the mountains of Armenia to the shores of the Persian Gulf, are prepared to welcome any Power that will deliver them from the yoke of their hated Rulers. I have no doubt that many hon. Gentlemen present have read the two delightful books recently published by Lady Anne Blunt, who tells us passim of what she calls "the abominable conduct of the Turks." Let me read two sentences from The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates—The Turkish Government has never sanctioned any other system of administration in Arabia than one of oppression towards the weak, and deceit towards the strong. But for my part I do not believe in the regeneration of Turkey, or even in the maintenance of its military power for any length of time.To this I would add the testimony of Mr. Oliphant, in The Land of Gilead—Both Moslems and Christians, not unnaturally, entertain a most profound dislike of their Turkish masters, considering how they squeeze for taxes; and while the former are loyal to the Sultan, as head of their religion, they are utterly devoid of any patriotic instinct, and would gladly welcome a change of rule which would bring with it greater security for life and property. The late war, and wholesale con- 1286 scription incidental to it, has increased this feeling, while it has largely contributed to the poverty and distress of the people.And this year there has been published a most interesting book of travels in Asia Minor by the Rev. Henry Tozer, in which he bears this testimony—The whole population was now thoroughly disgusted with the Government, so much so that all of them, the Turks included, would gladly welcome any European Power that would step in. Towards Russia, in particular, there was an excellent feeling, mainly owing to the favourable treatment of the Turkish prisoners during their detention in that country. Those who returned said—' The Russians fed us well, and gave us good clothes and hoots. They are the very people to suit us as Governors.' Were it not for a long-standing feeling of goodwill towards England, they would all go over to the side of Russia. The opinion prevailed that the present r é gime was intolerable. On this subject there was no difference—Mahomedans and Christians, natives and foreign residents, all thought alike. The one thing that every person was inquiring for was some Power that might replace it. From all that we could learn the normal condition of the Christians in this neighbourhood (in Armenia) was very had—nor did there seem to be much loyalty among the Turks, though there is no openly-declared disaffection as there is in Asia Minor. The troops in Erzeroum had received no pay for four years, and nothing but loyalty to the Sultan and devotion to their religion kept them from mutinying; even so, it was a question how long their allegiance would continue.Well, Sir, this is the state of the nation with which we have entered into a defensive alliance; and this is the condition of those territories in Asia of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, which it is the object of the Anglo-Turkish Convention to secure to him for the future. Now, I put it to a British House of Commons that this is a situation full of peril to this country. I know very well that Lord Salisbury, when the Convention was made, said he believed the very idea—the very fact—of Great Britain having come under such an obligation would prevent any attempt at territorial aggrandizement on the part of Russia, and that we never should be called upon to resort to arms. There are others of a different—I might say, an opposite—school, who urge that we need not attach importance to this Convention, which had no real meaning, but was merely intended as a cloak and a cover for the Schouvaloff Capitulation, and might be considered quite in the light of a dropped order. To my mind, this is not a safe line to take. It is no purpose of mine to re-open a former 1287 controversy by denouncing the mode and manner in which, this Convention was secretly negotiated; but I do think, in the words of the Resolution moved in 1878 by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, "that the liabilities of this country have, by the Convention, been unnecessarily extended." We have incurred an enormous liability and an immense military responsibility. We have put ourselves in a position to be forced at any moment, either by Russia or by Turkey, at a time it may be most inconvenient to us, but whenever they please, to defend an Empire, not only in Asia Minor, but in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Turkish Arabia, the state of which its Rulers are deliberately allowing to get worse, relying upon our guarantee. Why, Sir, I put it strongly—that, in this matter, we have practised a deceit and a delusion upon the people of this country and upon the other Powers of Europe. Is there any man present who will tell me that we have an Army sufficient to do anything of the kind? There are no roads or means of communication in the Asiatic Dominions of Turkey to enable our Armies to march; and you may depend upon it that, considering the extent of our Empire at the present moment, the people of this country would never tolerate any Ministry, whether on this or the other side of the House, engaging in such a mad and Quixotic crusade. Now, I venture to ask Her Majesty's Government, who have been, in my opinion, very wise and very courageous in regard to Candahar and the Transvaal, to pluck up a little more courage and take advantage of the earliest possible opportunity of that clause in the Treaty which pledges the Turks to execute certain necessary reforms, in order to give notice to put an end to this wild and insane Convention. Very eloquent speeches were made by occupants of the present Treasury Bench in 1878. I thought they were unanswerable. But there is a great difficulty in the way. In Cyprus we have got a sort of white elephant; but there are surely brains and ingenuity enough on the Treasury Bench to get out of that difficulty. When it is a question of money, Turkey is very easily dealt with; and I do not think it would be very difficult to buy out Turkish rights. We might communicate with 1288 Greece; and the feeling in Larnaca is unanimously in favour of annexation to Greece. It is not for me to tell how it can be done. All I have got to say is, "Where there's a will there's a way." I am quite sure that the great majority that placed the Prime Minister in power expects him, at the earliest opportunity, to get this country out of the engagement which necessitates our defending, at all hazards, one of the most corrupt Governments on the face of the earth. I want to say a word or two on another branch of the question. The Liberal Party, I think, are entirely satisfied with, the energetic and wise action which the Government have taken in regard to the Frontiers of Greece and Montenegro. We are glad the Government we placed in power should have acted in such an energetic and wise manner in regard to these matters, and I only hope they will be equally as persevering and resolute in their endeavours to do something with regard to the claims of Armenia. The Treaty of Berlin, which I have always held strongly to be a step in the right direction, and therefore worthy of energetic support, did not forget that interesting people, who, I have no doubt, will exercise a great influence in determining the future of the East. The American missionaries, who are better acquainted with the state of matters in these countries than any other body of men, and who, I may say in passing, are doing more for the enlightenment of the East than all other agencies combined, have a firm belief in the intelligence and destiny of that people who at present have fixed their hopes on England seeing justice done to them in accordance with the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin. At present their condition and sufferings are worse than before the war; and what they earnestly desire is that they should be placed very much in the same position as the inhabitants of the Lebanon, with a Christian Governor, a local military force, exemption from the hateful presence of Zaptiehs and Bashi-Bazouks, and the right of spending the taxes which they pay in the improvement, for the most part, of their own Province. Nothing could have been more successful than the trial of local autonomy, under the auspices of England and France, in Syria; and I never was so much struck with a contrast in my life as that be- 1289 tween the miserable cultivation, wretched poverty, depopulation, and apparent sterility of the Turkish pashaliks adjoining the Lebanon, and the evident and cheering prosperity, the well-tilled fields, the comfortable look of the inhabitants of that comparatively fortunate region. Now, if Her Majesty's Government, with the conjunction of the other European Powers, can manage to obtain for Armenia what has been given to the inhabitants of Lebanon, they will, I believe, do a great deal in favour of the freedom of the Eastern population. Before I sit down, I wish to express my satisfaction that the ridiculous Russian bugbear has come to be regarded in its true light. When one considers what has recently taken place there—the prospect of anarchy in that great Empire—the absurdity of any danger to this great, free, and independent people, either in India or in the Mediterranean, from an Empire with a Frontier far too extended, with a crippled finance, discontented population, and an Army which I do not believe to be in a condition capable of fighting an Army like our own, and a Navy, the state of which is not to be talked of by any intelligent person—I hope, considering these things, we have really heard the last of that which has always appeared to me to be unworthy of a great maritime Power like England, and of all sensible and enlightened men. One of the most profound observers and shrewd thinkers in America thus writes—The same suspicion has involved England in this wasteful and deplorable antagonism to Russia on the Eastern Question. This antagonism arrays her against the progress of Christian civilization, and allies her to the most paralyzing despotism in the world. It belies and degrades the great position she claims as the van leader of free nations and the institutions of freedom.I rejoice to think that the day for cherishing that phantasy is nearly, if not quite, gone by; and that in the consideration of the Eastern Question we shall be able in the future to deal with it without reference to apprehensions which are utterly unworthy of a great and free nation.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there shall be laid before this House, Copies of all Despatches and Paper
on the subject of the Anglo-Turkish Convention which have passed between Her Majesty's Government, or Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, and the Turkish Government, and which have not already been laid before Parliament,"—(Mr. Rylands,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that however much hon. Gentlemen opposite might condemn the Ango-Turkish Convention, he wished to point out that it had been approved by the country—["No!" from the Radical Members]—well, by the late Parliament. He would even say by the late Government; but they had approved it honestly, and he was glad to find that there was no intention on the part of hon. Members opposite to interfere with the authority of the Crown to make Treaties. It was only right that there should be a solidarity between one Parliament and another, and that an incoming Government should not proceed immediately to reverse the foreign policy of its Predecessor. He wished to point out that under the terms of the Convention this country was not responsible for the government of Asia Minor, the Articles of that Convention merely insisting upon the introduction of certain reforms in the government of that portion of the Turkish Empire. An Armenian gentleman had told him at the time that this Convention was made that Cyprus would be of great advantage to England, because we should be able to get recruits from Asia Minor in the event of an attack being made upon India. The Convention was only part of a series of arrangements which were come to; and, rightly or wrongly, it was the opinion of the country at the time—[Cries of "No, no! "]—he did not wish to quibble about terms—at any rate, it was the opinion of Parliament and the late Government that it was necessary for us to enter into strict relations with Turkey, in order to preserve our prestige in the East, our influence with the Mahomedans in India, and even the preservation of our Indian Empire. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baxter) was perfectly consistent in proposing that we should give up Cyprus; but he (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) thought that would not be judicious, for it would be departing from a Treaty 1291 which had not yet been fully tried; and he did not think it was seriously intended that we should give back that Island to the bad government from which we had rescued it, and which the right hon. Gentleman so much deplored. It had been suggested that we should give it to Greece; but nothing could be worse for Greece at the present moment than that she should have an addition made to her territory in the shape of islands, which would inevitably vote solid in their own interests in her Assembly. It would be found to be impossible to pit the comparatively weak Greek nation against the Slavs in the East; and if a Byzantine Empire were attempted to be set up, it would only be maintained by intrigue. He could see no analogy between our occupation of Cyprus and the recent proceedings of the French in Tunis. It was said that France had shown great susceptibility in consequence of the Anglo-Turkish Convention; but what had France done herself in the matter of Algeria? Again, did not France annex Savoy and Nice? What was the feeling of this country on that occasion? But for the Commercial Treaty at that moment the two countries would have drifted into war. The annexation of Tunis by France, to which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had referred, was totally distinct from the taking of the possession of Cyprus by this country. England did not take possession of Cyprus by anything like violence, but by a peaceable Treaty with the Sultan, who was the Sovereign of his country—who had a perfect right to dispose of his own territory, and to give us the administration of the Island. But the case of Tunis was not like Cyprus. There was a large colony of British and other subjects there; the Natives were subjects of the Porte, and, as long as they were on Turkish territory, were bound by the Turkish law; and he considered it a very strong measure on the part of France that the Mussulman population was to be transferred from its allegiance to the Sultan to that of the French Consul who might happen to reside in the country. But France undertook not to annex it. He should like to ask the Under Secretary of State this question—What was the position of M. Roustan in Tunis? Was he Consul or Minister of France, or the Minister of Tunis? And if he filled both 1292 capacities, how could he perform the inconsistent duties? He had heard of some chess-players who could play the left hand against the right, and. M. Roustan, he supposed, was supposed to perform a similar task. They had read an account of the conflicts between the French and the Italians in Tunis—who was to decide these questions? As was said to Count Andrassy with reference to the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was annexation very badly disguised; so it might be said to France with reference to Tunis—it was annexation badly disguised. He perfectly agreed with the- Government and Lord Salisbury, that we ought not to oppose ourselves to the fair extension of the influences of France in Tunis; but it must be on a fair basis. We must know how we stood with regard to France—whether we were dealing with the Minister of France, or whether we must go to the French Government to ratify or repudiate the acts of their Agent in Tunis. The right hon. Member who had just sat down had referred to the Anglo-Turkish Convention; but he said the Government had acted wisely in not in any way endeavouring to obtain reforms in Asia Minor, except with the concert of Europe. They had often heard of the concert of Europe. It formed the staple of the speeches which the Prime Minister had made in the country. The Naval Demonstration, it was said, was intended to carry out the Treaty of Berlin; but the instructions given to Admiral Seymour were model instructions, and the concert of the Powers might be measured by the resolution of France not to let her guns be charged, and by Germany sending only one ship to the political picnic, to be followed by a little filibustering, just as a physician might send his carriage to the funeral of a disagreeable patient. He asked Ministers what single provision of the Treaty of Berlin had been carried out except that which had been effected, not by the occupants of the Treasury Bench, but by the skill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen)? [" Hear, hear ! "] He was glad he had said something to please the Government. It was always his object to do so, though he did not always succeed. He repeated that nothing had been done to carry out the Treaty of Berlin but what had been effected by the skill of the 1293 right hon. Member for Ripon. That was the increase of the territory of Greece; and that was really what the Turks would have done without any Conference of Berlin. The cession of Dulcigno was no carrying out of the Treaty. Dulcigno was given up to Montenegro; but it was not included in that instrument. Turkey had determined not to give up certain strategical points, and they had not been given up. What had the Powers done to carry out the Treaty of Berlin? Bulgaria and Macedonia were at that moment in a state of anarchy; and the same might almost be said of nearly all European Turkey. The Powers had done nothing to adjust the debts of Turkey, or to apportion the burdens to be borne by the tributary States, or to assist Turkey in the introduction of reforms in Armenia or elsewhere; and Macedonia and nearly all European Turkey was at present without any settled government at all. Everywhere, indeed, Her Majesty's Government had so mismanaged matters as, more or less, to receive rebuffs from those who ought to have been their Allies. They had alienated Turkey, deceived Greece, and betrayed Italy. Germany and Austria refused to co-operate with them in carrying out the Treaty of Berlin, and the latter Power had entered into an understanding with Servia which would place our iron trade in the Balkan Peninsula under great disadvantages. In short, the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government had tended to encourage Protection in other countries, and had been a panorama of failure.
§ MR. ARTRUR ARNOLD
, who had given Notice of his desire to amend the Motion by moving for Correspondence and Papers relative to the navigation of the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Karun rivers, said, that his hon. Friends had scarcely done justice to the fact that the Anglo-Turkish Convention was at present practically inoperative owing to the neglect by Turkey of the condition upon which it was made. That Convention was founded in duplicity and in geographical error. It was strangely entangled at the Berlin Congress with the question of Tunis and Tripoli; and as for the geographical question, it would be remembered that, according to Lord Beaconsfield's statement at the Guildhall, the Convention was to secure the Passes of Asia Minor against Russia. 1294 The noble Lord added, as a matter of certainty, that Erzeroum would be the scene of the strongest fortification in Western Asia. No one in authority had ever followed the noble Lord in the error of supposing that Russia would abandon her base upon the Caspian, which was 800 miles nearer to India. That error was appreciated by those who knew anything of the country as soon as it was uttered, and nothing had been done at Erzeroum. The speech just made was the most discursive he had ever heard, and he was puzzled to know how it could be connected with the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Although he felt a deep interest in the affairs of Greece, he could not understand how he could drag them into a debate concerning the Convention; but if he had been a Member to whom the reputation of the British Plenipotentiaries at the Berlin Congress was especially dear, if he had mentioned Greece he would, have set himself to explain how it was that the Congress of Berlin adjourned the claims of Greece on July 4th, the very day of the ratification of the annexe to the Convention, which had always seemed like a deliberate bartering of the claims of Greece for the possession of Cyprus. He would also have attempted to excuse—it did not admit of explanation—the plain connection between the highhanded policy of France in Tunis and the intimation which it was well understood had been given to Italy to occupy Tripoli in reference to the entry of France into Tunis. The very compromising reply given by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State to a Question he (Mr. Arnold) had himself put on the subject led the Press of this country to infer that a record was extant at the Foreign Office of a conversation of Lord Salisbury with reference to the entry of Italy into Tripoli; and when the compromising reply of the Under Secretary of State was not followed by an explanation in "another place," he felt it his duty to put a Motion on the Paper for the production of the record. With regard, however, to the Convention, the present Prime Minister, on May 28th of last year, described it as an instrument under which, whatever ho might think of the policy which led to its conclusion or of its character in other respects, they were not free. That admission involved a very onerous and 1295 important responsibility, which, however, was conditional upon Turkish reforms. Well, what was the fact? The misgovernment of the territory in question had increased since the passing of that Convention. Reporting on the administrations of justice in Anatolia at the end of last June, Consul General Wilson informed Mr. Goschen that "crime went unpunished, and all manner of oppression and injustice was committed with impunity." Such was the administration of justice in a territory concerning which they were not free, and in regard to which the Sultan had promised the establishment of the most beneficial reforms. By the Treaty of Berlin, the Sultan was pledged to the Powers to improve the condition of the Armenians. But of the Christians of Western Asia, Consul General Wilson, in the same Report, stated that, "though Christian evidence may be received, no weight is attached to it." The scale of Turkish justice had fallen so low that one Turkish Cadi, Colonel Wilson said, had been bribed with 2½d. in cairné. He desired to make a few practical observations regarding the great Valley of the Tigris and the Euphrates, with a view to the benefit of the people of that country and the commerce of England. Major Trotter reported from Diarbekir to the Foreign Office that, in three weeks of last year, the Kurds from, certain villages near the Tigris had seized and plundered about 30 rafts, and that of 200 rafts which left Diarbekir in three weeks, not more than five or six had succeeded in reaching Djezirah. In such circumstances there was, of course, practically an end to trade and enterprize. From Armenia, from Bagdad, and even from Bussorah, the accounts were the same. The condition of the people was pitiable; the government never was, and could hardly be, worse; and the people, suffering constantly from violence and famine, were naturally now menaced with pestilence. The country to which he was referring was large, healthy, and fertile; it extended partly into Persia, and was inhabited by Tribes owing such slender allegiance to the Sultan, that Sir Lewis Pelly, when Governor at the Persian Gulf, reported to the Bombay Government that their allegiance was like the regard which Englishmen paid to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church, which, he said, all accepted, but none 1296 remembered. Now, he wished to obtain the support of the House in pressing upon the Government certain considerations which he felt sure must tend to the better government and to the material welfare of this important territory. He wished to secure through Her Majesty's Government free navigation of the rivers in question, and for that purpose the Anglo-Turkish Convention was by no means necessary. He asked the House to consider what was the nature and extent of the vast area of country to which the widest designation of the Valley of the Euphrates and the Tigris had reference. It included the best part of Asiatic Turkey, together with a large portion of Persia. It was a region abounding with natural wealth, capable of maintaining a population 10 or 20 times the number of those who now, with unnecessary wretchedness, were its inhabitants, lacking especially the means of intercommunication for the distribution of seed and food, for the export of commodities, and for the import of English and other foreign manufactures. In one part of this vast area, Major Napier, a distinguished Indian officer, found good wheat selling at a price equal to 5s. a-quarter. The country yielded corn, cotton, wool, and other produce in abundance where any effort was made; and the whole of this vast area tended naturally to one point, and that was a point at which the power of this country was and must remain indisputable—he meant the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates in the Persian Gulf. Sir Henry Layard advised the late Government to occupy the junction of the two rivers instead of Cyprus. When the Anglo-Turkish Convention was concluded, a great deal of nonsense was current concerning Russian armies which were to advance to attack India by the Valley of the Euphrates. The idea was absurd, because the Persian Gulf was as completely dominated by British authority as the Caspian Sea was by Russian authority. Between the head of the Persian Gulf and the first port of India, which was Kurrachee, there were more than 1,200 miles of salt water; and while England was the greatest of naval Powers in the waters of India, the Valley of the Euphrates could be of no use whatever to a Russian force contemplating the invasion of India. There had been proposals 1297 before the House for constructing a railway along' the Valley of the Euphrates, or the Tigris, to India. But it would require a large amount of capital, and, for his own part, he was not surprised that these schemes had not passed beyond what he might call the paper-and-promoter stage. But even if it were constructed, many years must elapse before it could possibly repay the expenses of the permanent way. His proposals were much less ambitious; they made no impossible, not even any difficult, demand, and they had this merit, that failure was in their case impossible. He wished to promote the reform of Western Asia, not by any exclusive Conventions, by no military or costly machinery, but by the agency of commerce. His object was to obtain, not for England only, but for the trade of all countries, the free navigation of the great rivers of Western Asia. He was sure that some hon. Members who had not considered the subject would be surprised to learn that the Tigris was navigable for 600 miles from the Persian Gulf by steamers such as would carry 60 tons of cargo with a draft of less than 3 feet. The point of navigation in the Tigris at this limit would be the town of Mosul, and he had little doubt that steamboats of lighter draft could ascend at any time of the year 250 miles further, to Diarbekir. On the Euphrates it was certain that a steamboat of that draft and construction could pass up the stream 800 miles from the Persian Gulf to the town of Balis, from which the distance to the Mediterranean was not more than 150 miles. Now, his request to Her Majesty's Government was that they would obtain from the Turkish Government the free navigation of those rivers; that the Euphrates and the Tigris should be as free to English vessels as the Thames was to Turkish vessels; and that they would induce the Turkish Government to maintain and protect that navigation as we maintained and protected the navigation of the Thames. The proposition seemed so simple, the benefits which must result were so self-evident, that the House would, he thought, hear with some astonishment that the Turkish Government had been and was tiresome in the hindrances by which it impeded even the partial navigation of the Tigris as high as Bagdad. There were now two steamboats on the Tigris belonging to 1298 an English Company, which received a postal subsidy of about £3,000 a-year from the Indian Government. The Turkish Government would not permit the Company to increase the number of boats, nor to carry on commerce North of Bagdad. In 1879 the Company sent out two steel lighters, capable of carrying 200 tons of cargo with less than 2 feet draft of water, which could be towed up the stream when occasion should require in the lowest seasons. When there was lately a terrible scarcity of grain in that part of Asia, and in every direction people were dying of famine, the Turkish Government, which had forbidden the movement of these barges, allowed them to ascend the river loaded with grain; and on the day they commenced to run, he was informed that the price of corn in Bagdad fell by nearly as much as 150 per cent. If the navigation of the Tigris had been free, and organized as it would soon be if it were free, the best possible means to avert famine would have been taken. He begged the consideration of the House to the fact, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) would confirm it, that the danger of famine would be to a great extent removed from that country if the Turkish Government would cease to oppose the free navigation of these rivers. When the first pressure of the famine ceased, the Turks stopped those steel barges; and he believed they were now lying idle, because of the perverse stupidity of the Turkish Government, which thus cruelly withheld from the people of Western Asia the most ready and the greatest advantage which was within their reach. The engineer to the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company passed up the Euphrates to Balis, 800 miles from the Persian Gulf, in a steamboat 120 feet in length, 20 feet beam, and drawing 33 inches of water. The city of Bagdad, on the Tigris, was joined with the Euphrates at Feluja by a navigable canal, and from Feluja this engineer passed up to Balis at a time when the river was 12 feet below the usual level; and that gentleman reported that, with a small expenditure for removing obstructions—The navigation of the Euphrates at all times of the year by suitable steamers of light draft and good power is a matter of absolute certainty.1299 At Balis, 800 miles from the outfall, the bed of the Euphrates was 628 feet above the Mediterranean, and was 300 yards wide, and had a fall, which for navigation was perfection, of about 6 inches per mile. The navigation of the Tigris also up to Mosul presented absolutely no difficulties whatever. There was absolutely nothing but the prejudice of the Turkish Government to overcome; and that ought not to be difficult, when Englishmen asked for no exclusive rights, and when the free navigation would prevent famine, would create wealth, and would smooth the path of suitable reforms. But there was a third river connected with those, and emptying itself by the same mouth, upon which it was his earnest desire, for the welfare of the Native people, of whom he had seen a good deal, and for the commerce of this country, to obtain free navigation, and that was the Karun, the only navigable river in the Persian Empire which flowed into the channel of the Tigris and Euphrates, near Bussorah. There was not a more important, a more beneficial work lying to the hand of the British Government in Asia than this. He asked for Papers relative also to the navigation of this river; and while he should be grateful for any Papers which his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State might feel at liberty to produce, he wished the House distinctly to understand that the State Paper of which he most desired the production was that important document which was referred to in the Minute of the Government of India, dated January 7, 1880. He was informed, upon unquestionable authority, that that State Paper, which was, in fact, a draft Convention, provided for the free navigation of the Karun river. He wished only to add one or two facts, which would show how largo and how direct were the interests of this country in the free navigation of these three rivers. He was confident upon two points—first, that the Persian Gulf afforded the most secure, the most economic, and the most advantageous basis for our trade with Western and Central Asia; and, secondly, that the import of British goods, which in that part of the world chiefly consist of Manchester goods, would soon be trebled if we could obtain the free navigation of these rivers. From that, hon. Members would see its great advantages to the languish- 1300 ing trade of this country. The economy of this route was shown by the fact that tobacco from Ispahan, which used to pass through Bagdad to Damascus, now passed by the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal. He knew of no part of the world in which commerce had shown such capacity for increase. In 1860, before the opening of the navigation of the Tigris, even so far as Bagdad, the tonnage arriving in the Persian Gulf from all places did not amount to more than 10,000 tons. Now a steamer tonnage of not less than 150,000 tons annually visited the single port of Bussorah. Then, the British duty on fruit was prohibitive of the import of dates, of which the best the world afforded were grown in great profusion in that region. The further development of trade was checked by the inadequate means of transit upon these great and natural highways of Western Asia, and he trusted that Her Majesty's Government would make strenuous and incessant efforts to obtain the free navigation of these rivers; and, if he were able to do so, he should move for correspondence relative to the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Karun rivers.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he wished, in the first place, to say what the course of Her Majesty's Government would be with regard to the Amendment before the House. In the Amendment his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) asked for the Papers on the subject of the Anglo-Turkish Convention which had passed between Her Majesty's Government, or Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople and the Turkish Government, and which had not been already laid before Parliament. The Government would have to meet that Motion by voting for Supply, for this reason, if for no other, that no such Papers were in existence. No Papers had passed between ourselves and the Turkish Government on the subject of the Convention. At any rate, there were no such Papers as were implied by the terms of the Motion. With regard to the proposed Amendment of his hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Arnold), and who asked for Copies of Correspondence and Papers relating to the navigation of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Karun rivers, he had to say that there were Papers of considerable interest as to the Eu- 1301 phrates and Tigris; but they were not such as could be laid before the House at present, although he hoped they might be laid before it ultimately. There were also Papers as to the Karun, from which it appeared very plainly that the Persian Government would not be willing to grant the free navigation of that river; but those documents were so confidential, that he thought it would not be desirable to lay them before the House. He would now address himself to the speeches that had been made, and in doing so he would have to apologize for being discursive, though the debate itself had been as discursive as any he had ever known, for it had. wandered over the whole field of the Eastern Question. References had been made not only to Cyprus and the Convention, but also to the navigation of rivers in Persia, the affairs of Bulgaria, the Dulcigno settlement, and other matters into which it would be his duty, though to a certain extent under protest, to follow hon. Members. He was himself disposed to agree with a large portion of the remarks of the hon. Member for Burnley, who had said that the Convention was one of a peculiarly onerous kind, because it bound us to defend the possessions of Turkey, not only in Asia Minor, but also in Arabia. Hon. Members who had spoken of the present condition of the territories that were the subject of that arrangement had concurred in stating that no progress had been made by the Turkish Government in the introduction of reforms, and his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Bourke) had cheered the statement of the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that in Armenia the people longed for the coming of some foreign Power; but he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) did not suppose that that cheer meant that his right hon. Friend would wish to see Russia in Armenia. Presumably, therefore, his right hon. Friend cheered that remark because he thought the Armenians would like to see England there. However, the interpretation of the reforms stipulated for by the Convention was of a much more limited nature, and meant, according to Lord Salisbury's view, little more than the appointment of a few gendarmes. The hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) said that the late Government, before they left Office, had begun to try to carry out the obligations 1302 of the Convention. Ho presumed the hon. Member meant that the late Government had endeavoured to induce the Turkish Government to carry out those obligations—namely, to introduce reforms in the administration of Asia Minor. The hon. Member, however, had loft out the first words of the clause relating to the intended reforms, in which Turkey engaged to introduce them in return for our undertaking to defend her territory. He quoted those words because, as he read them, they constituted a condition of the Convention. He thought that those who read that Convention would agree with him that it was so hurriedly drawn up that not only was it one the entering into which was of more than doubtful policy, but it was one which was so hurriedly drawn up that there was reason to doubt what were the actual obligations which this country had incurred. Indeed, the language of certain portions of the Convention was of an unusually difficult kind. For his own part, he had never concealed his opinion as to the impolicy of this Convention; but to dissent from the expediency of an international engagement was a very different thing from reversing it after it had been entered into. Every-one would, at least, admit that it was open to grave objections. The conclusion of the Treaty had dispelled all idea that England was without any desire to obtain territorial aggrandizement at the expense of Turkey, and that view was taken throughout Europe at the time. To a certain extent he agreed with the Mover of the Amendment, that the example then set by England had proved an evil example in other portions of the world. The Anglo-Turkish Convention was an isolated arrangement between Great Britain and Turkey alone, concluded without the sanction, and even without the knowledge, of the other Powers of Europe, and it remained without any explicit sanction on the part of the other Powers, who accepted it as a fact, but did not regard it as affecting their Treaty rights. Thus there was a doubt whether the provisions of the Convention did not involve an infraction of the Treaty of Paris and the Convention of London of 1 871; and clearly the Convention at the time it was contracted was manifestly a departure in spirit from the principle of the concerted action which had been the object of the Treaty 1303 of Paris, and the leading feature in our treatment of Turkey up to that time. The Convention created difficulties which, but for the willingness of the other Powers to be silent about them, would have been insoluble. These were grave objections to the Convention, and wore snared, ho was certain, by a majority of that House. But, on the other hand, to violently escape from this Convention, and to put an end to it by isolated action, would be a step which would have serious results on the peace of the East; and, without expressing any opinion as to what might be the future of the Convention, he appealed to the House not to ask the Government violently and suddenly to set this Convention aside. The hon. Member for Burnley said that Cyprus was a bad bargain, and quoted the story of the gross of green spectacles; but Cyprus was a worse bargain, because the green spectacles cost nothing to keep, whereas Cyprus did involve us in very considerable expense. But his hon. Friend did not face the question what they were to do with Cyprus. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) agreed with the ton. Member for Portsmouth that, having once undertaken its administration, they could not hand it back to Turkish rule. His hon. Friend said that it would be unjust to continue the occupation of Cyprus, with the obligations attaching to it. He supposed his lion. Friend meant that we ought to purchase Cyprus out and out. It was not for him (Sir Charles W. Dilke), in the position he held, to offer an opinion on that subject. That was a matter for those who wore Members of the Cabinet, and directly responsible for the administration of the country. It must be borne in mind, however, that there might be a considerable difference of opinion in that House with regard to the policy of paying a very large sum of money for the purchase of the Island, and that was a proceeding against which his hon. Friend, as an economist, might feel bound to protest. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, with that ability for which he was distinguished, drew a certain analogy between the case of Tunis and that of Cyprus. He could not agree with the hon. Member that the cases were the same. There were not only the differences which the hon. Member himself pointed out, and with which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) 1304 agreed, but there was also one clearly recognized by Lord Salisbury—namely, that France, as the immediate neighbour of Tunis, was more interested in what happened in that country than we were in Cyprus. He agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley that the isolated mode of action adopted by this country as regarded our dealings with Cyprus did set an example which had been somewhat followed by France. Ho understood his hon. Friend to argue that by that action we had raised up international difficulties such as France had excited for herself. That such was the case was shown by the fact that the Questions put to his (Sir Charles W. Dilke's) Predecessor in his present Office with regard to Cyprus were of a very similar nature to those which were daily put to himself with respect to our international position towards Tunis. In fact, the isolated action of any Power in such a matter, without the general consent of Europe, was certain to lead to international difficulties, if foreign Powers chose to insist upon the very letter of former engagements. The hon. Member for Portsmouth asked him a distinct question with regard to the double character of the position of the Representative of France (M. Roustan) in Tunis. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would be out of Order in following the hon. Member in detail into that question to-night, inasmuch as Notice had been given on the subject for that day four weeks. But if he referred to the subject, it would be only to repeat what he had said more than once already—that the questions arising out of the double functions of M. Roustan were engaging the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Portsmouth complained, somewhat bitterly, of the representation of Tunisian interests in other parts of the world by French Agents. But the Treaty between the French Government and the Bey provided that the French Representatives in foreign countries would be charged with Tunisian interests, and Lord Salisbury stated after the Treaty that he saw no reason for remonstrance with respect to the action of France in Tunis. But in discussing this question, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was placed in a somewhat embarrassing position, by not knowing how far hon. Gentlemen opposite accepted the Leader- 1305 ship of their Chief. Lord Salisbury spoke, not in his own name, but in the name of the late Government, and distinctly stated that he was speaking the opinions of the late Government—the opinions of his Colleagues as well as his own. Lord Salisbury, after having had the Treaty in his possession for some days, and knowing that the French Representatives were to protect Tunisian interests in other portions of the world, speaking for his Colleagues as well as himself, said that he saw no ground for remonstrance in the action of France. He would not have raised the point at all, were it not for the attack which the hon. Member for Portsmouth had made upon Her Majesty's Government on the subject. The hon. Member went on to question the statement of the hon. Member for Burnley with regard to the dissatisfaction felt in France at the conclusion of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The hon. Member for Portsmouth complained of an inference which the hon. Member for Burnley had drawn from the speech of the noble Lord the late Postmaster General (Lord John Manners). He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could not but think that the statements made by those who now sat on his side of the House at the time to which the speech of the late Postmaster General referred were perfectly well-founded, and that the Papers since published showed that they were accurate. He now came to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who had implored the House not to forget the miserable condition of Armenia, and had advocated the appointment of a Christian Governor of that Province, as was done in the case of the Lebanon. There was, however, no danger that this subject would be forgotten by the Representatives of the Powers at Constantinople. The question was placed third by the present Government among the most pressing questions requiring settlement in the East. The Greek and Montenegrin difficulties had now been solved, and the Armenian question was before the Representatives of the Powers at Constantinople at the present time. His right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen)—at whose presence in the House they all felt great pleasure—who had represented this country in trying circumstances at Con- 1306 stantinople, and who had achieved a triumphant success, had always borne in mind the Armenian question, and the noble Lord who had now taken his place at Constantinople (Lord Dufferin) would keep that question well in view. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) did not know what the opinion of the right hon. Member for Ripon was; but he did not himself attach so much importance to the question of the religion of the Governor of Armenia as he did to the faculty of administration which that official should possess. If he should prove to be a trusty administrator, his rule must be productive of good, whatever his religion. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had thrown some ridicule upon the concerted action of Europe in connection with the Armenian question; but the Powers, nevertheless, had been acting steadily together, doubtful as the fact might seem to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett). The hon. Member for Portsmouth, towards the close of his speech, had departed from his customary tone of moderation, and, in fact, had adopted language which suggested to him (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that the hon. Member had found and availed himself of a speech belonging to the hon. Member for Eye. The hon. Member said that Greece had received an accession of territory, but that none of the other questions pending in the East at the time when the present Government took Office, and arising out of the Treaty of Berlin, had been settled. [Sir H. DRUMMOND WOLFF dissented.] Well, the hon. Member first made that statement, and afterwards he made the necessary exceptions. The hon. Member had apparently forgotten the settlement of the Asiatic boundary and the settlement of the Montenegrin question, which at one time seemed likely to cause an European war. The hon. Member for Portsmouth laughed at the settlement procured at Dulcigno, and said that the Dulcigno district was inhabited by an Albanian population, who peculiarly objected to Montenegrin rule. Colonel Freemantle, an impartial observer, had placed it on record that he saw in the town of Dulcigno but one Montenegrin soldier, and that on inquiry he found that there was only one small Montenegrin company garrisoning the whole of the Dulcignote country. That disposed of the statement as to the thousands of 1307 Mahomedan Dulcignotes who so strenuously objected to being handed over to Montenegrin rule. The hon. Member for Portsmouth also ridiculed the Naval Demonstration; but, at any rate, the Government had secured a settlement which had led to a perfect state of peace. The hon. Member for Portsmouth tad told them, also, that since the present Government had been in Office they had met with rebuffs from all parts of the world, and he had actually quoted—and one could hardly refer to it without smiling—the treatment they had received from Russia as to the passport of Mr. Lewisohn as an example of those rebuffs. He could hardly have been serious in doing that. There could only be one opinion in that House as to the wisdom, as a matter of policy, of what had been done in that case; but right or wrong, even as a matter of strict law, did not the hon. Gentleman know that the Russian Government had been only acting in that case as they had acted in the time of the late and of previous Governments for years and years past? Did he not know that the Austrian Emperor had received rebuffs of precisely the same kind; that three similar rebuffs had been given to the Government of the United States, of a worse character than that in regard to Mr. Lewisohn? Looking at the terms on which the United States were with Russia, he could hardly suppose that the hon. Member for Portsmouth would seriously maintain that Her Majesty's Government had received in the case of Mr. Lewisohn a rebuff from Russia which was caused by any particular weakness on their part. If it was a rebuff, it had been extended to all the nations of the world, and it was scarcely worthy of the hon. Member to bring it forward in the way he had done. Then the hon. Member said they had received a rebuff from Austria in regard to the Commercial Treaty with Servia. The hon. Member spoke without sufficient knowledge of the true state of things. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) hoped to place in the hands of the House shortly a document which would show that the commercial interests of this country and Servia would not be in a worse, but perhaps in a better, position than they had hitherto been. The hon. Gentleman also charged them with having deceived Greece and betrayed Italy. Their information 1308 from Greece certainly was not such as to lead them to believe that Greece considered that Her Majesty's present Government had deceived or betrayed her. As to Italy, their relations with that Power were so entirely cordial, that he was horrified by the statement that they had suddenly betrayed it. The hon. Gentleman then told them that Germany had refused to act with England in representations to Turkey as to reforms.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
I was alluding to what you said the other day with reference to the European Commission.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he did not know the hon. Member was referring to the European Commission. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was speaking under the correction of the right hon. Member for Ripon; but the non-action by Germany in the case of those reforms had been dictated simply by a hesitation as to pressing that question before the Greek and Montenegrin questions had been completely settled. Germany thought it would be unwise, in dealing with people like the Turks, to press too many questions on them at a time. The manner in which the right hon. Member for Ripon and the German Ambassador had worked together sufficiently refuted the idea that Germany refused to take part with this country. More had been done by Germany and England working together during the last few months than by any other two Powers that could be named. In conclusion, he had only to assure the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) that in dealing with the subject of the Turkish Dominions in Asia, and the reforms to be introduced into them, and as to British influence in that portion of the globe, the Foreign Office and Her Majesty's Government were thoroughly aware of the great importance which must be attached to the free navigation of those rivers. There could be no extension of British influence and commerce which might be easily foreseen greater than that which would result from the free navigation of the Euphrates and the Tigris; and certainly the policy of procuring and fostering such facilities for navigation and trade would be more worthy of this country than the military policy contemplated by that Convention. He believed that ! the steps that had been taken by the 1309 right hon. Member for Ripon, and which would be followed up by Lord Dufferin at Constantinople, were calculated to press that point on the consideration of the Turkish Government. As to the Karun River, it was outside the subject of their discussion. The objections of the Persian Government to the throwing open of that river appeared at present almost insuperable; but still the matter would not be lost sight of by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BOURKE
I agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that this discussion has been very discursive; but I do not think that his speech has been more discursive than the subject required. I will promise the House to detain them for a very short time, because, owing to the remarks which have been made by the hon. Baronet upon the Anglo-Turkish Convention, it will not be necessary to enter at length into that question. I will only allude to one topic which is not covered by the speech of the hon. Baronet. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) has made an attack upon me of a somewhat disagreeable character. He has accused me of being uncandid towards him at the time I held Office. Now, that subject is one upon which—and I hope the House will excuse me—I am strictly jealous, because I do not believe that, during the whole six years I was in Office, I ever gave an answer which could not be defended, and which was not strictly, candid and correct. The answer which the hon. Member for Burnley alluded to was one which I gave in regard to Tunis. I was asked if there was any ground for the rumours about changes in the Mahomedan territories of Tunis and Tripoli as respected their transfer to Italy and France. Now, I answered on the 16th July—" No, Sir; I have never heard anything on the subject." That was on the 16th July. The despatch of M. Waddington was not written until the 26th July, and that was the first time that anybody at the Foreign Office heard anything upon the matter. When I saw that special despatch was the first time I heard of those rumours. The ton. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has said that there were grave objections to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Those objections we have heard before; but he went on to say that there was no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Go- 1310 vernment to ask the House to set aside that Convention, and that it is impossible to give Cyprus back to Turkey. Under these circumstances, I am perfectly satisfied, so far as that particular question is concerned. But I should like to say what I consider to be our position with regard to Asia Minor under the provisions of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Some hon. Gentlemen have said that no responsibility attaches to England, because Turkey has not carried out the reforms she promised. That is perfectly true as between Turkey and England. Turkey, there is no doubt whatever at the present time, and as far as we see at any future time, or, at any rate, in the immediate future, is not entitled to call upon this country to protect that portion of the Turkish Empire if attacked, seeing that she herself has neglected to fulfil her stipulations with regard to reforms in the government of Asia Minor which were contained in the Treaty. But that is a mere question between England and Turkey; I think the question between England and the rest of the world is quite another thing. As regards the rest of the world, we are unquestionably bound to resist any aggression on the part of Russia upon Asia Minor, and to support Turkey and defend her territory against Russia. The more we look at that question the more we must think that our policy was a right policy. No person can have watched the progress of Russia, and the way in which she has made her commercial laws answer her political views, without coming to the conclusion that it would be most injurious to the interests of England, and even to our very existence in the East, if Russia were to take possession of Asia Minor. From a commercial point of view, there can be no doubt upon that question. Formerly, before Russia acquired her territories in the Black Sea, the commerce of England was carried into Central Asia, Circassia, and other parts of the East in very great quantities. But since the acquisition by Russia of her Black Sea territories and Circassia, she has applied her commercial policy to those territories, and the commerce of England has been absolutely prevented from entering them. In regard to Tabrez itself, that great emporium of trade, £1,000,000 of Manchester goods reached Tabrez every year; but since the acquisition 1311 of Kars by Russia, under the Treaty of Berlin, the effect of the Russian protective policy has been recognized in the fullest way by the Russian people and the Russian Government. Perhaps I may be allowed to read an extract from The Golos newspaper, showing the importance which Russia attached to the acquisitions she had obtained—Having taken possession of Batoum with its port, which is the best in the Black Sea, and having annexed Ardahan, Kars, and Bayazid, Russia will retain control over the Anglo.Asiatic trade. In a word, she will be able to direct the Central Asian trade at her own pleasure, which she has not hitherto been able to do. A Russian Custom House will also be established at Bayazid, where English merchandise will be charged with duty.And then it goes on to point out that that acquisition was made because Russia feared the influence of England; and it further points out that by the acquisition of Batoum, English goods are for ever shut out from that portion of Asia Minor. As sure as Russia gets possession of other parts of Asia Minor, and obtains command of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys—and it was to that subject that the speeches of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) and another hon. Member were directed—as sure as Russia does get possession of that portion of Asia Minor, both of these Valleys must fall into the possession of that Power, and she will obtain command of Bagdad and Bushire, and the whole of the commerce of the Persian Gulf will be lost to England. The protective policy of Russia will be pursued in those countries, and she -will be able to do exactly as she pleases. Indeed, her policy will be precisely that which she has pursued with regard to Circassia, and English goods will be shut out out from those countries for ever. These are my views with regard to the commercial question, and then with regard to the political question, which naturally follows, our position in the East will be absolutely untenable. Under these circumstances, I believe that the Anglo-Turkish Convention was right in principle—that it was based upon sound policy, and that it was the best policy that could be pursued at that time, because it was the only way in which England could assort her rights after the Treaty of Berlin was concluded. Everybody knew after the Conference at Berlin that the Treaty of 1312 San Stefano would have to be modified, and it was. The rest of Europe cared not a straw about anything else, and they, therefore, left us to make the best bargain we could. The hon. Baronet opposite the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) seems to think that the late Government have been guilty of a great crime in connection with that Convention, inasmuch as their negotiations in respect to it were conducted in secret. Now, the reason why the Anglo-Turkish Convention was kept a secret was that everybody knew that if it was thrown down at Constantinople for all the Powers to discuss, no Anglo-Turkish Convention—or any other Convention—would have been made. No doubt, any Government then in Office would have cared little for the concert of Europe, so long as the interests of their own country demanded that they should not be the subject of European concert. I believe that the concert of Europe is a most desirable instrument for certain purposes; but, at the same time, I believe there are cases in which it is the duty of England to act without that concert, and without relying upon the projects and different views of other Governments to give effect to it. If you rely in all matters upon the views of other Governments you will have no concert at all. Certainly, that was the view Her Majesty's late Government took of their duties with regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention; and nothing I have heard to-night makes me think that they were wrong in the action which they took in the matter. At the same time, I think it is very right that this House should have availed itself of this opportunity of discussing the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley, because I think it is highly desirable that the impressions which have existed abroad in consequence of the declarations of many people in regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention should be removed, and that it should be understood that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw from the Anglo-Turkish Convention—that Cyprus is not to be given up, and that with regard to the policy which the late Government initiated as to the Anglo-Turkish Convention, it is not to be reversed. Until we hear that it is to be reversed, we shall certainly understand that that 1313 policy remains in full force for the benefit of England, of Turkey, and of Asia Minor.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he would confine himself to one important point, which had been raised by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), and that was the alternative course which might be taken by this country instead of acting under the Anglo-Turkish Convention. That alternative course was the duty of acting under the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, and of thereby preventing the dangers which threatened the peace of the East. He thought Her Majesty's Government had exercised a wise discretion in not answering the hypothetical case which the hon. Member for Burnley had put. But that hypothetical case was one which might probably arise. England might be called on to defend the Frontiers of Asiatic Turkey against Russian encroachments. It was from the disorders of the Armenian Provinces that the danger was to be apprehended. The House would remember that the sufferings of the Armenian people had been so great before the late war that steps had been taken to provide for the introduction of reforms into the country. The 16th Article of the Treaty of San Stefano expressly bound Turkey to Russia to execute reforms in the Armenian Provinces, and placed the Armenian population under the protection of Russia. When the Treaty of Berlin was substituted for the Treaty of San Stefano, mainly by the action of this country, that provision was taken over; and the Sublime Porte promised to carry out, without further delay, the reforms that were required by the local needs of the Armenian Provinces. The terms of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin were as follows:—The Porte promises to carry out, without more delay, the reforms and improvements required by local needs in the Provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security against Circassians and Kurds. It will periodically make known the means taken for this purpose to the Powers, who will supervise their execution.Now, no measures had yet been taken for the redemption of that promise. Three years had elapsed since the Treaty was signed, and nothing had been done to carry out the provisions of this 61st Article. On the contrary, the condition 1314 of the Armenian people was becoming worse and worse. All the evils that existed before existed now, even in a more aggravated form. The Courts were wholly corrupt. The Turkish Judges were constantly bribed; they refused to receive Christian evidence, and denied justice to Christian suitors. The Turkish officials and tax-gatherers continued their inhuman exactions upon the subjects. The robberies and outrages perpetrated by the savage Kurdish Tribes went on unchecked. All these things were worse than before the war. Nor did the matter stop there. There was too much reason to fear that the Turkish Government at Constantinople actually welcomed the ravages of famine and the sword of the Kurds, so that they might be able to carry out the faster the work of impoverishing and exterminating the Armenian people. He would not make such a charge if it were not fully borne out by the evidence contained in the Blue Books. If any hon. Gentleman would read dispassionately the Reports received from Her Majesty's Consuls by the late Government, he would see that the Turkish officials had repeatedly placed obstacles in the way of conveying grain to the impoverished districts of Armenia; that their officials had frequently sought to prevent the liberality which had been provided by this country from finding its way into that unfortunate land; and that they connived at the excesses of the Kurds because they helped to destroy the peaceable Christians. Sir Henry Layard, speaking on the 11th May with regard to the behaviour of the Porte itself, said—The conduct of the Porte in this and other cases can only be viewed as a deliberate attempt to encourage the cruelty which has been practised towards the Sultan's Christian subjects in Armenia.The Armenian people had borne their sufferings with exemplary patience. It was true that they were an unarmed population; but, in spite of their weakness, they would probably have risen in revolt but for the presence among them of English Consuls. Although, as yet, no reforms had been introduced by the Porte, the people could not help hoping that some time or other the English Government would try to help them. In the Blue Books would, be found an account of the negotiations 1315 which had passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Porte on the subject of the Reports of the Consuls, and it would be found that the conduct of the Porte was most unfavourably criticized by our Reprosentative at Constantinople, as being entirely inconsistent with their promises and engagements, and as proving that there was no real desire to carry out the reforms they had undertaken. Nothing had been done to improve the condition of the people, nor was it possible to do anything until the administration was taken out of the present hands and given to people who would exercise it with justice and propriety. He did not complain of Her Majesty's Government for not having done more up to the present time, for they had been occupied with the Montenegrin and Greek Questions. He received with thankfulness the declaration which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Armenian Question stood next on the programme for fulfilling the Treaty of Berlin. Still less did he complain of the conduct of Her Majesty's Representative at Constantinople. Nobody could have watched the progress of events there without feeling the highest admiration for the vigour, and tact, and skill which Her Majesty's Representative had displayed. But he urged upon Her Majesty's Government the importance of acting with energy, now that the Greek Frontier Question had been practically disposed of, in order to bring about an early settlement of the question. It was a question, in its ultimate results, not less important even than the Greek Question; and he hoped that the same earnestness which had been shown in that matter would be applied here. The danger of Russian intervention was no idle fear. Russia had a large population living immediately across the Armenian Frontier, who deeply sympathized with the oppressed people of the Provinces which were subjected to Turkish rule. Nothing was more likely than that, if the present state of things continued, they might induce, or indeed compel, the Armenian people to rise in arms. Such an insurrection would be followed up by a massacre, and would inevitably bring about Russian intervention. In fact, the story of Bulgaria would repeat itself over again. He ap- 1316 pealed to the First Lord of the Treasury, who had pointed out, with such incomparable force, that the best and only way of preventing Russian intervention was not to allow the misrule of Turkey to continue, that to tolerate Turkish misrule was to invite Russian aggression. He appealed to him to urge the other Powers of Europe to prompt action in this matter, and remove the excuse and justification for Russian aggression,-which the miseries of the Armenians now afforded. He did not put the case on the basis of British interests—though he knew that many hon. Members of that House conceived our political position in the East, and the safety of our route to India, to be affected—nor did he put it on the ground of humanity; he put it on the firmer and more solid ground of Treaty obligations. This country, in. 1878, took away the protection which. Russia had, by the Treaty of San Stefano, undertaken to give to the Christian inhabitants of Armenia. We annulled that Treaty, and took the Christian subjects under our own protection, by the Anglo-Turkish Convention, under that of the six Powers by the Treaty of Berlin. Should we continue to watch their sufferings unmoved, and without doing something to relieve them, we might find ourselves in the painful dilemma of seeing Russia advancing to occupy the Armenian Provinces, and being forced to choose between a humiliating retreat from Treaty engagements, or engaging in a contest with Russia which might end in war. He believed that hon. Members on both sides of the House were equally concerned in seeing the credit and honour of England maintained, and he thought that if they read the accounts contained in the Blue Books there would be no difference of opinion as to the duty of this country. No one could fail to be profoundly moved by the details which were given there of the sufferings of that unfortunate people. No one who realized the urgency of the case, and the dangers that loomed in the future, but must desire that the influence of Europe should be exerted to deliver a population which lay exposed, unarmed, and helpless, to the attacks of ferocious robbers and the extortions of rapacious officials. And while they strove to alleviate the miseries of the Christian population of Armenia, they would relieve themselves of what 1317 might prove a source of embarrassment and danger to this country itself.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Bryce)into a discussion upon the Armenian Question. Everyone agreed with the hon. Member that the condition of affairs in Armenia was deplorable, and entertained an earnest desire that it would be speedily ameliorated. Nor did he intend to follow the discursive remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), nor to comment upon the experience of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) in regard to travels in the Valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. He wished rather to bring back the debate to the question which he supposed the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment wished to raise. The Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), as it stood on the Paper, was for Papers which never had any existence; but he (Mr. Balfour) imagined the question the hon. Member wished to raise was the expediency of now withdrawing from the Anglo-Turkish Convention. In the speech which the hon. Member had made in support of his Motion, he had shown signs that he was affected by that morbid imagination which influenced so many of his Friends with regard to the proceedings of the Foreign Office. They suspected that there was a secret Treaty in every drawer of that Office, and some dark Convention in every pigeon-hole, and they were perpetually asking for information which could not be given, for the simple reason that such information did not exist. With respect to the Convention itself, the first criticism made by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was that it was made in conflict with the Treaty of London. But this appeal to the Treaty of London, which Treaty guaranteed the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, was really an appeal to a document which had been torn to shreds long before the Anglo-Turkish Convention was made. The war between Russia and Turkey entirely destroyed that document, practically, whatever it might have done formally. With regard to the accusation that the Convention had been entered into without a European Concert, Her Majesty's Government ap- 1318 peared to think that a European Concert would give guarantees against the individual action of separate Powers with regard to the acquisition of territory. Last Session they were told that whether or not a European Concert was a good instrument for carrying out reforms, at all events it did prevent selfish and separate action. For the last few-weeks that statement had not been repeated. The French aggressions in Tunis had showed the precise value of the European Concert as a means of stopping proceedings which, whether injurious or not to England, were undoubtedly separate and undoubtedly selfish. We had long known that the European Concert was not powerful to do good; we now know that it was not powerful to prevent harm. That class of politicians who were constantly attacking the Anglo-Turkish Convention could not be consistent in their attacks. They told us, like the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that the Eastern population had been better off under Russian government; but, in the very same speech in which that statement was made, we were told that Russian government was so bad that Russian aggression need not be feared. We were told that any dismemberment of the Turkish Empire was a thing to be desired, and that they were to shrink from nothing that would abstract a population from that pernicious rule; and, at the same time, we were attacked for putting under our own rule the population of Cyprus. We were told, also, that we had engaged ourselves to undertake military operations far above our strength, and not 10 sentences afterwards we were told that the Army of Russia was so rotten that it was perfectly incapable of contending with the Army of any well-governed European country. Now, as the Convention itself, it was really the strongest and most tangible inducement ever held out to the Turkish Empire to reform itself. He perfectly admitted that, so far, it had not attained this object, and he perfectly admitted that reforms had not followed upon it; but, he asked, had any other instrument in the possession of any other Government worked more successfully? True, the Anglo-Turkish Convention had in this respect failed; but had the European Concert succeeded? Was there the least sign 1319 that it was likely to succeed? Had the hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Bryce), who had dwelt in such touching terms on the; condition of Armenia, any hope of the success of the European Concert? Did he believe that Armenia was to be reformed by the European Concert? No; he (Mr. Balfour) felt certain that the hon. Member was not so Quixotic as to suppose any such thing. He would point out, also, as to these reforms, that, though it was unquestionably true that, so far, the Turkish Government had not been influenced by the Convention to carry out reforms, on the first menace of Russia the disposition to carry them out would be great, since, until they were carried out, we were not bound to defend Asia Minor. On the first threat from Russia, any English. Government in power at the time would be able to put the strongest pressure on the Turkish officials to do something tangible and permanent in the way of improvement. With regard to the responsibilities thrown on us, he was not one of those who thought we had incurred no risk by the Convention. Nothing whatever that was worth doing was to be done without some risk; but in this case it was entirely conditional on reforms in Turkey in Asia being carried out, and, from that point of view, he was afraid it was very remote. He could wish it were less remote; but if Asia Minor were reformed, and the Turkish Government did their duty in that part of their dominions, no English Government whatever, with or without the Anglo-Turkish Convention, could refuse to assist them in repelling Russian aggression. It would be the duty of any English Government, from whatever Party it was drawn, supposing that Asiatic Turkey were well governed, to prevent the extension of Russian influence through. Asia Minor and the Valley of the Euphrates. Asia Minor, it was said by the right hon. Member for Montrose, was a country without roads, through which it was difficult to transport an army; but they were not obliged to send an army there. All they were obliged to do was to assist Turkey in resisting Russia, and whether or not they should have to march an army to the North of Asia Minor and meet Russia there was a question that would have to be left to the Military Advisers 1320 of the Government then in power. It would be for us to assist Turkey not in this way or that way, but in the manner which would be most effective. He had gone over most of the points which related to the Convention, which was the matter to which he wished to confine himself. He would only say that he had heard with no little satisfaction from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Government had, so far, no thoughts of abandoning the Convention. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had told them that the Government had had the courage to abandon Candahar, and had had the courage to abandon the Transvaal; and, he added, he hoped they would have the further courage to abandon that Convention. He admitted that the Government had shown themselves possessed, to an eminent degree, of that peculiar kind of courage which consisted in retreat of all kinds. But he was glad there was a limit to that courage, and that the Government were not going to follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose and carry out those principles not only in Afghanistan and South Africa, but also in the Eastern part of Europe.
I should have been very well content to leave this question in the position in which it was left by the most able speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but there are one or two points on which, having regard to the position I hold, it is almost my duty to say a word; and, first and foremost, I avail myself of this—the very first—opportunity of acknowledging, in the face of this House,' the able services which have been rendered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) to the country of which he is a most distinguished citizen, and I will go a little farther and say to the cause of justice, liberty, and humanity abroad. Those services drew a merited compliment from the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), though that hon. Member was obliged, to pay that compliment at the cost of a grievous inconsistency, because, in almost two consecutive sentences, he stated that the services of the right hon. Gentleman had been "most able and most successful," and then that the whole policy of 1321 the Government had been "a panorama of failure." ["Hear, hear!"] Oh, yes; I quite understand that that suits the intellectual views of the hon. Member opposite; but I am not commenting upon his intellectuality, or upon his views—. I am commenting upon the cogency of the considerations which the hon.Member for Portsmouth must have felt to have been connected with the services of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, when he felt it his duty—and it was honourably performed—to render tribute to those services, even in absolute contradiction to the sentiments which formed the climax and peroration of his speech. In reply to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) I wish to assure him that the principle on which we have endeavoured to proceed in dealing with the numerous and perilous questions which we found unsettled under the Treaty of Berlin has been that of orderly succession. We were well aware that it was perfectly impossible in any other mode to make progress in these difficult and complicated matters. The most dangerous and urgent, menacing the peace of Europe, under the Berlin Treaty, were the matters connected with the Montenegrin Frontier and the extension of Greek territory. It was to these, therefore, that we, through the able assistance of my right hon. Friend, first addressed ourselves; but that was never with the idea that the question relating to the condition of Armenia was other than one of the first rank in principle. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend could not prolong his stay in Constantinople, to render to that question also the efficient aid which he rendered to the questions of Montenegro and Greece. His departure may, perhaps, suggest to some the idea that Her Majesty's Government attached a less importance to reforms in Armenia than to the other questions. Now, I hope—though I like to assume nothing until it is actually accomplished—this matter has been settled; and that idea would be an entirely false one. My right hon. Friend knows well how happy we should have been had we been able to induce him, or had not other duties and engagements prevented him from prolonging his stay at Constantinople. But the able and distinguished person who has been chosen, to succeed him has carried 1322 out with him as the first article, I may say, of his instructions, the direction to apply his influence and energies in the greatest degree to the settlement of this most important Armenian question. Now, Sir, we have heard from two speakers since my hon. Friend (Mr. Bryce) sat down elaborate defences of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State (Mr. Bourke) began by making a defence of himself with regard to an answer given in this House, and he appealed to the House to support him in his assertion that he had never during the six years—the six difficult years—during which he represented the Foreign Office, been guilty of a want of candour in any replies made by him. Sir, I have very great pleasure in rendering my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. I am sure he was quite incapable of dealing otherwise than most fairly and honourably with the House. At the same time, without in the slightest degree qualifying that admission, I must call the attention of the House to the position in which he left this matter. A Question was asked of him on the 16th July, 1878, whether there was any ground for disquieting rumours that had gone abroad with respect to the action of France in connection with Tunis and Tripoli. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no ground whatever; he has shown us that the despatches in our hands are of a later date, and that he was entirely ignorant of the matter disclosed in those despatches. I have not the least doubt that what has been said by him can be said with equal accuracy by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), and by the other Members of the late Cabinet in this House. But this I must observe, that the organ of the Government in this House was upon that important subject permitted, innocently, to misinform and mislead the House, and that he was never corrected by those who possessed the knowledge to remove his error. The conversations between M. Waddington and Lord Salisbury were anterior to that date. Inquiry in this House proceeded in complete ignorance of these conversations and the important matters which had taken place. They were unknown to him at the time; they were kept back 1323 from him, they were kept back from Parliament, they were kept back from the world; and we were allowed and taught to discuss the whole of the question of the Anglo-Turkish Convention and of the Treaty of Berlin in entire ignorance of what had taken place between England and France; and, in fact, under the pressure of the strongest assurances, even for Members of the Cabinet, that no circumstances of uneasiness had arisen between those two great Powers in connection with that Convention. That is a state of facts unexampled, I believe, in the history of foreign discussion in this House—a state of facts which, I trust, having had one instance of the kind, will never recur in the annuals of the English Foreign Office or of Parliament. With regard to what has been truly said to be the main question of discussion to-night, the Anglo-Turkish Convention, I wish to observe upon the total contradiction between the argument of my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State. My hon. Friend, while he fully acknowledges that no reforms have been effected in Turkey under the Anglo-Turkish Convention, says—" Yes; but wait—wait till Russia is on her way to Asia Minor, and then you will have an irresistible leverage to force Turkey to adopt reforms." But he evidently had not heard, or he is diametrically at variance with, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State, because the right hon. Gentleman, so far from founding the policy and duty of England to support Turkey against Russia in her Asiatic Dominions on the prior execution of those reforms, founded it upon a splendid and imposing commercial theory. He said it was the duty and policy of England to go and wage war, 3,000 miles from her base of operations, single-handed, against Russia, upon her continuous territory, for what? Why, for the purpose of preventing the tremendous and ruinous consequences to the commerce of this country that would follow if Russia obtaining territory in Asia Minor were to establish protective duties. If that is so, if it is our duty to go there to prevent Russia from enforcing protective duties, what becomes of your leverage upon Turkey to induce her to effect re- 1324 forms? You tell her it is your interest to do it. The right hon. Gentleman says the whole of our Empire in the East is at stake in keeping Russia out of Asia Minor. But if so, what leverage have you upon Turkey? Will not the Turks read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and learn from it that your own interest in your view will compel and constrain you to defend her upon her Frontier, whether she effects reforms or not? I confess I was surprised at my right hon. Friend, who is a man of great ability, and may look to obtain further distinction in the councils of the Empire, that his experience of the world has not taught him how much wickedness there is in it and the craft with which this wickedness is conducted. Depend upon it, there is quite intellect enough in the stupidest Pasha that ever held office in Constantinople to put together the two ideas, that if we are told by the organs of the late Government that the Anglo-Turkish Convention was founded upon the supreme policy of British interests it is perfectly clear it is not founded upon the prior necessity of introducing reforms. Now, Sir, with regard to the Convention, the right hon. Gentleman laid down another proposition of great importance. He boasts, on the part of the late Government, that they were glad to depart from the concert of Europe when, in their view, the interests of England required that course to be adopted. Well, I want to know whether that doctrine, if it be good for us, is not good for others also? My hon. Friend seemed to be surprised that France had been departing from that doctrine, and has, in Tunis, been taking measures which certainly, to state it mildly, Europe is not unanimous in approving. But, Sir, if France is blessed with Under Secretaries of State who are imbued with the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman, she has no difficulty in finding an apology, for she has only to boast in the face of the world that she is ready, and desirous, and forward to act with the concert, and with the approval of Europe, until French interests are at stake. I am not here to pronounce an opinion—it is not my business to pronounce an opinion upon the measures recently taken by France in Tunis; but I am here to say this—that if those measures had been in their nature dangerous to 1325 the public tranquillity—nay, even if they had involved a breach of public law, the power which England gained 20, SO, 40, or 50 years ago would have manfully protested against any such proceeding. But it has been said that power has been crippled and impaired, by what was well called by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley the evil example set by the Anglo-Turkish Convention. That Convention, to begin with, was a departure from the European Concert. Well, Sir, we have always said that the European Concert was to be maintained partly because it gave the highest authority to its own conclusions, which were capable of being brought to bear in the present condition of International Law on the settlement of great affairs. But we have also said that it had a great virtue in suppressing the selfishness of an individual Power. And then my hon. Friend astonished me by reproaching the advocates of the European Concert with the proceedings of France in Tunis. It was not in our power to get rid of that which had been done before we came into Office. These proceedings followed very closely upon the date of the Treaty of Berlin, and the abandonment of the principle of concert by the late Administration, particularly in the case of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. I ask you to go back a quarter of a century—to the time of the Crimean War and the Treaty of Paris. The Crimean War was entered into under the shield of a self-denying ordinance—under an engagement of the Powers concerned in it that they would take no benefit to themselves from the measures they were adopting on behalf of Turkey. What followed V The Treaty of Paris was concluded, and 20 years of peace was secured to Turkey. There was no Anglo-Turkish Convention then, there was no movement of the French against Tunis. There was no proceeding of this class, or approaching to it. The only point on which there was an apparent departure from the Treaty of Paris was the union of the Danubian Principalities which constituted the State of Roumania, and which was not a movement dictated by the selfish interest of anyone of the Powers concerned. It was a movement in favour of liberty, justice, the peace of Europe, and the stability and settlement of the East. That followed the Treaty of Paris. 1326 Compare with it what has followed the Treaty of Berlin. Sir, we adhered to the doctrine of the European Concert; but what we had to do was to build up a ruin which had been overthrown, which had become almost a bye-word in the mouths of those whom we succeeded. We have endeavoured to repair it; but repairing is a very different thing from, upholding. It is quite clear that the principle of concert, which the late Under Secretary of State boasts of, the readiness of the late Government to disregard where there were any British interests concerned—the principle of concert was the principle on which the whole of the policy of this country in the East has been founded for 50 at least—since Canning endeavoured to combine the Powers of Europe and succeeded in binding three of them, and the three greatest of them, for the purpose of constituting the Kingdom of Greece. From that time onwards it was the established rule of Europe. My hon. Friend says that concert has always failed; but is not the existence of the Kingdom of Greece at once a contradiction of the doctrine he has laid down? Concert may fail, but if concert fails, rely upon it that what is weaker than Concert is absolutely sure to fail. Do you want a more recent instance? Did concert fail in the Lebanon? Are you not there in the heart of Asia? And there you established 20 years ago, through the able services of Lord Dufferin, that political system in the Lebanon which has made the Lebanon comparatively almost a model for Asiatic Turkey, and which has subsisted there through all chances and changes to the present time. Well, concert was the principle upon which Europe founded its policy in the East for 50 years. England had won proud distinction even among European Powers. Whatever might be said of its ambition elsewhere, it was freely confessed that within those limits, at least, she had no selfish interests to pursue, and the consequence of that has been to give her enormous weight in guiding the councils of united Christendom. That was the position which England had attained up to 1878, and I hope she will recover it. Men warmly attached to British fame and British power have not scrupled to act upon the principle of concert. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, two states- 1327 men whose names are almost proverbial for their regard for the fame and splendour of their country, did not scruple to give over to Greece the Ionian Islands; and that act, which I believe, from their point of view, to have been a wise act, did much to corroborate the idea which rested on the precedents of a very long period of time—the idea of the justice, sincerity, and impartiality of this country, at least, on European questions. That position it will be the labour of the future to regain. Possibly it will be a slow progress; it may not be for the present Government—for me it cannot be a task to be much prolonged—but while I hold the Office I have the honour to hold I will labour steadily for that purpose, and will again endeavour to found the influence and fame of England, as far as we can, upon a strict regard for international right, and upon the cordial recognition of the title of others to be treated upon a footing of equality with ourselves. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), with great ingenuity, and no unfairness, contrasted in various points the case of England in regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention with the case of France and Tunis. In regard to accidental particulars, I think he was quite accurate, so far as his point of attack was concerned; but there are other points which would vary considerably the effect of the contrast. There is one point to which the hon. Member did not refer, and which is an important point of view. It is the juridical point of view. "We may lament the conduct of France in Tunis; but it is difficult to assert that France by her conduct in Tunis has been guilty of a breach of International Law. France has never for a very long time—for 50 or 60 years, in fact, ever since the integrity of the Turkish Empire became a question of European interests—admitted that Tunis belonged to the Turkish Empire, and, only a few years ago, France was joined by Italy in holding that view. We hold the contrary; but it has only been a matter of opinion on one side and the other. It is impossible to assert as a proposition of European Law that Tunis belongs to the Turkish Empire; but when we look to the case of this Convention what do we find? A single power took from the Sultan by what is called a voluntary act on his part— 1328 though, I must say, in describing it as a voluntary act you are straining the force of language. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] I beg to assure the hon. Member who cries "No, no !" that I think I have had better means, perhaps, than he has had of ascertaining what is the view taken by the authorities in Turkey of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and in the words I have used I have kept myself within bounds. I do not scruple to assert—I am sorry this question has been raised again—that at the time that Convention was formed it was a breach of the law of Europe. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) gives us now his reply to that allegation, and his reply to that allegation is that the Treaties under which he seems to admit that it would have been a breach of law had been destroyed by the logic of facts. If I wished to possess myself of a plea that, under all circumstances, would avail for any act of aggression, I can hardly conceive one more elastic, more available, more all comprehensible, than the contention that an obligation had been disposed of by the logic of facts; but I am not prepared to admit the logic of facts, as matter of fact. The Treaties of Paris and London had been reset up by the Treaty of Berlin. They were in force before the Treaty of Berlin, and after the Treaty of Berlin, except so far as the Treaty of Berlin altered them, and those Treaties said that every question relating to the independence of the Turkish Empire was a question of common interest to the whole of Europe, in which no single Power could take upon itself to act. Was not that what you did? Did our occupation and administration of Cyprus have any influence on the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire? If Russia had done the same thing in regard to Mitylene or Chios, would you have admitted for one moment that that was not an act affecting the integrity of the Turkish Empire? I make this admission to my hon. Friend. That act may be said to have been unknown by the absence of proof. I am not aware that the Powers had reserved their own rights, but they have nowhere protested against our action; and I therefore agree that the position of the question, years after the facts have been changed, is now altered in its character, and that we are not called upon to give up possession of Cyprus. I believe, and 1329 frankly admit, that this Convention was made with the best intentions towards the subjects of Turkey. I have not the least doubt that a warm sympathy with their condition had a great effect on the minds of those who devised the Treaty; but permit me to say that, even from that point of view, it was an entire error. It is admitted that it was an error so far as practical results are concerned—at least that it has not yet been justified. But it had another effect. While it was futile for the purpose of relieving the subjects of Turkey from oppression, this substitution of our sole will for the united action of the Powers was perfectly well known in Turkey to constitute an absolute reversal of the principle upon which, the Crimean War was made. The grand object of the Crimean War was to get rid of the sole action of Russia in Turkey. The right of interference by Russia between the Sultan and his subjects was declared to be a cause of danger to the world, and when we come to reestablish—we who had taken a leading part in destroying that title to intervention on the part of Russia—when we come to re-establish for a right of the same kind by Treaty, the suspicion created in the mind of the Turkish Government, and I must say it was a natural suspicion, was that we had selfish and ulterior objects in view—namely, our own political strength in connection with our Asiatic Empire, and not the mere welfare of Turkish subjects; and I must say I think that suspicion would have been confirmed to-night could the Representatives of Turkey have listened to the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he emphatically declared how closely the policy of this Convention was connected with the maintenance of the Indian Empire of Great Britain. Well, Sir, I will not detain the House any longer; I should not have said so much, but for the defences which were offered by my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Balfour), and by the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have only to say one word before I close. The hon. Member for Portsmouth sees in the foreign policy of the present Government nothing but a panorama of failure. I do not wish to waste the time of the House, especially at this late time of the night; but the hon. Member admitted, in candour, one exception to that view- He certainly admitted that 1330 considerable acquisition of territory had been in principle gained—and I hope practical measures have given effect to that—to the Kingdom of Greece. I am not sure whether the hon. Member will allow that the settlement of the Montenegrin Frontier Question, and the closing thereby of the controversy between Turkey and Greece, was of some importance. I noticed his criticisms of the particular method of settlement; but this has been amply dealt with; but it is a panorama of failure in which these two acts occurred. The first year of our Administration has produced these acts, together with others, to one of which my hon. Friend referred, and of which, perhaps, the hon. Member for Portsmouth was not aware—namely, the settlement of the Asiatic Frontier. But if these two acts—the settlement of the Montenegrin and Greek Questions—are so slight and insignificant that they are even invisible points in the great panorama of failure, how was it they had not been settled during the two years our Predecessors were in power with, as hon. Gentlemen opposite always assure us, unequalled influence all over the world—Predecessors who, we are told, enjoyed recognition all over the world of their transcendent merits; who were the finest and ablest' Ministers that ever swayed the destinies of a country? How was it that these two insignificant questions of the Montenegrin Frontier and the addition of the territory of Greece were not settled? No, Sir, these great men, when they went out of Office, handed over this question to the little men who came after them; but so far as those two questions are concerned, and mainly owing to the powerful exertions of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Goschen), something has been done in these quarters in the interests of justice and liberty, and for the future peace of the world.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I regret that it should be necessary for me to take any part in the present discussion; but there have been some observations to which we have listened from the Prime Minister which appear to me to call for an immediate reply. Before I address myself to them, I wish to take the more grateful part of adding to his my own congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) for the manner in which he discharged his duties at Constantinople.
Will you allow me for amoment? I forgot, very wrongly, to acknowledge the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) by making reciprocal admission joyfully, and a willing acknowledgment, of the way in which he served the interests of his own country end the people of European Roumelia in the Office he held.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
It has been with great pleasure that I have heard these observations from the Prime Minister. Not only are they well deserved by my hon. Friend, the Member for Portsmouth, but they point to the fact that the work in which the right hon. Member for Ripon has been successfully engaged has been work which has been in no small degree prepared for him by those who have gone before him. The objection I take to the speech of the Prime Minister is not so much to the detail, but to the whole scope of the argument. The right hon. Gentleman appears to me to have entirely left out of sight himself, and to have desired that the House should have left out of sight, the whole course of that great Turkish-Russian Question out of which, amongst other. incidents, the incident of the Anglo-Turkish Convention grew; and I venture to say, when he speaks in the manner in which he has done in his closing observations of the position in which we left affairs, and the task left to be accomplished by the present Government, he leaves out of sight altogether that if we had not taken, on the whole, the course we took on that question, there would probably have been no Turkish Convention. The questions of the Greek Frontier or Roumelian Administration, if England had not come forward at a critical moment, you would have seen such an alteration in the relations between the different Powers of Europe as would have put your concert into a very peculiar position. If you were to judge from the speech of the right lion. Gentleman, you would think that the Anglo-Turkish Convention was a Convention entered into by England for the sake of acquiring some territory for itself, and that that was an isolated transaction, altogether apart from the great transactions of the Russian War, and of the negotiations that followed. What was the real state of things? The right hon. t Gentleman talks about the concert of 1332 Europe. He says that ever since the Peace of Paris there had been a recognition by the European Powers that the affairs of Turkey were matters of public interest to be decided by the concert of Europe. I will not say whether there may be more or less truth in the statement—I mean whether it is a more or less complete and accurate description of the situation. I will not raise the question of how far that statement takes into account the Tripartite Treaty. I do not know how far that statement takes into account the Tripartite Treaty between England, France, and Austria, which was a special Treaty in regard to the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Was that a part of a European Concert or not? I want to know. I do not understand what the argument of the Prime Minister is, so far as it would apply to such a Treaty as that. Had those three Powers any right, according to him, to enter into any such Treaty as that? Was that within the principles of European concert or not? If it was right, and I presume from his silence—and he was the Minister for many years giving effect to it—that he thinks it right, why, if the special interests of three Powers were to entitle them to enter into special arrangements for the security of Turkey, should it be wrong in the case of one of them? What was the case? War grew up between Turkey and Russia; we in this country, in concert with the other European Powers, did all in our power to prevent that war breaking out; the Conference at Constantinople was the last act of that European Concert, and I venture to say in that Conference we did everything that was possible for us to do, and France did the same, to prevent that attack by Russia upon Turkey. That failed, and the concert was broken up, not by us, but by Russia. The war began; we did all that was in our power to induce other Powers to come forward and stop that war. We were unable to do so, and were obliged to stand still with folded arms, as it were, while a war took place which was decidedly against European arrangements, and which was also in opposition to the interests of this country. I know it is a shocking thing to allude to the interests of this country, but we must expect to differ. The war went on; Russia was successful, and everything we could do 1333 failed to stop her progress, and we found ourselves in the position that it was likely enough that the integrity of Turkey would be broken up and Russia be in possession of Constantinople. That was a state of things in which it was impossible for us to acquiesce, arid we took steps of which I am not at all ashamed, but even proud, to come forward and say that we, at all events, would take our part in preventing such a calamity. What was the result? The result was that we were successful; we arrested Russia on the threshold of Constantinople, and we succeeded in bringing about the Berlin Conference to settle the questions in which the Powers of Europe were interested; but there were questions in which the Powers were not interested, but in which we were interested. There were questions which affected vitally the interests of the Porte and of England with regard to our Eastern Empire in India. And I admit, although it may be a shocking thing to admit it, that we thought it our special duty to take steps ourselves to protect those particular interests which we had reason to know the other Powers would have considered outside the scope of their deliberations. That is the history of the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The right hon. Gentleman says you admit the fact that it was a Convention entered into for your own interests, for your commerce, for your Indian Empire, and, therefore, how can you expect Turkey to think it was entered into for the interests and improvement of Armenia? That was not the point. The point upon which we rested was that we considered some steps necessary to secure the Asiatic Dominions of the Porte from invasion by a foreign Power. We made an engagement binding ourselves to give assistance, and that was a stipulation which we made in lieu of the Tripartite Treaty, which had altogether broken down, and for which we substituted a Convention much more favourable to ourselves; and, at the same time, gave to Turkey a pledge which was of the greatest value to her. But then we felt that if we were giving a pledge to assist Turkey in the event of attack by Russia, it was necessary that we should take some precaxitions against those incidents which had occurred before, and might occur again, and which would naturally stir up public feeling against us—I mean the misgovernment 1334 by Turkey of her Asiatic Dominions. And on that account the stipulations in regard to Armenia were put into the Treaty. That is the explanation of the whole matter. We asked, no doubt, for the right of the administration of Cyprus, not for the sake of obtaining territory, but for the sake of obtaining the means of carrying into effect the obligations we were incurring. That was perfectly intelligible; and if it were not for the fatal blot that it was an arrangement made by the late Government, there would be very little fear that it would be presented to the House as one that might fairly be condemned. It may be said that the arrangement was good or bad; if bad, I suppose you are going to give it up; but it was perfectly intelligible, and I hold that it was successful. We have heard a great deal about Tunis, and about the reticence that was observed in keeping back things that ought to have been communicated, and so forth. I was not in the House at the moment my right hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) spoke, but he referred to the answer he gave on the 16th July, and it will be seen from the Papers that the first question raised as to the precise language used by Lord Salisbury was not until 10 days later, on the 26th July, when the explanation of M. Waddington came. My right hon. Friend was perfectly justified in saying that there was no legimate foundation for the rumours to which reference had been made. But with regard to the whole of that business, what can anybody who is not prejudiced see in the matter? Why, simply that when reference to Cyprus and the Anglo-Turkish Convention was made and came under the consideration of the French Minister at Berlin, it was not unnatural that he should ask—"What is the meaning of all this, and what is its bearing on French interests in Africa? "The answer given was—" None at all. It has nothing to do with any desire to interfere with any French interests in Africa. We respect French interests in Africa. The arrangements have been made for reasons set forth in the Treaty, and for no other, and we do not interfere with French interests in Africa." Well, we hear that it is a wrong thing for England to act separately, and that it is not a wrong thing for France to act separately. All these questions are 1335 matters which require very careful consideration, and you are putting cases to us which we are not in a position to discuss. It is one question whether France is or is not acting at the present moment in entire accordance with her relations with the other nations of Europe. But it is another question as to the action of England; and I say that the action of England in the Anglo-Turkish Convention was entirely justifiable, and justifiable not only in reference to this country and to Europe generally, but also with reference to her attitude towards France and the other European alliances. I do not think I need go further at present. I understand that the general effect of this debate is this—that Her Majesty's Government do not see their way to reversing or changing the policy which we adopted, and which we adopted on very strong grounds, in reference to the Anglo-Turkish Convention. You may reprobate our conduct, and say that it was selfish and wrong, and in every way to be condemned; but the Government do not see their way towards repudiating it. I am very glad of that. I think we have in the Convention taken a position which, on the whole, is creditable to this country. It is a strengthening position. I deny altogether that the occupation of Cyprus, in the sense, and to the extent in which we occupy it, is to be called anything in the nature of greed of territory. If it is necessary or justifiable to take measures for the protection of our ally the Sultan, and our Indian Empire, as well as the Empire of the Porte, then I contend that in taking that measure we have done that which was thoroughly justifiable, and although it is made the subject of comment by those who are disposed to cry down our policy, I confess that I have never been able to see the force of the arguments oused against it; and I am in no degree disposed to shrink from the responsibility of the consequences of it.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
By the leave of the House, in reference to some of the remarks which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke), I desire to say that I wish to be bound by the actual words which I have used in regard to the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and not by any comments that may have been made upon those words.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he did not suppose that the Government designed to exclude the Irish Party from the discussion of that question. He did not intend to discuss the matter at any length; but he wished to assure the Government that the Irish Members did take an interest in the foreign policy of the country, and that that interest was likely to be increased in the futute. He thought there was an omission in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, upon which, as an Irish Member, he wished to make a remark. In referring to the vacillation or failure which might have marked the policy of the Conservative Party, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten to take notice of the very weakening or damaging effect upon the public policy of the country caused by the persistent opposition of the Party of the right hon. Gentleman. The Irish Members were accused of fractiousness in not always falling is with the designs of the Liberal Party when in Opposition; but they had never been able to reach that pitch of inveterate animosity to the policy of the Government of the day which could at all equal the system of wholesale denunciation which was adopted by the present Premier when he left the out-of office Party of this country. Her Majesty's Government had told the House that the Armenian Question was the next to be taken up. He (Mr. O'Donnell) sincerely trusted that they were not on the verge of another diplomatic agitation upon foreign affairs to take off the attention of the Government from pressing internal reforms which still remained to be effected. Many of those reforms had been put aside by the present Administration. They were now going to settle the affairs of Armenia. By what means were they going to do it? Where was their Army? In consequence of having adopted a vicious policy, the attention of their troops was monopolized by the serving of processes in Ireland. He hoped that the statement of the Under Secretary of State had only been brought in by way of flourish to cover, with a decent veil, the unwise policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to Home affairs.
§ MR. LAING
said, he was of opinion that the most important feature in the debate was the declaration made by the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign 1337 Affairs (Mr. Bourke) that in reference to reciprocal obligations between India and Turkey, Turkey ought to be required to fulfil her obligations before England was called upon to fulfil hers. Turkey had failed to fulfil her obligations, and England was no longer bound, in the sense of being under any obligation, to come forward and take any part in a war in that portion of Asia Minor unless it suited her interest to do it. In point of fact, the Anglo-Turkish Convention amounted to nothing more than that, in the event of certain contingencies, England might feel called upon to go to war for the preservation of the integrity of Asia Minor; but that there was no obligation upon her to undertake such a war. Such a declaration on the part of the Representative of the foreign policy of the late Government was satisfactory, and he did not care to scrutinize it too closely.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at half after One o'clock till Monday next.