§ [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
reported Her Majesty's speech, made that day by her Chancellor, and read it to the House.
MR. G. J. GOSCHEN, JUN. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)
, who wore the uniform of the Volunteer Battalion of the East Kent Regiment said. In rising to move the Address in answer to the gracious Speech from the Throne, I crave the indulgence which has always been granted to those who occupy such a position as I now do, and I do so with the utmost sincerity, because I fully realise that while this is the first occasion on which I have addressed this House, the duty which has been entrusted to me is one of great responsibility. I believe there are some persons who are willing to dispense with the moving of the Address, but I cannot believe that that is the feeling of the majority of hon. Members. I imagine that the House generally are anxious to preserve this link in the constitutional chain which binds the Sovereign to her Lords and faithful Commons, who are thus able to assure her of their unanimous desire to promote the prosperity of her people. There may be a difference of opinion as to how this may best be accomplished, but the determination conscientiously to fulfil the duties which have been entrusted to them is surely common to all, and I believe that this joint action from all sides of the House is an ancient custom well calculated to preserve the best traditions of this assembly. I am sure I shall meet with a sympathetic response from all Members when I endeavour to voice the expression of their condolence with Her Majesty in the sad affliction which has fallen upon her. The affection of her people, sprung from the admiration of her noble life, has been nutured by the ever recurring proofs of the share that she has in their joys and sorrows. No great calamity ever afflicts any portion of her subjects than she endeavours with 74 her queenly courtesy and womanly tenderness to lessen the suffering. Therefore it is that in her hour of sorrow an answering chord is struck in the hearts of the people which vibrates from the length and breadth of the land. Upon the grief of her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice we can hardly venture now to intrude, but I can only hope that when time has softened its great bitterness the knowledge that her fellow-countrymen have mourned with her in her loss of one who nobly gave his life in his desire to serve the country of his adoption may bring some solace to her saddened home. The deaths of Prince Henry of Battenberg and the other victims of the climate of West Africa have cast a gloom upon the Ashanti expedition of which we have otherwise every reason to congratulate ourselves. The objects of the expedition have been successfully achieved, and that without bloodshed. Though our troops have not been called upon to encounter the foe in the open field, yet the obstacles and dangers which they have had to meet have been such as to reflect the greatest credit upon those who have enabled them to surmount them, and into whose hands has been entrusted the safe conduct of the force. The expedition has been a triumph of organisation, and the greatest praise is due to those branches of the service who have had to combat with the great difficulties of transport, and with the ravages of the climate. Nor ought we to omit a tribute to Mr. Maxwell for the way in which he has conducted the negotiations for peace. I trust that they will meet with the reward they deserve, the future prosperity of the country, and the extension of civilisation and of commerce. The campaigns of Ashanti and Chitral have one strong point of resemblance, for, although the latter was not of the same peaceful character as the former, yet its success was largely due to the perfection of organisation, of which the Government of India are so proud. It is our pride and boast that ours is an island home, but it is not only its shores that we have to protect. We have to protect other frontiers, and it is the watching and guarding of those frontiers which occasionally involves us in disputes. It is with much satisfaction we learn that the controversies with regard 75 to the delimitation of our frontiers in the East had a successful issue. This issue has not been due to a diplomatic triumph of one country over another, but it is rather the outcome of a friendly agreement between the Powers, and therefore I venture to think the more likely to prove firm and lasting. There is one question with regard to our boundary which has not yet been settled, but I believe every man in the country echoes the desire which is expressed in the Speech from the Throne, that with regard to the Venezuelan question we shall come to an equitable; arrangement, and that further negotiations with the United States will lead to a satisfactory settlement. I humbly venture to think that it is not only a peaceful and satisfactory settlement that we are looking for. We hope for a perfect reconciliation with our kin beyond the seas, which will wipe out those ruffled feelings which have arisen lately in this portion of our family, and I think we are not without signs that our hopes may be fulfilled, for I believe that it is as true of the imperial life of a country as of that of the domestic life of its citizens, that when trouble and anxiety intrude into the family circle they only serve to more closely bind together those who are related by the ties of kinship. I think that from the moment when trouble overshadowed us in the Transvaal we may trace the more friendly tone that has been adopted by the United States towards us. I hope that time will only serve to strengthen this view. May we not venture to hope that this has been but a faint echo of that loud shout of loyalty which has gone forth from our colonies during the last few weeks? Our colonies have, in the words of the Canadian statesman, Mr. MacNeill, shown that they are not merely fair-weather friends, but are prepared to stand by us cost what it may. I am glad that we have not found ourselves under the necessity of availing ourselves of this offer. The statesmanship of the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Chamberlain), and his firm determination to uphold the honour and prestige of the country, have averted a grave crisis. We trust that, the negotiations which the right hon. gentleman is now entering upon with President Kruger will lead to a redress of the grievances of the 76 Uitlanders and to a more settled state of affairs in South Africa, and that this may be so we may take as a good omen the moderation which has been shown by President Kruger since the unfortunate raid into the Transvaal. I wish next to refer briefly to the Armenian question, which has agitated the minds of the people of this country no less than the affairs relating to the Transvaal. There may be some difference of opinion as to the course of action adopted with regard to Armenia in some particulars, but there can be no difference of opinion as to the weight and extent of the indignation felt in the United Kingdom at the horrors which have been perpetrated in that country. [Cheers.] Our humanitarian sentiments and motives in the matter have been misconstrued, Just as in the days of the abolition of the slave trade, our motives were then misconstrued and regarded with suspicion; but Her Majesty's present Government have done all in their power to press forward the application of the reforms in Armenia which have been sanctioned by the Sultan, of Turkey, and in this respect have pursued the policy which has been adopted by successive Governments during the past fifteen years. There may be some persons who do not concur in that opinion, and of those I would ask whether they would be prepared to pay the price of a European conflagration in order to see accomplished what they desired, or to hand over Turkey to another Power for the purpose. In passing from this question, I will only add that I believe the course which has been taken by the Government in the matter has been approved by the country. I also believe the action which has recently been taken by the Admiralty in respect to our naval defences has been generally approved, and that the public enthusiasm aroused by that action is a proof that the taxpayers of the country are ready to meet the necessary expenditure. [Cheers.] The Admiralty have shown to the nation not only the efficiency of our fleets at sea, but also the thoroughness of our system of naval organisation and the strength of our reserves in ships, men and material. [Cheers.] With regard lo agriculture, that interest really lies at the root of our national life, and, in my opinion, the question is one that ought to be regarded as outside the sphere of 77 party politics. ["Hear, hear!"] Yet that great interest has now reached its lowest ebb, and its downfall has dragged down large numbers of all classes of the community. I speak on this matter not in behalf of one section of the community merely, but in behalf of all sections, and especially of those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Our interests in agriculture are identical, for what affects the wellbeing of one section of agriculture affects the interests of all. Hence, as representing an agricultural constituency, I welcome the assurances of assistance to agriculture contained in the gracious Speech from the Throne, and I sincerely hope they will prove to be satisfactory. If not it may be that the Government will have to undertake a more drastic policy. ["Hear, hear!"] The promised measures of assistance, however, if they are to be of real service, must be hurried forward as soon as possible. ["Hear, hear!"] The need is urgent, and the land must not be allowed at any cost to go quite out of cultivation. There can be no doubt that land is very unfairly overburdened by taxation both local and Imperial, a fact proved by the evidence recently given on the question by Sir Alfred Milner.["Hear, hear!"] There are other matters of great importance to which I might refer if time permitted. There is the question, for instance, of voluntary schools, but I will merely direct the attention of the House to the fact that this subject bears to a not unimportant extent on that of agriculture, and care must be taken that, while seeking, on the one hand, to relieve agriculture by certain measures, we do not, on the other, increase the burdens of those dependent on the land by crushing out the voluntary schools. ["Hear, hear!"] What the voluntary schools seek is simple justice, in order that they may be able fairly to compete with the Board schools. ["Hear, hear!"] There is also the great and interesting question of the condition of Ireland to which I might refer, but I will content myself with the expression of satisfaction at the absence of crime in that country at present, and the material improvement of the Irish people. [Cheers.] I thank hon. Members for (he courteous way in which they have listened to me, and, if I might be allowed to speak on this occasion as the spokesman of the new 78 Members, I would venture to say that, although they could not of course lay claim to the eloquence and ability which has distinguished, and still distinguishes, the masters of debate in this House, yet that we are anxiously, zealously and conscientiously desirous of taking part in the future legislative work of Parliament. We recognise that we are not mere delegates of the constituencies, but that we come here to take our part in the deliberative assembly of a great nation and a mighty empire, and we earnestly join in the prayer for divine guidance in discharging the responsibility thus imposed upon us. [Cheers.] The hon. Member concluded by moving an humble Address to her Majesty.
§ SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow College)
, who wore the uniform of the Scottish Archers, seconded the Address. He said: I wish, first, to add a word or two to what has already been said of the calamity on account of which the House desires to offer an expression of its respectful sympathy to her Majesty. I recognise that it is too soon yet to speak of consolation, but the day will come when the Queen and Princess Beatrice will find consolation in the fact that Prince Henry died as noble a death as any man could wish to die. ["Hear, hear!"] The very nature of the expedition, to Ashanti forbids the idea that his Royal Highness in joining it could have been compelled by any ordinary motive of ambition or desire for distinction; it shows rather that his motive was to be of service to his adopted country, and that he was ready to risk his life in that service. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot conceal the admiration I feel for the paragraph which deals with the attitude of the United States in regard to the question of Venezuela. It seems to me that that paragraph must rank for ever in literature as a masterpiece of euphemism And I think that all in this House will agree with me in rejoicing at the happy discovery of a gentle word in which to couch and, I hope, to bury the disagreeable episode. It seems to me that Her Majesty's Ministers realise the central fact in this matter. That fact, I take it, to be this, that the discussion, if discussion there has been, or the quarrel, if quarrel there is, between Governments and amongst statesmen and lawyers, not between nations, 79 and that in the public opinion of both countries, as well as most truly in the private thoughts of every citizen, there has sprung up an unquenchable disgust at the mere whispered idea of war between those who are really, after all, one people. In regard to the paragraph which deals with the atrocities in Armenia and the negotiations with Turkey, I am glad that they are expressed in a way which can be favourably received by the House. They are at least clear and straightforward, and may be, no one is surprised that they are found to be disappointing. No member of this House, and no now member of this House, could look forward unconcerned, or look back with pleasure, to the first occasion on which he heard a speech from the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition. And I remember well how in debate on the Address last Session the right hon. Gentleman insisted upon that essential feature of our relations with Turkey—that our expostulations on the subject of the Armenian difficulty should not be made alone, but only in conjunction with other Powers. I believe that the reforms which we recommended to Turkey have, for the most part been accepted, but they have not been carried into effect. I don't know how far it may be within the power of the rotten Government which sleeps at Constantinople to carry the reforms into effect, but at least it is known that hitherto such pressure has not been put upon the Sultan as might in the ordinary course of things be expected to be necessary to compel that potentate to interest himself in the cause of justice and mercy. On this subject I don't wish to suggest too much to the House. It will be felt, I am sure, that the feeling on this subject in this country is a sincere feeling. It has been shown by meetings of great masses of people; it has been shown by the raising of large sums of money. I don't inquire how far it may be due to the love of concerning oneself in large and distant affairs which many people have. I don't ask how much it may be due to the false perspective that comes from straining the eye into a far and unfamiliar atmosphere. At all events it is a feeling of generous sympathy—a feeling of which we, are proud, and of which I desire to speak with respect. But there must be some 80 limit to our duty in this matter. I don't seek for that limit in the phrases of the Treaty of Berlin, although it may be found there well defined, because such a search would be quite foreign to the spirit which breathes in the country on this question, and which demands that in a matter of duty should do her best. But if we are to find the limit of our duty towards the Armenians I think it may be discovered at the point where it meets and infringes upon our duty to our own country. I don't wish, and indeed I am far from being able, to lay down the delicate frontier where those two duties meet, but there is one opinion I would like to express to the House. It is this, that those who may feel impelled, either in this House or elsewhere in public, to deplore the result of the negotiations with Turkey, or who feel impelled to insist on the responsibility of Great Britain in this question, will not, I feel, be doing their duty in assisting the people of this country to come to a right conclusion upon a matter of conscience, unless they accompany their criticisms with a clear statement of what they propose should be done, and a clear limit of how far they think this country should go in its attempt to assist the Armenians. The subject of foreign politics brings us most naturally to that of the naval defence of the Empire. Men of science have lately discovered a method by which certain rays are directed on the human hand, and are made to pass through the muscles and flesh, and throw an accurate, picture of the structure of the bone which lies within. By some such process, during the past few months, the nature of our relations with foreign countries seems to have been made clear to people's eyes. Indeed, our navy is, and always will be, the backbone of diplomacy in this country, and it is perfectly clear to those who have been reading the newspapers for the last month, that all the muscles and nerves which are gathered together at the Foreign Office would have no compelling power if it were not that they had a point of support, a point of resistance, in the underlying solid skeleton of armed force. It must ever be a matter of congratulation to every citizen in this country, that all parties in this House are ready to consider the necessities of naval 81 defence; and it may boldly be said that, while this is the case, and only while this is the case, can we say with confidence of this Empire, that it will not go the wav of boneless clay, and pass into nothing. I have purposely left little lime in which to speak on the subjects of legislation which are to be submitted to the House, at any length. They divide themselves into two classes, and I am happy to think that one class is small and the other very large. The small class is controversial, and it consists of the measure which has to deal with Voluntary Schools. That measure must, of course, be entirely controversial. As a Scotch Member, I am incompetent to speak on the subject, and I know that, at this moment, to speak on the, subject would be of no use to the House. But the other subjects for legislation in connection with agriculture, with compensation to workmen for injuries, with Irish land laws, and with public health in Scotland—all these measures are, happily, of a kind the main principle of which is admitted on both sides of this House. As a new Member of this House I desire to say—and perhaps I may speak the opinion of other new Members—that there is nothing which gives us so much pleasure in this Queen's Speech as the knowledge that the measures which are to engage the attention of Parliament during this Session are of such a kind that the Government may look forward to the valuable assistance of Members on every side of the House. Allow me, in conclusion, to express the hope; that this Session may be one of real utility to this country. I cannot thank the House enough for their kindness in listening to me. I make the best return I can, and promise I shall trouble the House with my voice as seldom as possible.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
said: The first and most agreeable part of the duty I am called upon to perform is to express, what I am sure is the feeling of all parties and of all Members in tins House, satisfaction at the manner in which the office of moving and seconding the Address has been performed to-night. [Cheers.] It has been a more than usually difficult task, and I, who have a, long par liamentary experience, can honestly say I have never seen it better, I had almost 82 said so well done. [Cheers.] To me it is a matter of great personal satisfaction to be able to offer the congratulations of tins House to gentlemen who are descended from men who have for many years been my personal friends. ["Hear, hear!"] With reference to the Mover of the Address, this I will say—that it is to me a great pleasure to witness the success of what I will call the, spes surgentis Iuli—[Cheers]—a gentleman who, in his first appearance in public life bids fair to continue the reputation of a name which has always been among the most distinguished of our Members [Cheers] and the son of one whatever may haves been our recent political differences in respect of whom I will take upon me to say that—those differences have never altered our mutual regard. [Cheers.] And with respect to my hon. Friend the Seconder of this Address, he recalls to me the memory of one of my oldest and most valued friends, less known, perhaps, to many present Members of this House, but amongst those who are my contemporaries remembered as one of the most distinguished Members of Parliament, a gentleman known to us then by the name of Stirling of Keir, a distinguished scholar, a noble gentleman, a man in the first class in literature ["hear, hear!"]—a charming companion and a faithful friend; a man who in his public life was distinguished by an independence of character and a liberality of sentiment—which I was charmed tonight to hear reproduced by his son. [Cheers.] The first topic to which I ought to allude is one which has been dealt with with such good taste and with such sincerity by the Mover and Seconder—I mean the expression which is contained in this Motion of the deep sympathy of the House of Commons with the sorrows which have befallen the Royal House. The feeling that every man here entertains towards the Queen, and the deep sympathy which they have in the irreparable loss which has fallen on Princess Henry of Battenberg is a sad subject on which it is not necessary that I should enlarge. The House of Commons has never been wanting in the sincere expression of its views. We all recognise, that the late Prince Henry of Battenberg lost his life in his desire to show his deep attachment and willingness to sacrifice himself to the country of his 83 adoption. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, I have to make some observations upon the Speech from the Throne—a Speech of remarkable importance and consider able length. I think I may truly say that never in my personal recollection or, I think, in that of any living Member of this House, has the House of Commons assembled under such critical circumstances as they do to-day. Those halcyon days which were promised to us by the Under Secretary to the Foreign Office [ironical Opposition cheers] as the natural and inevitable consequence of a change of Government have not arrived. [Laughter.] The herald angel of the Foreign Office has not brought to us that millennium he led us to expect. Youth is the period of hope [laughter], too often of illusion, and I think it likely that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with a riper acquaintance with affairs may think fit to alter his confident opinion that the troubles which arise abroad are always in consequence of the incompetence of the Government at home [laughter], and he will not be so certain as he was six months ago that the advent of one party in the State was certain at once to bring universal peace and good will among men. [Laughter.] I only wish he had shown himself less of a false prophet than he has proved to be. The first topic of importance in the Speech and by far the most serious, is that which deals with our relations with the United States. I will not comment—I do not venture to do so—upon that paragraph with the freedom that was employed by the Seconder of the Address. He called it a masterpiece of euphemism. I accept that compliment of the paragraph, because I rejoice to think it is a paragraph which holds out encouragement in our expectations and hopes that this question is on the road to an immediate settlement. Certainly no word of criticism adverse to such a conclusion, no word of embarrassment for the Government will fall from my lips. [Ministerial cheers.] I feel the deep responsibility which every man must bear in speaking on this subject, and will take care to say no word which shall stand in the way of a settlement of this question or create difficulties for the Government in seeking an early conclusion of this con- 84 troversy The Mover of the Address talked of ruffled feelings. We ought all to endeavour to remove any matter which tends to ruffle the feelings between England and the United States. I was very glad to see some few weeks ago that the First Lord of the Treasury, speaking at Manchester, said there had been great misunderstandings cm this subject on both sides. That is painfully apparent, and it is from these misunderstandings, in my opinion, that the ruffling of feelings has arisen. There arose in America—it has been one of the principal causes of irritation in that country—a notion that there was a disposition on the part of the Government of Great Britain to call in question what is called the Monroe doctrine—a doctrine to which the American people have a traditional and a passionate attachment. But that is disclaimed and dispelled, and, as I say, I have no desire to introduce any controversial topics, and, therefore, I will not inquire how the impression arose. But it is highly desirable that this misunderstanding should be removed in the minds of the people of both countries. What is the Monroe doctrine? People imagine there is something new, something mysterious, something extraordinary about it. There is nothing of the kind. It is a very old doctrine—in force long before President Monroe's time. The principle is a very old one. No one pretends, the United States have not pretended, that it is a doctrine of international law. It is nothing of the kind. It is a principle of national policy. The basis of the Monroe doctrine has been most accurately stated by Lord Salisbury in his despatch of November. He states what is the principle upon which one State is entitled to take cognisance of controversies that have arisen in other countries. I will read his words, because I entirely adopt them, believing them to be perfectly accurate. He says:The United States have a right like any other nation to interpose in any controversy by which their own interests are affected, and they are the judges whether these interests are touched and in what measure they should be sustained.Now, that is a general doctrine. It is the, doctrine upon which all States have acted, and upon which they act now. Upon that was founded what in the last century was called the balance 85 of power. It was on that that the Wars of the Succession rested. It is upon that ground that we have interposed in Belgium, in Greece, in Turkey, and in many other places. The Monroe doctrine is not an extension of that principle. It is a limitation of that principle. What other States claim to exercise everywhere, the Monroe doctrine has limited to the American Continent. The United States, following the wise teachings of Washington, have declared their disinclination, their determination, not to interfere in the, controversies of European Powers. But they have declared that controversies on the American Continent have a special interest for themselves, and they judge what are the controversies in which they are interested and in winch they feel called upon to interpose. They have said by the Monroe doctrine that it is their fixed policy that any invasion of the territorial or political rights of American States in controversy with European Powers is a matter of special importance to the United States. That is the Monroe doctrine, and I do not understand why feeling should be ruffled upon that subject. That is the doctrine; it is not disputed. And it is not disputed in this paragraph of the Speech, I am rejoiced to say, because it is said here that the Government of the United States have expressed a wish to co-operate—that is, of course, to take their part in this controversy between England and Venezuela with respect to the boundary. What is the sentiment of the British Government upon that subject as declared in the Speech from the Throne? Why that they sympathise in that wish on the part of the United States to co-operate in the settlement of the question. I have seen in newspapers and elsewhere attempts to treat the intervention of the United States in this matter as a thing that ought, to be resented and repelled. Her Majesty's Government do not resent or repel it. On the contrary, they say that the wish is one which they welcome, and that they are anxious and willing to co-operate. Do let us get, that misunderstanding out of the way. It is the right of the. United States. It is one which they have chosen to exercise, and it is one which the Government, in the Speech from the, Throne, welcome. Now, the only practical question that remains is 86 whether there has been an invasion of the rights of an American State in the case of Venezuela and in respect of the boundary. The United States have made no pronouncement upon that question at all. They have appointed a Commission to inform their judgment on the subject. If arbitration had taken place, as they suggested, that Commission would not have been necessary, because the arbitrator would have decided the question. But now let us come to another misunderstanding which has ruffled feeling. I have seen it stated that the appointment of that Commission was an offence to the people and the Government of Great Britain. That is not the view of Her Majesty's Government, happily. I observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on January 29th, speaking at Bristol, said:—He did not think it a cause of complaint that the President of the United Status, supported by Congress, should have appointed an American Commission to ascertain the facts for the information of their Government.That is a complete acceptance of the appointment of the Commission by the United States, a most, reasonable and proper declaration, but it is a declaration which is calculated, hope, to remove many misunderstandings on that subject. I have seen article after article in the newspapers treating the appointment of the Commission as a thing we ought to resent and ought, not to recognise. This Commission is to inform the judgment of the United States, with whom our Government desires to co-operate. How can the Government of the United States co-operate with us unless they have the information at their disposal which will enable them to assist in settling the boundary? ["Hear, hear!"] But we have a great deal to learn on that subject yet. I confess the more I have read on this subject from lawyers, geographers, and diplomatists the more obscure it seems to mo to become. ["Hear, hear!"] I regret very much the delay that has taken place in the publication of the English case. I should have thought that before the Dispatch of Mr. Olney was answered all our materials would have been collected and ready to lay before the United States and before the world at large. ["Hear, 87 hear!"] But what is our situation in this matter and what is the situation of the United States of America? We have no desire whatever to assert any claim to territory to which we are not clearly entitled. The question is, What is that territory? That that is a doubtful question who can deny? The diplomacy of 50 years, the correspondence, the agreements, the conflicting claims, the multitudinous lines at various times drawn and withdrawn by both sides, the different maps—all that demonstrates that this is a most doubtful question, on which I observe that the people who are the most ignorant pronounce with the greatest confidence. [Cheers.] It is like the questions we remember in old days of the determination of the marches on the Scottish moorlands, and in very odd ways these marches were determined. Well, Sir, it is the business of diplomatists, or ought to be, to come to a reasonable settlement of all such comparatively trivial matters. Diplomacy has had this matter in hand for half a century, and a mighty bad hand it has made of it. ["Hear, hear!"] In my opinion it is not creditable that a question of this character should have been allowed to fester until it has broken out in an open and dangerous sore, to breed bad blood between two great nations. ["Hear, hear!"] It is the first duty of the Government—I say it in no party spirit, I speak of the Government of this great Empire, having the interests of the whole nation and not any section of it at heart—to take measures without delay to heal that sore. ["Hear, hear!"] What the country demands without distinction of party, and what it has a right to demand, is that this dispute should be brought at once and without delay to an honourable solution. [Cheers.] If it is proved that the rights of Venezuela have not been invaded by Great Britain, the United States of America have no cause of complaint, and they make no complaint. If it turns out that we have occupied territory to which we have no title, we make no pretence to maintain such occupation. How, then, are we to arrive at a conclusion in this matter? Again I desire to speak in the language of the Government and not in any language of my own. I think I can entirely adopt the view stated by the 88 First Lord of the Treasury a week or two ago. Speaking at Manchester he said:—The Foreign Office is now engaged in compiling and bringing together every document of importance bearing on the ease. I understand from the ordinary sources of information that the Government of the United States have, appointed a CommissionYou will see here that the First Lord of the Treasury adopts the American Commission in the same way as the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—To investigate the same subject, and surely with all this mass of material before the public of both countries, it will be hard indeed if the common sense of the Anglo-Saxon race is not able to settle every point in dispute without the arbitrament of war.Then how is this matter to be settled? It is to be settled upon the evidence of the English case and on the evidence of the American case. That is the view of Her Majesty's Government, and a very reasonable and proper view. What is it that the common sense of the Anglo-Saxon race desires in the midst of this confused and conflicting material? It will certainly appear that there is a great deal to be said on both sides, that there is a great deal of obscurity in a question of this kind, which goes back for nearly a century. The question is, What was the Dutch title in 1814? and that is the matter you have to investigate. There are only two methods of settling the question. One is by an amicable convention, setting aside archaic research in the matter. If that could be reached it would be a very good thing; but if it cannot be reached, if it should appear on inquiry that the differences of opinion are not capable of solution in that way, why, then, what objection can there be to referring that difference to the arbitration of a third Power? [Cheers.] The United States of America and Great Britain are to their honour, and profess to be, great advocates of arbitration throughout the world. We have settled many great and dangerous disputes by arbitration with the United States—questions of claim, questions of boundary. It must be admitted that there are questions which are beyond the reach of arbitration; but is this one? If there are questions within the domain of arbitration, would you exclude a question of this kind? But it 89 is not necessary to argue that point. Her Majesty's Government do not reject arbitration. They accept the principle of arbitration as applicable to this case. So I read the Dispatch of Lord Salisbury in November last. It is the question of the limitation of arbitration, but in the matter of limitation of arbitration you ought not to be too stiff or too arbitrary. It is not for one party in a dispute to define what is the dispute. It is quite plain that both parties to the dispute will have different opinions upon the subject. You will be very confident in your view and the other party will be equally confident in theirs. But mark this, if you choose to lay down a definite line which is to exclude the extreme claims of one party, do you think it reasonable that on the other side of the line your extreme claims should be left open, so that you may gain what you can in the arbitration and they can gain nothing? ["Hear, hear!"] I have ventured to make these observations, I hope in no party spirit, with no intention and no effect of embarrassing, but rather of aiding the Government. I believe that the Government are most sincerely anxious, as they must be anxious, to settle this question. I believe that the Government of the United States are willing to co-operate with them in settling this question, and it ought to be the object of every man on both sides of the Atlantic to do what they can within their respective spheres to assist in the settlement of this matter. ["Hear, hear!"] There is one thing which I venture to say ought, not to stand in the way of a settlement, and that is false pride or diplomatic punctilio as to past transactions. It is not a question of this Government or of that Government. There have been a dozen Governments of different parties during the 50 years we have had this question in hand. They may have made mistakes in the positions taken up by them; but this is a matter far too grave for party recrimination or paltry criticisms. What we have to do if we want to settle this question is to obliterate the controversies of the past which have unhappily proved so unfruitful. We ought to apply our minds solely and singly to the question as it now stands before us, and we ought to make known to the world our sincere desire that justice should be done in this 90 case and to adopt the best method for seeing that justice is done. ["Hear, hear"] I speak with a deep sense of earnestness in this matter, and I confess I rejoice in the language of this paragraph of the Speech from the Throne, in which the Government declare first of all that they are in negotiation with the Government of the United States for the settlement of this question, and in the next place that they are encouraged in the hope of a satisfactory solution of it. And next I must make some observations on the paragraph of the Speech which refers to the Transvaal. There are obvious reasons why it is impossible to discuss that question in detail now. We all lament and condemn the outrageous and disastrous event of the invasion of the Transvaal by an amed force from British territory. [Cheers.] But there are two things which may be said, and which I think ought to be said, to-day. First, of all, I think we ought all to express our complete approval of the conduct of the Colonial Secretary [Cheers] and of the statesmanlike courage, promptitude, and decision with which he has disengaged all responsibility on the part of the British Government for this deplorable attack made upon a friendly State by men for whose actions we are prima facie responsible. ["Hear, hear!"] We may tender to him our thanks. ["Hear, hear!"] He knew the obligations under which we lay to the Government of the South African Republic. He was one of the principal authors of the Convention under which those obligations arose, and he has done what lay in his power as a man of honour and a British Statesman to fulfil those obligations, and to denounce and defeat a breach of faith which threatened discredit to the British name throughout the world. ["Hear, hear!"] There is another thing which ought, I think, to be said, and which is due from the House of Commons. President Kruger has received the thanks of the Queen. [Cheers.] His conduct is recognised in the Speech from the Throne, and we also applaud the magnanimity and the humanity which he has exhibited under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty. [Cheers.] I think the page of history offers few examples of such moderation under such conditions. ["Hear, hear!"] It is well that in the difficult 91 questions that lie before us we should have to deal with a Statesman of such moderation and of such wisdom. [Cheers.] That is all I should have desired or should have thought it necessary to say if in other quarters a prudent reserve had been exercised. [Cheers.] But in the speech made by the Prime Minister a few days ago upon this matter,—what I must call an astounding and deplorable utterance—which has made it impossible to pass over the matter in silence. [Cheers.] In his desire to attack Home Rule, Lord Salisbury thought it necessary to drag the African trouble into his denunciation of Home Rule in order to reinforce his arguments. I should have thought that with the study be has given to that, subject he might have picked up stones enough to fling at Home Rule without seizing upon this delicate and dangerous topic as a missile to throw at his opponents. ["Hear, hear!"] His favourite aversion we all know is Home Rule. [Cheers and laughter.] He regards it as anathema, and therefore he selects for attack the Government of the Transvaal, and says that it is the worst example of extreme Home Rule. [Cheers.] The Prime Minister asked how Home Rule, which was conferred upon the Transvaal by a patriotic Ministry some years ago, had answered to the mother country. As to the sneer about the patriotic Ministry, I leave that to be answered by the Secretary for the Colonies and the President of the Council, who were principal Members of it. [Cheers and laughter.] But what, was the object of using language of that character, and what impression is it likely to make upon President Kruger and upon the people, of the South African Republic as to our sincerity and goodwill towards their Government and our fidelity to their Constitution, to which we were parties? Why, they may well be led to believe that there is a more patriotic Government now in office who hold different views as to the extreme Home Rule which prevails at present in the South African Republic. For what purpose were the bitterest memories of Irish strife brought up, which could only serve to inflame the quarrel which now unhappily exists between races in South Africa whom it is our policy to 92 reconcile? ["Hear, hear!"] Was it to assist the path of the Irish Secretary, or was it to smooth the path of the Secretary for the Colonies? ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] For what object was a vision of Scotch moss-troopers invoked to come to the rescue of the Ulster of South Africa? ["Hear, hear!"] Does Lord Salisbury really believe; that this is the language and the tone in which the matter is regarded by the sober-minded people of England? I am not speaking of music-halls or of Poets Laureate. [Cheers and laughter.] Is that the spirit in which the people of England expect a question of this character to be dealt with by the Prime Minister of England? [Cheers.] Is it tolerable that the unhappy feuds of one country should be employed to inflame the animosities of another so as to aggravate a danger in both? ["Hear, hear!"] Language of this kind can have no other effect than to make the Government of the Transvaal distrust our good will and good faith, and lead them to believe that the sympathy of the people of England and of the British Government is not with their Constitution, but with those who have attempted by force to overthrow it. ["Hear, hear!" and cries> of "No!"] And yet the whole of our position for the future depends on our satisfying the Government of the Transvaal that we mean to act in good faith towards them and their Constitution. ["Hear, hear!"] If we expect them lo respect our claims under the Convention we must respect their rights under that Convention. [Cheers.] It is very fitting to employ our legitimate, influence with them to obtain justice for the Uitlanders. It is clearly not in the interests of President Kruger to destroy the industry of the territory over which he rules. I was very glad to see in the able Dispatch of the Secretary of the Colonies that he had addressed himself largely to this subject. He stated, and stated truly, that this outrageous attempt to overthrow the Government of the Transvaal by force did not proceed from and had not the sympathy of the majority of the Uitlanders of the Rand. ["Hear, hear!"] This is not the time to discuss the details of the proposals which have been made in regard to the Uitlanders. The right hon. Gentleman will not expect that we shall object to the principle upon which they are founded. 93 [Laughter.] They are Home Rule pure and simple. [Cheers and laughter.] I suppose that in this complex Government the right hon. Gentleman is the homœopath who is to cure the evils of the extreme Home Rule denounced by Lord Salisbury by an additional Home Rule, a Home Rule within a Home Rule. [Cheers and laughter.] Of course we do not complain of that, except in so far as people sometimes complain of plagiarism. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] We recognise our own thunder. [Cheers and laughter.] There is the separate taxation, there is the veto, there is the tribute, the famous Westminster question—there you have it all. [Cheers and laughter.] It is in the right hon. Gentleman's early and, if he will allow me to call it so, his best manner. [Cheers and laughter.] We always return to our early love, and I am very glad to think that the right hon. Gentleman threw back to the old strain. [Cheers and laughter.] He has stated that President Kruger is likely to come to this country. I am sure that if he does so he will receive in this country that welcome which he deserves—[cheers]—and I wish the right hon. Gentleman a fortunate issue of the new Round Table Conference. [Cheers and laughter] I was struck by the commentary in the right hon. Gentleman's Dispatch on the state of political parties in the Volksraad. He pointed out—and it has often happened in the history of States—that the evils that have arisen in Johannesburg have come from the delay in reforms, and he says that—The difficulties of the reforming party in the Volksvaaad and in the Executive appear to have arisen from the strong prejudices of the more conservative burghers.[Cheers and laughter.] He says that—There should be extensive changes in the law, the necessity of which may not be apparent to the more conservative section of the burghers, who may not have mastered the facts of the situation.[Laughter.] Conservative burghers seem to be very much the same all the world over [Opposition laughter], and the consequence of their not mastering the facts and resisting too long constitutional reforms is to bring about evils with which we are all acquainted. 94 I observe in another part of the Dispatch that the right hon. Gentleman states that there were good hopes to be entertained for the future, in consequence of the Progressives having obtained a majority at the last Election. [Laughter] Well, Sir, in that respect the South Africans are more fortunate than the English. I was not aware before that the word "Progressive" had attained the dignity of an official Dispatch. I only hope that when. President Kruger comes here the right hon. Gentleman will take care that he is not plied too much with Unionist literature. [Opposition laughter.] He might be led to suppose that there was a snake in the grass, and that these Home Rule proposals were of a dangerous, separatist character, and that they might endanger the integrity of the South African Republic. I would invite him also to keep clear of the Irish Nationalist Members, lest they might ask him why the same terms are not offered to Ireland. Sir, the first thing that we have to do is to make it clear to President Kruger and his people that we are resolved to respect the Government of the Transvaal, and not to encourage, comfort, and support those who have endeavoured, or are about to endeavour, to overthrow it. Whether that is what we sincerely intend will appear from the manner in which we deal with what has happened—namely, the invasion of their country by an armed force proceeding from our territory. The first and most important question is, not one of individual offenders, but of the relation of the Chartered Company to these transactions. ["Hear, hear!"] That will be inquired into, I gather from the Speech from the Throne. If it is convenient to the Government, we should like to know what is to be the character of that Inquiry. The position of chartered companies is a very anomalous one; it is one of limited liability for themselves, but unlimited liability for us. I was reading only this morning in a very able book by Mr. Lawrence, on "The principles of international law," some observations which seem to me to be very true. He says that—There is doubtless much fascination in the idea of opening up new territories to the commercial and political influence of a country, and at the same time adding nothing to its financial burdens 95 or its international obligations, but experience shows that the glamour soon wars off, and the State which seeks to obtain power without responsibility obtains instead responsibility without power[Opposition cheers.] That is precisely what has happened to us. We have had the responsibility, but we have not had the power in the past to prevent that which has happened. Sir, if we choose to delegate sovereign power we are answerable for the conduct of our delegates. One chartered company has recently gone into liquidation, and another chartered company has involved us in responsibilities which are very heavy for us to bear. The first question we have to ask is how our Government at the, Cape came to be ignorant of what was going on at Mafeking and its neighbourhood in the last days of December. ["Hear, hear!"] They had all the means at their disposal which ought to have informed them of what was occurring. It seems an absurd suggestion to reproach President Kruger because he did not inform us of what was going on in our own territory. What an extraordinary situation for a responsible Government to be in! I observe from his Dispatch that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary was the first person to know of it. He received intelligence on December 29th that this attack was likely to be made, and it was left to him to inform Sir Hercules Robinson of what was going on in Bechuanaland. That is a most extraordinary state of things, and one which requires, I think, a great deal of explanation. What is to be done? This is a question which I think the Government will probably be able to answer—what is to be the situation of the Chartered Company at present and in the interval which will occur before the trial of Dr. Jameson (which will be postponed, I suppose), and what security are we to have that this sort of thing is not to recur? It is obvious, I think, that the charter of the Chartered Company must be revised, but it must be revised under the superintendence and the authority of Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] Parliament must have a voice, Parliament must be informed of what has occurred, and Parliament must consider with Her Majesty's Government what kind of securities it is necessary to 96 take in the future. I venture to say that by the manner in which we deal with this question we shall be judged, not only as a Government, but as a nation. The Government have done their part in the matter, and done it well. [Cheers.] Yes, but the nation has to do its part in this matter, and it will be seen by our conduct whether we do in our hearts, ex animo, condemn what we profess to disavow; whether we really regret that this attempt has been made; or whether what we really deplore is that it should have failed. ["Hear, hear!"] On the answer to that question depends the possibility of your restoring peace to the distracted races in South Africa, and on that will depend the estimation which is formed of you in the world. If the world supposes that all these are hollow pretences, and that what the English people really approve is what has been done, then you cannot complain if a severe judgment is passed upon you by the civilised world. There is one other matter which I feel bound to deal with, and that is the question of Armenia. My hon. Friend, the seconder of the Address, called the paragraph relating to Armenia disappointing; that is a mild phrase in my opinion, it is a paragraph which is absolutely in adequate, totally unworthy, and which entirely fails to represent the feeling of the people of this country in regard to our relations with the Sultan at Constantinople. The conduct of the Government in respect to this paragraph of the Speech is to my mind entirely inexplicable. It speaks of—the reforms for which, in conjunction with the Emperor of Russia, and the President of the French Republic, I have felt it my duty to press.But this is what took place under the late Government; is that all that has happened? Has there been no appeal to the other Powers? What has become of that concert of Europe of which we have heard so much? There is not so much as a reference to the Conference of the Powers in this paragraph. It is an extraordinary omission. Of the horrors which have taken place in Armenia it is difficult to speak, it is impossible to exaggerate. [A VOICE: "Oh," and "Hear, hear!"] The voice that will attempt to diminish those horrors is a single voice 97 in this House, and I believe it is a single voice in this country. We know only a part of them; the papers that have been presented deal with one massacre alone, but while we, and Russia and France, were remonstrating, massacre after massacre followed; and all that we know of these massacres officially is as yet nothing. All this has deeply moved the indignation, and has affected the heart and conscience of the nation. We have been traditionally the protectors of Turkey and of the Sultan; in 1878, when the Russian armies were withdrawn, mainly on our pressure, the Christian subjects of the Sultan received guarantees of which we were the principal authors—Lord Salisbury said that he had himself drafted those guarantees. What was the character of those guarantees? They were joint European guarantees given by the six powers at Berlin. Nothing more extraordinary, I think, has ever occurred than the attempt of the very author of those guarantees to minimise them and to treat them as practically unimportant. Lord Salisbury said the other day to the Nonconformists—All that there is is in article in the Treaty of Berlin in which six Powers agree not to act with any outside person, but with each other, that if the Sultan promulgated certain reforms they would watch for the execution of those reforms.Where is that word "if" to be found in the Treaty of Berlin? Why, Sir, the whole point of the Treats of Berlin was that there was a covenant on the part of the Sultan, who was to be released from the pressure of the Treaty of San Stefano, that he would do the work which the Russian Government were ready to do; and that the Powers of Europe, not relying on the promise of the Sultan alone, would see that those reforms were carried into effect. [Cheers.] Lord Salisbury calls for verifying references, but when you look at the text you will find he is absolutely incorrect. The article in the Treaty of Berlin is this:—The Sublime Porte undertakes to carry out without further delay"—no "if" about that—the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by Armenians, and to guarantee them security 98 against Circassians and Kurds, and it will periodically make known the steps to this effect to the Powers who will superintend their application.Is it possible that a document could be more directly in contradiction of the statement of the Prime Minister? Those were the European engagements, but under the Cyprus Convention we had a special and several covenant of our own. We were to defend Turkey in Asia Minor. We were to hold Cyprus; and Turkey in consideration of that undertaking covenanted to protect the Christian population in Armenia. That is the situation as it stands upon the policy of 1878. That is our responsibility in the matter. The support that we have given to Turkey was conditional on the covenants which the Sultan has foully broken and is daily violating. [Loud cheers.] It was from the sense of our primary responsibility in that matter that the late Government thought it right, in concert with Russia and France, to press for those reforms; but, unless I am mistaken, the present Government have gone further, and they have invited concerted action with the six Powers—I do not know how it is, but I imagine that is the case from the language of Lord Salisbury. What did Lord Salisbury say at the Guildhall dinner on this subject?I believe the Powers will stand together—that they were never more disposed to stand together—by the European system which their joint wisdom has devised. I do not know the contingencies that may arise, but no man will say that it is impossible that they (the Powers) may weary of the cry of suffering which goes up in their ears, and may find some other arrangement which is a substitute for that which does not fulfil the hopes that were entertained 40 years ago. There is, therefore"—this was the declaration made to Europe and to the world—in the concert of the Powers, which I put forward as a marked phenomenon at the present, time"?—that marked phenomenon to which there is not a word of reference in the Speech from the Throne—there is nothing in that to console those who would perpetuate misgovernment or to silence the voice of those who would impress upon the rulers of the Ottoman Empire that the one burning necessity of the hour is that they should give the common blessing of good government to those under their rule.99 That was language worthy of an English Minister. ["Hear, hear!"] That statement was received with universal satisfaction in this country, and throughout Europe and America too. It was a message of hope to the Armenians, and the disappointment of which has cruelly aggravated their position. Lord Salisbury, I think in Bradford, while we were still in Office, spoke emphatically of the mischief of threatening where you could not and did not intend to act. And yet he has addressed language to the Sultan, of Turkey such as I cannot recollect to have ever been, addressed by one Sovereign to another. This is what he said, and he spoke as the mouthpiece of the Concert, of Europe:—The nature of things and the providence of God has determined that persistent and constant misgovernment must lead the Government that follows it to its doom. He"—that is, the Sultan—is not exempt more than any other potentate from the law that injustice will bring to the highest ruin.That is what the law of nature and the providence of God has provided as a remedy for misgovernment. Who stands in the way of that redress, and who has stood for many years in the way of the remedies in the nature of things and the providence of God to put an end to this detestable misrule? Who has secured to the Sultan of Turkey impunity for that misgovernment which ought to bring every ruler to ruin? It is those who have not performed the task they had undertaken, but which they now declare they were unable to perform. These were our European engagements; but under the Cyprus Convention we have a separate covenant with the Sultan. We undertook to relieve Turkey from the pressure of Russia in Asia. We undertook to defend her by force against Russia in Asia Minor. She gave us a covenant in return that she would protect the Christians, and we occupied Cyprus to give effect to this agreement. What is our position under the Berlin Convention and the Cyprus Convention? What is now the statement made in the speech to the Nonconformists? Lord Salisbury tells us "the Sultan's Government is weak, wretched, and powerless;" and 100 then he proceeds:—"The opinion of the Powers"—mark, he does not say his own opinion—"is that there is only one power in that country left, feeble as it is, and that is the prestige of the Sultan's name." The prestige of the Sultan's name! I have heard that word "prestige" used and abused many a time, but never, I think, was it with such evil odour as when it is applied to the prestige of the Sultan's name. [Cheers.] "They believe in his good will"—does Lord Salisbury believe in his good will? "and they think that in that direction more than in any other relief from the sufferings which the Christians in Armenia endure is to be looked for." "It is not for me," says Lord Salisbury, "to pass judgment on their views. It may be right or it may be wrong. There is no doubt there is no other means of obtaining that end. No other means have boon suggested. At all events, there is no other way out." Was there such a declaration of diplomatic insolvency? [Cheers.] What a confession of national impotence!—such a confession as I believe has never before fallen to the lot of a British Minister to make. ["Hear, hear!"] Lord Salisbury says that he does not care for "isolation." I think that was not a prudent declaration, for he has got it to his heart's content. The First Lord of the Treasury the other day said:—"At all events it is not our fault." Whose fault is it? We have never been told what you have done or what you have attempted to do. You come before the Nonconformists to make a declaration of impotence. The question I ask is, Is this to be the be-all and the end-all of the great Anglo-Turkish policy of 1878? Is this the final and practical outcome of the triumphal return from Berlin? [Cheers.] Is this peace with honour? [Cheers] A great historian has said "they make a solitude and they call it peace." That is the peace which the Sultan gives to Armenia. As to "honour" under present circumstances, the less we say about it the better. The only honour the Government has secured is the thanks from the Sultan for their high appreciation of his prestige and his good will towards the Armenians. Sir, we have a right to point to the failure of the policy of 1878. On 101 these Benches we always protested against it. I recollect very well that memorable night. It was the first Debate upon the outrages of a similiar character, which had taken place in the European provinces of Turkey. It was the night upon which Mr. Disraeli made his last speech in the House of Commons. I have good reason to recollect it, for, standing in this very place, I ventured to express an opinion that we ought to have done with the Turk. [Cheers.] With that kindness which I always received from him, he rebuked me for expressing that opinion. You proceeded with that policy, and we all remember the glorious campaign under Mr. Gladstone [Opposition cheers] which we fought against that policy. You persisted, you got up a Russian scare in those days. ["Oh," and Opposition cheers.] Oh, yes, and then we are told now that we cannot induce Russia to undertake the task. We protested against that policy. It was popular, especially in the music-halls. [A laugh.] The fleets entered the Dardanelles. Two of the most considerable members of that Government left it upon that account. The late Lord Derby and the late Lord Carnarvon retired from the Administration, and I was reminded of that, circumstance the other day by an extract I saw from a speech that was made by Lord Carnarvon. That extract is so appropriate to the present moment that I will venture to read it to the House. He said:—By that policy at Berlin her Majesty's Government have put themselves very much in the position of a merchant who contracts an unlimited liability with an insolvent partner. Those who hold the views which I do on the subject may very well be content to wait for the verification which time will bring with it. I am satisfied that when the excitement of the present moment has gone by, and when the glamour which now bewitches men's minds has passed away, when men open their eyes to the sober realities of the question, they will find themselves confounded by that most terrible and painful dilemma—either the necessity of carrying through an almost hopelessly impracticable obligation, or retreating from it at the expense of national credit and honour." [Opposition cheers.]That was the prediction of your former colleague who left you in 1878, and it is now verified in its very letter to-day. You undertook at that time obligations 102 which you could not carry out, and the situation in which we find ourselves, and from which you tell us there is no way out, is the consequence of that policy. We were told then—I am not speaking of the present Secretary for the Colonies, who was one of the most ardent champions of the principle we then advocated—we were told that we had achieved the emancipation of Armenia and the civilisation of Asia Minor. I remember so well Lord Harrowby's speech. He was a member of the Government, and said:—I have wandered amongst the Armenian hills, and one cry from all these people has always met my ears.And then he told us that we were going with railways, steam ploughs, manufactures, and all the arts of peace to Armenia. [Laughter.] Has the policy of 1878 brought these blessings of peace to Armenia? I would not advise Lord Harrowby to wander now amongst the Armenian hills. [Laughter.] We took Cyprus. What did we take Cyprus for? It was to be the basis of our operations. It was what Lord Beaconsfield called a place d'armes. A place d'armes for what purpose? In the speech to the Nonconformists Lord Salisbury ridiculed the notion, of a British force operating in the Taurus and Lake Van. That was exactly the thing for which you took Cyprus. That was for what you held the place d'armes. We denounced that at the time as a thing which was impossible and impracticable as Lord Salisbury declares it to be to-day. But what do you hold Cyprus for now? It is not, I suppose, to fight the Russians in support of the Government of the Sultan in Armenia. What is the result, of this policy? It is that you have secured impunity to the Sultan by all these arrangements; you have removed from him the pressure which in the nature of things, under the providence of God, would otherwise have compelled him to have given good government to these people. I feel I have trespassed at a great deal too much length, and I will now rapidly come to a conclusion. There is a new version of the economical paragraph. It says economy has been studied, but that much additional expenditure will be incurred. 103 And then there is a paragraph with reference to the Navy. On that head I will say—I can remember no instance in which the House of Commons has refused to the responsible Government of the time those additions to the defences of the country which, upon their responsibility, they say are required by the nation. I do not believe we are likely to do so now. There is a mention of agriculture. There, again, I am sure I am expressing the opinion of both sides of the House that there is a great desire to give any assistance or support consistent with the rights of other classes of the community ["Hear, hear!"] which may be possible to that distressed industry, whose sufferings we fully recognise and desire to alleviate. There is one; thing which I have been very glad to see in the observations which the Government have made upon this subject—viz., that they do not seek to give that relief by adding to the cost of the food of the people. ["Hear, hear!"] There has been an entire disclaimer of any intention to raise the price of corn, either by protection or by tampering with the currency. [A laugh.] I am also pleased to see that on the latter point that is the conclusion at which the German Government have arrived upon the same subject. Then, as regards education, I will say no more than this—that I very much regret that the Seconder of the Address spoke of that as a controversial subject. I suppose he has more means of knowing what the plans of the Government are than I have. I am very sorry that the Government should have thought this an appropriate occasion to raise a controversial subject of that character, and to open wounds that were healed 20 years ago. [Opposition cheers.] I think that is a deplorable matter, but still, at the same time, I recognise entirely the delarations emphatically made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members of the Government that they have no intention, of departing from the principles of the settlement of 1870. If that is so, of course we shall be very willing to discuss their proposals. They may depend upon it that upon this side of the House, as we have not opened that controversy so we shall firmly stand by the principles of the settlement of 1870. [Opposition cheers.] An Irish Land Bill 104 has been announced, a thing which everyone naturally expected. There are many other subjects mentioned in the Speech. There is one which is conspicuous by its absence, largely promised, however, at the election, and that was temperance reform. ["Oh!" and laughter] Oh, you never promised temperance reform? Is that avowed? You repudiate it altogether, do you? Well, then, we know where we are [laughter]; you condemned our plan. [Ministerial cheers.] Oh yes, you said you were very anxious for temperance reform, and that you had a better plan of your own. Well, then, the Bishops have found the more excellent way, and have told us that all the temperance sections are following them in the matter. They go to the Prime Minister and they propound their plan to him, supported by all sections of the Temperance Party; and then the Bishops return to their followers and inform them of what has passed. The Bishop of London says that "Lord Salisbury received us courteously, but he did not answer our arguments." [A laugh.] Then he says that, finding that the Government would do nothing in the matter, they asked whether the Government would give a favourable support to the plan of the Bishops and all sections of the Temperance Party, and the Bishop says, "The Marquess replied with a courteous bow, and then left the room" [much laughter]; and so temperance and the Bishops were bowed out by the Prime Minister [renewed laughter], and I am sorry to say the Bishop—though Bishops ought not to use strong language—the Bishop is reported to have said he called the Prime Minister almost an idolater, and he concluded by saying they had met with a stone wall, and it would be the Bishops' business to dig down that stone wall. I shall watch with interest the progress of the Bishops in digging down that stone wall. [A laugh.] I will not read the concluding paragraph of the Speech. It is what is generally known as the omnibus paragraph, the omnibus to which Mr. Bright referred as blocking Temple-bar. We often received when we were in Office moral lectures from right hon. Gentlemen as to the folly of stuffing the Speech full of measures which they said we had not the smallest chance or intention of carrying. 105 All I can say is that I have never seen a Queen's Speech in which there has been such an accumulation of measures promised as in this—measures which the Government, must perfectly well know they have not the smallest chance of carrying. ["Oh, oh!"] Do you mean to say that, after dealing with measures with regard to the Navy, agriculture, education, and Irish land, you are going on to the long list of measures set out in the last paragraph of the Speech? Gentlemen who believe that would believe anything. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has too much knowledge and experience to believe anything of the sort. I certainly cannot complain that the Government have not given us enough to do, and, in reply to the appeal made by the hon. Seconder, I would say that I do hope that both sides of the House will apply themselves in a businesslike spirit of good sense to do the best, it can to facilitate the business of the nation. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
, who was received with loud Ministerial cheers, said: Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to perform the task of replying to the right hon. Gentleman at somewhat less length than he has found it necessary to occupy in dealing with the Speech from the Throne. I admit that the Speech itself is a long one, and contains a great deal of matter which might properly require the comment of the Leader of the Opposition in some detail. That, heavy task the right hon. Gentleman has quite unnecessarily rendered heavier by replying to no fewer than three recent speeches of the Prime Minister. [Laughter.] If we are here not merely to discuss the Queen's Speech, but to survey all the rhetoric of the recess, or a considerable fraction of it, necessarily a large amount of time will be required. Before passing to the controversial matters of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I am sure the House will permit mo to associate myself with him in the most eloquent and touching tribute he paid to the speeches of my two hon. Friends behind me, and the Parliamentary and personal reminiscences which those speeches brought to his mind. I do not think that the difficult and delicate duty intrusted to 106 my two hon. Friends has ever been fulfilled better than by them. [" Hear, hear!"] And it is a great gratification to me to think that they are friends of my own, and that their fathers—one still with us and the other taken away have also been friends of mine. These hon. Members have brilliantly distinguished themselves on this the first, though I hope, not by many times the last, occasion on which they will be, called upon to address us. ["Hear, hear!] With reference to that paragraph of the Speech which deals with the lamentable, loss the Royal Family have sustained by the death of Prince Henry of Battenberg, it is only necessary for me, in addition to what has been already so well said, to say on my own behalf, and on that of my Friends near me, that we associate ourselves in what has fallen from the Leader of the Opposition in this relation. Everything which touches the life and interest of the Queen touches nearly the feelings and affections of her subjects, and that which would have been a lamentable loss under any circumstances, gains additional interest from the reflection that Prince Henry of Battenberg died in the service of his adopted country, carrying out a public duty, and sacrificing himself for the interests of the country of which he had become in all respects a citizen. [Cheers.] It is unnecessary for me to detain the House for even a moment on that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he briefly and rapidly surveyed the course of the proposed legislation of the Government. He quarrelled with my hon. Friend behind me because he expressed the hope that all the more important measures in the Speech, with the exception of one, might be considered non-controversial. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that even that one should not be excepted from that general observation. My hon. Friend who expressed these hopes is a new Member. He is comparatively inexperienced. Had he consulted me as to what my views were with regard to these measures, I should not have, held out to him a hope that they would pass without a very considerable amount of discussion; and with regard to the one which he seemed to think would especially cause controversy, his only ground for holding that view was that 107 both the right hon. Member for East Fife and Lord Rosebery have taken the pains to explain to the country that they, at all events, mean to offer very serious opposition to any measure of the Government by which large public aid should be given to Voluntary Schools. [Mr. ASQUITH dissented.] I would only, then, hope that the views of the Leader of the Opposition are more correct than those of my hon. Friend, that all these measures are non-controversial and may be passed without any very great amount of discussion. The House will readily recognise that the only part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he took any interest himself [Laughter] was that dealing with foreign relations, with reference to Venezuela, South Africa, and the Armenian question, and on his observations I shall make concisely a few remarks of my own. The right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with Venezuela, spent a considerable amount of time in attacking opinions that have never been expressed by any hon. Gentleman on this Bench or any Member of the Government, and are not held, and have never been held, by any hon. Gentleman sitting behind us. [Cheers.] Neither I nor my Friends have ever suggested for one moment that it is an insult, to this country for the United States to make an inquiry into the facts connected with the Venezuelan boundary. The Monroe doctrine, as stated by President Monroe, is a doctrine of British origin, and we see no reason now, and never have seen any reason, why we should offer any criticism upon it. So far from our taking the appointment of the American Commission to be a national insult, I may tell the House that the American. Government have applied to us, through the ordinary channels of diplomatic intercourse, to aid them by supplying any information that we may have. To that invitation we have replied, and have promised them all the information at our disposal at the earliest possible moment. [Cheers.] But, Sir, when, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, in his opinion, the matters connected with the Venezuelan boundary were so involved in mystery and obscurity that no clear view could be, or ought to be taken upon them by anybody, let me remind him that, though undoubtedly there are subsidiary questions 108 of great difficulty, none of the English Governments which have considered this matter since 1844 have thought that there was any doubt at all that certain claims put forward by Venezuela were really beyond the region of controversy. As far as I understand the diplomatic relations between England and Venezuela, we have since 1844 been making a series of earnest and honest attempts to get this question finally settled. For one reason or another, not connected with English politics, not depending on English ambition or greed, each of these attempts has in turn failed. But it must not be supposed that, because in order to come to a settlement with Venezuela, different English Governments have suggested a different line at different times, that implies that the whole matter was involved in such doubt and obscurity that the idea of founding any claim on research or historical rights must be abandoned. These lines were made in the interests of peace. They undoubtedly represented something which the English Government of the day considered was less than England had a right to, and they ought not to be considered as qualifying in the least degree the general character of the views taken by various English Governments upon the question. ["Hear, hear!"] I have no reason to complain of most of what the right hon. Gentleman said on this subject. I am sure he was animated in all he said by a desire not to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, and I can assure him that, when he asks us not to be prevented by any mere diplomatic punctilio from trying to bring this question to a satisfactory issue, he need fear no such difficulties being raised on our side. Let the House not forget that there may be interests altogether apart from the future settlement of these boundaries, and apart from diplomatic difficulties or embarrassments. We do owe a duty to our children, to our colonies, and to those who depend on us, and this country could not retain—and I go further and say that it would not deserve to retain—that confidence which the colonies now hold in our will and power to defend them, if, in any case in which we were clearly in the right, we abandoned the interests of those who had settled in distant lands. [Cheers.] I do not believe that statement will be 109 disputed by the right hon. Gentleman or by any hon. Gentleman opposite, but I ask him to remember it as one of the elements which cannot be forgotten in dealing with this subject. ["Hear, hear!"] I will only add one other observation with regard to Venezuela. It is impossible, of course, to foresee with certainty what will be the general conclusions arrived at by the American Commission, or by those who are, called upon to investigate the British case in this country. But one conclusion I am certain will be arrived at by every man, whether he be an American citizen or a British citizen, who impartially looks into this subject. He will be convinced that, in the, disputes between successive English Governments and Venezuela there never has been, and there is not now, the slightest intention on the part of this country to violate what is the substance and the essence of the Monroe doctrine. ["Hear, hear!"] Cases have occurred in the history of the world, unfortunately, in which what were nominally frontier disputes have been, by the greed and ambition of nations or of Sovereigns, turned into a method of depriving the weaker country of some of the rights which belonged to it. The historical knowledge of the ri6ght hon. Gentleman opposite will, I am sure, supply him with many instances of that kind. But no man, whatever his prepossessions, who honestly examines this case will ever come to the conclusion that that has been the animating motive of any British Ministry or of the British people. [Cheers.] I feel assured therefore, that so far as the substance of the Monroe doctrine is concerned, whatever other conclusion the American Commission may arrive at, they will most assuredly arrive at this conclusion—that no illegitimate ambition, no unworthy greed of territory, no desire to push beyond their due limits the frontiers of this Empire, have ever been the animating cause which has moved British diplomacy in this long-drawn-out controversy. [Cheers.] If that conclusion is arrived at, as I am sure it will be, and if it be fairly and frankly stated by those in authority, by those; who have knowledge of the facts, to the citizens of the United States, one, at all events, of their gravest preoccupations must be put an end to, and they will feel that, at all 110 events so far as Venezuela is concerned, they have not to suspect on the part of this country anything in the nature of an invasion of a principle of policy which both they and we cherish. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know that it is necessary for me to add another word on that subject except that I shall rejoice, and I think this House and the country will rejoice, and I believe the great mass of public opinion in America will rejoice, if out of all this evil there should spring the good fruit of some general system of arbitration [Loud cheers]—carefully guarded as any such system would have to be—for dealing with the subjects which may, which indeed must, from time to time arise between two great kindred nations. [Cheers.] If that was the issue of this controversy I should feel that all the misunderstandings of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken, all the evil that has been dune, had been more than smoothed away and removed, and a permanent guarantee of good will between the English-speaking races on the two sides of the Atlantic had been attained for all time. [Cheers.] I pass from Venezuela to the next topic with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt—South Africa. It is quite unnecessary to observe that the first thing he did in regard to South Africa was to take a speech of Lord Salisbury's and to attack it.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I naturally pass over matters upon which the right hon. Gentleman and I are in perfect accord [laughter], and go on to a subject on which I am afraid there must remain some little difference of opinion between us. The right hon. Gentleman was very indignant with the Prime Minister for using what he called inflammatory language—language calculated permanently to embitter the relations between the Boer population and our own, and to lead them to believe that we intended to upset the Treaty of 1884, by which their relations to us are, 111 determined. Supposing Lord Salisbury's speech had been of the inflammatory character which the right hon. Gentleman so strangely attributes to it. I am bound to say that any evil which it was calculated to produce would surely be increased tenfold by the sort of advertisement [Cries of "Oh!"] and the sort of gloss which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to put upon it. No human being but the right hon. Gentleman, reading that speech could ever suppose that it was calculated to embitter President Kruger's feelings or those of any who are associated with him. But the right hon. Gentleman, having made the notable discovery that it is so calculated, immediately advertises to President Kruger and to the Boer population at large that England is, unhappily, governed at the present moment by a Prime Minister whose first object is to hold them up to the contempt of the civilised world, and whose second object is to destroy that Constitution which was granted to them in 1884. No such meaning, in truth, can be extracted from the Prime Minister's language. On the contrary, if there is a thing which both he and several gentlemen on this Bench have stated over and over again in most emphatic language, it is that we do not intend to permit the arrangement of 1884, under any circumstances, to be tampered with. [Cheers.] So that, if President Kruger comes to this country, as I hope he will, he will come with the full assurance that no such attempt, will be made by us. ["Hear, hear!"]; But the right hon. Gentleman went on to discuss the plan of my right hon. Friend near me, which, he said, after all indicated a conversion or a reversion to the policy of Home Rule as applied to the Transvaal; and he made out an elaborate parallel from which he sought to show that every condition which attached to the Home Rule scheme of the late Government attached to the scheme which my right hon. Friend suggested for doing away with the acknowledged grievances of the Uitlanders.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman carefully pointed out the matters in which the schemes agreed. I will point out some important respects in which 112 they differ. To begin with, the persons to whom Home Rule is to be given, if Home Rule it is to be called, are a majority and not a minority. [Irish cheers.] In the second place, those to whom this Home Rule is to be given have at present no political rights whatever. They have neither the right of representation in the central Assembly, nor have they the right of municipal government. It will hardly be denied that the Irish are without the latter right, and as regards the former right, oven the right hon. Gentleman in the highest flight of his rhetoric has never suggested that Ireland is under-represented in this House. [Laughter and Cheers.] There is one more point in which there is a difference. I understand that one of the grievances of the Uitlanders is that they have not sufficient police. I never heard of that in Ireland. [Laughter.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
But in any case I hope the right hon. Gentleman will recognise as a fact lying on the face of South African history that, if these Uitlanders, I will not say had all the rights now given to Irish citizens, but if they had one-hundredth part of those rights, we should never have heard of their grievances at all. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman asked me what was to be done with regard to the present position of the Chartered Company. A detailed statement on this subject will no doubt be given by my right hon. Friend in the course of the Debate, but I may say at once that of course the armed forces of the company will be transferred to an Imperial Officer without delay ["Hear, hear!"] and therefore there can be no possibility, even if there was any prospect, of a repetition of the deplorable events which occurred at the end of last year. We propose that, as soon as the judicial proceedings which are pending in this country and South Africa are concluded—as soon as an Inquiry can take place without injustice and prejudice to individuals—we propose that an Inquiry should be entered into, unless, as is possible, all the facts about which public curiosity is aroused come clearly out in the course of the trials which must take place.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If, as I say, an Inquiry is thought to be desirable when the trials are over, no doubt that Inquiry will embrace, at least I should imagine so, any circumstances connected with the Charter. The whole history of the Charter of the Company I should imagine would be submitted to the tribunal, whatever it may be.
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it will be an Inquiry by this House or by Commission?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
As the hon. Gentleman will see, it is premature to answer that question, because we do not even yet know whether an Inquiry will be required. But as soon as we know whether such an Inquiry is necessary, the Government, will make up their mind as to the machinery by which it is to be carried out, and will take an early opportunity of informing the hon. Gentleman and the House of it. I may say, merely in passing, and to safeguard myself, that I do not associate myself with the general condemnation to which the right hon. Gentleman has given expression as to the method of Government by Chartered Companies. ["Hear, hear!"] That method of government has its inconveniences and dangers. Every form of government has its inconveniences and dangers, but I think that Chartered Companies have in the past done very great service to the Empire, and I should be very sorry to see it laid down as a rule of policy in this House that we should never entrust great powers and responsibilities to companies of this character. ["Hear, hear!"] I now come to what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to Armenia. Here I think there were no compliments, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman did begin with an attack upon Lord Salisbury. What was the nature of that attack?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
My memory is extraordinarily bad for the right hon. Gentleman's laudations. [laughter.] That praise has entirely slipped my recollection.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
That was also referred to, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman began with that. That is a matter we shall not dispute one with the other. What, I am concerned with at the present moment, because it is really germane. In the present political situation, is the nature of the obligations imposed upon us by treaty with regard to the Armenians, and I say that the nature of those obligations was perfectly accurately described by Lord Salisbury in his speech to the Nonconformists. The real point at issue is this: Are we bound by anything that we have said to go to war with Turkey if Turkey is not, to carry out the reforms which we think desirable?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
That, is the real question. [Cheers.] I do not ask whether we have a right or not to go to war with Turkey on that account. I ask whether we are bound to go to war; and if the right hon. Gentleman will refer to Lord Salisbury's speech he will notice that, that was the one contention to which Lord Salisbury was addressing himself. What Lord Salisbury said was this:—In the first place. I have seen it stated in every kind of language, from that of Denial rebuke to that of fierce denunciation, that Her Majesty's Government bound themselves in honour to succour the Armenians even to the extent of war with the Sultan in order to force himself to govern Armenia well.Then Lord Salisbury goes on to point out that neither in the Berlin Treaty nor in the Cyprus Convention is there any such obligation on this country. Does the right hon. Gentleman differ from that contention or not? If he agrees with that contention, what is the use of attacking Lord Salisbury? If he differs from it, is he prepared to get up and say that the Cyprus Convention or the Berlin Treaty throws upon the responsible governors of this country the duty, the moral obligation, of going to war with Turkey on behalf of the Armenians? That is really a very plain and simple issue. Unless the right hon. Gentleman and those who act with him are prepared to say that we are under 115 such a moral obligation there, is not the slightest use of talking at all, either about the Cyprus Convention or the Berlin Treaty. These treaties, no doubt, did throw upon Turkey certain obligations. No doubt, up to the present moment these obligations have not been fulfilled; but there is nothing in these treaties which requires either the Powers collectively or England singly to go to war in order to compel the Turks to carry out these reforms which under the Berlin Treaty and the Cyprus Convention she was obliged to carry out. When the right hon. Gentleman quotes the speech of Lord Carnarvon, in which Lord Carnarvon talked of the enormous responsibility which we had taken upon us as a nation, and pointed to the time when we should have to choose between dropping these obligations with national dishonour, or fulfilling them at the cost of great national sacrifice—when he quotes that, he cannot have looked at Lord Carnarvon's speech, for, unless my memory altogether deceives me, Lord Carnarvon, was then discussing, not our obligation to go to war against Turkey to compel Turkey to reform, but our obligation to go to war for Turkey if Turkey had reformed. [Cheers.] That was a great and weighty obligation. If Turkey had reformed that obligation would weigh upon, us with its full strength, but it is vain to quote Lord Carnarvon in this connection. Lord Carnarvon was quoting a condition of things which most unhappily has not arisen. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that in the paragraph in the Speech in which we admit that the horrors have gone on in Armenia, we have, to use his own phrase, confessed diplomatic insolvency and national impotence. If to admit that you have not succeeded in what you hoped to carry out is an admission of diplomatic insolvency and national impotence, we do admit it. And, let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is an inevitable incidence of international working where the co-operation of many Powers is required, that your most earnest wishes may be frustrated. Does that imply either that we should not work with other Powers, or that when working with other Powers had failed we should enter into a crusade on our own account? If that be the 116 doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman, let him lay it down. Let him come forward and state that, as England has failed to take the Powers with her in putting pressure upon Turkey to carry out reforms, therefore England is bound to cut herself adrift from the other Powers, and against their expressed wishes, possibly against their active intervention, to enter single-handed into the impossible task of governing the central provinces of Turkey without the co-operation of the Turkish Empire. I say that the right hon. Gentleman will never commit himself or his Party to that policy. I say, however far he may go in criticising us, he will never go so far as to say what he would have done in our place. [Cheers.] The more he studies the papers which have been laid and which will be laid before Parliament, as soon as it is possible for Her Majesty's Government to get them into shape, the more I am convinced he will come to the conclusion that, short of bringing upon ourselves the responsibility of a possible European conflagration, we could have done no more in the direction of helping these unhappy people than we actually have done. Let the House and the country remember that we, and we alone, among the nations of Europe—I do not include America, I know the United States is with us in the matter—that we and we alone among the nations—I am not talking of the Governments—felt deep and earnestly upon this subject. We, and we alone, have present in our minds a large measure of the horror of those dark deeds that have been done in Armenia. But, what foreign diplomatists have ever present to their minds are the inevitable evils which must overtake Europe if the Eastern question is again opened from top to bottom. They think of all the rivalries, all the controversies, it may be all the wars that would follow upon such an event; and they are not prepared to lift a finger to assist in impressing upon the Sultan the duty of carrying out through the only Government which exists in these provinces, or which can exist in these provinces at present, reforms which might provide some security for the Christian population in Asia Minor. The right hon. Gentleman was not content with discussing the present situation. He must needs carry his mind 117 back to 1878, and the now faded controversies which raged in the years following 1878, in order to prove that the policy then pursued by Lord Beaconsfield has been a failure. I do not know why this House should be called upon to express what is now after all an historic judgment. Suppose this had been the case, what then? Lord Beaconsfield is dead. What is the object of attacking him? In 1878 I was a humble follower of the then Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary, and to say that I agreed or associated myself with their policy would be an absurd presumption on my part. But, on looking back on the years that have intervened, I cannot regret what was then done, nor do I believe that what was then done has injured in the slightest degree the position and the prospects of the Armenian people. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that the whole interests of the Christian population could safely be intrusted to the action of the Russian Government. I have not a word to say against the Russian Government, but they themselves would disclaim being animated by the philanthropic motives which rightly I think are the mainsprings of action in this country. We know enough of the Russian view on these subjects to be able to say that Russia would not have intervened for these people, and that as a matter of fact there is not the slightest ground for supposing that the lot of any single Armenian man, woman, or child would have been better if the Treaty of San Stefano had never been torn up, if the Cyprus Convention and the Berlin Treaty had never become an international instrument. I admit, who can deny, that the hopes that we entertained in 1878 of the speedy reform of the Turkish Empire have been disappointed, and bitterly disappointed. But we at all events did our very best to give to Turkey a perennial motive which might rouse Turkish statesmanship into doing something towards introducing good government into the provinces of the Empire, for, as I have already reminded the House, we actually went the length of engaging on our part, on behalf of the British nation, that we would defend the Turkish Empire if only Turkey would reform. Has any other Power done half as much for the Armenians? Has any 118 other Government done half as much for the Armenians as was done by Lord Beaconsfield by the Convention of Cyprus? No, Sir. We did take upon ourselves heavy national obligations; we did run the risk of having to make great national sacrifice. And, although it is true that though the inducements that we then held out have proved to be vain—though unhappily no sign at present exists that Turkish Statesmen are going to see the error of their ways and that reforms are really going to be introduced into the provinces of that empire—still I shall never regret having been a follower of a Government which, at all events, did its best to induce Turkey to take the only course which, in the long run, can secure the permanence of the Ottoman Empire.
§ MR. R. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
said he would not, have ventured to intervene except in the hope of obtaining information from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who in a previous Debate had described himself as having peculiar means of knowledge of affairs in Siam. This information might now assist him in understanding the apparent complete change in policy in regard to the Anglo-French relations to Siam. In 1893 the Under Secretary had laid it down that "the main British interest in Siam is the political stability of Siam itself." He was aware that the hon. Gentleman would allege that this stability was secured by the treaty. But on another occasion the hon. Gentleman had used language which condemned in advance such stability as the treaty secured. He said:—Attention is called to the Provinces of Battambong and Angkor.…They are rich in rice and other produce, and include the upper part of the Great Lake with its important and lucrative fisheries.…The possession of the Provinces is essential to Siam; and, in fact, the independence and integrity of Siam will be irretrievably injured if those Provinces are allowed to pass into the hands of any foreign power.The treaty which was supposed to guarantee the integrity and independence of Siam did not include these very provinces within its scope, and in consequence the situation which the Under Secretary then described of irretrievable injury to Siamese independence was in 119 imminent danger of arising under the treaty itself. In the same speech the hon. Gentleman said:These provinces have not been seized by the French, but let me explain the ingenious substitution for seizure which is contemplated.The pith of that "ingenious substitution for seizure" was the, occupation of Chantaboon, which the French still occupied at the present moment. He would not speak of the surrender of territory undeniably British on the upper reaches of the Mekong, but he would ask what compensation Great Britain received for the sacrifice of what the Under Secretary had described as the main British interest in Siam.
§ MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
, said, he ventured to occupy the time of the House for a few moments in order to comment on some of the most important statements in the Speech from the Throne. The country had passed through a most anxious time since the, present Government came into office; indeed, he doubted if in this generation the country had been confronted with a greater number of dangers. He wished to refer to one or two of these, not in a party spirit, but as a friend to peace, and also as an upholder of the just rights of this country. He congratulated the Government on the most acute stage of the American controversy being passed. He was sure there was not a man in this House, or out of it, who would not regard a war with our kinsmen of the United States as a crime of the first magnitude. Unhappily it had been, made only too clear that there were many in the United States who did not share this feeling, but we rejoiced to think that all that was best in America was eager to settle our differences amicably. He did not wish to criticise the action of the Government in the Venezuelan question, but to suggest with the utmost earnestness he possessed, that the whole of our dispute with Venezuela should be left to friendly arbitration. He would make no exceptions or limitations; such a course would entirely allay the irritation in America, and would commend itself to the religious sentiment of both nations. There would not be any full and complete settlement of this deplorable misunderstanding with the 120 United States unless we adopted this course. And, he would go further, and say that it might be a wise policy to select as our Arbitrator a Member of the Supreme Court of Washington, a Court than which none stood higher in the world for absolute integrity, and he felt confident that our interests would not suffer in the hands of such an Arbitrator, and the effect would be magical on the warm impulsive nature of the American people. In his judgment the restoration of a cordial understanding with America was ten thousand times more important than the question of the Schomburgk line, or any other line, between Venezuela and British Guiana. Let our object be not the contemptible one of gaining a diplomatic victory, but the restoration of permanent friendship with the United States. We were all now fully alive to the perils of a rupture with America; surely the time was opportune to conclude a treaty of arbitration with our kinsmen across the Atlantic. Thanks to the efforts of the Press, and especially to that of the Daily Chronicle, we knew that all the leading Statesmen at Washington were in favour of such a treaty. A Resolution to this effect was passed in the House three years ago. He recognised the difficulties that lay in the way of framing such a treaty. There were questions that no Government could consent to leave to arbitration, but such questions were very unlikely to arise between Great Britain and the United States. The class of disputes that did arise were just those that were suited for arbitration, and it was not beyond the wit of statesmen to frame such a treaty as would be the first step to draw into a closer union the entire English-speaking races. The, British Government that accomplished this would earn a greater distinction than by waging the most successful war. With regard to the Transvaal, he would like to say that the action of the Secretary for the Colonies commanded his heartiest approval. In a case of great difficulty he acted with a promptitude and firm sense of justice which probably saved this country from a great war. He believed the policy of the Government in South Africa commanded the full approval of the country. We must respect the independence of the Boers, 121 and at the same time forbid the interference of foreign powers in South Africa. The whole nation was at one in this policy. At the same time a most searching Inquiry must be made into the action of the South African Company, and he for one would view with satisfaction the revocation of its Charter, and an end put to the dangerous policy of giving governmental powers to trading companies. The House at large would, he was sure, hail with satisfaction the approach to a better understanding with the French Republic. It was most important that this country should get into better relations with France. We had enemies enough all over the world without adding to their number the great French nation. There was but one subject that stood in the way of a complete accord with France, and that was Egypt. We gave our solemn pledge to leave that country, and we had not done so, and it seemed to the French uncommonly like a breach of faith. The honour of the country was compromised, and he would urge that in some way or other we should seek a solution of the question that would restore the old entente cordiale with our nearest neighbour. He regretted, however, that there was one branch of the policy of the Government which caused a deep sense of mortification, he might almost say of shame, to multitudes in this country: he referred to Armenia. The Government themselves acknowledged their failure to protect the Armenian Christians. The awful disclosures of the past two years showed that the Prime Minister was fully justified in saying that such horrors had not occurred since the time of Genkis Khan and Tamerlane. There was no difference of opinion on this point, except among some crazy Philo-Turks. The last two years had witnessed the most disgraceful episode of the nineteenth century. They had witnessed the destruction of an ancient Christian people at the hands of savages with barbarities to which those of Robespierre or Marat and even the massacre of Cawnpore, were a trifle, and they had witnessed the ineffable shame of the Great Powers of Europe standing idly by and not moving a finger to prevent it. These Powers could have crumpled up Turkey like an egg-shell, yet they 122 did nothing because they were so paralysed with mutual jealousies. He hoped those secret intrigues which allowed the Armenians to be massacred would be dragged into the light of day. He hoped the powers which had hindered any help being given to the perishing multitudes would be put in the pillory of history; and he hoped that this country would prove not to have been one of the culprits. He willingly recognised that the Government had to cope with extraordinary difficulties in the case of the Armenians. It was evident now that there never was a real accord of the Powers. It was evident that the main object of some of them was to frustrate British policy. The sentiment of sympathy with suffering humanity was almost undeveloped on the Continent of Europe, and the feelings that governed the British and American peoples in questions of this kind were looked upon as Quixotic. The sentiment of Europe seemed to him more selfish to-day than in the time of the Crusades, and we sorely needed some Peter-the-Hermit to rouse the slumbering conscience of the peoples. But the question we now had to ask was whether the Government of this country had done its utmost to stop these horrible butcheries, and, if it had, what other course remained for us to follow now. The last speech of the Prime Minister seemed like a counsel of despair. The Great Powers of Europe would not interfere, or allow anyone else to interfere, and apparently there was nothing to do but look on and hope that the Sultan, after allowing some 60,000 helpless Christians to be butchered in cold blood, might graciously put an end to further massacres. Surely this was an awful confession to make; surely it was a triumph for the powers of darkness. He did not think that the conscience of this country would acquiesce in it. The whole question must be examined from the very foundations; we could not forget that the very existence of the Turkish Power was largely owing to the policy of this country in past times, and it devolved upon us far more than upon any other Power to devise some way of protecting the Christian subjects of the Porte. It was Lord Beaconsfield that compelled Russia to tear up the treaty of San Stefano. In the words of Lord Sherbrooke, in 1878, 123 "he turned the keys of hell on the Armenian Christians," and the present Prime Minister was then his right hand. He could not doubt that if Russia had preserved the treaty right of interfering on behalf of the Armenian Christians as she would have done had the Treaty of San Stefano remained intact, that those massacres would not have occurred. The fatal mistake was in placing the rights of the Christians under the collective guarantee of Europe; that guarantee had amounted to nothing; the jealousies of the Powers had paralysed all action, and the so-called Concert of Europe had been a delusion and a snare. He asserted that this country, by destroying the effective guarantee of one strong Power, had been the main cause of the deplorable condition to which the Armenians had been reduced. It was not done with that intention; but it was all the same deadly in its effects. He could not doubt but that the pro-Turkish policy of Great Britain had been one of the greatest national sins this country had committed; it had entailed most evil consequences from which we were now vainly striving to get free. But he wanted to ask this question: was it possible for us to do anything to save the poor remnants of the Armenian people from extermination? It must be perfectly evident to anyone that nothing but a military occupation of the Armenian provinces would suffice, and it was equally clear that no Power but Russia was able to do that. The real question that must be answered was this: had the Government of Great Britain intimated to Russia that it would view with satisfaction such an intervention? We were told that Russia had no wish to interfere. This might be perfectly true if Russia thought that her interference meant a European war; but if Russia knew that she had the good will of this country, and an invitation from some of the other Powers as well to occupy these provinces, would she still hold back? The old jealousy of Russia was much abated, surely the time had now arrived for a cordial understanding with Russia. Let our Government publicly state that the maintenance of the Turkish Empire had ceased to be an object of British policy, that we regarded that Empire as hopelessly rotten, and that we would view with satisfaction the establishment of civilised 124 government over those fair regions of the earth so long blighted with Mahomedan misrule, and it was impossible to tell what pregnant results might follow. He believed the only true policy for British Statesmen was to look to the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, which might be peaceably attained by arrangement of the Great Powers. If Lord Salisbury took in hand the doing for Turkey what he did for Africa, he would prove himself a Statesman of the first rank. No one could believe that the Turkish Empire could last much longer; those awful crimes must and would be avenged. There were but two ways in which that organised brigandage could disappear, either through a frightful European convulsion, or by a friendly arrangement among the Great Powers; surely it became our country to take the lead in the latter. Compensation might be found for France for our retention of Egypt. Our country did not wish for another foot of Turkish territory, and if Asiatic Turkey were divided between Russia and France, we should see the Christians protected, and two jealous rivals turned into our friends. This scheme might be Utopian, but Utopian schemes had sometimes a tendency to translate themselves into realities; but if it was impracticable, let a better scheme be produced. He asserted that we could not sit still without lasting disgrace and watch the extermination of an ancient Christian people. He was quite sure that the last word had not been spoken about Armenia; this question could not rest where it was, it contained the seed of fearful convulsions, unless settled in a righteous spirit. Ho believed it was one of the cases where a strong policy was better than a weak one; the worst of all policy was to do nothing. One suggestion he would make before sitting down. The sufferings of the widows and orphans of the massacred Armenians were indescribable; hundreds of thousands of them were dying of hunger and cold. Parliament, he was certain, would vote with, readiness, any reasonable sum to relieve their sufferings. Let Government put upon the Estimates a grant of £250,000 to be expended through our Consular Agents in Asia Minor, and that would be some evidence to show that we were not purely selfish in our foreign policy, 125 and it would save from an awful death vast numbers of these perishing Christians.
§ SIR C. E. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, that the hon. Member for Flintshire was a man of the greatest kindness of heart, but if his hon. Friend was so anxious to employ £250,000 of public funds for the relief of distress he thought that he would find ample opportunity for the employment of the money in this country without going to Armenia or other foreign lands. He joined issue with his hon. Friend upon the observations he made with regard to the evacuation of Egypt and kindred matters. His view was, and he believed it was the view entertained by the Government, that what they had to do in these days was to look to the safety of the United Kingdom, to the integrity of the Empire, and to the defence of our trade and people all over the world. [Cheers.] The increased efficiency of the Navy was a matter of the greatest importance, and he expressed an earnest hope that the Government would not in their generosity towards the Navy forget also that we had an Army, and that sea forces without the land forces behind them were comparatively valueless. It was stated that a considerable sum was to be proposed for an increase in the naval defence of the country. He hoped also that some of that considerable surplus which would be at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be devoted to the improvement of the Army and also of the Militia and Volunteers which constituted an essential portion of the land defences of the country. Every one rejoiced in the bloodless victory of our forces on the west coast of Africa, a victory which was largely due to the valuable organisation not only of Sir Francis Scott but also of Lord Wolseley and the authorities at the Horse Guards. Every one would feel how important it was to the Volunteer force that some of the public funds available should be directed to its improvement just as much as to the Navy. Turning to the condition of agriculture, he said that he and other hon. Members who represented urban constituencies comparatively far removed from agricultural depression thought that there was no subject for which the people had greater sympathy than the present condition of agriculture. At that very moment 126 a meeting was being held in Sheffield to call the attention of the people to the deplorable condition of agriculture, and he maintained that they ought to take timely steps to prevent more arable land from going out of cultivation, and before wheat land was all thrown into permanent pasture. By allowing this condition of affairs to supervene they rendered themselves dependent on the kindness and mercy of the foreigner. Therefore, with the approval of his constituents he would give his support to the Minister of Agriculture in any measures brought forward for the relief of the agricultural industry, to increase our rural population and the home-grown food supplies of the country. As to the measures in connection with the importation of destitute aliens he stated that this was a subject which had been for a long time before the country. In 1888 and in 1889 he was a member of the Select Committee to inquire into this subject. The majority of the Committee at that time did not think that the hour had arrived in order to take action on the question. Attention had been repeatedly drawn to the question, and the present Prime Minister had himself introduced a Bill in order to carry certain desirable reforms into effect. The late Government was not favourable to the measure, and it was compulsorily withdrawn. To show hon. Members how necessary it was for the Government to introduce the Bill now, and push it forward by all means, he called attention to the return showing the amount of alien immigration during the past twelve months. No fewer than 40,415 aliens arrived in this country, not stated to be en route for America, an increase of 2,000 over 1894. The aliens arriving in this country, and en route for America, were 44,372, an increase over 1894 of 9,000. Although persons arrived in this country, stating their intention only to go through the country, a considerable number of the poorer and the worst class were refused the necessary certificate by the American Consul at Liverpool to take ship to America, and therefore they remained in this country, while a proportion of those who were allowed to embark for the United States were refused admission by the authorities at New York and were returned to the unfortunate Great Britain. Therefore, the figure given was by no means the real figure; it was in excess of that. 127 There were 9,854 sailors in this number of aliens, but this was no satisfaction to the number of British sailors who were tillable to find a berth on British ships. They ought to do nothing to encourage the employment of foreign sailors when British sailors were idle and unable to obtain employment. He thought, that there was an omission in the Speech from the Throne. He trusted that the Government would not forget the speeches made while in Opposition as to the importation of prison-made goods. He was sorry that the President of the Board of Trade, and the Colonial Secretary were not present; but one need scarcely say that it was expected the Government would introduce a Bill dealing with this question at the very earliest opportunity. ["Hear, hear !"] The loyalty of the Colonies to the Throne and the mother country was so assured that the Government had doubtless thought it unnecessary to refer to it in the Speech, but he did not think the opportunity should be allowed to pass without some attention being called in the House by one Member, however humble, to the extraordinary sympathy recently shown by the great self-governing Colonies of the Empire towards the mother country in a time of considerable difficulty, and not a little danger. He should like to read to House a remarkable telegram which was sent by the Prime Minister of New South Wales, on behalf of his own Government and other Colonial Governments, on January 12th. It was as follows:—The Governments of Australia and Tasmania view with satisfaction the prompt and fearless measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government in defence of the Empire. We desire to convey our united assurances of loyal support. The people of Australia are in full sympathy with the determination of the Mother Country to resent foreign interference in matters of British and Colonial concern. Signed by the Premier of New South Wales, on behalf and at the request of the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland Tasmania, and Western Australia.Nor were these feelings confined to the Australian Colonies alone. They had been as strongly expressed by Canada. Only last week a Resolution, in support of which all the leaders of all parties took part, was proposed by a friend of his—Mr. Alexander MacNeill—in 128 the Dominion House of Commons, as follows:—This House desires to assure Her Majesty's Government and the people of the United Kingdom of its unalterable loyalty and devotion to the British Throne and Constitution, and of its conviction that, should occasion unhappily arise, in no other part of the Empire than in the Dominion of Canada would more substantial sacrifices attest the determination of Her Majesty's subjects to preserve unimpaired the integrity and inviolate the honour of Her Majesty's Empire." [Cheers.]Only one more extract. It was of considerable importance, because it came from a greatly esteemed Statesman who had filled for many years the office of High Commissioner of Canada in the old country, and who might become in a few days Premier of the Dominion—Sir Charles Tupper. What did he say at Halifax? "All Canadians, irrespective of Party, were loyal to the heart's core to the Empire." And Mr. Laurie, Leader of Opposition, said:—When England should have to repel her foes, I am quite sure that British subjects all over the world—not only British subjects of her own blood, but British subjects who are not of her own blood, but who have received from her the inestimable blessing of freedom.It was the bounden duty of the Government to accept these assurances, and to do all they possibly could to develop and increase the bonds of union with the Colonies; and in no way could they be better strengthened than by drawing closer the commercial bonds binding them together all the world over. The feeling for preferential trade between all parts of the Empire was one that was growing very rapidly. He was sure that in the able hands of the Colonial Secretary nothing would be wanting, on behalf of the people of this country, to show his appreciation for Colonial feelings and to avail himself of every opportunity to increase the commercial accord between the United Kingdom and all Her Majesty's possessions. They wanted new markets. He spoke for a manufacturing and industrial community, and he declared that the great, remedy for distress and the want of employment was not far to seek. Should they not do something to increase the trade with the Colonies, and so increase their own and their prosperity, instead of looking to foreign nations for trade extension and trade 129 relations? He earnestly commended the matter to the early consideration of the Government.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
, said, he was inclined to agree with the greater portion of the Speech, but he thought the terms of it challenged them to express the strong feelings they had on one or two particular points. Generally speaking, there were large portions of the Speech perhaps better worded [Laughter] than Queen's Speeches generally were. There was a fair spirit displayed, expressed with courtesy and without party feeling. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend had just referred to one subject which related, in the catalogue of Bills, to the introduction of aliens. He knew there were some on both sides who held an opinion in favour of the policy which the Government proposed to follow. All they need do now was to enter a protest, for it would be ridiculous to discuss it. If any such scheme to exclude destitute aliens were brought forward it would meet with the fiercest opposition from those who had no party feeling in the matter. ["Hear, hear!"] Many of them thought that one of the greatest glories of the country was the way in which England had opened her gates to the oppressed of all nationalities. The statistics on this subject showed that there was no net increase of immigrants. He noticed that one peculiar phrase was used in this connection. They spoke of "the importation" of destitute aliens. [Laughter.] That was a curious word to use, but if it meant the bringing in of black-leg labour he confessed there might be something to be said for the word "importation." While on this subject he might mention that there was a Bill, to the principle of which the Home Office was pledged, and which would be of more general interest to labour than the measure affecting pauper immigration could be—he meant with regard to the extension of the Truck Acts. The language used with regard to the promised Education Bill, again, 130 was peculiar language. It was limited to voluntary schools, but, on the other hand, it applied not to voluntary schools over the whole country, but in particular districts—that was, no doubt, in poor districts. If it was the case that the Government were going to turn their attention to the, no doubt, hard case of voluntary schools in the poorer districts, there might be something to be said for it, but it appeared obvious that their legislation ought to operate in the poor Board School districts as well as the poor voluntary school districts. Turning to the more important subjects of foreign policy, he expressed general concurrence with the language of the Speech, although there was one point on which he was sharply opposed to it. While he had nothing but praise for the policy pursued by the Colonial Secretary in South Africa, the language used by the Leader of the Opposition and also by the Leader of the House with reference to chartered companies in general marked a most extraordinary change of front on the part of both the great parties in the State. The party which revived Government by chartered companies, in the case of the North Borneo Company, had apparently come round to the view that it was wrong, and the Conservative party, which formerly denounced it, had come round to the view that it was right. He unhesitatingly asserted that if they could have foreseen at the time of the North Borneo charter the consequences that were going to flow from the policy the decision of the House of Commons would have been different from what it was. No doubt in the case of North Borneo there were no dangerous frontiers with other Powers, as there were, for example, in the case of the Niger Protectorate. We had been running very great dangers in connection with the Niger Company, and those dangers had been increased by the fact that that company had been under the control of the Foreign Office, which was absolutely unfit by its position—and no man had a higher opinion than 131 himself of that Department—to manage those companies. He did not hesitate to say that if in the recent events the Chartered Company of South Africa had been under the control of the Foreign Office instead of the Colonial Office we should not have been so nearly through our troubles as we were. The Foreign Office had found these companies convenient in the way of avoiding responsibility, and not giving too much information to the House of Commons. It was well known that the charter of the Niger Company had been worked and used to prevent this House having any knowledge of matters of the greatest moment and delicacy on the West Coast of Africa. In his opinion the House of Commons ought to take every means in its power of limiting, if it could not put an end to, these chartered companies. As to Armenia, he held that both sides had a very heavy responsibility for the present position of the Armenian question, and anything like an attempt to make party capital out of it was absolutely indefensible. It was a humiliating topic for both parties. Lord Salisbury, in 1880, confessed in the strongest terms his own failure with regard to it; and Mr. Gladstone, on the part of his Government, had made a similar confession. The latter failure was under circumstances as revolting as those which existed at the present time. Some of the circumstances were so terrible that it was found impossible to lay before Parliament all the Papers relating to the atrocities which occurred in Armenia between 1880 and 1884. He hoped, therefore, the Armenian question would be kept out of Party recriminations in the future. Passing to Venezuela, he thought Leaders on both sides of the House had been, inclined to state too strongly the countenance which had been given by this country in the past to the Monroe doctrine. In the past we had disputed the Monroe doctrine on many points, but now people had tried to put themselves in the frame 132 of mind of the Americans, and what we had to do was, not to dispute the doctrine, but to try to prevent it infringing on our own rights. On the whole, the language of the Government had been consistent with the line both parties had taken on the question. We had undoubtedly shifted our line because the population had moved and we had been willing for the sake of peace to hand over empty districts, but we were not willing to hand over districts to which a British population had gone. He now came to a point on which he took the sharpest issue with the policy of the Government. He could not imagine a statement more untruthful, as it seemed to him, than that contained in what was virtually the first paragraph of the Speech. It was said,—An agreement has been concluded between my Government and that of the French Republic, having for its principal object the more secure establishment of the independence of the Kingdom of Siam.What was the policy which the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs last year recommended to the House and which was supported by the whole authority of the Conservative Party? It was the integrity of the whole country of Siam, of all that was left, as he said, after the treaty which had been made between France and Siam. The hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned two provinces as being portions of the country the integrity of which ought to be preserved. He believed the Government were going to tell them that the integrity of Siam was preserved by the treaty they had made, but every man smiled at that statement. Everyone knew that at the time the treaty was negotiated between France and Siam, and when we intervened the Siamese objected to two articles the French pressed upon them. Those articles related to the condition of affairs in the 25-mile strip. Yet the French were acting as though these articles had been accepted, while they had in fact 133 been rejected by Siam at the moment of her deepest distress. Chantaboon was still occupied and had been fortified, although situated in that part of Siam which was not ceded by treaty, and in the Siam of which the Government pretended the integrity was secure. The hon. Gentleman told them that Chantaboon was a port, the possession of which by Siam should be maintained on account of the large British trade there. It was well known that what had been done was to guarantee the centre of Siam, and not to guarantee the remainder of the country, which seemed to him a direct invitation to other people to annex it. ["No."] What was the consideration this country had got for a surrender which, to judge from the language Lord Rosebery used, was a surrender of a very important branch of British trade? The consideration was said to be the exclusion of foreign Powers from the Malay Peninsula, and trade privileges which had been obtained by France in Southern China and were to be extended to us. But our influence had always been complete in the Malay Peninsula, and we should never have tolerated the coming in of foreign Powers; and the trade privileges, so far as they were not ours already by our most-favoured Nation Clause, might have been obtained by pressure at Pekin. Was it coming to a full and fair arrangement with France which might relieve us from those anxieties in the world which bad arrangements with France undoubtedly occasioned us? The Convention contained a clause about Tunis. We had certain trade rights with Tunis. Those rights gave us very low duties, and through them we did a very large trade. It was well known that the French Protectionists desired to hamper that trade for the supposed benefit of the trade of France. There was a clause in the Siamese Convention by which we seemed to go out of our way to promise to discuss with the French our relations with Tunis, from which the French understood we were prepared to give up our rights there. 134 He feared the whole history of Lord Salisbury's conventions with France and Germany went to show that, in regard to what the noble Lord considered smaller and secondary questions, he did not sufficiently study the interests of British trade. He complained that the concessions which were made in the name of British trade were useless concessions, because they did not deal with those larger questions which the French had in view, and did not produce that complete friendly relation throughout the world which we had a right to anticipate if we made the concessions at all. They fell short or they went too far—the former for the purposes of a complete settlement, and the latter for the interests of British Trade. The question which lay behind all these others was the question of the occupation of Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] Everybody knew that some believed that this country had not kept her word with regard to Egypt, and others believed that the letter of that word had been rigidly kept; but all knew what the opinion in France was on the point. Some, and the number was increasing even on the Ministerial side of the House, believed with him that, from a military point of view, the occupation of Egypt was a weakness and not a strength. The question of the occupation must be settled to bring about really friendly relations with France, if it were not too late altogether to restore those relations. But that was no reason why, in the interest of British trade, protests should not be made against conventions which gave up important trade interests, and particularly against the hypocrisy of such language as that in the Queen's Speech stating that the object of the agreement had been to secure the greater independence of Siam. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, that he did not propose to enter upon the question of Siam, but he ventured to join in the general compliment which had been paid to the language of her Majesty's Speech.
135 He did not remember any previous occasion when he had read a Speech from the throne which was so clearly and effectively expressed. There was one important subject with which he might, have felt compelled to deal at some length, but for the very remarkable and almost in every respect satisfactory dispatch which the Secretary of State for the Colonies addressed to Sir Hercules Robinson last week. Up to that time he had looked with some apprehension on the policy of the Government in regard to British interests in South Africa. He had seen various interests overwhelmed and crushed, owing to the mistakes which had been made; and the defence and protection of our fellow countrymen in South Africa, and the support of the supreme and paramount position which we must hold in that quarter had not been dealt with until the dispatch of the Colonial Secretary. But that dispatch covered so effectually the ground, and so fully represented the views of those who had attempted to urge the claims of the British in the Transvaal, that there could be no reason for reopening the question of those claims at the moment. But there was one point on which he should like to ask the Secretary for the Colonies a question. It referred to the treatment of certain British residents, leaders of the so-called Uitlander movement, who were now in prison in Pretoria. Those gentlemen were arrested a month ago. Some 80 were arrested after they had laid down their arms, and contrary to the general understanding as to what would happen if they did so. The great number of them were kept in most unsuitable and unwholesome confinement in the gaol at Pretoria. Then most of them were released on bail; but at least five were still confined in the prison, which it was not too much to describe as a disgrace to humanity. For some time these five gentlemen were shut up together in a room twelve feet by eight, and filthy and infected in a way which could not be described. There was not 136 the least reason why these gentlemen, who were men of position and property, should not have been released on bail some time ago. It might have been right to demand very substantial bail; but it was exceedingly unfair that they should be still confined in prison, and especially after the statements made to the Uitlanders by Her Majesty's representative, Sir Jacobus de Wet—against whom he had not a word to say, because if that gentleman's advice had been followed, none of the present troubles would have ensued—and Sir S. Shippard used the strongest language to induce the Uitlanders to lay down their arms, and promised that the safety of Dr. Jameson's force would be secured by their doing so, and, further, that their own rights would be looked after. Yet, directly after these men had laid down their arms to save Dr. Jameson and his men, they were arrested in large numbers, confined in this abominable gaol, and at this moment some of them were still there and were refused bail. One of them, indeed—an American subject—had been released because of the remonstrances of the American Government. As to the attitude of the late Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for West Monmouth, he had never listened to such a speech. It was full of implied condemnation of the Chartered Company, full of praise of President Kruger and the Boer Government, and there was not one single word in defence, or support of the 70,000 Englishmen resident in the Transvaal, to whom was denied every single constitutional right. He was not surprised, after listening to that speech, to find that throughout the whole of South Africa, and every British colony, the name of every Government with which the right hon. Gentleman had been associated was regarded with positive scorn and hatred. If hon. Members thought he exaggerated, let them ask the opinion of any colonist. As to the Armenian portion of the debate, the right hon. 137 Member for West Monmouth indulged in what was in the main a violent party attack on the Leader of the present Government. The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to the denunciation of Lord Salisbury, and to the complaint that Lord Salisbury had not done something or other which was not defined. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman was very simple. What had he and his colleagues been about in the ten years during which they held office since 1878? The right hon. Gentleman spoke in violent condemnation of the policy of Lord Beaconsfield. That was really the meaning of the present diatribes against Turkey. Those who uttered them thought they involved a sort of moral condemnation of Lord Beaconsfield. The right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government which came into power in 1880, two years after the Treaty of Berlin was signed. They had a majority of 140, and they did not hesitate to reverse Lord Beaconsfield's policy in every quarter of the globe. Yet they did nothing to reform Turkey or to better the position of the Armenians. Indeed, they made the position rather worse, because they removed from Asiatic Turkey those very able military Consuls whom Lord Beaconsfield's Government had appointed to keep the fanaticism of the Turks in check and to report upon the abuses of the Sultan's Government. The Government of Mr. Gladstone were as responsible as any Government within the last 17 years for such mistakes and misgovernment as had existed in Turkey. They were even more directly responsible for the present situation. Who were responsible for the present difficulties, and for the admitted impotence of the British Government to secure reforms in Turkey? The late Government—Lord Rosebery and his colleagues—must bear a large share of the responsibility. He was prepared to admit that the English Government had been misled from Constantinople; but 138 Lord Rosebery started a new policy with regard to Turkey in combination with Russia and France, a policy of coercion against Turkey. Demand after demand was made on the Sultan in accordance with this policy, and scheme after scheme of reform presented, but it absolutely failed in advancing by a single step the attainment of the object desired. It not only failed, however, in securing the object aimed at, but it had a disastrous effect on Europe generally, and it set up against this country a hostile feeling on the part of Germany, Austria, and Italy, because the subservience of the British policy in the East to Russia and France was not approved by those countries. The new policy did nothing but draw a remonstrance from the other countries which were signatories to the Treaty of Berlin, contending that the question of any alteration in the government of Turkey should be dealt with by the whole of those Powers acting together, and not by only two or three of them. With regard to the agitation which had been carried on in the country in relation to Turkey and Armenia during the last twelve months, it had been characterised by the most reckless and abusive denunciation of the Sultan and the people of Turkey. He knew there were many persons who imagined that the Eastern question might be settled by abuse of the Sultan, of his people, and of the Mahommedan religion, and by a general outcry against alleged atrocities. But those who knew anything of the East, of the past history of the many different races in the Ottoman Empire, knew there was much more behind the Eastern question than appeared to a great number of persons who assumed to deal with it. The Eastern question consisted of two great phases—one, the danger of arousing fanatical hatred of race and religion between the Mussel—mans and the Christians of Turkey and other countries—a danger which had been entirely overlooked by the atrocity mongers of this country. And the other 139 great phase of the question was the necessity of preserving the balance of power in Europe, a condition which was still of vital importance to this country and to Europe He appealed to hon. Members opposite to state what good, if any, had been done by the policy of coercion and abuse recently applied to Turkey. Had it benefitted any interest in any part of the world? Had it resulted in any good to the Armenians themselves? He contended that it had not, but had rather brought additional ruin to the cause it had sought to espouse. That result was bound to follow from it, because the course pursued had aroused fanatical Mussulman feeling in Turkey, and, to a large extent, thus led to the terrible events of November, December and January last, which all reasonable men deplored. With regard to the alleged atrocities themselves, they had been grossly exaggerated in this country, both as to their character and the numbers stated to have been slain. Let them take the alleged atrocities at Sasun for instance. They were told at first that the number slain was 30,000, then the number was reduced to 20,000, next to 10,000 and 5,000, and finally it was stated that the number was 3,000, who were massacred under circumstances of the most horrible cruelty. Well, the matter had since been investigated, and it was ascertained that a serious revolt had taken place, that there had been considerable fighting in a mountainous country, and the number of slain was put down at 262 only, while it was reported that most of the tales of horror circulated were grossly exaggerated, and that most of the evil was caused by foreign intrigues and money. ["Hear, hear!"] There was not an offensive expression in the language that had not been applied to the Sultan of Turkey and the Caliph of the Moslem people, and yet he (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) was ridiculed when he said that this unjust treatment of the Sultan had aroused that fanatical spirit 140 which they were all anxious to keep asleep. It was said also that we should invite Russia to occupy Constantinople as that would settle the question. Let him remind the House what Constantinople meant. Constantinople was the greatest position in the world. It was a military and naval strategical position of unparalleled value. Owing to Constantinople alone the Eastern Roman Empire had survived a thousand years after the Western Empire had been destroyed. If a great power were put into possession of Constantinople, the position of that power would be unassailable. She could then construct a fleet that would be only limited by the financial resources at her command, and could, at the moment she chose, occupy the Mediterannean, destroy our naval power, our commerce, and release our hold over Egypt and the Suez Canal. Not only that, but if Russia were placed in possession of Constantinople she would have at her command the whole fighting strength of the Turkish Empire, constituting, under efficient officers, the most formidable army the world could produce; and, by controlling the head of the Moslem religion, would be able to ditect the policy of a man looked up to by 70 millions of the Queen's subjects. There were some of the reasons why it would be midsummer madness to allow such a power as Russia to occupy Constantinople. He doubted, too, whether Russia's conduct in the past justified us in placing such power in her hands as a reforming agent. He saw something of the conduct of the Russian army in the Balkan peninsula during the years 1877 and 1878, and he said, with the utmost confidence, that it could be proved that for every Amenian that had been massacred or pillaged during the past fifteen months—taking the most extreme view—one hundred Mussulmans suffered at the hands of those Christian invaders; and if they were disposed to judge harshly of the misguided and fanatical men who had had a hand in the recent 141 deeds in Armenia they should remember that some of them were refugees from the Balkan peninsula who saw their homes, their families, all they held dear, destroyed before their eyes by the invading forces of the Czar. He regretted that the old policy with regard to Turkey had been abandoned. That policy was to put pressure—even forcible pressure—upon Turkey through British agents and on behalf of Great Britain; but, however forcible, Turkey felt it was friendly pressure, and therefore never resented but often followed the advice. The policy of the alliance with Russia and France, initiated by the late Government, was bound to fail, and had failed. He hoped the old policy would be again revived. He believed that even now if British pressure—friendly pressure—were put on Turkey such pressure would not be resisted, but would be welcomed by the Sultan and his Government. As the Prime Minister had pointed out in his speech to the Nonconformists, those regions in Central Asia were so remote, so difficult of access, and inhabited by so wild a population, that it would be utterly impossible for this country to bring direct military pressure to bear upon them. We might try to force the Dardanelles, and might succeed in forcing them, but in doing so we would not only run the risk of the horrors of a terrible European conflagration, but before a man could be put into the district there would be such a fanatical Mussulman uprising as would cost the lives of millions of Christians.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
, said, it had not been his intention to have taken any part in the Debate that evening, for one reason because the material at the disposal of the House was not sufficient to enable it to arrive at a right judgment on the question at issue. They had been supplied during the past few days with Blue Books dealing with the terrible events which had occurred in the Sasoun district in the autumn of 1894; and they were 142 promised within a few days two of the Blue Books, one dealing with the diplomatic aspect of the question, and the other dealing with the still more terrible massacres in Asiatic Turkey during last, autumn. It was therefore obviously premature at the present time to attempt to deal fully with what had occurred during the past few months in those regions. At the same time certain words had fallen from the last speaker and from the Government which made it necessary that a few questions should be put to the Government with regard to the incidents which had taken place. He fully agreed with what the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Forest of Dean, had said—namely, that this question ought to be kept altogether clear of any party issue or party controversy. Therefore, when the last speaker assumed what was obviously a party line on the question, he, for his part, did not associate his view with those of the Party opposite. When the last speaker spoke of the alleged atrocities at Sasun he recalled that the Prime Minister had referred to the atrocities which had been committed in Asiatic Turkey as being atrocities which recalled what was done in the case of Genghiz Khan and Tamerlane. And when the last speaker referred to various other matters from what might be described as a party point of view, and when he referred to the language which he said had been used by speakers on this side of the House with regard to the person of the Sultan of Turkey, he could not leave out of sight the fact that one of the principal ducal supporters of Her Majesty's Government described the Sultan of Turkey as "a demon in human form." It was obvious, therefore, that feeling on this question was by no means confined to one side, and he did not think that any hon. Member on either side ought to make any attempt to impart to this question a political or party aspect. There were some points raised in the course of the 143 discussion to which some reply ought to be made. The last speaker referred to the difference which existed apparently between the policy of the late Government and the policy of the present Government with regard to combined action with the other European Powers, and he contrasted the policy of combination with France and Russia on this question unfavourably with the policy of combining with the five signatory Powers taken as a whole. There was a great deal to be said in favour of acting in combination with the European Powers. Lord Kimberley, when he received a deputation on this subject, said that combining with France and Russia would have the effect of trebling the power of England, and, of course, by a numerical computation, it might fairly be argued that action with the five Powers would have the effect of sextupling the power of England. It might, on the other hand, be that the combination with the central Powers would have the effect of rather arousing the susceptibilities and the jealousies of France and Russia. That was a point which might possibly be made clear by the Blue Book which was to be issued in a few days. The fact remained that action with the five Powers had failed so far as the coercion of the Government of Turkey was concerned for the purpose of putting an end to these massacres, and certainly the question should be raised, though not in any partisan spirit, as to whether a combination with France and Russia would not have been more, advantageous if it had been carried through and certain concessions had been made to them. The last speaker made a reference to the Sultan as head of the Mohammedan religion, but he seemed to forget that his position in that respect was a very precarious one. A large number of the Arabs—he might almost say a majority of them—were desirous of installing the Sheerif of Mecca as the Caliph and Head of the Mahommedan religion, and it 144 only depended upon a word from the British Government whether that was done or not. If it were done what would become of the position of the Sultan as head of the Mahommedan religion? It was argued by the leader of the House, apparently, that there were only two possible alternative policies. One was acting in conjunction with the other European Powers, and the second alternative was acting against the European Powers with the possibility of their making a casus belli of their sole action. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there were other possibilities and other alternatives. It was only a few days ago that the Colonial Secretary made a speech in which he said that the resources of civilisation were not exhausted, and in which he suggested the possibility of the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack floating together in support of justice and humanity. That was a possible alternative. There were a great many other alternatives, and until further information from official sources reached them it was impossible for them to say how far it would have been possible to apply any one of those alternatives. What they had to consider was what would have been the alternative in view of the failure of the concert of Europe to act beyond a certain point. It was assumed by the right hon. Gentleman that in the absence of the concert of Europe, it would be impossible for England to act alone without incurring the active opposition of other powers. He would like to know on what this supposition rested? Was there any reason to believe that any one of the European Powers would have objected to such pressure as England could have brought to bear upon the Sultan? How, for instance, about the suggestion that England should seize the Smyrna Custom-house, the mere threat of which, in 1880, had produced the desired effect upon the Sultan? Would any one of the European Powers have made the 145 exercise of such pressure a casus belli? This question he put in answer to the suggestion that there were only two alternatives. Again, would it not have been possible for England to have acted jointly with one or two other Powers, with either France or Russia, or for Russia to have taken action with their consent? If so, were the negociations entered into with that intent? The Mover of the Address said we ought to hesitate with regard to Russia as a possible policeman in Armenia unless we had ascertained that Russia was willing to under take that task. That was precisely the point he would like to ascertain. At Bristol the First Lord of the Treasury intimated that Russia was not willing, and that there was no reason to suppose she was willing. He would like to know on what that supposition was based. Was it based on the fact that an invitation had been sent to Russia and that it had been refused? One could understand the reluctance of a Russian statesman to deal with turbulent tribes or to enter upon an occupation which would involve trouble with England under the Cyprus Convention; but one could not understand reluctance to the same extent if either mandate or invitation came from England. In reply to the hon. Member who spoke last about alleged atrocities in Armenia, he would like to quote a passage from the second report of Mr. Shipley, who said—We have in our report given it as our conviction, arrived at from the evidence brought before us, that the Armenians were massacred without distinction of age or sex, and, indeed, for a period of some three weeks, viz., from August 12 to September 4 (o.s.), it is not too much to say that the Armenians were absolutely hunted like wild beasts, being killed wherever they were met, and if the slaughter was not greater it was, I believe, solely owing to the vastness of the mountain ranges of that district, which enabled the people to scatter, and so facilitated their escape.It must be remembered that the reports were dealing with what was almost ancient history—namely, the events in the autumn of 1894. Mr. Shipley gave 146 900 as the number killed; Mr. Consul Halwood gave several thousands; but Mr. Shipley, who was there as the auditor to the Turkish Commission, complained of the lack of facilities afforded to him as an independent investigator. In October and November of last year the massacres were on a far larger scale than in the case of Sasun. There were massacres at Trebizond, Erzeroum, Kharput, Sivaz, Tokat, Marash, and several other places, and of some of these we had the evidence of the photographs published by The Graphic, besides other sources of information. A discussion of the details of our policy, it appeared to him, would be premature pending the publication of the further Blue Book which was promised.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he had been extremely disappointed by the speech of the last speaker, who was known as the author of a grotesque scheme for the partition of the Ottoman Empire, and had not availed himself of that opportunity for saying a word in defence of it. Instead of that the hon. Member had recommended that England should commit a burglary in Smyrna and Russia another in Anatolia, and he had finished by reading extracts which were falsified by being garbled. He had expected that the hon. Member would have defended some of the false statements about Sasun which he had made in a circular asking for subscriptions, and which were disproved by the Blue Book. Not a word had been said in defence of the statements that from 3,000 to 25,000 had been massacred at Sasun; and the Blue Book contained a complete falsification of the Armenian imposture by which the people of England had been duped. The hon. Member read an extract, not from the report of Mr. Shipley, but from Mr. Shipley's memorandum on his report, written three months after his report, and after he had come under the eagle eye of Sir Philip Currie, the English Ambassador. This figure of 147 25,000 was reduced by the absolute verdict of the three European delegates to 265, as anybody might verify by referring to the pages of the Blue Book. When Mr. Shipley got to Constantinople three months after he had made this report, the English Ambassador evidently said to him: "This will never do. Here is the Member for Eye, who has been talking of 25,000, and you have got it reduced to 265. Take your pen and write down 900." How was the 900 arrived at? It was a mere computation. It was stated by one authority that the victims were probably 20 to 60 per village; and now Mr. Shipley—not in his report but in his remarks on his report—said, if they took 40 per village, and assumed there were 23 villages where 40 had been killed, that made up the 900. You could arrive at any figures in that fashion. But the evidence taken before the Commission—before an English, a French, and a Russian delegate—which sat for 107 days, and made the most searching enquiry, showed that there were 265 alone as to whom there had been any testimony that they had been killed in this massacre, and of these many were subsequently produced alive to the Commission itself, and others were shown never to have existed. It was perfectly monstrous for the Member for Eye, who had been the means of disseminating this imposture through the country, to rise in his place and make no attempt whatever to show he had some grounds for these extraordinary exaggerations.
§ MR. STEVENSON
I never gave any figures whatever. The hon. Gentleman is quoting from a book issued by Mr. Green. I have nothing to do with it.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I say Mr. Green was one of the hon. Gentleman's consorts, and he put the hon. Gentleman's name at the head of his application for subscriptions.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
That makes it worse. I advise the hon. Gentleman, the next time he gets anybody to write a book, to get an Englishman to do it, as he will be more likely to keep within a fair limit of the facts. Continuing, the hon. Gentleman, turning to the Queen's Speech, whilst agreeing with much that had fallen from the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, said he could not agree with him in his language of admiration of that Speech. He found in it a certain confusion of tenses, a certain introduction suddenly of "the prisoners" of whom they had never before heard, and at least one paragraph, that relating to agriculture, which was couched almost in the language of the servants' hall. When they had a Cabinet of 19 members, 19 men of genius, it was difficult to get them all harnessed to paragraphs, and he admitted that that difficulty had been overcome with a certain amount of success because the major part of the Speech was evidently not composed by the Cabinet at all, but by the inner Cabinet. He alluded to the Prime Minister and the Secretary for the Colonies. Fifteen of the paragraphs were from their pen; and, as showing the relative importance of the two Ministers, he mentioned that five were from the pen of the Foreign Minister, and ten from that of the Colonial Minister, while the other 17 men of genius were thrown together in a heap at the end. He trusted, however, that the other Members of the Cabinet would not forget that, in the language of Lord Salisbury, they were all equally, absolutely, and irredeemably responsible for every word of the Queen's Speech. They were promised in the Speech a searching inquiry into the origin and circumstances of the recent proceedings in the Transvaal, and he thought such a searching investigation was necessary; but, although he had nothing but praise for the action of the Colonial Secretary, still he could not conceal from himself the fact that it was extremely remarkable, when this extraordinary proceeding 149 of Jameson's vide across the frontier took place, everybody knew about it who ought not to have known, and nobody knew about it who ought to have known. The programme was published in the Cape Argus of the 13th December; the Consul General of the Transvaal in this country, Mr. Montagu White, warned his Government on the 16th December; and relatives of gentlemen who had been engaged in this adventure had received letters stating that there was going to be a great expedition and that there would be severe fighting somewhere. There was enough early in December to put the Government on inquiry. He did not suggest that the Government knew, but they ought to have known, and if they did not the fault must lie with those who served them in South Africa. He said this, not because he had distrust in the Government, or, least of all, in the Secretary for the Colonies, but because he held it to be extremely important that the good faith of England should be made manifest before the world, and not be subjected to the insinuation that they had repudiated this expedition because it had failed; that they knew of it, and would have taken the benefit of it to themselves had it succeeded. He hoped that the searching inquiry promised in the Queen's Speech would be held, whatever the result of the legal trial of the gentlemen implicated in this business might be. The Leader of the Opposition showed great want of gratitude to the Government in regard to Turkey, for the Government had adopted his policy. He talked of the policy of 1878, but this was not the policy of 1878—to uphold and maintain the Turkish Empire—but the policy of 1895—to divide it, partition it at the least, or to disorganise it, and render government in distant provinces impossible. The Leader of the Opposition quoted the Treaty of Berlin. But he was very careful. He had written on international law; he was an old stager, and himself sometimes called an old sailor. 150 [Laughter.] His statement of the effect of the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin and the Cyprus Convention was not incorrect, but it was calculated to produce an incorrect impression on the minds of simple-minded persons who were neither publicists nor sailors. [Laughter.] But he himself boldly declared that neither the 61st Article of the Berlin Treaty nor the Cyprus Convention imposed any obligation on this country. They gave a right, but they imposed no duty or obligation. The Leader of the Opposition would not deny this. Why had they not put into execution other Articles of the Treaty of Berlin? Articles 11 and 52 provided that the fortresses on the Danube and Bulgaria should be respected. They were both unexecuted, and he had never heard any protest made by England. Articles 9, 33, and 42 prescribed that Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro should bear their share of the Turkish debt, but to that day they remained unexecuted. Article 59 related to Batum. The Government of Lord Rosebery wrote a menacing Dispatch to Russia on account of her violation of this Article. When, therefore, the exact fulfilment and execution of Article 61 was claimed, in common decency the Articles he had quoted should be executed too. Why had these Articles been neglected—because they were in favour of Turkey and calculated to enable Turkey to carry on her Government in a regular orderly manner, while Article 61 was calculated to disorganise her Government. He complained bitterly of the way in which not merely this, but previous Governments had treated the House with regard to information on Turkish affairs. The Reports of the Asiatic Consuls for 1892, 1893 and 1894 had been in print for months, and the House ought to have them. He believed the reason they were withheld was that they were in favour of Turkey. The Report of the European Delegates was not published until the end of January. On the last day of last 151 Session the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs laid on the Table correspondence relating to Asiatic Turkey, but when they came to look at it they found it was a blank sheet of paper—a dummy. He had appealed for the distribution of the papers thus presented, and had cited the Order of the House of March, 1871, but was told that the papers would only be given when Parliament met. Fortunately, better counsels prevailed, and on the 28th January, five months after they had been laid on the Table, the papers were furnished. Then, another rule was broken, because in these papers presented on the 5th September, was a Paper which did not come into existence till the 12th of November. He did not think that was the right way to treat the House and the country. It seemed to him that when the Government knew, in July and August, that a gross exaggeration had been foisted on the public with regard to the Sasun massacres, they should not have concealed that knowledge from the country. He turned with a sense of relief to the Transvaal. In his opinion most, if not all, the troubles there had arisen from the extraordinary and irregular relationships which successive Governments have chosen to adopt in that country. They knew what a Sovereignty was and what a Protectorate was. But who knew what a Sphere of Influence was or a Suzerainty, or the limitations of a Power Paramount? Not one of these words had any definite sense attached to it: not one of them imported what our duties were, or what our liabilities might be. Most of them implied, in the apt words of the Leader of the Opposition, responsibility without power. In common with all those who thought it was the business of England to uphold justice, he felt a shock when he first read the news of Jameson's raid. They all deplored it; and it was to the prompt and energetic action of the Secretary for the Colonies, that they owed it, that the Transvaal was not plunged into a most bloody civil war. He wished to draw a contrast between the proceedings of the Secretary for the Colonies in giving information to the English people and the method pursued by the Foreign Office. The Venezeula question had been going on for 55 years, and no Papers had been given. With regard to Turkey they had 152 not till the other day, a Paper for four years, and they were still without important Papers. They were told that, without this secrecy, serious and delicate business could not be carried on. But the Secretary for the Colonies had found a different way. He took the public into his confidence, hour by hour, and half-hour by half-hour. His telegrams came forth like hot rolls, and the result was that the right hon. Gentleman had massed the whole English people behind him. He was proud to know that there was in the Ministry a man who had the courage to adopt a system of open diplomacy, and he trusted the example would not be lost on the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues. He repeated, in conclusion, that some explanation was due from the right hon. Member for Eye and his fellow culprit, the right hon. Member for Aberdeen, of the share they had taken in the Anglo-Armenian business. He charged them with having done a great injury to their country, with having done what they could to divert their country from the old and traditional policy which was necessary for these islands, and with having induced the Government to engage in strange and wild adventures fraught with mischief to us and certainly calculated to do no good to those wretched Armenians, whom they professed to patronise.
§ Mr. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said that in the few observations he had to make he would refer only to that paragraph of the Speech from the Throne which dealt with recent events in Armenia. He agreed that this question ought to be treated in a non-partisan spirit. They ought to be put on the ground of national duty and national safety and humanity, and to avoid any recrimination it was possible to avoid. ["Hear, hear!"] He must say a few words on the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury, in which he endeavoured to deny that an obligation rested on this country to protect the Christians of Armenia. The right hon. Gentleman confined himself to the words of the Anglo-Turkish Convention and the Treaty of Berlin. It would be a great mistake to suppose that his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouthshire had ever been an advocate or defender of either of those documents. He had not himself a seat in the House in 153 those days, hut, he remembered very well that his right hon. Friend was one of those who most condemned the policy followed in the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and the policy which led up to the substitution of the Treaty of Berlin for the Treaty of San Stefano. The Treaty of San Stefano guaranteed protection to the Armenians on the part of Russia. Russia undertook to protect them, knowing the danger's to which they were exposed and the powerlessness of the Turkish Government to restrain outrages. A circular by the then Foreign Secretary—the present Prime Minister—called attention to the exclusive right Russia was claiming in the Treaty of San Stefano, and the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin was, at the instance of Great Britain, substituted for the Treaty of San Stefano. It was impossible to consider the obligation imposed on this country by the Treaty of Berlin without remembering that it was substituted by us for the provision of the previous Treaty which gave, the Armenian Christians the protection, of Russia. It was therefore the action of this country which deprived them of that protection. The protection which the six Powers guaranteed by the Treaty of Berlin was intended to do for the, Christians that which Russia alone would have done if the Treaty of San Stefano had stood, and if the Treaty of Berlin had proved inefficient because six Powers were less vigorous than one would have been, this was Great Britain's doing. ["Hear, hear!] But the matter went further. By the Anglo-Turkish Convention this country alone undertook the protection of those Christians. Recognising that the protection guaranteed by the Treaty of Berlin might prove inadequate, Great Britain, herself undertook that protection. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition, and "Read the words."] The right hon. Gentleman read the words, and proceeded to say that that was the provision which put the, Christians and other subjects of the Porte in those territories under the exclusive protection of England, whereas previously they had been under the exclusive protection of Russia. The Anglo-Turkish Convention was, in fact, the complement of the setting aside of the Russian protection promised by the Treaty of San 154 Stefano. ["Hear, hear!"] The meaning of that provision, was confirmed by three contemporaneous documents. The then Foreign Secretary, in a Dispatch to Her Majety's Ambassador at Constantinople, said that assurance was required to give England a right to insist on a satisfactory arrangement, and that that would be an indispensable condition of any agreement Her Majesty's Government entered into. ["Hear, hear!"] And Lord Beaconsfield, speaking at the Guildhall about that time, said:—At all events we will not recoil from such; a task because it must seem to increase our responsibilities or add to our labours.Lord Salisbury, speaking at the same time, said:—We need above, all things the sympathy of our countrymen. We have to effect great objects by the use of the authority of this country." ["Hear, hear!"]It was clear that England deprived these people of the protection they were previously to have had and took them under her protection, and that Her Majesty's Government did then undertake and England had since been bound to the protection, and the efficient protection, of the Armenian Christians. ["Hear, hear!"] It was not an undertaking which was gratuitous. It was not without consideration. The consideration was that we took away from these people that protection which they previously had, and thereby undertook the moral responsibility to give, them an equivalent protection. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had asked whether the British Government were going to war in order to compel the Turks to fulfil their obligations. In his view there was not the slightest reason why we should go to war for that purpose, because there were ample means of other descriptions by which we could enforce our demands upon the Porte. We had no right to fail to enforce our demands because it would be troublesome to do so. The obligations that we undertook towards these Armenian Christians in 1878 still existed, and we were bound to fulfil them at the present time. ["Hear, hear!] Every English Government that had been in office since 1878 had felt it to be their special duty, beyond other Powers, to endeavour to 155 fulfil their obligations in the matter and to protect the Armenians. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that the Anglo-Turkish Treaty had made things no worse for the Armenians, but in truth it had made things far worse for them. Before the date of that Treaty Russia alone was recognised as the natural protector of the Armenians, because she was close at hand, able to interfere if necessary, but since that date Great Britain had taken upon herself the sole responsibility for the protection of that people. The result of that Treaty being entered into was to give rise to hopes on the part of the Armenians and to a corresponding fear on the part of the Turks that, our obligations with regard to the former would be carried into effect, and that we should afford them efficient protection. The Turks thought Armenia might by our help be erected into a sort of principality, and this idea had made them infinitely more cruel and oppressive than they had ever been before. That protection, however, we had failed to afford them. He would venture in a very few words to remind the House of what had taken place in connection with this matter during the past six months. In June, 1895, the late Government were pressing upon the Turkish Government the necessity for their acceptance of the scheme of reform propounded on May 11th, and the Turks, as usual, were endeavouring to find pretexts for evading the demand. The time was fast approaching when the British Government would have had to decide in what manner the resistance of the Turks could be overcome. At this point the late Government quitted office and the present one came in. The only massacre that had occurred was that at Sasun, horrible enough, but on a smaller scale than some of those that had marked the last four months of 1895. In August came the speech of the present Prime Minister, which was intended to convey a solemn warning to the Turkish Government that Her Majesty's Government would no longer tolerate their proceedings and that adequate reforms must be carried into effect, adding that it must be understood that it was only through the mercy of Europe that the Turkish Government existed. Afterwards 156 came the massacres at Constantinople, which were again followed by other massacres, all over Armenia and Asia Minor, massacres which, in many instances, were organised in Constantinople and were carried out by Turkish troops sent from there to take part in them, while in other cases it was at least clear that the troops and the authorities aided or connived. In the meantime, the British Fleet was gradually Hearing Constantinople, and on September 30th it had reached Lemnos. This advance was meant to be a menace to the Turk. On November 9th, the Prime Minister delivered his famous speech at the Guildhall, and everybody must remember the solemn warning which the noble Marquess then uttered and the expectations to which his speech gave rise, that decided action was going to be taken. As showing the impression that that speech made he would read a few words from an article that appeared in The Times:—Nothing is more noteworthy in the Prime Minister's speech than the tone of solemn earnestness with which he endeavours to impress upon the Sultan the utter futility of all hopes based upon the expectation of a division among the Powers.But in subsequent events was found a melancholy commentary upon the hopes which the Prime Minister then expressed so confidently. Soon afterwards there were massacres at Marash and other places. He was surprised that the gracious Speech from the Throne contained nothing to show that remonstrances had been addressed to the Sultan for the purpose of inducing him to issue orders for the cessation of these continual outbreaks of fury and fanaticism. It was a material fact that, according to the Prime Minister himself, the formal acceptance of reforms by the Sultan would be of no value in the absence of means for enforcing their application. Why then was nothing said as to pressure on the Turks to apply the reforms and to stop the massacres? The Speech from the Throne contained an extraordinary passage—namely:—I deeply regret that a fanatical outbreak on the part of a section of the Turkish population has resulted in a series of massacres in those provinces.157 It was a very surprising statement that these, massacres were the work of a section of the Turkish population, because all the evidence before them went to show that these massacres were the work of the Turkish Government, of Turkish officials, and Turkish soldiers. If they were the work of a section of the people, that section was the official and military section. The evidence at their disposal from Armenia and Asia Minor went to prove that the soldiers had been active in these massacres, that they had brought up fanatical mobs, that it was they who had, in some cases, as in the massacre at Urfah, actually opened the doors of the churches in which the Christians had taken refuge, and that it was they who had led on the mob in the work of slaughter. With regard to the massacre at Sasun, they had a statement of an official nature in Mr. Shipley's report. That gentleman said:—In fact, and speaking with a full sense of responsibility, I am compelled to say that the conviction has forced itself on me that it was not so much the capture of the agitator Mourad, or the suppression of a pseudo-revolt, which was desired by the Turkish authorities, as the extermination, pure and simple, of the Ghéliéguzan and Talori districts.Thus, with reference to the only massacre about which they had really any official information, there was this declaration by the British Consul that it was his conviction that the object of the Turkish authorities was the extermination of the Armenian, population. As Lord Salisbury had well said, the Sultan was at present the sole source of authority in the Turkish Empire. The Sultan had superseded ministerial administration; he and his favourites directly controlled all the machinery of government, and he, therefore, was alone directly responsible for the action of the authorities through out the Empire. It was a curious and most significant fact that, during the whole course of the massacres, not; a single Turkish official or military officer had been recalled or punished, though in many cases, their complicity and encouragement of the massacres was beyond doubt. It was the same things when the massacres of 1876 occurred, and; nothing proved the complicity of the Turkish Government in those massacres more than the fact that no word of disapproval with the conduct of officials was 158 then uttered. The Sultan, if they could believe the Press, now denied that there had been any massacres, and his version of the case was that disorderly Christians had attacked Mahommedans at times of prayer. They knew the opinion of the Prime Minister himself, which was that in these massacres there had been perpetrated horrors the like of which Europe had not seen since the days of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. How many thousands had perished it was, of course, impossible to say, but probably the number of those who had perished by the sword was not greater than those who had died of starvation and exposure. Those who had lived longest in Turkey and had studied the subject had come to the conclusion that the massacres had been deliberately planned with a view, by getting rid of the Christian population, and thereby of getting rid of the need for any reforms at all. The scheme of reforms propounded on May 11, which he gathered the Turkish Government had since accepted, proposed that there should be, according to the number of the Christian population, a certain proportion of Christian officials; and by killing off the Christians, some by the sword and some by famine, the Sultan was so reducing or extinguishing the non-Mussulman element with the view of being able to plead that there was, in many places, no occasion for the application of the scheme he had accepted. He did not know whether the House had realised that in a great many of these massacres the people were given the choice of embracing Islam or death. He was told that there had been no less than 4,300 forced conversions in one place. It was hardly a matter for surprise that there were a great many of these poor people who preferred to save their lives in that way, but there had also been those who preferred to die rather than abjure their faith. At one place, near Kharput, the people, as they came out of the church doors, were given their choice of death or forced conversion, and it was stated that 52 preferred to die rather than to renounce Christianity.
§ MR. BRYCE
, continuing, said it was impossible for them to enter into the other aspects of the question because they 159 had not yet the Blue-book which was expected. He hoped that the papers when they were put before them would explain why it was that the Prime Minister spoke in August and November as he did, and how it came to pass that they had been allowed to expect so much from that Concert of Europe which now appeared to have had no effect except to preserve the Sultan from what would otherwise have been the coercive action of this country. They were also entitled to know what Power or Powers it was that prevented Britain from taking action. He was disposed to think that the Government, in the interests of humanity, would have done something if it had not been for some of the other Powers, and in that case they ought to know who these Powers were, and whether they merely intimated their unwillingness to join us, or whether they threatened active opposition to any coercive proceedings we might have taken. They ought also to know how it carne to pass that the prospect which there appeared to be in June of obtaining the consent of Russia and France to the independent coercive action of Great Britain no longer existed.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he agreed that this country could not and ought not to have entered upon any course which would have involved us in a European war—["Hear, hear!"]—but they had not yet any evidence to show that a European war would have resulted from our action. He did not wish to say anything about the disgrace, to this country, or the apparent result in the East—namely, that Russian interests predominated at Constantinople, and that Turkey had become, if not in name, at least in practice, a vassal state of Russia. The former of those two results all joined in regretting, and the latter was one especially regretted by hon. Members opposite, who always felt special alarm at the advance and aggrandisement of Russia. But those two results seemed to him altogether secondary to what had happened in the neglect or omission of Britain to fulfil the expectations she had herself aroused in the unhappy Armenians, and in the terrible; fate which Turkish savagery had inflicted on many thousands of innocent people. 160 Britain had not fulfilled her promises, but had looked on while horrors had taken place far worse than those of 1878, which had led to the engagements then made. He often heard hon. Members express great zeal that England should maintain her rights in every part of the world. They had not only rights as a great nation but also duties, and one of those duties was to do all they could to fulfil the obligations which they solemnly contracted, especially when they found that those obligations had the result of exposing the people for whom they were undertaken to far greater sufferings than they would otherwise have incurred. They owed it to their national honour and to their responsibility to God for the proper exercise of the enormous power and influence in the world which Providence had entrusted to Britain, that they should endeavour to do their duty by the weaker nations, who had looked to us and whom they had led to rely upon us; and if we had found it impossible to fulfil these obligations they must know how and why. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square
I think the House will think that a more feeble and inconclusive appeal on behalf of the Armenians has seldom been uttered by a responsible; Statesman. [Cheers.] My right hon. Friend has challenged the Opposition to state what their policy is with regard to the Armenian question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The right hon. Gentleman went very near the point. He said there were a number of means by which we might coerce the Turk. We all began to listen with increased interest to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to know what methods the right hon. Gentleman, who from the first has taken the keenest and most sincere interest in the Armenian question, thinks ought to have been taken. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to wait for papers before he suggests what their own policy would have been. He wants more light. It would 161 have been better that he should have waited and suppressed the speech he has made. The speeches of right hon. Gentlemen do not strengthen the position which this country takes, nor are they useful to the Armenians. [Cheers.] It is now 16 years since the Armenian question has been before us. Nine out of those 16 years the party of the right hon. Gentleman have been in Office. [Cheers.] They have been as unable to produce those reforms as the present Government, and we should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman and his party what their policy now is. He says that they would not engage in such operations as would lead to a European conflict. He has not told us what measures short of that would have any effect on the present situation. [Cheers.] It was my duty in 1880, when the concert of Europe was invented, not by Lord Salisbury but by Mr. Gladstone and the party then in power, to represent this country in Constantinople and to do all I could on behalf of the Armenians. The task was a difficult one. Why? Because, though the concert of Europe, existed, though there was a friendly disposition with regard to the objects of the country, we had never been able to persuade the other nations of Europe to take that same view with regard to the Armenian question as was taken most sincerely and honourably by this country. [Cheers.] That was the difficulty under which this country laboured in 1880. Then, as now, we were anxious to force reforms on the Sultan. We were then endeavouring, under the Administration of the day, to see what effect we could give, not to our obligations, but to our desires, to help the Armenians. The right hon. Gentleman quoted from the Berlin Treaty and from the Cyprus Convention. Does he believe that there, was any obligation as between the Armenians and ourselves that we should insist on reforms, even at the risk of war with Turkey?
§ The FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
There may have been distinct obligations that we should see through these reforms. We might have said in the face of Europe, "We shall go through with these reforms;" but what we did say was that "if Turkey carries out these reforms we shall stand by her and defend her." ["Hear, hear!"] Turkey has not carried out these reforms and we are not bound to defend her. [Cheers.] We are free from any engagement as to the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire. What did the party of the right hon. Gentleman do on the occasion of the Sasun massacres? What did they do when the Sasun massacres were brought to their knowledge? Did they withdraw their protection? What nonsense it is. [Cheers.] As I have said, the Sasun massacres occurred when the party opposite were in power. I ask, what did they do? They gave no notice to Turkey. I do not know whether it has been intimated that they were relieved of any obligations to defend these Armenians. [Mr. BRYCE: "That is my question."] There is no language too strong to express our feelings with regard to the massacres. The right hon. Gentleman says, "What, then, are you going to do?" and he tells us that if he had more light he will not say that we ought to attempt single-handed the coercion of Turkey. He asks what has been done in the interval. Well, we have done the utmost that any Power could do. There has not been a week, there has hardly been, a day, that our Ambassador in Constantinople has not endeavoured to convince the Sultan of Turkey and the European Powers of the paramount duty of putting an end to the state of things existing, not only in the interests of the permanence of his empire—for that is not of 163 much consequence [loud cheers]—but of the peace of Europe. We shall confidently appeal to the verdict of the country whether, short of bringing about the terrible results which we should have to be prepared to face, we have done everything that could be done to mitigate the lot of the Armenians and bring home to the Sultan the danger to his empire. We have not been idle to enforce that lesson. We have been anxious, not because we were bound to do so by any clause in a convention or in a treaty, but because we felt bound to do it as a civilized Power. We only wish we had been able to convince other Powers of the absolute necessity of putting a stop to these massacres which have lasted so long. It is not the fault of the Government; it is not the fault of the people of this country. It is impossible to give full expression to the feelings of the country. [Cheers.] It is known throughout Europe that we are horrified at what has taken place. The other Powers do not seem to have shared, I will not say the horror, but the duty, if I may say so, of taking such measures as might have brought about the cessation of these horrors. My right hon. Friend said that they shrank from a conflagration which might shake Europe to the centre by any application on the part of a single Power of coercive measures. Let us face that question. We are one Power, a very strong Power; but are we by single action to raise the whole Eastern question? Are we to raise these tremendous issues which on single Power would be prepared to undertake? Papers will soon be laid before you, and they will show what pains we have taken in order to carry the point. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government have not properly responded to the feelings of the country in this matter, let us bring the question to the test of a vote of this House and let us know whether the Opposition and the country wish single-handed to undertake the task from which the right hon. 164 Gentleman and his friends have always shrunk. If they are not prepared to undertake that task, what is the good of making such speeches? What is the good of speaking of our impotence and attempting to inflame the country? Unless you see your way, those speeches are dangerous, and they may aggravate the fate of the Armenians themselves. We shall not be diverted from the imperative duty which is laid upon us to watch for every opportunity to consult with other Powers to take every possible means short of a European conflagration by which we may bring this Armenian question to an end. I do not even care to defend the Sultan or his troops or Ministers with regard to anything the right hon. Gentleman has said, but we shall be prepared to state everything that we have done, and the right hon. Gentleman will have that light which he desires, and when he has that light from us I hope he will respond to our wish and give us some light as regards his policy in this matter. May hon. Gentlemen then chance to guide us and to tell us what they think to be the duty of the country in the difficult circumstances. Until we are shown a better way we shall believe that we have done our duty under the most difficult circumstances, and that if we have failed and if events have taken place which have shocked our conscience if not the conscience of Europe, it is not on this country at least that the the reproach will lie. [Cheers.]
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
asked the authority on which the right hon. Gentleman made his statement with regard to the specific and touching incident mentioned in his speech.
§ MR. DILLON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.