§ Postponed Resolution [27th April] further considered.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £11,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, beyond the ordinary
grants of Parliament, to defray the Charge which may come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for—(1.) Remaining Charges in the Soudan and Upper Egypt; (2.) Special Naval and Military Preparations.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, it was with utter consternation that a very large proportion of Members heard the unprecedented statement which fell just now from the Prime Minister. It was his opinion that the news announced by the Prime Minister was terrible news, terrible news, at any rate, to those who were deeply anxious for the security of our Empire. There were three points about which, undoubtedly, issues had arisen between the Government of Russia and Her Majesty's Government. The first and original point was the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier; the second point was the conflict at Ak Tapa; and the third point was whether the delimitation could be settled on the spot or in London. The Prime Minister had announced tonight that on every one of these points Her Majesty's Government had made a base and cowardly surrender. He greatly feared, though he hoped his fears would not be realized, that we might lose India—[Cries of "Oh!"]—not lose it in the actual technical sense of the word, for he did not mean to say that our Army and our officials would have to bundle out of India to-morrow, bag and baggage, as the Prime Minister wished to bundle out the Turks from Europe—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Never!]—but he greatly feared that by the action that Her Majesty's Government had taken under the present extraordinary circumstances, they had lost for a long time, and perhaps for ever, the respect and loyalty of the Natives, and whatever affection existed between ourselves and our Indian subjects, which constituted the virtue and the vigour of our government. He felt certain that when the news of what had been stated to-day in the House of Commons reached and was widely known in the bazaars of India, from Lahore to Delhi and from Bombay to Hyderabad, the respect and sympathy of the Indian people would be greatly alienated from a Power which they had only to look upon to see how it had fallen from its high estate. The news had come upon the House so suddenly that it was, he admitted, difficult to discuss it. He had hoped against hope that Her Ma- 1525 jesty's Government were really in earnest, particularly when the Prime Minister made the speech the other night, in which he indicated that by no action of theirs would they jeopardize one jot of the interests of this country or of India. He had hoped that; and he believed that every one of the Opposition entertained the same hope, for even the Prime Minister acknowledged that the attitude of the Opposition was eminently patriotic when they abstained from putting questions and from inconvenient debate on this subject. But now their hopes were utterly shattered. The steps that had been taken could not be retraced, the surrender to Russia could not be recalled. Under these circumstances he contended that it was a perfect farce to proceed with the Vote of Credit. One more point. The Prime Minister denounced the Vote of Credit of the Conservative Government of 1878, because he said it was unparalleled and unprecedented that a Power should come together with a friendly Power for the highest pacific purposes, and should have their Conferences wantonly disturbed by the clash of arms. How did this arbitration with a friendly State, and these amicable Conferences between the two Powers—how did they differ from the Conference of 1878, for which the then Conservative Government asked for a Vote? Why, if the right hon. Gentleman's contention was sound, did he now invite the House of Commons to depart from the maxim which he himself had laid down, and disturb this Conference with Russia and a friendly State by the clash of arms? This was not his argument; he would not give two pence for it. He did not believe in the lines upon which it was based or in the contention by which it was put forward. His argument was that a Vote of Credit so enormous was the largest demand which a Government could make upon the confidence of Parliament, and he contended that the circumstances which on Monday last might have been more or less favourable to a unanimous expression of confidence, were now distinctly unfavourable. He did not think it was possible for any Member of that House opposed in political views to Her Majesty's Government to allow this Vote to take immediate effect without debate and protest, for if they passed it without protest they would be thereby express- 1526 ing confidence in the Government which it was perfectly impossible to entertain. The Prime Minister in his speech on Monday said that the time of bringing forward a Vote of Credit was not the moment to bring the Government to book. That was a most extraordinary contention, and he could not refrain from asking what the Liberals did in 1878. He looked upon the action of the Government in 1878, and the Constitutional action, whatever else it might have been, of the then Opposition, and he wanted to know why the Members of the Tory Party were to depart from such Constitutional action when the Liberal Government was in Office? He submitted that a Vote of Credit was the only opportunity which independent Members had of calling attention to the policy of the Government. If the Leader of the Opposition, as the mouthpiece of his Party, desired to call in question the conduct of the Government, he had only to frame a Motion and lay it on the Table to find an opportunity given him to discuss it; but independent Members, like those sitting near him, had no opportunity of placing their views before Parliament and the country unless they took advantage of these Votes of Credit. Now, the granting of a Vote of Credit of £11,000,000 which the Prime Minister had demanded was the most unlimited mark of confidence in a Government which Parliament could show. There were at the present time many weighty reasons why many hon. Members could not feel that confidence in the Government, and many reasons against allowing it to appear to the country or to Europe that they had confidence in the Government in this matter. What he wanted to point out was that the responsibility of Parliament with regard to this question was greater than the responsibility of the Government. The Prime Minister in his Mid Lothian campaign insisted, and rightly and properly insisted, that he was not arraigning the Government of England, but Parliament, which had sanctioned the action of the Government. The responsibility of Parliament, therefore, became very heavy, and could not be lightly assumed. But if Parliament protested against the action of the Government, the responsibility remained upon the shoulders of the Government. Whatever others might now do he, at any rate, wished to 1527 enter a protest against the conduct of the Government in submitting a Vote of Credit without giving the slightest information as to the nature of the policy which they meant to pursue by means of that Vote. He entered a reservation because even now it was obvious, from what had passed across the Table tonight, that it was impossible to elicit from the Ministers what was the exact point at issue between the Government of Russia and the English Government, and he wished humbly, but still as earnestly as he could, to raise a warning to the Government and to the House as to the nature of the Power with whom we were dealing, and as to the nature of the interests of India. For that purpose he would venture to ask the indulgence of Parliament. There were two parties with whom independent Members of the House of Commons had to deal in this matter. They had to deal directly with Her Majesty's Government, and indirectly with the Government of Russia; and it was perfectly certain, and he thought he should be able to prove it to the House, that in the Government of Russia the Parliament of England could place no confidence. He thought it would also be obvious to the House, from what he should lay before them, and from what had passed to-night, that in the Government of the Queen the Parliament of England could place no confidence. He did not know whether there were many Members who were aware that at the present moment, and for a long time past, Russia had been deliberately violating a solemn agreement entered into by her, and curiously enough, an agreement more or less based upon arbitration. That agreement between the Government of Russia and the Government of the Queen was the result of negotiations which extended over more than two years—from 1869 to 1872. The negotiation was commenced by Lord Clarendon and Prince Gortchakoff, on the proposal of Lord Clarendon. In reply to Lord Clarendon Prince Gortchakoff said—The Czar looks upon Afghanistan as completely outside the sphere within which Russia may be called upon to exercise her influence.Shortly afterwards Lord Clarendon and Prince Gortchakoff happened to meet in Germany, each of them taking the German waters. They had an interview at Heidelberg, and Prince Gortchakoff as- 1528 sured Lord Clarendon that Russia had no further intention of going South, and that extension of territory was not the object of the Imperial Government. So things went on, and unfortunately Lord Clarendon died and was succeeded by Earl Granville, and it was quickly decided that the boundary of Afghanistan was to be fixed, and that the arbitrator or referee to whom all British plans and views and British maps were to be referred was to be General Kaufman, who was on the spot. Time dragged on, and General Kaufman made no Report which was communicated to the British Government, upon which Earl Granville showed the only signs of energy and courage which he had ever been able to detect in the whole of that great man's career. The noble Earl wrote a somewhat dignified and even peremptory despatch to the Russian Government, saying that he should not wait any longer for the Report of General Kaufman, but that he would himself define the boundary of Afghanistan. The noble Earl did so, and the boundary he laid down was deliberately and solemnly accepted by Prince Gortchakoff in the year 1873. In a despatch of the 19th January, 1873, alluding to the boundary and other details, Prince Gortchakoff wrote to Baron Brunnow, the Russian Ambassador at this Court—Considering the difficulties experienced in establishing the facts in all their details, considering the great facilities which the British Government possesses for collecting the precise data, and, above all, considering the wish of His Imperial Majesty not to give to a matter of detail an importance which is not due to it, we accept the boundary line laid down, and trust that our doing so will be accepted as a proof of the desire of our august master to maintain and consolidate friendly relations with the Government of Queen Victoria.Thus agreement was arrived at, and curiously enough an article written by the Prime Minister and describing that agreement appeared in The Nineteenth Century just a year after it had been concluded. The Prime Minister in that article said—During the existence of the late Administration [his own Government] a wise, pacific, and friendly negotiation, due to the forethought and initiative of Lord Clarendon, was instituted with Russia to promote the tranquillity of Central Asia and to insure a good understanding between the two Empires in that portion of the world. It was an essential part of this understanding, and was so recorded in 1529 many avowals, that Russia should abstain from all endeavours to exercise excessive influence in Afghanistan; while England, on the other hand, was to use her best efforts for inducing the Ameer to fulfil the duties of good neighbourhood towards his northern neighbours, who were the neighbours, on the other side, of Russia.That agreement, entered into after long negotiation, was the agreement which Russia was deliberately breaking at the present moment, and which she had been breaking for many days. The agreement so accomplished and entered into by the British Government was relied upon by the British Government, although three times previously Russia had voluntarily given pledges to this country with respect to Central Asia, and had deliberately broken those pledges. In 1864 the Russian Forces captured Tchenken, in Turkestan, and defeated the Ameer of Bokhara. Prince Gortchakoff, on hearing of these successes, at once and voluntarily issued a manifesto to Europe in general, and England in particular, in which he declared that—The final point of Russian advance had been reached, fixing for us with geographical precision the limit up to which we must advance and at which we must halt.That declaration could hardly have been considered by our Government and Parliament, before in 1865 Russia again declared war upon Bokhara, and captured the city of Tashkend. Prince Gortchakoff thereupon voluntarily issued a second manifesto addressed to Europe in general, and England in particular, in which he declared that the Czar had no desire to add further to his dominions. This despatch was scarcely considered by the Government and Parliament before the Russians again advanced, captured the town of Khojend in 1866, and annexed the province of Khokan in 1867. Again, another manifesto from Prince Gortchakoff declared that the limits of Russian advance had been reached. All these declarations were made voluntarily on the part of the Russian Government and were not called for by the British Government. In 1868 Russia again declared war against Bokhara, annexed Samarcand, and finally forced the Ameer of Bokhara to become a subject of the Czar. These were the three pledges which, prior to the negotiations between Lord Clarendon and Prince Gortchakoff, Russia had 1530 voluntarily given, and which she had deliberately broken. In the circumstances, the negotiations of 1869 to 1873 were begun and finished. He now came to what he might call the crowning act of treachery. While the negotiations were going on, and towards the close of them, the news came to England of a large Russian expedition which was being prepared for the conquest of Khiva. This caused great apprehensions in England, and in order to allay them the Czar sent a special Envoy to England—Count Shouvaloff—who arrived in 1873. He informed the Government of the present First Lord of the Treasury, through Lord Granville, who was then Foreign Secretary, that the expedition to Khiva was a very little one, consisting of only four and a-half battalions, and that its purpose was to punish acts of brigandage. He then declared in words aftrwards embodied in a despatch from Earl Granville—Far from its being the intention of the Czar to take possession of Khiva, positive orders have been issued to prevent it.At the time that Russia was giving this distinct and unsolicited pledge, what was the real nature of this very small expedition? It consisted of five columns of 12,000 men. General Kaufman was the Commander-in-Chief; Khiva was stormed and the whole territory of the Khan of Khiva was annexed. He did not hesitate to say that of all the duplicity and treachery of which examples might be found in the annals of diplomacy and international intercourse nothing exceeded this for blackness and perfidy. It was the greatest and most deliberate falsehood which was ever told by one great Power to another with which it professed to be in friendly relation. What happened? This state of things was so terrible that Lord Granville utterly collapsed; it was altogether too much for him. He wrote at once to Prince Gortchakoff, and he used language just like that which the Government were now using, and resembling that of the Prime Minister that afternoon. He said heSaw no practical advantage in examining too minutely how far the Treaty arrangements are in strict accordance with the assurances of Count Shouvaloff.Was there not a similarity between that and what was said now? The noble Earl at once expressed a hope of ar- 1531 riving at a frank and clear understanding regarding the respective position in Central Asia. Curiously enough, the Prime Minister had written an opinion upon the Khiva incident, showing how far he would go to meet the enemies of his country. In January, 1879, the right hon. Gentleman wrote a curious article well worth the attention of the House of Commons, which appeared in The Nineteenth Century, with the title of "The Friends and Foes of Russia." Speaking of the Emperor of Russia, he said—It is true that he gave to England assurances about Khiva which he has been unable to fulfil. The assurances were that positive orders had been issued to prevent the annexation of Khiva. But the military measures taken against the Khan apparently had in. view the real necessities of peace and order in that region, from which plunder and kidnapping had been expelled. There is little in their accompaniment either of profit or of power, which would warrant the imputation of an unworthy motive. It is more just to ascribe the Emperor's original promise of entire abstention to an honourable anxiety for the friendship of England and as an over-sanguine expectation than to denounce as an act of bad faith a resort to force which has every appearance of reason and of justice.That opinion was written six years after the occurrence, and therefore it had no effect upon the negotiations of the time. Prince Gortchakoff seemed to be greatly pleased at the attitude of the English Government, and it must have been almost more than he expected. He wrote back to Lord Granville a letter in which he expressed his entire satisfaction with the just view Lord Granville had taken, and reiterated the positive assurance that the Imperial Cabinet persisted in considering Afghanistan as entirely outside its sphere of action. He went on to add that the Imperial Government had no intention of organizing an expedition against the Turcomans. Now intervened the Emperor of Russia personally, and he told Lord Augustus Loftus—"Happen what might, the Imperial Government would never interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan." Then came the Emperor's visit to England, and Prince Gortchakoff wrote to Baron Brunnow in 1874, in order apparently to make things pleasant all round in England, that the order of the Emperor had been issued that no expedition should be undertaken in the direction of Mery—that was, against the Turcomans—in such peremp- 1532 tory terms that no local ambition would dare to take the liberty of transgressing them. Did the House know that at that very moment Prince Gortchakoff wrote that despatch to Baron Brunnow the Russian General in command in Central Asia was issuing a circular to the Turcoman Chiefs informing them that he had been appointed to supreme authority over the country between the Caspian Sea, Merv, and the Oxus, and summoning the Chiefs to come in and make their submission at Krasnovodsk? That pledge was violated, he made no doubt, with the knowledge of the Russian Government at the moment. Naturally enough, the English Government took the opportunity of calling the attention of Russia to the singular discrepancy which had taken place, and Prince Gortchakoff's reply was sublime. He said he could not comprehend in what way the incident could affect Great Britain. And yet this was a promise voluntarily given and deliberately broken. They then came to the year 1875, when a Conservative Government was in Office. Prince Gortchakoff wrote to Count Schouvaloff that the Emperor had no intention of extending the frontiers of Russia such as they then existed in Central Asia, either on the side of Bokhara or on that of the Attrek. In the same year the Emperor of Russia finally annexed the entire Province of Khokan. In 1878, when there was a great deal of friction consequent upon the Russo-Turkish War, the Russian Government voluntarily declared to the English Ambassador that all their former assurances in regard to Afghanistan had recovered their validity. That was in the month of September, 1878. In the month of November the Russian Government sent their Mission to Cabul. Then, in 1879, M. de Giers wrote to inform Lord Duf-ferin—In the most positive manner that there was no intention on the part of the Russian Government to go to Merv.A few days later M. de Giers again wrote to Lord Dufferin conveying the—Express approval by His Majesty (the Emperor) of the assurances he had given as to the non-advance of Russian troops on Merv.A fortnight later the Emperor himselfWas pleased to assure Lord Dufferin that there was no intention of the Russian troops advancing on Merv.Then he came to the year 1880, when 1533 the present First Lord of the Treasury and Lord Granville returned to Office. In 1881 was effected the final conquest of the Tekke Turcomans; the whole of the territory was annexed by Russia, and the railway was concluded to Kizil Arvat. Curiously enough, he found by a comparison of the dates that at the very moment when the Tekke Turcomans were thus conquered, and their territory annexed, the First Lord of the Treasury, his Indian Secretary, and his Viceroy were engaged in destroying the last remnant of the railway between Quetta and Sibi, and offering the rails for sale in the Indian markets as old iron. Then they came, in 1881, to the communication from Baron Jomini to Mr. Wyndham, British Charged' Affaires, when the question of the boundary of Afghanistan was raised. Baron Jomini said—That their furthest point now was Askabad, but that General Skobeleff had discovered some very fertile country further south, where a complete state of disorder existed; that there was Sarakha also to be considered; that it was not Persian, and it would be necessary to establish some form of government there as elsewhere.What was the nature of the position at that moment? It was entirely changed from the position of affairs in 1869 and in 1873, when the Duke of Argyll, and even Mr. Disraeli himself, said that he had no objection to Russia advancing to a given point. In 1881 they had a greatly increased knowledge of the designs of Russia; they were aware of General Skobeleff 's plans; they had in their hands the compromising correspondence of Russia with Cabul; and they had also a distinct movement forward on her part towards Afghanistan. Well, in 1882, Lord Granville wrote to Sir Edward Thornton—The friendly relations between England and Russia had rarely, if ever, been on a better footing;and he suggestedan agreement between England and Russia and Persia for the settlement of frontier now undefined.But the Russian Government by that time took a very fair estimate of the British Foreign Secretary, and did not make the smallest attempt to conceal their contempt for any suggestion that he made. Count Lobanoff intimated, in reply, that the boundary between 1534 Russia and Persia was a question between those two States, and that England had no right to interfere. He also subsequently intimated that he was instructed to say his Government acknowledged the continued validity of the agreement between Prince Gortchakoff and Lord Clarendon, by which Afghanistan was admitted to be beyond the sphere of Russian interference. There was some laughter on the part of the Home Secretary when he (Lord Randolph Churchill) attached some importance to that agreement between Prince Gortchakoff and Lord Clarendon; yet the Russian Government acknowledged its validity only two years ago. [Sir WILLIAM HAR-COURT: Hear, hear!] But they were breaking it now. If the Home Secretary would allow him to hand to him across the House the despatch in which that agreement was set forth with the boundaries of Afghanistan he would find that the Russian Army had long ago passed those boundaries. He challenged any Minister to deny it. Lord Kimberley himself had admitted it in the House of Lords. He said, then, that they were attempting to negotiate now with a Government which deliberately violated the agreement into which it had entered and the continued validity of which it acknowledged in 1882. The Home Secretary would perhaps take part in that debate, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would attempt to sustain his view by argument. Lord Granville and the Secretary of State for War had an interview with the Russian Ambassador in March, 1882, and being together he supposed that they became courageous, because they insisted on the right of England to have a voice in the determination of the boundaries of Persia; and the Ambassador replied that that matter concerned Russia and Persia exclusively. Lord Granville again collapsed and wrote a despatch, in which he said he saw no objection to the matter being settled between Russia and Persia. That was in March, 1882; and then the news reached England that on October 28, 1881, the Russian Colonel had concluded a Convention with the Elders of Merv preparatory to their submission to Russia, although, on the 18th of June, 1881, M. de Giers and Baron Jomini had stated to Mr. Wyndham that "there was no question of negotiating a Treaty with the Merv Turcomans." On Feb. 15, 1535 1884, Sir Edward Thornton telegraphed from St. Petersburg in the following terms:—His Imperial Majesty has determined to accept the allegiance of the Merv Turcomans and to send an officer to administer the Government of that region.There all their official information ended. And what was the nature of that information? It was a series of pledges voluntarily given, and deliberately broken, a long and uninterrupted tissue of treachery, fraud, and falsehood. Now came the question of the Boundary Commission. The Prime Minister said that he thought that it was first of all suggested by Russia. All they knew was that it was arranged between the two Governments that a Boundary Commission should meet on the spot; that we were to send our Commissioner, and the Russian Government were to send theirs; and they knew that Sir Peter Lumsden went hoping to meet the Russian Commissioner, and found no Russian Commissioner, but found a hostile Russian Army advancing with drums beating from Sarakhs. Sarakhs, Pul-i-Khisti, and Penjdeh had all been rapidly occupied, and Herat now at any moment was admittedly within the grasp of the Russian Army. All these proceedings which he had endeavoured rapidly to summarize to the House had occupied a period of 20 years—from 1865 to 1885—during eight of which the Conservatives had been in Office, and during 12 of which the Party of the right hon. Gentleman opposite had been in Office. But, curiously enough, the chief and worst features of all these Russian advances had taken place under the Administration of the First Lord of the Treasury and Lord Granville. It was important, therefore, to recall the recorded views of the First Lord of the Treasury as to the Russian advances. All these things were being negotiated upon now by Her Majesty's Government; they were called upon to place an immense Vote of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government, and, therefore, he would say that before they hastily and rashly gave that Vote of Confidence it was not without importance to recall the views of the First Lord of the Treasury himself. It was supposed that at one time the First Lord of the Treasury attached a great deal of importance to the Komaroff incident. He had grave doubts as to the 1536 genuineness of that opinion of the First Lord of the Treasury, because he remembered another similar incident that took place in the Khivan campaign of 1873—an incident similarly in the nature of an unprovoked aggression, but widely different in its far greater ferocity, cruelty, and treachery. It had been a terrible incident—one of the most awful things, perhaps, that had ever stained the history of conquest by any State—the extermination of the tribes of the Tekke Turcomans by General Kaufman, after Khiva had fallen. Curiously enough, the First Lord of the the Treasury had written an elaborate article containing a most ingenious and powerful defence of that proceeding. It had appeared in The Contemporary Review in 1876. In that article of the First Lord of the Treasury there was one opinion with regard to Russia and Asia—and he attached great importance to it, because it was in writing and was undoubtedly within the knowledge of Russia and her Ministers—in which the Prime Minister had said—I know of no reason why Afghanistan and Herat should not for an indefinite time separate Russia from Indian Asia; no reason for imputing to Russia an ambition of aggressiveness which, in my opinion, is not less absurd than guilty; no reason for believing, but every reason for disbelieving, that if that odious imputation is to be made and also to be verified, and if a military contest were to arise, her means of conducting it are either superior or even equal to our own.Now to come to the year 1880, when the First Lord of the Treasury, as the Leader of the Liberal Party, had gone down to contest Mid Lothian. He found that the Prime Minister's opinion in 1880 as to the Russian advance was to this effect. Speaking at West Calder, he had said—I have no fear myself of the territorial extensions of Russia in Asia, no fear of them whatever. I think the fears are no better than old woman's fears.The old woman alluded to had been Lord Grey; at least, it had been supposed so at the time. In the fifth Mid Lothian speech, a few days later, the First Lord of the Treasury described one of the causes of the Afghan War as—Absurd jealousies of your own with respect to schemes from Russia which are impossible and impracticable.Perhaps the Prime Minister or some Member of the Government would ex- 1537 plain, if that were his opinion in 1880, why the House of Commons was now asked for £11,000,000 to defend the interests of India against schemes which were "impossible and impracticable?" That had been in 1880, and undoubtedly their knowledge had increased. Between 1880 and 1884 they might think that the First Lord of the Treasury would have altered his opinion; but no; his last recorded opinion was to be found in his second progress in Mid Lothian last year. In his second speech, again, alluding to the late Afghan War, the Prime Minister talked about it having been caused by—That supposed ambition of Russia about which your susceptibilities are sometimes acted upon.Would the First Lord of the Treasury say, if that were his opinion in 1884, whether the Vote of £ 11,000,000 was an attempt to practise upon the susceptibilities of the unfortunate Radical Party opposite? He wanted to know how, in the face of all that historical description of the advances of Russia, and the recorded opinion of the highest authorities, the Government and the First Lord of the Treasury had the face to ask the House for £11,000,000, without vouchsafing to Parliament the slightest information; but, more than that, how the First Lord of the Treasury had the courage to lay down the opinion that the Vote of Credit, under all these circumstances, was not a moment for bringing the Government to book? He thought he had shown reasons why the House of Commons should place no confidence in any declaration that had been made by the Imperial Government of Russia, and why he thought Parliament could place no real confidence in the Advisers of the Crown. But when they remembered other incidents—the famous declaration in the Speech from the Throne that the Government would maintain the authority of the Crown in South Africa, and that that authority had not been maintained; the declaration that the Government would rescue General Gordon, and that General Gordon had not been rescued; the declaration only a few months ago that Her Majesty's Government intended to smash the power of the Mahdi, and that that power had not been smashed, and was not to be smashed; the disgraceful and degrading incident of how Her Majesty's 1538 Government had led that poor little protected Government of Egypt into a horrible muddle, and had forced that poor little Government to wallow in the gutter before France, and had gladly associated themselves in that act of humility—when they remembered all this in connection with the incidents specially connected with the Russian advances, it was impossible for them to repose the slightest confidence in Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Northampton and others might perhaps say to him—"Why are you dragging up all these questions? You want to inflame the situation—["Hear, hear!"]—you want war; you belong to the War Party."["Hear, hear!"] He was sure that those cheers would come. All that he could say was that such an accusation would be a very wrong one, a very foolish one, and a very superficial one. His object in recalling all this to the notice of the House of Commons—an object which he had had before he came down to the House, and which had since been greatly strengthened—had been to show the impossibility—the hopeless impossibility—of providing for the security of India by any agreement with Russia. They might make any agreement with Russia that they chose; but the security of India must be sought for by other methods and other ways. Those methods and those ways did not necessarily include war. As a general rule, war was a pastime of fools who had nothing better to do; but actual war was rarely contemplated, much less resorted to, by persons of intelligence, experience, and seriousness. But as to the security of India, he would indicate only a few of the methods by which it could be provided for. It could be provided for, in the first place, either by the improvement and perfection of our Frontier, by the negotiation of powerful alliances, and by the tightening of the bonds of union and of common action between England and her Dependencies, or it might be provided by the concentration of inexhaustible and irresistible defensive resources. There were many other methods; but what he feared was this—that these methods would all be neglected and postponed in the extravagant—perhaps purposely extravagant—attention which was being given to a little sandy strip of desert and the paltry skirmish between two 1539 barbarian Chiefs. If these were neglected or postponed, he knew that great and incalculable damage would accrue to the Empire. In the last speech he ever made the late Lord Beaconsfield said that the key of India was London—that it lay in the resources of the English people. In one sense Lord Beaconsfield was wrong, or it might be that he was only half right. He agreed that the key of India was not at Herat nor at Penjdeh, or in the hands of General Komaroff or of Sir Peter Lumsden; but it was not altogether London in the sense Lord Beaconsfield supposed. The key of India was in that House—on the Treasury Bench—in the hands of those right hon. Gentlemen upon whose decision it would depend whether the key should be turned and the lock opened, or whether the door should be for ever bolted and barred. He should be glad if he might make one short concluding observation with regard to India itself, which was so closely and so inseparably, and he might say so anciently, connected with the events now under the consideration of Parliament. It was very bad form, indeed, for any man to go to a country, pass a certain time there, and then come forward and think he was empowered and entitled to prophesy or lay down the law in any way about the condition of affairs in that country. He had made a careful effort to avoid any imputation of that kind; but, at the same time, he might say that he did not think it possible for any human being of ordinary intelligence to go to India under the extraordinary advantages which it was his high good fortune, for some reason or other, he did not know what, to enjoy, and to be brought into contact with all the great personages of the land, Native and European, and to hear what they had to say, without arriving at some fairly accurate general conclusion, some fairly reliable estimate, as to the British position in India. Well, that being so, if he might put the case with these qualifications, he would say that he doubted whether it was possible for anyone who had not visited India, even Members of Her Majesty's Government, to realize how incredibly strong, and, at the same time, how incredibly slender, our position in India was. It was strong far beyond ordinary human strength so long as we showed ourselves capable of ruling; but it was weaker 1540 than the weakest the moment we showed the faintest indications of relaxing our grasp. It was his good fortune to hear from an Indian official one of the finest descriptions of the Mutiny he had ever heard. He was told how the Government, which appeared so strong, so durable, so splendid, so elaborate, and so terrible, was in the space of 24 hours rolled and crumpled up like a scroll of paper, so completely did it disappear that no man might know that any Government had ever existed there before. [Cries of "No!"] That was the description given him by one of the highest officials in the North-West Provinces of the state of that part of India. ["Oh, oh!"] Would the right hon. Gentleman who derided him—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he was alluding to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Would he deride him when he told him that the gentleman to whom he referred was no less a person than Sir Alfred Lyall? As we were then so we were now. Our Government in India was still a most magnificent machine; but it lived on nothing but character and credit. In addition to that, there were many difficulties and dangers in the way of India. He did not know whether Her Majesty's Government was aware of it, but discontent of a most serious kind existed in the Indian Army owing to the pay, and, in a great measure, to the impossibility of Native soldiers rising to any rank above that of a subaltern officer. In the second place, many of the Indian Princes had great grievances against the Calcutta Government, some of them legitimate, and more or less well-founded. All had gone on for a long time neglected by the Government. Then there was an extraordinary political movement going on all through India, a movement which was copying with wonderful fidelity the most perfect forms of organization such as were dear to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which had for its object the acquisition by Natives of a much larger share in the Government. That was one of the new difficulties which they were bound to contend against. There was also an extraordinary movement of the masses of India to and fro all over India. It was an extraordinary migration of hundreds of thousands conveyed by railway 1541 from one part to another, producing what we had never before had to deal with in India—a novel and formidable solidarity and unanimity in Native thought and action. In addition to that was the Native Indian Press, conducted every day with more ability, knowledge, and discretion, increasing in circulation, owing to the very system of education provided, but which would by no means conceal the knowledge of facts which the more obedient English Press would suppress. Those were among the dangers to which our rule was exposed in India. He believed that every one of them might be successfully met if we emerged from the present crisis with an increased sense of security and with credit undiminished; but he felt sure that all these difficulties and problems would assume gigantic proportions and become insoluble and unmanageable if the result of these negotiations with Russia terminated in humiliation for England and in diminished security in India. He knew perfectly well how very powerless one Member of Parliament was against a great Government; and he knew well how powerless, even from numerical weakness, was the action of a united Party. That being so, it was not his intention to make even an appeal, for he was too weak; but he would make a supplication, couched, if they wished it, in any terms, however humble, which their dignity demanded, because he felt earnestly upon it. He implored Her Majesty's Government in dealing with this crisis, if it were not too late, which he feared it was—this crisis which, he believed, if wisely and properly treated, might turn out one of those great opportunities which occurred rarely in the life of a nation—he implored them in dealing with this crisis to allow two thoughts chiefly to prevail. In the first place, to keep a vivid memory for the past perfidy of Russia and a clear and unclouded view of her present attitude and position; and, on the other hand, to think only of the interests of our Indian people and of the immeasurable duty which we owed to them. If these thoughts only were to animate their minds and guide their actions, he believed that even Her Majesty's Government at that hour, late though it was, might effectually protect and preserve the honour and dignity of the Empire.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, in moving to reduce the Vote by the sum of £4,000,000, said, he could not help sympathizing with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were led to think last Monday that the Premier was going to begin a policy of adventure, but who now found that peace was practically assured, and who thereupon assailed the right hon. Gentleman with a number of questions which, in reality, were a protest against peace. It seemed to him that the noble Lord was angry both with Conservative and Liberal Governments, because they had not made war with Russia whenever Russia made the slightest approach within thousands of miles of India. Certainly the noble Lord had not by his speech done anything to farther good feeling between Russia and this country by speaking of Russia's treachery, fraud, and falsehood. For his own part, he rejoiced greatly that the war cloud had been dissipated, and he was never more satisfied than when he heard the observations which fell from the Prime Minister. At the same time he had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would conclude his statement with an intimation that the whole of this Vote would not be required. It was because the right hon. Gentleman had not done so that he proposed his Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech on Monday last, said that it was not in accordance with precedent that a Vote of this nature should be discussed, and he quoted three cases. The first was the China War; but we were actually engaged in war with China. The next case was that of 1870; but then there was no question of our going to war. The third case was that of 1878; and here he did not think the Prime Minister proved his point. In 1878 they were engaged in negotiations with Russia, and there was a certain tension in their relations. That was precisely the case now. If the Prime Minister was justified in opposing the Vote in 1878, they were equally justified in opposing the Vote on this occasion. He thought it would be far better to put this money to objects—such as the building of ironclads and the strengthening of coaling stations—which would be of permanent advantage to the country. What, he asked, was at the bottom of this dispute? It was their old friend "the road to India." They had always been in a 1543 state of semi-craze with regard to the Russian advance on India. This led them into the Crimean War, and this it was that led Lord Beaconsfield to spend large sums of money in 1878, and this was at the bottom of their whole Egyptian policy. In India it was the same. It was often said that if you wanted to avoid war you must prepare for war. That was true as a general proposition; but it did not appear to be absolutely true in regard to negotiations. If the object to be sought was not of sufficient importance to justify a war being waged for it, then a Vote of Credit for military preparations was not necessary. He was not going into the present dispute. It was to be referred to arbitration. The noble Lord had used very strong language. He said it was a base and cowardly surrender on the part of this country. Why the reference of the matter to arbitration should be a base and cowardly surrender he could not see. He had all along considered the matter mere border fray. We had not sufficient facts to come to a proper conclusion, and he felt it would be monstrous to go to war in such a case. He did not care sixpence whether the arbitrator decided in favour of this country or of Russia, so long as the matter was fairly decided. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be exceedingly indignant that the delimitation of the Frontier was to take place in London instead of on the spot; but what did it matter so long as the dispute was finally settled? It did not signify, so far as India was concerned, whether the debatable land belonged to Russia or Afghanistan. Nor did he think it mattered much whether Herat belonged to Russia or Afghanistan. The late Government proposed to give up Herat to Persia, and in the Guarantee to the Afghans to protect their territory Herat was specially excepted, as it did not belong to the Afghans. It ought to be distinctly understood that though we had given a pledge to Afghanistan that pledge was not reciprocal; and, as far as could be learnt, the Afghans were not prepared to allow our troops to occupy their country even in the event of war. The Ameer had accepted our pledges and our money; but he was quite unable to control his own subjects. As to the Afghans, they were utterly untrustworthy. Sir Lepel Griffin, who knew 1544 them well, said he had met only two Afghans in his life whom he could trust, and they probably deceived him. It would be far better for them to stand on their own Frontier. The military men of India were of opinion that a sounder and safer boundary they could not have than at the Bolan Pass; and he should like to ask what possible chance the Russians would have if they defended that Pass? He, therefore, hoped that the Government would take this opportunity of reviewing the whole position of the Afghan Frontier, and arriving at a clear and specific understanding as to what that Frontier was, and of withdrawing from those pledges to the Afghans which could give this country no possible strength. It was said that Herat was the key of India; but, in his opinion, it would be better if we were to place it out of our consideration altogether, and to do our best to preserve our own Frontier. The Ameer was not a very warm friend of ours. The Afghans themselves would oppose resistance either to us or to any other Power that attacked them. What they desired was that they should occupy an honourable position of independence between the two Powers of England and Russia. They did not wish to be in any way mixed up in our quarrels, and so long as neither of us interfered with them they would be perfectly satisfied with the friendship of both Powers. We had pursued an alternative policy of fighting them and giving them money without obtaining their friendship. He would be inclined to let the Afghans negotiate as much as they pleased with Russia and to take as much of their money as they could get, because he was certain that they would be no more friendly with Russia than they were with us. The noble Lord had talked a great deal about the loss we should sustain in the public estimation of India if we were to allow Russia to take possession of Herat.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that he thought he had heard the noble Lord talk about the cession of Herat resounding through the bazaars of India. In his opinion, however, the Indian people looked to their own self-interest, and probably out of the 250,000,000 in 1545 India not 5,000 cared one straw whether we were in or out of Herat. Sir John Lawrence had expressed an opinion that our proper course was not to advance our troops beyond our present Indian Frontier, but to put our house in order by giving the people of India the best government in our power and by consolidating our resources. In discussing this matter we should not lose sight of what would be the interests of India. Sir Peter Lumsden had stated that if we were to occupy Herat it would cost India £3,500,000 a-year, which would alienate them from our rule, and do infinitely more harm to that rule than the Russians could possibly do in the vicinity of Herat. He thought the noble Lord and his Friends would find that the country was with the Prime Minister in his anxious desire for peace. Of course, in London drawing rooms and London music halls there might be shouts for war; but that was not the opinion of the operatives all over the country, who knew that the money for war, thrown in the first instance upon incomes or what they liked, came eventually out of their pockets. The operative classes would be as patriotic as any in the defence of their country; but they could not understand a war for a few acres of steppe, or because there was a party border raid between Afghans and Cossacks; nor could they understand how, after spending £20,000,000 to fight the Afghans, we should spend £100,000,000 more to fight for them. He was at a meeting in the East End the other day. He took the chair, and spoke in favour of the candidature of Mr. Howell, a labour candidate. It was a large meeting, and the room was filled by intelligent operatives, and when the speakers protested against the war every single man in the room was with them. The noble Lord would find that was the view which the operatives throughout the country would take of the question. In proposing to reduce the Vote he did not wish to reduce the £4,500,000 for service in the Soudan, because, as it was to be used mainly for the purpose of getting the troops out of that country, it could not be better employed; neither did he desire to oppose the £2,500,000 for naval preparations, as he thought it very possible that their Navy might require to be strengthened; but he should move to reduce it 1546 by the £4,000,000 which it was proposed to spend upon military objects for the purposes of a war with Russia. He did not know how many hon. Members would vote for his proposal; but at all events he intended to take the sense of the House upon the point. Believing as he did that the Afghan dispute was not worth a war, whether they came to an arrangement or not, he thought he was only logical in moving that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £4,000,000.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out"£11,000,000,"in order to insert"£7,000,000,"—(Mr. Labouchere,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That £ 11,000,000 stand part of the proposed Resolution."
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, bethought the House could not fail to have been struck with the extraordinary contrast between the two speeches which had just been delivered. The speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was couched in tones of extraordinary levity, while the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), on the other hand, spoke with a sense of deep responsibility. No one could listen to the speeches of the noble Lord, since his return from India, without feeling how deeply he had been impressed with the responsibilities we were under to that country. The noble Lord had not urged that we ought to go to war with Russia or should occupy Herat; but he said that, in the present circumstances in which we found ourselves, we must not be satisfied solely by making emotional speeches. What we ought to do in this matter was to pursue a firm and consistent policy. The House had felt very deeply the absence of information with regard to this Afghan question. He regretted very much that the Government had not thought fit to give the House earlier information with regard to the course they were pursuing. He greatly doubted the wisdom of the course which the Government had adopted in withholding that information. It would have been far wiser in their own interests for the Government to have taken the country into their confidence. He did not mean that the Government ought to have informed the House day by day of every step in the negotiations they were carrying on with 1547 Russia; but, at all events, they should have confided to the House the general aim and object of their policy. The people of this country had known that the English Government had addressed to the Government of Russia a demand for the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the debatable territory, and they had heard with some astonishment that that demand had been allowed to lapse. They had seen the advance of the Russian troops from position to position, until they had occupied nearly every inch of the debatable ground; then they had seen a Commission, originally proposed by Russia and accepted by this country, sent out for the purpose of do-limiting the Frontier between Russia and Afghanistan; they had seen that Commission allowed to spend five months in absolute idleness; and they had seen that, whereas our Government, in the first instance, insisted that this question must be settled on the Frontier itself, now, after all, practical questions arising out of the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier were about to be settled in London. He did not think that this country could afford to allow this Commission to kick its heels in Afghanistan any longer, and to go on awaiting the good pleasure of the Russian Government, or to be made simply the instrument for registering a foregone conclusion. The speech of the Prime Minister last week hardly touched at all on questions of permanent interest affecting the security of the Frontier of the North-West of India. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the main subject was the incident at Penjdeh. Still, although that was undoubtedly important, it was only an incident in the great question at issue between England and Russia. Referring to that incident, the right hon. Gentleman spoke, as it seemed to him at the time, in a tone worthy of the occasion. He was, therefore, surprised to find that a week afterwards the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House to announce that that matter was to be brushed on one side by being submitted to arbitration. They were told, forsooth, that one of the conditions attending upon arbitration was that gallant officers on either side were not to be put upon their trial. That was a concession to Sir Peter Lumsden—a man who in most difficult circumstances had endeavoured to do his 1548 duty, and who had the entire confidence of the country. But the right hon. Gentleman had made it exceedingly difficult for anybody to understand what it was that was to be referred to arbitration. He had not told them how the arbitration was to be enforced. Supposing that the friendly Power decided in our favour, the right hon. Gentleman had not told them how the award was to be enforced. Supposing that the friendly Power decided that the Russian Government had broken the agreement, fought the Afghans, killed several hundreds of them, invaded the debatable territory, and advanced on country which was Afghan territory, how was reparation going to be made? As far as the Prime Minister had put the facts before the House, they had an indefinite reference, and would have a practically useless award. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) told them that he did not care which way the arbitration went, and he did not think it mattered much. Arbitration was being used to get rid of the question altogether; but what would be the effect in India and in Central Asia when it became known how utterly useless had been the solemn demand made by us for reparation?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he understood that a communication had been addressed to the Russian Government with respect to the Penjdeh incident, expressing to them our belief that an act of unprovoked aggression had taken place. Certainly the Prime Minister said that in the House of Commons, and he presumed that the right hon. Gentleman had also addressed that statement to the Russian Government. Such being the case, what would be the effect upon the people of India and upon the tribes on the Afghan Frontier when they found that that demand had been practically allowed to lapse? Because this arbitration meant nothing else but that. This reference to arbitration was simply a roundabout way of getting rid of an awkward incident and other matters which remained to be adjusted between the two Governments. If a settlement were made, what security had we of a permanent character against the recurrence of these things? If the result should be merely a patched-up truce that could not last more than a few 1549 months, it must be a preliminary to future troubles in an aggravated form. The time had come when they could no longer overlook the repeated breach of the assurances given by Russia against future advances—breaches which took place almost before the ink was dry. The truth was that the only peace which we desired to see, and which we ought now to obtain, was one possessing some elements of permanence; and such a peace could only be of a permanent character if it imposed, in a definite and distinct form before all the world, a limit to the advances of Russia. In order to attain that end he did not believe for a moment in an alternation of hot and cold fits on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He did not believe in a whining indignation against Russia one week and a complete surrender the next. The experience of the past justified not only a preparation at the present moment, but also a preparation for the future, whatever the result of this settlement might be. The constant apprehension of Russian advances was ruining the finances of India, and it would put them into a position absolutely intolerable. The only way to avert the difficulties now before us, and the only way to make a settlement of a question that was vital to India, was by adopting a firm and definite resolution, by taking upon ourselves a policy which was not for the moment, but which was destined to establish firmly the settlement of all the difficulties that now existed, and which no squeezing, no amount of diplomatic pressure, and no threats of military action could induce us to alter or destroy.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he was somewhat surprised and alarmed at the statement of the Prime Minister. The question at issue was not so much one between England and Russia as between England, Afghanistan, and our subjects in India. He and others had during last Session brought the question before the House; but the Government treated it with neglect. When Sir Peter Lurnsden's departure was announced to the House many Members urged that he should go on his Mission with definite views, and that it was useless to send him as Commissioner unless all the preliminaries had been arranged. The House was informed that the arrange- 1550 ments had been completed, and that Sir Peter Lumsden would within a reasonable time meet the Russian Envoy. They all knew how that expectation had been disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman ought to put himself in the position of the Ameer and the English Commissioner. When Russia occupied Merv the Prime Minister promised the House that if, owing to this circumstance, diplomatic action should arise the House should be informed. The Government ought seriously to have taken the question into consideration at that time, and to have come to a final arrangement with Russia. The Under Secretary for India last July expressed a hope that the Commission would begin its work in October. He thought at the time the expectation was too sanguine, and it would now seem that Russia was befooling us. Since that time they had had no information, and they had not been able to ascertain whether any written agreement existed between this country and Russia that the Russian Envoy should meet Sir Peter Lumsden. If not, Sir Peter Lumsden ought never to have been sent, and the Government ought to have seen that Russia never intended to carry out the arrangement. In 1881 the noble Lord who was then Secretary for India expressed himself thus—Russia knows now that the present Government holds Afghanistan to be outside the sphere of its influence.The noble Lord also said that any interference on Russia's part with Afghanistan would mean a rupture of the friendly relations existing between England and Russia. The Government were now frittering away the words of the noble Lord, and it would seem that they were prepared to yield on all points. What would the people of India think of such a policy? What would the Ameer say? It was known that our Afghan ally had had a satisfactory interview with Lord Dufferin. He had left Lord Dufferin on the most amicable terms; but he ventured to say that if the Ameer had known that the Government had not intended to take most serious notice of the aggression on Penjdeh, he would not have left the Viceroy in the amicable spirit he had done. When the people of India became aware of the action of the Government, he believed an enormous amount of dis- 1551 satisfaction would be created, and that, notwithstanding the great loyalty which had recently been displayed by the Rajahs and the people of India, that loyalty would now be severely tested. If we flinched in the slightest degree from any of the promises made by Lord Dufferin to the Ameer of Afghanistan, if we showed to the people of India and to the people of Afghanistan that there was some hesitation about the action we should take in support of the Ameer, our credit would be vastly shaken in that country. The advance of Russia on India had latterly come upon us with appalling rapidity. It was said many years ago that it would be impossible for Russia to reach Merv in this generation, owing to the natural obstacles which lay in her way. Not only did Lord Lawrence think so, but many other equally distinguished men. Now, however, we must accept the advance of Russia upon Merv as an accomplished fact. She had, indeed, gone a great deal further than Merv, and it was no use saying that she was to stay her advance where she was at the present time. The question was where we should draw the line; and unless we put down our foot firmly and said that no further advance would be tolerated, this country would quickly lose the affection, not only of the people of India, but of the people of Afghanistan. It had been stated that Penjdeh and the territory where Russia had established herself was not Afghan territory; but he contended that all the maps and all the intelligence they possessed on the subject led them to the conclusion that Penjdeh had always been tributary to Herat, and that Herat had formed a portion of Afghanistan for many years past. Indeed, the people of Penjdeh had been in the habit of paying tribute to the Ruler of Herat; and all those concerned in the administration of our Indian Provinces did not doubt that Penjdeh and the adjacent territory belonged to the Ameer of Afghanistan. The Prime Minister in 1880 had told the people of this country wherever he went that there was no fear of the advance of Russia. He had told the people of Mid Lothian that so long as we had the supremacy at sea there was no fear of the attacks of Russia; but did the right hon. Gentleman believe that, even if we had now that supremacy at sea to which he 1552 then referred, Russia would not be able seriously to cripple our power in Afghanistan? His own opinion was that this unfortunate incident could have been avoided if the Government had exacted from Russia pledges in black and white, and had not been content with a simple verbal arrangement before Sir Peter Lumsden went to Afghanistan. If the Government had obtained from Russia a pledge that whatever boundary was fixed she would abide by it, that would have been the best means of solving this complicated question. The Prime Minister had made many statements regarding the foreign policy of this country, and none more remarkable than those which he enunciated during the Mid Lothian campaign. In the course of that tour he said that—The great duty of a Government, especially in foreign affairs, was to soothe and tranquillize the minds of the people.Did the right hon. Gentleman think that he had soothed and tranquillized the minds of the people by his policy in regard to this boundary question? Every morning the newspapers contained some startling incident, which was well calculated to upset all notions of tranquillity; and this state of things would continue to exist so long as the Prime Minister remained in power. Whatever might be the result of this affair there was one fact which would remain patent to everyone, and that was that the Government had created a permanent addition to the burden of the taxpayers of India. The whole of our military system in India would have to be re-organized. We should have to build fortresses and other appliances for the protection of the Indian Frontier; and the important public works which had been promoted by successive Viceroys would be brought to a standstill because the national defences would have be-come the primary consideration. The policy of the Government, for the time, at all events, had interfered for years to come with the progress of those useful public works which the Government of India had been prosecuting. The Prime Minister had been a lover of Russia in bygone years, and he had been equally prominent in his hate of Turkey. He had described Turkey as "that fabric of iniquity;" but he contended that if we were to be successful in stemming 1553 the tide of Russian aggression in the East, it could only be done by having the Ottoman Power on our side. He hoped that this question might be settled without going to war; but he hoped that, however short-sighted and culpable had been the action of the Government, still we had not yet arrived at such a state of affairs which would justify the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, when he said that the present proceeding of the Government would be the ruin of our Empire in India; still, if we flinched one iota from any promises made by Lord Dufferin, and if we showed that there was some hesitation about the action we should take as to our ally the Ameer, then if India was not ruined, our credit would be vastly shaken in the country, our possession of it would be imperilled, and the prestige of this Empire would be lost.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 79; Noes 29: Majority 50.—(Div. List, No. 151.)
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that, before speaking upon the question which was now uppermost in the minds of hon. Gentlemen, he should like to pay a few words on that portion of the Vote which related to the Soudan. It was now just 13 months since General Graham's Force achieved two striking and sanguinary victories near Suakin. After those successes, the road to Berber was fully opened, and the fate of the Soudan rested entirely in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. It only required a little courage on their part, and, perhaps, a little extra expense for transport, to secure the safety of Khartoum, the rescue of General Gordon, and to prevent those scenes of massacre and agony which had prevailed ever since. The opportunity was, however, lost. There was a little Radical agitation, Ministers' hearts failed them, and General Graham was recalled in haste, the consequence being that the Soudan 1554 then became once more the scene of rebellion and anarchy. Now, the state of affairs at the present time was much the same as existed 18 months ago. Osman Digna's tribes had again been defeated, the road to Berber was once more open, and the Government exhibited the same dangerous inclination to abandon the country which had then such melancholy results. He did not propose that the cream of the British Army should be kept in the neighbourhood of Suakin and Berber; for he believed that the whole difficulty might be overcome by having the necessary duties performed by means of Indian troops. If, however, it were thought undesirable to send out more Indian troops, they might have recourse to General Gordon's own recommendation and send out Turkish soldiers under British officers. He really could not understand how Ministers could go back on their own statements as the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War had done. Speaking at Bath, some few months ago, the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Sir Arthur Hayter) proclaimed that the Government were determined not to rest until our standard was placed on the ramparts of Khartoum, and until Gordon was either rescued or revenged. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, speaking only two months ago, said—A lesson must be taught, not only to the people of Africa, but to the whole world, that the policy of the British Empire is not to be reversed by the single act of a traitor in General Gordon's camp.…We owe something to the people of Egypt, for whose affairs we are responsible, and can it be supposed that so great an encouragement could be given to the forces of anarchy, which are opposed to civilization as it exists in Egypt, without inflicting a heavy blow upon all the prospects of the regeneration of that country? We owe some thing, not only to the people of Egypt, but also to other Powers who have interests in Egypt. We owe something to our Ally, France, which has interests in Egypt. We owe something to our Mahommedan subjects. We also owe something to our Indian Empire. What would the Mahommedans of that Empire think if they beheld the spectacle of British civilization retiring before a barbarous form of Mahommedan fanaticism? Then, we owe something to every one of our own Colonies which are brought into contact with savage races; and we owe something to every Colony in the world to which the name, the credit, and the honour of England are dear. … That would be. … a now departure and a new step of a momentous and most disgraceful character."—(3 Hansard,  1702–3.)1555 After that, he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) failed to see how Ministers could again go back upon their declarations of a determination to establish a stable Government in the Soudan, and yet still retain Office. A new departure had been taken—a step of the most momentous and disgraceful character; for the Government were reversing the policy which they announced but a short time time ago; and he was surprised that the noble Marquess could any longer retain his place among them. The policy of "scuttle" and of abandoning the Soudan to anarchy and slavery was, in the words of the noble Marquess, disgraceful to the lowest degree, most humiliating, and cruelly unjust to the people of Egypt, who were left in a state of anarchy, and liable to be severely dealt with by the Mahdi or his chief officer, Osman Digna. We owed something to the Soudan, something to Egypt, and something to the Mahorn-medan world; therefore we ought not to leave that country to the pandemonium we had inflicted upon it. Her Majesty's Government had spent over £20,000,000 in Egypt and the Soudan, and they had made a needless sacrifice of something like 60,000 lives. They had thrown away every British interest, and sacrificed the rights of the people of Egypt by giving them up to a Multiple Control, and now they found themselves bound to submit to such a humiliation as no Great Power had endured for many years. He could have imagined what would have happened if France had treated this country in the life of Lord Palmerston as she had treated it now. And now he would make a few observations upon a subject which was attracting universal interest at this moment. It was evident, from the statement of the Government to-night, that they had grasped at what they considered a settlement of the Afghan Question, which was extremely discreditable and humiliating to this country, and which practically meant the surrender of all that they had been contending for during the last eight months; and he should be very much surprised if it did not lead to further compromises and concessions, without even in a minor degree contributing to the security of India, which it was the evident intention of Russia to wrench from our grasp. The statement of the Prime 1556 Minister showed that the Government had decided to put up with the affront offered to the Mission of Sir Peter Lumsden, whose work had been taken from him to be carried on by the feeble Cabinet in London, who did not even know the meaning of the arrangement into which they had entered. That Mission might as well never have gone to Central Asia, because its strongest recommendations had been despised. They had been kept waiting for six months for their Prussian Colleagues, and now they were told that the decision was to be taken out of their hands. He should be very much surprised if events did not show that the position of Penjdeh, which had obtained unusual importance by reason of the dispute between the two countries, was abandoned to Russia. Was there ever an instance before of a Government being unable to inform the House of the meaning which they attached to the reference to which they had agreed? By their unwillingness to submit the action of the officers to trial, they were putting Sir Peter Lumsden on the same level as General Komaroff, whose action had been described by the Prime Minister as an unprovoked aggression. The Government had not actually considered the question whether the word "Sovereign" included the President of a Republic, as well as a Sovereign in the ordinary sense. He hoped the arrangement did not mean that the railway should not be completed to Candahar. There were three points which were essential for a due understanding of our position with regard to India and the Russian advance. The first was that the Russians had made up their minds and intended to have British India, if they could get it. That had been the aim of their policy for many years. There was no other object worthy of the immense efforts they had made in Central Asia. The corrupt and aggressive Russian bureaucracy looked upon India in much the same light as Blucher did upon London when riding through the streets, he exclaimed—"Mein Gott, what a city to sack." The second point was that British India could only be safeguarded by British courage, arms, and skill, and by kindly and resolute statesmanship. British India was only to be protected by British pluck and British bayonets, and it 1557 would be the height of folly to trust its defence on the Afghan Army. Great reliance was placed upon the friendship of Afghanistan. Its friendship was, no doubt, better than its enmity; but the Government which placed its confidence in the friendship of Afghanistan would be guilty of an act of gross folly. At any moment the Ruler might be bribed into the support of the Russian Power. The third point was, that both in a military and political point of view, it was absolutely necessary—in fact, vital—to keep the Russian Forces out of Herat, and, as far as possible, from the Indian Frontier. Placed near the Indian Frontier, Russia would be a perpetual source of annoyance and danger to India. She would be able to intrigue in India, and however well we had governed that country, there were within it ambitions and dissatisfied feelings which would afford ample scope for Russian intrigue. If we allowed Russia to obtain a secure position on the range of hills which dominated the Indus, she would be able to attack us whenever we were hampered by war. He did not say that our line of defence ought to be at a great distance from India; but he did say that we ought to prevent the Russians from obtaining Herat. Herat would be a splendid base for accumulating Russian Forces for attacking India. The Government should therefore fortify Herat in the strongest possible manner, occupy it with British Forces, and make it a strong outpost of the Indian advance. Then came the great question of the possession of Candahar. There was no doubt that Candahar should be turned into a fortress of the first class. It might be impossible just now to place an English garrison there; but, at all events, the Government were bound to complete the railway with the least possible delay, and to make such an arrangement with the Ameer that, in a few days, a large number of troops could be conveyed to Candahar. They had been told that the abandonment of that place by Her Majesty's Government secured to us the friendship of the Afghans; but it was ridiculous to suppose so, for, to his mind, it was the real cause of the present depressing war-cloud, and he would not recommend any Government to place reliance upon the friendship of the Afghans in the matter of the defence of our Indian Empire. 1558 Had Her Majesty's Government held Candahar, and completed the railway laid down by Lord Beaconsfield in the direction of that city, our position there would have been so superior that no Russian Force would have dared to approach the Frontier of Afghanistan. The abandonment of Candahar was now costing this country millions of pounds; and as years went on it would cost England and India millions and millions in ever-increasing proportion, unless we were prepared to abandon the most precious Dominions of the Crown. There was in this morning's papers a very suggestive and, to some extent, painful warning from India. They were told how the people of that country were looking with anxiety to the position of Her Majesty's Government, and how thay regarded the question of Penjdeh as a very important one, from a military point of view, for the protection of Afghanistan. In view of what had happened, the future of Penjdeh, as bearing upon the defence of India, was regarded as critical. Russia, in that part of the country, had committed a breach of faith, had invaded Afghanistan, had broken her solemn engagement of March 17, and had attacked our allies, defeated them, slaughtered them, and chased them from their possessions. All this had been done with a motive so obvious that no one but the craven occupants of the Ministerial Bench could possibly be blind to it. Russia had taken up her present position by fraud and force; and now Her Majesty's Government had meanly accepted a miserable compromise, the meaning of which they did not know themselves, or, at all events, could not put into intelligible language. Now they saw that the Power which had been advancing thousands of miles, while this country had been stationary or retreating, had gained her point, and England had given way to Russia's military power. A Russian newspaper spoke of the attack on Penjdeh as a happy accident which would neutralize the importance of the conference between our Viceroy and the Ameer, and that view would be taken by the people of India. The facts worthy of our attention were that the Russians were in positions that dominated Herat, and which would be a splendid base for an attack on India, and that the Russians had invaded Afghanistan and de- 1559 feated our allies. For the past 20 years England had made no practical advance in Asia. Within that period Russia had pushed onwards hundreds of miles towards our Indian Frontier across the Khanates of Central Asia, and from the Caspian Sea to Herat. We now stood at the very crisis of our fate. Within the next 12 months the future of our splendid and beneficent Empire in the East would have been decided. The decision rested now with the resolution of our statesmen and the courage of our people. It was for the English nation and their Leaders now to determine whether the 250,000,000 of their fellow-subjects in India, who now enjoyed peace, security, just laws, and good government under the British flag should continue to prosper and progress, or be handed over to the blighting tyranny and extortion of the tyrant of Poland, the devastator of the Caucasus, and the butcher of the Turkomans, to the Ruler of a country which might be described as the scourge of humanity. The British interests involved in the retention of India were enormous and vital. An annual trade to the amount of over £100,000,000 depended upon it. Our whole Eastern commerce was at stake. Employment for hundreds of thousands of energetic Englishmen rested upon our Indian Empire. The cataclysm, financial and political, which the loss of India would cause to this country was too appalling for contemplation. It would involve ruin to thousands of families; it would mean the reduction of our wage-fund by at least one-fourth. That was not a prospect which Englishmen could regard with equanimity. It would be worth undertaking almost any sacrifice and any effort to safeguard our precious Indian Empire. As he had said, there was only one way in which India could be protected, and that was by British bayonets in sufficient force, backed up and directed by vigilant and resolute statesmanship. Do not let the Government be led away by the desire to patch up an arrangement, in view of a General Election, to agree to such a surrender as had been indicated that evening.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that the noble Lord who commenced the debate (Lord Randolph Churchill) in his speech protested against the Prime Minister having deprecated the Vote of Credit as 1560 being a somewhat doubtful and questionable occasion for entering upon the general policy of the Government. He (Mr. Trevelyan) was bound to say that the speech of the noble Lord, interesting though it was, did not disprove the dictum of the Prime Minister, and the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) confirmed that dictum. If those two speeches were directed to a practical issue, their object must be opposition to the Vote of Credit; and yet, if that was the noble Lord's object, why did he lay before the House, in such stirring terms, the extraordinary danger of trusting Russia and the extremely unprincipled character of Russian proceedings? for, if all that was true, was it the object of the noble Lord to say this was not the time for asking for an exceptional Vote to strengthen the naval and military preparations of the country? If the noble Lord seriously meant that Russia was a nation with which this country ought not to treat then he (Mr. Trevelyan) deliberately took issue, and said that was not the sort of language which ought to be used. There were such adjectives as "black" and such nouns as "falsehood;" and the noble Lord talked of Russia as the enemy of our country, and of a series of pledges readily given and deliberately broken; The noble Lord used words the only result of which must be to inflame the feelings of two nations which, in the interests of this country, in the interests of Europe, and in the interest of the civilized and uncivilized world, it would only be too well if they now could meet together on honourable terms. The noble Lord entered into an account of the shortcomings of Russia; but he would only follow him in respect of the Correspondence between Prince Gortschakoff and Lord Clarendon; and he said that Correspondence contained pledges which Russia had broken by its recent conduct. The essence of the Correspondence between Lord Clarendon and Prince Gortschakoff, to which the noble Lord alluded, consisted in the general description of a Frontier by the British Government. That Frontier was undoubtedly a Frontier which, in a general way, the English and Indian Government had had in their minds for a long time, and equally certain was it that it was a frontier which the Russian Government 1561 had in their minds in a general way. But it was also equally certain that the Russian Government had never had in their minds any accurate definition of the Frontier; and the advantage of the present situation, to be weighed against its many disadvantages, was that there was a golden opportunity of settling that question once for all, and the Frontier separating the two countries once defined would place England and Russia in such a position that neither country could, by a square yard, transgress those boundaries without committing a wrong against the other in the face of the world. If there was anyone who ought to subscribe to that doctrine of his it was the noble Lord, because the noble Lord told them he was not prepared to say that they were engaged in a worthy-quarrel, if they were to fight over a few miles of barren desert, or over the question of which of two barbarian Chieftains (meaning by that the Czar of Russia or the Ameer of Afghanistan) was right in the course which his Generals had taken in an obscure affray. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), referring to the delimitation of Afghanistan, took exception to the fact of their undertaking to guarantee the whole of that country to Abdurrahman Khan. The hon. Member said that from that guarantee Herat should be specially excepted; but he (Mr. Trevelyan) maintained against the hon. Member's criticism that they were absolutely bound to guarantee Herat, just as they were bound to guarantee the rest of Afghanistan. At the moment when they entered into the guarantee, Afghanistan was, as a State, in great distress. There was a rival to the Ameer, and he was in possession of Herat; but none the less was Herat a portion of the old country, so to speak, of Afghanistan; and it was quite plain that the Ameer would have a very serious cause of complaint against them if, when his affairs were settled and he claimed the advantage of their guarantee of Afghanistan, they refused to include in it Herat. The hon. Member for Northampton spoke of the Afghans as being turbulent and unreliable; and that raised the real question of whether or not they were at that moment at issue merely as to some few miles of barren desert. He (Mr. Trevelyan) said they were at issue on a much larger ques- 1562 tion—namely, whether England and Russia in Asia were to be co-terminous, or whether they were to have another country between them. He could quite understand the argument that it might be better that the two countries should be co-terminous, putting aside the difficulties of arriving at that state of things; but if they were not to be so, and were to have another country between them, what sort of a country would they like to have? Would they like to have an unwarlike country with fertile plains—a country the diplomatically intriguing Natives of which were always anxious to be dragged in the wake of some larger Power; or would they rather have a country the Natives of which, as the hon. Member said, were turbulent and unreliable, but to be relied upon only in this—that they always hated and attacked the invader for the time being? The latter was the peculiar character of the Afghans, and that was the reason why, if they were to act, as the phrase was, as a buffer between two such Powers as England and Russia, as in the old days the high-spirited Swiss acted as a buffer bet ween the House of Austria and the House of Prance—that was the reason why, in order to preserve the status quo, it was desirable to make such diplomatic efforts as the Government were making, and why the House should be asked to back up those efforts by rapidly passing the Vote of Credit in the confidence which he believed the House felt that it would be rightly used. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock went into an interesting account of the advances of Russia in Central Asia; and in listening to that account he (Mr. Trevelyan) was rather anxious to know what deduction the noble Lord would draw from it. If he drew from it the deduction that the Liberal Government before the present one, that the Conservative Government which intervened, or that the Liberal Government now in power ought to have gone to war with Russia in Central Asia, or for Central Asia, he entirely differed from him. It was after the Russian advances which the noble Lord had described that Lord Salisbury made use of the memorable expression as to reading history with the help of large maps; and it was after the most important of those advances that Lord Beaconsfield, during the existence of his Ministry, said that 1563 he was not of that school which viewed the advances of Russia in Central Asia as some people did; that Asia was large enough for the working out of the destinies both of England and of Russia; that, so far from looking with alarm upon it, he did not see why Russia should not conquer Tartary as England had conquered India, and that he only wished that the people of Tartary would gain as much advantage from being conquered by Russia as the people of India had gained from being conquered by this country. That was spoken long after the advance upon Khokhand. Those words of Lord Bea-consfield were, he believed, words of high wisdom; and if the English Government had listened to the well-meant but frightfully dangerous advice that was offered to it, the calamities in which they would have been involved would, he believed, have been far greater than any that had ever befallen the nation. The noble Lord had spoken of his visit to India and of his interest in that country. He (Mr. Trevelyan) himself boasted the same interest in India as the noble Lord felt. He hardly ever, indeed, had India out of his mind; and if they lost India he did not know that he should much care to be an Englishman. But if there was one prospect more than another that filled him with dread and horror, it would be that they should advance a British and Native Army from the Frontier of India into Turkestan, 1,200 miles; to advance it from those circumstances in which it could fight with military advantage into a country into which Russia could bring many more troops than we could do; because then, if disasters happened, a temptation might be offered to everything that was hostile to our power in India that could not be resisted, and, instead of defending India, we should run the greatest risk of losing it. The noble Lord did not approve of the manner in which the Government endeavoured to check Russia and to protect India, and the noble Lord himself mentioned three means of doing that. The first means that he named was alliances. Well, they had got the only ally who was of value on the spot. They had the alliance of Afghanistan, and he could not see that it became an hon. Member sitting on the Benches opposite to charge them with having neglected the alliance 1564 of Afghanistan, because, although he (Mr. Trevelyan) did not wish to make that a Party debate, he must remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the principal objection entertained, rightly or wrongly, by their opponents to their policy in Afghanistan was that it alienated the Afghans as allies. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) talked of the fatal abandonment of Candahar; but where, he should like to know, would they be at this moment if they had not left Candahar? They would have had an immense line of communication to keep open, and they would have had on the flank of that line, constantly making irruptions against it, the most formidable guerilla enemy that they could find, he supposed, in Asia. For what was the character of guerilla forces? They might not be very formidable in pitched battles; but they were men who, after months and years of fighting, still continued carrying on warfare when their foes were tired. With regard to the Colonies, the noble Lord had said that we should conciliate them; but if he (Mr. Trevelyan) were to admit that they were guilty of all the shortcomings with which hon. Members opposite charged them, he would only exaggerate the loyalty of those Colonies who had declared that not only upon their own shores, but wherever the flag of England waved and the interests of this country were concerned, they would stand by us to the last man. The third method which the noble Lord had mentioned for defeating Russian aggression had been that we should also conciliate India. Although he had been very glad to hear those sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, he thought the picture he had given of the feeling in India was ill-timed and entirely overdrawn. He did not believe that the Indian Army or the Indian Princes were specially discontented now. On the contrary, he believed that during the last four years more had been done to conciliate Native feeling in India than had, perhaps, been done in any eight, or 10, or 12 years preceding; and if hon. Members would read the recent accounts of the loyalty of Native feeling, they would have to allow that it must be a most singular policy which, whilst unsound in itself, had produced such satisfactory results. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Eye 1565 to speak as he had done; they knew pretty well what he meant, and they knew pretty well what the noble Lord meant; but what he wanted to know was this—what did hon. and right hon. Members opposite mean to do on this occasion? He had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. B. Stanhope), and he had been much struck by one sentence in which the hon. Member had said that the first time the British Government had shown symptoms of resolution the Russian Government had shown symptoms of concession. That he interpreted to mean that as soon as the Russian Government had seen on Monday last that this country was united, and that no Party spirit entered into their feelings on this question, that they were one nation and one Parliament, that then they had known that the time had come to make up their minds, and that there was a more satisfactory temper existing among them than some people in this country had feared. At that critical moment were hon. Gentlemen opposite now going to undo that good work? The hon. Member had said that the people of Central Asia did not understand this delay on the part of the Government. He (Mr. Trevelyan) thought that the people of Central Asia and of Central Europe too, and of all the capitals of Europe, would not understand the delay in carrying the later stages of this Vote, on which there had been so great an unanimity at an earlier stage. The hon. Member had spoken of putting gallant officers on their trial. He could not think that the hon. Member referred to Sir Peter Lumsden. Sir Peter Lumsden had not been in command of the Afghan Forces. What the hon. Member meant was, that the matter was between the two Governments, and not that it was between the servant of one Government and the servant of the other. In using those words, the hon. Member had not the slightest intention of conveying any reflection upon those officers who were at this moment with the Delimitation Commission. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad that the hon. Member accepted that interpretation. What was the meaning of arbitration? It meant that people arbitrated instead of going to war; that arbitration stood in place of that which was litigation between nations. As to the question who was to enforce the 1566 result of this arbitration, he took it that when two nations agreed to refer a question to arbitration, it meant that they were prepared to put that in the place of a more barbarous and fierce mode of settling the difficulty. He thought that he had gone through all the practical arguments which had been brought before them that night, and he would conclude by referring to the closing words of the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire. The noble Lord had said that they were to keep two things in memory; one was the previous actions and the probable policy of Russia, and the other was the welfare of India. The Government undoubtedly felt at this critical moment that in what was going on now they had to take into consideration the fact of Russia being a formidable and advancing Power in Asia; and most assuredly in what they were doing now they should be acting not only in the interests of this country, but perhaps even more—trying to do their best for India. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had wound up by saying that the only way by which they could protect the interests of this great country and of India was by adopting a firm resolution and taking up a definite policy. They had been told that they had adopted a different policy in 1878. He should not make any unbecoming allusion to the policy of this country in 1878; but it must be remembered that in 1878, to a very great extent, they on that side differed from the objects of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they had explained in their speeches at the time how they differed. But he was certain that right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not differ from the present Government in their object, which was this. There was a very grave crisis on the Indian Frontier. Two armies were close to each other. The peace of the Frontier was very seriously threatened, and if the peace of the Frontier were broken the peace of very much more than the Afghan Frontier would be in very great danger. The object of the Government was to bring that state of things to an end at the moment, and to establish there a certain defined line which neither could pass without knowing that in passing it they were doing wrong, not only in the face of his immediate neighbour, but in the eyes of the whole world. That Frontier 1567 had not yet been defined and laid down in such, a manner that it could not be mistaken; but under Providence he trusted and believed that if this nation were firm and cool and conciliatory—but not more conciliatory than it was firm—that result would be produced, and would be of the greatest benefit to India. He trusted and believed that the result of such a settlement would be in every way satisfactory.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Trevelyan) had congratulated himself on having replied to all the arguments advanced from the other side of the House, either by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), or by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. B. Stanhope). He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did not think that those who had been in the House during those speeches would join the right hon. Gentleman in his congratulations. The right hon. Gentleman had dilated upon the weakness of the noble Lord's military strategy; whereas the noble Lord had not said a word with respect to military matters. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he would not follow the noble Lord through his account of the Russian advances for the last 25 years, with one exception—namely, the arrangement between Prince Gortschakoff and Lord Granville in 1873—and the right hon. Gentleman had actually asked the House to believe that the arrangement then come to as to the borders of Afghanistan was not a definite one; but if the right hon. Gentleman took the trouble to refer to Lord Granville's letter, he would see that Lord Granville had in the most elaborate manner fixed the Frontier. The right hon. Gentleman had dilated upon the merits of Afghanistan as a most important buffer between England and Russia, and had compared its position to that which Switzerland once occupied between France and Austria. But he appeared to forget that Switzerland was an independent State in which neither France nor Austria had any rights of interference, or any share in the direction of its foreign policy. But was that the position which the right hon. Gentleman wanted Afghanistan to occupy between England and Russia? Did he desire that England should have no more rights in directing the foreign policy of Afghanistan 1568 than Russia? If that were his desire, he could only say two things—firstly, that he had abandoned absolutely the position taken up by every other Government on this question, whether Liberal or Conservative; and, secondly, that such an Afghanistan, so far from being a buffer between England and Russia, would be a standing menace to our Indian Provinces. The right hon. Gentleman had informed them that a war with Russia in Asia could scarcely be successfully conducted, so that it appeared that they were to understand that his Government were coming down to the House and asking them to entrust them with £11,000,000, telling them at the same time that, if those £11,000,000 were to be used for war, that war must end in disaster. Of that sum they were now asked to vote together about £6,500,000 for war preparations and £4,500,000 for the Soudan. Those £4,500,000 were absolutely wasted; not a single result of any sort or kind or description would remain from that part of the expenditure, except the butchery of a certain number of Arabs and the loss of a certain number of English lives. However ready they might be to grant the money for war preparations without objections, it was impossible to allow Supplies for the Soudan to be taken without severe criticism. He should, therefore, have thought that it would have been to the interest of Her Majesty's Government to do what the Conservative Party asked them to do, and divide the Vote into two, for they must be aware that if they lumped together Supplies demanded for such very different objects they would inevitably force upon the world the conviction that in the policy which this money was to further the Government were not supported by a unanimous Parliament. He trusted that these negotiations and this expenditure would end in a settled and durable peace—a peace settled on such terms that it would not be in the power of any unscrupulous Russian Government, if un-scrupulous Russian Governments existed, or any undisciplined and disobedient Russian Commanders, if such existed, to disturb, when it suited them, the tranquillity of India and of Europe, and compel whatever Government might be in power to come down to the House of Commons and ask this country suddenly to impose great sacrifices upon itself. That 1569 was the kind of peace which they asked to be established; and he wanted to know whether the peace, the outlines of which had been sketched out to them by the Government, was or was not likely to be a peace of that kind? He had no desire to say hard words about Russia. It might be all his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) had said it was, or, on the other hand, it might be all the Prime Minister had said it was in 1876. Whether Russia were honest or dishonest, the fact came out clearly and obviously that, whatever the motive or the cause might be, there was no more certain sign of an approaching Russian advance than a formal announcement by the Russian Government that no advance was intended. There was a curious correspondence between the policy of England and the policy of Russia; they appeared exactly to fit in with one another; because, whereas the plan of the Russian Government was always to make a declaration which they proceeded to break, the plan of the English Government was to make a demand which they proceeded to withdraw The permanent peace which those on his side of the House desired must be made more difficult by anything in the nature of a surrender. Whether the battle-ground that now presented itself was a good one or not, it was the one deliberately chosen by the Government, and it was to that battle-ground the Indians would look; and if the Government now made any settlement which resulted in any district which they claimed as belonging to Afghanistan being given up to Russia, they would undoubtedly suffer in the eyes of all India, of all Afghanistan, and of all Europe for the loss of prestige which followed a great diplomatic defeat. He feared that, in the announcement made with respect to Russia and Afghanistan, the Government had added, or were about to add, one more to the many dishonourable retreats which they had forced upon the country during the past few years. Cheap dishonour might be tolerable; but he could not believe that the country would find tolerable a dishonour which cost £11,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down reproached the Opposition for their action that night; because, he said, it destroyed that appearance of unanimity which the action of the preceding Monday had produced. In defending 1570 the honour of the country he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) believed they would be one House and one nation; and if that night were a contrast to the last occasion on which the Vote was discussed, it was because, on the last occasion, they thought the Government had, for once, adopted a dignified and decided policy, and were about, for once, to shake themselves free from their old habits and inveterate traditions. If that night they were bound to divide the House it was because the results of the cross-examination to which Ministers were subjected at Question time was such as to convince them that in those expectations they had been deceived, and that they could no longer entrust to the occupants of the Treasury Bench the honour of this country or the safety of the Indian Empire.
The evening is now fast advancing, and I think it may be for the convenience of the House that we should know what is to be the end and what is to be the upshot of this debate here. No declaration has been made of opposition to the Vote that is before us; at the same time, nothing has been said which would justify me in concluding that there should be no such opposition. The debate has been one of a somewhat unusual character, not sought by us—I may say not expected by us. The time for debating a subject of this kind, the time for bringing to trial the conduct of the Government—if so much as a show of impartiality is to be preserved—is when the information bearing upon the case is before the House. But Gentlemen like my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. A. J. Balfour) feel no difficulties whatever from the absence of information. Their course is so easy in alleging that upon every occasion the Government has been wrong, and that upon this occasion it is wrong again, that, of course, to persons whose mental proclivities are thus directed, and who can arrive at their conclusions and give their verdict without the evidence, there is an immense satisfaction in getting rid of all the difficulties which the examination of the evidence involves in being free from all the responsibilities under which Ministers lie, and in having one planned formula, described by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, of universal condemnation of what has 1571 been done by the Government. The hon. Gentleman differs entirely from the estimate which I certainly had formed of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan). For my own part, I am perfectly satisfied with the manner in which my right hon. Friend answered the arguments of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) and the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. B. Stanhope). The angry attempt which the hon. Member who has just sat down has made to impeach the sufficiency of that speech of my right hon. Friend has totally failed, because the only point he made was to ascribe to my right hon. Friend an argument which he had never used. The hon. Member said that my right hon. Friend's contention was this—that whatever diplomatic agreements were forced upon us by Russia we must accept; and why? Because he said my right hon. Friend had stated that to march an English Army 500 or 600 miles beyond the Indian Frontier would be disastrous. My right hon. Friend nowhere said that the British means of action were confined to a mode of proceeding so extreme, and he did not give the smallest colour to the argument imputed to him by the hon. Member. Why does the hon. Member say that the Government have abandoned the grounds upon which they were proceeding on Monday last, when he says, by a wonderful exercise of charity, he did stretch his understanding to the belief that for once we might have been right? It is not for me to enter upon that question, because I should be doing wrong if I attempted to make a mere verbal explanation pass current in this House as a sufficient ground for our action. For the present I will only say that there is not the smallest evidence, either in the possession of the hon. Gentleman or of the House, of our having altered our minds in one single particular since the Government, in my unworthy person, addressed the House on Monday last, when the hon. Gentleman says he believed that for once we might have been right. I hope we are still in a position to deserve the approval of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman says that what he wants is to have a final and permanent peace, and he is not prepared to be content with us unless we give him 1572 a final and permanent peace. Those are rather hard terms. I never heard, in politics, any mode by which, when a diplomatic difference arises, it is possible absolutely to guarantee permanent peace, except when one of the Parties is strong enough not only to subdue, but to annihilate the other. What he may fairly expect from the Government, and what I think the Government have laboured for, and not without effect, is that we should adopt the best means which, humanly speaking, are in the power of statesmen to adopt towards the establishment of a final and permanent peace. What are we doing? We are endeavouring to obtain, and I trust we shall obtain—although I do not think that the speeches of the hon. Gentleman opposite and of those who sit near him will help us much to obtain—I trust we shall, notwithstanding those speeches, obtain the delimitation of an understood and definite Frontier. The hon. Gentleman says that there is a Frontier already. There is no Frontier definite in this sense—in the only sense worth having—namely, that it has been traced out upon the ground, so that consequently you are in a condition to say—"By passing beyond that Frontier you have broken the convenant." It is perfectly true that in a despatch of my noble Friend (Earl Granville), dated some considerable time back, certain Provinces are mentioned, which Provinces are assigned territorially to a particular jurisdiction. But those Provinces in Central Asia, what are they? Why, Sir, the Central part of Asia, not more than one generation ago, was totally unknown to the mass of mankind, and even to geographers; and even now, when we speak of Provinces in Central Asia, we do not speak of them as we would of any country in Europe, or even Provinces in India. You must have absolute delimitation.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me I will read them. I can only do it by the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman. There is the absolute delimitation of the Frontier of Afghanistan which I did not like to trouble the House with 1573 this afternoon. There are four paragraphs in the despatch of Earl Granville to Lord Augustus Loftus.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The date is October 17th, 1872. That despatch states—For your Excellency's more complete information I state the territories and boundaries which Her Majesty's Government consider as fully belonging to the Ameer of Cabul, viz.:—(1.) Badakshan, with its independent district Wakhan, from the Sarikal (Woods Lake) on the east to the junction of the Kokcha river with the Oxus (or Penjdeh), forming the northern boundary of this Afghan province throughout its entire extent. (2.) Afghan Turkestan, comprising the districts of Kunduz, Khulm, and Balkh, the northern boundary of which would be the line of the Oxus from the junction of the Kokcha river to the post of the Khojah Saleh, inclusive, on the high road from Bokhara to Balkh. Nothing to be claimed by the Afghan Ameer on the left bank of the Oxus below Khojah Saleh. (3.) The internal districts of Aksha, Seripool, Maimenat, Shipperjan, and Andkoi, the latter of which would be the extreme Afghan frontier possession to the northwest, the desert beyond belonging to independent tribes of Turcomans. (4.) The western Afghan frontier between the dependencies of Herat and those of the Persian province of Khorassan is well known, and need not here be defined.
I am obliged to the noble Lord for saving me the trouble of inflicting upon the House the four paragraphs he had just read. It is those four paragraphs that I mean. I put out of view the first and the second paragraphs. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] Does the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted me know anything of the subject? The first and second paragraphs have reference to parts of the country which are not now in question. That, I suppose, is a reason for putting them cut of view. What does the fourth paragraph say? That the Western Afghan Frontier is to be between the Dependencies of Herat and those of the Persian Province of Khorassan. Where is the delimitation of the Dependencies of Herat, and who knows what are the Dependencies of the Province of Khorassan? What is the authoritative document to which reference can be made, when you are about to call another Power to account, and perhaps to subject it to war, for not having fulfilled its obligation? Then, the third paragraph which the noble Lord read has reference to the internal districts of Aksha, Seripool, Maimenat, 1574 Shipperjan, and Andkoi, whereas my argument had been that the districts were mentioned in the engagements, but that the mention of those districts was perfectly insufficient, because of those districts no legal, no historical, no conventional definition exists. Therefore, I go back to my point, and I say that there is now no Frontier of a definite character with regard to which one Power can bring another Power to account, and, bringing it to account, can require and exact of it the performance of a binding engagement. I think that it is a part of the wisdom of the statesman to endeavour to substitute a definite and carefully-traced Frontier for those vague and practically unintelligible statements, which are referable to no historical and no legal standard.
Certainly; and what was Lord Granville engaged in? He was engaged in a preliminary process in connection with a most useful and important policy—namely, to obtain from Russia, whore formerly there was no acknowledgment whatever, those general acknowledgments which, in the absence of anything more definite, would, at least, afford a general indication of the views of that Power. It appears to me that that is an ample justification of Lord Granville's despatch, and at the same time a perfect proof that it had nothing whatever to do with the question now before us, and does not, in the slightest degree, disprove the necessity of what we are now about. What is the doctrine of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who has come down here to instruct us in so high a tone and from so lofty a position? The hon. Gentleman says there was a Frontier already established from Sarakhs to Khojah Saleh, and that we ought to have adhered to it, and to have compelled the Russians to adhere to it, and that if the Russians had refused to adhere to that Frontier, we ought to have hold ourselves justified in resorting to measures of force. That is the doctrine of the hon. Member for Hertford.
I distinctly heard the hon. Member say that there was a Frontier to which we ought to have adhered exactly. If I have not stated 1575 accurately the Frontier which he meant, let the hon. Member correct my statement.
I was not referring to the hon. Member. We are not always bound to speak to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bart-lett). There are a great many occasions—perhaps, even to satiety—when we are; but at some times I may, I hope, claim the right of referring to another speaker. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford distinctly referred to another Frontier, and charged it upon us that we were abandoning territory which was secured to Afghanistan, if we had that Frontier. It was the foundation of his whole indictment against the Government. It was this abandonment of territory already secured to us which he said would be fatal to us in our predominance in India, and to our character and reputation generally—if, indeed, we had any left, for, in the view of the hon. Gentleman, what remains of our character and reputation is hardly worth considering. Now, Sir, I want to know whether the hon. Gentleman is really serious? He has got this Frontier of his own, and he says—"You are not justified in agreeing, on any terms, to any Frontier short of that." I believe I am representing the hon. Gentleman accurately.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said was that we should entirely lose prestige in India by giving up land which we foolishly or not foolishly—I did not say which—had undoubtedly claimed for Afghanistan.
Then what does the hon. Member recommend? Does he recommend us to give it up, or does he not? His speech was perfectly distinct, and it was to the effect that we should not give it up.
Then lot the hon. Gentleman, if he likes, make a Motion, impugning our proposal referring to arbitration what the Russian Government have agreed to refer to arbitration, and we will meet him on that ground. He has been encouraging us strongly in his speech to adhere to his supposititious Frontier. Well, Sir, it is useless to ask whether that Frontier 1576 was wisely claimed or not. What the hon. Member insisted upon is that the effect of not adhering to it will be ruinous.
Only very serious? We were to lose our character in India—and I go a great way with him in thinking that the maintenance of our repute in India is a great strength, though I think that justice and equity are the instruments by which we should maintain it; but what I want to point out is this—the unwisdom, if I may venture to say so, of my hon. Friend in determining to settle all this question, spurred on by his animosity against the Government, in the absence of the Papers which will give him information. Observe what he has recommended. He recommends that we should adhere to this advanced Frontier in all circumstances. Suppose he were to find that the Ameer of Afghanistan himself was not in favour of adhering to it. Then I understand my hon. Friend to hold that it is the duty of this country, if need be by force—by policy in the first instance, but if need be by force—to claim for Afghanistan that which, on the supposition I have made—I am arguing entirely upon an hypothesis—[Mr. A.J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear!]—I am proposing to bring the hypothesis to a test of facts when the Papers are produced, whereas my hon. Friend's contention is that you ought to decide the matter without knowing anything about the facts. His contention is that we are bound to claim for Afghanistan a territory even though the Ameer might not claim it, even though he might, by the hypothesis, desire to be rid of it. Can the hon. Member be serious in thinking that upon a basis such as that the people of this country would condemn the Government? Sir, I am afraid that I shall not carry the assent of my hon. Friend to another proposition I am about to make. I have said that it appeared to me that we were bound to labour for a stable and permanent peace by the establishment, as one means of peace, of a definite and solemn covenant as to a Frontier capable of being traced and defined, which does not now exist. I do not appear to have the assent of my hon. Friend to that. There is another argument we ought to bear in mind, and to which I am afraid I shall not 1577 have his assent either; and it is that we can only secure a definite and solid peace by the establishment of good relations with Afghanistan, by respecting their independence, and the independence of the country, by consulting their feelings, and by observing towards them the strictest relations of honour. This is the purpose which we have borne in mind, and shall bear in mind, and which we think, in all the difficulties of the case, to be a capital instrument towards procuring a definite and sound peace. With regard to the previous speeches of this evening, I am quite content to fall back upon the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and, therefore, I shall not refer to some points which I confess appear to me to be extremely difficult points in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). What I wish to do at the present moment is this—to point out to the House that, in our judgment, if they will allow me to say so, it would be a wise course if they will be disposed to go forward and sanction to-night the Vote for which we asked on Monday last. [Cries of "No!"] I respectfully claim it as my right and my duty to point out why it appears to me that that course ought to be taken. I may observe that until this Vote is reported we have not obtained the authority of the House of Commons to spend the money which it embraces. The Vote of the Committee is only a preliminary proceeding. I cannot say how much I was gratified by the unanimity and rapidity with which it was granted. I did not entirely expect what has happened this evening; but, at any rate, in addressing the majority of the House I must observe that in order to make the proceeding regular, and to enable us to spend this large sum of money, it is absolutely necessary that the House should give its sanction to the Vote of Credit which has been passed. We have no title, so far as my recollection goes—and I do not expect to be contradicted—to spend any part of the Vote of Credit until it has been reported to the House. This is the Vote which we were to have disposed of on Thursday night, had not circumstances, entirely accidental, prevented us from reaching this discussion on that evening. With respect to the policy of the Go- 1578 vernment, I cannot imagine the House to be so weak as to suppose that I should gain any advantage by attempting to flinch from a discussion of that policy; but I do put it confidently to the House, whatever the Vote may be, that though strong opinions may be pronounced and strong feeling manifested, no real progress can be made until the course of these negotiations is before them, together with their results. But I will venture to say this—as such severe condemnation has been so unhesitatingly pronounced—that I entertain the most undoubted assurance that when our case is before the country, and when the authentic Papers are produced, the opinion of the country will be that we have faithfully discharged our duties as Ministers of the Crown, bound to study the honour and interests of the nation. That is my anticipation. I am speaking only for myself. With regard to some of the sentences of reprobation which have been pronounced upon us this evening, the state of the case with regard to the Vote is, I admit, in some respects, peculiar. It has no effect until it is reported, and until we obtain the sanction of the House to spend a portion.—I am afraid a large portion—of the money expressed in it. We asked for this Vote at a time when the circumstances of the case were in a certain degree, menacing in themselves. We stated that there was a case for preparation. That was the basis upon which our application for the Vote was founded. These preparations were proceedings on both sides. That is a matter of notoriety. I am not aware that, so far as Russia is concerned, any change has taken place, nor should I think that we were in the slightest degree entitled to expect that a change should have taken place at this moment. The fact is, that you cannot depend upon the first favourable turns in a negotiation which has many stages, and in regard to which it would be presumptuous to argue that because it is not now in a dangerous state it can never be in a dangerous state again. As men of sense, at the first turning of a favourable character opening out the first piercing rays of light into the gloom, you will not introduce fundamental alterations into your preparations. But perhaps it will be said—"What is the position of the House?" The noble Lord has said 1579 that a Vote of this kind is, in the highest sense, a Vote of Confidence. In part I agree with him, and in part I differ from him. It appears to me that in a great many cases there may be vital differences in the politics of the Government; there may be a Government to which you would entirely decline to give your confidence on general grounds, yet, in another respect, you would not hesitate to give them a Vote when it was demanded on grounds connected with the safety and honour of the country. Therefore, I would say to the noble Lord that he is not called upon, in being asked to give this Vote, to express his confidence in the Government. It is impossible to conceive a case of the Government of this country being prepared to acquiesce in the task of putting aside that Vote, and prepared, at the same time, to carry on the government of the country. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that I hold the absurd opinion that because the House has voted this sum in Committee, and I hope will proceed to ratify it by sanctioning it in the House, that I hold the House to have thereby given an unconditional right to the Government to spend the money. Very far from it; it is a conditional Vote. It is a Vote upon the supposition that it shall be found necessary for the discharge of engagements; but as regards everything prospective, it is meant to be a Vote conditional on the necessities of the case. Whatever Vote we may obtain from the House of Commons, we remain bound to render a strict account to the House of Commons when the House chooses to exact it; and whatever we spend prospectively under this Vote, so far, I mean, as the special preparations are concerned, we shall be bound to show cause for it, or be liable to censure if we fail to show cause. It is part of that high stewardship which belongs to an Executive Government, and which sometimes may be reposed in feeble or unworthy hands, but which, at the same time, you cannot separate from the function and the work and the very existence of an Executive Government. Unless you can get rid of it, and are prepared to put another Government in its place, there is no course so foolish as to cripple and discredit it in the case of a Vote of this kind; because, in doing so, you cripple and discredit the country. Observe, I carefully separate the case 1580 where you object to the Vote on principle. If you object to the Vote on principle, you are not only warranted in opposing it, but you are bound to oppose it to the length of displacing the Government, and undertaking the responsibility of governing the country. Of course, should events continue to run a favourable course, it would be our duty to study what we can do to save the resources which the House has so generously, in Committee, proposed to place at our disposal. We cannot think that the moment for resolving on a momentous change of that kind has already arrived, nor can that moment be judged of, in the first instance, by the House of Commons. That judgment must of necessity, from the nature of the case, be allowed to devolve on the Executive Government. I trust, Sir, that we shall receive the Vote sensible of the gravity of that charge. I am bound to say that, in my judgment, any appearance of hesitation on the part of this House to sanction the Vote of the Committee would be a very serious public evil. I do not undertake to say how far that evil might reach. I wish to speak in the language of moderation, and I say in that language it would be a very serious public evil. I do not object, in the slightest degree, to those sweeping condemnations of the Government which we have heard to-night. I regard them as a matter of course. Perhaps I am too much disposed to regard them as commonplace, and almost as truisms. I confess that is the aspect in which they sometimes come before me; but, however well reasoned they may be on this or on any other occasion, I shall not seek to evade them. I am speaking simply of the action of the House in the circumstances of the moment, when, happily, there has been a turn towards a favourable issue in the grave negotiations now going on between the two countries. I entreat the House not to derogate from the effect of what the Committee has already wisely and patriotically done. It will lose nothing by persevering in that course; and I must say I think even opponents would admit that if, with transactions of such difficulty and anxiety on hand, we cannot be trusted with this authority under the responsibility of the future judgment of Parliament, the sooner the House takes another step and releases 1581 us from all responsibility the better. I have not the smallest objection to the raising of that question. It is a question that has been raised pretty freely of late, about as often in the present Parliament as in all the Parliaments, 11 in number, antecedent to it in which I have had the honour of sitting. I do not object to lengthening the goodly catalogue of those indictments. By all means let it be done; but let it be done with knowledge; let it be done in circumstances which would, as any adverse or hesitating step to-night undoubtedly would, be a serious injury to national and Imperial interests.
§ MR. GIBSON
I hope everyone who takes part in this discussion will remember the gravity of the crisis in which the country is involved, and that the Prime Minister called upon us to do nothing at this time which would cripple or discredit the Government. But the right of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, and, indeed, of all sections of the House, is plainly this—to watch earnestly and see that in every step and stage of the difficulty with which the country is involved the Government itself does nothing to cripple or discredit the country. It is our bounden duty carefully to ask for explanations, carefully to seek for information, and carefully, by every method in our power—by speech, by question, by suggestion—to elicit whether the Government themselves realize exactly what it is that they are doing. The Prime Minister has given us not too much credit—not more than fair and sufficient credit—for the way in which we met his proposal on Monday last. Silently, with rapidity and with unanimity, we gave him all he asked to strengthen his hands in the difficult crisis in which the country was placed. We did that because we know it was right, and because we thought his language on that occasion was not unworthy of a Minister of a great country. But contrast that with the position to-night. We had a statement, of which the Prime Minister read every word, thereby giving increased significance to it from the fact that he read it. What was the character of that statement? I pass no final judgment on it now. The crisis is too important, the matter too urgent; the circumstances require too deliberate action on the part of those who are about to 1582 arrive at a responsible decision upon it to express any final opinion upon it now; but I do draw attention to the fact that the Prime Minister felt it was so grave that he plainly balanced every word, and considered every emphasis, in which he announced it to the House; and the right hon. Gentleman had hardly sat down when more Questions were asked in reference to it than were ever asked in regard to a statement like it. Why was that? When, on Monday, we were asked for this Vote, without question or hesitation we voted the money. To-night we had to hesitate. To-night we had to ask Questions, because it was plain to the minds of those of us most anxious loyally to strengthen the hands of the Government in this crisis, that there was matter for grave doubt as to whether the Government had themselves realized what they were doing. Have the doubts excited by the statement of the Prime Minister been removed by the speeches of to-night? Unquestionably they have not. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made, as he always does, an interesting speech in reply to the speeches delivered in the course of the debate; but he did not utter a syllable to elucidate the meaning of the Government intention or plan. And so it was with the speech of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister got into discussions and explanations with my noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) as to what was said in the past. But as to what the Government intend now, as to their present arrangements with Russia, or what they think their present arrangements with Russia are, we are just as much in the dark as when the right hon. Gentleman made his first statement. Now, we are told that we can see the first piercing rays of light, and we are told that the Government intend to refer the whole matter to arbitration.
This is the inconvenience of hon. Gentlemen not waiting to see the Papers. I said that in regard to the delimitation of the Frontier it was not for me to anticipate what the result would be.
§ MR. GIBSON
But we are asked to pass the Vote of Credit to-night, in the absence of the Papers, and without waiting for the Papers, and we are asked to do that upon the assumption that the Prime Minister has made a state- 1583 ment so full and complete as to obviate the necessity for the production of Papers. ["No, no!"] Therefore, I am entitled to say that the statement of the Prime Minister is one which calls for an earnest and an attentive examination before the House founds upon it a judgment as to the action it will take on the Vote now submitted to it. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) that we should adopt this Vote without delay. The Prime Minister told us to pass it without question; the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told us that we should pass it with full confidence. We did so on Monday, because the Government treated the House to a statement and a method of utterance we thought not unworthy of it; but to-night the Government have spoken in a way open to such question, and doubt, and hesitation, that we cannot proceed with that rapidity and confidence which we are asked to display. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has asked a most extraordinary question. He says—"Where should we be if we had not left Candahar?" I will not go into that question now; I have no wish to raise a fresh debate and to wander into other points. I answer simply that we should have been in Candahar if we had not left it, and we should then be a great deal stronger in dealing with this question than we are now. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that this was a golden opportunity of settling matters once for all. But where does the right hon. Gentleman find anything that can lead the House to the conclusion that this is such a golden opportunity? Is there anything in the history of this question, or in the words of the Prime Minister, that shows us that this is a golden opportunity for settling these matters once for all? The circumstances are grave and momentous. Everyone on this side of the House desires to see a peaceful solution. We, on this side of the House, are desirous that there should be a peaceful solution, without the expenditure of money or of blood, but with the maintenance of the honour of the country. The Prime Minister spoke of a stable and permanent peace. I adopt those words. We would all desire that. It is because we are left in a state of doubt and anxiety on all these essential 1584 points that we ask for further information. I do not know what other Minister of the Crown will speak next; but I should like to put a few plain questions which have much disturbed our minds in the course of this discussion, but which are not conceived in a spirit or desire to put the Government in a difficulty. We are told—and the Prime Minister used the words twice, to show how significant he considered them—that the Government "have referred"—and it is the only thing they have referred—"any difference that may be found to exist as to the interpretation of the agreement of the 16th of March." I want to know what is the meaning of that? It is the one thing that is to be referred. When the Prime Minister was asked the question again as to what it was exactly that was to be referred, for fear he might be mistaken he himself picked out the words to read again to the House; and, therefore, the only solitary thing referred at this anxious time is "any difference that may be found to exist as to the interpretation of the agreement of the 16th of March." What is the meaning of that? What is the meaning of the sacred compact? What is the interpretation of the agreement that was made between England and Russia? This is the one thing to be referred to arbitration. But is there any reason to believe that Russia herself feels the smallest particle of uncertainty as to the meaning of that agreement? I have read the previous speech of the Prime Minister on the subject since this debate opened. There is not a word in that speech of the Prime Minister which displays the least doubt as to the interpretation to be put on the sacred covenant. Then, what is it that is to be referred? The Prime Minister, on Monday, indicated some circumstances that might be in dispute in a very different method, and with apparently a very different object, but never suggested that there was any dispute as to the meaning of the agreement. He used these words—We thought it our duty … to take it"—that is, the covenant—"as conceived in honour and good faith.There was no question, therefore, as to what the conditions of the covenant were, but simply whether it was conceived in honour and good faith. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded— 1585It was one of the most sacred covenants ever made between two great nations … and that if unhappily a deviation occurred there would be a generous rivalry between the two Powers to search it … and to exhibit to the world how that deviation had come about.That shows that there was no dispute whatever on Monday last, or a vestige of doubt in the mind of the Government, as to the meaning of the sacred covenant; and the only point was that, if a deviation occurred, how that deviation was to be set right and put straight? The Prime Minister said further on Monday—All I say is this—that that woful engagement of the 30th of March distinctly showed that one party or both had, either through ill-will or through unfortunate mishap, failed to fulfil the conditions of the engagement.There is no question there as to what the conditions of the covenant were, or any uncertainty as to its meaning. The only question is whether either or both parties, through ill-will or mishap, had failed to fulfil the conditions of the covenant. Then, I ask, what is it, in the name of common sense, the Government think they have referred to arbitration that was in doubt? I have shown that up to the very moment at which I am speaking there was nothing in the Ministerial statements which threw one shadow of doubt as to the meaning or interpretation of the agreement entered into, and yet that is the only thing that the Government have referred to arbitration. The information for which I ask, and which I am entitled to ask, is of the first importance. It underlies the whole question; and, I ask, is there anything else to be inferred, or has there been a mistake or a slip, or is there anything which the Prime Minister has insufficiently expressed? Is there anything that Ministers desire to supplement? I desire to point out that neither the Prime Minister, speaking at great length just now, nor the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—a perfect master of English—has supplemented in any way the matter to be referred to arbitration. Are we to suppose that the arbitrator, when found, is to decide whether a breach of the covenant by one or both parties has been committed? Is that the matter intended to be referred for his judgment? That is a plain question. Is it merely intended to state what the agreement was; is it intended to go into the breach of it; and, 1586 if so, is it intended that he should state who is answerable for such breach? Then I come to the further words of the Prime Minister, which are very remarkable in this connection. He says—"We do not wish to see gallant officers on either side put on their trial." I do not pretend to say what officers are meant; but I suppose the Government meant something when these words were put into the statement of the Prime Minister. I wish to ask whether the breach of the covenant is to be inquired into; and if inquired into, is any power to be given to the arbitrator to fix the blame direct, or to suggest reparation? That, I think, is a reasonable element in the discussion of the question; and, so far, we have received no reply to it. I have directed attention to the narrowness, incompleteness, and utter uselessness of the reference, and I think I am entitled to a plain answer. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that England was pledged to guarantee Herat and the whole of Afghanistan to the Ameer. Let me test this by another question. As far as we know, by the theory of the facts, the Government theory of Afghanistan is that Penjdeh is a portion of Afghanistan. Is it in support of that theory that the Government have agreed to refer the question to arbitration. Is that the form of guarantee to the Ameer that finds favour with Her Majesty's Government? The right hon. Gentleman says we are bound to guarantee Afghanistan to the Ameer. Is that satisfied by referring piecemeal, as Russia advances, the question of the Ameer's property in any part of his dominions? There is another matter I should like to clear up. We all know, through the usual source of public information, that the Government have several methods and several opportunities of stating their views. We have been favoured to-night with the statement read by the Prime Minister; but another of his Colleagues (Earl Granville) in "another place" has made a statement of an apparently different character, and presenting a meaning which certainly requires further elucidation. It is said, with regard to Russia, that Her Majesty's Government have agreed with Russia to submit the Penjdeh incident to full investigation. That is not the statement made here. It is an infinitely wider statement than that made here, and I have a right to 1587 ask if that statement is correct, and if not, in what particular it is incorrect? Also, which of the Ministers is going to clear it up, and to what extent?
Probably the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not remember the words used, which I think were identical with those used "elsewhere"—that the two Governments have agreed to provide the means for a settlement of any differences between them arising out of the incident of Ak Tepe.
§ MR. GIBSON
That is merely translating the same thing into long Government language. It is very unfortunate that the Ministers representing the Government in the different Houses have explained the contention referred to arbitration by selecting language not identical. The statement "elsewhere" is certainly a wider statement, and it might mean a good deal more than what the Prime Minister said; but, on the other hand, it might mean less, or merely nothing, when subjected to the action of vigorous criticism. This language was used—Penjdeh will, during the negotiations, remain neutral, and the Russian Government has stated its readiness to consider the question of removing its troops should the Boundary Commissioners decide against them.Here is a plain and tolerably distinct statement as to which the right hon. Gentleman, in this House, is absolutely silent. Well, the House of Commons is the body that votes the money, and it has the right, at all events, to as full a statement as that made "elsewhere," as to what the agreement entered into with Russia is. That statement of the Russian Government is open to this criticism. According to Lord Granville, the Russian Government would be willing to consider the question of removing their troops; but that is very different from saying that they will be willing to remove them if the award of the arbitrator is against them. At any rate, we have a right to have this important matter cleared up. A Minister of the Crown in this House ought to explain whether that statement was made "elsewhere," what is the foundation for that statement, and if it was made, what do the Government now believe was the agreement with Russia if the award should chance to go against their action at Penjdeh? I do not propose to go 1588 into any further discussion. My object in rising was simply to ask questions fairly conceived to the extent, as far as I could, of getting information to clear up doubts which very much obscure our minds at the present moment. The Prime Minister has said that we should have time to deliberate on this matter. I think that is not unreasonable. I should have been glad if the statement had been presented in away that enabled us at once to grasp it, without difficulty and without doubt, in order to free our minds from anxiety. We have shown throughout this matter that we were not captious, and the Prime Minister has himself acknowledged it more than once. When we do ask questions not unfairly conceived, I think it should be taken that we are animated by an honest desire to obtain fuller information upon the points with respect to which we inquire. Unquestionably a vast change has taken place in this question by the statement to-day. It has been presented to us with an entirely different mouth, in an entirely different tone, in an entirely different form of language, and I repeat that I offer no final judgment as to the statement or its bearings. I have asked questions; I have pointed out the differences between the statements made here and "elsewhere;" I have pointed out how very narrow is the reference proposed to be made. I ask if the Government adhere to that narrow reference, or do they really intend it to have a wider bearing? I think I am entitled to an answer to the questions which I have put to Her Majesty's Government, and that the House is entitled to the information. I think the answer should be sufficient and clear, and that when it is given we should not be attacked for having asked for this information.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I shall be very happy to endeavour to answer the questions which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson) has asked as far as I am able to apprehend them. The first point he asks, if I understand him rightly, is whether any other matters were to be referred to arbitration besides those mentioned by the Prime Minister at the commencement of this discussion? To that I have to answer very distinctly in the negative. There are no other matters to be referred to arbitration, and I think that answer is plain enough.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
My right hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished ornament of the Profession to which he belongs; but to-night, by his extreme over-technicality—I will not call it special pleading—he appears to me to have been engaged in one of the most difficult tasks of the Bar—namely, in endeavouring to set aside an award before it is made. I never heard more technical pleas urged against an arbitration, against the appointment of the arbitrator, against the terms of the arbitration, and against the award. The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman contained admirable arguments to address to the Court of Chancery; but it was hardly an admirable speech as addressed to a Government in a great political crisis. One of the most remarkable things which he has charged against the Government was that in "another place" it had been stated that what was to be referred to arbitration was the incident at Penjdeh; and he said that that was a totally and entirely different question from that which was stated in this House as the matter to be referred. He does not allow even the possibility of the variation of a phrase, for I cannot suppose that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with all his study of the question, can be ignorant of the facts. I should have thought that no one could have doubted that the phrases "the differences between them arising out of the engagement at Ak Tepe," and "the differences arising out of the incident at Penjdeh" were absolutely identical. Anyone who knows the mere A B C of the matter will understand that the two phrases mean absolutely one and the same thing. That is my answer to the second charge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is what I say. I understand that the incident at Penjdeh was described in "another place" as the subject to be referred to arbitration; and I should have thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and everybody who knew anything about the question, would have understood, when the Prime Minister said that what was to be re- 1590 ferred to arbitration was the differences between the two Governments arising out of the engagement at Ak Tepe, that the phrase meant exactly the same thing as if he had said "the incident arising out of the engagement at Penjdeh." Well, that is the second point, as I understand the questions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Then he objects to the statement in this House not having been identical with the statement made in "another place." So far as that goes, I do not know what the statement made in "another place" was; but upon the special point to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers the two statements were precisely identical. It has been agreed, said Lord Granville, that the district of Penjdeh shall be neutralized during the negotiations; and the Russian Government have intimated their willingness to consider the propriety of the removal of the Russian outposts when the Commissioners meet. The Prime Minister also stated that that is the authentic state of the facts; and, as far as I have been able to carry the questions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in my mind, I think I have given a complete answer to them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has entangled himself in his own subtleties, otherwise a very elementary acquaintance with the subject would have shown him that there was no difference at all.
§ MR. GIBSON
There were two other very important questions which I asked the right hon. Gentleman—namely, whether the question as to who had violated the agreement was to be referred to arbitration, and whether it would be open to the arbitrator to say what should be done with the party in fault?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I really did not think that that was a question seriously put, or I would have answered it before. Of course, as has been stated by my right hon. Friend, the arbitrator is to say what is to be the result of the arbitration. I will read the passage again, for I do not think it is possible to put the matter more clearly—Any differences that may be found to exist between the two Cabinets in regard to the interpretation of the agreement of the 16th of March, with a view to the settlement of the matter in a mode consistent with the honour of both States.1591 Of course, the arbitrator is to state what is to be the result of the arbitration consistently with the honour of both States—that is, whether either State is to make an amende for what has been done; and, if so, how it is to be made. It is perfectly obvious, from the words used by my right hon. Friend, that it must depend upon the decision of the arbitrator. That is my answer to the further question of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Then, what is our situation with reference to the whole question? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear !] I will tell the noble Lord. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says things are very much changed since Monday. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] Of course they are changed, and because they are changed the noble Lord gives expression to his vexation. It will be known to-morrow, in the country, what is the cause of that vexation. It will be known from the noble Lord's speech, because the noble Lord has made a speech to-night, which, if he had the responsibility of the Government of this country, would be absolutely incompatible with the peace of the world. He has used language of irritation, of provocation, and of insult to a great European Power. It is the change which has taken place that provokes the noble Lord, and makes him cheer in that violent manner my observation that there has been a great change since Monday. Yes, Sir; there has been a great change, because, as the Prime Minister said, there is a real prospect of peace, and it is to disturb and to destroy that prospect of peace that the noble Lord has made that speech to-night. It is not I, nor the noble Lord, who will judge that matter. It will be judged to-morrow, by the nation, who has laboured to keep the peace of the world, and who has laboured, if he can, to prevent that peace being accomplished. But, Sir, it is not of the noble Lord I will speak. We have heard very different language and a very different tone from those who are responsible for the conduct of the great Party which sits opposite, and who, if this Vote of Credit is to be refused or delayed, would be responsible for the conduct of the affairs of this country hereafter. And what, I ask—are they intending—what is the Party opposite intending, at this critical mo- 1592 ment, when upon the delay of a single Vote may depend whether these negotiations may result in peace or war? [Oh, oh!"] Yes; the noble Lord is playing with fire to-night. It may be sport to him; but it may not be sport to a great many others. Therefore, the question which the House has to consider to-night is, whether they will, in what the Prime Minister has called the first rays of hope of a peaceful solution, take a course which may cloud and may destroy this hope, whether they will indulge in any policy which may involve the great calamity of war, and prevent the negotiations from resulting in a peaceful solution. Well, what is it that the Government announced to-night? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Surrender!] I hope that that remark of the noble Lord will be reported tomorrow. That is the language by which men, like the noble Lord, try to taunt and to irritate great nations into war. You may depend upon it that no man who has the responsibility of the conduct of affairs would allow himself to be provoked by taunts of that description. What we have proposed is, that with reference to the unhappy incident which occurred at Penjdeh, there shall be a fair and honourable arbitration, and that has been accepted by the Government of Russia. That, I think, is a highly favourable and highly honourable result to both nations. Is it that which the noble Lord desires should not go on? Is that what the noble Lord calls "surrender?" ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord assents. Then he declares against the reference of a question of that kind to arbitration. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] Well, that is the position distinctly taken up by the noble Lord and his Friends. Let us have no mistake about it. Then, what is the other question now at issue? That matter being disposed of by arbitration, the Government are prepared to go with the Government of Russia into a definition of the Frontier of Afghanistan. Is that what is objected to? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: In London.] The noble Lord objects to its being done in London. Is that the point? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] That is one of the points on which the noble Lord is prepared to go to war rather than to arbitration. The point upon which the noble Lord is 1593 going to have a European quarrel is whether the determination of the Frontier shall be made in Afghanistan or in London. Well, Sir, we are not prepared to go to war upon that ground. The noble Lord may, if he chooses; but I hope he will not have the opportunity. Let us see what are the points mainly put forward and clearly indicated by hon. Members opposite. I now turn from the noble Lord, who, happily, has not the conduct of these affairs. The question now is, how is the matter to be dealt with? That there is a fair and reasonable prospect of negotiation which shall establish not merely an honourable peace for the present, but a security of peace in the future, by the delimitation of a clear and intelligible Frontier, no man can deny. I say there is a hope and a prospect of peace; but it is not a certainty. It rests very much, no doubt, with hon. Gentlemen opposite to destroy these hopes, and to make that certainty impossible. They may so weaken the hands of the Government in the negotiations as to make the negotiations fail; but then they must, in that case, be responsible for the consequences of the failure; and they must be prepared to defend to the country and to Europe this position—that under no circumstances whatever will they have an arbitration; that under no circumstances whatever will they enter into a negotiation for the settlement of the Frontier. [An hon. MEMBER: In London.] That is the position hon. Gentlemen opposite must be prepared to adopt. An hon. Member says, "In London." I forgot to observe that they will have a negotiation; but under no circumstances in London. These are the only points, so far as I know, that have been challenged; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to take up that position, what useful—nay, what safe purpose, would be answered by endeavouring to postpone the consideration of this question? If you are not prepared to say that under no circumstances will you have arbitration—that under no circumstances will you have negotiation in London—why should you endeavour, by a dilatory proceeding, or by weakening the hands of the Government, to throw that negotiation into danger, and make yourselves responsible for its failure? I hope that these considerations will prevail with hon. Gentle- 1594 men opposite, and that at this very critical moment—at a moment when there is a fair and reasonable prospect of a peaceful solution of this dangerous question—no man, upon whatever side of the House he sits, will take upon himself the grave responsibility of doing anything which may make that negotiation fail.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Sir, three Cabinet Ministers have addressed the House this evening, and each of them has referred more or less to the speech delivered at the commencement of this debate by my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). In the first two of those speeches I do not know that there is anything of which any Member of this House can complain. The Prime Minister referred to the speech of my noble Friend; but it was answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) in terms which I think all Members of the House will admit were of a fair and legitimate character. But we have also been favoured with one of those remarkable orations which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department sometimes springs upon the House at a moment's notice; and I ask the House to contrast the tone and character of that speech with the other two Ministerial comments on the statements of my noble Friend. Sir, I believe I am not guilty of an abuse of Parliamentary language when I say that a grosser series of imputations than those which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to my noble Friend has seldom been heard within these walls. The right hon. Gentleman said there has been a great change in the situation within the last few days, and that it is because of that change, and because that change points to the possibility of peace, that the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock is filled with vexation, chagrin, and disappointment; and that, to the best of his ability to-night, from first to last, he has laboured to prevent the conclusion of peace between England and Russia. I take upon myself to repudiate and deny the gross and unfounded charges of the right hon. Gentleman; and I think that, when he made those charges, he was bound at least to adduce to the House something in the nature of, or which carried with it, the shadow of 1595 proof. What was it that my noble Friend said in the course of his speech? I heard the speech of my noble Friend from beginning to end—a speech which I think increases the estimation in which he is already held by hon. Members on both sides of the House—and I think the right hon. Gentleman must have felt, from the marked attention with which that speech was listened to, and the way in which it was received on all sides of the House, that the charges directed against him were totally unfounded. I have not been able to discover anything in the speech of my noble Friend to justify what has boon said by the right hon. Gentleman. It is true that my noble Friend charged the Government with a base and cowardly surrender. I confess that that was also my impression. If I was wrong in my impression, whose fault is it but that of the Government, who refused absolutely to do that which the Prime Minister invited hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to do—namely, to see in print the statement which he made to the House this evening. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I spoke of the Papers that would be presented.] I beg pardon; the right hon. Gentleman also invited us to see the statement in print. Of course, we are most anxious to see the Papers. I myself asked this evening that this statement might be read a second time, and it was so read; but, notwithstanding that, I am not sure that I was able to completely grasp its meaning and effect. And I can hardly conceive it possible that any other Government but this would have taken the course they have taken in refusing to accede to the moderate, reasonable, and temperate proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lynn Regis (Mr. Bourke) that the Vote of Credit should be postponed until, at any rate, we had had an opportunity of seeing the exact terms and language of that statement. But the Government have refused. And why? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department tells us that the delay of a single night would make the whole difference between peace and war. But, Sir, I thought we were engaged in negotiations. Are we, or are we not? I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that we are engaged in negotiations; and in order to remove the alarm which the right hon. Gentle- 1596 man feels I will quote a great authority—the Prime Minister. In 1878 the Prime Minister, in objecting to the Vote of Credit of that year, said—It is really an attempt to associate arms with negotiation. Now, permit me to say that such an attempt, by whomsoever made, is radically bad."—(3 Hansard,  947.)I do not altogether accept the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, either upon that or upon a great many other subjects; but I suppose that the Secretary of State for the Home Department does, And, if so, what becomes of his contention that when we are, as at the present time, engaged in negotiations, the delay of a single moment may make the whole difference between peace and war? Sir, I only rose in order to repel the gross and unwarrantable attack made upon my noble Friend by the right hon. Gentleman. And I must express the opinion which is certainly entertained on these Benches, whatever it may be in other parts of the House, that nothing could be farther from the intention or desire of the noble Lord than the course which the right hon. Gentleman has imputed to him. But I should like to state, if I may do so with the permission of the House, what we on these Benches desire. In the first place, we want further information upon the whole of this question than we have yet received. It is all very well to appeal to us to have confidence in the Government; but how is it possible we should have confidence in a Government whose career, during the five years they have been in Office, we know only too well? I do not recollect any occasion, in connection with their foreign policy, on which we have not had to complain that that policy had lowered the character of the country, and had been humiliating to the people of England. Surrender after surrender has been made in all parts of the world; and I ask what guarantee have we that this Government is not ready again to purchase a patched-up peace on this occasion—it may be to save their own credit before the General Election—and to leave this question open and more aggravated than ever to be dealt with by their successors, upon whom they are certain to try to cast the whole blame for what has happened, or what may hereafter happen? Beyond the announcement on the part of the Government, 1597 which I admit was twice read to the House, we have had no information, and certainly that announcement was accompanied with very small assurances. Under the circumstances, I do not think it would be unreasonable on the part of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to ask the Government to assent to the adjournment of the debate, in order that we may have the opportunity of seeing in black and white, and carefully considering, the statement made to the House at an earlier period of the evening, before we are compelled to come to a decision on the present Resolution. We do not, as I said on a former occasion, desire to do anything whatever to withhold from the Government Supplies. Whatever demands they make for the purposes of the country will receive our support. From the commencement of these proceedings, we have endeavoured to impress upon the Government the necessity of dividing this Vote under two heads. I have never wavered from that view of the case, and I am more than ever confirmed in it now; because if the prospects of peace, as we hope they are, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department will not deny, are so much better than they were a few days ago, there is great reason for hoping that the Vote may not in the end be required. In that case, it only remains for us to consider the question as to the money which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister told us was likely to be used in the Soudan. That is a question on which, on account of the many changes on the part of the Government, I have always maintained there is a great deal to be said. There are two questions which I should like to put to the Government to-night. The Government told us that the £4,500,000 asked for the Soudan might be available for other purposes; but that, in the first place, they asked for it as being likely to be spent in the Soudan. My first question then is, what are those objects in the Soudan for which the Government thought it likely that this money might be spent? And my second question is this—If it is to be available for other purposes, what is to become of those objects for which, in the first instance, it was thought that the money would probably be required? Now, upon that, up to the present moment, we have not had one single word 1598 of explanation from the Government. I may on another occasion go at length into that question; but I do not know that it would be of much use to do so now at this hour of the night, nor do I know that any Member of the Government would give the desired information, and therefore I ask the Government to assent to the Motion which I now beg to move, that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Chaplin.)
Sir, it is quite unnecessary for me, after what has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and myself, to say more than a single word. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Chaplin) must have anticipated that it would be entirely impossible for us to accede to the Motion for Adjournment. After the Vote obtained last Monday, we have no power to spend the money legally and regularly, and we ask now for the Vote which is necessary, in order that we may be so empowered. I could understand a Motion to challenge the policy of the Government on this point; but as to this Motion for Adjournment, we look upon it as being calculated to produce the most injurious effects in this and other countries, as tending to show that Parliament is doubting and uncertain, and we must, therefore, having regard to the whole of the circumstances, resist it to the best of our ability.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I should be very much surprised indeed if any person, either abroad or at home, on reading the proceedings of to-night, were disposed to think that a Motion for the adjournment of the debate on the question before the House showed uncertainty in the mind of Parliament as to supporting the Government in measures necessary to be taken for meeting a national emergency. But I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that this large Vote of £11,000,000 was brought forward last week with as little explanation as might have been expended on it had it been for the sum of £50,000 only. The right hon. Gentleman made hardly any allusion to that portion of the Vote which is intended for the Service in the Soudan, except to say that it was a large 1599 part of his policy that the Expedition in the Soudan should be made available for any part of the Empire. With regard to other matters—the special preparations we were asked to make—the right hon. Gentleman rested his case almost entirely upon the single incident of Penjdeh; and on that he made a most impassioned and eloquent appeal to the House, on the strength of which the House, without a single word of objection, voted the money asked for. Well, Sir, has there been the slightest change in the disposition of the House since then? If there has been, it is only due to the uncertainty with which we have listened to the explanations that have been given to us this evening. We are told that there is a great and important change in the situation. We think we are bound, considering the gravity of the matter; considering that it is one not for the present moment, but for all time—at all events, for the future of this Empire and for great national interests—to ask for time fully to consider and examine the proposals made. Some of our Friends on this side have endeavoured, by putting Questions to Ministers, to obtain a clearer view of the situation; but I can only say honestly for myself, and many of us on these Benches, that we think we ought to have an opportunity of considering these matters calmly, as they will appear when we read them over, and when we can compare them with the statements made in "another place," and that we cannot go satisfactorily to a division until we have had that opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said just now that my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson) was putting questions like a special pleader in the Court of Chancery; but the right hon. Gentleman might remember that my right hon. and learned Friend was dilating upon an incident of great importance, upon which several constructions might be put at a critical moment; and it is of the greatest importance that we should see that this very leading document, or whatever it may be called, is so drawn up as to exclude doubts upon points on which it is very undesirable that there should exist any doubts, and to make clear what it is important should be made clear. On the question of the Soudan, which is a large integral part of the Vote, I ob- 1600 serve that not one word has been said, and we think it is essential that we should have some information as to what the Government intend to do in this matter. They are asking for £4,500,000 for the Service in the Soudan, in a manner which their recent mode of proceeding may altogether alter, and it is only reasonable that we should have some explanation on that part of the business. But I say also in regard to the special preparations, the circumstances in which we stand, and the great importance of preventing mistakes hereafter, render it very desirable that we should have a fair opportunity given for consideration.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) complains that he has not received from the Government sufficient explanation on the matters under discussion; and I scarcely think that we have received from the right hon. Baronet sufficient explanation of the position which he and Friends apparently intend to take on the Motion made by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). Are they taking up this position—that they refuse a Vote for Supplies which we have asked for the safety, the honour, and the protection of the interests of the Empire until they have had an opportunity of discussing the policy which has led to the necessity of those Supplies being asked for? Why, Sir, the right hon. Baronet and his Friends profess not to be satisfied with the statement which has been made with respect to the arbitration between the Government of Great Britain and the Government of Russia. But that arbitration is only an incident in the long course of negotiations led up to by others; and I feel it is absolutely impossible for the House to give a judgment on our conduct in proposing or assenting to that arbitration until it has before it not only an explanation as regards the agreement itself, but also as to the precise nature of the facts and negotiations which have led up to it. I do not suppose that the Party of the right hon. Baronet opposite are going to be satisfied with the discussion as far as it has proceeded, but that they reserve to themselves full power to discuss our conduct during the whole course of these negotiations: that they will reserve to themselves the power to discuss the arbi- 1601 tration and the result that may be arrived at. But I do not suppose it will be to the advantage of the country to discuss our conduct in these respects until they have the Papers before them. Are we to understand that the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they are going to withhold the Supplies necessary for the Public Service until they have had an opportunity of ascertaining all these points? Sir, in my opinion that would be a course most disastrous and most unfortunate to the Public Service. We have told you, this evening, that we believed an honourable settlement was possible, and, as we believe, the prospect of an honourable settlement of this question is now brighter than it was some time ago. But we have not told you, and we have not ventured to tell you, that all the questions at issue between the Government of this country and the Russian Government are settled, and the House knows very well that in the unfortunate event of such a settlement not being reached, the Forces of Russia are in a position in which they may menace, if they do not menace at the present moment, positions considered equally on both sides of the House to be of great importance to our Indian Empire. Well, are we going to be told that, because a portion of the House may feel some doubt as to our conduct in one part of our negotiations, they are going suddenly and immediately to give a vote the effect of which, if successful, would be to suspend the preparations which we have considered it necessary to make? I can say, as one of the Ministers charged with the measures which may be necessary to be taken under this Vote of Credit, that such a course as is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be one of the gravest inconvenience to the Public Service. The House is perfectly well aware that preparations have been going on, and are going on at this moment, both under my direction and under the direction of my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. These preparations are being made in full confidence that Parliament will sanction the expenditure that is necessary for them. These expectations were justified by the conduct of the House on this day last week. But if we are to be told now that the House is going to suspend its judgment on this Vote, to postpone its consideration until 1602 it is satisfied on all the questions that have arisen as to the conduct of the Government of this country, then my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself will be placed in a most difficult and embarrassing position, and a position that will certainly not be conducive to the good of the public. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has spoken of his opinion as to the policy of the Government in the Soudan. Well, Sir, if the difficulties in regard to our policy in the Soudan perplex the mind of the Opposition, I think it is to be regretted that attention was not called earlier in the debate to that part of the question, and that it was left to half-past 12 to put forward the statement that they want more information. My right hon. Friend has said that we shall not shrink from any examination which may be thought necessary, either in regard to the Soudan or the Russian negotiations. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to bring forward a Vote of Censure on the policy of the Government in the Soudan, or in regard to the Russian negotiations, we shall not shrink from meeting it; but the proposition which we have urged is this—that the Vote of Credit did not afford a convenient opportunity, in the interests of the country, to discuss the policy of the Government, but that that is a subject to be treated entirely and distinctly apart from the Vote of Credit. It is to the interest of the country, and not of the Government alone, that no backwardness should be shown in providing the Supplies that are considered necessary for the Public Service in certain eventualities.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hart-ington) must have been quite certain, from the manner in which the preliminary stage of this Vote was given—namely, without the slightest discussion—that the proposals of the Government are not likely to be interfered with in the long run. [Laughter.] Well, if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department prefers any other words, I am willing to use them; but it seems to me that the Government should gather, from the unanimity displayed the other night, that there is no desire to embarrass the Government in this matter, and that there is not likely to be any opposition to the 1603 actual Vote itself. What we desire is that we should have an opportunity of fully discussing the question in its new aspect. The Prime Minister seems to have forgotten what took place on a similar occasion to this some years ago, when he and his Friends did not hesitate to delay the House four or five nights on the discussion of a Vote of Credit. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that not a farthing of this money will be expended until this Vote has been agreed to—until the Resolution has been passed; and upon that ground he presses the House to vote the money without delay. What we should like to ask the Government, however, is whether a great deal of this money has not been already spent? The speech of the noble Marquess who preceded me, who spoke for himself and for his noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, must, I think, convince every person in the House that a very large sum of this money we are asked to vote has been already expended, and very properly ex-pended, in making preparations. Therefore, the threat of the Prime Minister, that not a single farthing of this money could be spent until we had passed the Vote to-night. is utterly worthless and should not have been made. I say that after the statement of the Prime Minister as to this arrangement that has been entered into with Russia, we have a right to ask to be allowed to see the statement which the Prime Minister has made to-night in print, so that on future evenings we may be able to ask further Questions. The subject is one of the most vital importance to the country. The Prime Minister may rest assured that no one can feel that more than we do ourselves. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh at that statement; but it is only right that we should have a full opportunity for discussion. No unnecessary delay will be attempted on our part in order to delay the Vote. I repeat that we have a perfect right to see this statement in print, and to discuss it, because it may be quite necessary to ask further Questions when we have had time to consider what has been laid before us.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had said that he was quite sure there would be no very great opposition to the proposals of Her 1604 Majesty's Government in the long run; and he (Mr. O'Donnell) could not help thinking that "the long run" was a very happy description of the operations of Her Majesty's Government throughout this affair. However, he need not say that it was not to enter upon the Main Question that he had risen, nor as an opponent even to the policy which Her Majesty's Government had sketched this evening. He was, however, in favour of the adjournment of this debate; amongst other reasons, he could not but think that on a question of such importance there ought to be due consideration for the opinions of the Representatives of Ireland, and he was not aware that any opportunity had been given to those Representatives to speak upon this matter. He agreed that, from an English point of view, very considerable harm might be done by the appearance of dissension being evidenced by a division on the present occasion. Let Her Majesty's Government consider that this debate was perfectly certain to be adjourned. What was the good of provoking an appearance of dissension on this question? If this debate was adjourned in consequence of the strong expression of opinion from the Opposition side of the House—if it was adjourned without any formal and regular opposition on the part of the Ministerial Party—there would be no particular attention paid to the opposition which had taken place, and certainly no interpretation abroad would be given to it of a character calculated to weaken the hands of Her Majesty's Government still further. Then what was the good of pushing the opposition to an actual division? Of course, they knew that Her Majesty's Government would have a numerical majority. The Ministerial majority would support them, and only a small minority would vote in favour of adjournment; but it was clear that the adjournment would take place, because there was a sufficient number of Members in the House perfectly determined to have an opportunity of discussing the matter. He spoke upon this subject in no factious spirit—[A laugh]—even though his observation appeared to have the effect of restoring the Secretary of State for the Home Department to his wonted equanimity. He trusted that if there was any more Business to be done to-night they might be allowed 1605 to go to it without being dragged through the useless and troublesome formality of a vote in the Lobby, which could have no effect upon foreign nations, except to expose the fact that Her Majesty's Government were opposed by a considerable section in the House. A more unnecessary act on the part of Her Majesty's Government he could not conceive. As he had said before, he did not speak on this question as an exponent of compromise or breathing time, or whatever else they might like to call it. He believed that there were strong grounds for the policy Her Majesty's Government had indicated; but whilst entertaining that belief, he was just as strongly opposed to any summary closing of this debate as any other hon. Member could be.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 181: Majority 67.—(Div. List, No. 152.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Baron Henry Be Worms.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I venture even now to make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government. I would really ask them to consider the position into which they are forcing us in this matter. We have no desire in any way to stop the Supplies that may be necessary to secure the honour and the interest of the country—we showed that to the fullest extent when this Vote was discussed in Committee. We understood at that time that Her Majesty's Government had, through the Prime Minister, deliberately announced a certain policy; we approved of that policy, and we granted Supplies without discussion. This evening we have had other statements. I do not say whether they are different or not; but to us they bear a very different complexion indeed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) has found great fault with, I think, my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), who spoke of what had been said to us to-night as a policy of surrender. Well, Sir, I do not know whether it is a policy of surrender or not; 1606 but this I do know that it looked to us to be very like it, and what we desire in asking for the postponement of this Vote is that we may have, at least, one more occasion of debating this question with fuller knowledge as to what the policy of the Government really is. I do not, of course, want to go into that question, now; but it would appear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the whole circumstances that occurred at Penjdeh are to be referred to arbitration. Well, Sir, what were those circumstances? They were an unprovoked aggression upon our protected Ally the Ameer of Afghanistan. Has the Ameer, on whom the aggression was made——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Baronet that he is not entitled to go into the general question.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I merely desired to ask, Sir, whether the Ameer had consented to arbitration? But I will not pursue the subject. Hon. Members opposite appear very anxious to prevent any further discussion of the matter; and that, I think, is an additional reason why we should press on the Government our demand for a further opportunity of discussion, a demand which is very moderate indeed when compared with the five nights the Liberal Opposition exacted from us, under similar circumstances, in 1878. I do not want to trespass the limits which you, Mr. Speaker, have assigned to me; but I do protest against our being told that this debate cannot be adjourned, because it will interfere with the spending of the money which Her Majesty's Government have asked for. All that we ask is that the chance of further debate shall not be postponed until—probably weeks hence—the whole Correspondence is presented to Parliament. We wish a delay of a few days, that we may consider what has passed to-night, that the country may consider what has been said, that we may endeavour to elicit some further information upon the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Afghanistan, and that we may discuss and consider the bearings of their policy in the Soudan, which can now hardly be called a policy of action. We wish an opportunity of discussing the Vote of £4,500,000 for the Soudan, which we have not yet had, because we voluntarily 1607 abstained, on the statement of the Prime Minister, from bringing the subject before the House. I must say that if Her Majesty's Government refuse us this opportunity, they will take upon themselves the responsibility of refusing that which is the undoubted right of an Opposition.
We have not been slow to inform the House that we did not refuse the adjournment and ask the House to proceed at once to a decision, except under a deep sense of a solemn public duty, and of the injury which would probably result to the great interests committed to our charge were an adjournment granted, and were the appearance of hesitation on the part of Parliament, which it would carry with it, to be manifested. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) might have deemed us exceedingly wrong in taking up that position; but he surely must have seen that, having taken it up, it was impossible for us to recede from it. We cannot, Sir, and we will not, place upon ourselves the responsibility of incurring risks of that kind. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says—"On Monday last you presented to us your policy; we were satisfied, and we voted the money; but to-night you have presented a policy with regard to which we are not satisfied, and, therefore, must have time to consider it." Sir, we have never presented to the House our policy. We have never professed to be able to place in the hands of the House the materials upon which alone it can satisfactorily or honourably to itself judge the conduct of the Government. On Monday night last, I expressly stated that I should say nothing except to go over the facts which I believed were notorious to the public at large; and, therefore, do not let it be supposed that it is a question of the presentation, sufficient or insufficient, of our policy. We have never professed to do it; we cannot do it until the transactions are completed. In that we are acting on a principle universally recognized. The mischief of repeated divisions of this kind is a very grave and serious mischief. We, the Government of the Queen, under our responsibility, tell the House of Commons that the consequences of opposition to this Vote, even under the form of moving the adjournment, which implies hesitation to 1608 the Vote, will be to imperil Imperial interests. Under those circumstances, we have no choice but to persevere in submitting to the House the confirmation of that opinion which has already, I regret to say, been voted by a large majority.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister says that if there is any hesitation in this matter it will look like hesitation on the part of Parliament. I wish to say that that would be a wrong and false impression. All we ask for is that more time should be given to consider the new statements made to-day. The Government have waited for a week since the day on which they received the assent of the House to their original proposal. The feeling of the House then shown was that of desiring heartily to support the Government, and to give such Votes as were required of it. That feeling, I believe, has not changed; but we know that important measures have been taken lately; we have been informed, to a certain extent, by the Government of what those measures are, and we are anxious in consequence to know what their real character is, in order that we may take care to see that the House and the country are not committed to that which may be dangerous in the future. But what is the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gives? He says—"We have never declared our policy." If the right hon. Gentleman has not declared his policy, and claims not to be bound to tell us his policy, he should not have told us so much as he has done. Last week, he made a statement as to what his wants were and as to the ground on which he was proceeding; and now he comes forward to tell us of the negotiations which are proceeding and which he hopes to complete and so place the matter upon a somewhat different ground on which it stood last week. We have no wish to oppose the policy of the Government, if we can understand it; but we wish to have a clear understanding as to it, and for that purpose we ask for more time and further opportunity of discussion. I do not think it is reasonable that this request should be refused; but, whether they refuse it or not, they must not misrepresent us as opposing the grant of money which is asked for, because that is not the case.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I only want to make one remark before the House goes to a division. The Prime Minister intends to persevere, and I gather from the words which have just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) that so do we. We shall see whether any majority is sufficient to override the legitimate wishes of 114 Members of the House of Commons. Now, I will give to the House a basis on which we can act, a basis which I defy any Member of the Government to say one word against. In 1878, the noble Marquess the present Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) was Leader of the Liberal Opposition, and he resisted the Vote of Credit, and he resisted it on the very ground on which the Prime Minister has just furnished to the House. The Prime Minister said the Government had declared no policy to the House. As a matter of fact, I think they have; but that is what he says. Now, the noble Marquess, speaking on the Vote of Credit in 1878, said—It was a great and important principle that whenever a Government has appealed to Parliament for a Vote of Credit or for Supplies beyond the ordinary Estimates of the year, it has been in order to support some policy which has been formed and declared.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 169: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 153.)
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said, he had hoped that some Member of the Government would have himself moved the adjournment, after the result of the last division. He felt it his duty, under the circumstances, to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Sidney Herbert.)
I think the hon. Gentlemen who have voted with the minority cannot understand the position in which we are placed. They hold that it is their duty to ascertain, test, and prove the policy of the Government before they can vote this money. It is impossible, as I have told them, for us to lay our case before them until we are able to bring the Correspondence itself to such a condition that Papers can be pre- 1610 sented. Those Papers will be our case. There is nothing that can be said in answer to questions to-day that can possibly place the case properly before you. Our case is upon the whole transaction and the whole Correspondence, and our conduct is according to precedent. I, of course, except cases where a number of Gentlemen are opposed to the Government and its whole policy or principle, like the case of 1878. The rule is that these demands are met by the House and granted by the House. As I have shown by a reference to the case of 1870, the trial of the conduct of the Government is taken apart from these Votes, which are deemed to be necessary in order to show both to the country and to foreign nations what are the intentions of the Government.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means when he speaks about opposing the Vote on principle. Whether you call the question now raised a question of principle or not, it is, at all events, a question of high policy, because it is a question of the steps to be taken to secure the safety of our Indian Empire. It is on that ground I want to know what the Government are pledging us to do by this matter of grant. It is because we recognize the very great importance of the question that we desire to have time to point out some of the difficulties and dangers we see or think we see in the course the Government are pursuing, and we hope to take this opportunity of doing so. We only ask an adjournment for a very short time—two days will be sufficient to give us the opportunity.
I may explain that we cannot place our case before the House either to-night or in a couple of days.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I must respectfully point out two considerations to the Prime Minister. He says that if it were possible to present the Papers, the Government would consider the propriety of our request for time. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, I will not insist on that. The Prime Minister said to-night that he thought he heard something fall from me; I thought I heard something fall from him; but, of course, if the right hon. Gentleman denies it, I will not press the matter further. Only two arguments have been 1611 urged against delay. One was that the money ought to be spent, and could not be spent until the Vote was passed. But the noble. Marquess the Secretary of State for War has told the House that it has already been spent. Therefore that argument can no longer be used. The other argument was that the hands of the Government would be weakened in the negotiations with Russia by the want of unanimity shown by the House. I think I can show the House how weak and fallacious that argument is—that Russia will raise her demands because she thinks that we are disunited. In what are we disunited? We are disunited because it is thought that the Government are giving too much to Russia. If there were a large minority who were practically Russian in policy, as the Opposition were in the last Parliament, I could understand that the expression of that Russian policy would weaken the hands of the Government. But the Opposition are now strengthening the hands of the Government, because the Government could say to Russia—"We cannot concede this or that point for if we do the unanimity we command in the House of Commons will be destroyed." So far from weakening the hands of the Government in these negotiations, I maintain that it would absolutely strengthen them.
§ MR HEALY
I wish very respectfully to take the liberty of pointing out to the Opposition that they are scarcely going the right way of winning their demand from the Government. What I would do, is not to take so many divisions. I consider it a great advantage to an Opposition when they are able to debate a Motion for the adjournment of the House, or of the debate, and then, in spite of the New Rules, to discuss the Main Question. That is an undoubted advantage to the Opposition, which my Friends on these Beaches never have. I would suggest that the Opposition should follow the course which has been successfully pursued below the Gangway, and that they should debate this question until the Government supporters have dropped away; and then, at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, they should take a division, and not till then.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I must congratulate hon. Gentlemen op- 1612 posite upon the advice they have received from a proficient in the art of adjournment, and from so faithful an ally in the campaign. But there was one remark made by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) which was not elucidated by the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy). The hon. Member for Hertford said that the Opposition, in the course they were taking, were strengthening the hands of the Government in their negotiations with Russia, and that the Opposition were carrying on the campaign to-night because they objected to the Government yielding too much to Russia. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: I said I feared it was so.] I should like to know whether the contingent led by the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan is actuated exactly by the same motive, and whether the two sections led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) and the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan, acting in concert, are at one in their foreign policy, by which the hon. Member says they will be able to strengthen the hands of the Government in the negotiations? [Cries of "Order!"] I apologize to the House for leaving the question of adjournment; but I thought I was entitled to say what I have in reply to the hon. Member for Hertford, as I am anxious to know the exact views of hon. Members who are supporting this adjournment.
§ LOUD JOHN MANNERS
I think the right hon. Gentleman is not seriously anxious to terminate this discussion, for by the remarks he has made he has done much to prolong it for the next few hours. His speech was a deliberate challenge to Irish Members below the Gangway to get up in their places and say whether they agree with the right hon. Gentleman upon this matter; and this is the way in which responsible Ministers of the Crown, at this hour of the morning, waste the precious hours and moments of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has challenged the Irish Members, who are never—to use a common phrase—as a rule very backward in coming forward to attack Her Majesty's Ministers. We have heard no substantial reason whatever, why the reasonable proposal now made should not be accepted. The 1613 Prime Minister went too far when he said we were challenging the whole of the Ministerial policy. We have done nothing of the kind. What we have said is that the statement of the Prime Minister was of so startling and so mysterious a character that it requires further elucidation than that which it has received during this debate. For that reason, and that reason alone, we ask for the adjournment, and I sincerely trust that the Government will consent to grant it.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that references had been made to what took place in 1878 during the course of the discussion, and he had since examined the report of the debate in that year on the Vote of Credit. He found that the Liberal Party on the occasion referred to, led by the right hon. Gentleman then on the Treasury Bench, occupied in the first reading of the Vote of Credit five nights, that the Prime Minister made a speech which covered 14 pages of Hansard, and that there was a further debate on the second reading on the Vote of Credit which also took up a considerable length of time. The Prime Minister made use of one or two sentences in the course of the debate which, with the permission of the House, he would like to quote. The right hon. Gentleman was opposing the Vote of Credit, and he said—It is asked for purposes in the dark, for purposes in the air, for purposes which are still behind the screen.Then there followed this remarkable addition, that—We have heard from Her Majesty's Government that probably the bulk of the Vote will not be wanted, and that the real object is to make us strong in the Council to be held.He might go on ad infinitum; but he would simply remind Ministers that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House—the present Opposition—had passed the Vote of Credit last Monday without a single criticism. Her Majesty's Government had waited a whole week before they brought forward the Report of the Vote, and that evening they confused the House with a statement so extraordinary and inexplicable that it would seem that they did not know their own meaning. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House now asked that the debate should be adjourned for two nights in order that they might be in a 1614 position to know the meaning and bearing of the momentous step to which Her Majesty's Government had committed the Empire. That was neither an extra-ordinary proposal nor an extravagant demand. They merely asked for an extension of time, and the plea that it was essential to the interests of the Empire that the Vote should be passed to-night was utterly absurd. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), as his hon. Friend near him had pointed out, had demolished that argument. The money was being spent, and he challenged any hon. Member to get up and say that the adjournment of the debate would in any way affect that. He trusted the Opposition would stand firm, and would not be intimidated by the hectoring manner just now adopted by the Prime Minister.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he hoped the Government would persevere and take the Vote that night, and he trusted that the Opposition would think better of the matter and allow the Vote to pass. In his opinion, if Her Majesty's Government had erred at all, they had done so in giving too much information to the House. He was convinced that if the debate were adjourned some mischief would result from it, and therefore he hoped the Government would stand by what they said and carry the Vote if they kept the House all night.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, to a certain extent he agreed with the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. D. Davies), that perhaps the Government had given too much information. The complaint of the Opposition was that the Government had a week ago given information of a certain character, and that to-night they had stated something altogether different. Under the circumstances hon. Gentlemen on those Benches wanted time to reconcile the two statements—that was to say, the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister when the Vote of Credit was introduced and taken, and the statement made that evening. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that it was the invariable practice for Votes of this nature to be passed without discussion; but he had not given the House any precedent for two entirely different statements being made by the Government on the same Vote. He believed 1615 he was stating the views of almost every hon. Member on those Benches when he said they had no intention of opposing the Vote of Credit.
MR. P. A. MUNTZ
said, there was one remark which had fallen from the Prime Minister with which he believed the majority of hon. Members on that side of the House would be satisfied—it was that hesitation on the part of the House might have a very injurious effect. He was quite sure that hon. Members would appreciate the force of those words, because the many failures on the part of Her Majesty's Government had been clearly due to hesitation and timidity. The policy submitted to the House on Monday last was altogether at variance with the Ministerial statement of to-day. The Vote had been taken for the purpose of compelling the Russian Government to carry out their engagements entered into in 1873, and also on the 17th of last March. But the House was now asked to enter upon negotiations.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the Question before the House is not the Main Question, but the Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," and to that, according to the Rules of the House, the debate has to be confined.
MR. P. A. MUNTZ
said, he, of course, bowed to the ruling of Mr. Speaker. He was giving reasons why the Opposition were entitled to consideration at the hands of Her Majesty's Government in respect of the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, from an individual point of view he should describe the Prime Minister in this debate as having shown kimself to be very firm, and the Leader of the Opposition very obstinate. There was a large number of hon. Members on both Benches, and as the debate seemed likely to continue for some time, he had to make the practical suggestion that it was impossible for a long debate to be sustained in the absence of proper Commissariat arrangements in the Lobby. He wished, therefore, that Mr. Speaker would give directions that the Supper Room should be kept open, as was usual in similar cases.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he would ask the Government whether they thought that wrangling over the question of the 1616 adjournment of the debate was likely to strengthen their hands? The right hon. Gentleman could not but feel that, to say the least of it, there was a strong argument in favour of the Opposition having some further time for discussing this question—namely, that so far from there being any idea of weakening the hands of the Government, the object they had in view was, if possible, to strengthen them. He suggested to the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be possible to end this wrangle, and make arrangements to renew the debate at 4 o'clock to-morrow. No doubt, the Government would not necessarily have precedence to-morrow; but he thought it could be hardly doubted that no one would intervene to prevent the discussion being continued at the time named and brought to a conclusion. He trusted the Government would remove the necessity for further discussion of the Motion for Adjournment, which could by no possibility strengthen their hands.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 164: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 154.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that after the strong feeling shown by the Members of the Opposition in the three divisions in which the Government had had a decreasing majority, and the Opposition a corresponding increase in the number of those who supported the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, it was absolutely necessary for the convenience of the House that the Prime Minister should know that hon. Gentlemen on those Benches were prepared to pursue the course they had taken to the end. He sincerely hoped that the struggle would not be prolonged, seeing that it could have but one effect—namely, that of damaging the country still further in the estimation of foreign countries, and of still further discrediting the already damaged reputation of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. For his own part, he must say that the Members of the Opposition who had sat silent there and had heard the discussion had not heard one word from their side of the House indicative of a desire to act contrary to the wish of the Government in regard to the actual Vote in Supply. The contentions they had put forward had 1617 met with no reply from the Government except that of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, to which he (Mr. Brodrick) ventured to suggest that a sufficient answer had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour). He hoped that no further division would be taken; and he would put before the Prime Minister the fact that at that hour of the morning this controversy could only end in the Government being obliged ultimately to give way, in addition to the fact that the late Sitting would be chronicled and commented upon in every paper in the country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Brodrick.)
I do not think it is much to the credit of the House or of anyone else to follow the example of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Brodrick) in expressing the great pain he feels on the present occasion. We also, and no doubt many others, feel great pain; but I do not know that it advances the case to allege it. The hon. Member says that the argument I used about giving a regular authority to the Government to spend money was entirely disposed of by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour). It is true that, in anticipation of the judgment of Parliament, before the question has been put to Parliament, it is frequently the duty of the Government in urgent circumstances to give orders; but giving orders is not spending money. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" and laughter.] I believe that I am right in saying that no payment has been made by the Government under the circumstances in regard to which this Vote is now asked for. I believe there is no doubt about that. It is quite a different thing to proceed in anticipation of the Vote of the House, and where no opportunity has occurred to the House to give the Vote, and to proceed with money already voted. ["Question!"] I am coming to my point. Well, then, my duty is not merely to express my pain on this occasion, for that would make no one very much wiser; but my duty is to see whether there is any mode by which the essential part of the views entertained by both sides of the House can be met. Now, I understand—I have heard it from many speakers—that there 1618 is no intention to oppose this Vote. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: There is no pledge.] But the general tone of the debate has shown a disposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to pass the Vote—they say they do not wish to oppose it. Well, what I propose is this. Let us have the Vote, as you do not wish to oppose it, and let us give you an early opportunity for discussion, which can be done in one of two ways. Which of these alternatives we should adopt I will not now discuss. One way will be to put the Order for Supply on the Paper for Thursday as the second Order. In that case, there will be an opportunity of raising a debate on this subject before going into Committee of Supply. That is one method by which the object desired could be attained. The other method—if there is no technical objection to it, and I should like to have a few hours to consider it—would be still more regular and appropriate—namely, that we should immediately obtain the Vote, which would enable us to bring in a Consolidated Fund Bill, and upon a stage of that Bill on Thursday the discussion could be had. I believe that, undoubtedly, in one of these two ways each side can attain its object. We shall get our Vote—a Vote which is essential to us, and which we require in the public interest—and you will have your discussion, which is the thing you want. We cannot produce our case until we are in a position to lay the Papers before the House, which we will do at the earliest possible moment. If you think the public interest demands further discussion, that can be had on the first day upon which it is possible for us to comply with the request.
§ SIR. STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has quite accurately expressed, I think, the general feeling on this side of the House. We do not desire to obstruct the Vote. We only desire to have an early opportunity of taking notice of and of discussing the important communication made to us at the beginning of the evening. As matters formerly stood, it seemed to us that our only chance of discussing the matter was on this Vote. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, however, has materially altered the aspect of affairs, and I should think his offer is one that can well be accepted.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will give an opportunity for this discussion on Thursday?
§ MR. RAIKES
It seems to me that the matter can be easily arranged if the right hon. Gentleman will put down Committee of Ways and Means as the first Order for Thursday. I presume that a Consolidated Fund Bill cannot be brought in in relation to this Vote until the money has been obtained in Committee of Ways and Means. I would suggest that we should have an understanding before the debate concludes tonight that the Committee of Ways and Means should be the first Order on Thursday. There can be no difficulty in fixing it, and the discussion could then take place at once.
§ MR. RAIKES
What I want to say is that any proposition to bring this matter on as a second Order on Thursday would be extremely inconvenient to the House. What we have been contending for, and what I venture to repeat to the Prime Minister with all consideration, because I have no wish to embarrass him in this matter, is the importance of having this discussion upon the first Order on Thursday.
It will be so substantially, as it will be easy to put down as first Order a subject which will not occupy any length of time.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he wished to speak on that subject. He had understood that there was a serious opposition on the part of Her Majesty's Opposition to the Vote being passed to-night. It seemed, however, that after all the solemn declarations they had heard to the effect that it was a matter of principle that the Vote of Credit should be discussed, and that the policy of the Government should be explained before this money was granted, the Opposition 1620 would be satisfied with a Motion for talk's sake on Thursday next. He confessed that it seemed to him that the Front Opposition Bench had been trifling with the House. He had listened with great attention to the general arguments which had been brought forward, and which seemed to have completely changed the minds of the Opposition; and he confessed that, beyond the valuable and novel financial maxim that giving orders was not spending money, he was utterly unable to discover a single new light thrown by the Premier upon the subject. As he (Mr. O'Donnell) was a man of limited income, he only wished that the trading classes in general would accept this financial maxim of the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, deserted as the Constitutional Opposition had been by Her Majesty's regular Opposition on the present occasion, the only course he could take would be to object to the withdrawal of the Motion. It was very possible that the Irish Parliamentary Party would have something to say on the subject; but once more he must protest most strongly against all this discussion taking place to-night, and this picture of British disunion being held up to Russia, merely for the purpose of bringing forward a "talkee-talkee" Motion on Thursday next.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 20: Majority 110.—(Div. List, No. 155.)