HC Deb 25 May 1883 vol 279 cc902-29

in rising to call attention to the neglect of the Ottoman Porte to carry out the reforms in Armenia and Macedonia, stipulated for in the 61st and 23rd Articles of the Treaty of Berlin, and to the dangers to the peace of the East likely to result therefrom; and to move— That this House trusts that Her Majesty's Government will, in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe, signataries of the Treaty of Berlin, continue to press upon the Ottoman Porte the duty and necessity of forthwith carrying out effective reforms in Armenia and in European Turkey, conformably to the stipulations of the Sixty-first and Twenty-third Articles of the Treaty of Berlin, said, he was sorry to have to carry the House back into topics which were familiar to them two or three years ago, and which had to some extent been allowed to drop out of recollection. He held, however, that it was our duty to watch carefully the course of events in the East, the necessity for watchfulness having been proved by the serious dangers which arose in 1876, after we had for a long time neglected the affairs of the East, dangers which might have been averted by the exercise of care and caution. Taught by experience, we ought to attempt to allay the disquiet and dissatisfaction which must produce disturbance among the Eastern nationalities. The condition of the Christians in the European and Asiatic Provinces of Turkey was very unsatisfactory. In the Treaty of San Stefano, provisions were inserted by which the Turkish Government gave engagements to Russia to introduce reforms intended to secure the well-being of the Christian population. By the 16th Article of the Treaty, the Porte undertook to carry into effect the reforms required by the Armenians, and to guarantee them from the oppression of the Circassian Kurds. In the Treaty of Berlin, which superseded that of San Stefano, a similar provision was inserted. It was the duty of the European Powers to provide for the duo execution of that Treaty, for they bad taken from the Armenians the right of calling upon Russia to interfere in their behalf. Under the Anglo-Turkish Convention, it was the duty of England alone to enforce the introduction of the required reforms; but as that Convention excluded the interference of the European Powers in concert, and was, moreover, very difficult to interpret, he should prefer to see action taken under the Treaty of Berlin. By that Treaty a solemn engagement was entered into, by which the reforms that were formerly to be I undertaken by Turkey, at the instigation and under the supervision of Russia, were to be undertaken at the instance and under the supervision of the six European Powers. Pursuing his history of the effects made by the present Government to induce the Porte to institute reforms in Armenia, he desired to pay a tribute to the extraordinary energy, foresight, and comprehensive grasp of mind displayed by the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) in dealing with the Turkish Government. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have seized at once the point of the situation, and to have pressed it energetically both on his Colleagues and the Ottoman Government. All these diplomatic proceedings had, however, produced no result. No reforms had been introduced into Armenia; and nothing had been done to secure order, to give security to life and property, and to render justice available to all classes. The best and most reliable evidence as to the present state of affairs was to be found in the Reports of the Consuls sent by the late Government to Armenia and Asia Minor. The evils they reported to exist were these. In the first place, robbery and murder prevailed all over the country. The Kurds were constantly coming down plundering Armenian villages and killing travellers. In the second place, there was a constant system of extortion on the part of Turkish officials; the taxes were collected in the most oppressive way, and often twice over. In the third place, there was a practical denial of justice. The Mahomedan system of law was administered; Christian evidence was, in practice, not received, and the officials, with scarcely an exception, took bribes, and, indeed, had to live on bribes, for their salaries were not paid to them. A series of the most shocking outrages were perpetrated on the religious ceremonies of the Christians; and no redress could be obtained by the unfortunate people who were the victims of gross injustice and oppression. Of course there was discontent, and possibly there might have been conspiracies, among the Armenians. Recently a number of persons in Erzeroum had been thrown into prison, although it was not shown that they had any intention to disturb public order. Perhaps it would be better if they did conspire and rise against their oppressors, because that would lead to European intervention. However, they were far from European sympathy; they were peaceful, and they were unarmed; and all they could do was to form societies with a view of attracting the notice of Europe. The system which Turkey allowed to prevail was destroying the Christian, and therewith was also injuring, the Mahomedan population of Armenia. A Turkish statesman had suggested that the way to got rid of the Armenian Question would be to get rid of the Armenians; and that was the object the Turkish Government seemed to have in view. For his own part, although we had a stronger Treaty right to interfere as regards the Christians, he desired to make his appeal on behalf of the Mahomedan population as well as the Christian. The interests of the two populations were substantially identical. All they wanted was good government. If that were only provided, they would live together in peace and contentment. If something were not done, Russia, no doubt, would step in. Russia was on the frontier. She possessed strong fortresses, had an army of 160,000 men in Trans-Caucasia, of whom it would be easy to send 50,000 or 60,000 m en across the Armenian Frontier. The question would then arise, whether this country was bound, under the Anglo-Turkish Convention, to send an army to defend this frontier? If Russia were to occupy Armenia, she would have a sufficient excuse or pretext in the dangers which the present state of things presented, and in the sufferings of the people—just such a one as she had for her intervention in European Turkey six years ago. He was aware that many people thought that Russian intervention would be the best thing for the people; but, in his opinion, although a Russian occupation might prove a temporary advantage, its ultimate results would be unsatisfactory. He did not say that the advance of Russia would so seriously imperil British interests as to constitute a casus belli. But there would be a large party in this country which, would regard with displeasure and uneasiness the advance of Russia towards the frontiers of Syria and Mesopotamia; and he could conceive that, if such an advance were threatened, there might be a Ministry in power that would take active steps to prevent it. Russia, although she had improved the condition of the Caucasian Provinces, had not the gifts to fit her for a great colonizing and civilizing Power; and he held that there would be far less hope for a permanent elevation and adequate development of the peoples and resources of Western Asia if Russia attempted to spread her thin varnish of civilization over these countries, than if the Christian peoples of the East were permitted and enabled, by security given to their lives and property, and by the re-establishment of peace and the opening up of communications, to undertake a task in which they were so much interested. If Russian intervention was to be prevented, by what means could it be prevented? They did not want any more Commissions of Inquiry or paper Constitutions, but honest men, who would do their duty by the people, and who were not liable to removal from office. Such a want could not, however, be supplied without European supervision; and that was the opinion expressed by Sir Charles Wilson, Major Trotter, Major Everett, and the other Consuls who had displayed such conspicuous zeal and ability in the discharge of their very difficult functions in Asia Minor and Armenia. The two things wanted were, that the officers of the Government, whether judicial or administrative, should be paid their salaries and have some security of tenure. They were now liable to dismissal simply because they had done their duty to the people in not extorting from them more taxes than they could pay, or because they had omitted to give a bribe to the Palace at Constantinople. The Provinces should be semi-autonomous, having a Constitution somewhat similar to that framed for the Lebanon under the auspices of Lord Dufferin some 22 years ago. One of the first requirements under such a Constitution was that the Governor should be irremovable, except by the consent of the Powers; because, otherwise, he would not be sufficiently strong to enable him to carry out reforms. In addition, there should be a provision that all revenues raised from a Province should be spent in it, except the fixed tribute sent to Constantinople, the balance being applied in carrying out useful works in the Province itself. That seemed to him to be the best practical scheme of reform that could be proposed. The condition of the country forbade political independence; but life and property ought to be rendered secure. The Turkish Empire would have a better, and, indeed, its only, chance of longer life if the prosperity of its Provinces were increased. But nothing had yet been done in that direction. He had now to deal briefly with the position of affairs in European Turkey. The 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin was almost identical in terms with Article 15 of the Treaty of San Stefano. Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty made provision for introducing improved local Constitutions into the European Provinces left to the Sultan. These Constitutions were to be settled with the advice of a Commission—the European Commission for Eastern Roumelia—on which first his lion. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, and afterwards the noble Lord the present Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, sat as Representatives of this country. By the labours of this Commission, and largely owing to the exertions and abilities of the noble Lord, Organic Laws for the regulation of these European Provinces were framed and submitted to the Porte. The Commission sat a good many months at work on those Organic Laws. What had been the result of that European Commission and of Article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin? Absolutely nothing. From the day the Commission terminated its labours up to the present time the Porte had not made a single attempt to carry out its provisions. The Organic Laws did not appear to have been so much as mentioned. In Albania, the strength and fierceness of the tribes might excuse the neglect of the Turkish Government; but with regard to Turkish Servia and Macedonia, there was every reason, looking at the miserable and helpless condition of the populations, that these administrative regulations should be carried out, yet he could not find that anything had been done. All the evils existing before the war existed there now. What would be the result if no reform was made? The same, practically, substituting Austria for Russia, as he had endeavoured to point out, would follow in Asia. Austria was suspected of designs on those European Provinces; and a better pretext could not be given her for the execution of such designs than the continuance of disorder and dissatisfaction. But any advance by Austria would be a misfortune, especially for the people of the countries referred to. The Austrian Government was extremely unpopular, and the Christian inhabitants of Turkish Servia and Macedonia would deplore any extension of Austria. Such a result, also, would mean the shutting up of markets which England now onjoyed. He thought he might safely assume that there was no difference of opinion in the House as to the behaviour of the Turkish Government, which either could not, or would not, do anything to reform itself; and it was clear that any improvement could come only from the pressure of the European Powers. When he spoke of pressure, he did not mean that Her Majesty's Government was to undertake military operations; and he did not wish to be accused of desiring to precipitate this country into entanglements which might produce further wars; but what he suggested was that we should exercise a constant and firm pressure on Turkey, and there were many ways in which this pressure might be applied, and effectually applied, short of military operations. He did not suggest that anyone should argue with the Turks on grounds of justice or humanity; but it might be put very strongly to them that their own interests pointed in the clearest possible manner to the necessity of introducing reforms; that this was their only chance of saving their Asiatic Provinces, which, Otherwise, must infallibly fall into the arms of Russia. If such a course was earnestly pursued by the six Great Powers acting in concert, he was persuaded that the Turkish Government would see that it was wise and prudent to give way. The grounds on which he contended that it was the duty of England to adopt the course he had pointed out were not those of material interests. He relied, in the first place, on the general interest it had always taken in the East as a Christian, civilized, and commercial Power; and, secondly, on the grave and specific obligations it undertook towards those countries by the Treaty of Berlin. He did not complain of the past action of the Government in this matter, but he desired an expression of opinion on the matter from the House, from which the Government derived its right to represent the people of England. The House spoke with authority on these questions, and its declarations carried weight, not only in Europe, but in the East itself. Such an expression of opinion would strengthen the hands of the Government in endoavouring to bring about again the Concert of Europe for exerting pressure on Turkey, and inducing her to grant the reforms demanded; and he was certain that the House could not express its opinion in a worthier cause, or in one more calculated to bring back peace, prosperity, and happiness to those regions of Asia which were the earliest seats of civilization, and might again become the homes of powerful and progressive peoples, if only they could be secured the blessings of peace and justice. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House trusts that Her Majesty's Government will, in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe, signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, continue to press upon the Ottoman Porte the duty and necessity of forthwith carrying out effective reforms in Armenia and European Turkey, conformably to the stipulations of the Sixty-first and Twenty-third Articles of the Treaty of Berlin,"—(Mr. Bryce,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, nobody in the House had a better right to bring this subject before the House than his hon. Friend; in the first place, because of his great historical knowledge of those countries which formed part of the Turkish Empire, and not less because he was known as the author of one of the most interesting books of travel in those regions. It would be his (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's) duty to place before hon. Members a narrative of events, taking it up from the point where his hon. Friend left it, with regard to the negotiations at Constantinople. Before, however, he dealt with the more recent stages of the narrative, he would point out that in the use of certain terms—"Armenians," for instance—there was a possibility of ambiguity of language. There was no such Province as Armenia known to the Turkish Government; and when he was at Constantinople, as Commissioner, he found some difficulty in the use of this and other geographical terms which were objected to by the Turkish Government. He was asked what he meant by "Armenia" and "Macedonia," for the Turkish Government knew nothing about them. By Armenia he meant, then, certain Turkish Vilayets which wore grouped round a number of well-known places—Erzeroum, Van and Bitlis, Sivas, Kharput, Diarbekir, and Aleppo. In all those districts there was a considerable population, although, as his hon. Friend admitted, it was mixed, being partly Christian and partly Mahomedan. Accurate statistics were almost unknown in the Turkish Empire. It had been his misfortune to have to deal a good deal with statistics in Turkish matters; and he had found that the statistics made up by the Armenian Patriarch were, on the whole, trustworthy. His hon. Friend had left the narrative at the 14th of February, 1881—that was to say, the date of the last despatches presented to Parliament; and at that date, owing to the view of the German and Austro-Hungarian Governments, Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that it would be desirable not to press upon the Porte the necessity of Armenian reform until the question of the Greek Frontier had been settled. The year 1881 was mainly occupied with the negotiations upon the latter subject; but, unfortunately, immediately after the termination of those negotiations, certain great and complicated questions arose, which occupied the attention of diplomacy, and tended, to a great extent, to divert attention from the Armenian Question. He was, of course, alluding to the Egyptian Question. There were, besides, a great number of minor questions which came within the purview of the clauses of the Treaty of Berlin, which it was absolutely necessary to proceed with, such as that of the ownership of the Varna Railway, the Navigation of the Danube, the Frontier Questions, and many others. Nevertheless, it was found possible, on the 4th of October, 1881, to direct Lord Dufferin to agree that he and the Russian Ambassador should prepare a draft, which the other Ambassadors were found willing to accept, as the groundwork of a scheme for Armenian reform; and on the 9th of February, 1882, that scheme was submitted to the Conference of Ambassadors, and accepted by them. The scheme was brought to the notice of the Porte in due course, and from time to time, since then, the Sultan and the Porte were reminded of the necessity of some action being taken; but, nevertheless, nothing was done. There were frequent promises made by the Porte, and offers were made of sending a Commissioner to make further inquiries in Armenia; but beyond that nothing was done. It was said by the Porte that it was not convenient that the question of reform in one Province alone should be considered, and that the question ought to be considered as a whole; but when any scheme was brought forward for reforming the Empire, the Ambassadors were told that it was impossible to treat the question as a whole; so that there was nearly always a game of battledore and shuttlecock going on, and the consequence was nothing was done. He could only agree with the statement of his hon. Friend; and he believed that in the interesting, famous, and historical country of Armenia there was a condition of things painful to contemplate and realize. It was a condition of pillage, rapine, and plunder, and the Mahomedan population suffered almost as much as the Christian population. The Mahomedan population, in many cases, exasperated by suffering and oppression, had emigrated from the old Turkish Dominions, and precipitated themselves, in many cases in great want, into the comparatively well-to-do districts of Armenia. What the Turkish Government had done had almost incresed the difficulties of the situation. Men were encouraged to emigrate, and were then placed, by the direction of the Turkish Government, in districts of Asia Minor, in places where there was already a state of famine. It was almost inconceivable that such a state of things could exist; but it was the case. He might be asked, what was the result of that movement of population? He thought, on the whole, it had had a certain effect in increasing the Mahomedan element, but to no material extent; and the Christian element was equal to it in importance, if not superior, within the districts he had indicated. He had informed the House that the scheme of reform originally drawn up by Lord Dufferin and the Russian Ambassador, and agreed to by the other Ambassadors, had not been acted upon. A short time ago Her Majesty Government had recognized that fact, and asked themselves what further steps they ought to take. His hon. Friend had pointed out that the Government had a double locus standi; they might proceed under the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, or under the Convention of the 4th of June, 1878, specially relating to the agreement entered into between Great Britain and Turkey for the security of all those Dominions of the Porte which were left to them in Asia Minor. The last remonstrance which had been addressed to the Porte, though known to the other signataries of the Treaty of Berlin, had been made in a greater degree upon the peculiar and sole responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, because they felt that they had a peculiar duty from which they should not shrink. Lord Dufferin was, therefore, instructed to call the attention of the Porte in the most solemn manner to the duty incumbent upon it in relation to the suffering populations of Armenia. Lord Dufferin had carried out that duty with the mingled courtesy and j firmness for which he was famous in the world of diplomacy. He had been received by the Porte with promises of reforms; but time, and time alone, could show whether those promises would ever be fulfilled, and whether the paper scheme I of reform which they had lately seen in the newspapers as having been promulgated by the Porte was worth more than other schemes which they had promulgated. He was aware that some hon. Members the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), for in-stance—desired to treat the Porte as a convalescent who required peace and quiet; but if it appeared that the convalescent, under the present treatment, instead of getting well, became weaker and weaker, surely it was necessary to consider whether some other treatment ought not to be adopted. He would not quote the opinion of Lord Granville—it might, perhaps, be said that that opinion was not impartial; but he need go no further than Lord Granville's Predecessor to justify the observations he had made. Lord Salisbury, in a despatch which might be called the prelude to the Turkish Convention, written to Mr. Layard on the 30th of May, 1878, made the following remarks:— The Government of the Ottoman dynasty is that of an ancient, hat still alien conqueror, resting more upon actual power than upon the sympathies of common nationality. The defeat which the Turkish arms have sustained and the; known embarrassments of the Government will produce a general belief in its decadence, and an expectation of speedy political change, which, in the East, are more dangerous than actual discontent to the stability of a Government. If the population of Syria, Asia Minor,; and Mesopotamia see that the Porte has no guarantee for its continued existence but its own strength, they will, after the evidence which recent events have furnished of the frailty of that reliance, begin to calculate upon the speedy fall of the Ottoman domination, and to turn their eyes towards its successor.…It is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to accept, without making an effort to avert it, the effect which such a state of feeling would produce upon regions whose political condition deeply concerns the Oriental interests of Great Britain.…There are, however, two conditions which it would be necessary for the Porto to subscribe before England could give any assurance of support. That was the view of the Foreign Secretary of the late Government; and it accurately, so far as the need of these reforms were concerned, expressed the views of Her Majesty's Government. They were acting in the spirit of Lord Salisbury's opinion; and, as his hon. Friend had said, there was no Party difference on the point between the two sides of the House. Passing now to the other part of the question in drawing the attention of the Ottoman Porte to Armenian reforms, Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, then the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), pointed out, in conjunction with the other Ambassadors, that the financial part of their proposals was worthless unless protected by such safeguards as had been recommended by the European Commission of Reforms, of which he had himself had the honour to be the English Member. And here he would most willingly acknowledge the great service rendered to the country in this matter by our Consuls in Turkey, especially Mr. Sandwith, Mr. Blount, Mr. St. John, and many other gentlemen whose aid had proved of the utmost value. But before he addressed himself to the question generally, he desired to define the European Provinces. They were divided into five Vilayets—namely, Adrianople, Salonica, Kossovo or Prisrend, Janina, and Scutari; and these districts were now suffering from that system of confusion which prevailed throughout the Turkish Empire, and which had been its ruin. The financial state of these Provinces was disastrous; and this chaos arose from the system of confiscating the revenue of the Province by sending down from Constantinople what was called a "Havallé." He would read to the House a Report from Vice Consul Gatheral to Mr. Goschen, dated Angora, July, 1880, which would explain to the House the system to which he alluded. The Consul wrote— These 'Havallé,' when accepted by the local Treasury, are either paid in Angora with more or lees promptitude, or, as generally happens, are exchanged for fresh 'Havallé' bonds on the various sandjaks, or districts, into which the Province is divided. The results of this system are deplorable in every way, as it reduces the Provincial accounts to a condition simply chaotic, and has been carried to such a pitch that a larger amount is drawn for than the revenue supplies, and no margin is left for the current expenses of government, which are increased in obedience to orders from the Porte, on the one hand, while, on the other, the available revenue is reduced in the way indicated. The House would see that under these conditions anything like a proper system of finance was impossible. That was really the root of the whole evil. Then there was the grievance of the constant changes in the Provincial Governors. One of the reforms which the European Commission suggested was that the Governors should be appointed for five years. But, whatever were the suggestions that had been made, the Porte had done nothing in the way of reform, but had rather gone in the contrary direction. Her Majesty's Government had been asked what they had done with regard to the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin, under which the European Commission had made their recommendations. A general instruction was given to Her Majesty's Ambassador that he should omit no opportunity, when it arose, of pointing out to the Porte that those duties and obligations which were incumbent on them under that Article were obligations and duties to which this country attached the greatest importance. His hon. Friend had pointed out the great danger to the Porte which underlay the neglect to carry out the required reforms, and he was glad that his hon. Friend had done so. It was strange that the statesmen of the Porte did not look back on their history and take warning. How was it that they lost every Province which they had gained since their armies were rolled back from the walls of Vienna? They lost them because they were not able to conciliate the populations of the Provinces which were subject to their rule. Merivale, the historian, distinguished between the real Empire of Rome, which attached her conquests, and the nominal Empire of Turkey, which alienated them. Let it be hoped that even at the eleventh hour this scheme of reform would really be set in motion, and that a better state of things might begin. He was convinced that the moment was a solemn and serious one in the annals of the Turkish Empire. His hon. Friend had alluded to the 38th Article of the Treaty of Berlin, under which were to be established the junctions of the Great Trunk Railways, which would open up Turkey to travellers from end to end. He would ask hon. Members whether, when that object was realized, when commerce was developed, when the number of visitors of every nationality was increased, as it would be in an extraordinary degree, and when, as it were, light was thrown upon every corner of the Turkish Empire—he would ask whether, when that day came, it was likely that the system which his hon. Friend had described would be able to resist the glare of publicity? He made these observations with no hostile feeling towards the Turkish Empire. He desired that the Turkish Empire should reform itself; and, in calling attention to these things, he felt that he was doing the best service to that Empire. But he would appeal to the Porte. He would appeal not only to the sense of duty of the Rulers of the Turkish Empire, but ask them to consider whether, regarding the question from a merely selfish point of view, they had not got every advantage in placing themselves in a high moral and political position, so that they might no longer be the objects of the criticisms of those who took an interest in the Christian populations—so that they might not be the victims of constant discussions, not merely in the newspapers, not merely in this country and in that House, but in every country in Europe; he would also appeal to them whether it would not be a noble and great aim to set before themselves to show, what other nations of a race not dissimilar to themselves had shown?—he meant the Magyars of Hungary—namely, that they could adopt European ideas and European civilization; and whether all this would not be a greater and nobler thing than to wring a large revenue or a small one, as the case might be, from oppressed Provinces and a suffering population?


who had the following Amendment on the Paper:— That, while important stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin, which were made for the advantage of the Ottoman Empire, are unfulfilled, it is unjust to press the Armenian question; and that, in view of the active intrigues of Russia in Armenia and of France in Syria, it is inexpedient at present to embarrass the Ottoman Government, said, the concluding sentences of the noble Lord recalled the fact that there was a great and a powerful State which stood in need of improvement no less than Turkey; he alluded to the Government of St. Petersburg. It was the fashion among the supporters of the Government to rail against the Ottoman Empire; but they did not dare to utter one word of reprehension or rebuke with regard to the worse tyranny and outrages that prevailed in the Russian Empire. A great Prime Minister, the late Lord Derby, had denounced this policy of bullying the weak and truckling to the strong. There were several fallacies underlying the statements of the noble Lord, and of the hon. Member who had introduced the subject with much more moderation than was usually shown by his Friends. It was admitted that it would be an undesirable thing that Russia should obtain power in Asiatic Turkey. That Russia aimed to do so no one doubted. The chief fallacy of the hon. Member's argument was the supposition that any reforms in Turkey would prevent Russia attacking that country. It was as ridiculous to look for such a result as it was to think that any Government in India would prevent the Russians from someday attacking our Possessions in that country. The object of Russia was not to promote good government, but to prevent it. Russia was constantly intriguing to stir up race against race, and encouraging the Ottoman Power to maintain bad Governors, so that she might obtain the pretext she hardly required for the invasion and occupation of territory. The greatest difficulty Turkey would have in carrying out reforms would be the opposition of the Russian Government; and an illustration had just been furnished in the intrigue which had prevented Rustem Pasha being re-appointed Governor of the Lebanon—intrigues which were stimulated by France with the support of Russia. Actual brigandage, indeed, had been supported by the encouragement of the French Government. The general ground for these reforms which the hon. Member had put forward—namely, the probability that the improvement in the government of Armenia would prevent Russia from attacking it—was a reason that did not exist in practical politics. The only thing that would prevent a Russian attack was the belief that it would be unsuccessful, and that it could be resisted, either by Turkey alone, or by Turkey with the aid of England. Personally, he had never been in favour of injustice in Turkey, as had been suggested by the hon. Member; the policy he had consistently advocated was the only one that would successfully remove injustice, and that led him bitterly to oppose the War of 1877. He maintained that prior to that war Turkey had made remarkable progress in all the arts of civilization and in good government. Lord Palmerston, in 1864, said that Turkey had made more progress than any European Power. The Russians themselves were surprised at the marks of prosperity which they found in Bulgaria. The true way to obtain the development of the resources of Turkey was to prevent the increase of that antagonism of race which the natural constitution of Turkey could not possibly remove—to prevent those differences from being aggravated by foreign intrigue and invasion. The war of races in Turkey in 1877 and 1878 was encouraged, if not actually provoked, by the action of the present Prime Minister and the Liberal Party at large. They were as respon- sible as anyone outside Russia could be for the horrible sufferings inflicted on the Christian and Mussulman populations by that war, and the practical destruction of the hopes of Greece. As it was, the Greeks were effectually cut off from Constantinople by the Bulgarian Principalities. The Greek element had been, like the Mussulman, persecuted out of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia by the Russo-Bulgar Administration. If that war had been prevented, and the consolidation of races in Turkey had been allowed to take its natural course, the Greek element might some day have restored the supremacy of Christianity in the East. What was the present position of the Armenians? They formed hardly one-third of the population of Armenia, and were not numerous enough to bring about a popular rising. They were scattered about among alien and often hostile populations. One of the great difficulties had not been touched upon by the hon. Member; and that was the condition of the wild tribes of Armenia and Kurdistan, who were so situated geographically that Russia could at any time cause a revolt among them, either directly or through Persia. Nor was that difficulty recognized by the noble Lord, who had merely made his usual denunciation of Turkey and all her works. A kind of mutual admiration society had apparently been formed between the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets and the Government. The former flattered the Ministry, and the Treasury Bench were not slow to respond. The noble Lord had spoken of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets as if he were a Grote or a Gibbon. The hon. Member, in alluding to the Christians of Armenia, admitted that they were far outnumbered by the Mahomedans. He spoke of the magnificent future before the Christian races of Asia Minor, and said that they were the people to whom the development of the country must be left. He had listened to the hon. Member with astonishment, and wondered where those Christian races were. The fact was that, with the exception of this miserable remnant, the Christian races of Asia Minor were altogether in nubibus— at all events, till the Mussulmans were wiped out by the Russians. This reminded him of the curious statement made by the noble Lord as to the capacity of the Russians for dealing with Native races. "With the recollection fresh in his mind of the massacre of Circassians, of the deportation of whole tribes of those gallant mountaineers, hundreds of miles from their native hills, to the unhealthy swamps of the Volga, and of the slaughter of 20,000 Turcomans, men, women, and children, by Skobeleff's armies, he might be excused for not appreciating the instances of successful administration to which the noble Lord had referred. Both the noble Lord and the hon. Member had omitted to notice the maltreatment of the Mussulman population throughout these Provinces since the present Government came into Office. For every Armenian who had suffered at the hands of the Mussulmans, 50 Mussulmans had been maltreated by the Russians; but the pseudo-philanthropists opposite had not a word to say on the subject. Nor had the country at large heard much of this, because the Government had not published the Reports of the Consuls in Bulgaria; and the unfortunate people themselves had no newspapers or other means of agitating.


stated that the last Blue Book contained several remonstrances he had himself made on this subject.


said, he was very glad to hear that one Member, at any rate, of the Government had had the humanity to remonstrate; but the Government, as a whole, had done nothing of the kind, and the remonstrances, such as they were, were late and ineffectual. He considered it most unfair to press these conditions on Turkey —a weak and distracted Government— while they did not protest against other Powers ill-treating the Mussulman population. Then there was another aspect of the question—namely, that of justice. Various important conditions favourable to Turkey in the Treaty of Berlin had not been fulfilled; and, in the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper, he affirmed that, while important stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin, which were made for the advantage of the Ottoman Empire, were unfulfilled, it was unjust to press the Armenian Question. The stipulations referred to were the demolition of the Bulgarian fortresses, and the Turkish occupation of the Balkans. Then there was the question of Batoum, which was to be a free port, and was not to be fortified; but it was now one of the strongest fortresses on the Black Sea; and our latest news was to the effect that, instead of a practically free entry for our goods, import duties of between 30 and 50 per cent were imposed on them by the Russians. There was also the question of the Bulgarian tribute, which had not been paid. These, with the Armenian reforms, made five stipulations of the Treaty which had been neglected; and yet this question of Armenia was pressed, above all the others, merely to satisfy a certain section of hon. Members on the opposite Benches. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had told the House a good deal about the maltreatment of the Christian population of Armenia; but could he prove that the outrages in Armenia were equal in number to the outrages in Ireland, which, in 1881, were no fewer than 4,718? Unless he could do that, surely for the present British Government to censure Turkey for misgovernment savoured very strongly of hypocrisy. He thought it would be wiser for hon. Members to endeavour to improve affairs at home before they turned their attention to the affairs of a foreign country. He must admit that, to a certain extent, Ireland had recently improved; but it was entirely under Star Chambers, secret inquisitions, and military occupation that the improvement had been brought about—a means which, if the Turks ventured to use, would bring upon them the reprobation of hon. Members opposite, from one end of the Benches to the other. And yet the Government were railing at the poor, ruined, bankrupt Turkish Empire, while they themselves were actually carrying out a more repressive policy than Turkey, and that within a few miles of the Metropolis of the Empire. Until the Government were prepared to accept remonstrances from Turkey as to their misgovernment of Ireland, it was obviously unjust for them to interfere in Turkish affairs. Then there was the question of expediency. Her Majesty's Government had practically alienated, by their constant and pointless persecution, the Turkish Government and people, the only Ally we could look to for aid when the great struggle took place between this country and Russia for the possession of our Indian Empire. It was all very well to talk about and profess sympathy with those Christian populations; but did the Government think they would receive a single jot or tittle of help at such a time from Greek, Bulgarian, or Armenian? If so, he could assure them they were mistaken. Their only hope of obtaining support and alliance in the future was to strengthen the Turkish Empire; and, while they pressed reforms upon it, prove to it —not by specious phrases, but by acts—that they were really and truly its friends, as Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Palmerston had been. But, unhappily, wherever the present Government had interfered—whether in Zulu-land, in Ireland, in the Transvaal, or in Turkey—their interference upon false humanitarian principles had caused more trouble and ruin than had been known since the time of Attila and Jenghis Khan. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced this subject sneered at Turkish paper Constitutions. In that respect he only followed the lead of the Chief of the Liberal Party, when he indulged in sneers at the Constitution introduced by Midhat Pasha. But he could inform the hon. Gentleman that there was no race better fitted for Constitutional government than the Mussulmans of Turkey, who were a thoughtful, sedate, and inoffensive people; and it was possible that a Turkish Parliament might set an example in moderation and wisdom to the Parliament of this country. It had been said that good Governors could not be obtained in Turkey. To that proposition he demurred, and would mention as men who had filled their posts creditably, Midhat, Ahmed Vefyk, Mouktar, and Rustem Pashas, who had all proved themselves excellent Governors of Provinces; while Her Majesty's Ministers themselves acknowledged the abilities of the new Governor of the Lebanon. If reforms could be carried out in Turkish Armenia, he, for one, should be very glad; but he would most emphatically protest against that autonomy which meant the disintegration of the Turkish Empire. Turkey could no more afford to grant autonomy to Armenia than Great Britain could to Ireland; in fact, the danger of Russian aggression would be increased if such a step were taken. Much had been made of the fact that there had been a conspiracy among the Armenians in Erzeroum. It should not be forgotten, however, that a similar conspiracy had been discovered in Tiflis, which was under Russian rule. The reason of Turkey's weakness was not the cruelty, but the mildness with which she had governed her Christian subjects in the past; while the reason Russia was strong and successful was that she forcibly assimilated her subject populations. The rule of Russia was like the rule pursued by Cromwell in Ireland; while Turkey had always tolerated Christianity in the races she had conquered; and her conduct in this matter in the 17th century had been favourably contrasted with that of the Roman Catholics and Protestants of Germany towards each other. He feared, by the appearance of the House, that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite would be carried, and that we should one day, when struggling with Russia for supremacy in India, regret our treatment of Turkey. Bearing in mind how vast our interests were in India, he held that it would be very inexpedient to alienate from us so important a Mahomedan Power as Turkey. In conclusion, he protested that it was unjust to press this single, difficult, and troublesome question upon Turkey at the present moment, when our Government hardly raised its little finger to protect the Mussulman population from oppression, outrage, and annihilation, end when so many of the provisions of the Treaty of Berlin were completely disregarded.


said, he thought that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) had done good service in calling attention to the subject before the House. The gravity of the situation could hardly be exaggerated, for if reforms were not introduced by the Porte, nothing could avert the downfall of Turkey. He held that it was a matter of vital importance that the reforms promised in the Treaty of Berlin to Armenia and other Provinces should be carried out, for the refusal to grant them might be made the excuse of an attack upon the Ottoman Empire. In 1880, Sir Henry Layard stated that though two years had elapsed since the Treaty of Berlin, the condition of the subject Provinces was worse instead of better; and now matters were still worse than in 1880. No one could deny that Turkish Ministers had many difficulties to contend with in commencing any reforms; but the breathing space afforded them by the intervention of the European Powers had been allowed to expire without any step being taken. They were face to face again with the same state of things which, in the year 1876, culminated ultimately in that explosion which would have brought ruination to the Turkish Empire, if it had not been saved by the intervention of the Powers with the Treaty of Berlin. The process with which they were face to face was one which might again involve complications of the gravest kind. That process must either result in an uprising on the part of the outlying Provinces of the Turkish Empire, or in its disintegration.


said, that: there was only one thing in which he agreed with the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), and that was in his remark that the Mahomedans were as fit for self-government as anybody else. That remark was in support of the view which the Treaty of Berlin took, that the only way to save the Turkish Empire was to establish local autonomy in the Provinces. The government of the Turkish officials was thoroughly rotten and bad, and the Pashas grew rich, while even the widows of the soldiers who had fallen in battle were left to starve. He gave every credit to the virtues of the Turkish people; but the government of the Pashas was another thing; it was the worst on the face of the world, and it was quite impossible that it could be reformed. It was, therefore, somewhat cold comfort to find that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs could only give the Pashas another eloquent warning. He quite sympathized with the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce), and hoped it would be adopted; but, if he might make a criticism upon it, it was the precedence which it gave to the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin over the 23rd Article. That Article established definite and distinct obligations, whereas the 61st Article amounted to some indefinite promise of reform. In Armenia there was a certain antagonism of races, so much so that even if autonomy were granted it would be applied with great disadvantages. Therefore, while he entirely sympathized with his hon. Friend in the hope that means might be devised whereby the condition of the inhabitants of Armenia and Asia Minor might be greatly ameliorated, he was not at all so sanguine that it was possible to effect so great advantages in any other way as by giving real and effective force to the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin. He had never been able to understand why that distinct and well-marked obligation had not been more strongly pressed upon the Turkish Government. If this country was in a position to enforce Article 23, he hoped it would not do so single-handed. Possibly, if application were made to the other Powers to join this country in enforcing it, they might say that this country had already had its share of plunder in Egypt, and they would not assist it to get more. He hoped the Prime Minister, or some other Member of the Government, would be able to throw some light upon the subject.


Sir, this discussion has undoubtedly been distinguished, upon the whole, by a remarkable unanimity of sentiment in the House. It has been observed by the hon. Member who formed the single exception to that unanimity of sentiment (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) that the attendance of Members in the House has been very limited.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resuming, said: The smallness of the attendance which has just been practically illustrated is due to the very unanimity of sentiment to which I have referred as prevailing; on this subject. There are enough of contentious questions in this House; and the mass of Business it has to face is so great that it is no wonder that Members, on matters on which they are of one way of thinking, should retire from the House and enjoy such a period of repose as they can from time to time appropriate. That hon. Member who has, as I have said, made himself an exception, bestowed pretty copiously the benefit of his opinions upon the House, and immediately after withdrew from it. I am very sorry that he did so; because, although I do not think that anyone in this House concurs in what he says, yet, viewing the time of the night he made his speech, it is possible that some portion of it may be reported, and some portion of those out-of-doors might give a degree of credit to some of the extraordinary allegations that he made. It is the universal practice of that hon. Member to deal in large and broad assertions, and, in proportion as they are bold and even extravagant, to insist upon it that they are palpable and notorious facts known to all the world. This is a method which, undoubtedly, answers with a limited portion of the community, for they believe where there is so much smoke there must be fire, and that there is something in it, even after a liberal discount applied to the breadth of the statements of the hon. Gentleman. Now, one-half of the speech of the hon. Member was upon Russia and Ireland; and that half I will brush aside with the single remark that it has no connection with the question before us. But the hon. Member said that autonomy was the ruin of the Turkish Empire. In my opinion, the actual condition of the Turkish Empire at this moment supplies the best answer to that statement. No doubt, when autonomy is extracted from Turkey at the sword's point, that autonomy could not possibly be advantageous to the Turkish Empire. That is to say, the memory of the old wrongs remain; and I do not imagine that Bulgaria is more grateful or attached than it was five years ago. But there are other cases of autonomy in the Turkish Empire where the autonomy was not obtained at the sword's point. For example, the important Island of Crete enjoys a large measure of autonomy; and I affirm that Crete, with that autonomy, is tranquil, and not a source of danger to the Turkish Empire, which it was before the autonomy was granted. There is another notable instance in the Island of Samos, where autonomy has been long enjoyed, and where, as a consequence, no difficulty has ever arisen in carrying on the Government of Turkey, and the Island has never formed a portion of the danger which overhangs the Ottoman Empire. The hon. Gentleman says we have scoffed at the Turkish Constitution, and have done all we could to destroy it. Now, I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that it is exceedingly wrong to maintain that men, because they are Mahomedans, are unfit for self-government; and if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had that knowledge, which he always professes to have, he would know that we have made known our sentiments about the revival of the Turkish Constitution in terms not hostile, but highly friendly to the Government of Turkey. He says we are looking with perfect indifference on the oppression of the Mahomedans in Bulgaria. His statistics, I believe, will not bear a better examination than any of his assertions. I have invariably stated that, while all oppression is detestable, the oppression practised by Christians upon a Mahomedan population is worse than that of a Mahomedan Government on a Christian population. I believe that is the estimate we must form in proportion as we believe the Christian religion to be a religion of light, and a religion of love. There is one point, however, which goes to the root of the whole matter. The hon. Gentleman says—"Do not be so cruel as to press upon Turkey the reform of her Government; it is not fair; go and look for purity elsewhere; consider the weakness of Turkey, and do not oppress and afflict her." The hon. Gentleman thinks himself the friend of Turkey; but, in my opinion, he is one of her worst enemies. Our contention is that it is by misgovernment that Turkey has suffered the terrible dismemberments which have again and again come upon her; and if she is to neutralize in the future those dangers from which she has so cruelly suffered, there is but one mode of doing it, and that is by endeavouring to bring her populations out of a state of discontent into a state of tolerance and content. Therefore, it would be a breach of duty on the part of the Government and of the House, if we were to show indifference to the recommendation 'of a course of policy to Turkey by which alone, as we believe, the hope is offered, either of maintaining the general tranquillity of the East, or of maintaining the power now wielded by the Turkish Empire. We recognize the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce), especially in all he said with regard to the granting of automony to Armenia. In reference to that, I will only say that, for my own part, the measure which I believe to be by far the most urgent, and by far the most valuable, at all events, in what lies near at hand, is the appointment of a good Governor with a sufficient amount of power and independence. That is really the shape in my view, and I think in the view of my Colleagues generally, in which reform is the simplest, the safest, and the most effective. Let us see what follows. We have seen admirable consequences result from it in the Lebanon, in Crete, and elsewhere; and undoubtedly the first step which it is most desirable to secure for Armenia is that which is most desirable elsewhere. Speaking generally, I acknowledge at once not only the soundness of the principles of my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, but likewise the moderation of language and the perfect candour with which he laid his views before the House. We acknowledge, in the fullest sense, the obligations under which we lie. I so far agree even with the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) that I think every Member of the Government of this country would recoil from the idea of what may be called worrying the Porte. There is no good to be done by that; but frank and kindly statements from time to time, and particularly as special occasions arise, which give an opportunity of enforcing by just and reasonable argument the views we entertain—those are ideas which we not only consider politic, but in the highest degree binding upon us. They are binding upon us under the Treaty of Berlin, and they are binding upon us in an especial degree with respect to Armenia, for these two reasons. In the first place, in the case of Armenia, we distinctly deprived the Armenians of the title which they had acquired, under the Treaty of San Stefano, to make a direct appeal to Russia single-handed to interfere on their behalf. Consequently, we have taken over the obligation which was previously incumbent upon Russia, and with respect to which, of course, there may be those who believe that Russia might be tempted to use it for purposes of her own, as well as for the general purposes of humanity. But, besides that, we have undertaken a distinct and separate obligation under what is called the Anglo-Turkish Convention. I do not propose to enter upon the merits of that Convention; but, whatever be the opinion which I, together with my present Colleagues, may have entertained of that Convention, it undoubtedly imposed on this country certain obligations. I will not now attempt to define their extent, or the contingencies on which those obligations might be modified or altered; but one obligation is clear and unquestionable from the nature and the terms of that Convention. It is our obligation to endeavour, for the advantage of the Sultan as well as for the advantage of the people, to recommend and secure good government in Armenia. We, therefore, fully accept the statement of obli- gations incumbent upon us, and we acknowledge the duty which we are bound, according as opportunity offers, to endeavour to perform. Then, to come to the question, what should we ask the House to do with the Motion of my hon. Friend? I believe my hon. Friend has expressed himself as very anxious that this Motion should be adopted by the House. I am persuaded that we are under no doubt as to the general views and intentions of the House, which we believe to be in perfect accord with our own and with those of my hon. Friend in this matter; and I think it is, perhaps, open to some question how far it would be advantageous for this House, without very special occasion, to place upon its Journals records of opinion such as is conveyed in this Motion. There is no objection to the Motion that I can plead, excepting one, which would be removed by the withdrawal of a few words. My hon. Friend asks the House to express its trust that Her Majesty's Government will do certain things in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe who are signataries to the Treaty of Berlin. I do not, in the least degree, object to accept from the House a general instruction as to our duties under the Treaty of Berlin, and under the Anglo-Turkish Convention; nor do I in principle object, so far as we are concerned, to accept from the House an instruction which points out to us, in a somewhat marked and definite manner, the duty of making applications to other Powers of Europe to concur with us for this purpose. But, on the other hand, I will say, and my hon. Friend may rely upon it, that it is not a subject which has escaped our notice. I may refer to what took place in 1880 with respect to the Montenegrin Frontier, and I may refer to the efforts we made to bring the Concert of Europe to bear on the settlement of the Egyptian Question, as clear proof that we do not, in the slightest degree, recede from the broad and general proposition that whenever the Concert of Europe can be had it is our duty to seek it, as frequently that Concert of Europe has been the means of obviating danger which could not otherwise have been averted. At the same time, my hon. Friend will agree with me that a latitude must be left to us as to the time and circumstances when we should make application to the Powers of Europe for this purpose; and I will venture to say that if this Motion is to be adopted by the House I will make no objection, provided my hon. Friend will agree to withdraw from it the words "in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe, signataries of the Treaty of Berlin." That will in no respect weaken the general direction of the expression by the House of the strong view it takes of the obligations of this country under the Treaty of Berlin. There will be an advantage in it, inasmuch as it will bring within the declaration of the House our obligations under the Anglo-Turkish Convention. That is the recommendation which I make to my hon. Friend, and that is the condition on which the Government will accept the Motion. While my hon. Friend recommends these reforms; while, by a declaration of this kind, he wishes to see that the Government are supported by the sympathy of the House; and while he has primarily in view the welfare of the Armenian people, and of the people of other Provinces, yet he likewise does believe that the welfare of the Ottoman Government is as much involved in the question as any other consideration, and that, by the course of improvement which he desires to recommend, and by that alone, can dangers, which I still fear may be deemed to overhang it, be averted or mitigated.


intimated his willingness to omit the words to which the Prime Minister had taken exception.


asked the Government to consider whether they had the means of applying financial pressure on the Porte. There was a large sum payable in respect of Cyprus; but he did not know whether any actual payments had been made. Certainly, mere remonstrances would have no effect with the Turkish Government.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House trusts that Her Majesty's Government will continue to press upon the Ottoman Porte the duty and necessity of forthwith carrying out effective reforms in Armenia and in European Turkey, conformably to the stipulations of the Sixty-first and Twenty-third Articles of the Treaty of Berlin,"—(Mr Bryce,) —instead thereof.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House trusts that Her Majesty's Government will continue to press upon the Ottoman Porte the duty and necessity of forthwith carrying out effective reforms in Armenia and in European Turkey, conformably to the stipulations of the Sixty-first and Twenty-third Articles of the Treaty of Berlin.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.