Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £51,086, he granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ *MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)
said that he had placed a notice upon the Paper of his intention to move "That Sub-head A (Salaries), be reduced by £50, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State," in order to afford an opportunity to hon. Members to discuss the position of affairs in the Island of Crete. He ventured to think that the answer which had just been given by the right hon. Gentleman who represented the Foreign Office in that House to the question that had been put to him by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe was not satisfactory. He believed that if ever a question was ripe for discussion the Cretan question was. He should have to refer to the answer that had been given by the right hon. Gentleman a little later, but for the moment he would proceed to express his hope that the chains of the Turkish yoke would not be once more riveted on the necks of the Christian population of Crete. He would take that opportunity of laying before the Committee his views on this question, which, although they might not be held by the Government, were in his judgment held by the vast majority of his fellow countrymen. Notwithstanding the unvarying 669 courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, he must complain that he had on the 10th June last declined to produce the Consular Reports with reference to Crete. He held in his hand the Report of Vice-Consul Fitzmaurice with reference to the state of things that existed in Asiatic Turkey, and to the so-called conversion of large numbers of the Christian subjects of the Porte to Mohammedanism. That Gentleman stated that from careful inquiries he had made into the subject he had reason to believe that some 8,000 Armenians perished in the massacres of December 1895, and that 2,500 had been killed or burnt alive in the cathedral of Ourfa. Were we to permit such horrors to continue to be perpetrated upon an unarmed Christian people? He would lay before the Committee a very brief history of what had occurred with reference to the Island of Crete since 1830, when the new kingdom of Greece was established, and when some of our leading Statesmen, such as Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, advocated the transfer of the island to the new kingdom. Sir James Mackintosh, speaking in the Debate upon the Motion of Lord John Russell on the settlement of Greece, in February 1830, said:—The withdrawal of Candia from Greece went upon grounds strikingly at variance with the Treaty' of London of July 6th, 1827.In the course of the same Debate Lord Palmerston said:—Let Candia remain in the hands of the Turks, and what probability was there that the Greeks of that Island would remain patient under that yoke, which their brethren had shaken off?Again, speaking of the importance from the military point of view to Greece, he said:—No man who had turned his attention to the subject could doubt that the political existence and the military defence of Greece would mainly depend upon the possession of Crete.Those weighty—those prophetic words were spoken in vain in 1830. He must admit very reluctantly that it had always been the policy of Great Britain to preserve Crete to the Turks. It had, however, not always been the policy of France, he did not believe it was the policy of Russia, and he was certain 670 it was not the policy of Austria, though Italy, no doubt, would follow the advice of this country. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who had just stated that the Porte had agreed unreservedly to adopt the four points recommended by the Great Powers, namely, the appointment of a Christian Governor, the summoning of the Assembly, the establishment of some kind of autonomy, and the granting of an amnesty, what were the guarantees that the Porte would carry out these changes? ["Hear, hear!"] The troops that had been sent to Crete had been brought from the Asiatic provinces where they had been engaged in horrible massacres, and in other outrages almost too bad to be mentioned in the House of Commons. In Crete they had already begun to sack and burn villages, had already desecrated and destroyed churches, violated women and killed children; and those were the troops on whom we were to rely for the pacification of Crete. In 1868 he brought forward a Motion with regard to the disturbances in Crete during the three years previous, and he elicited from the Foreign Secretary, Lord Stanley, an expression of deep sympathy with the people, but the noble Lord said—He did not consider it his duty at that moment (mark those words) to press upon the Porte the cession of Crete, as he was convinced that, if that advice was given, it would be unavailing.He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would admit that many things had happened since 1868. The right hon. Gentleman would probably tell the Committee that firmans had been issued expressing the intention of the Sultan to carry out reforms, but those firmans had, according to the Report of Consul Riliotti from Canea in January 1890, remained dead letters. For some time, no doubt, there had been peace in the island of Candia, but the permanent pacification of Candia was not likely to take place so long as the island remained under the power of the Sultan. Did the Government believe that Crete would ever remain in a contented state under the sovereignty of the Sultan I He would like to know what were the objections which the Great Powers had to Crete being annexed to Greece. Some years ago this country conceded the Ionian 671 Islands to Greece, and there had been no bad government during the time they had formed a part of the Hellenic Kingdom. Turkey would be a gainer by the cession of Crete to Greece, for he supposed some indemnity or annual tribute would have to be paid which would enrich the Turkish Exchequer. The civilised world would be the gainer, and humanity would be the greatest gainer of all. He would appeal once more in the name of humanity to the Government, in concert with the other Powers, to urge Turkey to give up to Greece the fairest island in the Greek Archipelago, as it ought to have been given up in 1830. Having made that appeal to the Government, he could only say that if they would not agree to give that advice to the Porte, he hoped that Providence in its mercy would in its own good time relieve the Cretans from the yoke of the worst Government in Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £50.
§ SIR. ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
wished to support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He was extremely glad that he had come forward on this occasion, as he did 25 years ago, because the fact that the Motion came from the opposite Benches would show that it was not conceived in any spirit of hostility to the Government. There was no desire, certainly not on his part, to offer any hostile criticism, and, least of all, to make Party capital out of these matters. ["Hear, hear!"] What he wanted to do, if he could, was to try and influence Her Majesty's Government in a sense favourable to the honour of this country, so that we might be sure the horrors perpetrated in Armenia and all over the Turkish Empire for many years past, should not be proceeded with under the guns of our Fleet in Crete. He was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had not given the Committee the official Reports, but he did not feel justified in complaining of that, because it might be that they contained matters which it would be impolitic to disclose. He preferred to look at these things, not from any source which might be open to suspicion in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but from what was, after all, the best source of foreign intelligence, namely, The Times. Everything he said would be based on the authority of The Time 672 newspaper during the last three months. It appeared that things began with numerous murders, which were attributed to a secret committee of Mohammedans. These murders had been said to be due to the instigation of Turkish officials. The next feature was that the military element was found prompting the more fanatical portion of the population to acts of terrorism. The Times correspondent said:—A state of lawlessness prevails in Western Crete. Secret societies of both creeds seem almost a necessity of self-defence.Then there ensued numerous collisions between portions of the population and the Turkish troops. On May 21 it was reported that a very menacing state of things had begun. It was said that Mohammedan country families had begun to concentrate in the town of Retime, the Greeks offering them facility, and that this hitherto had been the usual forerunner of serious events in Crete. The next thing that happened was that Turkhan Pasha was recalled, owing, it was said, to his stern treatment of some of the more prominent malefactors among the Mohammedans, and the restraint which he imposed upon Turkish officers who afforded them protection. At the end of May came what must be described as a massacre. It was a massacre on a small scale as compared with those that had occurred in Armenia, but, nevertheless, it was a very grave event. Upon May 24 the long expected disorder arrived, and the correspondent of The Times described what occurred as follows:—There is anarchy in Canea. The Turkish soldiery, breaking loose from all restraint, poured through the streets shooting, massacring, and pillaging the Christian inhabitants. They killed the Cavasses of the Russian and Greek Consulates. Turkham Pasha was powerless to restrain them, and Izzedin was suspected to be at the bottom of the whole trouble. At Canea, of all places in Crete, not the slightest provocation has been offered by the Christian population during the entire course of the anomalous régime of the past six years.There were at this time conflicts between the troops and the people, but he did not purpose to dwell upon them, because fighting in the open field, however deplorable, was less horrible than massacre. Refugees flocked out of Crete in every direction. In June the whole 673 of the western portion of the island was given over to anarchy, and the shouts and firing were heard on hoard Her Majesty's ships lying in the harbour. It would be to throw a new duty upon the officers and men of the Royal Navy to expect them to be passive witnesses of scenes of brutality and violence against women and children, in countries with respect to which we were under moral and international obligations. It had been repeatedly affirmed in the newspapers that the Turkish regular troops as well as the irregular troops took part in the horrid scenes that occurred. Many villages had been burned and hundreds of families were destitute. The Government had refused permission to the Christians to emigrate, and the Mohammedan section of the population as well as the Christian section were weary of a system of Government which exposed them periodically to most cruel suffering. ["Hear, hear!"] There were between 5,000 and 7,000 people who had sought refuge in the mountains and were suffering from famine. As to the military operations in Crete, he was glad to know that the Cretans were men of courage, whose spirit had not been broken by oppression. They had arms in their hands—["hear, hear!"]—and were fighting like men for the preservation of the lives of their families and themselves. Those were the facts as stated by The Times and corroborated by other newspapers of different shades of politics. The experience of history taught them what to expect from the Turkish Government when a subject population came into collision with them. What had been occurring in Armenia during the last 18 months? He had no doubt that every Member of the Government must have felt most bitterly the position in which this country was placed with regard to the Armenian massacres. It was a matter which men did not like to say much about. The position of the Government, he knew, was a very difficult one, and the Blue-books proved that they had over and over again urged reforms upon the Sultan of Turkey. The Blue-books were filled with their recommendations, representations, and remonstrances, which had all been unavailing. According to the official account, 25,000 persons had been massacred, but The 674 Times correspondent declared that the number amounted to 80,000. There was now in Crete every likelihood of further massacres. Unless strong measures were taken, nothing was more probable than that this country would have to undergo the disgrace of witnessing a repetition in Crete of what had taken place in Armenia. He entirely agreed with Mr. Gladstone, who had declared that these Armenian massacres were a disgrace to Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] There was hardly any part of the Turkish dominions that had not been stained by bloodshed in massacres in the last 40 or 50 years. What was our duty in the present emergency? In the first place, he hoped we should not leave out of view altogether our duties as a civilised Power. For what had we got great ships and armaments I For the purpose of self-defence, no doubt, but he hoped we should not shut our eyes to the fact that they gave us an enormous power, and he trusted that we should not be afraid to use that power in the interest of humanity and for the purpose of preventing the commission of the vilest crimes under the very eyes of the crews of Her Majesty's ships. It was not pleasant to recall that had it not been for the action of this country Crete would now have been a part of the Greek kingdom. In ancient times the people of Greece were perhaps the greatest and most interesting population that had ever adorned human history. In more modern times the men of that country had shown the utmost bravery by fighting for years against powerful odds in the war of independence. At last pity and admiration forced the Great Powers to interfere in their behalf, but in their hour of triumph, after the battle of Navarino, this country, he feared, tried as much as any other to limit the expansion of Greece, and Crete, although it contained a population of Greek blood, was not permitted to be connected with the emancipated kingdom. The Great Powers would not consent because of that unhappy policy too often pursued of making the subject races of Turkey suffer unspeakable hardships rather than that we should confront like men the real situation which existed in the Ottoman Empire. A protocol of February, 1830, was executed by the 675 three Great Powers, including this country. It was not a special or formal engagement, but the three Great Powers stated that they deemed it to be their duty to interpose their influence with the Porte to assure to the inhabitants of Crete protection against arbitrary and oppressive acts. That was a most solemn obligation in his opinion. Again, in 1840, when the Cretans, with arms in their hands, were preparing to take advantage of the quarrel then existing between the Turks, they were constrained to submit again to Turkey by the action of the same Great Powers, but if they had been allowed to take advantage of that period of difficulty they would have been able to free themselves from this fearful yoke and to unite themselves with the Greek kingdom. It was prevented by the interposition of this country among others. In 1856 the Treaty of Paris sealed the sacrifices made by that lamentable and wicked Crimean war to maintain the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. A clause was inserted in the treaty, and a firman issued by the Porte promising good government to the Christian populations proved to be an absolute farce. Again, about 30 years ago, the Cretans were in arms on account of oppression, and in the hope of awakening the pity of Europe and of getting rid of this yoke. In 1866–7 they took up arms, and Prance, whose conduct had been uniformly humane with regard to Crete, was most anxious that Crete should be separated from Turkey. Prance did what she could to bring that about, and, as he read the State papers, Austria, Russia, Italy and Prussia were equally ready to assent. The Russian Ambassador delivered a note in 1867, in which this was stated:—Russia, France, Italy, and Prussia raised their voices at Constantinople with common accord; Austria in a certain measure has associated herself with this action; England alone persists in the intention not to exercise over the counsels of the Porte any moral pressure." Thus the British Government refused even to exercise moral pressure on the promise of the issue of an Organic Law, which was issued in 1868. Did anyone who had read anything of the proceedings of the Ottoman Porte, or anything of the history of Eastern Europe, during the last 60 or 70 years, not know that, just as the promises read by the right hon 676 Gentleman that afternoon had been made, so every firman that had been issued promising good government to the subject populations, unless they were strong enough to compel it themselves, was a mockery and a delusion? [Cheers.] In 1878 there was the Treaty of Berlin. By the 23rd article of that Treaty the Porto undertook scrupulously to apply the Organic Law, with such modifications as might be needed. New modifications were made which were equally valueless; nothing was done; no decent self-government was granted; nothing came of it except pillage, injustice, and occasional massacre. What ought to be done, and what was it that he suggested should be done? He spoke in this matter for no one but himself; but there were two points to bear in mind—first, our duty at this moment; secondly, what further provision should be made in preventing similar occurences in future. Our duty at this moment was to prevent massacre. [Cheers.] All the elements of massacre were present. There were from 15,000 to 20,000 Turkish troops in the island. Among their numbers were men guilty of the inhuman barbarities in Armenia; among their ranks were men who were not paid, who were armed, intent on loot, pillage, murder, and every kind of abomination. There was great danger, therefore, of massacre on a larger scale in Canea. Hitherto we have had no warships at Canea when massacre occurred. We could not say, as Lord Salisbury had said in regard to Armenia, that warships could not reach Armenia, which was many hundreds of miles inland. But were we, with our warships alongside these harbours in Crete, with the power of having our fleet in the Mediterranean to check and stop these massacres, going to allow further massacre to take place, or were we not? [Cheers.] For a considerable number of years there had been a policy on the part of this country and other countries to shuffle off the difficulties for the moment. They had been prepared to accept assurances which had never been fulfilled, and he did not think that the Great Powers of Europe could consider themselves free from heavy moral guilt for what had taken place. Here, then, was a plain and simple case—our fleet could get to Crete, and part of it was there at present. There was thus no 677 means of shuffling off the responsibility. We had treaty and moral obligations by our relations with Crete and Turkey; in addition to this we had the obligation of a civilised Power which could prevent infamy from taking place. [Cheers.] He hoped that other Powers might take the same view. He thought it was most likely that Prance would take that view. The Prench had always been a gallant nation, and favourable to the happiness of the people of Crete. But, whether Prance or any other Power was ready to prevent scenes of that character, he wished to know whether this country was ready to prevent them from taking place. If that decrepit and failing Ottoman Power knew that this country was prepared to go back from the ignominious policy pursued by so many Governments for so many years in this country, and to adopt something of the spirit of Cromwell, or of the great men who had at times ruled the foreign destinies of this nation, then he thought that the opposition which had been encountered would in all likelihood disappear. If we did refrain from interfering and allowed threatened massacres to take place, for massacres were threatened, under the very guns of our ships, all he could say was that it would not be a policy of wisdom or of prudence, but it would be considered sheer wickedness on the part of Great Britian. ["Hear, hear!"] That was what he had to say about the present situation, and the duty of England, as he understood it. He wished to say, further, a word or two with regard to the ultimate solution of the question. Here he knew that he should be treading on delicate ground. He knew that there was great jealousy among the Great Powers of Europe, and it was that jealousy which had allowed Turkey to transform what was regarded as the garden of the world into a mere wilderness. If England was to use any effective influence in the solution of this question there must be one preliminary—we must satisfy the other Powers of Europe that we were not embarking upon it with a mean, sordid, selfish desire to make something out of it. [Cheers.] Unfortunately, our usefulness in regard to this matter had been considerably diminished by the records of Cyprus and Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] If we wanted to have any real influence 678 in the matter there must be an absolutely clear, outspoken and unmistakable assertion by the Government of the country that under no circumstances would we endeavour to make any profit whatever out of Crete. ["Hear, hear!"] The last thing he had to say was that he believed the ultimate solution of the question was that Crete should be allied to Greece. [Cheers.] Do not let us have any settlement which would be a mere paper settlement and a mere sham. Do not let this country be contented with merely a solemn firman or proclamation on the part of Turkey. If the Powers should determine, which he hoped with all his heart they would not, that Crete should remain under the yoke of the Turk, let it be under a European guarantee—a guarantee which should be definite, and which should entitle the Cretans to asked for physical support in the event of further oppression. [Cheers.]
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,), Lancashire, Southport
who was received with cheers, said: Though I cannot accept quite unreservedly the narrative of events in Crete contained in the earlier part of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, yet I have not one word of complaint to make against the speech itself. It was a speech based on intense and sincere conviction, and was couched, on the whole, in not immoderate terms. [Cheers.] Experience shows that there has been a historic and painful continuity of events in Crete, of which the circumstances we are now discussing afford another and the latest illustration. In this island of Crete, with a population of little over 300,000, an almost perpetual conflict has been going on. It is not a racial conflict, because the bulk of the Mohammedans in Crete are of Greek race and extraction, and the Turks are almost exclusively confined to the official class; but it is a religious conflict of the most acute and apparently the most ineradicable nature, and it is accentuated by the fact that the religious sect which is in the numerical majority is the sect of the subjects, whilst the religious minority is the ruling and governing class. Under these circumstances, there has been a kind of hereditary and passionate vendetta in Crete for 679 many years, which in ordinary times takes the form of miniature hostilities and sporadic disorder all over the island, but which in times of crisis, occurring with almost mathematical regularity every ten years, almost merges in civil war. On those occasions, as now, the interests and duties of Europe are aroused; strong pressure is put upon the Porte, and some sort of settlement is arrived at; and so on for another decade matters go on. It is not for me to apportion the blame between the two parties. On the one hand there has been apathy and indifference at Constantinople. On the other those who have waded through the long reports which have been presented to the House on the subject know that there is a population in Crete of a difficult and intractable character—a population which has ascertained by experience what I may call the monetary value of insurrection—["Hear, hear!"]—and whose conduct has not always been characterised by wisdom or moderation. Between the two classes of people in the island I should hesitate therefore to apportion the innocence or the blame. They have, however, this common feature—both of them suffer from bad government, and it is from that bad government we should endeavour to rescue, not Christians alone, but Mussulmans also, because the evil applies to both. [Cheers.] That is the point of view from which we ought, I think, to approach this question, and nothing should be done, and still less, whatever may be our own private feelings, should anything be said, that might tend to propagate or foster that bitter feeling of religious animosity which prevails among the two classes of people in the island. [Cheers.] The hon. Member who raised the discussion complained that the Government had not had the Consular Reports relating to Crete on the Table of the House; but the reason for that is that those Reports contain incidents and events the publication of which could only have aggravated matters between the contending parties and made a settlement of the situation more difficult. But the Papers will be had on the Table in due course. ["Hear, hear!"] It is hardly fair, however, for my hon. Friend to read out Reports from a Vice Consulin a different part of the world—namely, Armenia—dealing 680 with an entirely different state of affairs, as if, because massacres have occurred in Armenia, similar massacres must now be taking place, or are likely to take place, in Crete.
§ *MR. CURZON
I do not think that that is quite a correct statement of the facts. So far as the Government can ascertain the facts, it is true that some of the soldiers now in Crete belong to the Aleppo brigade, but the stories that have been related with regard to evidence of participation in slaughter on their part in Armenia are entirely fictitious, and we have, so far as our information goes, no reason to believe that these troops were actually engaged in any of the massacres in Asia Minor. I will not carry back the history of Crete and of European intervention quite as far as the hon. Member behind me, but I will, with the permission of the Committee, take it back as far as 1866, in order to show, by a very brief historical retrospect, how the present condition of affairs has arisen and what is the basis of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. In the year 1866–7, as he has pointed out, there was a formidable insurrection in Crete, and in the following year there was conceded to Crete by Turkey a sort of constitutional Government which was embodied in what is called the Organic Law of January 1868. In the following year, the disturbances in Crete not being over, the Great Powers of Europe met in conference at Paris and succeeded in composing the differences and settling the insurrection that had been going on in the island. Then occurred one of those intervals of 10 years of which I have before spoken, and in 1877–8, in the general break up of the Turkish dominion in Europe that was caused by the Russo-Turkish war, we find again an insurrection in Crete and the establishment of a provisional Government. That brings me to the Treaty of Berlin in July of that year, and my hon. Friend was perfectly entitled, and I think did right, to read to the Committee the terms of Article 23 of that treaty—namely, that the Sublime 681 Porte undertakes scrupulously to apply to the island of Crete the Organic Law of 1868, with such modifications as may be considered equitable. I say I think he was right in quoting it, because that is the basis of the action of the Powers ever since and at this moment, and is the ground of international law upon which the Powers are actively exercising their interference with reference to that island. The modifications which were alluded to in that treaty were carried out by the mediation of the British Consul in Crete, at that time Mr. Sand with, between the Imperial Commissioner and the Governor General on the one hand and the Cretan leaders on the other. The result was the much-quoted Halepa Pact, or constitution, of October 25, 1878. I confess I do not find in that constitution all the democratic charms which have been alluded to. The main proposals may be summarised as follows:—There was to be a Governor General appointed for a term of five years, with an adviser of the opposite religion; the General Assembly was to meet yearly for 40 days and to consist of 80 members—49 Christians and 31 Mahommedans; a budget was constituted, the cost of local expenditure being defrayed from revenue and the surplus to be divided between the Imperial Exchequer and public works as determined by the General Assembly. All this was to be carried out under the examination of the General Assembly. There was to be a free Press in Crete, there was a proclamation of amnesty, and the cancelling of arrears of taxation. These two documents, the constitution of 1868, and the modifications of 1878, were, by the Treaty of Berlin, placed under the protection of the international law of Europe, and they thereby acquired an international character. I have made this particular observation with a view of attempting to define what is the interest of Great Britain with regard to Crete. My hon. Friend kept talking about the moral obligation of this country to Crete. What are British interests with regard to Crete? There is our interest and our duty to protect the lives and property of British subjects there, as in any other part of the world where they may be in danger. Then there is what the hon. Gentleman calls a moral obligation, 682 which I conceive to be the sentimental interest which we all naturally feel in our fellow-religionists in any and every part of the world. But it does not carry with it a right of interference. And, finally, we come to our international obligation—an obligation, how-over, which is not peculiar or unique to ourselves, but which we share with all the signatory Powers to the Treaty of Berlin—to carry out the provisions of that treaty which I have quoted. I will now resume the brief narrative of events. In 1884 and 1887 firmans were granted altering the Constitution in favour of the Cretans, one of them giving tithes from the religious endowments to the Cretan Treasury and the other giving half the customs of Crete to the Cretan Administration. Then we come to the terrible insurrection of 1889, in which hundreds of lives were lost and thousands of houses were burned or destroyed, and in which schools and churches, and, I may say, mosques in a much greater degree than churches, suffered. We are now coming to the origin of recent troubles, because in November, 1889, the Porte issued a firman which was objected to, and has been objected to ever since, by the Cretans as a suppression of the Organic Law of 1868, as an abrogation of the Halepa Convention of 1878, and as, therefore, an infringement of Article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin. This firman of 1889 altered the conditions of the appointment of the Vali. There was to be no permanent appointment for five years; the General Assembly was reduced to 57–35 Christians and 22 Mussulmans; and a new species of election by delegates instead of by population was introduced. The Judges were to be elected by the population and confirmed by the Porte—a method that seems to have been equally unpopular with both sides; the gendarmerie were to be recruited from the outside, which has been one of the most fruitful sources of trouble ever since; and the entire customs revenue was, instead of being divided between the two Exchequers, to go to the Imperial Treasury at Constantinople. In consequence of the dissatisfaction that arose in the island from this firman, depriving the people, as they thought, of the privileges they had acquired, there occurred in 1890–1 a series of abnormal incidents, which we 683 probably all remember, of pillage and murder in the island, the enactment of martial law by the Governor, a formidable agitation among the refugees in Greece, and the presence of a British squadron in Cretan waters. With reference to this point I should like to refer to a Dispatch of Mr. Biliotti, the Consul in Crete, dated March 3, 1891, and published in Parliamentary Blue-book, Turkey No. 5, 1891, and which I wish my hon. Friend opposite had read, because, coming from a man who knows the island probably better than anybody else, and who has observed a scrupulous impartiality between the two sides, it does, I think, throw a rather different light on the character of the people and the nature of the events there from that which he has conveyed to the Committee this afternoon. In this Dispatch Mr. Biliotti says that the Christians in the island are as much to blame as the Mussulmans and that there are more murders of Mussulmans than of Christians. He goes on to say that the island cannot continue in a ferment; that it has been proved by an experience of 10 years that the Cretans cannot administer their own affairs nor be governed by the Porte under the Halepa Constitution; and that if this system is to work successfully the Imperial Government require the hearty co-operation of the Christian population, which they have never received and never will obtain. Mr. Biliotti further says that the Christians are under the delusion that they can at all times reckon on the support of Europe; that the appointment of a Governor General with the assent of the Great Powers is the only measure that might establish a satisfactory and permanent state of things in the island; that if this is impossible, then that there should be temporary relief in the reform of the tribunals, the gendarmerie, and the assessment of tithes; that the Christians did nothing towards the introduction of improvements under five successive Christian Valis, and that all their time was taken up by political feuds. Again, I will not attempt to decide between the two, but I have thought it only fair to quote that side of the case to the Committee because it was, if not ignored, at any rate carefully omitted from the speech of my hon. Friend. 684 We now come down to the year 1894. In that year Caratheodori Pasha was made Vali of Crete, and under his rule, which seems to have been a considerate and prudent rule, there was the first meeting of the National Assembly that had taken place since 1889, and a number of very useful resolutions were passed by that Assembly relative to the Budget, the Courts of Justice, and other matters, and these were sent, accompanied with a number of suggestions on finance and administration from the Vali, to Constantinople. It is one of the melancholy recurring episodes of this case that there appear to have been at intervals occasions when a little wise forethought in one place or another might very easily have averted subsequent catastrophes. ["Hear, hear!"] Such an opportunity then occurred, but, unfortunately, these recommendations were all refused by the Porte, and the situation was much aggravated by the financial difficulty with regard to the payment of the gendarmerie. As a consequence of the position with which the country found itself confronted, the Turkish Government realised its mistake, gave way, and signified its assent. But it was then too late. The insurrectionary movement had already started, and in the autumn of last year the Epitropi or Committee to which reference has been made was formed. It appears from our information that this Committee, when started, was of no important or representative character. It consisted only of 14 persons, it might easily have been suppressed, and there is no reason to believe that they represented the opinion of the majority of the population. This movement gained, however, in importance and popularity, and eventually spread over a much wider area, and in November last year came the first collision between its supporters and the Government troops, and from that date to the present there have been recurring incidents of that description. As soon as we heard of these events of last year, Sir Philip Currie was instructed to make a full report to Constantinople of the gravity of the situation in Crete, and to suggest to the Porte the necessity of grappling with the serious condition of affairs, not by taking military steps, but by remedying the grievances which had called them forth. ["Hear, hear!"] I will briefly relate 685 what has happened since in the two compartments—first, what happened in the island; and, secondly, in Constantinople. As regards what happened in the island, I am afraid I cannot accept unconditionally the account given by the hon. Member. I am well aware that, having no official sources of information at his disposal, he has naturally been driven to the Press. I do not mean to say that the accounts of the correspondents in the Press are generally either tinctured by Party feeling or are based on any desire to deceive. I believe that the contrary is the case, but the information from the Consuls and the commanders of war ships is likely to be more reliable than that of newspaper correspondents. What happened in the island itself? This sporadic fighting had gone on, and a large body of Turkish troops retired at the latter part of last year to Vamos, an inland town, where they were subsequently besieged by a superior force of Christians. Throughout these troubles Consul Biliotti, who always acted in concert with the Consular representatives of other powers there—although from his experience he might be called their leader—always advocated retirement from the island of the Epitropi where they were doing no good, whilst their presence incited to violence. The Consuls agreed, and as long ago as December last they recommended retirement from the island and once again summed up the legitimate grievances of the islanders which, they said, ought to be redressed. Again, unfortunately, no action upon this Report was taken at Constantinople. The fighting and pillage continued in the island, and the convocation of the General Assembly was in consequence postponed from May to August. Then I come to the events which the hon. Member has called—I think with exaggeration—the formidable massacres of May 24th to 26th. What happened was this. It appears that, owing to the events I have described, there was a state of tension and terrorism in the island so acute that the accidental firing of a pistol-shot anywhere was looked upon by both parties as a premeditated signal for massacre. A dispute, unfortunately, arose out of the imprudent conduct of a Russian kavass, who, on leaving the town, became involved in some quarrel, drew 686 his revolver, and fired. He fired the first shot, and then firing began indiscriminately. The number of people killed was 39 or 40, between 20 and 30 being Christians and the rest Mussulmans. Looting went on for some little time.
§ *MR. CURZON
That I am not certain about. The looting could not have amounted to very much, as only 13 or 14 houses were destroyed. I do not, of course, want to depreciate what happened. At this stage the Turkish Government asked for the assistance of Her Majesty's Government in restoring order, and Consul Biliotti was instructed to negotiate in concert with his colleagues in the island. In one respect I am glad to remind the Committee they were successful, because the Turkish force at Vamos, which had been for several months besieged and almost reduced to starvation by a superior force of Christians, was relieved, although it is fair again to point out to the Committee that in the course of the relief operations, whilst the Christians lost between 30 and 40 lives, the Turks lost between 130 and 140. The latest reports from the island are of a rather more favourable nature. Without embarking upon any forecast of the future, I may say that, so far as we at present know, the situation in the island is not of such a gloomy character as seems to be indicated by my hon. Friend in his speech. I now turn to what has passed in Constantinople. It certainly has not been the fault of Her Majesty's Government if the gravity of the situation is not clearly known there. When the papers are had before the House the House will see that from the very first ample information has been had by Her Majesty's Ambassador, and subsequently by Her Majesty's Chargé d' Affaires, before; the Porte, and not only have they been urged to carry out remedial measures, but the character of those measures for which the island asked has been clearly indicated. ["Hear, hear!"]This has been no isolated action on the part of Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. He has been acting throughout in concert with his colleagues. Almost daily meetings have been held, characterised by an 687 unbroken unanimity of opinion and action between the representatives of the Powers at Constantinople, and their representations, as I have before informed the House, have taken the form of the four demands—namely, the immediate con-vocation of the Assembly, the proclamation of a general amnesty, the revival of the Halepa Convention, and the appointment of a Christian Governor—the acceptance of which by the Turkish Government I announced in reply to questions this afternoon. [Cheers.] The hon. Member and the Committee may, however, expect me to say a little more as to what the views of the Government are, and upon what they base their policy. The Government have not embarked, and they do not propose to embark, upon any isolated or exclusive action with reference to Crete. There are so many national and international interests bound up in Crete, and so much jealousy is aroused in connection with that island, that I cannot imagine a worse thing for the inhabitants on whose behalf my hon. Friend is pleading than that, owing to a revival of this international jealousy, they should suffer even worse than they have hitherto done. Whatever has been done, and whatever is being done, is being done by the combined pressure of the Powers. As far as the Powers are willing to go, so far are we willing to go with them. ["Hear, hear!"] Whatever extent of reasonable pressure they consent to apply we are willing, along with them, to consent to, but we will not go alone in this matter, and nobody in this House or in this country expects us to go alone. [Cheers.] When the hon. Member talks about the presence of British ships off the shores of Crete, and gives the House to understand that the soldiers and sailors on board the ships might act of their own accord, he must, if he had considered the matter——
§ SIR ROBERT REID
I did not mean they could act without orders from their superiors. What I did mean and do mean is that, although it would be infinitely preferable that the European Powers should act together if they could, to prevent massacres, Great Britain ought to act alone. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. CURZON
I am glad the hon. Member has defined his position, which I beg his pardon if I misunderstood. I 688 will not pursue the matter further, except to say I should be very sorry to see his policy carried out. I firmly believe, if we adopted his advice, and, contrary to the opinion and action of our colleagues, with whom we have been hitherto acting, we were to act upon our own responsibility, the result would not only be disastrous for Crete and for Greece, but to the peace of Europe at large. [Cheers.] One word about the solution which hon. Members have spoken of so eloquently. They seem to consider it is an easy thing to give Crete to Greece. I know there is a growing feeling in this House which finds it very easy to be generous with the property of others—[cheers and counter cheers]—and notably with the property of the Sultan. That is an easy virtue, but it is not synonymous with statesmanship. [Cheers.] I am astonished in these Debates to notice the number of Gentlemen on the opposite side who are perfectly ready to get up and entirely reconstruct, on sentimental lines of demarcation, the map of Europe. It is not for me to speak of what the future may lay before us. The time for determining to whom Crete shall ultimately go, if she is ever to pass from her present rule, has not arisen now, and until it does arise I do not think it behoves anybody on this Bench to discuss the matter. [Cheers.] I hope I have succeeded in bringing an impartial mind to the events so far as they have been put before me. ["Hear, hear!"] Nothing is further from my mind than to bias the opinion of the Committee one way or the other. I do not deny that the problem is still acute and still lies before us. I do not say that the prospect is rosy. I hope in my observations I have shown on the one hand, that we have made a perfectly frank and unreserved statement of our policy in this matter; and, on the other hand, I hope I have convinced hon. Members that the policy the Government have adopted and are adopting is one to which they are impelled both by their international obligations and by regard to the true interests of the island itself. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS
said he wished to support the action of his hon. and learned Friend the ex-Attorney General and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucester. Like them he wished to keep this matter out of the region of Party political 689 strife. The Library of the House was replete with Papers on the Ottoman Empire and its relation to Europe. For 50 years Europe had been trying to regulate the disintegration of the Ottoman. Empire, had carved out of it states that were now independent, and had reduced the condition of others to a state little short of independence. The attitude of Europe towards the Ottoman Empire had been such as it had never been towards any other country in Europe. There was nothing more pathetic in the whole history of European diplomacy than the appeal of Prince Leopold of Greece when he came to the throne with regard to the island of Crete. He pointed out that it ought to form part of the Greek kingdom. The Powers replied that they could not officially allow his intervention, but they assured him, as Sovereign Prince of Greece, that if the Turkish Government acted in any way repugnant to humanity in Crete they would take steps to interfere. That pledge had been most imperfectly redeemed. England had incurred special obligations in the matter, being the main agent of the European Powers in maintaining the Ottoman Empire. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not dispute the accuracy of the narrative of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries. It was to be regretted that papers on the subject were not presented earlier and oftener. The telegrams in The Times of that day and elsewhere formed the only information they possessed. Bad Government always lay at the bottom of the troubles with the Ottoman Empire. Lord Salisbury, in a famous Dispatch, in 1877 or 1878, tore the Constitution promised by the Porte at the instance of Midhat Pasha to pieces, and showed the worthlessness of the promises of the Turkish Government to carry out reforms. Good administration was what was really wanted.For forms of government let fools contest,Whate'er is best administer'd is best.Great patience had been shown towards the British Government with respect to the massacres in. Armenia. Let the Government not mistake patience for apathy. ["Hear, hear!"] When Parliament was prorogued the Government would have a free hand for some months, but their action would be carefully 690 scrutinised, and the subject would be raised again early next Session. The friends of justice and good government in Turkey were willing to be yet a little longer patient, but they earnestly hoped they would do all they could, not only to prevent further massacres in Crete, but to secure to the people of Crete the justice, freedom, and good government that they were entitled to. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, Newton)
said the speech of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had modified, if not destroyed altogether, the charges borought against the Turkish Government in regard to Crete. The hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Monk) asked that some sort of autonomy should be set up in the island. But a form of autonomy already existed there. It approximated to that ideal form of Government which hon. Gentlemen opposite were pledged to set up nearer home. [Laughter.] Crete had a Viceroy, and a Parliament, with an Opposition composed of the nationalist elements, divided into various sections and factions—[laughter]—and a loyal minority represented by the Mussulmans. [Laughter.] In addition to all that, the Cretans possessed the boon of universal suffrage, elected their own magistrates—though a large portion of the population had expressed a preference for the quartermasters under the system of court-martial—[laughter]—and were less taxed than any other subjects of the Turkish Empire, or probably than any other European country. ["Hear hear!"] The population of Crete was, roughly speaking, 300,000, of which one-third were Mussulmans and the remaining two-thirds Christians. It was universally admitted that those Christians were a turbulent and a warlike race, having very little resemblance in that respect to the Armenians, and, like all Christians, entertained, very naturally, a dislike of Turkish rule. One of the causes of the perpetually recurring disturbances in the island—which the Under Secretary had omitted to mention—was that there was strong ground for supposing that they were promoted by the Greek Government. In fact, the insurgents fought under the Greek flag, and openly avowed that their intention was to become subjects of Greece. As to which side had begun the massacres, he did not think 691 there was a penny to choose between them. For years the island had been in a state of disorder, and it was only when the disturbances assumed larger proportions that any attention was paid to the island by the rest of Europe. That was not a thing to be surprised at. The Turkish Government was not popular; but, at all events, let them be fair to the Turks and recognise that there were faults upon both sides. ["Hear, hear I "] For his own part he often wondered that the Cretans did not show a greater patience, for everybody must see that Crete was not destined to remain for ever a part of the Turkish Empire, and no doubt, when Turkey was next involved in war, the island would pass to some other Power. In fact, in the event of such a war, all the Cretans would have to do was to declare themselves Greek subjects, and Turkey would be unable to effectively intervene. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Turks were reasonable people, which, unfortunately, they were not, they would have long ago entered into negotiations for the sale of the island, which was useless to them; and he thought it would be a more dignified course on the part of the Greek Government, if, instead of secretly encouraging the Cretan insurgents, they entered openly into negotiations with the Turks for the purchase of Crete. In fact, the island might be bought up by an American or South African millionaire, with the chance of making himself king into the bargain. [Laughter.] That seemed to him to be the best solution of the Cretan difficulty. Here, then, was a chance for a rich philanthropist. [Laughter.] He was glad to hear from the Under Secretary that it was not intended to take isolated action in this question, and that the follies of last year were not to be repeated. The best course for us to pursue was to act in complete unity with the other Eruropean Powers, and make the Turks fulfil the promises they had made. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. BRYCE
said the hon. Member had given away his case in defence of the Turkish Government when he said that no Christians could expect to be protected under the Turkish Government, and that Crete would not always remain under the Sultan. The hon. Member was not justified in saying that the speech 692 of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had entirely destroyed the charges brought against the Turkish Government.
§ MR. BRYCE
No, nor modified them. ["Hear, hear!"] It was perfectly true that the Christian population of Crete was a warlike population, and that they took reprisals of the Mussulmans as the Mussulmans took reprisals of them. But the question the House had to deal with was—what could be done to prevent these recurring disorders in the island? What could be done to relieve the island from its present miseries, and prevent its becoming a danger to the peace of Europe? They did not expect that the Under Secretary should give the House, while negotiations were pending, and in the somewhat critical state of things at present prevailing, a full indication of the policy and intentions of the Government. But there were some points with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal, and upon which the House ought to have some information. In the first place there was the question of the presence of these Turkish soldiers in the island. There were about 15,000 men, and some of them, at any rate, came from parts of Armenia and Northern Syria where the massacres had taken place, and they were under the influence of the ferocious passions excited by those massacres. The general spirit of fanaticism and violence which had marked the events of the last 18 months was also felt by those of the troops who had not actually imbued their hands in blood. Moreover, there was reason to believe that these soldiers were receiving no pay, and were expected to support themselves on the inhabitants. There were all the elements of danger. There must be apprehension for the future, with these large bodies of disorderly soldiers, under violent influences, and expected to live on what they could get, being stationed in Christian villages. The presence of the ships of war offered a means of putting some check on the action of the Turks; and he should have thought that the Powers would have been justified in refusing to allow these large masses of Turkish soldiers to be sent to the island. He hoped that the presence of the men-of-war would be 693 taken advantage of by the Powers for combined action to prevent any massacre. The Under Secretary had said that the Turks had assented to the four demands which the Powers made. That assent, he understood, would go to the length of re-establishing and promising the future observance of the Organic Law. But it was not enough to have promises. If promises to reform were enough, Turkey would be the best administered State in the world. The Powers were entitled to some guarantee that the promises would be observed. He was glad to believe with the Under Secretary that the interests of the Mussulmans in the good government of Crete was scarcely less than that of the Christians; and any reforms must be in the interest of both. The fund being raised for the relief of the suffering inhabitants was an earnest that this was acknowledged. But he did not understand that any guarantees had been given; and he hoped the Under Secretary would be able to tell the House that Her Majesty's Government would urge that these promises should not be accepted without the most complete guarantee for their fulfilment. The Christians should again be put under the solemn protection of the Powers, and the Governor General of the island should be given supreme power, and should not be liable to be interfered with by the Commander-in-Chief. Further, he should be appointed with the assent of the Powers, and should not be removable without that assent. Nothing less than that would meet the needs o£ the case, and restore in some measure the confidence which had been destroyed by the abolition of the Organic Law. The Under Secretary seemed to expect something from the combined pressure of the Powers. It was impossible to share the right hon. Gentleman's sanguine view, remembering what the country was led by Lord Salisbury to expect from the combined pressure of the Powers in October last. Those hopes were utterly blasted and broken, and the most frightful massacres that Europe had heard of for many centuries followed. He hoped that the Government would take the strongest possible line in urging upon the other Powers the necessity of putting an end once and for all to the recurring dangers which the condition of Crete gave rise to. The Under Secretary 694 denied that this country had any moral obligation, or he reduced it to that sentiment which Christians might be expected to have for other members of their religion. Our moral obligation to Crete and to Eastern Christians rested on a far deeper foundation than that. It rested upon the fact that this country had been the leader among the Powers of Europe in maintaining that disgrace and scandal to civilisation—the Ottoman Empire. It was impossible for us to escape from that historic responsibility which began before the present generation of statesmen were born. It was repeated in 1830, and again at the time of the Crimean War, when we accepted the promised reforms of the Turks, which we might have known to be insufficient, and when we refused to liberate certain portions of the Christian populations. The responsibility was renewed in 1878 by the Treaty of Berlin; and the great majority of the people of this country felt that our conduct in maintaining the Turkish Empire had put a very special responsibility on us. We had interfered with the order of nature which ordained that when a Government became sufficiently bad it died out. Last autumn Lord Salisbury pointed out the natural retribution which must follow the great crimes of which the Turkish Government had been guilty. Those crimes and the consequences of them would have brought this detestable tyranny long since to an end but for the support of this country; and England, more than any other Christian Power was bound to do her best for the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and to smooth their path to ultimate deliverance from their present oppression. There were some signs already that this misgovernment was coming to a close. The Under Secretary talked about the freedom with which certain people gave away property belonging to others; but when a Government neglected all the duties of a Government, and gave to its subjects nothing but legalised anarchy, the rule of the strongest, massacre, oppression, religious persecution, and martyrdom—when such a policy was continued through many generations, the Government who pursued it lost its right to exist, and it was the duty of everyone to help it out of the world as soon as possible. There were signs that this desirable result was 695 coming about. The condition of the Turkish Government was steadily he-coming worse, and its financial position was so bad that it had great difficulty in paying its way. It was impossible to enter fully into this question of great delicacy; but if it became plain that this catastrophe which awaited the Turkish Empire could not be much longer averted, and that the Powers would have to consider whether they would have some other Sovereign or form of Government, or whether they would resort to still more drastic method then it would be well for the Powers of Europe to begin to exchange their views. Procrastination might not then be the safest course. It would only protract the sufferings of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and would not make the solution of the problem easier. The situation was attended with dangers, no doubt; but they would be softened and made less menacing if the Powers of Europe addressed themselves to the question in good time. He hoped that Crete would be saved from being the scene of an insurrection every year, and that some arrangement would be made among the Powers to prevent, not only the Turkish Government from persecuting its Christian subjects, but this grave danger to European peace.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that the admirable speech of the Under Secretary made it unnecessary for those who defended the Mussulman side of the question to say much that evening. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries was a typical example of the Christian fanatic. He defied any fanaticism ever displayed by any Mussulman to exceed that displayed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. [Laughter.] The hon. and learned Gentleman quoted The Times telegrams as the best source of information open to the general public. So they were, very often; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had not fairly quoted them. He took a few extracts from the telegrams of The Times correspondent in Athens, which was a long way from Crete, and he carefully refrained from quoting the telegrams of The Times correspondents in Crete itself, the general purport of which was quite different from that represented by the hon. and learned Gentleman. When he asked for the 696 name of the place from which a certain telegram was sent the hon. and learned Gentleman gave, unwittingly no doubt, distinctly inaccurate information to the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the telegram he quoted was sent from Crete, whereas it was sent from Athens, and by a person who could not have any real knowledge of what was going on in Crete.
§ SIR R. REID
said that when questioned he stated he believed the telegram came from Crete, and he did believe that. The place of origin was, however, most immaterial.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
remarked that the place from which the telegram was sent was most material, and if he had not taken care to disprove the assertion of the hon. Gentleman it would have gone forth that the main bulk of the charges against the Turkish Government and soldiers was based on the statement of correspondents on the spot.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said that the hon. Gentleman did not give a single authority for any statement he made. The hon. Gentleman's intervention in the Debate, no doubt, derived some force from the fact that he sat on the Ministerial side of the House. They welcomed the hon. Gentleman there. On domestic affairs he had undergone considerable conversion, but on foreign matters he represented Gladstonian Radicalism of the most pronounced type; on those matters his ideas were now as wild as they were years ago. But he did not wish to press the case against the hon. Gentleman, but desired to deal with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries, who was a splendid type of the Christian fanatic. [Laughter.] The telegram published in The Times of June 2nd showed how absolutely inaccurate was the general purport of the information the hon. and learned Gentleman gave to the House. It showed that by no means all the Cretan Christians were in favour of this insurgent movement. It showed that the insurrection was confined to a comparatively small portion of the island where there had been religious feuds for generations, and that the great majority of the Christian inhabitants were opposed 697 to the movement. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had had the smallest amount of fairness in his composition, he would have told the House that the so-called massacre at Canea arose from the fact that the Mussulmans were infuriated by the massacre of a Mussulman family consisting of father, mother, and child. There was some street fighting between Christians and Mussulmans, with the result that 17 Christians were killed and six wounded, and three Mussulmans were killed and six wounded. That was what the hon. and learned Gentleman called a massacre. There had been civil war in Crete for months. The Turkish troops had been besieged. On one occasion they lost 200 and on another occasion 80; indeed, there had been a greater loss of life amongst the Mussulmans in Crete than amongst the Christians. The burning of villages, which was seen from our warships, was the burning of Mussulman villages. Since 1891 the Christians in Crete had treated the Mussulmans with abominable cruelty; in fact, if an independent Commission could be sent through the island, it would be found that far more Mussulmans had been killed than Christians. In short, the Turkish authority could not be withdrawn from Crete without sealing the practical ruin of nearly 100,000 Mohammedans in that island. The Christians in Crete were far more intolerant towards Mussulmans than the Mussulmans towards Christians, and they had been so for generations, and whenever Her Majesty's Government undertook any settlement of the question which might involve the removal of the Turkish authority, he prayed they would see that some strong Power was put in the island which would hold the scales of justice evenly, so that the unfortunate Mussulmans would not be abandoned to the utmost cruelty and ruin. There was a very good reason for the dread and indignation which the Mussulman population felt at the prospect of the dominion of the Christian element. The Turkish Government had, as it might be in many ways, been for hundreds of years the most tolerant Government in Europe in regard to religion. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, a distinguished student of history, told them that there had not been such atrocities for a hundred years as these massacres. The statement was 698 ridiculous. This attack on Turkey was, to a large extent prompted by extreme fanaticism. Why, the other day the Daily News published the story that trunks full of ears—women's ears with trinkets in—had been found. A more preposterous story was never told. It had also been said that there had been found strings of human eyes, as if it were possible to string human eyes together. It was also stated that there had been the most horrible atrocities at Zeitoun, whereas the troops there behaved most admirably, for although the Zeitoun Christians had massacred 500 Turkish troops there was no retaliation. He heard with great satisfaction the statement of the Under Secretary that the Government did not propose to take any isolated action against Turkey or Turkish administration in Crete. Nothing could be more unfortunate than that a British fleet should be employed to disturb the peace of Europe by such action. He sincerely hoped the conditions of Crete might be improved, that peace might be established and maintained, and that the Government would continue in the course they had had down for themselves—namely, the course of seeing that equal justice was done to the Mussulmans as to the Christians.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
did not know if he should compliment the hon. Gentleman on his courage in standing up for the Ottoman Empire. He was glad to say the hon. Member stood almost alone. [Sir E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT: "You always say that."] He did not know what the hon. Member meant by that interruption, seeing that this was the first time he had spoken. The hon. Gentleman was under the impression that such a thing as the death of a Christian, except in open warfare, had not occurred in Crete at all. He was quite content to rest that part of the case on the admissions of the Under Secretary, who took a very different view of the state of things in Crete. Now, he thought it desirable that the Debate should partake as little as possible of a Party character. The Debate itself would do a great deal of good. It would show the people of Crete and Europe that there were in this House those who, irrespectively of political Parties, were in sympathy with the efforts of the people of Crete to 699 obtain their liberties and rights. It was a most happy thing that the Debate was initiated by a supporter of the Government, and supported by a Member of the late Administration. In regard to the feelings of the population, the hon. Member for Sheffield stated that the Greek Christian population was not unanimous. He gave that a most emphatic contradiction. He believed nine out of ten Greek Christians, if not every single Greek Christian, were in favour of a change of government in the island. He never met a Greek outside Greece who was not in in favour of the cession of Crete to Greece. It might be true that the Greeks in the Archipelago encourage the Greeks of Crete. Why should not one Greek help another? Why should not a Greek who had escaped from Turkish oppression help another Greek who still groaned under it? There were one or two things said by the Under Secretary which he beard with some disappointment. In the first place he took up the attitude as between the different component parts of the population, it was six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. That was a very superficial view. What they ought to direct their minds to was not a struggle between warring creeds, but the outside authority which produced this internecine struggle. If they had a minority on one side and a majority on the other of different creeds, and if the supreme authority encouraged the minority and oppressed the majority, the responsibility for the resulting strife was not that of the warring creeds, but of the Government which embittered and embroiled their relationship. He was not, however, in favour of isolated action by this country, and in that part of his contention the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries went a little too far. At the same time the bluejackets of this country ought not to be placed close to the scene of strife and possible massacre, with their hands tied and left idle spectators of murder, rapine, and anarchy. The danger and difficulty of the situation he know, and to that extent he sympathised with the position of Her Majesty's Government; it was the jealousy between the different Christian Powers. He had always held that the Armenian massacres were the result of the joint betrayal by Europe; but it was well this Debate should give 700 the idea that this country would back up any other Power in any effort to do justice to this unhappy people. He did hope that this would have the effect of strengthening the hands of the different Governments, and above all he hoped that the Powers would not be satisfied with mere promises. As to the new promises he did not attach any importance whatever to them. The Christian Governor would not be in supreme authority; his hands would be tied by the Turkish military chief. He hoped the unfortunate people of Crete would not be induced to lay down their arms until their liberties were guaranteed, not by Turkey, but by Europe. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. R. PIERPOINT (Warrington,)
referred to the island of Samos, which possessed the most perfect example of Home Rule which could be found in the world, and he confessed that under this system it was a happy and prosperous island. But the Christians had taken care not to have any Mussulmans there. All the Mussulmans had been cleared out of the island, and the Christians had it all to themselves. He believed that neither Jews nor Armenian Christians were allowed to live in the island. He might also remind the Committee that there was a very small garrison on the island of Samos. The tribute to the Porte was £10,000 a year, for which the islanders received a grarrison and a gunboat. This island had a Christian cross on its flag. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to hear the hon. Member urge that there should be no isolated action taken in this matter of Crete. It was extremely interesting to hear the talk about the moral duty of this country with regard to Crete. If they were not careful they would set the whole of the East in a blaze, and not only the whole of the East, but the whole of Europe. They would open the whole Eastern Question. They would have France claiming Egypt, Austria Salonica, Russia Constantinople, and all this and more because of one small island with a population of not more than that of one large town. Was it worth while?
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said that even with regard to the scheme now put forward by the united Powers, he trusted the Powers would 701 remain united. At present the constitution of Crete was better than the remainder of the Turkish Empire, with the exception of Samos. It was most desirable that all the Great Powers should be united, but with regard to action it was obvious that some of the Powers, two or three, might act with the concurrence of the others. This might be done without waiting for the others. The hon. Member said that it was not possible to consider the annexation of Crete by Greece. It seemed that there were negotiations, not limited to reforms, already going on with regard to the future of Crete, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might be able to affirm or deny that statement. It seemed to him that annexation would involve less international friction than the alternative course. In Bosnia, as the outcome of the removal of the Sultan's rule, Christians and Moslems were getting on very well together. He agreed with Mr. Monk that opportunities had been lost in 1830 and in 1868. At the Congress of Berlin, also, an opportunity was lost, when the annexation of Crete to Greece was asked for, and no notice was taken of the request. He hoped the present occasion would not be allowed to pass by without something being done. Why should we wait for the question to be settled by the outbreak of war, when, by united action the Powers could bring about a peaceful settlement?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he had placed on the Paper a notice for the reduction of the Vote with the object of eliciting from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs some information as to the present position of affairs in the Soudan, and the object and aims of the present expedition there. By questions he had endeavoured to acquire this information, but the un-satisfactury result of his inquiries led him to adopt this means. On March 6th the right hon. Gentleman, in an interesting but short statement, gave reasons which he said had prompted the Government to embark upon those military 702 operations now proceeding in the Soudan. First he said the expedition was undertaken in consequence of information that had reached the Egyptian Government as to the movements of bands of Dervishes on the Egyptian frontier, the forward movement, he said was in anticipation of a Dervish attack, and in the second place it was undertaken; with the object of affording relief to the Italian garrison besieged in Kassala. These two reasons held good until the end of that month, but on March the 30th the right hon. Gentleman declared it was true that the Sultan had been informed by the Khedive that the expedition had been ordered because it was considered the time was opportune for the reconquest of Dongola. The two statements could not be reconciled, they were wholly different. The right hon. Gentleman was asked what was the ultimate object of the expedition, how far it was intended to make the advance, and his reply was that the troops would advance to Akasheh, about a third of the distance between Wady Haifa and Dongola. When asked if the expedition would go to Dongola or beyond, the right hon. Gentleman replied it was unusual to publish the plans of a campaign in advance, and all he would say was that the expedition would advance to Akasheh. The expedition had successfully reached Akasheh, and surely now it was reasonable that those interested should again ask whether it was intruded to proceed to Dongola, to stop there, or go beyond. The right hon. Gentleman could answer the question in a very few moments. Much to-night had been heard of the unwisdom of this country taking isolated action, but we had taken isolated action in the Soudan, and that without any adequate reason whatever, isolated action calculated in the highest degree to arouse the jealousy and ill-feeling of France and other European nations. It seemed to him an extraordinary thing that the danger of isolated action should be urged as a reason for not actually interposing to prevent horrors in Armenia and Crete, and yet in the Soudan we took isolated action with the direct result of rousing a hostile feeling in France. The right hon. Gentleman had been repeatedly pressed to say if Lord Cromer advised or favoured this expedition, but he refused to say 703 yes or no. He said the military authorities in Egypt had recommended the advance, but he would not say if Lord Cromer was in favour of that policy or not. There was a wide-spread feeling throughout the country that this greatest authority on Egyptian affairs the Government had at its disposal, Lord Cromer, was totally opposed to this forward movement in the Soudan. It would be satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman would make a statement answering the questions, how far the expedition was intended to proceed, whether it was proposed permanently to enlarge the Egyptian frontier by the annexation of those districts in which the troops were now operating. It had been asserted on indisputable authority that the frontier at Wady Haifa was for military purposes all that could be desired, that it was safe, presented a good line of defence, and that it was undesirable to go beyond. Was it intended to advance the frontier? Was it intended to go to Khartoum; in short, what was the ultimate object of the expedition? A further question the right hon. Gentleman was asked as to whether these military operations were carried on under the British flag or under the Turkish flag, and it appeared that British officers and a British force operated in the Soudan under the crescent flag of Turkey. He was not particularly interested in the fortunes of the expedition, or greatly concerned for the reputation of this country, but as an Irish representative he uttered his most emphatic protest against military operations being carried out by a British force, supported to some extent by Irish taxation, under the Turkish flag. It was horrible to reflect that at this very time, when the House had been discussing the atrocities and massacres in Armenia and Crete, in almost every part of the Ottoman Empire, British officers should be serving under this same crescent flag of Turkey. If the determination was to reconquer the Soudan, at least let it be done under the British flag. Probably the right hon. Gentleman would repeat the reasons given earlier in the Session for this expedition, but would he turn his attention to almost the last Dispatch on the subject from the Italian Government, which foreshadowed an intention on the part of that Government to abandon Kassala. 704 The reasons given were not adequate, they were not believed, and he repeated what was said in this country, and what was generally believed in France, the real object of this expedition was to find a reason for the prolonged occupation of Egypt. Long ago the British Government pledged itself to evacuate in a reasonable time, and now, at the end of many years, a fresh expedition was organised, and the occupation became indefinite. He would be content if the Government would give the fullest and latest information of their intentions with regard to the Soudan expedition.
After the usual interval, Mr. STUART-WORTLEY took the Chair.
§ MR. J. W. SIDEBOTHAM (Cheshire, Hyde)
expressed his dissatisfaction with an answer which had been given by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the subject of the confiscation of English newspapers sent to Turkey. There was, he explained, a British Post Office at Constantinople, through which all English correspondence passed, and newspapers, books, and periodicals could be held back on the application of the Ottoman Government. The course of procedure was this. The Turkish Ambassador in Great Britain telegraphed to the Government at Constantinople when any article hostile to the Turkish Power appeared, and the Foreign Minister in Turkey sent to our Ambassador asking him to give notice to the Post Office to hold back the book, periodical, or newspaper in which the article was published. Hardly a day passed but some English journal was stopped in this way. There were other foreign Post Offices in Constantinople besides ours, but for the last 18 months the French, German, and Austrian Embassies had refused to accede to requests that journals sent to their Post Offices should be detained. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said that we must either comply with the demands of the Ottoman Government or withdraw our Post Office from Constantinople. The French, German, and Austrian Governments, however, were not made to adopt either of these alternatives, and papers were delivered at their Post Offices every day notwithstanding the protests of Turkish Ministers, The practice of keeping back 705 British journals was an intolerable humiliation to this country. At Salonica there was no British Post Office, and letters and books coming from this country were delivered or withheld according to the inclination of the Turkish officials. If, however, a letter was addressed viâ Paris it was delivered without difficulty through the French Post Office at Salonica. The Austrian Government had also a Post Office there. Why had we not one? That was a real grievance requiring remedy.
§ *MR. CURZON
regretted that his hon. Friend had not given him notice that he intended to raise this question.
§ MR. SIDEBOTHAM
explained that he was not aware until that day that the subject was pertinent to the Foreign Office Vote.
§ *MR. CURZON
said that he did not know it either. [Laughter.] The complaint made by the hon. Member with reference to Salonica was new to him, and all he could do was to promise to inquire into the matter. With regard to the question of the Post Office at Constantinople, he thought that if his hon. Friend had been more familiar with the history of the case he would have refrained from describing the existing state of things as a disgrace to this country. The question of the rights that we could claim in connection with our Post Office at Constantinople had more than once been submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown, and was considered in that House in 1862, when the then Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs gave a very clear explanation of the rights and obligations of the British Government. He had no doubt that the answer which he had himself given on this subject was the only answer that was consistent with the legal interpretation of our position. We did not enjoy the advantages of this Post Office by virtue of a treaty. It was a privilege conceded to us by the Turkish Government, and therefore that Government was entitled to object to the introduction into the country through this Post Office of anything that it regarded as objectionable. It would be a departure from international usage if the Post Office were used for purposes which were contrary to the law of the country in which it was situated. His hon. Friend said that the French, German, and 706 Austrian Post Offices had facilities which we did not have, or which, if we had them, we did not exercise. This was the first time he had heard of it. According to such knowledge as he possessed, the foreign Post Offices at Constantinople exercised, upon application from the Porte, exactly the same prohibition with regard to the introduction of newspapers as the British Post Office did.
§ MR. W. REDMOND moved, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £4,000, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State," in order to elicit an explanation from the Under Secretary as to the policy of the Government in the Soudan.
§ *MR. CURZON
said he did not know that he could give the hon. Member much satisfaction, because he had invited him at an earlier hour to enter into a reiteration of the defence of the policy of the Government in Egypt and the Soudan. The House had already on three previous occasions discussed that policy at very considerable length; and if it was to be again challenged, and to be made the subject of Debate, without disputing the right of the hon. Member to raise the question, he ventured to say that a more appropriate occasion than the present ought to be selected.
§ *MR. CURZON
accepted the assurance of the absolute independence of the hon. Gentleman, but submitted that this question ought not to be raised unless in a fuller House than was at present assembled and in a form which commended itself to the Opposition. The hon. Member said that there were some discrepancies in the statements he had made in the House on the matter. There was no such discrepancy. On the first occasion he was called upon to speak in connection with this subject he pointed out that this expedition up the Valley of the Nile was undertaken in the interests of Egypt and in order to save the frontiers from the danger with which they were threatened. That statement was true, and from that danger the Government had already in a large 707 measure saved Egypt. He also stated that it was designed to relieve the Italians from the position in which they found themselves at Kassala. That statement was also true; and by their action the Government had afforded substantial relief to the Italians. He also stated that the ultimate objective of that expedition was Dongola. That also was true, and therefore he saw no inconsistency between his utterances and subsequent events. He saw no occasion to repeat what he had already said in defence of our policy in the Soudan.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
thought the right hon. Gentleman adopted a tone which was not calculated to facilitate business or make matters easy for himself or his colleagues. ["Hear, hear!"] A more astounding doctrine he had never heard uttered than that a private Member was not entitled to raise a discussion unless his Leaders were there in full force, and unless the Front Opposition Bench was packed. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that he owned no more allegiance to the Gentlemen who posed as Leaders on the Front Opposition Bench—Gentlemen who very seldom led anybody or anything or anywhere—[laughter]—than he did to the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues on the Government Bench. He thought he could prove from "Hansard" that there was great discrepancy between the statements of the right hon. Gentleman made from time to time with reference to the objects of this expedition. Was this expedition undertaken, as was first stated by the right hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of guarding the frontier of Egypt and protecting the Egyptians from the raids of the Dervishes; or, as in the second statement of the right hon. Gentleman, was this expedition undertaken for the purpose of reconquering the province of Dongola? Had the Governments of Europe been consulted or informed with regard to the intentions of the Government? Far from being desirous of relief at Kassala the Italians were at present in favour of evacuating that place, and the last Dispatch from the Italian Government said that if Kassala was to be occupied by Italian troops it would only be until the autumn. This showed that the Italians were anxious to evacuate Kassala. What, then, was the object of going on 708 with the expedition if it was not permanently to extend the frontier of Egypt beyond Wady Halfa? Every person who knew the country was unanimous in declaring that it would be a most foolish policy in the interest of Egypt to push the Egyptian frontier beyond Wady Halfa. It was all that the Egyptian Government could do at present, after many years of trouble, to govern Egypt proper and hold their own; but probably they would hear that the next move would be to Khartoum. As one who had visited Egypt he could not fail to be interested in the welfare and condition of the people. He was not prepared to deny that a good deal had been done during the British occupation to improve the condition of the Egyptians. He was in Egypt shortly after the bombardment of Alexandria, and he had been there recently, and he knew of his own personal knowledge, therefore, that much improvement had been effected. But whatever we had done in restoring order and confidence in Egypt would be entirely destroyed if the Egyptian Government were encouraged to enter upon useless and costly expeditions such as the present one to Dongola. Who could deny that the French people had fair ground to complain, after all the pledges we had given them to evacuate Egypt, that the real object of this expedition was to make it impossible for England to evacuate the country for many years to come? He believed himself that this was one of the objects of the expedition; if it were not so, a different course would be adopted. The Egyptians should draw a frontier at Wady Haifa and remain in their own country, and in a reasonable time a state of affairs might be brought about that would enable England to keep her word to France and honourably leave the country. But if this expedition was gone on with it would only embroil Egypt in troubles for years to come, and would undoubtedly strengthen and increase the suspicion already entertained on the Continent as to our real motives in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman ought to say why the expedition was to go on, especially as he had admitted that the objects for which it was launched had been accomplished, namely, the Italians at Kassala had been relieved and the Dervishes had been 709 driven off the Egyptian frontier. Was it intended to reconquer permanently the territories of the Soudan for Egypt? There was another point in regard to which he put a question, and the right hon. Gentleman had given no reply. Were those operations being carried out under the Turkish flag? [" Hear, hear."] It was important to know whether this was the fact or not. It was humiliating to ask an officer of the British Army to fight in this expedition under the flag of the Turk, beneath which the most atrocious massacres and infamies ever known had been perpetrated. ["Hear, hear."] If England had undertaken the responsibility of the expedition, let it be done openly and honourably under her flag. Finally, he again asked the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the two questions he had previously put to him, namely, that the objects for which the expedition was started having been achieved—the relief of the Italians at Kassala, and the danger of attack on the Egyptian frontier by the Dervishes having been removed—why the expedition was being pushed on from Wady Haifa to Dongola, and whether it was intended permanently to occupy those territories?
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
said that several months had passed since the expedition was started, and the Government having now had some experience of the effect of the advance into the Soudan, he confessed he should like to know what they had to say of the present condition of affairs. So far as he could see the position really was unchanged. Those who opposed the expedition at the beginning had the same grounds for opposing it now, only that those grounds had been strengthened by subsequent events. It still remained the fact that, according to the opinion of all travellers and experts, Wady Haifa was an excellent frontier, and that no other equal to it could be found in the Soudan. But it had been decided to cross and bridge over the desert to Dongola, and then a great mistake would be made. He did not forget the speech made in the House by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. H. M. Stanley) on the question, and it could not be denied that he thoroughly understood the matter. The hon. Member said that if they went to 710 Dongola they would not be able to stay there, and would be forced on to Khartoum. What reason was there to suppose that when they got to Khartoum they would be in a better position to stop there than at Dongola? The same forces which obliged them to go on from Dongola to Khartoum, would urge them on to the annexation of the whole province of Darfur, and so on until the whole of the Soudan was occupied. The Government had never stated the object of the expedition in pushing on beyond Wady Haifa. What was their purpose in now pushing forward right into the Soudan? There was no gold in the Soudan, and no considerable amount of trade to be looked for there. From a British point of view, therefore, he could not perceive the object of the expedition. A very strong feeling in favour of the suppression of the slave trade had existed in England for generations, and would continue to exist—[cheers]—and he for one should be glad for this country to undertake considerable obligations and considerable liabilities if he could hope that by doing so they might suppress the slave trade. But it was the opinion of the travellers that we could not get at the hotbed of that trade and suppress it by entering the Soudan from the north. The best and nearest way to get at the centre of the trade was by the south and through Uganda, and it appeared to him that unless we took that route it would be generations before we could get to the hotbed of the slave trade in the equatorial provinces. He would remind the Committee of the disadvantages of this expedition to England. In January last we were threatened with foreign complications to an extent that had not been experienced since the Napoleonic wars, and we then made the discovery that in face of this almost unprecedented hostility the Empire was stronger than they expected. Our position then gave rise to a famous phrase which he thought had been inconsiderately ridiculed on both sides of House. It was a phrase first used by Sir John Foster, of Canada, when he said that this Empire, which was jeered at by certain foreign countries—and he was referring particularly to Germany—for being isolated, was "splendidly isolated." [Hear, hear!"] That meant that as long as this country 711 was isolated from continental complications, so long could it count on the absolute solidarity of the British Empire and the support of all their self-governing colonies. But there was nothing that would be so likely to alienate their colonies as to lead them to suppose that their connection with the Empire was likely to lead them into complications in continental quarrels with which they had no concern, and which might expose them to wars in which they had no interest. The difficulties they had to meet in the suspicion and hostility with which the continental Powers regarded their attitude in the matter of Armenia and Crete must be augmented by the action taken by the Government in the Soudan, and this must increase the difficulties of Her Majesty's Government in carrying a united front to bring overwhelming pressure to bear on the Sultan's Government. The Colonial Secretary had stated that the principal reason for the advance into the Soudan was an endeavour to assist Italy. He could safely say that there was no Power in Christendom, except perhaps the United States of America, that he would so desire the policy of this country to benefit and support as the Italian nation. The struggles of Italy for freedom formed probably one of the most heroic pages to be found either in history or fiction, and these struggles had taught many English politicians, of whom he was one, to hold the most cardinal point of their political creed—the policy of Home Rule. Therefore, the interests of Italy must always be of interest to any Englishman or Scotchman, but they had the authoritative statement of Italian statesmen, that so far from benefiting Italy by their advance they were doing it the worst disservice they possibly could. From the point of view of helping Italy; from the point of view of British interests and of Imperial interests; from the point of view of Egypt, who at least ought not to be required to pay the Bill for any policy they might indulge in for the benefit of Italy; from the point of view of keeping themselves free from foreign complications and of not weakening what power they had to abate the horrors of Turkish misrule in Armenia and Crete, it seemed to him that this policy of advance in the Soudan was utterly to be deprecated.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
protested against the strange and novel doctrine had down by the Under Secretary, who complained that because the House was not full and the Opposition Benches crowded the hon. Member should have thought it right to raise a question of this character.
§ *MR. CURZON
said that was not at all the case. He did not complain for one moment that the hon. Member should raise this or any other question which he thought deserved attention, and he endeavoured within the limits of a few minutes to answer him. But he said that he did not feel himself called upon, without a direct challenge from the Front Opposition Bench, to repeat at any length a vindication of the conduct of the Government with regard to the Soudan.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said that was a matter which the right hon. Gentleman must determine for himself, but he would remind him that they were taking advantage of the natural time and opportunity for discussing this question of the Soudan. This was the only time during the Session which they would have for speaking on the question of the administration of the Foreign Office and of raising a question of this character, and he could only express his disappointment that the Leaders of the Opposition were not in their proper places. They had had a repetition of the different reasons in connection with this expedition. They had had a reiteration of the reason of the importance of the frontier of Egypt; of the question of assistance to Italy by the holding of Kassala, and they had had the statement that Dongola was the objective of the expedition. He would like to say a word on each of these points. His hon. Friend who had just spoken had said that practically every person whose opinion was of any value in this matter had declared himself against this advance. He might have gone a little farther, and said that the one man of all whose opinion ought to command attention in this matter, that of Lord Cromer, was not before them. A statement which he ventured to make on a former occasion, that Lord Cromer had never taken the responsibility of advising this advance, was not denied by the First Lord of the Treasury, and, in the face of the absence of such a denial 713 from a representative of the Government, he thought they were entitled to press now and upon every occasion for the reasons and considerations which had induced the Government to set aside the opinion of their own Minister in Egypt. With regard to the reason of assistance to Italy, he would remind the Committee that papers of vital importance were communicated to the Italian Parliament, and they had only been able to get them through the medium of the Italian Green-book. He desired to press the right hon. Gentleman for a little further information upon this subject. So far as the debates in the Italian Parliament had gone up to the present time, they showed there was a total absence of appreciation of their conduct in this matter. The statement of the representative of the Italian Foreign Office was that Her Majesty's Government had taken the initiative in this matter, and that they had never made an appeal to the British Government to make this advance. In face of a statement of that character, he thought they were entitled to some fuller information than they had yet received as to the considerations which induced the Government to believe that the advance was likely to be helpful to or appreciated by Italy. He would also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether they were not to have communicated to the House the Dispatch, or whatever the right hon. Gentleman liked to call it, which passed between the British Foreign Office and the Italian Foreign Office relative to the publication of the recent Italian Green-book. Further, were all the papers in the Italian Green-book to be presented to Parliament in English? The Under Secretary said that the objective of the expedition was Dongola; but the other day Lord Salisbury said that Dongola was the objective only inasmuch as it was on the road to Khartoum. Did the right hon. Gentleman represent the opinions of his Chief? There was an announcement in the Press that the Connaught Bangers had been ordered to the front. Was there any foundation for that assertion? And had there been any alteration in the general intention of the Government, stated earlier in the Session, not to employ British troops in this expedition? Was it still the intention of the Government not to call on 714 the British taxpayer for any of the expenses in connection with this expedition? The ordinary Egyptian resources could not last for long. Many people were greatly surprised that such an important step should have been taken on the blundering assumption that Egyptian money would be available.
§ *MR. CURZON
said that all questions connected with the cost of this expedition and the sources from which it would be defrayed had better be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As to the question about the Connaught Rangers, he had not himself received any information on the point. The hon. Member asked whether the House would have the communications, which the hon. Member believed to have taken the form of a Dispatch, from the English to the Italian Government with reference to the publication of the Italian Green-book. No such Dispatch was addressed to the Italian Government, and, therefore, there was no need to present it to Parliament.
§ *MR. CURZON
said that we had an Ambassador in Rome through whom communications were made. [Cheers.] The hon. Member asked whether the Dispatch in the Italian Green-book would be rendered into English. If the right hon. Gentleman had looked at the Green-book he would have found that it was there printed in English. [Laughter and cheers.]
§ *MR. CURZON
said that there was only one Dispatch, and that was published in English in the Italian Green-book. He saw no necessity for repeating the information which the hon. Gentleman could get elsewhere. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for West Clare had asked why "we" were marching under the Turkish flag. "We" were not marching under that flag at all. This was not a British but an Egyptian expedition—[cheers]—conducted by Egyptian troops, fighting under the flag of their own sovereign the Khedive. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the officers?"] There was nothing remarkable about that; he did not see under what other flag they could fight. As to 715 where the expedition was going, he had already stated that the objective was Dongola. The next question of the hon. Member was, "If you go to Dongola, are you going to stop there" The answer was, Yes. [Laughter and cheers.]
§ MR. W. REDMOND
said that the right hon. Gentleman had adopted a tone which he must describe as extremely flippant, and which was not calculated to facilitate the business of the House. Did the right hon. Gentleman really mean to maintain that because an important Dispatch of the English Prime Minister was printed in a foreign Green-book, it was not to be supplied to Members of Parliament, but that they were to go to Rome to ransack the publications of the Italian Parliament? They were told when the expedition was landed that it was to relieve the Italians at Kassala and then guard the Egyptian frontier from marauding Dervishes. Now they were told for the first time that the object of the expedition was to occupy Dongola and all the intervening territories permanently. That put a totally different complexion on the whole matter. Many Members who considered it, if not necessary, desirable, to undertake the expedition for the relief of the Italians or safeguard the Egyptian frontier, would take an exactly opposite view when they learnt that the real object of the expedition was to permanently occupy Dongola and the country from Wady Haifa to Dongola. How would they ever evacuate Egypt when they were making their task and that of the Egyptian Government ten times greater than before by extending the influence of the Egyptian Government to Dongola? They could not stop there. No one who had the slightest knowledge of these territories and the circumstances surrounding them but would agree with the hon. Member for Lamboth that it would be impossible to stay at Dongola, and that having reached there it would be necessary to push on to Khartoum. The remaining of the expedition in Dongola would make it more unpopular than it was before. If British forces were permanently to occupy Dongola they ought to be told what part the British Government was to have in the occupation. The Under Secretary said this was not a British but an Egyptian expedition. 716 So far from its being an Egyptian expedition it was organised in the first instance by the British Government, and they dragged the Khedive into it. The Sultan had to demand from the Khedive an explanation of the whole affair, and the Khedive in his explanation to the Sultan let the cat out of the bag and made a statement, which was now made in the House for the first time, that the object of the expedition was to reconquer the whole province of Dongola and extend the Egyptian frontier. In addition to the iniquity of the expedition generally, there was the abiding humiliation of asking men who enlisted in this country and took the Queen's Commission to fight for this country, to fight with the filthy flag of the Turkish Empire flying over their heads. The Under Secretary had refused to answer him as to the attitude of Lord Cromer. It was notorious that Lord Cromer objected altogether to the expedition. Military men in Egypt might have been in favour of it. They were generally in favour of expeditions at all times, places, and circumstances; but Lord Cromer, who was a diplomatist and understood the situation in Egypt, set his face against it, and the House of Commons was entitled to ask whether it was a fact that this expedition for the permanent annexation of the province of Dongola had been undertaken in defiance of the opinion of Lord Cromer. If so it was a monstrous thing. He thought the right hon. Gentleman should make some statement as to the present position of the negotiations in regard to the disputed territory in Venezuela. [Laughter.] He did not know why that matter should be regarded as a joke by hon. Members opposite. It was a long time since any definite information had been given about the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry sitting at Washington. He would like to know whether the Government had any information as to when the Commission would issue its Report; also whether they were going to accept its findings, or refer the question in dispute to arbitration.
§ MR. DALZIEL
thought that those of them who were not always guided by the action of their Leaders and preferred to adopt an independent attitude in some things had reason to complain of the 717 conduct of the representative of the Foreign Office. When they put questions at Question time they got from the right hon. Gentleman answers that practically gave no information—[laughter]—and now, on the Vote for the Foreign Office, when they naturally expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have full information on all points so as to render questions unnecessary for the rest of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman complained that the matter should have been raised at all. On the most vital point of the policy of the expedition in the Soudan the right hon. Gentleman confessed he knew nothing, and when asked to give some information as to the probable cost of the expedition, how much already had been spent upon it, and where the rest of the money was to come from, the right hon. Gentleman exclaimed, "That is a point I hardly care to trust myself upon; you must ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer." Then, why was not the Chancellor of the Exchequer present? Why was he not sent for in order that this information might be obtained? Surely this was a matter which vitally concerned the Department of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why, then, was not the right hon. Gentleman sent for. [Laughter.] The matter seemed to be amusing to hon. Gentlemen opposite; but this campaign was going to cost money. It was said it was Egyptian money; but the House had no information about that. He asked what would be the probable cost of the expedition; how much money had already been spent, where was the rest of the money to be found if the Egyptian fund were exhausted; and would the cost ultimately fall upon the British taxpayer? But the Chancellor of the Exchequer was conveniently absent, and the Under Secretary dare not trust himself to answer. He had also asked as to the authenticity of the telegram from Cairo that the Connaught Rangers had been ordered to the front, and the right hon. Gentleman said, "I know nothing; you must inquire elsewhere." Then there was the question of the Dispatch to the Italian Government. He had asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would furnish the House with a copy of the representation made to the Italian Government in reference to the publication of 718 the Italian Green-book. The right hon. Gentleman first said there was no such Dispatch, but a few minutes later he admitted that there was a Dispatch to our Ambassador at Rome. Why should the House be treated with such curt replies? Did the right hon. Gentleman think in his cheek that he was master of the House of Commons? The Under Secretary admitted that there was an important Dispatch published in the Italian Green-book which had not been published in this country up to the present time. He understood the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary, in the Debate some little time back, gave a definite pledge that that Dispatch would be published here. The Under Secretary, however, now said, "Oh, if you want the Dispatch you must go to the Italian people; why should I provide information which you can get elsewhere?" They had now the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs admitting that the Dispatch was only available in the Italian Green-book presented to the Italian Parliament! He did not know that they ever had such a position. So far as foreign affairs were concerned it was quite unprecedented, and it was very nearly time the right hon. Gentleman should be instructed to treat the House of Commons with a little fuller information on foreign affairs. They had now the right hon. Gentleman's statement that they were going to remain at Dongola, thus throwing over his chief, Lord Salisbury, who had announced that Dongola was important because of its position in the direction of Khartoum. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that Dongola was the objective. Was that the final objective, and could not the Under Secretary on this, which was, perhaps, the last opportunity of discussing the, Foreign Office Vote, tell them what the reasons were for the expedition? Where was the money to come from if the Egyptian funds ran out, and were Egyptian troops going to be employed? The right hon. Gentleman said this was not a British expedition. Were they going to spend British money and employ British soldiers? If they had a statement from the Government that they were neither going to spend British money nor employ British soldiers, he, for one, should have very little further 719 to say on the subject. He asked the First Lord of the Treasury, was he going to allow this Vote to pass without giving the Committee one atom of information on the several points that had been raised?
§ MR. MORTON
observed that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had used an expression in answer to the previous speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy of so far-reaching a character that he would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had present to his mind the logical consequences of such a reply. When his hon. Friend asked where the money was to come from for the expenses of the Soudan expedition, the Under Secretary said that that question ought to be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had officially nothing to do with Egyptian finance or Indian finance, but had solely to do with the finance of the United Kingdom. It seemed to him, therefore, that logically the statement of the right hon. Gentleman amounted to this—that the whole of the expenses of the Soudan expedition was to come out of the taxation of the United Kingdom. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the first time any suggestion of this kind had been made by a Member of the Government, and he should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman really meant to say that the whole or part of the expenses of the expedition was to come out of the taxation of of the United Kingdom? ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
remarked that the hon. Members for Kirkcaldy and East Clare appeared to think that inadequate information had been given by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with regard to the expedition to the Soudan. With reference to its object he thought it would be fully admitted, after the speeches which had been made in that House and also in another place—the Debates of which were well-known public property—that there had never been any question of going forward beyond Dongola and then retiring. If the hon. Members would look back on what had been said they would find the Government always said that the objective of the expedition was Dongola, and he remembered the Secretary of State for the Colonies stating 720 with great explicitness where they meant to go and where they meant to stay. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. W. REDMOND
desired to say he had taken the trouble to read the Debates on this subject, and, indeed, in the first speech he made that evening he almost quoted the exact words of the Under Secretary, who distinctly stated that it was the intention of the Government to order an advance to Akasheh, and after that future operations would depend upon circumstances, and that he could not unfold the plan of campaign. He said nothing whatever about Dongola. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
thought if the hon. Member would refresh his memory he would find that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as well as other Members of the Government, had more than once stated that the objective of the expedition was Dongola, and there had been very explicit statements that, if they got there, there they intended to remain. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had rather reproached the Under Secretary for not having given him an explicit statement with regard to the finances of the expedition and the sources from which the expenditure necessary for the expedition would come. The case stood thus: This was in the Egyptian interest, and should be carried out at the cost of Egypt. If it should happen—which he did not for a moment anticipate—that the case should arise that England had to come to the financial assistance of Egypt, oven remotely, of course the House of Commons would have to be consulted and taken fully into confidence before any such responsibility was undertaken by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] When the hon. Member asked for a specific estimate of the amount of expenditure, he need hardly say that, while that could be made for works of a defined character, it was impossible that any estimate could be furnished in regard to a military expedition.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
had not got the figures with him, but if the hon. Member would put a question to the Under Secretary for 721 Foreign Affairs or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there would be no difficulty in finding out what had been the cost up to date. Under these circumstances he hoped the Committee would now allow them to take this Vote, so that they could proceed to some other questions in Class 5 connected with the Foreign Office Vote. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. W. REDMOND
did not think the right hon. Gentleman could accuse any hon. Member of unduly prolonging the Debate. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "Hear, hear!"] When the right hon. Gentleman was not present he asked the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs a few questions, and that right hon. Gentleman practically said in reply that he ought not to raise the questions because his Leaders in the House were not present. That got his back up. [Laughter.] All that he asked now was that the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to answer his question respecting Venezuelan affairs.
§ *MR. CURZON
said he had no desire to get the hon. Gentleman's back up—[laughter]—and after the warning he had received he would not attempt to do so in the future. With respect to the Venezuelan negotiations, he hoped that before the Session was closed the Government might be in a position to take the House fully into their confidence. The reason why he deprecated discussion at the present time was that they were now in communication with the American Government as to the publication of the correspondence which had passed between them and Her Majesty's Government with reference to the matter. They hoped that in the course of the next two or three weeks that correspondence might be had before the House, and obviously the House would then be in a much better position to form a judgment than they would be if the Government were to make observations now—observations which might possibly do harm.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
did not believe in the representations of the Government in respect to the Venezuelan affairs, and sincerely hoped they would fail. Her Majesty's Government had climbed down to the United States, and long might they have to do so. As to the military 722 operations in the Soudan, he trusted that the words of the First Lord of the Treasury—"When we get to Dongola we intend to remain there—would be read in France to-morrow.
§ MR. LEGH
called attention to the method employed in regard to the higher appointments in the diplomatic service. Of the eight principal posts in the service—the eight embassies which were looked upon as the prizes of the profession—four had been held by gentlemen who, previous to appointment, had had no connection with the diplomatic service at all. One of these, and the most important of all, the Embassy at Paris, was shortly about to become vacant, and, if rumour was to be believed, that post would again go to an outsider. The gentlemen who filled these posts were no doubt distinguished, but it occasionally happened that appointments were made to which some exception might be taken. The last time he drew attention to this matter it was with regard to the appointment of Sir Mortimer Durand. Since then, however, an appointment of a much more remarkable character had been made. When an important appointment at Peking recently fell vacant there was considerable delay in filling it, and the explanation given was that the Prime Minister was waiting for a man of exceptional qualifications, who would be able to show the combined tact and firmness of his predecessor, Sir Nicholas O' Conor. To the astonishment of persons interested the appointment was bestowed upon a certain Major Sir Claude Macdonald, a gentleman of whom The Times remarked—that his merits were probably better known to his official superiors than to the general public.Now, it appeared to him that there was really nothing in the previous service of this gentleman which warranted anyone anticipating that he was going to end in so brilliant a manner. It could not be said that Sir Claude Macdonald came within the category of experts. If a man was exceptionally well qualified, then, of course, there was nothing to be said against it; but this particular gentleman began his career as a soldier, was employed in some military capacity at Cairo, afterwards became Acting-Agent 723 and Consul-General at Zanzibar, thence passed to the West Coast of Africa in the capacity of a Commissioner, and at the time he received this important appointment he was fulfilling the duties of Consul in the Island of Fernando Po. This was not a career generally supposed to lead to rapid advancement in the diplomatic service, and he submitted the Committee ought to have some defence of this appointment. True, the grievance in question only affected a small number of persons; but when a gentleman with no appearance of special qualification was appointed to such an important post, the natural inference was that the members of the diplomatic service proper were incompetent, and he could hardly believe that such an inference was intended. The other day he noticed that at a banquet the right hon. Gentleman paid a glowing and eloquent tribute to members of the diplomatic service, and his right hon. Friend would admit that, on the whole, their duties were discharged with zeal and intelligence. It was only right under these circumstances that men should be entitled to look to an adequate reward. Nothing could be more disheartening to a man who had passed, probably, the best years of his life amongst very uncongenial surroundings than to find when the moment arrived when he might legitimately expect to be transferred to a more agreeable and responsible post, that he was passed over in favour of someone who apparently had no claim whatsoever. This he could not so much complain of if there were any reciprocity in the matter, but, as a matter of fact, there was none. The members of the diplomatic service never get anything in return. He never heard of any such case except that of Lord Augustus Loftus, who was made a colonial Governor, and shortly afterwards became a bankrupt. [Laughter.] This system of pitchforking outsiders into the diplomatic service did not exist in any other branch of the public service. They might almost as well take a casual lawyer and turn him into a General or Admiral.
§ MR. C. J. MURRAY (Coventry)
wished to re-echo what his hon. Friend had said. Under the regulations of the Queen's service the Secretary of State reserved to himself power to appoint 724 outsiders; and he approved of that reservation. It was in the interest of the public service that men like Lord Duffer in should be secured. He wished to say nothing against the ability or amiability of the gentleman who had been appointed to Peking, but he saw nothing in his past career to justify his being placed over the heads of the numerous aspirants to the post. Civil Servants had to do their duty silently. The successful soldier or sailor at once received the praise of the nation; but the qualities and successes of the Civil Servant were often only known to his official superior. Nothing should be done to embitter the feeling of public servants by promoting over their heads men whose special qualities were not apparent.
§ *MR. CURZON
said he did not deny his hon. Friend's right to raise this question in the interests of the service to which he once belonged, to which he was so loyally attached, and in which, if he had remained in it, he would never have had to complain of supersession by an outsider. The complaint was that from time to time gentlemen who were described as "outsiders" had been "pitchforked" into the diplomatic service. As the hon. Member for Coventry had reminded the House, one of those very "outsiders" was the most distinguished living representative of Her Majesty in foreign parts. ["Hear, hear!"] That was Lord Dufferin, and he was not alone. Mr. Goschen, Sir Henry Wolff, and others whom he could name, after having previously followed other walks in life, had been promoted to high posts in the diplomatic service. His hon. Friend had quoted rumours with regard to the filling up of the future vacancy in Paris. He would ask his hon. Friend to wait until that vacancy was filled before he made his complaint. As to the appointment of Sir Claude Macdonald to Peking, he would not say that the diplomatic service did not contain gentlemen who were qualified to fill that position. But the post at Peking was at present of a peculiar character, for which peculiar qualities were required; and Lord Salisbury, in filling the post, made a most careful examination of the qualifications of the various candidates, and decided that Sir Claude Macdonald best 725 fulfilled the requirements. That gentleman's previous career had been by no means devoid of distinction. He was not only Consul at Fernando Po, but filled a responsible position as Her Majesty's representative and Consul General in the Niger Coast Protectorate. The fact was his hon. Friend had brought against the Secretary of State and the diplomatic profession a charge which might equally well be brought against any other branch of the Civil Service. These outside appointments were made in the permanent Civil Service of the country; and the law which was had down, and which must be followed by any Secretary of State, was that for every vacant post a candidate from the service should, if possible, be selected; but if a more capable candidate, or one more likely to fulfil the duties of the office, were found outside then he should be appointed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
called attention to the various administrations existing in East Africa. The islands of Pemba and Zanzibar were governed by the Sultan, whose officials were entirely Englishmen. On the mainland the British East Africa Company were in authority up to a certain point. The district handed over to this country by Germany in 1890 was, he understood, under a separate flag and under separate treaty obligations. Moreover, between Kikuyu and Uganda, a Commissioner was placed who had the control of that district, the Chartered Company, however, possessing certain rights and jurisdictions throughout the area. Then there was the protectorate of Uganda under the direct control of Her Majesty's Government. It was obvious that the existence of these different systems of administration was, not only uneconomical, but probably inefficient, and it was desirable that the seat of Government should be transferred to the mainland, rather than that it should remain at Zanzibar. He understood that Mombasa had a good harbour and was very suitable for the central seat of Government. It was desirable that there should be some consolidation of the administration. He wished also to know what the Government proposed to do in relation to our Treaty obligations in Madagascar. He understood that one of the rights 726 we possessed in connection with Madagascar was to send British trade commodities into Madagascar under as favourable import duties as any other nation, but now, he understood, the French Government were proposing to send in, free of duty, all French goods, whilst placing import duties on British goods. If that was carried out it seemed to him that there would be a violation of the arrangement made when the French Government signed the declaration in 1890.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said that both the cases which his hon. Friend had raised were deserving of the attention of the Committee. The question of the French obligations towards us in respect of Madagascar was one, of course, which was receiving the attention of the Government, but he believed the matter was still under negotiation. The right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, tell them all he could on that subject, though he might not be able to make a very full statement on the subject. The case of East Africa was, of course, parallel to some extent with that of West Africa as regarded the mixture of administrations. Our protectorates were very numerous, some were under the India Office, but the larger number were under the Foreign Office, although there was really no difference in nature between those various classes of protectorates. The old reason which used to be given for keeping under the Foreign Office those cases where the interests of foreign nations were very much concerned no longer applied, because some of the cases under the India Office and the Foreign Office were in exactly the same position in that respect. He had a very strong opinion that the Foreign Office was not the best Department to deal with protectorates which had virtually become colonies. A great number of these places were colonies in all but the name, Zanzibar especially. He thought they should look forward to the time when they should be handed over to the Colonial Office, although the present time might not be convenient for the change, because the Colonial Office was just now hard worked with the South African question. Both the Niger territory and the Niger Coast Protectorate were now under the control of the Foreign Office, but we ought to follow the example which 727 the Germans had set us in such matters, and place them under that of the Colonial instead of that of the Foreign Office. There could be no doubt that we were ruining the native trade by drawing an arbitrary line across the country, which prevented free intercourse. He wished to make one other remark before the Debate concluded as far as he was concerned, and that was with regard to the Papers in the Italian Green-book. The hon. Gentleman behind him appeared to think that the right hon. Gentleman representing the Foreign Office in that House had declined to present those Papers, but he thought that the hon. Gentleman was labouring under some mistake in the matter, because a promise was distinctly made on behalf of the Government a few weeks ago that those Papers should be had upon the Table of the House of Commons, and he did not think that the Government would depart from that promise.
§ *MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercrombie)
said that he should like to emphasise what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean with regard to the lack of information that existed in connection with these large territories, which were not regarded as actual colonies. He had asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary, some short time ago, as to whether he could give the House an assurance that the expenditure of the Niger Protectorate was properly looked after and how the accounts were checked. The right hon. Gentleman, in his answer, said that the accounts of the Protectorate were properly looked after in London, and that as he approved of the machinery by which they were checked the House ought to be quite satisfied in reference to the matter. He, for his part, however, was not satisfied with the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, however satisfactory it might be regarded from an official point of view. The facts of the case were these: Before 1891 the Protectorate was ruled by a Court of Equity composed of merchant traders, and of the naval authorities on the coast, and however imperfect that system of government might be, it had at all events had the merit of being very cheap. It had been pointed out to him that before 1891 certain 728 traders under the Protectorate had only to pay an aggregate tax of something like c£700 per annum, whereas they had now to pay a tax of £60,000 per annum. Perhaps it was the result of the enormous increase in the amount of the tax that the traders were now unwilling to pay it unless they knew how the money went. It was no doubt satisfactory that the accounts should be checked in London, but the traders wanted some assurance that the expenditure in respect of the Protectorate was properly incurred. The merchant traders who had to pay this money were fully capable of forming an opinion as to the character of the expenditure, and they thought it hard that, having contributed so much to the success of the undertaking, they should never be consulted in the least as to that expenditure. They had been greatly surprised to find that quite lately some £60,000 had been expended in the purchase of a yacht, which although very elaborately fitted up, was not of a draft calculated to suit the rivers of the Protectorate, and whose upkeep was reported as amounting to £6,000 per annum. It seemed to him that it showed rather hasty judgment and lack of a sense of proportion to go to the expense of this very extravagant yacht without any consideration for the great mass of the traders who had to supply the money for it. This Government was, of course, entirely a paternal Government in a half civilised country like that, but were there a little more consultation with local traders it would probably conduce to the earlier development of the country. It could not be expected that the merchants should teach the natives how to produce the greatest output, but, having regard to the very high revenue, he thought the local authorities should do something more than merely establish a botanic garden, which could only very imperfectly teach these utterly ignorant people the best way of getting the most out of their country. Something more might be done by educating the natives in the matter of timbering and clearing the ground. Again, it seemed that all tenders for Government stores were handed over to people wholly outside the district in which the money was raised. Considering that the, traders had a very large 729 connection with Liverpool, and could I probably as easily supply the goods, it was rather hard that the tenders should be given away behind their backs. The right hon. Baronet opposite had said that he looked forward to the time when the Customs line, now separating most improperly and artificially the great districts in that neighbourhood, would be removed. He would like to know whether any steps had been taken to try to arrange on one system the various duties now levied in these districts. It was about time that the anomaly of the Niger Coast Protectorate and the Niger Company existing side by side under different systems should come to an end. He acknowledged the valuable work of the Niger Company, and he did not disapprove of chartered companies on principle, but he thought that when the outlines of a district were fairly had down, it was more desirable that the traders generally should be invited to occupy it than it should be monopolised by one large concern. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would lay before the House the fullest details he could of the Niger Coast Protectorate.
§ MR. STEVENSON,
referring to Armenia, asked whether the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs could give the Committee fuller information than had yet been supplied as to the present condition of affairs in the three vilayets of Van, Kharput, and Diarbekr.
§ *MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said that he should be glad to know whether he had rightly understood that the First Lord of the Treasury had said that Parliament would be consulted in the event of its becoming necessary in the view of the Government to send any large or important. English force to the Soudan. He strongly urged that Parliament ought to be consulted if ever any step of the kind should be contemplated. He was aware that a course of this kind was considered desirable in the view of some of the ablest military 730 advisers of the Government, who were of opinion that the Egyptian forces who might be used in case of any extensive operations in the Soudan were not sufficiently to be relied upon, and would require to be materially supported by English troops. He wished to know whether they could understand that the Government were to some extent pledged to consult Parliament before they proceeded to take the step of sending any large English force to the Soudan. On the subject of Eastern affairs, the Under Secretary had said that this country would go as far as the other Powers were willing to go. He wished to enter this emphatic protest. If this country was to fulfil its proper function in the European concert, it ought not to act as a mere follower of the will and purposes of the other Powers. It must endeavour to keep the peace with other Powers, and to prevent any discordant note as far as possible in connection with the joint action of the Powers. But this country would fail to discharge its true functions in the East in connection with this question for which we were so largely responsible, if it was to be the mere humble tool and follower of the other European Powers. In his opinion, this country ought rather to act as their guide and leader in a noble and generous policy in the East. He did not believe that a single word that was uttered by his hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General was a whit too strong in regard to the obligations on this country to use other means to prevent any further development of the detestable Turkish policy which had sought to stamp out the Christian populations and to destroy everything that might lead to the free development and autonomy of Christian states in the East. The Government ought to realise that the reason why Russia had played the part that she had with respect to Armenia during the past year was mainly because this country had failed to give her that guarantee without which it was hopeless 731 to expect that she would incur the vast responsibilities, and dangers and perils of undertaking the occupation and administration of Armenia. The failure that had occurred did not be wholly at the door of Russia, but largely at the door of the Foreign Office of this country, because that guarantee had been withheld which would have enabled Russia to carry out safely the policy which many Russian statesmen had greatly at heart. There was nothing in the recent history of this country which had given the many friends of humanity and of noble causes more sorrowful regret than the absolute failure of the Foreign Minister after the noble and generous words he had addressed to Parliament when the Government came into power.
§ *MR. CURZON
pointed out that in the speech which he made earlier in the evening he did not say that this country would be either the tool or the follower of any other Power; he spoke of unanimity of concert. All other Powers were equally concerned and engaged, and he should deprecate the use of any phraseology implying that one Power should either be in front or behind another in the action they were taking. As to Madagascar, he said that the French Government, after the campaign was over, at first adopted a position with regard to the island which was not annexation, although it appeared to have some of the features of annexation, and which appeared to the Government to be new in international law. Her Majesty's Government addressed a series of representations containing their views of the case, and in a short time the French Foreign Minister announced that his Government had decided on annexation. The question as to how far their position was altered by this annexation now decided upon was a matter which was under discussion with the French Government at this moment, and in which they were receiving the advice of the Law Officers. It was probable that at an early date further representations 732 would be addressed to the French Government. Complaint was made of the want of uniformity of system in connection with the various protectorates under the present arrangement. There was the protectorate of Zanzibar on the mainland and there was the inland protectorate of Uganda. He did not see anything anomalous in the present stage of the development of the two side by side; but the time might arrive before long when it would be desirable to put the administration in the mainland into a single hand. As to the Niger Coast Protectorate, a commercial report was had before Parliament yearly, and he assured his hon. Friend that the financial administration of the Protectorate was conducted on the most economical lines. With regard to the Italian Green-book and the Dispatch of Lord Salisbury, he might say in answer to the right hon-Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, that there was only one Dispatch in it by Lord Salisbury, and as it was printed in English he saw no necessity for issuing it in a separate Blue-book. But if it was desired that the Dispatch should be printed on a separate piece of paper and had on the Table of the House it could be done. In regard to the future of the various protectorates referred to by the right hon. Baronet, there could be no doubt that a time would one day arrive when their administration would be transferred from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office. With reference to the condition of the vilayets Kharput, Diarbekr, and Van, on which a question was put to him by the hon. Member for Eye, he might state that the situation at present was not free from apprehension. The people still went about in alarm, and there could be no doubt that the massacres and disturbances had done great injury. At Van there had been an insurrection which, it was stated, was fomented by Armenians. Troops were sent there, and a large number of 733 persons were killed. Since then they had heard that the troops behaved well on that occasion, that the rebels fled, and that order had been restored. He appealed to the Committee to now allow the Vote to pass.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Original Question, put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.