HC Deb 18 February 1887 vol 311 cc48-87
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to insert, at the end of the 3rd paragraph— But, at the game time, humbly to express to Your Majesty that steps taken on behalf of your Government, without the concurrence of the other signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, to prevent the abdication of Prince Alexander of Battenberg, were not in accordance with the interests of this country, and were fraught with danger to the peace of Europe, said, he was afraid that, in speaking on the subject of this Amendment, he should be obliged to weary the House. But it was necessary to do so. He complained of certain acts of Her Majesty's Government, and these acts were recorded in a Blue Book; and it, therefore, became necessary for him to read copiously from the Blue Book in order to establish his case. Originally Bulgaria was a province of Turkey, and Russia desired to free Bulgaria from the rule of the Turks. At that time the Conservative Party were in power, and did their utmost to prevent the Russians from freeing the Bulgarians. The Russians, however, were successful, and the Treaty of San Stefano was signed. By hat Treaty Bulgaria and Roumelia were united together, and a considerable portion of Macedonia was freed from the Turks. Her Majesty's late Government came forward, and insisted on a Conference being held at Berlin, when another Treaty was also signed, by which Macedonia was left still under the rule of the Turks; while Bulgaria was divided into two States—Eastern Roumelia and Bulgaria. It was now admitted, even by the Conservatives themselves, that this was a great mistake, and that, if Russia was anxious to extend her territory, and trying for a large stake in Turkey, we were playing her game by establishing two separate States instead of one large State. The Treaty of San Stefano was signed and the Treaty, of Berlin was signed. After this Prince Alexander was selected by Europe as the Ruler of Bulgaria. He was at that time a protégé of the Russian Government. When he went there—he referred to this because there was a good deal of interest attached to Prince Alexander, especially by the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury)—the first thing he did was to swear to the Constitution. His second act was to violate the Constitution. He almost commenced his Reign with a coup d'état, in which he imprisoned and banished the men who were accused of imprisoning and banishing him. The two Provinces then were united. Then the Servian war broke out, and that war was entirely due to the refusal of the Conservative Government of the day to concede the union of the two Principalities. A year ago Russia disapproved of this union, and, as he understood, Her Majesty's Government approved of it, as did the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). In Bulgaria itself there were two Parties. One was the Panslavist Party, which was grateful to Russia and wished to be under the hegemony. The other Party was opposed to Russia because they thought their independence was in danger. The latter was now called, he believed, the "English Party," who were opposed to the paramount sway which Russia seemed anxious to exercise in Bulgarian affairs. Now he (Mr. Labouchere) came to the Blue Books. On the 21st of August the Prince was seized and removed out of the country. At that time Sir Frank Lascelles, Her Majesty's Representative in Bulgaria, was absent on leave, and Mr. Condie Stephen—a clerk in the Foreign Office—was sent to represent him. Mr. Condie (Stephen was a sort of stormy petrel who was kept in the Foreign Office; and whenever it was thought desirable to stir up public feeling in any part of Europe against Russia, Mr. Condie Stephen was sent to aid and abet. The first information received by Her Majesty's Government of the revolution, appeared to have been a despatch from Sir Savile Lumley to the late Lord Iddes- leigh—whose name he was obliged to in troduce, although without any desire of reflecting upon the actions of that statesman. On August 23 the late Lord Iddesleigh telegraphed to Sir Edward Thornton a very sensible message, to the effect that he had not seen Lord Salisbury, and that the Government could do nothing till they were in possession of the facts. But that course was not continued, and action was taken before the Foreign Office was in possession of the facts; because on August 23 Sir Augustus Paget telegraphed from Vienna that the attitude of the Bulgarian people was one of "complete apathy," and mentioned that the troops had sworn fidelity to the new Government. The telegram went on— In view of this general indifference, and of the conspiracy embracing men of all political parties, Count Kalnoky said he did not see what can be done in favour of the Prince."—(Turkey, No. 1,1887, p. 86.) What was the conduct of Mr. Condie Stephen during that time? Revolutions took place in other countries; but it was not the business of the British Envoy to interfere. He recognized the Government de facto. But Mr. Condie Stephen seemed to have known perfectly well the views which his Government entertained; so in a telegram received on the 26th August he wrote that, as he feared Prince Alexander might be exposed to dangers, he had insisted on seeing the military leader, and had told him that he was responsible for the Prince's safety, as the coup d'état had been a military one. What business had Mr. Condie Stephen to do this? And he proceeded— I declined to discuss the political side of the question; but I demanded to know whereabouts of his Highness, and details of what had taken place, as British Representative accredited to Prince Alexander."—(Ibid, p. 98.) Mr. Condie Stephen went on to state that he took steps independently of his Colleagues, who seemed little inclined to move in any way without having received instructions. That was to say, that the Representatives of the other European Powers were more wise, and did not take any active steps which might compromise their Governments one way or the other. On the 25th of August, three days after the revolution, Lord Iddesleigh telegraphed to Sir Edward Thornton, in strong terms, to do what he could in favour of Prince Alexander's return to Bulgaria. On the 26th of August Lord Iddesleigh telegraphed to Sir Savile Lurnley— Impress upon the Porte with great earnestness that it would be politic on their part, now that Prince Alexander has recovered his freedom, to summon his Highness to return to the Principality in order to restore order there."— (Ibid, p. 101.) Then, on the 27th, was received the first of a long series of snubs from the Powers of Europe to this country. This was from the Italian Government, for on that day Sir Savile Lumley wrote that Count Robilant thought it desirable to await the issue of the meeting between M. de Giers and Prince Bismarck, which would probably be followed by some proposal if they came to an understanding. Meanwhile, Mr. Condie Stephen was taking active stops in favour of Prince Alexander. The Government kept applying first to one Power and then to another, and all with the same result. In fact, this country was the only one in Europe which concerned itself in any way on behalf of Prince Alexander. Prince Alexander returned to Bulgaria on the 29th August, after having wandered about Europe; and it was obvious that some non-official communications had taken place between him and Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Kennedy, our Representative at Bucharest, writing to Lord Iddesleigh, said that the Prince's chaplain, who was to meet him at Lemberg, would "urge him in the strongest terms to return without delay." He (Mr. Labouchere) supposed that Mr. Kennedy had been told to urge this, and very likely other means had also been adopted; because about this time Sir Edward Malet wrote a despatch to Lord Iddesleigb, of which only an extract appeared in the Blue Book, in which it was said that Prince Bismarck continued to hold that the interests of Germany were not primarily engaged in Bulgaria, and that the policy of Germany would still be directed to the preservation of peace. That was No. 232 in the Blue Book. Then there was the despatch of Lord Iddesleigh to Sir Augustus Paget dated August 30. This despatch confirmed the fact that there had been private communications with Prince Alexander. To the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires, who wished to know whether the Prince was acting according to his own judgment or on the advice of Her Majesty's Government; Lord Iddesleigh replied that the Government had not been in official communication with him. That was very likely true, the phrase "official communication" having a special meaning in the language of diplomacy; but the statement by no means proved that there had not been communications. From the despatches sent at the time by Sir Prank Lascelles, Mr. Condie Stephen, and other of Her Majesty's Representatives, one would suppose that the whole Bulgarian nation were in favour of the Prince's return to the Throne. The Prince himself, however, told Sir Francis Lascelles that the military conspiracy was much more extended than had been at first supposed —that the Army was highly disorganized, and that he could place no reliance on the civilians. When the Prince made these statements, he recognized that it would be impossible for him to remain in Bulgaria without the support of Russia, and that Lord Salisbury was contemplating a course which must involve us in war. On September 2 Prince Alexander wrote to the Czar, saying that, as his Crown had been given to him by Russia, he was prepared to resign it at her bidding; and the Czar replied, that he could not approve the Prince's return to Bulgaria, and that it would probably result in fresh disasters. The Government learnt on the same day that the Prince had placed his Throne at the disposal of the Russian Emperor, and yet Lord Iddesleigh sent despatches to our Representatives at Berlin and Vienna, in which he said a point had been reached when it was of great importance that the Powers should be consulted; that it was possible, if time were lost, other Powers might take the initiative in a sense unfavourable to what the Government deemed to be the real interests of Europe, or that some untoward event might occur to cause confusion. Lord Iddesleigh then intimated that the Government were in favour of supporting Prince Alexander, and charged our Representatives with the duty of at once consulting the German and Austrian Ministers for Foreign Affairs. It was plain that at this time the Government wished to enter into an alliance with Germany and Austria against Russia, the object of the alliance being to main- tain Prince Alexander on the Throne of Bulgaria. But the despatch did not meet with very great favour at the Courts to which it was addressed. Count Bismarck told Sir Edward Malet that Prince Bismarck could not advise the formation of an alliance such as was proposed; and that his opinion was that, although Prince Alexander had been placed upon the Throne by the Great Powers, it was not incumbent upon them to maintain him in his position either jointly or separately. To Sir Augustus Paget Count Kalnoky said, that the Czar's answer to Prince Alexander left no hope that he would listen to any proposal in favour of the Prince, who, it was also evident, would not be supported by Germany; that the Prince was so discouraged and depressed that it was very doubtful whether he himself desired to remain in Bulgaria; and that, in the circumstances, the only thing to be done was to await the development of events. This, however, was precisely what Her Majesty's Government would not do. On September 6, Sir Frank Lascelles, who was then in Bulgaria, telegraphed as follows— I am convinced that His Highness's presence is likely to prevent disorder, whereas his departure would probably be the signal for an outbreak of something that would resemble a civil war, which might furnish Russia with a pretext for a military occupation of the country. The Earl of Iddesleigh at once telegraphed back— I have received your telegram of the 6th instant informing me of a suggestion of Prince Alexander that a European Commission should be appointed to administer the country on his departure. The difficulties in which both Bulgaria and Europe would be involved through the abdication of Prince Alexander, are of so serious a nature that Her Majesty's Government desire you earnestly to urge upon His Highness that he should remain and guide the country through the present crisis."— (Ibid, p. 138.) At this time Mr. Condie Stephen was in England, and he wished, with reference to that gentleman's presence here, to put the following definite Question to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs —Did Mr. Condio Stephen receive a letter from Lord Iddesleigh addressed to an eminent financial house in the City, and did he go with this letter of introduction to the firm referred to, and say that it was desirable that the firm should enable him to obtain for Bulgaria a loan of £500,000; and that, if they could obtain the loan, the Bulgarians would do their best to prevent a Russian occupation? To this question he wanted a specific answer. On September 2nd Lord Iddesleigh had said that he did not think that Russia was especially concerned in the affairs of Bulgaria. By the 8th of the month, however, he must have changed his opinion. Sir Robert Morier telegraphed to the noble Earl on the 7th an account of an interview with M. de Giers. The Russian Minister told Sir Robert Morier that he feared we had not calculated on the dangers and misfortunes which would certainly accrue to all concerned, and more especially to the Prince, if we succeeded in our enterprise and restored him to his Throne. But this was, however, our concern— not his; that Russia had no intention whatever to interfere; that the Emperor had said so, and would keep his word. Asked whether, if we were to succeed in restoring the Prince, the Emperor would be likely to reconsider his decision, and to become reconciled to his kinsman, M. de Giers, with unusual warmth, replied that this could never be. I could form no idea," he said, "of the intensity of the hatred animating every class of the Russian class, from the highest to the lowest, against the Prince which late events had repealed; and of which he himself had had no adequate conception till he had, as it were, come into bodily contact with it when recrossing three days before the Russian frontier. He challenged disproof of the charge that while Prince Alexander was in Bulgaria the Government did everything in their power to induce him to remain there in defiance of Russia. On September 7th the Prince left Bulgaria. On the 8th of September Lord Iddesleigh addressed a circular-note to Her Majesty's Representatives abroad, requesting them to ascertain whether a communication from the Porte had been received by the Russian Government, in which the Great Powers were asked to join in an assurance to the Bulgarian Government that the conditions guaranteed to Bulgaria by Treaty should be secured, and that no foreign intervention should take place in the Principality. Lord Iddesleigh was practically inviting the Powers to join in a crusade against Russia. Her Majesty's Government received a severe snub. Sir Augustus Paget telegraphed— The Austrian Government will place itself in communication with the other Powers; but in the meantime, declares that it places itself now, as always, on the basis of existing treaties; that there will be no intervention whatever on its part, and that it hopes and is persuaded there will he none on the part of any other Power. Such intervention would be contrary to its views. M. de Freycinet said he had— Merely answered verbally that he could certainly assure the Porte that France had no intention of intervening. Mr. Scott, the Chargé d'Affaires, telegraphed from Berlin, September 9— I have the honour to report that on the receipt of your lordship's telegram of yesterday's date, inquiring whether the Imperial Government had received a communication from the Sublime Porte on the Bulgarian questions, and, if so, what reply the Imperial Government proposed to make to it; I had an interview with Count Bismarck, who informed me that the Turkish circular in question had been communicated to him to-day. His Excellency read it to me, and said that he had given a verbal reply to the Turkish Ambassador, to the effect that it did not seem necessary for the Imperial Government to return a direct answer to the first part of the circular; that, although the fact had not as yet been officially notified to the Powers, Prince Alexander appeared to have already quitted Bulgaria; that the Sultan ought to be satisfied with the distinct and satisfactory assurances given by the Russian Government that it had no intention of intervening in Bulgaria, and Germany had certainly no such intention. With regard to the question addressed by the Porte to the Powers generally, Count Bismarck informed the Turkish Ambassador that the Imperial Government could not give a reply without previously consulting with the other Powers. Count Bismarck then expressed to me his private opinion that if it was the intention of the Porte to ask the Powers for a joint assurance guaranteeing the treaty conditions of Bulgaria the Chancellor would decline to give it, as useless, remembering the official interpretation placed by Her Majesty's Government in the case of Luxemburg upon the obligations of a joint guarantee; but, that he considered that the Treaty of Berlin, which, until altered by general consent, remained in full force, ought to be sufficient security to satisfy both the Sultan and the Bulgarian Government. Lord Iddesleigh having sent round a Circular suggesting that some guarantee should be given by certain of the Powers that Bulgaria should not be occupied by Russia; France, Germany, and Austria refused to give any such guarantee. A Council of Regency was appointed in Bulgaria pending the election, and Russia sent General Kaulbars thither. The despatches were full of denunciation of the action of General Kaulbars. Our consuls and agents seemed to consider it their business to interfere in every way to impede General Kaulbars. Russia denied the legality of the Assembly which was to be called together, and technically Russia appeared to have been right, for representatives were to be sent from Eastern Roumelia, contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin. General Kaulbars demanded three things of the Bulgarian Government— first the raising of the state of siege; secondly the release of all prisoners implicated in the disturbances; and the postponement of the elections for the National Assembly. The Bulgarian Government were willing to concede the first point, but no others. General Kaulbars pointed out as to the second point that— As the present Government was merely a party Government, it had not the right of judging Members of a party politically opposed to it. Then Lord Iddesleigh on September 30 telegraphed to Her Majesty's representatives abroad another Circular, in which, he said— The embarrassment of the situation is largely due to the facts that the election of a successor to the late ruler of Bulgaria has not yet taken place; while, at the same time, not only must the ordinary business of administration be carried on, but some questions of the gravest importance must be dealt with, such as that of the trial of persons charged with complicity in the forcible abduction of Prince Alexander. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister points out that the Government cannot comply with some of the demands addressed to it by the Russian Agent and Consul General without violating the Constitution; and it is evident that the infringement of the Constitution at a crisis such as the present is a serious matter and ought not to be resorted to without careful consideration and a proved necessity. It appears to Her Majesty's Government that it is very desirable that the elections should take place as early as may be, so as to shorten the time during which the Administration is weakened by the vacancy of the throne. But, whether this be so or not, they are strongly of opinion that the Great Powers should give their earliest attention to the condition of the country, and should offer to the Bulgarian Government such advice as they may think calculated to meet the exigencies of the case."—(Ibid, p. 186.) Sir Savile Lumley, from Rome, telegraphed— The instructions which have been sent to the Italian representative at Sofia are of a general character—namely, to gain time, and to avoid pressing for the elections, which cannot take place until the Powers have arrived at an agreement as to the candidate to be proposed for the throne of Bulgaria. Sir Augustus Paget telegraphed, October 2— In compliance with your Lordship's instructions, I have to-day communicated to Count Kalnoky a copy of your telegram of September 30th. His Excellency, while agreeing in the general principles therein expressed, is nevertheless disinclined to give advice to the Bulgarian Government on any specific point; and referred to M. Tisza's recent speech as being a full and clear enunciation of Austrian policy, which he believes would have an effect at Sofia as well as elsewhere. Count Kalnoky went on to say that, in his opinion, things were tending towards a compromise between the Bulgarian Government and General Kaulbars; and that this might possibly be marred by the other Powers supporting the Bulgarian Government in opposition to Russian demands."—(Ibid, p. 189.) Sir Edward Malet replied to Lord Iddesleigh, October 2— I have the honour to inform your Lordship that I have this day addressed a note to Count Bismarck, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the words of your Lordship's telegram of the 30th ult., stating the views of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the state of affairs in Bulgaria."—(Ibid, p. 191.) No reply was ever received from Prince Bismarck. He refused to reply to such, nonsense. He know that we were trying to get up an alliance against Russia and to force on a war between Austria and Russia, and he would have nothing to do with it. About this time Her Majesty's Government appeared to have fallen out with Turkey. It was manifest from Lord Iddesleigh's telegram to Sir William White, of October 11, that Turkey had, before this, pointed, out how absurd it was for England to take up such an attitude with regard to the occupation of Bulgaria by Russia, while England herself was occupying Egypt and threatening to remain there. On October 12, Lord Iddesleigh sent another Circular to the Great Powers. In it he transmitted copies of two telegrams received from Her Majesty's Agent and Consul General at Sofia— The first of these gives an account of disturbances caused at the elections at Sofia by a band of men from the neighbouring villages, who subsequently took refuge in the Russian Embassy, and of the attitude of the Russian Acting Agent on this occasion. The second telegram reports that the Bulgarian Minister for Foreign Affairs had confidentially addressed the Agents of the Powers, begging that their Governments would take the affairs of Bulgaria into immediate consideration. I have to request you to inquire whether the Government to which you are accredited have received information similar to that contained in Sir F. Lascelles' telegrams, and what view they take of the proceedings which he reports, and of the situation described in the communication received from the Bulgarian Government."—(Ibid, p. 203.) That was to say, having been snubbed again and again, Her Majesty's Government now send another Circular, asking—"Have you received a certain communication," which, of course, the foreign Governments had received. Sir Augustus Paget replied on the 13th— I have spoken to Count Kalnoky on the subject of Sir Frank Lascelles' telegrams of the previous day. The information contained in the first had appeared in the public telegrams here; but His Excellency told me that he had heard nothing from the Austrian Agent at Sofia relative to the request of the Bulgarian Government that the Great Powers should take the affairs of Bulgaria into their immediate consideration, with a view to putting an end to the interregnum. Count Kalnoky went on to say that he was not disposed at present to go further in the way of remonstrance with the Russian Government than he has already done."— (Ibid, p. 210.) The reply of Italy was still stronger. Count Robilant said that the Italian Government had received information similar to that contained in Sir Frank Lascelles' telegrams, and added— As the interests of Italy in Bulgaria were unimportant, she would restrict her action within the limits of the Berlin Treaty, according to which the only point now requiring consideration is the election of a Successor to Prince Alexander. M. de Freycinet, replying on behalf of France, said— He would take into consideration the views of the various Governments if they were made; but at present he was in the dark, and certainly could not advance his views. On the 27th of October the Assembly met. It was then urged by Her Majesty's Government that they were exceedingly anxious that this Assembly should be recognized by the Representatives of the major portion of the Great Powers, and that they should go to Tirnova. Gadban Effendi was sent to Turkey, and in the end England was snubbed again, as she had been throughout these proceedings. The Powers absolutely refused to send their Ministers or the Secretaries; and this Representative Assembly, which was stated to be illegal by Russia, and which neither Austria nor Germany were prepared to say was illegal, was opened without any Representative from England or the other Powers. He really felt for the Government at receiving these successive snubs. On October 20 Lord Iddesleigh received a despatch from Sir Frank Lascelles, in which it was stated— Gadban Effendi returned to Sofia last night. He has applied to the Regents for the postponement of the Convocation of the great National Assembly: at all events, until General Kaulbars, who is expected to arrive at Sofia on Friday morning, shall have had time to communicate any fresh instructions he may have received. Gadban Effendi has also given it to be understood that Turkey and Russia have come to a complete understanding on the Bulgarian Question."—[Ibid, p. 224.) One would have thought that Her Majesty's Government were ashamed at the humiliation of sending these Circulars. Not a bit of it. On the 26th of October another Circular was sent to Her Majesty's Representatives at Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Rome, and St. Petersburg, along with which copies of two telegrams from Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople were transmitted— Relative to an announcement made yesterday to the Porte by the Russian Ambassador that his Government proposed to send two ships of war to Varna for the protection of their Consul and the Russian community at that port. This was a last despairing effort. The only answer which he had been able to find was from Sir Augustus Paget, dated Vienna, October 27. The other Governments were tired of replying to those despatches, and they had evidently come to the conclusion to take no notice of them. Count Kalnoky, having been asked what view he took of the despatch of Russian vessels to Varna, replied that— According to the statement of the Russian Government they were small vessels sent for the protection of the Consul at his own request. He did not, therefore, see what objections could be raised, as there was, no doubt, considerable excitement among the population against Russia. His Excellency further remarked that he did not consider it as a preliminary step to a Russian occupation of Bulgaria, more especially as any such intention was disclaimed in the announcement made to the Porte of the despatch of the two corvettes to Varna."—(Ibid, p. 245.) He had now brought the proceedings down to November, which was a most important date for the House to bear in mind, because it would be remembered that Lord Salisbury on the 9th of November made a very bellicose speech at the Guildhall. On November 5th Sir Augustus Paget telegraphed to Lord Iddesleigh— With reference to the language used by Dr. Smolka, President of the Austrian, and Count Tisza, President of the Hungarian, Delegation, in their opening address at Pesth yesterday, I have the honour to report that the organs of the Vienna press credited with enjoying official inspiration are seeking to attenuate the importance attached by public opinion to Dr. Smolka's words, which are regarded as being of a very inflammatory character, and all responsibility for them is repudiated on the part of the common Government. The fact of Dr. Smolka being of Polish nationality, and his advanced age is, perhaps, calculated to account for the tenour of his language, which cannot fail to cause embarrassment to Count Kalnoky at the present juncture. If credence is to be attached to the information which reaches me from reliable sources, the common Government does not yet contemplate any change in the policy of reserve which it has hitherto pursued in the Bulgarian Question; and were it the case it seems highly improbable that they would so suddenly have selected Dr. Smolka as their mouthpiece."—(Ibid, p. 261.) A few days afterwards the Emperor of Austria made a speech to the Delegations at Pesth. Mr. Kennedy sent this account of it— This speech from the Throne is something of a sedative, as compared with the more alarmist cry sounded, especially by the President of the Hungarian Delegation, in the inaugural addresses, with the substance of which I had the honour to acquaint your Excellency in my previous despatch reporting the meeting of the Delegations. It was received with applause by the Austrian Delegation, particularly the passage expressing hope for the maintenance of peace and of the interests of Austro-Hungary. Lord Salisbury had these facts before him, therefore, when he went to the Guildhall. He knew very well that he had tried to stir up a war in Europe and had failed; that Prince Bismarck was protesting by silence against his action; that Austria refused to have anything to do with it; and that the Sultan had come to an arrangement with Russia in regard to the Principality. Yet Lord Salisbury went to the Guildhall, and, after speaking of the revolution which had broken out in Bulgaria, he alluded to "conspirators debauched with foreign gold" —that was to say, the gold of Russia. He did not think this was fitting language to be used in regard to a Power by a Prime Minister who was anxious to maintain the peace of Europe. On that occasion Lord Salisbury said— In the present case the immediate interests of England are not engaged. In this matter Austria is on the look out. The opinion and judgment of Austria must weigh with enormous weight in the councils of Her Majesty's Government; and the policy which Austria pursues will contribute very largely to shape the policy which England will also pursue. That was to say, Lord Salisbury was urging Austria to go to war, and here he promised that Austria was to decide upon the policy of England—that if Austria would only go to war for a matter in which the noble Marquess himself said the immediate interests of England were not engaged, he would come to the aid of Austria, would join with Austria in a war against Russia— a war which would very soon lead to a European conflagration. There was very little in the Blue Book about Prince Waldemar's election beyond a declaration that Russia would not recognize it. In regard to the election of the Prince of Mingrelia, a telegraphic despatch from the Porto, dated Constantinople, December 3, said— The Bulgarian people have naturally given their anxious attention to the question of the vacancy of the throne of the Principality, and have already had recourse to the Suzerain Court their supreme legitimate authority, to indicate a candidate to them for election. Meanwhile, the Imperial Government of Russia has proposed to us the candidature of the Prince of Mingrelia, and the Imperial Government, having as-certained that there is no reason for declining this proposal, has given its adhesion to it with a view to a prompt settlement of the question, being persuaded that the other Powers in their turn will not refuse their assent."—(Turkey, No. 2, 1887, p. 2.) In a despatch to Sir William White Lord Iddesleigh replied that— Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it would he most in accordance with the course of procedure prescribed in the Treaty of Berlin on the occasion of the original constitution of the Principality that these deliberations should precede any decision as to the choice of the now ruler. The accounts which have been received by Her Majesty's Government give reason to doubt whether the candidature of the Prince of Mingrelia would be favourably received by the people of Bulgaria. They are, moreover, without information as to the conditions on which the Russian Government would be ready to recognize his election, and they cannot, under the circumstances, undertake to join the Turkish Government in recommending the Prince at Sofia for election."— (Ibid, p. 7.) With this despatch the Blue Book came to an end. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) asked a question the other day as to whether the despatches subsequent to that date would be laid on the Table of the House. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs replied that he did not think it expedient to do so. He could quite understand why the right hon. Baronet did not think it expedient, and that the Government were thoroughly ashamed of this Blue Book. He could quite understand the reticences in that Blue Book. He believed their shame would be greater, that they would be driven out of power, even by the Unionists, if all the despatches were to be published. He thought he had conclusively shown that there had been one long attempt on the part of Lord Iddesleigh and the Government to stir up war against Russia. ["Oh, oh!"] The Blue Book was full of it, and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs when he got up a few minutes hence would probably boast of it. But whether or not he boasted of it, litera scripta manet. He appealed to any Gentleman of independent mind, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, whether he had not shown that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter had been scandalous and even disgraceful. He did not know why at the present time they were to have no more Blue Books. It almost led him to suppose that there was a hidden reason for it. Just as when Hanover formed part of the dominion of the King of England, we were perpetually interfering in Germany, avowedly for the sake of England, but really for the sake of Hanover; so one would really suppose that there were some sort of dynastic reasons for our urging again and again that this obscure German Prince who had been set over Bulgaria should remain there. Lord Iddesleigh, unfortunately, was no more; but he had no doubt that that noble Lord exercised some restraining influence over Lord Salisbury. At the present time, Lord Salisbury had no such restraining influence. As Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury appealed to the Prime Minister, and as Prime Minister Lord Salisbury gave every decision in his favour. Therefore, the Opposition would not be doing its duty if it allowed these Blue Books to pass unnoticed. There was no necessity for England to engage in foreign wars, which, to use the language of Lord Salisbury, had no immediate interest for her. That Lord Salisbury was a very able Minister he had no doubt, but most unquestionably, next to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), he was the greatest Russophobe in the whole world. He seemed to have it on the brain. It would be remembered how, when in power before with Lord Beaconsfield, he squandered money broadcast in bringing over troops from India in order to try to get us into a war with Russia; and unless they protested against it, he would eventually, if we gave him uncontrolled power, force us into a war in which we had no concern. He protested against these perpetual wars and against the Executive Government being able to force us into a war without consulting the House. Readers of Mr. Greville's memoirs would perhaps remember that Lord Clarendon told Mr. Greville that the Crimean war was caused entirely by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who forced the war upon us. What would it have been if Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, instead of being Ambassador at Constantinople, bad been at once Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of England? He regarded the present conjuncture as a serious danger, and in order to acquit hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House from the wars which undoubtedly would take place if Lord Salisbury's hand was not checked, he should divide the House upon the question.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I beg to second the Motion.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the 3rd paragraph, to insert the words—"But, at the same time, humbly to express to Your Majesty that steps taken on behalf of Your Government, without the concurrence of the other signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, to prevent the abdication of Prince Alexander of Battenburg, were not in accordance with the interests of this Country, and were fraught with danger to the peace of Europe."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, he did not think that the House would expect that he should entertain them with so many quotations as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had read from the Blue Books. Lengthy quotations, he thought, rather obscured than described a policy; but the mind which ran through the whole course of the despatches of the late Lord Iddesleigh sufficiently indicated the policy of Her Majesty's Government in a very different sense from that in which it had been represented. He thought that the words applied by the hon. Member to Lord Iddesleigh, whom he professed so much to respect, could not be justified, and that they would be repudiated by the House and the country. He did not think the Government which succeeded to a situation of difficulty only eight months ago would require to defend themselves from transactions which had passed into a very distant memory. But the House would consider that as no answer to some assertions that the hon. Member had made. He had said that some statesmen who were now earnest for the maintenance of Bulgarian independence tried hard to prevent it. Now, he had himself occasion the other night to notice the exhumation of a like forgotten calumny. He had not got to go far back to remind the House that this accusation was dealt with by the Marquess of Salisbury only a year ago, when he pointed out that the circumstances in which he had recently supported the union of Eastern Roumelia with Bulgaria were very different from those which prevailed at the time of the Treaty of Berlin. Lord Salisbury pointed out that at the time of the Treaty of Berlin, the Province of Eastern Roumelia was actually occupied by Russian troops —both Provinces indeed—and it was certainly not desirable in those circumstances that another Province should be detached from the Sultan's dominions. He also pointed out that he had himself been an advocate for a larger Bulgaria than that determined by the Treaty of Berlin; and it was only the force of circumstances in connection with the maintenance of European peace which rendered it at the time undesirable that Eastern Roumelia should be separated from the Turkish Empire, as was proposed by Bulgaria, that determined the course adopted at the Congress of Berlin. But it was a very different thing when the Bulgarians had obtained so much experience in the art of self-government and shown that they were worthy of their independence, and that the time had arrived when the two Provinces might be united, not only without detriment to the Turkish Empire but with considerable security for the maintenance of peace. He might remind the House that a statesman whom hon. Gentlemen and his Friends opposite professed to support and admire, the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), had himself expressed his high satisfaction with the conduct of Lord Salisbury in that transaction. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: For his repentance.] They might call it what they pleased; but the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had expressed his satisfaction with the conduct of Lord Salisbury at that time. The hon. Member had framed a considerable indictment against Prince Alexander. He did not know why the Prince was the hon. Member's favourite aversion; but he would have occasion to notice that in the hostility to Prince Alexander and the opposition to the course taken by the Government there bad been, both by the hon. Member and by many who had taken the Russian side, a great disregard of the feelings and wishes of the people of Bulgaria. That should never be lost sight of by those who criticized the conduct of the Government. The hon. Member, in referring to the two parties in Bulgaria, spoke of them as of equal importance. The hon. Member would probably maintain that the last Election in this country was not decisive. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] Then he was not surprised the hon. Member should maintain that the Election of the Sobranje was not decisive of the public opinion of Bulgaria. He despaired of any election carrying conviction to the mind of the hon. Member as to the feelings of the people of a country if the enormous majority—amounting, he believed, to nine-tenths of the National Assembly—was not conclusive of the desires of the people of Bulgaria. With regard to the seizure of Prince Alexander, how was it effected? There were manœuvres by which the troops were sent away from the capital. Rumours were sot on foot of an anticipated attack from Servia, and these were successful in denuding the place of troops. A few conspirators had then removed the Prince in the dead of night, before the people realized the small number of those engaged. The tables were quickly turned, and despatches were sent off in hot haste to bring the Prince back. What sort of removal, what sort of crisis, was that? What had been done was reversed within three days. The hon. Member had framed an indictment, partly out of Blue Books, but, to some extent, out of his own imagination. He asked why Mr. Condie Stephen was sent to Sofia, and had described him ns a sort of stormy petrel who was sent out whenever the Tories wished to offer offence to Russia. But, as a matter of fact, Mr. Condie Stephen had been sent to Sofia by Lord Rosebery.


observed, that he had objected to such action on the part of any Government.


said, that, at all events, it was Lord Rosebery who had sent Mr. Condie Stephen there; and he would never have expected any suggestion that Lord Rosebery, who had filled the Foreign Office with great dignity and with great advantage to this country, could have sent him out with any sinister motive. Mr. Condie Stephen had been, no doubt, sent because he was a most capable man. It was an accident, as Sir Frank Lascelles had happened to be on leave, that Mr. Condie Stephen was sent to Bulgaria as Acting Agent and Consul General. An extraordinary accusation had been made that Mr. Condie Stephen was to have been sent back to Bulgaria if it had not bean for the protest of a distinguished individual. As a matter of fact, there had been a move upwards when Sir William White had gone to Constantinople, and Sir Frank Lascelles had succeeded to the position of Minister at Bucharest, and Mr. Stephen had gone elsewhere. The hon. Member for Northampton had said a good deal as to the endeavour of Her Majesty's Government to procure supporters for Prince Alexander on his return to Bulgaria, and about the Government not having received the support which they had expected. But what was the support which the Government directed their agent at Sofia to give to Prince Alexander? In intention it was, undoubtedly, a moral and diplomatic support. The value of this kind of support was in the strength that lay behind it, and in the material strength of the Powers who gave it. When Her Majesty's Government declared their readiness to maintain their Treaty obligations, it did not follow that they were to rush at once into war. The world was governed by moral force, and he trusted that it would long continue to be so. But it was the military and material forces behind that moral force which best guaranteed peace. It was not the fact that Prince Alexander was to be supported against an uprising of his own subjects. There was no need for that, because his subjects were enthusiastically in his favour. The hon. Member had referred to the state of things which Prince Alexander had found on his return to Bulgaria, and had asked, how could Lord Iddes-leigh have urged him to remain in the face of the amount of insecurity and treachery which existed there and the opposition of the Emperor of Russia? Now, in the first place, some allowance must be made for the events immediately preceding the return of Prince Alexander. He had shown himself a gallant and capable soldier; but it might be well that his nerves had been shaken by the cruel treatment which he had experienced, and that his faith in those who had served him had been weakened by the disgraceful treachery of which he had been the victim. Was that a reason why Lord Iddesleigh should not counsel the Prince to remain and to rely upon the affections of his subjects? In the very despatch to which the hon. Member had referred Lord Iddesleigh had indicated the probable dangers to European peace which would be the result of Prince Alexander's leaving the Throne of Bulgaria empty. That agreed with the whole of Lord Iddesleigh's despatches and action, by which he held that this country was party to the Treaty of Berlin, under which the Prince was under the guardianship of the Powers who signed it. Lord Iddesleigh had never meant, and had never in any despatch implied, that this country meant to assume an isolated or special responsibility not shared in common with the other Powers. The hon. Member for Northampton had referred to the speech of Lord Salisbury on the 9th of November, in which the noble Lord said— The rights of Bulgaria are assured by the Berlin Treaty, the Treaty upon which the present peace of South-Eastern Europe rests. Much speculation has been used as to the attitude which this country would observe with respect to the Berlin Treaty and the violation which, in the opinion of some, it has received. This country has an interest, but it is not an isolated interest. It is a corporate interest. In combination with the Powers of Europe we have signed that Treaty. There rests upon us no isolated interest to maintain that Treaty if it should be broken. If the Powers of Europe, or any considerable portion of the Powers of Europe, recognize the duty of vindicating the Treaty under any contingencies that may arise, I am sure that the English people will not be backward in vindicating their duty also. Not one word had ever been said or written which was inconsistent with the declarations made on that occasion or in public elsewhere. The hon. Member for Northampton said that Her Majesty's Government had proposed to the other Powers to enter into an alliance against Russia. There was no such proposition to be found in any of these despatches, and there was no foundation for any such report. Nothing had occurred to throw any doubt upon the good faith of the Emperor of Russia, or to lead to the assumption that Russia would not fulfil her obligations under the Treaty. It was recognized that Russia had made sacrifices for the establishment of the Bulgarian Principality, and it was only natural that the country which had made sacrifices for a certain object should possess special interest in it. It was a remarkable thing, in his opinion, that when the irregular Opposition took the line of criticism which they were now taking they forgot the part which had been taken not long ago, in season and out of season, by the distinguished Leader of the Liberal Party with regard to the independence of Bulgaria. In what they had done with regard to securing independence under the Treaty to the people of Bulgaria Her Majesty's Government were only following the traditional policy of this country. Then they had had a specific charge brought by the hon. Member for Northampton, who had said that when Mr. Condie Stephen had returned to England he had received a letter from Lord Iddesleigh to a distinguished financier as to a loan for Bulgaria.


said, that what was stated was that Mr. Condie Stephen had received a letter of introduction to a financial house.


said, he could assure the hon. Member that he had consulted Members of the Cabinet with regard to this question, in case it might be something of which he was not himself aware, although Lord Iddesleigh had always treated him with a confidence which he could never forget. Nobody, however, knew of any such transaction, or anything approaching to it, ever having taken place. Her Majesty's Government never thought of interfering in the negotiations for any loan, and he gave the most emphatic denial to the rumour to which the hon. Member had referred. The hon. Member had referred to a despatch of M. de Giers, as showing the extreme hatred of Russia to Prince Alexander. No doubt, M. de Giers was very frank in the communication referred to, and it was manifest that the public feeling of Russia was very strong against the restoration of Prince Alexander, because he had gone against the will of the Czar. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government desired that greater confidence should be shown towards the people of Bulgaria; but he was glad to say that the negotiations in which the views of each Government had been put forward had been conducted in a perfectly friendly spirit, and the Government of the Emperor had, more than once, acknowledged its sense of the full consideration which was exhibited by us for the peculiar position of Russia in this matter. It was a happy thing that Governments should be able to discuss with calmness questions upon which they entertained strong differences of opinion. With respect to General Kaulbars, it was impossible that Her Majesty's Government should regard with approval his proceedings in Bulgaria, because he appeared to act on the assumption that the wishes of the people of Bulgaria was not the main thing to be considered. Lord Iddesleigh's words on that subject would best explain the attitude of Her Majesty's Government. In the despatch of October 14 to Sir Robert Morier (No. 430 in the Blue Book) he wrote— I then went on to say that such language as that of General Kaulbars was open to objection on two grounds—firstly, because it tended to intimidate the Bulgarian people in the exercise of their constitutional duties; secondly, because it was an assumption of a right on the part of Russia to establish a separate authority in Bulgaria, which was an affront to the other Powers, parties to the Treaty of Berlin. I did not know, I said, whether the language to which I objected was the General's own, or whether it was used by order of his Government. In either case I felt bound to take exception to it."— (Ibid, p. 213) Lord Iddesleigh, in another passage, went on to explain that as long as it was possible to maintain Prince Alexander he thought the wishes of the people of the country ought to be the rule of our support, and he held that the Bulgarian people were justified in resisting any attempt to infringe or to interfere with the regular working of their Constitution. That was our policy as described by Lord Iddesleigh, and he would be surprised if the House would condemn it. He did not wish to touch upon international jealousies and international dangers, of which they knew only too much. Perhaps the description of such a state of things would only tend to aggravate the position; but this he would say—that the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government had been to maintain peace in Europe, not only at present, but for the future, and that would be best secured by adherence to the terms and obligations of Treaties. He did not wish to detain the House too long; but he must not pass by without remark some points dwelt on by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman talked about our interference with Bulgaria. But our interference went no further than our legitimate interest. He also complained of despatches being withheld. But it was evident that when a critical state of things still existed many despatches could not be conveniently produced, because they might tend to create irritation between other Powers, and it had ever been the custom of the House of Commons to excuse the Government of the day for not producing such. There was no doubt that much reserve was necessary if we were not to aggravate evils which already existed, and the consequence of which we might deplore. The hon. Gentleman had sneered at Prince Alexander and ridiculed the endeavours of Her Majesty's Government to maintain him on the Throne according to the wishes of the people of Bulgaria, and, after his departure, to uphold the right of the people to a free election. Was the hon. Gentleman serious in thinking that Her Majesty's Government ought to have been indifferent to the wishes of the Bulgarian people? If so, the hon. Member must throw aside principles which had often been contended for by the Liberal Party, and which were common to all this nation. The people of this country were not indifferent, nor were they likely to be indifferent, in such a matter. The hon. Gentleman had asked whether Her Majesty's Goverement had communicated an assurance to Prince Waldemar that if elected he would receive their support. He denied that either to Prince Waldemar or to any other candidate had Her Majesty's Government given any anterior assurance. In every case they gave the same answer—that until the election of a Prince had taken place in a Constitutional manner and had been submitted to the Treaty Powers they, as the Representatives of one of the Treaty Powers, could express no opinion as to the fitness of a candidate; but if the people of Bulgaria were decidedly opposed to the Prince of Mingrelia, they did not think that his proposal would be wise or expedient. The hon. Gentleman asked whether there were dynastic reasons which influenced the policy of Her Majesty's Govermennt? There were no such reasons. It would have been unworthy if there were. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman intended a covert sneer when he asked such a question. He was tempted to use a stronger expression, but it might be un-Parliamentary; and, therefore, he would only say with regard to the insinuation that it was not courageous. It was no part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to involve this country in foreign difficulties for the sake of any Prince. It would be a blot upon the history of Her Majesty's glorious reign if they were ever to involve this country in difficulties where neither her interests nor her obligations were concerned. In the whole history of the affair it was only the question of our national interests and our international obligations that ever entered the mind of Her Majesty's Government. He might leave the matter there. He declared that those attacks made upon Her Majesty's Government were absolutely unfounded. It might have been that in their desire to do their duty Her Majesty's Government had not met with the support which they thought they might have claimed in the circumstances. But the public opinion of Europe and the moral sense of right had been gradually developed in an unmistakable manner. The independence of the Bulgarians had been respected. They had maintained good government in their country in a manner truly surprising considering the difficulties they had to encounter, in a manner which justified Europe for the Constitution it had given them, and justified Her Majesty's Government for their efforts in maintaining the independence and the Constitutional rights of Bulgaria.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) had done his best, and done it very well, to put a good face upon the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. He could not, however, say that he felt that the right hon. Gentleman had either answered the questions which the House was entitled to ask, or wholly re-assured their minds on the points raised. There was, nevertheless, much in which he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman as to the conduct of the Bulgarian people— the admirable capacity they had shown for self-government, and the general temperance, moderation, and calmness they had observed under very trying circumstances. He agreed also with the right hon. Gentleman in what he had said of the personal merits of Prince Alexander. That Prince was called to the Principality of Bulgaria at a very early ago, and had shown in the course of his career an increasing capacity for dealing with the difficulties of the position in which he was placed. He had displayed not only courage and firmness, but a tact and judgment which would have raised him to a high place, had he remained in Bulgaria, among the Rulors of Europe. His behaviour not only in the war with Servia, but in the last crisis, when he was kidnapped and carried off, had excited sympathy not only in this country, but in almost every country in Europe. But he thought there was better evidence of the faith of the Bulgarian people in Prince Alexander than that to which the right hon. Gentleman appealed. The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that he was not addressing an election meeting at Burnley when he referred to the opinion of the people of this country at the last General Election as a solemn and final decision of a great issue. The popular majority at that election was but a small one; the confidence of Bulgaria in Prince Alexander was manifested by a far more emphatic and unanimous declaration. As he had before observed, he agreed with much that the right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to the personal merits of Prince Alexander, and did not blame the Government for thinking that the continuance of Prince Alexander's authority in Bulgaria offered the best means of securing the welfare of that country. It was fairly open to them to advise him, when he was at Lemberg, to return to his Principality. But what he complained of was that some time after his return, when Her Majesty's Government might have seen that the restoration of Prince Alexander was not likely to produce peace in Bulgaria, or to bring about a happy state of relations between that country and Russia, they not only urged the Prince to remain, but they addressed two despatches to Vienna and Berlin, with the view of sounding the Governments of Austria and Germany as to the view they would take of such a proposal. Her Majesty's Government ought to have known beforehand—and, indeed, must pretty well have known—that overtures of that sort would not be well received. They invited a snub, and they received a snub. Her Majesty's Government, however, continued, after this marked disapproval by Germany and Austria, to insist on Prince Alexander remaining in Bulgaria in face of his own unwillingness to do so, and in face of his telegram to the Czar, and of the Czar's hostile reply. In those respects he thought that Her Majesty's Government had gone beyond the path which dignity and prudence marked out for them. By the action they had taken Her Majesty's Government had given the Prince the worst advice for himself, and had exposed this country to very serious risk. A country that gave advice like that, which was not a mere tender of friendly counsel, but a strong pressure, implied liability on the Government which gave it; and he believed Her Majesty's Government incurred liability of a nature which would have proved very dangerous had not the good sense and foresight of the Prince himself made him refuse to follow it. Now, what was the nature of the interest which England had in Bulgaria? The right hon. Gentleman himself had admitted that it was not a direct one. It was not one which justified any active intervention. It was a very slender and remote interest, and it scarcely went beyoud that philanthropic interest which England had in the freedom and the peace of a people whose conduct they respected and whose welfare they desired. The Government ought to have felt that the interests of our own people, the lives of our soldiers, and the revenues of this country should not be risked, any more than the bones of Prince Bismarck's Pomeranian Grenadier, for the sake of interests so remote and so distant as those which we had on the Lower Danube. In truth, the policy in reference to Bulgaria had, during the momentous month of September last, answered to Lord Derby's old phrase of "meddle and muddle." It was a policy which had made no progress and which had borne no fruit, and which had exposed this country to a continuous succession of slights and of disappointments. He was, however, inclined to complain still more of the speech at the Guildhall of the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury). That speech had put England into an unworthy and humiliating position when it expressed the wish that we should follow Austria, and should be guided by her views and wishes in the Bulgarian Question. In the noble Marquess's view England was to attach herself to Austria as a small boat is attached to the stern of a yacht and towed behind wherever the larger vessel goes. The policy of England ought not to be determined by that of any one other Power of Europe, and least of all by the policy of a Power placed in so difficult and critical a position as Austria undeniably was. He (Mr. Bryce) objected to the speech of the noble Marquess because it was derogatory to the dignity of England. He was sorry to think that the Ministry of a Party which professed to value the dignity of England, and which claimed to be the exponent of a spirited foreign policy, should have placed this country in such a humiliating position. But he had another objection to the speech of the noble Marquess. It was a provocative speech. While it subordinated England's action to that of Austria, it also said to Austria—"Go on wherever you like, and we will help you." It was a speech which thrust Austria forward, and endeavoured to press and urge her nearer the dangers which she was anxious to avoid, and thus it placed England in a position of danger by stimulating Austria to a more active and menacing policy, and by promising that this country would support her in whatever action she might take. A foreign newspaper had well said at the time that Lord Salisbury was barking in order that Austria might bite. What had been the results? There was another Power which had as much interest in this matter as any other Power in Europe, and a greater influence over its determination than any Power except Russia. He would be glad to know that Her Majesty's Government had been equally anxious to keep in touch with that Power as they were to keep in touch with Austria. That Power was Germany. He would have thought that Her Majesty's Government would have seen the advantage of keeping in accord with Germany. It was the great merit of the deliverances of German statesmen in her foreign policy that they were not afraid to speak their mind plainly. The German Chancellor had furnished the most conspicuous example in recent times of a policy of distinct enunciation of principles, and he was inclined to believe that much of his success was due to his perfect frankness and candour. He did not know why we should not be just as plain-spoken, and state what we thought about the interests of our country as Germany was plain in stating her interests. We had no interest in going into an armed struggle with Austria for our only ally, and Her Majesty's Government know perfectly well that the people of this country would not sanction their doing it. But what had been the result of the incitements used to Austria by Lord Salisbury? It was clear that they had obliged Count Kalnoky to use language, in addressing the Delegations of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which went beyond the point to which he would otherwise have gone. Then Russia took offence, and Germany felt the dangers of the situation. Prince Bismarck could not afford to allow Austria to embroil herself in a quarrel with Russia, because there were perils on another frontier of Germany which in that event would show themselves. Therefore, it was probable that many of those alarms to the peace of Europe, which had caused such deep concern to every Member of the House, were due to the unfortunate impulse which prompted the unwise utterance of the noble Marquess. The interpretation which was placed on the Guildhall speech of the noble Marquess was clear from an article which appeared in The Times the next morning, which stated that if Austria was compelled to come to conflict with Russia with respect to Bulgaria she would not be left without the support of England. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) accused the Government with wanting to stir up war with Russia; but he entirely acquitted the Government of any such intention. He fully believed that they desired, according to their lights—which might sometimes be very faint lights—to preserve peace; but that they had been following, so far as Russia was concerned, a policy of brag. They had been under the impression that there was a necessary and deep-rooted hostility between this country and Russia by seeking to alarm and worry Russia—an impression entirely unfounded—and they had acted accordingly. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that Her Majesty's Government endeavoured to induce the Powers to fulfil their Treaty obligations by promises of moral support. He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by moral support, nor how far he meant to convey that these Treaty obligations were obligations which England was bound to enforce, even though those who were equally parties to them declined to act. The right hon. Gentleman said that Her Majesty's Government were anxious to give moral support and all that that implied. In the last resort, support to those who relied on the promises of a great Power took the form of battalions of men. Her Majesty's Government had sought to push first Prince Alexander and then Austria on by their moral support to a position in which they might have demanded the physical support of this country, and then it would have turned out that this country was unwilling to give them any such armed aid. In carrying out the concert of Europe it was highly desirable that the Ministers of this country should use no language implying that they would give more than they knew the people of this country would sanction. With regard to the actual state of affairs, he (Mr. Bryce) felt a great difficulty in saying anything, because they had no information on the subject—no despatches coming near to the present time. He would quite admit that his right hon. Friend might have strong reasons for not giving the House the despatches up to date, nor would he press for them; but, at the same time, they ought to have something more distinct, something more explicit from the Government than they had received with regard to their present attitude and future policy. The House ought to know whether the policy of the Government was still that of the Guildhall speech, and whether it was a policy of relying upon Austria and Austria alone. The House ought to know, in other words, whether it was a policy of humbly following Austria and, at the same time, speaking so as to provoke a conflict between her and Russia, or whether it was a policy strictly limited to the maintenance of such obligations and interests as the other signatory Powers of the Treaty of Berlin were prepared to maintain against any Power attempting to violate them, and conducted with full consciousness of the fact that the interests of England were not such as to warrant armed intervention in these East European disputes.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Bryce), and who but a few months ago held the responsible position of Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is very well aware that, in speaking of foreign affairs, a Minister undertakes a responsibility which extends beyond the country with which he is identified. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, has made certain appeals to Her Majesty's Government. He wants to know whether it is our intention to lead on Austria—to push Austria into the discharge of duties which he implies Austria is unwilling herself to discharge, in order to bring about a disturbance of the peace of Europe. Sir, nothing can be more baseless than the suggestion that that is any portion of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government have never, in any utterance which they have made, in any letter or despatch which they have written, in any suggestion, laid themselves open to the charge which the hon. Member suggests. The hon. Gentleman referred to the speech of the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) at the Guildhall. What does the noble Marquess say? He says— This country has an interest, but it is not an isolated interest. It is a corporate interest in connection with the Powers of Europe who have signed that Treaty. There rests upon us no isolated duty to vindicate that Treaty if it should be broken. If the Powers of Europe, or any considerable portion of the Powers of Europe, recognize the duty to vindicate the Treaty under any contingencies that may arise, I am sure the English people will not be backward to recognize their duty. Does that imply that Austria alone is to be pushed backward by the little boat that is being towed at her stern to undertake the liabilities which Austria herself is not willing to discharge? The hon. Gentleman suggested that Austria was the big boat on the river, and was being pushed forward by the little boat towed to her stern. We are supposed to push on Austria to undertake liabilities which she herself is not willing to discharge. There was one other reference to Austria in this speech, and it was simply to this effect—that undoubtedly Austria had a very great interest, and a much stronger interest than this country has, in the events which were progressing in Bulgaria. Undoubtedly she had a much stronger interest; and, therefore, an opinion and expression of feeling on the part of Austria would weigh considerably with Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman has been good enough to express great sympathy and interest with the Bulgarian nationality. What is really the charge against Her Majesty's Government? We were right up to a certain point; we were right, so far as I can gather from the hon. Gentleman, up to the period of the intention being expressed by Prince Alexander to abdicate, and that we were wrong to use our influence to persuade him if we could— a moral influence only—never in any one instance backed by the promise of any material support — a moral influence to induce him to remain in the position to which he had been called by the voice of the people of Bulgaria, a position which had been ratified by the concurrence of the Powers of Europe under Treaty, and in which he was approved and supported by the Porte, the Suzerain Power. What is the charge against Lord Iddesleigh and Her Majesty's Government? It is that they persisted in insisting that it was the duty of the Prince, and to the advantage of the people of Bulgaria, that he should remain. We were told that we did wrong because the other Powers would not, or did not, sustain the opinion and concur in the view which Her Majesty's Government expressed. But it is alleged against us that we have submitted England to a rebuff and to a humiliation, because we did not go about in the first instance to ascertain what the other Powers of Europe would say on a matter of this kind, and because we had the temerity to express an opinion without having first of all gone to them and asked whether it was an opinion which they would sustain, and support. It is a rebuff because we have given an opinion which we believe was a sound one, and which we believed would be to the advantage of that country itself and was consistent with the public honour and with the interests of Europe. I should like to ask whether the results have not justified the opinion which we expressed? Have not the withdrawal of Prince Alexander and the circumstances which accompanied it brought about a condition of affairs which certainly is not one that tends to the advantage of Europe or the security of the peace of Europe—a condition of affairs which might have been averted—I do not say it would have been averted—if Prince Alexander had seen his way clear to remain in Bulgaria? Another remark has been made by the hon. Gentleman to which I must take exception. He said that we have no interest in Bulgaria. He said that our interests there were slender and remote, and purely philanthropic. But that is not the language that was used some years ago when the Prince of Bulgaria was a rebel against the Turks. I say that this country, when it has put its signature to a solemn Treaty, has an interest which it may not be its duty to maintain by force of arms; but it has an interest in seeing that these Treaty obligations are observed, and in maintaining the public faith of Europe. I say that it is our duty to concern ourselves with any affair to which we are bound by Treaty, and in which the public faith of this country is concerned. More than that we have not said, and further than that we have not gone. Well, the hon. Gentleman has suggested that there is not the complete and perfect understanding that he could desire to see existing between this country and Germany. I assure him that his view is entirely incorrect, and that I can satisfy him, at all events, on that point. But I must say one word. I had hoped that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who were in an official and responsible position would have recognized at least this one thing—that it is the duty of Governments to endeavour to preserve continuity in our foreign relations, to endeavour to present as a people a united face to Europe in moderation, in judgment, and in good faith. That is the object Her Majesty's Government have now in view. We have not reversed any one of the steps which were taken by our Predecessors in the Foreign Office—not a single one. We had no reason to do so. We have followed precisely in the lines that were laid down, and with which general approval has been expressed in the country at large. But I wish to say to the House, and to the country, that language held lightly about foreign affairs in the East of Europe at this moment is language which is not to be commended, and is not in the least patriotic. We feel that the responsibility of affairs at this moment is great. We are clear—we are open—in the language we hold as to the policy which we advocate, and which we pursue. There is no difference of any kind whatever. We are aiming at preserving the peace of Europe. We aim at discharging the duties, preserving the interests, and fulfilling the obligations of this country; and if we are asked to particularize we tell you what we said on the first night of the Session with reference particularly to Bulgaria. The instructions which have been given to the Diplomatic Representatives of Her Majesty are, first of all, that they shall have regard to the Treaty obligations of this country; next that their aim shall be to maintain, and preserve the liberties of the people which those Treaty obligations were intended to conserve; and, last of all—I do not wish to put it in invidious terms — that the susceptibilities and interests of Russia shall be observed with all due regard to these two preceding conditions. These are the views with which we still maintain any negotiations and any transactions which we may have with reference to that part of the world. We have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in the course we have pursued. We are perfectly prepared to give a good account of the course we have taken in our dealings with Foreign Powers; but we have regard to the interests which are imposed upon us by negotiations with other Powers; and to their susceptibilities and our relations and obligations to them, and we cannot at the present moment give any further information of that kind to the House.


Sir, if this debate has no other effect than that of having elicited the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), it is entirely justified. I agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the responsibility of using lightly language with reference to foreign affairs in critical circumstances. It is because I believe that the rash and mischievous language of the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) has been the cause of all the disturbance—the main cause of all the disturbance which has since occurred— that I agree with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith). It was, therefore, desirable to elicit that which I regard not as an explicit, but a substantial, disavowal of the policy of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury). If the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury— who is a man of peace, and uses very sensible language in regard to foreign affairs—had been selected instead of the noble Marquess to speak at the Guildhall on November 9, Europe would be in a far more peaceful condition. He is not a man of brag, and does not think it necessary to pose before the world as a great master of spirited foreign policy, who afterwards runs away from his valiant declarations. What we complain of in the Guildhall speech is what we believe was the substance of it. The noble Marquess referred to the circumstances under which this country would go to war, and said we only went to war when we had Allies; and he pointed his meaning by referring to the Russian advance on Adrianople in 1829, to the Crimean War, and to the action of the late Earl of Beaconsfield's Government in 1878. He then said it was not an isolated question for us; and, having shown that the question of peace or war for us depended on whether or not we had Allies, where did he indicate we should find Allies? Speaking of the peace of Europe, and the Treaty of Berlin, he made not one single allusion to Germany. Who is the Power I who is interested in this matter, and who I is to take the lead? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms upon my hon. Friend's (Mr. Bryce) illustration of the point was justified. If you say to a man, "You go on, and I will follow," it is very likely you may induce him to go on; and that is precisely the course taken on this occasion. What are the words—"In this matter Austria is on the look out," Well, I suppose we were on the look out too, and so were Germany and Russia and everybody else— But the opinion and judgment of Austria must weigh with enormous weight in the Councils of Her Majesty's Government, and the policy which Austria pursues will contribute very largely to shape the policy of England. What does that mean? It means that if Austria came to issue with Russia, England's policy would be shaped by that of Austria. I say that is both a humiliating and a dangerous policy. Supposing the Prince of Bulgaria, acting on your advice, had remained where he was, would not England have been in a dangerous position? Supposing Austria had come to issue with Russia, we should have been in the position of having induced Austria to put herself in a position of great peril. If you had attempted to give effect to the Guildhall speech, you would not have remained the Government of England 24 hours. Prince Bismarck knew that if he were to take the part of Austria it would bring him into conflict with Russia and France. He was determined that no such calamity should occur. He said to Austria— "I will not have this; I will not have you pushed on by the Guildhall speech, and this Anglo-Austrian Alliance shall not be a peril to Europe."


Quote his words.


That is exactly what I want to do, to quote, and that is why I have asked for the correspondence with Austria, Russia, and Germany, which followed the Guildhall speech. I want to know what has followed upon this offer of England to shape her policy according to the policy of Austria? It is that which has more disturbed Europe than anything that has happened. It was a most invidious statement. It was invidious towards all the other Powers who were Patties to the Treaty of Berlin, and nothing could be more dangerous or inconsistent. The statements of the First Lord of the Treasury and of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson), however, happily show that the Government have retired altogether from the speech of the noble Marquess at the Guildhall. The very object of this debate is to make it plain that they have so retired. That speech was an absolute contradiction of everything that has been said in this debate by the Government to-night. I sincerely hope that the policy of the Guildhall speech is abandoned. It is a most dangerous and mischievous policy, and during the last three months it has done infinite harm in Europe, and I hope that the House will now have an assurance that it is totally and finally abandoned. It has been for years the weakness of the policy of the noble Marquess that he has always been hankering after an exclusively Anglo-Austrian alliance. It is what he calls "Glad tidings of great joy."


A German and an Austrian alliance.


If the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) meant a German-Austrian Alliance, I hope that the next time he goes to the Guildhall he will remember to put the word "Germany" into his speech.


These were the very words he used. He spoke of an alliance between Germany and Austria as being "Glad tidings of great joy."


I am speaking of the Guildhall speech in November of last year, and the marked omission of any reference to Germany was most mischievous and injurious. There was nothing more mischievous than the omission of any notice of the interests of Germany. I have nothing whatever to say against the principles of the policy now stated by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. If he would withdraw all that language about the possibility of war depending upon the Alliance they might succeed in securing; if he would say that England would act, not according to the views of Austria specially, but in the views of all the Powers of Europe generally—including Russia—for I am speaking without any of that unworthy jealousy of Russia which has done so much mischief to this country—and, acting in the interests of the liberties of all the Powers of Europe, more especially of the weak and the struggling Powers; if that be the policy of Her Majesty's Government, I think we may even condone the humiliations of this Blue Book, which exhibits England going hat in hand round Europe, and having her proposals rejected by every Power. The sagacious proposals of our Foreign Office have been rejected by every Chancellerie in Europe. This was not pleasant, but it was wholesome, and I hope that in future the Government will not go about exposing themselves at every Court in Europe. Her Majesty's Government sent three or four Circulars to all the Powers of Europe, and all of them were sent back endorsed "Declined with thanks." That is the Blue Book which is laid upon the Table by this "spirited foreign policy Government." I hope that the Government will return to a more sober state of mind, and that they will pursue the great interests of peace by methods which are more likely to succeed.


Sir, the great schoolmaster has just spoken and the uneducated and ignorant lads on the Treasury Bench receive with humble submission the lesson and advice which has been so kindly tendered to them. But whether the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has delivered is likely to be productive of good and beneficial results in Europe remains to be seen. Perhaps it may be that at all the Foreign Courts of Europe a more correct estimate is formed of the right hon. Gentleman and of his influence in this country than is formed by his Friends in this House. I think that the exhibition we have witnessed to-night will prevent the unpatriotic sentiments to which we have been listening from being productive of any ill result in any capital of Europe. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has delivered an oration which consisted mainly of very long extracts from the Blue Books, with comments and glosses of his own. I rather wondered what is the motive which induced him to stay our proceedings in order to make that oration. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby explains the mystery. No doubt it was to enable the right hon. Gentleman to discharge himself of that venom against the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) which has so long possessed his soul. Why, Sir, there was many a more convenient opportunity, even during this present Session, for the right hon. Gentleman to make his charge and his complaints against the noble Marquess. May I ask him, for instance, why he did not deliver that speech on the 27th of January, when the right hon. Gentleman who occupies the most important and powerful position on the other side of the House—the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—touched on the Bulgarian question and the deposition—as it has been called—but which we call the kidnapping of Prince Alexander?


I had not got the Papers.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Has he been confining his observations to the Blue Book? If he thinks he did, I shall quote the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who spoke on the 27th of January without the Blue Book. This is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said upon that occasion and upon that question— On the question of foreign policy I am bound to say that, as far as I know, the Prime Minister, and now the Foreign Secretary, and the late Lord Iddesleigh, as Foreign Secretary, have taken just views of the position of the recently emancipated races in the Balkan Peninsula, and of the reciprocal obligations between them and the Porte. Yet there was a speech delivered by Lord Salisbury, at the Guildhall, which raised in many minds some apprehension, and appeared to lay a foundation for the question whether it was true that we, in our negotiations upon the politics of the Balkan Peninsula, had indicated to one particular Foreign Power that if she were disposed to take a particular course, and that course led to a conflict with any Power, we should be prepared to range ourselves on her side. I shall not enter into any discussion of that matter. I make no assertion beyond the fact that such was the idea conveyed to many minds, and I simply express the hope that upon that subject we shall receive assurances from Her Majesty's Government in the course of this debate which will entirely remove any such impression."—[3 Hansard, (310)96.] Then, in the course of that debate, these assurances were given; and from that day to the present moment the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian has never expressed, in the slightest degree, any condemnation of the policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued in that matter. But the right hon. Gentleman has been searching not only Blue Books, but also the speech of the noble Marquess at the Guildhall. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) put his gloss upon every extract from the Blue Book; and the right hon. Gentleman, following his example, has put his gloss upon the noble Marquess's speech. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) has stated that from that speech the Government never have receded, and have no intention of receding. To that speech we adhere, and yet the right hon. Gentleman was pleased magnanimously to grant us his condonation on the supposition that we repudiated the noble Marquess's speech, and were going to reverse the Eastern policy of that speech. I ask him to take back his condonation, and give us back his condemnation. Then the right hon. Gentleman pointed to the omission from the noble Marquess's speech of Germany. I suppose that if the word Germany had been introduced into the speech, then the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, would have had no complaint to make. Why, one of the most notorious facts in modern politics is that Germany and Austria are allied in the closest and most intimate manner; and when we talk of Austrian policy, all the world knows that German policy and Austrian policy mean, practically, one and the same thing. Something has been said about Prince Bismarck's speech, which the right hon. Gentleman was challenged to quote. What was the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman was referring? He said, "How could I quote, because I had not the Blue Book?"


That is not what I was asked. I was asked about the negotiations which took place. I did not understand that I was asked to quote Prince Bismarck's speech.


I quite understand now that there has been a misunderstanding. But what I want to remark upon is the right hon. Gentleman's comments on Prince Bismarck's speech, and upon the speech which Count Kalnoky delivered at the Delegation. The right hon. Gentleman, not content to put his gloss upon the Guild- hall speech of the noble Marquess, proceeded further to put an interpretation, first on Count Kalnoky, and, secondly, on Prince Bismarck, and attributed both these speeches to the speech made by the noble Marquess at the Guildhall. Now, observe how the right hon. Gentleman not only penetrates the secrets of the Ministers of his own Sovereign, but penetrates the secrets of the German Chancellor, and quite penetrates the secrets of the Austrian Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman holds that the speech of Count Kalnoky would have been in a very different strain, and would have tended to the preservation of European peace, if it had not been for the unfortunate speech of the noble Marquess at the Guildhall. Then the right hon. Gentleman, having informed us of this, brings Prince Bismarck into the field, and states that Prince Bismarck felt obliged to come to the rescue of his unfortunate Colleague, and to take every precaution that the noble Marquess's speech should not drive Austria and Germany into a war with Russia. The people of this country, and the people of Germany and of Austria, will be of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman knows as much and no more of the secret reasons which actuate the speeches of the statesmen of Austria and Germany as he does of those of his own country. I have confined myself to a few comments on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I feel that the situation at present is still very grave; and when we talk of the policy to be pursued in Eastern or Western Europe, we are bound to speak with the greatest reserve and prudence. After that admirable exposition of the policy of England given by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, I shall say no more; but I entreat this House and this country to judge between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman opposite.

Question put, and negatived.