HC Deb 19 March 1886 vol 303 cc1386-423
MR. RICHARD (Merthyr Tydvil)

, in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is not just or expedient to embark in war, contract engagements involving grave responsibilities for the Nation, and add territories to the Empire without the knowledge and consent of Parliament, said: We are a people who pride ourselves not a little upon being a self-governing nation. We are apt to look with a good deal of pity, not perhaps quite unmingled with contempt, upon communities which are subject to despotic rule and have no voice in the disposal of their own destinies. And in all minor matters we are ready to defend this right of self-government with great tenacity. If any attempt were made to levy the smallest tax, or to impose any civic obligation upon our people, without the authority of Parliament, the country would be convulsed with excitement and indignation. And yet, in regard to one Department of Government, dealing with matters which are of the highest importance, and which involve far reaching issues and consequences, the Department which controls all questions of foreign policy, we are practically, as far as I can see, absolutely powerless and helpless. Any official, acting in our name, in any part of the world, may plunge us into war, with all the sacrifices of treasure and blood, and all the solemn responsibilities which a state of war involves; or may contract engagements on our behalf, entailing grave and lasting obligations; or may make large additions to our dominions, the care of which, and the defence of which, devolve upon the nation; and all this may be done without our knowledge and consent. Perhaps I may be told that the matters I specify belong to the Royal Prerogative, that the Sovereign alone has the right to make war and contract treaties, and enlarge the boundaries of the Empire; but we all know perfectly well that, whatever may have been the case in former times, that is now a mere fiction, and a very mischievous fiction, too, which may enable an ambitious or unscrupulous Minister to hide himself behind the Throne, and so escape the responsibility of his own acts; for, as Sir Henry Mayne says, in his recent work on Popular Government. speaking of the change that, in this respect, has come over, if not our Constitution, at least our habitual practice— At present the Sovereign can make neither war, nor treaty; he can appoint neither Ambassador, nor Judge; he can do no exeeutive act. All these powers have gone over to what is a sort of Committee of Parliament, calling themselves the Cabinet, who are practically irresponsible. That was not always the case in this country. Our ancestors were extremely jealous of intrusting these formidable powers to an irresponsible Executive. For many generations, scrupulous care was taken to associate the Great Council of the Nation, or Parliament, with the Sovereign in regard to war-making and Treaty-making. Mr. Freeman, in his History of the Norman Conquest, tells us that, in Anglo-Saxon times, the Great Council of the Nation had its active share in those branches of Government which modern Constitutional theories mark as the special domain of the Executive. He says— The King and his Witan, and not the King alone, concluded treaties, made grants of folk-land, ordained the assemblage of fleets and armies," &c. And far further down than that in our history, in those periods when we are apt to imagine that the King was without Constitutional check, Mr. Toulmin Smith, in his learned publication, The Parliamentary Remembrancer, has adduced a series of precedents, extending over several centuries, to prove that it was a well - defined rule, which our boldest Kings dared not violate, that the consent of the Great Council, and afterwards of the Parliament, was necessary to a war, or a Treaty. I will not weary the House by reciting the many cases which he quotes from the Rolls of Parliament, and other authorities, in proof of this. I will mention only, as a sample, one case, which seems to me to be one of singular interest. In the fifth year of Edward III., the King's Chancellor, addressing Parliament, said that he— Summoned the Parliament in order to make peace or other issue to the dissensions between the Kings of England and France." … "The said Chancellor," says the Polls of Parliament, "on the part of our Lord the King, asked of all the Barons and great men then assembled whether the King should take the way of arbitration, as the King of France had proposed, or should make war. The Prelates, Earls, Barons, and other great men counselled as the best, that the King should make a friendly treaty with the King of France on the aforesaid matters. Now I want to know, why this House and the "Prelates, Earls, and Barons" of the other House should not have the opportunity, as their predecessors had, of recommending arbitration, as a substitute for war, in some of the many quarrels in which this country gets involved in all parts of the world? After a while, the power and the right of counselling the Executive Government on matters of peace and war, seem to have been gradually devolved upon the Privy Council, at a time when that Body was a reality, and not, as it is now, a sham. I believe that this continued until the Reign of Charles II., when the King, as Mr. Hallam says, "wanted to be absolute, for which both he and his brother had a great predilection." I have no doubt they had. [Laughter.] There were many bad things done in the Reign of Charles II., and this was one of them; after which, Mr. Hallam says there is no tangible character to which responsibility is attached. That learned historian has some instructive remarks on this subject, to which I venture to ask the attention of the Prime Minister, who smiled rather incredulously just now, when I spoke of the Cabinet as an irresponsible Body. Mr. Hallam says— It may be that no absolute corrective is practicable for this apparent deficiency in our constitutional security; but it is expedient to keep it well in mind, because all Ministers speak loudly of their responsibility, and are apt, upon faith of this imaginary guarantee, to obtain a previous confidence from Parliament which they may, in fact, abuse with impunity. For should the bad success, or detected guilt, of their measures raise a popular cry against them, and censure or penalty be demanded by their opponents, they will infallibly shroud their persons in the dark recesses of the Cabinet, and employ every art to shift off the burthen of individual liability. We may be told that Parliament has a check upon war-making, because it holds the power of the purse, and the Government must come to this and the other House for a Vote of Credit, which they may refuse. But that power is perfectly illusory, because almost invariably the war is already made. Our ships of war are in active operation, shelling the enemy's coasts, bombarding towns, and committing generally all the havoc they can, and our troops have marched to the frontier, and are in the field, before the Ministers come to Parliament and ask for money. And then, if there is any demur, we are met with such exclamations as these—"What! are we now to draw back, after we have commenced hostilities? Right or wrong, we must go forward, and not forsake the brave men who are fighting for us." I can give a practical illustration of this. When the question as to the source from which the expenses of the last Afghan War was to be defrayed was first mooted in this House, my late right hon. Friend (Mr. Fawcett) moved an Amendment, to the effect that it would be unjust to apply the Revenues of India for that purpose. I believe there was no man in this House, or the country, more strenuously opposed to that policy of aggression, which led to the Afghan War, than Mr. Fawcett. But he was very careful to disclaim any intention of wishing to stop the supplies for the war. These were his words— Before Parliament mot, he declared to his constituents. … that when war had once been commenced, nothing was so idle as to suppose that the House of Commons could stop the expenditure which had been incurred. … The soldiers who were in the field must be paid, the stores procured, or ordered, must be paid for. … Indeed so absolutely impossible, when a war had had once begun, was it to stop Supplies, that the House of Commons could practically exercise no control; and he felt this so strongly that he had no hesitation in saying that he did everything in his power to get Parliament summoned before war was declared; and he felt that had that been done, and if, before the war, they had only had the information they now possessed, this war would never have begun."—(3 Hansard, [243] 886.) Just so; but we never do get the information that would guide our judgment, before the war breaks out. And it appears to be a received maxim of our national morality, that when war has broken out, it must be prosecuted to the bitter end, however unjust it may be, even in the estimation of those who encourage and promote it. I know of only one instance in our history, when war, having been commenced, it was suspended because the Government in power had become convinced that it was an unjust war. That was the war in the Transvaal, when the former Ministry of the right hon. Gentleman, discovering that they and their Predecessors had been grossly misled by the representations of their own officials, as to the circumstances which led to hostilities, deemed it right to arrest the war even in the face of defeat. And I am glad of this opportunity to declare that, in my opinion that was one of the noblest acts of courageous Christian statesmanship recorded in our annals. But, as a rule, our principle is, when we have once embarked in war, to stick to our work; and nothing is more vain or hopeless, than to appeal to this House, to use what is called the power of the purse to put a stop to the enterprize. How was it with regard to the Egyptian War? When the Government asked for the first Vote of Credit, on that account, the war was already begun. Alexandria had been bombarded, and that great city of 170,000 inhabitants had been destroyed; not directly by us, it is true, but entirely in consequence of what we had done. It is true there was opposition to the Vote. There were a few English and Irish Members who had the courage of their convictions, and were determined to wash their hands of all complicity in that war, and to divide against the Vote, if it were only as a protest. I was one of them, and I never gave a vote in this House to which I look back with more unqualified satisfaction. But how many did we count? Just 21 against 277. It is true that there were 125 Members of the Liberal Party who abstained, or, at least, were absent; which showed that there was some remnant of conscience left to them. For, obviously, they were not satisfied with the justice of the war. But I have no doubt that, if they had any apprehension that the Vote would have been refused, they would not have been absent. But they trusted to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and trusted not in vain, to support the Government in that warlike policy, as they may be always trusted to support any policy tending to war. The Prime Minister, in a speech recently made—and if I venture to impugn any opinion of his, I beg him to believe that I do so with the utmost hesitation and deference—stated his belief that, in respect of war and warlike preparations in all parts of the globe, we have a tolerably effective control. But the only illustration he gave, from his vast stores of Parliamentary experience, was the Motion of Mr. Roebuck, to inflict retrospectively a Censure of this House on the Government respecting the first Afghan War. But that was three or four years after the event. And if Mr. Roebuck could have carried his Motion, and had even impeached Lord Palmerston, or whoever was responsible for that war, what satisfaction would that have afforded for the unspeakable atrocities and horrors endured and inflicted in that war, and for the £17,000,000 of money spent upon it? No doubt, there are cases where the Executive may not be able to wait for Parliamentary sanction, cases of invasion or sudden attack, in regard to which there must be large discretion intrusted to the Government. But I contend that, in the immense majority of cases, the wars in which we get engaged are not of that nature. If we look at those wars in which we have borne a part, during what I may call the present generation—and Heaven knows they are numerous enough—the first Afghan War, the Syrian War, the Scinde War, the first Burmese War, the Chinese War, the Persian War, the war in Japan, when we destroyed Kagosima, the war in Abyssinia, in Ashantee, and our almost countless wars in South Africa, our second Afghan War—none of these can be said to have been occasioned by sudden and urgent necessity. Indeed, in the great majority of them, they were not, in any honest sense, wars of self-defence at all; for, in almost all of them, we were the aggressors. There was ample time and opportunity, without doing harm to any interest involved, to examine and discuss the merits of the case, and to consult the nation how far it was willing to embark on that sea of blood. We now come to the question of Treaties, or engagements contracted in the name of the nation, and involving grave national responsibilities. Here, again, Parliament is absolutely helpless. In other countries, the right of making Treaties is subject to the approval of the Legislature. In the Constitution of the United States, it is enacted— That the President shall have power, by and with the advice of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur. In the Constitutional Laws of the French Republic also, we find an Article to the effect that— Treaties of Peace and Commerce, Treaties which engage the finances of the State, &c, are binding only after being voted by the two Chambers. We have no such control over engagements made in our name, and which may commit us to serious and illimitable obligations. In my opinion, the fewer Treaties there are between our own and other Governments the better. Mr. Cobden had a maxim, which he frequently enforced, to this effect— The greatest possible contact between peoples and the least possible contact between Governments; because the contact of peoples promotes peace, and the contact of Governments endangers peace. I believe there are far fewer of those entangling engagements than there were in former times, though there are too many still. In the year 1859—I was not then a Member of this House—my friend (Mr. Hadfield), the then Member for Sheffield, at my suggestion, moved for— Copies of such parts of all Treaties and Conventions now existing and still obligatory, under which the Government of this country is engaged, separately or in conjunction with any other Power or Powers, to interfere by force of arms, or by armed demonstration, or by the contribution of any military contingent or pecuniary subsidy, to attack or defend any Government or Nation with reference to its internal arrangements or foreign relations, or on any other contingency whatsoever. The Return forms a notable monument of the folly of our ancestors. It relates to only one class of Treaties—namely, Treaties of Guarantee. There are, in all, 37 different Instruments binding Great Britain to onerous obligations in all parts of the world. Well, in 1871, Lord Salisbury moved, in the House of Lords, that this Paper should be reprinted, with the addition of any Guarantees contracted since that time. In making this Motion, he delivered a long and powerful speech, in which he said— We have been accused of being a shop-keeping nation. Now, I want your Lordships to examine your ledgers, and see what is the condition of your obligations—to see in commercial language what are your liabilities and what are your assets. I want you just to look and count up the obligations you have incurred in the past, to calculate the results of those obligations, and to look round and see what are your means of satisfying them. Now, my Lords, what are those liabilities?. … Our guarantees extend over the whole of Europe, and even into the other hemisphere. I will not follow them beyond the Atlantic, but will simply ask, what are the guarantees which we have undertaken in this quarter of the world? Be- ginning from the Westward, we have guaranteed the territory of Portugal, the territory of Belgium, of Switzerland, of Greece, of Turkey, and of Sweden."—(3 Hansard, [204] 1361–2.) Some of these are very ancient, extending back to the 14th century. But by far the larger number are modern, and all were contracted absolutely without the consent, and, generally I believe, without the knowledge of the nation. Now, I do ask, is it not a monstrous thing that the blood and treasure and moral responsibility of a great nation like ours should be pledged for all time behind our backs? Now, I come to the third point referred to in my Motion, which relates to new annexations of territory to the Empire. And it is all the more necessary to dwell upon this point, as there is really a perfect mania for annexation among our countrymen in all parts of the world. It is estimated that we already possess one-fifth of the surface of the Globe. We have, in Canada, in Australasia, and South Africa an extent of territory which affords scope enough for the expansion of the Anglo-Saxon race for 1,000 years to come. But our earth-hunger is insatiable, and reminds one of the ironical stories told at the expense of some of the earlier Puritans—that to justify the grabbing propensities which began even then to be developed by men of our race, they adopted this convenient logical formula—"It is said that the saints shall inherit the earth; resolved, first, that we are the saints, and therefore, secondly, that the earth belongs to us." If anything can exceed the eagerness with which we covet the extension of territory, it is the righteous indignation with which we denounce the iniquitous rapacity of other nations, and seems to justify the sarcasm of Mr. Froude, the historian, who says— The English nation is the most conscientious in the world in judging of the faults of its neighbours. If France, or Germany, or Russia annexes territories belonging to other people, we cannot express our disapprobation too strongly. We ourselves have swallowed more territory than all the other nations put together, but we only do it for the benefit of mankind. There are some who believe that our Empire is already large enough; that we possess as many territories, in all parts of the world, as we know how to administer wisely, and to defend effectually. Many years ago, the Duke of Wellington said of India, what seems applicable to our whole Empire. He said— In my opinion, the extension of our territory and influence has been greater than our means. But I can give the House another more modern authority on this point, to which I am sure the House will listen with the greatest deference. In an article which appeared in The Nineteenth Century, in 1877, the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister used these words— It is my firm conviction, derived, I think, from my political pastors and masters, and con firmed by the facts of much experience, that, as a general rule, enlargements of the Empire are, for us, an evil fraught with serious, though possibly not with immediate, danger. I do not affirm that they can always be avoided, but that they should never be accepted except under circumstances of a strict and jealously examined necessity. I object to them, because they are rarely effected except by means that are more or less questionable, and that they tend to compromise British character in the judgment of the impartial world, a judgment which, I hope, will grow from age to age more and more operative in imposing moral restraint on the proceedings of each particular State. I object to them because we already have our hands too full. We have undertaken responsibilities of Government such as never were assumed before in the whole history of the world. The cares of the governing body in the Roman Empire, with its compact continuity of ground, were light in comparison with the demands now made upon the Parliament and Executive of the United Kingdom … … We who hail, with more, than readiness, annexations and other transactions which extend and complicate our responsibilities abroad, who are always ready for a new task, yet leave many of the old tasks undone. In my opinion, these are wise words, worthy of a sagacious, far-seeing, and patriotic statesman. But, whether it is expedient or not to add indefinitely to our Dominions, one thing seems to me perfectly clear—that those additions should not be made without the distinct knowledge and deliberate consent of the nation. I hold that opinion on this simple principle—that all such annexations involve national responsibilities, and generally responsibilities of a very grave character, and that, therefore, the Representatives of the people ought to have a voice in deciding whether the nation should incur those responsibilities. At present, it seems to be in the power of any petty officer in the Service of the Government, or, indeed, of any private adventurer, to take over large territories, and saddle the duty of maintaining and defending them on the British people, so lax has often been the acceptance of these acquisitions by the Governments of the day. I have often spoken in this House before on these and kindred questions. I am afraid my voice was too often like that of one "crying in the wilderness;" but I speak to-night with more hope than I ever did before, because I believe there is a much larger number of the Members of this House who are in sympathy with the principles I have tried to advocate than there has been, in any former Parliament. Indeed, as regards all questions of this nature my hope is in the Democracy. I have lost all faith in the Governments; they seem to have delivered themselves up, bound hand and foot, to the power of the rampant militarism, which is the curse of Europe. The one topic which seems really and supremely to interest them, is to make preparations for fighting. At this very time, when bitter destitution and distress prevail in every country of Europe—when there are millions of men, not belonging to the worthless, improvident, vicious classes, but honest and industrious men, who desire nothing more than to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow—who are trembling on the verge of starvation, what do the Governments do? The one thing that pre-occupies their mind, and on which they are squandering the millions wrung from the hard hand of toil, is to add to their armaments on a system of insane rivalry to which there is no limit. So that the condition of Europe may now be described by two words—arming and starving. I hope that the increasing power of the people will tend in favour of peace. I think I can see some significant symptoms that the great body of the working men and especially of the more educated and intelligent among them, are coming more and more to abhor war, and the warlike armaments by which they are crushed to the ground. There are some facts in the recent history of France which are fnll of hope. For we have seen Government after Government overturned in that country, because the people object to a warlike and fillibustering policy. In 1881, the Chamber upset the first Ferry Ministry by a majority of 355 to 68, on account of the Expedition to Tunis. In 1882, the Freycinet Ministry was defeated on the Vote of Credit it asked to enable France to join England in armed intervention in Egypt. In 1885, the second Ferry Ministry was overturned by a majority of 306 to 149, on a question arising out of the Tonquin Expedition. Much the same has been our own experience. The Conservative Government of Lord Beaconsfield, which came in with so overwhelming a majority, was utterly routed in 1880, on account of its aggressive foreign policy; and, I am sorry to add, that the former Government of the present Prime Minister fell on the same ground. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, I am quite convinced that the late Ministry of the right hon. Gentleman would not have been overthrown, if it had not been for the unfortunate Egyptian business. I devoutly hope that, as time goes on, the Democracies throughout Europe will lift up their voices, and show their determination no longer to support the present system—that they will make the Governments understand that if they want fighting, they had better do it themselves, and so fulfil the words of the old song— Let the men that make the quarrels Be the only men to fight.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is not just or expedient to embark in war, contract engagements involving grave responsibilities for the Nation, and add territories to the Empire without the knowledge and consent of Parliament,"—(Mr. Richard,) —instead thereof.

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

MR. RYLANDS (Burnley)

said, they must all be agreed that it was desirable that the House of Commons should have the opportunity of controlling the policy of the Government with regard to the making of Treaties, the declaring of war, and the annexation of territory. But, under present circumstances, that control was very slight, or could only be brought to bear when it was too late to effect any good purpose. Party ties gave the Government of the day an enormous power in forcing the House of Commons to accept any decision, how- ever unjust and however dangerous, at which they might have arrived in their secret Cabinet Councils. No doubt, the Government were responsible, to a slight extent, for their decisions; but their responsibility was now a very different thing from what it was in former times. He knew they would be met by the Prime Minister with the answer that whilst it might be desirable that the House of Commons should have this control, it was impracticable. On a former occasion, when he brought for-ward a Motion similar to this, the Prime Minister said it was altogether impossible to have open diplomacy. But this Motion did not recommend open diplomacy, which would have the effect of inflaming public feeling. The Prime Minister also urged that there would be great difficulty in carrying on negotiations if the Government had to consult Parliament during their progress. Of course, there would be a difficulty in that course. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) did not advocate that while negotiations were in progress between a Foreign Government and our own they should submit to Parliament the result of the negotiations as far as they had proceeded. All he contended for was that when the negotiations had reached a conclusion, and before ratifying a Treaty, the Government should come to Parliament and lay the provisions of the Treaty before them. In the Congo debate, on April 3, 1883, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, disputed the general proposition that the Crown had the absolute power of making Treaties, and that those Treaties were ratified before the House of Commons had the opportunity of expressing an opinion upon them. He said— What generally happened was this, that a Treaty was negotiated with the consent of the Cabinet and through the medium of the Foreign Office, and that at some stage, which varied in regard to time and place, and according to the gravity of the situation, Parliament had, as a rule, an opportunity of expressing an opinion before it was ratified. In all those cases which were of real importance Parliament had an opportunity of expressing, if not directly, at least indirectly, an opinion. A misconception appeared to arise in regard to the term ratification. The ratification did not take place at the time of the signature, but at a later stage."—(3 Hansard, [277] 1301–2.) Of course, the House did not require to be told that the signature of Treaties preceded their ratification; but that fact, practically, made no difference. Occasionally, no doubt, Parliament did become acquainted with the provisions of a Treaty before it had been ratified; but the accident of its doing so did not in any way give Parliament the right of preventing the ratification. There was the instance of the Washington Treaty in 1871, which was laid upon the Table of both Houses before it was ratified. Lord Russell took the opportunity, on the 12th of June, 1871, in the House of Lords, of moving an Address to the Crown, praying Her Majesty not to ratify the Treaty—and how was that Motion met? The House of Lords felt itself barred, by the terms under which our Plenipotentiaries were appointed, from interfering in the matter. A noble and learned Lord of very high authority (the late Lord Cairns) put the case very strongly. He contrasted the credentials of the Commissioners of the United States, which consisted merely of an authority to discuss and sign a Treaty subject to the ratification ot the Senate, with the credentials of the Commissioners of Her Majesty conferring Plenipotentiary powers. Those credentials were in the usual terms; but the noble and learned Lord thought them so important that he quoted them at length, and called attention to the fact that the Queen "engaged and promised upon the Royal word" that the acts of the Commissioners should be "agreed to, acknowledged, and accepted" by the Crown in the "fullest manner," and were to be taken with "equal force and efficacy" as if done by the Queen herself. Lord Cairns added— I refer to these words for this purpose. I am as jealous as any of your Lordships can be to preserve intact and in full the proper power of Parliament; but I maintain that when a Treaty has been signed, as this Treaty has been, by Plenipotentiaries possessing the powers I have read, the mere accidental circumstance that the ratifications have not been actually exchanged makes no difference to the substance though it may to the form; so that, to all intents and purposes, this Treaty is at this moment, in honour and honesty, as binding I upon this country, according to the Constitution of the country, as if the ratifications had been actually exchanged. The House of Lords were evidently impressed with this view of the case, and there was no division on Lord Russell's Resolution. The Prime Minister had more than once pointed out that Treaties most solemnly entered into often meant very little, because a great deal of discretion was left to the contracting Powers; and the right hon. Gentleman had referred to Lord Palmerston's dictum to the effect that though the contents of some Treaties might give a Power the right to interfere in the concerns of another, they did not impose any absolute obligation to interfere. John Stuart Mill had laid down that Treaties were not eternal; and George Washington had left it on record that nations did not respect Conventions when it ceased to be to their interest to observe them. But, admitting that Governments were not bound to recognize a duty of interference when Treaties were set at naught, interference, according to existing notions, was possible, and, as there was no knowing what Government would be in power at any particular date, such a possibility constituted a danger. When Russia proclaimed her intention to disregard the stipulations of the Treaty of 1856 with reference to the Black Sea, this country acted at first in a manner which might have resulted in war. Lord Odo Russell was sent specially to Germany; but though he threatened that England would fight Russia if the stipulations of the Treaty were broken, he failed to secure Germany's co-operation. In the end, but only after much excitement, Russia was relieved from the humiliating restrictions imposed upon her by the Treaty. That same Treaty of 1856 contained the understanding of the Great Powers to maintain the integrity of Turkey; and when the subject came before Europe in a practical form in subsequent years, it was only after this country had almost reached the verge of war that the claim to maintain the integrity of the Sultan's Dominions was abandoned. In 1878 he brought forward a Resolution in the House of Commons in favour of the submission of Treaties to Parliament, and on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, then on the Front Opposition Bench, replied that there was a great safeguard in the determination of Treaties in consequence of their only being made in accordance with recognized, public opinion. But a very short time after that discussion the country was astonished by the Anglo-Turkish Convention, which had been secretly negotiated at the instance of Lord Beaconsfield's Government, and in which this country was committed in a most serious manner. The right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister very properly condemned that Treaty as an abuse of Treaty-making powers. In 1883 there was an important debate in the House on the Congo Treaty; and in the course of that debate, in reply to Mr. Jacob Bright, who brought forward the Motion, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister referred to a former speech of his objecting to any interference with Treaty-making powers on the ground that no Government would ever venture to make Treaties on serious matters behind the back of Parliament. And the right hon. Gentleman said that, owing to what had happened, he was not prepared to repeat that assurance; and, consequently, he undertook that any Treaty made by the Government with reference to the affairs of the Congo should be made known to Parliament in such a way, and with the intervention of such an interval, that Parliament should be enabled to exercise an independent judgment upon it. That was an important advance on the part of the Prime Minister in recognizing the right of Parliament to consider effectively the terms of a Treaty before ratification, and he (Mr. Rylands) trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would give the House some assurance that further progress would be made in the same direction.


said: Before I make any particular remarks on the subject of debate, I venture to offer a few preliminary observations. In the first place, I am extremely glad that my hon. Friend (Mr. Richard), in making this Motion, has entirely detached it and kept it apart from any particular subject of controversy. It raises a general question of the utmost importance; and it would undoubtedly have been interposing an obstable in his own way if he had approached the subject in a controversial spirit, with the intention of either directly assorting or indirectly insinuating that there has been in recent periods any particular case of abuse of the Treaty power enjoyed by the Crown. So far as we are concerned the matter stands sufficiently detached from any polemical considerations to enable us to look at it—as we ought to look at it—in the abstract, and any illustrations that are necessary may be drawn from a period sufficiently remote not to raise any difficulties of that kind. Secondly, I hope I may express the expectation, upon two grounds, that my hon. Friend has had it for his object to raise a discussion on this important matter, and that he does not mean to endeavour to pledge the House to the proposition he has put before it—were it only on the ground that inasmuch as it has become almost a stereotyped rule to deal by way of negative with the first Motion on Friday night's Supply, and as it was only owing to quite exceptional circumstances that that rule was not observed on the present occasion, there would be no expectation on the part of the House generally that the proposition of my hon. Friend would become the subject of a vote of the House; so that any vote which would be obtained would not probably be a satisfactory expression of the deliberate judgment of the House. I may also observe that the extreme breadth of the proposition itself would, in my opinion, make it exceedingly unwise for the House to commit itself after an incidental discussion—such as this must necessarily be—to changes of such range and such vast importance, entailing consequences so manifold and so remote that we can hardly measure them; and we ought not to be asked to commit ourselves to such a proposition at what I may call a moment's notice, or rather without any practical notice at all, on account of the consideration to which I have referred. But, in saying that, it appears to me I leave to my hon. Friend an ample margin and justification for raising a discussion of this kind; because it is very well that the minds of hon. Members, apt to be occupied from day to day with the particular cases that are continually pressing themselves upon us for notice and decision, should be occasionally brought back to the consideration of general rules and practices, which are undoubtedly in themselves of vast importance. Looking, therefore, not at the proposition as put to me with a demand for its immediate acceptance, but looking to the general principles on which my hon. Friend stands and the objects he has in view, I confess that I have always regarded them with a cer- amount of sympathy, and that I do not find as I grow older that sympathy becomes in any degree less. I desire so much that the powers that are exercised by the Executive Government should be exercised, not only with general moderation, but also with a very strong and full sense of what is duo to Parliament and the country; and I am very sensible that through the necessary infirmity of human nature, and without the smallest reference to the acts of any one Government or another, the present system cannot possibly be defended as an ideal system—that is to say, we cannot say that in every instance the maximum of security is afforded to the country against either its going wrong or its being betrayed into acts which, whether right or wrong, are acts of which it has no cognizance and on which it has had no opportunity of pronouncing its judgment. But I would observe that here we have before us three cases which are entirely distinct from one another, but which my hon. Friend—for the acquittal, no doubt, of his own conscience and for the full expression of his views—has combined in one single proposition—the cases of territories, Treaties, and war. Many of the important considerations which apply to one case do not apply, or do not apply with equal force, to the others. For example, take the case of territorial annexations. These are subject to revocation by this House. I have often said that this is a power which, in the abstract, is greater than it is in practice. But why is it limited in practice? Not because of what belongs to the annexation itself; but the difficulty arises in consequence of the political considerations which have grown, not out of the mere act of annexation—I do not know that a single case can bequoted where a difficulty has arisen simply out of an act of annexation—but on account of the liberty which has been assumed by the Executive Government in political and warlike proceedings antecedent to the annexation. That is what makes it difficult to deal with an annexation. If I refer to the case of Burmah—I have not heard it named in the way of censure, and I am not going to refer to it in that sense—it is simply because it happens to be the last act of annexation. It would be a difficult matter at this moment to revoke the annexation of Burmah. Irrespective of the question of the fulness of the justification for the annexation, there would be difficulty in doing it, for the difficulty there arises out of the warlike operations which preceded it and not out of the act of annexation itself, so that the matter resolves itself very much into the consideration of that part of the Motion which relates to war. With regard to Treaties, it is true that in very rare cases Treaties, and important Treaties, have been made, as it were, behind the back of the country; but these cases are exceedingly rare. In the main the Treaties made by the Government over a long series of years have been agreeable to the sense of the country. I take as an illustration of my argument the instance quoted with much force by my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Motion (Mr. Dodds). My hon. Friend greatly disapproves of the Black Sea Clause, as it is called, in the Treaty of 1856. As far as I recollect, I disapproved of it at the time; but I think it was irrelevant and unfortunate to introduce that subject in reference to the argument my hon. Friend had to support. The country was perfectly cognizant of that clause. The proceedings in connection with the Treaty of Paris were, according to my recollection, a subject of very long discussion in Paris, conducted by the Representatives of many Powers, and extending over such a considerable period of time that it was impossible that they should remain secret. They were matter of notoriety to the whole world before the Treaty was concluded. If Parliament had been consulted upon the subject and asked to give a formal judgment upon the clause, I have not the smallest doubt that it would have given its full consent. Therefore, it is impossible to derive an argument from that in support of my hon. Friend's contention. I do not think my hon. Friend has been too severe upon that clause. It was a clause impossible permanently to maintain. I believe I stated in this House many years ago that Lord Palmerston, who was more responsible for that clause than any other statesman in Europe, had no idea that it could be permanently maintained; but he thought it a valuable provision to maintain for a certain time, the great object of the Treaty of Paris being to give a breathing time to Europe. There was never any idea of threatening Russia with war upon the subject. My hon. Friend referred to a passage in a despatch of Lord Odo Russell, whose services are unhappily now lost to the country; but that passage had no connection with any instructions he had received from the Government at home. I have quoted that Treaty as a very remarkable instance of a European negotiation, where it was quite true that the Crown made the engagement without the formal assent of Parliament; but I am bound to say I believe it was a Treaty which was made with the thorough cognizance and in accordance with the prevailing and general feeling of the country, and therefore in faithful execution of the powers committed to the Executive. Now, with regard to war, my hon. Friend wishes to commit the House to an opinion that it is neither just nor expedient to embark in war without the knowledge and consent of Parliament. Does my hon. Friend use the word "war" in its technical sense, as describing a state of things known to International Law? No; he means to include warlike operations. I am not sure that any instance could be quoted in which the Queen has engaged in war in any technical sense without the consent of Parliament. Now, is it possible for the House to commit itself to such a proposition as that warlike operations are not to be engaged in without the full knowledge and consent of Parliament, or that Treaties are not to be concluded without the full knowledge and consent of Parliament? If a proposition of this kind were adopted by Parliament, there are no persons who would profit so much by it as the Ministers of the Crown. It would be an enormous lightening of their responsibility, as it would throw over the responsibility to other shoulders; therefore, they have every reason for favouring the adoption of such a rule if it could be safely adopted and acted upon. My hon. Friend asked me, if I am not mistaken, whether some progress in that direction has not been made by the course adopted in the case of the Congo Treaty. Well, wherever it can be done, I think it is desirable that the Government of the day should take the country into its confidence; but we cannot make a general rule to that effect. It is impossible to do so. If it were the judgment of Parliament that it was necessary to impose some wholesome restrictions upon the proceedings of the Executive Government in this important respect, how would Parliament have to proceed? My hon. Friend is perfectly right when he says that in other times such restrictions did prevail. As late as the last century, undoubtedly, it was the practice of the Crown to hold prior communication with the Houses of Parliament on Treaties which were about to be concluded. Would the hon. Member like that practice to be revived? No doubt he would. What would be the consequence of that? You must go back to the state of things which existed when these communications were made and when the debates of this House were not reported to the country. You must have a secret organization in this House; you must have another Cabinet within the House. I am not objecting to that; but I beg my hon. Friend to consider what difficulties that would entail and what sort of confidence would be given to the judgment of the House upon the resolutions adopted about war and Treaties by a Secret Committee of the House. No; I do not think my hon. Friend would accept such a Committee. How is it possible to carry on whole negotiations in the face of the world and subject to the comments of the Press—invaluable for every purpose of domestic policy, but as regards such matters of public policy totally unfit for the purpose of carrying on such negotiations? It would be totally alien from our ideas of a free Parliament, where everything is spoken out and nothing is coucealed, if the House determined to have such a change in the relations of the Executive and Parliament. After all, my hon. Friend does not get out of his difficulty. What does he say took place in respect to the bombardment of Alexandria? It was quite open to Parliament to censure the Government, so said my hon. Friend. He said there were 121 hon. Members disposed to do so, though they had not sufficient awakening of conscience in them to induce them to take one side or the other, like the angels of whom the great Italian poet speaks in the war in Heaven who were neither for God nor Satan. Two hundred and twenty-seven hon. Members came down and voted against my hon. Friend, so that, after all, my hon. Friend's instance did not seem to do much for him, I, for my part, would be delighted if it were practicable to associate the Executive more with the Legislature in these great and responsible proceedings, but I do not see how it can be done. If it can be done, let my hon. Friend show me the mode, and I, for one, am quite ready to consider it. In the case of the Senate of the United States you have undoubtedly a most efficient control over the Executive; but you have it associated with the power of secrecy, which is freely used in America, but the introduction of which would be contrary to the spirit of this House, and would be a matter of the greatest difficulty even to persons anxious to limit the powers of the Executive. With regard to warlike operations it is quite impossible it could be done. The check upon the Executive, I am sure, with regard to warlike operations would be very feeble. Let me take a case, not without interest, as sufficiently remote to be referred to without passing feeling. I refer to the case of the lorcha Arrow in connection with the difficulty with China in 1857. That was a case in which it would have been perfectly possible for the Executive Government, if they had been so minded, to communicate the proceedings to the House; but they did not think it necessary to do so. It was not like the conquest of Scinde, and many others. They might have disowned it, but they did not. The late Lord Derby had the strongest feeling upon the subject. He raised the question in the House of Lords and moved a Vote of Censure; but the House of Lords supported the Government. The question was raised here, and I took a strong part with persons of various political shades of opinion, and we beat the Government. But what happened? When we went to our constituents a great many of us lost our seats, and the country determined to support the Government in that very case. So I am afraid it would be in other matters, and that you would not be able to attain the object you had in view. It is, however, with the utmost satisfaction that I see both here and elsewhere the sense of the people much less favourable now on various occasions to wars than it used to be; but there is still great danger. The case of the China War is rather a remarkable one in that sense. Now let us suppose that Lord Palmerston was quite right and that military operations were necessary. Evidently it was a case in which there was no choice. If the thing was right to be done it was right to be done then. You could not refer to Parliament, you could not even obtain the judgment of the Government by telegraph before Sir John Bowring took action. Or to take another instance—I hope the last of all possible apprehensions of war, though one must not be too sanquine, between us and our kinsmen on the other side of the Atlantic—I mean the case of Mason and Slidell. The apprehension occurred when Parliament was not sitting. The Government of Lord Palmerston thought, as the Government of the United States afterwards admitted, that it was a clear case of violation of International Law. The Government immediately made their demands, and the sending of 10,000 troops to British North America showed that they were in earnest. Although that was not strictly the case of warlike operations, it undoubtedly committed the British Government and the country to war if the Government of America had not concurred in their view. That was in itself a breach of International Law inadvertently committed. But does anybody think it would have been possible for the Queen to have summoned Parliament on that occasion and to ask the two Houses, one of which might have voted one way and the other the other way, whether it was right for the British Government to make a demand for the release of Mason and Slidell, and if they made the demand with what practical and executive measures it was to be accompanied? I go with my hon. Friend with all he says against the militarism state of Europe, and when he says he has lost his faith in Governments and places it in the people, to a considerable extent I go with him. If we can in any way adopt any rational and practical rule that will enlarge the discretion and power on the part of Parliament towards the Executive Government, I shall be glad to listen to any such proposition if it is of a practical nature. But my hon. Friend, in eudeavouring to induce the House to support a Motion of this kind, is practically endeavouring to do what is in the nature of things impossible—namely, to make the Legislative power the Executive. The Legislative power and the Executive power are essentially distinct. In this great country and its complex Empire, ramified all over the globe, you cannot avoid giving great confidence and great discretion to the Executive. If you give that great confidence and discretion you must be prepared for its being occasionally, through error of judgment, misused. It is very sad that the nation should be subjected to such a risk; but it is in the nature of things, and cannot be rooted out, and any attempt to confound together these two great provinces of Government—the provinces of the Legislature and of the Executive—will only produce confusion worse confounded and be liable to bring about an enormous extension of practical mischief. The hon. Gentleman expresses feelings and propositions in his speech to which I heartily wish well; but I trust he will not expect us, or ask the House, to accept a Motion involving results which, I think, he is hardly able to measure, and which I am sure the House is not able, after an incidental discussion, adequately to appreciate, and which, I am afraid, will produce many consequences not only not agreeable to the views of my hon. Friend, but the very reverse of those views, and calculated to be detrimental to the high and sacred purposes which he so justly advocates and has at heart.


said: I will not trespass for more than a few minutes upon the attention of the House, especially as the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) who has just sat down deals absolutely with the views of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), who brought forward this Motion, and as he said nothing with which we on this side of the House would be disposed to disagree. But it is absolutely impossible for us on this side of the House to sit quietly and patiently while hon. Members opposite, below the Gangway, choose to occupy on this great question of State policy a high moral position, and choose to assert by their expressions, and to insinuate by their motions, that everybody on this side is far below them in high moral wisdom, and, in fact, that they are persons for whom is reserved the "blackness of darkness" for ever. I am quite familiar with the attitude of the hon. Member for Merthyr on this great question of peace and war and international arbitration. I have often heard him make very much the same speech; but I have never known him to take a single practical step towards carrying out the policy which he advocates. To a great extent, I go with the hon. Member for Merthyr in the Motion he has moved. And, more than that, I say that it is not possible, practically, for the Executive Government either "to embark in war," or to "contract engagements," or "add territories to the Empire" without the consent or knowledge of Parliament. What are the three principal engagements which govern our foreign policy at the present moment—engagements to which the hon. Member for Merthyr and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) have been consenting parties? The first is our engagement to the Ameer of Afghanistan, entered into by the Prime Minister in 1880 to defend, under certain circumstances, the territory of the Ameer against Russia. That is an engagement which at any moment, by some unfortunate circumstances, may involve this country in war. What is the second engagement? It is an engagement to the Government of the Khedive, the sacredness of which has been dwelt on over and over again by the Prime Minister, and which has been recognized by Parliament and by hon. Members below the Ministerial Gangway. The third engagement is that entered into with the Powers of Europe that we will, if necessary, prevent Greece by force from disturbing the European peace. Mark the position! These are the three practical engagements which the present Government is carrying out. Every one of them may at any time involve this country in warlike operations. Under these circumstances, if the hon. Member for Merthyr wished to carry out his policy, why did he not take a practical step in that direction by moving a specific Resolution to the effect that these are engagements which may involve the country in war, and that in the opinion of this House it is the duty of the Government to take steps to withdraw from all of them? That would be a practical Motion which the House could assent to if it agreed with it. I hope, before the debate closes, that one of the hon. Gentleman's Friends will answer my question. Suppose something took place under these engagements which did involve this country in war, you could not say that you were unable to assent to that policy being carried out. The Motion of the hon. Member is a thoroughly unpractical and abstract Motion, and it is purposely unpractical and abstract. It has been moved in order to enable the hon. Member and his Friends to occupy a high moral position before the constituencies, and to go about the country on various platforms and say—"Here are we bringing forward these Motions, which, of course, are opposed by those warlike Tories who are always crying out for war." The public is not always going to be blind. If the Radical Party are so strong in Parliament—strong numerically and intellectually—why do they content themselves by moving abstract Resolutions, and absolutely shirk the practical issue? It is shirking a plain and practical issue when Motions of this kind are made and direct and practical Motions are avoided. Why do not hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite move that this country withdraw from the particular engagements I have referred to, which may involve us at any time in war? That is the question that we ask those hon. Members: and until they take up a plain, straightforward position of that kind, and bring forward a practical Motion which may have some practical effect on the Government of the country, the House of Commons will not believe in their sincerity, and I am certain also that it will always be easy to dispute the sincerity of their motives before the country.


said, he believed that in the treatment of inferior races no country in the world had been so just, on the whole, as this country. He regretted to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister say that he did not see his way to establish a Committee which would have, to some extent, the control of foreign affairs. He thought that it was most desirable that this country should have a continuous foreign policy; and he should like to see, in addition to the Foreign Secretary and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a Committee containing a certain number of experienced Members of both Houses of Parliament charged with their supervision. He should like to see foreign and Colonial affairs kept altogether free from Party politics in this country. He believed that we had suffered in the past and, no doubt, would suffer in the future by changing our policy with every change of Administration. He rejoiced to see, however, that of late years there had been a desire on the part of one Government to pursue the policy pursued by its Predecessors. While he regretted that Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury insisted in the Treaty of Berlin that Roumelia should be separated from Bulgaria, he was now glad to see that Lord Salisbury, when lately in Office, had the wisdom to adopt a policy in connection with this matter which might be described as the Liberal policy. We had seen that in Greece also the Liberal Government had followed the policy of the Conservative Government. He felt the greatest possible interest in the welfare of Greece, and he believed it would have been the greatest possible misfortune if Greece had gone to war with Turkey single-handed. He was glad when it was decided to do what we could to prevent Greece commencing military operations against Turkey, and also when Lord Rosebery, on acceding to the Foreign Office, determined to continue the policy of his Predecessor. It was fortunate for Greece that there had been a change of Administration in this country, because the Greeks had great confidence in the Liberal Party in England. He listened with satisfaction the other night to the speech on Egypt made by the hon. and gallant Member for Fins-bury (Colonel Duncan) Two or three years ago it would hardly have been possible for such a speech to have been delivered from the Conservative side of the House. We had, to some extent, now arrived at a continuity of foreign policy. Since the General Election Parliament had been able to take new departures in home affairs, and surely it could do something of the same kind, in foreign affairs? He believed it would be wise to appoint a Committee upon foreign affairs. No doubt it would have to be a secret Committee; but if such a Committee existed he should feel more confident that foreign affairs were being conducted with more advantage to ourselves, and perhaps with more fairness to other nations. He should certainly feel more certain that continuity was being maintained in our foreign policy. It had been mentioned by the Prime Minister that in the United States the Foreign Secretary took advice and in- struction from a Committee of the Senate. Certainly the United States had been remarkably successful in their conduct of foreign affairs. It was at their instigation that the French withdrew from Mexico. If the United States could carry on their foreign affairs by means of a Committee, why should we not do so? There was no validity in the excuse that it was easier to adopt a new course in a new country than it was in this. He was satisfied that we could learn much that would be of advantage in social legislation even from the smallest of our self-governing Colonies. They had made experiments, and we should not hesitate to do so.


said, the noble Lord had called, upon Members who supported the Motion before the House to prove their sincerity by moving a Resolution to upset certain Treaties which had been entered into. They did not move any such Resolution as that, because they did not disapprove of those engagements. If it were the case that they disapproved of these engagements, then, indeed, a case, would arise in which they would challenge the opinion of the House upon that point. The Prime Minister had stated that it was in the power of the House to have interposed in the case of annexations which had taken place, but that it had failed to take advantage of that power, because the annexations had been the natural result of circumstances that had occurred previously. He ventured to say that in the case of Burmah that was a disputable proposition. For a long time after the war in Burmah had been successful it was absolutely uncertain whether annexation or withdrawal was to be the issue. Far from its being a necessary consequence that annexation should take place, it was quite possible that the Government of India might have come to the conclusion that annexation was not a legitimate, a satisfactory, or a beneficial conclusion to their operations. If that were a proper matter for the Government of India to consider and decide upon, was it unreasonable that they should say it was a proper matter for the House to express its opinion upon it? And there was no emergency, or anything calling for instant decision, to prevent or hinder the sense of the House being taken upon the question. The Government of India had hung up the matter for several weeks. Instead of being a case in which the House could not have interposed, it was precisely an instance in which the House should have interposed to express its opinion. The Prime Minister had made some remarks on the Treaty of Paris. He said that if the provisions of that Treaty had been brought before the House they would have been approved of; but that was surely an argument to show that the House was a perfectly proper tribunal to be consulted before such engagements were entered into. It was the first time the suggestion had been made that those engagements were intended to be temporary. They had been under the belief that those engagements were intended to be permanent, and that the States of Europe who accepted them were bound by them. It appeared now, however, for the first time, that there had been a previous understanding to the effect that these engagements were only temporary. Why should there be secret Treaties and secret understandings at all? The Prime Minister said that if the power of the Government to negotiate in secret were abolished we should have to return to the conditions which prevailed when Parliamentary debates were not made public. But at the period the right hon. Gentleman referred to there were literary men who attended the House, and who gave publicity to its proceedings. So eminent a man as Dr. Johnson, trusting his memory to a great extent, did publish a Report, in which he put better language into the mouths of hon. Members than they had themselves used. How could there ever have been secrecy in the consultations of 600 Gentlemen? Who ever heard of a secret that was confided to 600 Gentlemen? Though the debates of that time were not published, there was a real communication of them through the Members to their constituencies; and the opinion of the country was in some measure expressed upon them. Why, he asked, should there be secrecy? What was there in the engagements that we desired to enter into which called for secrecy? Who had been the most successful Treaty-maker of modern times? Everyone would answer Prince Bismarck, whose doctrine and practice had been to make an open declaration of what he intended to do, and what he meant. Had not many of the dangers into which we had run risen from the practice of secret diplomacy? Had they not arisen because the country had not been aware of the actions and intentions of the Government, and so could neither control them nor sanction them? The Ministers were not able to speak with the authority of the country to foreign nations. Many a time, when the Ministers were threatening war, foreign nations believed that war would not be tolerated by the country; and the result often was that we drifted into war. That was the case in the Crimean War. The Emperor of Russia did not believe that this country would allow Ministers to carry out their threats, simply because, as he was well aware, the country was not allowed to know what was going on. If Ministers were to state openly what they intended to do, and if we did away with this system of secrecy, then the nation would feel the responsibility in which it was involved; it would make up its mind calmly and deliberately, and would not be hurried away by passion, because it would not be misled by false rumours as to what had been done in its name; but, above all, it would be able to strengthen the Government, and give it a power which it did not possess just now, and it would make our negotiations infinitely more advantageous and successful to the country than they had been in the past. The consequence of it might be that hon. Members might be turned out by their constituencies, as the Prime Minister had said they were in the case of the China War; but if they should make mistakes he thought the sooner they were turned out by their constituencies the better. Reference had been made by the Prime Minister and others to the necessity which might occasionally arise for the Government taking a sudden resolution; but no one wanted to interfere with that. In common life sometimes they had to take the law into their own hand, though, if there was time for it, they had always to seek the sanction of the law in the proper way. In precisely the same manner, there was no desire to interfere with the legitimate exercise of the power of the Executive in all cases of emergency; on the contrary, they should trust the Executive, and confirm its action, whenever the occasion arose for them to do so. But what they asked in the Motion now before the House was that where there was no emergency, and where there were negotiations and transactions going on for a considerable period, the Government should not conclude those negotiations finally until they had submitted them to the consideration of the House. He hoped his hon. Friend would not yield to the appeal that had been made to him to withdraw his Motion. There were a number of hon. Members who were pledged to the opinion that such questions as were embraced in the Motion should for the future be dealt with as matters belonging to the nation, and should be brought before the nation for its decision, instead of being settled behind the back of the nation.


said, Lord Beaconsfield, on a well-known occasion, gave expression to a memorable saying when he said that the expenditure of a country is governed by its policy. In that maxim he (Mr. Handel Cossham) thoroughly concurred. It would be a happy day not only for this country, but for the world at large, when the same principles of honour and justice governed our International relations as governed the private lives of most of us. There was, it would scarcely be denied, hardly anyone who would, in his private life, act upon the immoral principles on which we had gone filibustering and annexing territory all over the world. He contested the principle that extent of territory made a nation either rich or great. A country was great not in proportion to the extent of its territory, but to the happiness and comfort and progress of its people. If, indeed, extension of territory could render a country great and powerful, Russia, which owned one-seventh of the world's surface, would be the greatest and most powerful country in the world. The history of the world showed that there were two great things that led to national disaster and ruin—one was the neglect of the poor, and the next was extent of territory. He asked the House to put a stop to that excessive military expenditure and extension of territory, which had created that gigantic National Debt now weighing so heavily on the industry and commerce of the country? He could not help observing, even in that House, that there was a great desire to spend large sums of money derived from the taxation of the country in keeping up great armaments. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), in the speech he delivered that night, had sneered at his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard). He would venture to remind the noble Lord that his family had received more money, and had done less for it, than any other in the country. He wished to remind the Prime Minister that it was the public opinion of that day which prevented this country joining the Southern States; and the case of Slidell and Mason, so far from supporting, told against the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The hon. Member was proceeding to enlarge on this topic, when—


said, that the hon. Member was travelling from the Motion.


concluded by saying that what he wanted to see was a check put upon the tendency to enter into foreign wars and complications. He hoped that public opinion would put an end to a filibustering policy in any part of the world.

SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

said, he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) if he went to a division. It seemed to him that the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) was very unfortunate in the instance he had quoted as to the Treaties he suggested they should move to repeal. Two of those Treaties certainly were entered into long before there was time to protest, and some of them had protested as soon as they had a chance of doing so. It was impossible to answer the arguments of the Prime Minister; but under the hon. Member's (Mr. Richard's) Resolution there was a great truth lying, condemning the policy of entering upon wars which involved great expenditure of blood and money before Parliament had any opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject. With regard to Burmah, the policy might be right or wrong; many thought it was wrong; but it was all over before Parliament could say a word. He considered that before the country was entirely committed to any annexation of territory or any war, and before steps were taken from which there could be no retreat without disgrace, the House and the constituencies should on every possible opportunity have the satisfaction of expressing their opinion.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

said, the country would be indebted to his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) for bringing forward this matter. To many hon. Members it was really refreshing to have a night's debate of this sort after they had seen Parliament within the last few days spending money with the greatest lavishness, and had heard hon. Members speaking as if the only thing for which they lived was to complete instruments of destruction. In many points the case of the Prime Minister was unanswerable; but this was not a technical question. It would be lamentable if, after the extension of the suffrage, an improved feeling were not manifested in that House. He admitted at once that the House of Commons might have failed in its duty in several of the instances mentioned by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill). There were difficulties in the way; all of them were influenced more or less by Party considerations, and it was not pleasant for them to assail their Leaders; but really, if they could not insure to the House of Commons the security indicated by his hon. Friend, they would be bound to have a still higher regard than hitherto as to the composition of Governments. No speech could have been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister which would have touched Parliament or the country more than the speech which he had made that night. Many of them felt that it was only for a comparatively short time that he would occupy the position he now occupied in that House; and he had left them, in the utterances he had made that night, his latest conviction upon this most solemn question. He hoped that what had been said in that debate would make such a deep impression on both sides that the spirit of levity, and almost of callousness, with which they had entered on great International engagements would not be so readily adopted in the future. He was not one of those who could look with unconcern upon the continual extension of territory for which Parliament was responsible. Mere considerations of prudence should make them hesitate; and if Parliament could not directly control the Government in any specific case the only alternative was to lay down a general policy. Many hon. Members were subject to the reproach of want of patriotism and pluck; but he said that they on his side were proud of the Empire, and of the position which it occupied, and wished that position to be maintained. He was sorry to hear the noble Lord impute to his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) the motive of Party considerations. He believed there was no purer-minded man in that House, or one freer from considerations of that kind. During all the time he (Mr. Illingworth) bad had a seat in that House he had taken the side of abstention from meddling too readily in foreign affairs; and he was one of the seven who in 1870 refused to support the Government when, during the Franco-German War, they yielded to the panic-mongers and brought forward a Vote for an increase of 20,000 men and £2,000,000 of money. That was his answer to the noble Lord, who charged him with acerbity, for it was his duty then to vote against his own Party. What he desired was that the House of Commons, and particularly the peace Members, should be continually on their guard, and should work superior to Party considerations. It was true that in several cases where protests had been made against the interference of the Government, as in the case of the Chinese War, the constituencies went against the peace Members; but it must be remembered that there was then a limited suffrage, and that while the governing classes supported a mischievous foreign policy there was an overwhelming majority of the masses of the people who did not commit themselves to or encourage interference. It was the working classes of this country, the working men of Lancaster, and Yorkshire, and the Midlands, that prevented our middle and governing classes from having any share in the war between the Northern and Southern States of America. Although some classes might at times be carried away by passion, he asserted that the feeling of the Democracy was not in favour of a war system. They were hoping and panting for a better condition of things. War had been the pastime of the governing classes of this country, but the masses of the people had been the sufferers; and he warned the present Government, and any successive Government, that with an intelligent Democracy finding expression for its opinion, they would be mistaken if they did not rely on calm judgment and moral feeling to restrain them, from wanton aggression.

MR. SPICER (Islington, S.)

said, that he hardly knew a war since he took an interest in political life that we were right in going into; and, though strongly sympathizing with the object of the Motion, he could not support it, for he thought that it would rather tend to bring about than to prevent war. During the recent Russian scare, for instance, when the Opposition were urging the Government to take warlike measures, any debate in the House would have done immense harm.

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

said, he was persuaded that if this Motion was not carried to-night a similar one would be carried before long, for it touched a subject very near the hearts of the working men of the country. He believed it was generally admitted that it was the unenfranchised masses which prevented this country from being plunged into war with the United States of America, and also that it was the same class who, six or seven years ago, prevented us from going to war with Russia. This class was now enfranchised, and he believed they still held the same views, for amongst the multitude of questions that were agitated during the late General Election none found more favour than that which was involved in the Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard). He was of opinion, however, that there was no desire on the part of the Democracy to lay down any hard-and-fast line in this matter, because they recognized that exceptional circumstances might arise which would justify the action of the Executive Government without having obtained the assent of Parliament. If the fire-eating journalist, bondholders, and unprincipled capitalists were to leave the people to themselves no country would think of invading the territory of its neighbour. He had no doubt that if the country had been consulted as to the annexation of Burmah before the Expedition started an immense majority would have declared against it. But the House was not consulted until the money had been expended, the blood shed, and the honour and reputation of the country more or less involved. It was in the hope of preventing the repetition of this kind of thing that he would support this Motion.


said, he desired to say a few words in answer to those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken since the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. There could be no doubt that the extension of our Constitutional rights that had been continually going on had resulted in giving Parliament a greater control over the Executive as far as related to the foreign affairs of the country. He did not believe that there was any Party in this country—and he said this as much of the Party opposite as of that behind him—who were anxious to go beyond the necessities of the case in making troublesome engagements with Foreign Powers, or to embark in military operations without the consent of Parliament. It was difficult for the Executive to have Parliament always at hand, and a large amount of responsibility with regard to foreign affairs must always be left with the Executive. Any Government which took upon themselves so grave a step as to embark in military operations knew that they would have to give a strict account of their conduct to Parliament, and that if they failed to obtain the sanction of Parliament for their acts they would incur the most serious personal responsibility, and that they would be liable to be immediately dismissed from power. In his opinion, therefore, the danger which the hon. Member (Mr. Richard) who had brought forward this Motion desired to guard against was not so great as was sometimes supposed. It was not always possible, or even desirable, that Parliament should be consulted before military operations were commenced; and, indeed, the hon. Member himself had not indicated any way in which the authority of Parliament could be better brought to bear in this matter than it was under the present system. Unless the hon. Member did that his Motion became a mere abstract one, to which it would be difficult to give any practical effect. He quite admitted that during the last 10 or 15 years the limits of Executive discretion had been overstepped upon more than one occasion; but it always lay with the Executive to allege that the occasion in question was an exceptional one, and that, therefore, they were entitled to Parliamentary indemnity for their action. In these circumstances, he was afraid that nothing would be gained by laying down a hard-and-fast line of action. With regard to the method of controlling the foreign policy of the Executive adopted in the United States, he wished to point out that that country was in a totally different position with, regard to its foreign policy from that occupied by any European Power. The United States had no foreign policy on this side of the Atlantic, and their foreign policy on their own side of it was very simple. He fully admitted that the more Parliament was consulted and the less secrecy there was about our foreign policy the better. It might be, as in the time of Lord Beaconsfield's Government, that while the foreign policy of this country in 1876 never received the approval of the people at large, still it did receive the approval of the then Parliament. If this Motion were agreed to, the hon. Member would have to go a step further and say that before the Government could take any important step in foreign policy they must take the opinion of the electors upon it. He ventured to hope that after what had been said on this subject on behalf of the Government the hon. Member would be satisfied, and would withdraw his Motion.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 112: Majority 4.—(Div. List, No. 38.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 115: Majority 6.

Abraham, W. (Glam.) Cameron, C.
Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.) Campbell, Sir G.
Campbell, H.
Allen, H. G. Carew, J. L.
Allen, W. S. Chance, P. A.
Arch, J. Clancy, J. J.
Barry, J. Clark, Dr. G. B.
Beith, G. Cobb, H. P.
Bennett, J. Cobbold, F. T.
Bickford-Smith, W. Coleridge, hon. B.
Blaine, A. Conybeare, C. A. V.
Bolton, T. H. Cook, W.
Boyd-Kinnear, J. Corbet, W. J.
Bradlaugh, C. Cossham, H.
Bright, right hon. J. Cox, J. R.
Bright, W. L. Crawford, D.
Burt, T. Cremer, W. R.
Byrne, G. M. Crilly, D.
Dillon, J. O'Connor, A.
Dixon, G. O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)
Durant, J. C. O'Connor, T. P.
Esmonde, Sir T. O'Hanlon, T.
Esslemont, P. O'Kelly, J.
Everett, R. L. Otter, F.
Fenwick, C. Pease, Sir J. W.
Foster, Dr. B. Pickersgill, E. H.
Fox, Dr. J. F. Powell, W. R. H.
Gilhooly, J. Price, T. P.
Gray, E. D. Priestley, B.
Harrington, E. Rathbone, W.
Harris, M. Redmond, J. E.
Hayden, L. P. Roberts, J. (Flnt. Bgs.)
Hayne, C. Seale- Robertson, E.
Hingley, B. Robson, W. S.
Howell, G. Russell, E. R.
Hoyle, I. Sexton, T.
Hunter, W. A. Shaw, T.
Illingworth, A. Sheehy, D.
Ince, H. B. Simon, Serjeant J.
Jacks, W. Spensley, H.
Jacoby, J. A. Stack, J.
James, C. Sullivan, D.
Jenkins, D. J. Swinburne, Sir J.
Johns, J. W. Thomas, A.
Kelly, B. Tuite, J.
Kenny, C. S. Watson, T.
Lalor, R. Wayman, T.
Lane, W. J. Westlake, J.
Leicester, J. Will, J. S.
M'Arthur, A. Williams, A. J.
M'Culloch, J. Williams, J. C.
M'Donald, P. Wilson, H. J.
M'Laren, C. B. B. Woodhead, J.
Mason, S.
Molloy, B. C. TELLERS.
Morgan, O. V. Richard, H.
O'Brien, W. Rylands, P.
Acland, rt. hn. Sir T. D. Coote, T.
Acland, A. H. D. Corbett, A. C.
Acland, C. T. D. Corry, Sir J. P.
Addison, J. E. W. Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.
Allsopp, hon. G. Crossley, E.
Ambrose, W. Grossman, Gen. Sir W.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Curzon, Viscount
Baden-Powell, G. S. Dawson, R.
Baggallay, E. De Cobain, E. S. W.
Baily, L. R. Dimsdale, Baron R.
Baker, L. J. Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Douglas, A. Akers-
Balfour, G. W. Duff, R. W.
Bartley, G. C. T. Duncan, Colonel F.
Bates, Sir E. Duncombe, A.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Fisher, W. H.
Fitzgerald, R. U. P.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Fitz-Wygram, Sir F.
Biddulph, M. Flower, C.
Blundell, Col. H. B. H. Fowler, H. H.
Broadhurst, H. Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-
Bryce, J. Gathorne-Hardy, hon. J. S.
Chamberlain, E.
Charrington, S. Gibb, T. E.
Childers, rt. hon. H. C. E. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Gladstone, H. J.
Churchill, rt. hn. Lord R. H. S. Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.
Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E. Gorst, Sir J. E.
Gower, G. G. L.
Compton, Lord W. G. Haldane, R. B.
Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B. Mellor, rt. Hon. J. W.
Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M. Menzies, R. S.
Morgan, rt. Hon. G. O.
Heaton, J. H. Mulholland, H. L.
Herbert, hon. S. Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.
Hill, Lord A. W. Murdoch, C. T.
Holmes, rt. hon. H. Pease, A. E.
Howard, J. M. Pilkington, G. A.
Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C. Portman, hon. E. B.
Price, Captain G. E.
Hutton, J. F. Pugh, D.
Jackson, W. L. Reed, Sir E. J.
James, hon. W. H. Richardson, T.
Jennings, L. J. Russell, Sir C.
Johnson-Ferguson, J. E. Saunders, W.
Saunderson, Maj. E. J.
Johnston, W. Sidebottom, T. H.
Jones, P. Sidebottom, W.
Kay-Shuttleworth, Sir U. J. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Spicer, H.
Kenyon, hon. G. T. Temple, Sir R.
Kilcoursie, right hon. Viscount Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Tyler, Sir H. W.
Kimber, H. Vanderbyl, P.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, hon. H. T. Vincent, C. E. H.
Watson, J.
Lawrance, J. C. West, Colonel W. C.
Lawrence, W. F. Wolmer, Viscount
Lockwood, F. Woodall, W.
Lubbook, Sir J. Young, C. E. B.
Macartney, J. W. E.
Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A. TELLERS.
Marioribanks, rt. hon. E.
MacInnes, M.
Maclean, F. W. Morley, A.
M'Iver, L.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday next.

SUPPLY,—Committee upon Monday next.