*MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire) rose to call attention to the condition of the Armenian Christians, and to move:
That this House expresses its deep sympathy with the sufferings of the Christian population in Asiatic Turkey, but trusts that further endeavours will be made to ameliorate their lot.
He was well aware that he had undertaken a task of great difficulty, and he asked the indulgence of the House while he tried to discharge a duty which fell more to the province of a responsible Statesman than a private Member. His Motion was not framed in a party spirit, and he had no intention to censure the Government. He cheerfully allowed that they had made most earnest and strenuous attempts to protect the Armenian Christians. Their failure had not been from want of will, but want of power. They had been hampered at every turn by the weakness and apathy of the other Powers, and in the later
days of the negotiations more particularly by the refusal of Russia to co-operate in putting any real pressure on the Sultan. His desire was to obtain a verdict of the House in favour of further efforts on behalf of the Christians in Turkey, perhaps on different lines. No question had stirred this country for many years so deeply as the Armenian atrocities. Those atrocities were laid bare by the British press, under great difficulties and with signal courage on the part of their correspondents, but till the Blue-books were issued three was no official confirmation, and it was open to a few Philo-Turks to deny the truth of these ghastly stories and to charge all the blame on the Armenians. He doubted if any would have the hardihood to do so any longer, especially since the second volume was issued, covering the massacres of October, November and December of last year. The Consular Reports and the Dispatches of the British Ambassador at Constantinople fully confirmed what the press had already stated. In a Dispatch dated the 30th January of this year, Sir Philip Currie stated:—
The number of victims has been entered only in those cases where there exist data for forming an accurate estimate. This was often found to be impossible, particularly in the case of villages respecting whose fate nothing was known except that the region in which they were situated had been devastated. For instance, there is no record of the loss of life in the country districts of Van, Kharput, or Diarbekir. The total loss, respecting which accurate information was obtainable, amounts to about 25,000, and, if we add to this the massacres respecting which there are no details, the estimate may be increased to a much higher figure.
Having paid close attention to this question, and having read all the materials he could find on the subject, his belief was that, when they took into account the thousands of villages that were destroyed, often with the butchery of the whole population, the estimate of 50,000 or 60,000 victims given by the bestinformed newspapers was about correct, and it must be remembered that in addition to that a far larger number of helpless women and children were turned adrift to starve in the rigour of an Armenian winter, and he believed that the entire loss of life would be incomparably greater than the figures he had given. It was his deliberate conviction,
after collecting all the information he could get on this awful subject, that the total loss of life resulting from the atrocities since the beginning of the massacres up to the end of the present winter would not be less than 200,000; and, in addition to that, the remainder of this unhappy people had been reduced in most parts of Turkey to absolute beggary. He knew it was insinuated for some time by the pro-Turkish organs in this country that the Armenians themselves deliberately provoked these massacres by attacks on the Turks. He ventured to say that the Blue-books entirely disproved that preposterous assertion, and that they clearly showed that the massacres were deliberately planned by the authorities—he would not say by the Sultan, though it looked uncommonly like it—and carried out at a given time by armed bands of Turks and Kurds, with scarcely any resistance on the part of the helpless Armenians, who were butchered like sheep. He would quote the account, given on page 69, of the first great massacre of last autumn, that at Trebizond, which was a specimen of 20 or 30 similar massacres:—
Suddenly, like a clap of thunder in a clear sky, the thing began about 11a.m. yesterday. Unsuspecting people walking about the streets were shot ruthlessly down. Men standing or sitting quietly at their shop-doors were instantly dropped with a bullet through their heads or hearts. Their aim was deadly, and I have heard of no wounded men. Some were slashed with swords until life was extinct. They passed through quarters where only old men, women and children remained, killing the men and large boys, generally permitting the women and younger children to live. For five hours this horrid work of inhuman butchery went on, the
cracking of the musketry, sometimes like a volley from a platoon of soldiers, but more often single shots from near and distant points, the crashing in of doors, and the thud, thud of sword-blows sounded on our ears. Then the sound of musketry died away, and the work of looting began. Every shop of an Armenian in the market was gutted, and the victors in this cowardly and brutal war glutted themselves with the spoils. For hours bales of broadcloth, cotton goods, and every conceivable kind of merchandise passed along without molestation to the houses of the spoilers. The intention evidently was to impoverish, and as near as possible to blot out, the Armenians of this town. So far as appearances went, the police and soldiers distinctly aided in this savage work. They were mingled with armed men and, so far as we could see, made not the least effort to check them.
So far the massacres had been confined to the Armenians, but there was great fear amongst the Greek Christians, lest the storm should soon fall upon them. There was a very significant passage in a Dispatch from Sir Philip Currie to which he would call the particular attention of the House as bearing upon the accusation made against the Armenians of having provoked the massacres. Sir Philip Currie wrote on the 16th December:—
The reports which have been forwarded to your Lordship through this Embassy tell a fearful tale of butchery, and though massacres on a large scale are of less frequent occurrence than they were a few weeks ago, the Christian population is still exposed to great danger from the Kurds, who kill and plunder far and wide. It is proved by eyewitnesses that the Turkish soldiers took an active part in the massacres in Erzeroum, Trebizond, and many other places, and the fact that foreign subjects and their houses were spared shows that the attacks were organised, and that orders must have been given to single out the Armenian subjects of the Sultan. The accusation against the Armenians of having provoked the outbreaks appears to rest upon very slight foundations, and the similarity of the terms in which it has been repeated from every place where disturbances have occurred, make it clear that a mot d' ordre was given from headquarters to lay the blame upon them.
He believed that in almost every case in which evidence had been obtained of Armenians having provoked the outrages, it had been obtained under threat of torture. The fact was that the whole Turkish system was one of deliberate and shameless lying. He would ask the House to listen to two more short quotations, the first dealing with the massacre at Marsovan and the second with that at Gurun. With regard to the first they read that—
Men and women were killed like sheep after refusing to accept the Mahommedan faith, which was offered them as their only alternative. The doors of closed shops were broken in, the inmates murdered, and the wares dragged out and carried off. Even the iron doors of the Bedestan, or covered bazaar, were smashed with axes, and the whole of it pillaged—not a needle was left. A young Turk of rank was seen meanwhile encouraging the rabble, and shouting to them to make the most of their time. At nightfall the soldiers sent the people to their homes, there being nothing more to plunder. The market was left reeking with blood and strewn with the bodies of men and women stripped to the skin; a cartload of bodies, which were subsequently stripped by the soldiery, remained all night at Kirishhana, unwatched and unguarded from the dogs.
Respecting the massacre at Gurun they were told that—
Towards the middle of November thousands of Turks, Kurds, and Circassians, from the villages of Azizie, Darente, Kangal, and Albistan, after burning the Armenian villages of Manjillik, Darente, Rasar, and Ashut (?), in the neighbourhood of Gurun, and slaughtering the inhabitants attacked the town of Gurun itself. They swept through the Armenian quarter like a flood, shouting, 'Our Padishah wills it.' They broke into the houses, killed the men, and outraged the young women and girls. They cut open mothers with child, and tossed little children from knife to knife. After killing the people and plundering their all, the rabble set fire to the houses; old men and children, who had been hidden, perished in the flames. There were 2,000 Armenian families in Gurun previous to the massacre; of these, 500 in all now remain. The dead lay about in heaps for days poisoning the air; there was no possibility of interring them. The majority of the survivors are homeless and penniless; famine is staring them in the face; they are begging their bread.
In addition to all this there was a large amount of evidence as to outrages on men and girls, which was quite unfit for publication, and could not be published in the Blue Books. He deduced from these harrowing accounts the following conclusions:—(1) That the massacres were part of a deliberate policy, for in almost every case they were done with the connivance of the authorities; there were a few instances where the governors did their duty, but they were very few indeed. (2) They were confined as a rule to the Armenian Christians; the Greek and Syrian Christians were not molested, and no European was killed. (3) Their object was to exterminate or greatly reduce the Armenian population in those six provinces where the Sultan had promised, under pressure from the Powers, to introduce reforms. The painful truth seemed to be that the earnest and honest efforts of this country to introduce reforms had caused this shocking loss of life. The fact was that Turkey never had and never would grant any reforms except under coercion; as soon as she found out that some of the Powers, especially Russia, would not proceed to coercion, she resolved to solve the Armenian Question by massacre. Had she known that the fleets of the great Powers would go to Constantinople if massacres occurred, there would have been no massacres. The next point which was made clear
from the Blue-books was this—that Russia was the Power which was mainly responsible for this failure. So far back as 14th June, 1895, Prince Lobanoff informed our Ambassador—
That Russia would only be too happy to see an improvement of the Turkish Administration, and greater security for the lives and property of the Turkish subjects of the Sultan, but she would object to the creation in Asia of a territory where the Armenians should enjoy exceptional privileges. According to the scheme of the Ambassadors, this territory would be of very large extent, embracing nearly the half of Asia Minor. The Armenians in Russia, as he had before told me, were in an excited state, and the authorities had been obliged to take severe measures to prevent them from sending arms and money across the frontier. He could understand that Her Majesty's Government, on account of the distance between England, or indeed, any English possessions, and the territory in question, should view the matter with some indifference, but Russia would not consent to the formation of a new Bulgaria on her frontier.
As time went on she became more and more lukewarm, and when the British Government came to the question of coercion she very distinctly stated that she would be no party to it, nor would she allow it. Prince Lobanoff stated on 25th January, 1896, that the
Russian Government refused to sanction any course of conduct which might lead to a European interference with the internal affairs of Turkey. Prince Lobanoff was content to trust in the goodwill of the Sultan to bring about an amelioration in the condition of his subjects, and preferred to abstain from exercising any further pressure upon his Consuls beyond what could be described as friendly advice.
He thought he need not say more to show why our efforts had proved so utterly abortive, and now he must ask the House to consider what steps they ought to take. Certainly he, for one—and he thought that everyone in that House would share the opinion—could not blame the Government for not interfering in Turkey single-handed, and so running the risk of lighting a European war. With international disputes of an acute kind on all sides of us, it was impossible we could take such a risk as that. He was sure this country would have sanctioned the application of force to Turkey had the other Powers ever given us the least approval—but beyond that we could not go. Were we therefore to sit down baffled and insulted by the miscreants who ruled at Constantinople? Were we
to watch the extermination of the Armenian people with the criminal callousness that Continental Europe showed? He said certainly not. We inherited the terrible responsibility of having twice propped up the Turkish Empire, when it was staggering under fatal blows, once in the Crimean war, and once in 1878, when the Russian army was within ten miles of Constantinople. Russia had then concluded the Treaty of San Stefano, by which she bound Turkey under the following stipulations:—
Article 16.—As the evacuation by the Russian troops of the territory which they occupy in Armenia, and which is to be restored to Turkey, might give rise to conflicts and complications detrimental to the maintenance of good relations between the two countries, the Sublime Porte engages to carry into effect, without further delay, the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and to guarantee their security from Kurds and Circassians.
Had that Treaty being carried out Russia could have forced upon Turkey genuine reforms; she would not have evacuated Armenia till guarantees had been given, and these horrible massacres would not have occurred; but this country, through Lord Beaconsfield, forced Russia to cancel that Treaty, and replaced it, by the collective guarantee of Europe, at Berlin. As the late Lord Sherbrooke well said, "We locked the gates of Hell upon the Armenians by tearing up the Treaty of San Stefano." That was the source of all the evils which we now deplored, and we saw now an entire transformation of the parts played by Russia and Great Britain in 1878. This country then advocated and defended "the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire;" now Russia used almost the same language. Russia then put forward the need of guaranteeing the rights of the Christians; now it was England that said that. It would be ludicrous were the consequences not so appalling. But still the question remained, what was to be done? Russia said she would not intervene, nor allow anyone else to intervene. This was not so wonderful when we remembered that the war of 1878, which liberated the Bulgarians, cost her 100,000 men and 100 millions of money, and that she was forced to yield up all her conquests. There was no
great inducement for her to occupy the barren and wasted Armenian provinces at the cost of a bitter war with the Turks, and a jealous Europe. It would be needful to offer her an inducement, such as a port in the Mediterranean like Alexandretta, and permanent occupation of Armenia and Anatolia. It would be said, what business was it of ours to give away Turkish territory? It arose in this way. We engaged to protect the Christians of Turkey, not merely in the Treaty of Berlin but by the Anglo-Turkish Convention. Its first Article was to this effect:—
If Batoum, Ardahan, Kars, or any of them be retained by Russia, and if any attempt shall be made at any future time by Russia to take possession of any further territories of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan in Asia as fixed by the definitive treaty of peace, England engages to join His Imperial Majesty the Sultan in defending them by force of arms. In return His Imperial Majesty the Sultan promises to England to introduce necessary reforms, to be agreed upon later between the two Powers, into the Government, and for the protection of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in these territories. And in order to enable England to make necessary provision for executing her engagements, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan further consents to assign the island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England.
He utterly protested against the attempt to explain away this engagement. It was understood by Europe to be a binding obligation that we should give that protection to the Christians which Russia intended to give by the Treaty of San Stefano. We had utterly failed to do so, and justice required us to ask Russia to take back those rights and obligations she legally possessed in 1878. Turkey had utterly failed to perform her part; she could no longer be treated as a civilised Power, and we had every moral right, not merely to permit, but to ask Russia to occupy the provinces where the massacres had occurred. No doubt it would be said that this could not be done without a break-up of the Turkish Empire. He granted it. Was there a man of common humanity who would wish to delay that break-up? Would there not be joy among the angels when that putrid carcase was buried out of sight? He held that the only policy worthy of this great free people, the mother of Parliaments, was
to speed the day when Ottoman barbarism would pass away. This was not the place to propound a scheme for the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, and no one would expect a responsible Government to pronounce any opinion on the subject, but a private Member might be allowed to say, what multitudes thought, that if France accepted Syria in lieu of Egypt, this country would make an excellent bargain, and those blighted regions, so dear for their historical associations, might regain something of their ancient prosperity. Like many others he had travelled in the East, and had seen the ruin wrought by Turkish rule. Asia Minor and Mesopotamia were once the most fertile and populous regions of the world; the names of Babylon and Nineveh, of Tyre and Sidon, of Jerusalem and Damascus, recalled great empires now passed away; if these vast regions were brought under civilised government they might again be the home of a great and contented population. Could we not take a part in heralding such a day? Surely it would be a mission worthy of England. It would do much to knit us to our kinsmen in America, who detested Turkish tyranny, and whose noble missionaries had been the chief civilising force in Armenia. Before sitting down he could not forbear from pleading for a little help for these perishing multitudes. 400,000 to 500,000 Armenians were computed to be destitute and perishing. Private charity was not nearly enough to sustain life. Could not this wealthy country, that had so signally failed to save the Armenians, not from want of will but from want of power, make a grant from the Exchequer to save these poor wretches from dying? He felt sure that the country would willingly support the Government in such a grant. We spent 8 millions in relieving the Irish famine, and 20 millions to abolish slavery. It was true the Armenians were not our subjects, but they were in a special sense our protégés. A moderate grant to be distributed in the shape of food and clothing through our Consular Agents would stop an incalculable amount of human misery, and make these poor perishing people feel that they were not wholly deserted by Christendom. Whatever view the Government might take of
this proposal he hoped they would cordially support his Resolution. It feebly reflected the deep feeling of this country. This feeling was a mixture of pity and indignation; pity for the most awful sufferings of modern, times, and indignation that this diabolical crime should have been consummated in the face of a selfish and corrupt Christendom.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
said, whatever verdict history might pronounce upon the part this country had taken in order to protect the Christians of Asia Minor, they might at least be thankful that the question had been lifted outside the range of Party politics, and that Radical and Unionist Governments alike had endeavoured as far as possible to do justice to our obligations by means of the Concert of Europe. Now the question of the Christian population in Asia Minor had been with us a long time. After the Treaty of Berlin, it would be remembered, certain military Consuls were appointed in Asia Minor to see that the reforms promised in that instrument were being carried out, but at the instance of the Government of Mr. Gladstone, those Consuls were withdrawn on the plea that they were unnecessary. That was a great misfortune, because if the Consuls had remained we should have had more accurate information of what was going on. For a long time the stories of the massacres were discredited, but the recent Blue-book had placed the facts beyond doubt. It revealed a story of misery, cruelty and oppression that made the blood run cold. But while the massacres could not be denied they were excused, and the blame was put on Armenian committees and Armenian agitators. As an humble member of the Grosvenor House Committee, presided over by His Grace the Duke of Westminster, he was not prepared to contend that Armenian agitators, whether in Russia or England, might not have done unwise things, but to say that the atrocities were provoked, except perhaps in one or two isolated instances by the Armenians themselves, was to go directly in the teeth of the evidence supported by our responsible officials at Constantinople. Now, whatever our legal obligations might be, it could not be denied that on two occasions when Turkey was at the mercy of Russia, we intervened and gave her a new lease of 47 existence which she would not have had but for our action. We fought the Crimean War, not indeed to preserve Turkey, but to secure that it should not be left to Russia alone to deal with the question of Christians in Turkey. On the same ground, at the time of the Treaty of San Stefano, the spoils arrangement which Russia had made with Turkey was cancelled and the whole question was submitted to the decision of Europe. What would have been the present condition of Asia Minor if that arrangement had been carried out it was impossible to say. What were the conditions of the problem? To begin with, the Armenians were a very scattered people, and formed a minority of the population, and it would be impossible, therefore, that to set up an autonomous Armenia would meet the difficulty. Nor was there any present prospect of the Turks themselves dealing with the question. It must be admitted that while the present régime ruled at Constantinople, that was no hope whatsoever for the Armenians. Whether the present governing clique might under any circumstances be got rid of, was a problem which it was not given to the present to solve. At present there was a deadlock; our diplomacy had done its best and had failed. It was necessary to recognise that Russia's interests were not bound up with the settlement of this question, but rather with keeping it open, in order that the Turkish Empire might be broken up and divided among others. The country would say that the last two Governments could have done less than they had done; but it would not say that they could have done more, having regard to the risk of a general European war. As the Prime Minister had said, there were many great and noble qualities in the Turkish people, and in the past England had been the close friend of Turkey. She was not wanting in a disposition to renew that friendship, but as long as blood was flowing the indignation of this country would be too strong to allow it to be reconciled to Turkey by any political consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed an opinion which would be shared by three-fourths of the English people when he said that Turkey had not fulfilled her obligations and we were, herefore, dispensed from ours, and 48 should not think of intervening to save her. What this country did require was that, with the same earnest purpose as before, England should use her voice and influence on behalf of the oppressed populations of Turkey, with the firm hope that before long the faith of the False Prophet would give way to the faith of Christ, that the disorders would be put an end to, and that truth and right would prevail. In the end he hoped that this country would be able to congratulate itself on having materially assisted to bring about the results so much desired.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said, that he did not doubt the amiable intentions of the hon. Member for Flintshire and his philanthropic interest in all races and creeds—though that was not very evident in the hon. Member's references to the Turks—but he found in the hon. Member's speech all the vices, principally in language, but considerably in policy, which had led to recent disastrous events in Asiatic Turkey. He wished to protest against the language which had been used, to some extent in the House, and to a greater extent in the country, with regard to the Sultan and the Turkish Government. Language of the most offensive character had been recklessly and without any real ground employed against the Sovereign and the Government of a friendly State, and that language was not only outrageous and unjustifiable, but it had had the most injurious effect on the cause which those who used such language espoused. The hon. Member and his Friends seemed to think that they could revile the Turks and the Moslem religion to any extent without causing any resentment; but he maintained that their abusive language was largely responsible for the terrible deeds which had lately occurred in Asia Minor. The so-called Sassoon atrocities were first heard of in this country 15 months ago; and the hon. Member and his Friends denounced the Turks throughout the country on the ground of those atrocities, though they never dared to bring the question to an issue in the House of Commons. Now, when the question did come up, the sole basis of their charges was the atrocities which had occurred since October last. The House 49 should note the disingenuousness of this conduct. The whole case against the Turks sent home with extravagant exaggeration by special correspondents had no reference to the events of the last four months; and the action of the Anglo-Armenian Committee was based entirely on the Sassoon massacres, which had practically no existence, at least in no proportion to the way in which they had been related in this country. Column after column appeared in the London Press of horrors unspeakable, which only existed in the imagination of the Armenian Committees on the Russian frontier. The Sassoon atrocities had been completely exploded by the Blue-books. The statement that 30,000 people had been massacred was reduced down to the fact that 265 people had lost their lives. The horrible stories of women and children being maltreated, as at the famous church at Galigusau with its 300 women, as the pits of death with their 200 corpses, as the wives of Gyrgo and his comrades plunging themselves from a precipice, as the four children whose heads were described as cut off with one sweep of a Turkish scimitar—were one and all proved to be without foundation. The whole campaign founded on these sham atrocities was bogus atrocity-monger. It had gone on for 10 months and had justly incensed the Turkish people, against their maligners. Now, it should be noticed, the leaders of this campaign tried to mix up the series of events, and founded their charges on recent events only. The revolutionary conspiracies of the Armenian societies in the East, which were based on the fiendish designs of deliberately provoking these atrocities, were mainly responsible for the deplorable events of the last few months. Sir Philip Currie had taken a parti pris against Turkey on this question, and had misled two Governments to hopeless failure. He believed that Sir P. Currie's figures of 25,000 persons recently done to death would be largely modified by further investigation; though he admitted with sorrow that some thousand persons had perished most deplorably. This conspiracy of Armenian societies had been hatching for many years, though it had only come to a head within the last few months. It was 50 predicted by an eminent American missionary, Dr. Hamlyn, four years ago who wrote in 1892:—These Hintchakist bands, organised all over the empire, will watch their opportunities to kill Turks and Kurds, set fire to their villages, and then make their escape into the mountains. The enraged Moslems will then rise and fall upon the defenceless Armenians, and will slaughter them with such barbarities that Russia will enter in the name of humanity and Christian civilisation and take possession.When he denounced the scheme as atrocious and infernal beyond anything ever known, he calmly replied:—Europe listened to the Bulgarian horrors and made Bulgaria free. She will listen to our cry when it goes up in the shrieks and blood of thousands of women and children.The active and able Reuter correspondent in the East, who was about the only correspondent who wrote the truth to this country on the Armenian question, as long ago as March last gave a most remarkable forecast of what had since happened. Reuter's correspondent then wrote that the plan of the Armenian revolutionists was to—provoke by the atrocities upon Mussulmans such cruelty, atrocity, outrage, and butchery that Christian humanity would rise in wrath. It will be the helpless women and children who will suffer most. The revolutionary leaders know that it will be so; in fact, they count upon it as the chief factor in their success.The same correspondent made the remarkable prediction seven months before the Constantinople riot of September 30, 1895, that the—chief attack will be made in the City of Constantinople itself, and that the brunt of the fighting will be borne by the Armenian residents therein.This wicked scheme was carried out at Constantinople, Bitlis, Diarbekir, Trebizond, Kharput, Kara-Hissar, and other places with appalling results. There was plenty of evidence in the Blue-books to show that the Armenians were the first to provoke disturbance. He did not say the provocation justified the retaliation, but it must be remembered that all the cases of atrocities in Asia Minor during the last four months had been cases of mob violence. There had been no case proved in which Turkish officers and officials had either 51 helped or encouraged these atrocious events. He had seen statements that in certain places a portion of the soldiery took part in the plundering, but in many cases they found evidence given by British Consular authorities that the Turkish Governors and Pashas and commanders did their best with such forces as they had to check mob violence. It must be remembered that in most places the forces at the disposal of the Turkish authorities were very small. The hon. Member for Flintshire had deliberately said the Turkish authorities and Moslems made no attempt to protect their Christian fellow subjects. Since he entered the House he had had given to him remarkable testimony to the good conduct of the Turkish authorities and the Moslems; it was a circular issued by a Mesopotamian Committee in which it was stated their chief city, Marsiny, was now "energetically defended with the help of all the Moslems against the Kurds." The hon. Member denied there was any proof that the Armenian revolutionary societies had provoked outrages. The Blue-book teemed with proof. What happened at Trebizond before the massacre? Two Turkish Pashas had been attacked and wounded seriously in the streets by Armenian conspirators. A private Turkish citizen had been murdered by Armenians in the streets, and there was the additional statement that the rioting in Trebizond was actually begun by the firing of revolvers in the streets by excited Armenians. The conspirators, according to their usual methods, no doubt escaped punishment and left the bulk of the unfortunate, and, he believed, perfectly harmless and helpless Armenian population to suffer for the revolutionary propaganda. On September 3rd Sir Philip Currie sent an extract from a private letter from Kharput, dated August 5th, which Mr. Graves had received. In it it was stated:—It appears that there are now in this place several Armenians belonging to the Hind-chagian Society, who are trying to organise revolutionary committees here and in the villages, and, as I understand, they have in a measure succeeded. They are inciting the people to violent action; since the liberation of political prisoners this party has become holder, and they are making foolish demonstrations. They say they will attack the prison and liberate the six men still imprisoned, by force. 52 Twice they went down to Mezré in procession in considerable numbers, and treated their Bishop very badly, when he advised them to disperse and not engage in so rash an undertaking. They were scattering papers here and there, threatening the lives of those whom they suspect of opposing them. Should they continue this reckless course, I am afraid of a serious result.The serious result of this agitation was the deplorable massacre in which many people perished. On September 16th, Consul Longworth, at Trebizond, reports to Sir Philip Currie that the procureur of Karahissar, his secretary, and his family, with two zaptiehs, were fired upon by a party of Armenians near Zara. One Turk was killed and a second wounded, and the party were robbed of £250. The Armenians then took the procureur off the road and sentenced him to death, and shot him there and then. Consul Graves adds that:—There is a band of well-armed Armenians around the city ready for business. The revolutionary Committee is making forced loans from wealthy Armenians, and the Armenian Archbishop has been obliged to pay £50 to save his head.There was also a deplorable émeute at Erzeroum which caused the death of 280 Armenians. On September 15th Consul Graves, at Erzeroum, telegraphed to Sir Philip Currie that:—Armenian revolutionary agents, belonging to the Hintchak and another society, are daily growing more active at Erzeroum, that they have threatened several Armenian notables with violence if they continue to sit on the Administrative Council, and have demanded money of them. These agents are mostly Russian Armenians, and they arc now acting under orders emanating from a committee established in London.Armenian bankers and merchants were murdered by the Hintchak conspirators because they refused to be blackmailed; indeed, there was overwhelming evidence of the dangerous conspiracy on the part of Armenian revolutionary societies. Prince Lobanoff had over and over again warned Her Majesty's Government that England was going mad upon this subject. Prince Lobanoff spoke with full knowledge of the subject and of the consequences:—This excitement, under which both Mohammedans and Armenians are labouring, is the net result of the uncompromising manner in which the Armenian Question has been taken up. England is chiefly responsible for this 53 state of things, owing to the encouragement given to the Armenian Committees by so many of her leading men.And our Chargé d' Affaires added:—Prince Lobanoff spoke very warmly on the subject.The Sultan himself had warned our Government of the probable dangers of the course the agitators in this country were pursuing, quoth Lobanoff. As to the provocation which the Turks received, he asked the House to remember what took place in Constantinople on the 30th of September and the 1st of October last. Two thousand Armenians assembled in Constantinople on the 30th of September. They were mostly armed with revolvers. They made a violent march towards the Porte, and on their way they committed serious outrages upon Mohammedans they met. They were met by the police, the leader of whom most civilly asked them to disperse, and promised that if they would hand him their petition he would see the Turkish Ministry received it. The police major was immediately shot dead by the Armenians, and there was considerable firing upon the Turkish police. The police, of whom 40 were killed and wounded, dispersed the party with only their swords and bayonets. Certain reprisals on the part of the Mussulman Softas took place, and 100 lives were lost. That was a deliberate attempt at civil war made by the Armenian revolutionary societies in the very heart of the Turkish Empire. What would be the state of excitement in London if any sort of mob—Irish or German, for instance—were suddenly to rise and move to Whitehall, shooting down the chief of police and killing and wounding 40 of his men? The report of the occurrence at Constantinople went like wildfire through Asia Minor, and reprisals were the result. Our Ambassador at Constantinople does not attempt to deny the plots and evil deeds of the Armenian Hintchak Society. Yet in all his policy and his recommendations to the Home Government he acted as though no such body existed. Again, on October 3rd, Sir Philip Currie addressed a very important Dispatch to Lord Salisbury, in which he states:—Unfortunately the demonstration had not the peaceful character attributed to it. The demonstrators were armed with pistols and arms 54 of a uniform pattern. There is good reason to suppose that the object of the Hintchak was to cause disorder and bloodshed with a view of inducing the Powers of Europe to intervene. The first shot fired proceeded from the Armenians, and killed the major of gendarmes. About thirty of the police, including four officers, were killed or wounded in the course of the day.As to Russian intervention he could not understand any self-respecting Member of the House getting up and asserting, as the hon. Member for Flintshire had done, that the cause of the failure of the policy of our Government to improve the condition of Turkey, and to preserve the Armenians from ruin, had been the deliberate action of the Russian Government, and then, in the next sentence, telling the House they ought to bribe Russia to occupy Armenia, by giving her a port in the Mediterranean. The inconsistency of that course was most extraordinary. The hon. Member did not say what port in the Mediterranean. In the same breath he proposed to give the whole of Syria to France. The proposal was absurd; it was on a par with the general policy he advocated. The hon. Member had said that the present troubles in Asia Minor were due to the policy pursued by Lord Beacons-field's Government 17 years ago. On the contrary, the troubles were due rather to the wretched, pitiable course that subsequent Liberal Governments pursued as a substitute for the policy of Lord Beaconsfield. The policy adopted by that great statesman was eminently successful. In 1878 Lord Beaconsfield found himself confronted by a great and terribly-menacing crisis. There had been a terrible war in the East, and the result was that at least half-a-million of men, women and children were wiped out of existence by the cruel and atrocious policy of Russia at that time. He sometimes wondered whether the hon. Member and those who supported him were capable of feeling any sympathy for the wives and children, the brothers, and sisters, of the scores of thousands of Mussulmans who fell victims in the crusade of that Christian invader in 1877 and 1878. In that crusade thousands of people were butchered in cold blood, and the worst atrocities were perpetrated. Out of a Mussulman population of Bulgaria and Roumelia of nearly 2,000,000 in 1876, probably not 55 half-a-million now remained. The rest had been driven from their homes with every horror of massacre and outrage. These facts were well known to the people of Turkey; they had rankled in their minds; and it might be that, to some extent, the Armenians had had to suffer for the bitter cruelties of Russia on the Mussulmans 17 years ago. There were many refugees from the Austrian butchery of 1877–8 scattered throughout Asia Minor. Russia was altogether unfit for such a task in Armenia as that which the hon. Member would impose upon her; her conduct in the past proved it. A Power like Russia, that gives its own subjects no single shred of liberty, that has no constitutional rights whatever, no free Press, no trial by jury, none of the elements of human freedom, is unfit to reform others. A Power that cruelly persecutes every unorthodox form of religion or dissent within its territory has no right to pose as a Christian, champion. Moreover he doubted whether the hon. Member had contemplated the effect of such action on Europe. Returning for a moment to the policy of Lord Beaconsfield, he wished to add that that Statesman, faced as he was by tremendous dangers and difficulties, averted a great European war, saved Constantinople from falling into the hands of Russia, and completely protected British interests in the East. ["Hear, hear!"] He maintained the balance of power, and he did all this without the sacrifice of a single British life. Lord Beaconsfield did more than this. He took securities for the reform of the Ottoman Government, and he sent skilled and able Military Consuls into the wildest and most dis-organised regions of Asia Minor to overlook and report upon the Turkish administration. It was an axiom of Lord Beaconsfield's policy, as it had been of Lord Palmerston's, that our policy at Constantinople should be British, and that pressure exerted upon the Porte, however strong, should be friendly British 56 pressure. [''Hear, hear!"] Under Lord Beaconsfield we had no absurd Anglo-Franco-Russian coercion of Turkey, and no fantastic and abortive Concerts of Europe. [Cheers.] The Liberal Party came into Office in 1880. What did they do for the reform of Turkey? Absolutely nothing, or rather worse than nothing, for they actually removed from Asia Minor those experienced Military Consuls [''Hear, hear!"] whose presence would have been so in valuable in remote and semi-barbaric regions, where men count so much more than schemes of reform or even than laws. Lord Beaconsfield accomplished so much by a courageous British policy at Constantinople, and also by a close understanding with the great stable Monarchies of Central Europe—the Peace League. Moreover, Lord Beaconsfield developed the great Imperial idea which had now become a principle of policy with leading Statesmen of both political Parties, as opposed to the policy of the old ''Manchester School,'' and of the modem ''Little Englanders." ["Hear, hear!"] Lord Beaconsfield appreciated the consequences which hung on the fate of Turkey in regard to the balance of power, and well knew that if Russia got possession of Constantinople she would be able to deprive England of the command of the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and Egypt. The immense importance and the matchless position of Constantinople render the fate of Turkey so vital to the nations of Europe, and more than all to Britain as a great Eastern Empire. There is a good deal of cheap and stupid talk about giving Russia Constantinople, and so settling the Eastern Question. Such a policy would not settle the Eastern Question, but would only place in Russian hands an impregnable position, and an irresistible lever for dominating the Mediterranean and the whole East. [Cheers.] Constantinople is the greatest strategical and commercial position in the world, the queen of cities, the key of two continents. 57 It is of unequalled value as a military and naval stronghold. For one thousand years the impregnable strength of Constantinople kept the Eastern Empire alive after Rome itself had been overwhelmed. The great Napoleon said that a first-class European Power holding Constantinople would be mistress of the world. Russia, in possession of Constantinople and the Straits, could build a Navy there of any size she chose, could sally forth into the Mediterranean at any time she chose, and hold our Mediterranean fleet, our Mediterranean commerce, Egypt, and the Suez Canal at her mercy. [''Hear, hear!"] Already the six Russian battleships in the Black Sea, if they could pass the straits and join the 17 French battleships in the Mediterranean, would overmatch our Mediterranean fleet of 11 battleships. What would be our chances if Russia had 20 battleships massed in the impregnable stronghold of Constantinople? Beyond this, the possession of the Turkish capital would give Russia control of the whole fighting forces of the Ottoman Empire, the most courageous and tenacious warriors in the world. How long should we hold India after Russia had dominated the Mediterranean, and added 500,000 Ottoman Turks to already countless legions, and had got control of the head of the Mussulman religion, the Caliph of the Mohammedans? There are 70,000,000 of Mohammedans in India, the bravest of Her Majesty's subjects. What would be the effect upon them and upon the Amir of Afghanistan, if Constantinople were abandoned to the Czar? The risk is so tremendous, the dangers are so certain and so terrible, that I cannot conceive any but the most ignorant or the most fanatically blind suggesting a Russian occupation of Constantinople. [''Hear, hear!''] Those considerations had weighed with British Statesmen in the past, and must weigh with them in the future, if our interests in the East were to be upheld; but the hon. Member and his friends discarded 58 such ideas with a light heart. They confessed that they did not desire a European war, and yet they would adopt a system of coercion of Turkey which would re-open the whole Eastern Question, and inevitably lead to such a war. In these circumstances, he appealed to the hon. Member and his supporters to reconsider their position in the matter, more particularly as their proposed method of coercing Turkey would be entirely ineffective in saving the lives of those Asiatic Christians. The regions were so remote, the spirit of fanaticism was so strong, and the difficulty of moving troops to the districts would be so great, that, even were Europe united in the purpose, it would be impossible to prevent atrocities. The effect of coercing Turkey as proposed would, as had happened before, rather intensify the trouble. Anything more puerile and quixotic than British diplomacy appears in these Blue-books could not be conceived. Every attempt to put pressure upon the Sultan, every attempt to hurry on the Sultan's decisions, every violent suggestion of Sir Philip Currie and the British Government, were met with a severe non-possumus from the Russian Government. So long ago as May 30th 1895, Prince Lobanoff, the Russian High Chancellor, told Her Majesty's Government that, ''in no case would the Russian Government associate itself with measures of constraint upon the Sultan." Again, on June 4th, Prince Lobanoff, speaking to our Ambassador, refused to present the Reform Scheme of the Ambassadors as an ultimatum to the Sultan, and said point blank that ''Russia would not join in any coercive measures, nor consent to the creation in Asia Minor of a district in which Armenians should have exceptional privileges." Again, in August and September, Prince Lobanoff supported the Sultan in all his objections to the absurd scheme of reform put forward by the British Ambassador. He had no desire to spend time in strictly apportioning blame between different Governments 59 for the existing state of things. He believed, however, that the policy of an Anglo-Franco-Russian coercion of Turkey, which apparently was approved and adopted by the late Government, under the advice of our Ambassador at Constantinople, had not only egregiously failed, but had led to serious consequences to England abroad. It irritated the Sultan, it excited Mussulman fanaticism, it alarmed the other Great Powers. Since then the ''Concert of Europe'' had walked across the stage, and equally failed to do any good in Turkey. The net result of bogus atrocity-mongering had been to provoke real atrocities, and to multiply the sufferings of the Armenians a hundrefold. [''Hear, hear!"] These results were bad enough in all conscience, for they had alienated Turkey, put Russia in our place at Constantinople, and caused the cruel death, according to the atrocity-mongers themselves, of 25,000 wretched Armenians. [''Hear, hear!"] The evils of the action of the reckless atrocity-mongers in this country were not exhausted by their unhappy effects on the people of Armenia, or upon the integrity of the Ottoman Empire or on the serious question of the advancing influence upon Turkey-in-Asia and Turkey-in-Europe of Russia; their evil outcome had also been made apparent in the alienation of our allies, and in the position of isolation in which the country was at present placed. The fact that British interests had been threatened across the Atlantic, in South Africa, and in the south-east of Asia, were by no means unconnected with the policy that had been followed in the East. British Ministries had deprived themselves of allies by the false sentimentalism and the bogus atrocity-mongering which had guided the policy of this country, and the danger was by no means yet exhausted. They could not fly in the face of all the traditions and great policy of the past without incurring a serious and perhaps a disastrous nemesis. The sooner they recurred to 60 the policy of Lord Beaconsfield—a policy which consisted of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, the peace of Europe, and British interests by a British policy in the East—his statesmanship was no wretched Anglo-Franco-Russian coercion policy; not a futile Concert of Europe, which could never do anything—but a practical British policy towards Turkey, strong, if they liked, but still friendly; a policy which urged improvements upon Turkey, and which took practical steps to see such improvements carried out—the sooner they recurred to this far-sighted and sensible policy, and to an understanding with the great central Powers of Europe, the ''Peace League'' of Europe, the better it would be for this country, for the Ottoman Empire, for Europe, and, above all, for those unfortunate Armenian Christians whose cause had suffered so bitterly at the hands of the men who had misguided it in this country.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The extent to which the House, and I think to which the country, is in sympathy with the hon. Member who has just sat down may perhaps be best gauged by the fact that, after such a speech, he has not thought it wise to move the Amendment standing in his name. [''Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
May I explain? The reason I did not move the Amendment was that it was put down on the Paper to a totally different Motion; but I find that the hon. Gentleman, acting, no doubt, on wise advice, has so reduced his Motion in character and in words that it really was hardly necessary to move any Amendment. [Opposition cheers and laughter.]
§ SIR E. GREY
I understand, at any rate, that the Amendment was in order, and that it expressed the views of the hon. Member, and after making use of such strong expressions with regard to the conduct of my hon. Friends who have moved this Motion, it is at least 61 surprising that he has ended by declaring himself ready to accept their Motion [Sir E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT: "No!"] rather than put to the. House the Amendment expressing his own views. The Armenian Question is a most difficult and distressing question—distressing because of the nature of the occurrences which have been put before the House, and distressing also because of the difficulty of doing anything to improve the state of affairs. It is depressing enough to have to review what has occurred; to admit how little has been done to prevent that which we all regret so much; to admit, perhaps, how little it was possible could have been done. But, the more we may regret that, the more, at any rate, should we be sure that we look the facts in the face as they have been and as they are. And I think any attempt to gloss over what has occurred, or to place upon the oppressed the responsibility which properly belongs to the oppressor, to shield those who are really responsible for occurrences in certain provinces of the Turkish Empire, could do nothing but add pain and discredit to the Debate. ["Hear, hear!"] The question for us to consider, I think, is not how much exaggeration there may have been in the newspapers from time to time, but how much truth there has been and the amount of truth we have before the House in the Blue-book. I regret very much, and I am sure the House, will regret, that in dealing with this point the hon. Member for Sheffield thought it right to use words reflecting on the conduct of Sir Philip Currie. [Cheers.] I, at any rate, am sure of this—that no man could have been more penetrated with the seriousness, the complications, the difficulties, and the dangers of the Armenian question than Sir Philip Currie ["Hear, hear!"], and no man less likely to have been moved to express strong opinions or to take strong action unless the occasion had been great and the need had been grave. But, more 62 than that, the action of Sir Philip Currie has, at any rate on one occasion, in public, received the warm approval of his chief, Lord Salisbury ["Hear, hear!"], and if the hon. Member for Sheffield or any one else wished to attack that policy it is surely against the responsible chief, who can speak for himself, or whose subordinate can speak for him in this House, that any attack should be made. [Cheers.] To justify this Motion I admit that we must prove, if, indeed, proof be necessary, first of all, that exceptional suffering has fallen upon the Armenians in Kurdistan; and, secondly, that they have not provoked the risings and disturbances which led to that suffering being inflicted upon them. The most plausible argument put forward against the views which are held on this side of the House, and by many Members on the other side, is that the Government of Turkey is, I will not say necessarily, but, in the nature of the case at present, a bad Government; that bad Government brings many evils; that the Armenians do not suffer alone from those evils; and that the evils of the bad Government are felt by Turks and Kurds and Armenians alike. No doubt that is true; but it is not the whole truth. In addition to the evils of bad Government, which may be felt, by all races and by all creeds alike, there are the persecutions and the massacres which fell upon the Armenians, and upon them especially. No one can read the Blue-book without being convinced that exceptional suffering and persecution have fallen upon the Armenians in addition to the other evils of bad Government which may be shared by other races and creeds. One of the evils of bad Government is undoubtedly the liability to riot and disturbance. No doubt the consequence of that is that many people of all sorts suffer; but in some of these cases the Armenians have been disarmed before these riots and disturbances took place ["Hear, hear!"]; and it is upon them, therefore, that the burden of the bad Government has chiefly fallen. In support of 63 that I may quote from the Blue-book a statement—not in an unsigned letter—but a statement signed by the Consul-General of Russia, the Consul of Italy, the Consul of the British Government, and the Vice-Consul of France, with reference to the massacres of Erzeroum; and in that statement is included this:—Before the 18th October most of the Mussulmans were able to go about armed; the Armenians were not allowed to do so, but were searched and disarmed whenever an opportunity occurred.And then:—Many Armenians had arms and were ready to use them, but the majority were without arms, only thought of concealing themselves, and offered no resistance.
§ SIR E. GREY
"The Armenians fired from some houses and shops." ["Hear, hear!"] But how does that detract from the remainder of the sentence that "the majority were without arms, only thought of concealing themselves, and offered no resistance," and that, as far as possible, the Armenians had before been searched and had been disarmed whenever the opportunity occurred? All that the interruption of the hon. Member for King's Lynn can prove is not that the policy was not to disarm the Armenians, but that the policy had not been so completely or so effectively carried out as the Turkish authorities could have desired. Now, I come to the second point: Can it be maintained that these disorders, these sufferings, have been due to any large extent, or can it be said by a fair-minded and humane man mainly and chiefly due, to the provocation given by the Armenians themselves? There have been Revolutionary Committees; in some cases it is even admitted that these Committees have provoked risings; but are we to make no allowance for the fact that these Committees, however criminal they may be, have been the outcome of previous bad Government? [''Hear, hear!"] You may quote here and there that the Armenian Committee has been to blame for the uprising or for events which have occurred. But, if you want to review the whole situation, I prefer to take the opinion given 64 by Lord Salisbury himself upon the amount of provocation which has been given by the Armenians. Lord Salisbury, in a telegram to Mr. Herbert, dated November 11, says this:—The reports which have reached us show that the Sultan is mistaken in his belief that the Armenians have provoked these disorders. We are informed that on nearly every occasion this was not the case, and in too many instances the Turkish Authorities and troops have encouraged and even taken part in the outrages which have occurred.That is a statement of opinion, not only endorsed by Lord Salisbury, but given in Lord Salisbury's own words, which I will set against the statements of opinion which have been made on the other side. I will take the further point as to the real responsibility for what has occurred in Asia Minor. If you could maintain that these cruelties and these murders were due to the uncontrolled fanaticism of the Mahomedan population, or that the Turkish Government had done their utmost to control that fanaticism and keep it within bounds, I admit you will have made out a case for mitigating the indignation that it felt in this country. But, Sir, you cannot prove that from the Blue-books, and you can prove that it was not merely the Mahomedan population, but the Turkish officials and soldiers who were accomplices in the oppressions of the Armenians. I would give but one short quotation in support of that point, coming not from any of my hon. Friends who have been so attacked in the previous speech, but from the Foreign Minister of Austria, who, I suppose, is not included in the category of those with whom the hon. Member for Sheffield finds so much fault. His Excellency said he expected to see the Turkish Ambassador, and he should tell him plainly there is abundant proof that in some of the recent massacres the butchery has been committed under the direct orders of the Turkish Authorities. ["Hear, hear!"] You may say that these things may have been against the will of the Sultan and of the Sultan's Government. Can you bring any proof that the Sultan or the Government have in any way visited their displeasure upon such authorities? ["Hear!"]
§ SIR E. GREY
"Dismissed," says the hon. Member for Sheffield. That is not the first time that he has stopped short at certain places in the Blue-book. Some officials were dismissed, but this is the final verdict of Sir Philip Currie:—It must be borne in mind that since the commencement of the disturbances in the Asiatic provinces, no Turkish officer, civil or military, has been punished for the outrages inflicted upon the Christians. Some few officials have been dismissed in consequence of our representations.The hon. Member for Sheffield relies upon that statement, but the quotation continues—But they have been subsequently appointed to other offices, or have had decorations bestowed upon them.["Hear, hear!"] I need not dwell any more upon the serious nature of what has occurred or upon the quarter in which responsibility should be placed. I come to the question as to what could have been done to prevent these occurrences—not by the Turkish Government, but by those who undertook and gave pledges to the world that they would use their influence to improve the Turkish Government. Not much could be expected from the policy which has been pursued. Of course, I am not speaking of the policy of the British Government, but of the policy of the Concert of Europe. The policy that has been pursued had to deal with the recurrence of massacres and pillage in the provinces of Asia Minor, which were taking place in the autumn, and which it was thought likely would go on for some time unless strong action was taken. I take, for example, a quotation from page 223 of the Blue-book, in which Sir Philip Currie called the attention of his colleagues to the continued massacres and pillage, and asked if in their opinion they were not bound to take some steps to put an end to such a state of things. Various views were expressed, but the view of the Russian Ambassador was that the presence of an international Commission would be beneficial if it could be carried out, but that he saw great difficulties in the way, especially at this season of the year; and he added that if Her Majesty's Government would on his (Sir Philip's) suggestion make a proposal to the different 66 Cabinets it would no doubt be referred to the representatives there, who would be at liberty to discuss it. It was impossible under a policy of that kind that any action could be taken or any remedy adopted which could have been effective. That was the policy which the Concert of Europe felt themselves obliged to adopt. If, in addition to that, we remember it was understood that under no circumstances was force to be employed by all or any of the Powers, it is not surprising that failure has been the result, and that we have to-day to admit that practically nothing has been effected which can throw relief upon the melancholy retrospect of the past or hold out much hope of relief in future. ["Hear, hear!"] If the policy of the Concert of Europe was bound to result in failing to stop outrages, the question for us remained—Could the British Government have separated itself from the Concert of Europe? Could it, when it saw this policy was bound to result in failure, have separated itself from the Concert of Europe and acted alone? In dealing with that point I wish to distinguish between the policy pursued by the late Government and the situation and policy of our successors, the present Government, not with a view to making any reflection on the policy of the present Government, but because there has been a tendency to show that the late Government was responsible for the whole policy of their successors, and that the fact that we did not act alone and take action alone before the end of June, when we left office, is proof positive that Lord Salisbury could not do so either. I believe neither of these statements will bear examination. I am not going to make a distinction or to reflect on Lord Salisbury's policy, but I do hold strongly that Lord Salisbury's policy, though a policy succeeding ours, has been distinctly his own. ["Hear, hear!"] Two of the most remarkable things in this Armenian question during the autumn and winter, I think, have been undoubtedly the painful news of the successive massacres taking place in Asia Minor, and the serious, grave, and weighty language of Lord Salisbury's speeches, which attracted the attention of the whole world. The massacres in the autumn were not the situation with which the Liberal Government had to 67 deal. When they left office the situation had not yet arisen when it was necessary to decide whether the British Government should act alone. We had no warning from the other Powers that they would resent action by any one of the Powers. My impression is that Russia and France told us that they themselves were not prepared to take strong measures, but the first warning that strong measures were not to be taken by all or any of the Governments did not come until August 15.
§ MR. T. W. LEGH
observed that on June 4th it was stated, as was shown by the Blue-book, that the Powers had no right to resort to coercive measures.
§ SIR E. GREY
That would be the view of the Russian Government, but the vital point is, Were the other Powers, or any of them, prepared to resent and repel effective and forcible action by any one of the Powers? ["Hear, hear!"] If stronger steps had been taken alone by any one of the Powers it would have been the first time that such steps had been taken. The actual words used were that Russia would certainly not join in any coercive measures. I see nothing, I remember nothing, and no hint even was given, to indicate that independent action would be resented by the Russian Government.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Would the right hon. Gentleman read the end of the Dispatch? He will find it there.
§ SIR E. GREY
I have admitted we knew the Russian Government were not prepared to do it; the point is—would they resent action by others? The real point I wish to make to the House is not whether or not we were in a position to take independent action, but that a situation had not arisen when it was necessary for us to consider the question of taking independent action. What was the situation we had to deal with? We were urging reforms upon the Sultan. When we left office we had been urging these schemes of reform upon him for six weeks—not a long time when you are dealing with the Turkish Government, and not long enough to justify us in throwing up the case and saying diplomatic means would not succeed. Lord Salisbury afterwards proved that diplomatic means would succeed, and if 68 we, after six weeks of diplomatic pressure, had resorted to force to bring about reforms which, after all, could have been achieved by diplomatic means we should not have been justified in so doing. Was there in the disorders and disturbances in Asia Minor a cause for forcible and armed interference at the time we left office? The one great event standing out alone, which had stood out beyond all others, was the massacre at Sasun. We did not receive the news until some six weeks after the occurrence. A Commission was appointed to inquire into them; that Commission, had not reported when we left office, and we could not have taken action in regard to matters which had only taken place a few weeks ago and as to which we did not know the truth. The Secretary for the Colonies has urged in, at any rate, one speech, that even if that were so, still the time to take separate action had come, if ever, while we were still in office, because then we could have prevented the massacres which occurred in the autumn. Was there any reason to suppose that another series of massacres were impending when we left office? The Secretary for the Colonies, I suppose, from the speech he made in the autumn, assumed that we ought to have expected these massacres in the autumn, and that we should have taken steps to prevent them. Lord Salisbury did not hold that opinion, for, speaking on August 15 in the House of Lords, he said he believed—That for the present there is no danger of these terrible disturbances or horrible crimes being renewed.["Hear, hear!''] Sir, we could not have considered the question of taking action to avert the occurrences which, six weeks afterwards, when he had full time to review the whole situation, Lord Salisbury was still of opinion were not likely to occur. ["Hear, hear!"] The further point to be dealt with is, admitting the difference in the situation and that the occasion for separate action had not arisen while the late Government were in office, were they right or wrong in declining to leave the Concert of Europe and to act alone? They have told us that if they had acted alone they would have had to act not merely alone, but in defiance of the other Powers. They have 69 told us that had they acted alone it would have led to complications, dangers, and bloodshed in the midst of which the Armenian question would have been overwhelmed and lost sight of altogether, whilst their action could not possibly have been effective. ["Hear, hear!"] When a statement as definite and as grave as that is made by the responsible Government of the day, I think the Opposition has no choice but to acquiesce in it and to admit that, if it were the case that action could only have been taken in defiance of the other Powers of Europe, then it would have been impossible for any forcible action taken by the British Government, separating itself from the Concert of Europe, to have improved the affairs of Europe, whilst it might possibly have led to much graver complications. ["Hear, hear!"] It may be urged that if this were so, why has so much disappointment been expressed in many quarters that so little has been done? The answer is supplied in Lord Salisbury's own speeches. We were told by Lord Salisbury, in a speech at Bradford before he came into office, that to use menaces, unless we were prepared to follow them up by strong action, was calculated to lead to increased fanaticism and to produce further trouble. When Lord Salisbury came into office almost the first thing he did, at the opening of Parliament, was to use language which, though I think he does not like it to be described as a menace, was a strong warning, in the most grave and serious words which have ever been addressed to the head of a foreign State. He used that language towards the Turkish Government. When a few weeks more had gone by Lord Salisbury spoke at the Guildhall, and, speaking on this very point, whether the Concert of Europe was likely to lead to Measures which would be effective in improving the Turkish Government, said:—The other thing is that those who advise the Sultan to his hurt should imagine that the pressure of this necessity"—of the Powers of Europe standing together—is so great that no abuse, be it what it may, which finds its place in the Ottoman Empire, can ever receive the natural punishment which, 70 in the ordinary course of the world's affairs, attends upon gross misgovernment. That, again, would be a grave illusion.That, I venture to say, was understood at the time as meaning that, in Lord Salisbury's opinion, much was to be hoped from the Concert of Europe. That is the only natural meaning of the words. If it was to be asserted that the Concert of Europe was going to fail and not going to take strong Measures and nothing would be done—that, Lord Salisbury thought, would be a grave illusion. There was an illusion, but it was on Lord Salisbury's side. [Cheers.] If now any feeling of surprise is expressed that larger hopes had been founded on the action of the present Government on the policy of the Concert of Europe, I say undoubtedly that a full justification for those hopes is to be found in Lord Salisbury's own speeches, which afford ample justification for disappointment at the results which have followed. The Concert of Europe, which we understood all through the autumn was going to attempt to preserve the Armenian Christians in Asia Minor, has succeeded in doing little except preserving itself. It may be that from the Concert of Europe little was to be hoped and next to nothing has been done. Every admission we make simply emphasises the failure of the policy under which that Concert of Europe came into existence. Surely part of the policy of 1878, at any rate, was to protect the Christians in the provinces of the Turkish Empire, and to do that by International guarantees. These guarantees have broken down, and much as we have heard about the glorious policy of 1878, we have now to admit that, so far as the protection of Christians in the Turkish Empire by International guarantee has been concerned, the policy has been a failure, and we are reduced to the plea that for that failure the blame must rest, not on the British Government, but elsewhere. It is a miserable and lame conclusion, and Lord Salisbury has pointed this out in his own words in the Blue-book. In reference to the policy of the Russian Government, which has been the policy of the Concert of Europe, he has pronounced his final words in the Blue-book—that little is to be hoped. That is the situation with which we are face to face to-day. Nothing effective 71 has been done, and, for the future, little is to be hoped. What, then, is to be the policy of the British Government in the future? Lord Salisbury has used impressive words with regard to the future of the Turkish Empire, and has said:—Above all treaties and combinations of external Powers, the nature of things or the Providence of God, if you please to put it so, has determined that persistent and constant misgovernment must lead the Government guilty of it to its doom.Are we now to bear these words in mind and recognise the moral force contained in them and take the spirit of them as the guiding and essential element in our policy? I venture to say that that is the opinion which has gained ground in this country. [Cheers.] The First Lord of the Treasury has spoken of the grave effects of what has occurred in the last year or two on public opinion in this country. He has warned the Turkish Government that they have been squandering the belief of public opinion in this country in the possibility of Turkish reform. I think that at any rate the Government might not be afraid to endorse this much as regards the future—that, though the future of the Turkish Empire cannot be said to be the subject of indifference to this country, and whatever part we may take in the councils or acts of Europe with regard to it, we shall do our utmost in the future to be sure our intervention has not, even as an incidental result, still less for its object, the perpetuation of any system of misgovernment under which such cruelty has been possible, and that, whatever changes may happen and new settlements may be made in future years, we, at any rate, shall strive in the part which we shall take in these changes and settlements to see that the subjects of Turkey most exposed to oppression and cruelty shall have secured to them guarantees very different from what existed in the past, and will not be found useless and worthless after years of waiting at the time when most needed. [Cheers.]
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
The observations of the hon. Baronet who has just spoken have been characterised by his customary 72 effectiveness and force, and, with certain notable exceptions, I do not know that there is much in the earlier portion of his speech to which I can object. Sir, in this Debate, so far as it has gone, two opposite currents of criticism have been directed against the Government. In the speech of the mover we heard a cry of lamentation that the Government had not been able to proceed further than it has succeeded in doing. On the other hand, in the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield there was a vigorous protest to the effect that the Government had gone too far. I hope I shall succeed in my endeavour to show to the House that the truth lies between these two extremes, and that when you consider the exigencies by which the Government was confronted, and to a certain extent controlled, no more successful course could have been adopted than that which they pursued. I should like to congratulate the mover of the Motion upon having altered its terms. Up to last evening the Motion appeared on the Paper in a form in which it was impossible for us to accept it. He invited the Government, in the first place, to record its satisfaction at the utterances of one of its own number, a proceeding which, however palatable to ourselves, is a very unusual one in this House. In the second place, he selected a particular passage from the speech of a right hon. Gentleman who sits on this Bench, detached it from its context, and put upon it an interpretation which it could not bear, and which was expressly repudiated two days later by the speaker. [Cheers.] I am glad, therefore, that he has altered the terms of the Motion. In the form in which he now submits it to the House I have to say that we have no objection to it and are willing to accept it. But I should like to add, while making that statement, that the hon. Member must not suppose that when we express our trust that further endeavours will be made to ameliorate the lot of the Christian population in Asiatic Turkey we regard it as possible that such endeavours will be made by force of arms. That has been proved by recent experience to be impossible, and I throw out this word of caution that in accepting this Motion the conduct of the Government may not be misinterpreted in the future. Before I pass further I 73 cannot help for a moment contrasting the innocent and even platonic phraseology of the Motion with the truculent denunciations to which we were subjected in October and November last. At that time it was scarcely possible to take up certain Radical organs of opinion without reading unmeasured abuse of Lord Salisbury and a daily clamour that the Dardanelles should be forced by British fleets, that Turkish ports should be besieged, the British Ambassador recalled, and the Sultan dethroned. These heroics if raked up from the dustbin of forgotten follies look very silly now. [Cheers.] I have no desire to extract any Party consolation whatever from the conversion of hon. Gentlemen opposite to more sober views. I welcome the tone of the speech of the mover this evening, but I think I am justified in saying that these events have given us a warning against the formation of hasty conclusions and the use of violent language against a Government in the total absence of any evidence whatever to support it. There are two other Amendments on the Paper, one of which has not been moved, but to part of which my hon. Friend has addressed his speech. I do not know that I entirely agree with the wording of these Amendments. That there have been Revolutionary movements in Turkey is, no doubt, true, and under the circumstances is not surprising. [Cheers.] But to say that the bulk of these organisations can be legitimately described as murderous or malevolent is not established by any evidence that I have seen. My hon. Friend has talked about the action of the Armenian Committees in this country. I agree with him in thinking that the action of some of them, and still more of special correspondents out in the regions concerned, have created false hopes; and those events which we all deplore will, I think, have at least a good result in one particular if they teach men the danger of encouraging—even in the most disinterested spirit—hopes which are doomed to disappointment. The hon. Baronet took note of a complaint which has been made against Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. It is not as a representative of the Foreign Office, nor in any spirit of merely official obligation, that I join with the hon. Baronet in protesting 74 against that attack, in the interest of justice and of fairness to a distinguished representative of the Queen. An Ambassador is in a peculiar and delicate position. The whole of the instructions he has received and the difficulties he has had to contend with are not known to the public at large. However much he may be attacked, he has no opportunity of exculpation or defence. This I must say for Sir P. Currie—he has, perhaps, occupied during the past year a position as thankless as that of any representative of Her Majesty in any part of the world. He has had to deal with a Government which has elevated procrastination to the dignity of a fine art; he has been associated with colleagues, a name not always synonymous with allies; yet I venture to say that in these circumstances he has shown a resourcefulness, a perseverance, and a courage which have earned for him the confidence of the two Governments he has served. I will take one instance of the unfair attacks made upon Sir P. Currie. The first Blue-book is that which relates to the Sasun massacres. In the concluding Dispatch in the book is a memorandum from Mr. Shipley upon the report sent by himself and his colleagues. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn, in a former Debate leapt to the conclusion that this memorandum had been written in Constantinople, after the return of the Delegates from the scene of the massacre, under the eye and at the dictation of Sir P. Currie, because, he said, Sir P. Currie, not being satisfied with the number of 265 alleged to be slain, told him to sit down and write 900. That is an unjust aspersion made in ignorance or in misapprehension of the facts. If my hon. Friend will refer to the Blue-book he will find that as far back as December 26, 1894, the Delegates were instructed, before going out to send at the same time as their joint report separate reports to their Governments, and he will also see that in August, before Mr. Shipley returned to Constantinople, he was engaged in preparing his memorandum. It is no doubt true that ridiculously exaggerated estimates of the slain at Sasun were circulated at the beginning. It is also true that there has been an equal departure from probability in the process of minimising which has been applied to these events on this side of 75 the House. It has been said that only 265 persons were killed. If you look at the Report you will find that the 265 persons were those stated before the Commission to have been murdered, and that the witnesses coming from three districts almost exclusively, reported solely as to those districts. From one district, Talori, only four witnesses came to speak to 14 deaths. Yet a little later when Consul Hampson visited that district he reported that 13 out of 14 parishes, with a population of 4,500, had been totally destroyed, and he estimated the slain at Talori alone at 520. I will not pursue the Sasun incident; it is as dead as are its unhappy victims. But any impartial observer reading that Blue-book must come to the conclusion that, with only the slightest provocation and the meanest excuse, a campaign of extermination was carried on by Kurds and Turks against the defenceless population of that mountainous district, and that, if the number of those killed can only be counted by hundreds, the number must be estimated at many thousands of those who suffered misery and destitution as bad as death itself. ["Hear, hear!"] I pass to a question of more immediate importance—the agitation for reforms at Constantinople. I do not desire, and I do not think my hon. Friends desire, to make a Party question of this. I must, however, point out that this question of reforms, upon which everything subsequently has hung, was a question initiated and raised by the late Government, that the combination between England, France, and Russia was also due to their initiative, and that at a very early stage they were perfectly aware of the difficulties with which that combination was certain to be confronted. [''Hear, hear!"] As far back as last June the hon. Baronet knew quite well that the Russian Government would not join in any restraint, for on May 30 Prince Lobanoff stated that in no case would his Government associate itself with such measures. When the hon. Baronet was confronted with that passage in the course of his speech, he somewhat shifted his ground, and he said:—Oh, yes, it is true that Russia said she would not associate with any other Power, but she did not give us to understand that she would resent any Power taking action by itself.76 I must refer the hon. Baronet to a passage on page 85, where he will find that when, on June 19, his chief, Lord Kimberley, distinctly proposed an ultimatum to the Turkish Government, Russia made it perfectly clear that she would not agree to it, because, in her opinion, no sufficient ground existed for a communication of such a character. Under these circumstances, for the members of the late Government to pretend that they meant business and that when they left office the hour had not arrived for applying force seems not to be quite compatible with the facts as disclosed by the Blue-book. ["Hear, hear!"] I pass to the matter of immediate challenge—the policy of the present Government. What was the situation when Lord Salisbury took office? He found that the reforms were hanging fire; he found that we were committed to this co-operation with Franca and Russia. I am well aware that that grouping of Powers was due to special circumstances for which there was, if not a good reason, at least good excuse. But this I will say, it was not perhaps the most effective combination for the purpose that could have been devised. The Armenian question—and this is the platform upon which the Government throughout have taken their stand—is the interest, not of any one Power or of two, or of any group of three Powers, but is the interest of all the Powers who signed the Treaty of Berlin. [Cheers.] When Lord Salisbury came into office he laid down at a very early date—July 26—a clear statement of his policy with regard to Armenia. He sent a telegraphic dispatch to Sir F. Lascelles, in which he said:—I have received your telegram of yesterday, reporting the views entertained by Prince Lobanoff on the question of reform in Asia Minor. I shall be glad if you will assure His Highness that what Her Majesty's Government are anxious to obtain for the Armenian population is merely justice and the security of life and property, and that the bestowal upon them of any exceptional privilege is neither being pressed, nor is it desired, by Her Majesty's Government.Having made that statement of his policy, Lord Salisbury continued his endeavours to push the scheme of reforms, as to which he had an independent idea of his own. As an alternative to the Commission of Control named in the 77 original scheme, Lord Salisbury suggested a Committee of Surveillance composed partly of Europeans and partly of Turks, which was to visit Asia Minor and on the spot to superintend the execution of reforms. The hon. Baronet said Lord Salisbury's policy was not that of the late Government. I agree with him, because, while Lord Salisbury loyally accepted the particular grouping and combination of Powers which he inherited from the Party opposite, he adopted his own policy and he endeavoured to replace that fortuitous combination of three Powers by re-establishing the Concert of Europe. In this object the Government was successful. The reforms were carried, the Sultan gave his word that they should be put into execution, and the Concert of Europe was set up. It was at this moment that Lord Salisbury made the Guildhall speech. Then we are met with the complaint of the hon. Baronet:—What is the good of setting the Concert of Europe upon its legs again, when it turns out to be not more effective than was the combination of the three Powers?I admit that the Concert of Europe was not as effective as we should have wished for the purpose for which it was revived; I admit that that failure may be looked upon as regrettable and even deplorable; but it is not for me, nor do I think it is for anyone in this House, to pronounce upon the motives, views, or even the jealousies of other Governments. Each Government is the best judge of its own policy, and it is for us only to recognise and to acknowledge facts. What are these facts? Why was it that the Concert of Europe, having been established at the time of the Guildhall speech, succeeded in doing so little? The explanation may be found in the Blue-book, in the attitude of the other Powers. We know that the Austrian Government told us on one occasion that they contemplated acting only through the Sultan, and not in spite of him; that they objected to any action which might have the appearance of coercion, and that if coercive measures were taken infinitely more calamitous results to humanity would ensue than even the savagery then being perpetrated on the wretched Armenians. We know also the policy of Russia, and 78 I will only give one reference. On November 20th we were given Prince Lobanoff' s ideas. He said it was presumably the object of every Power to get the Sultan to restore peace and order in his dominions; to do this in the state of excitement among his subjects His Majesty must have time, and his moral authority must be unimpaired. Threats of intervention could not but undermine that authority, and would therefore defeat the object the Powers had in view, as, no matter how much the Sultan might wish and strive to restore order, without prestige and moral authority he could do nothing. As things stood, the Sultan had accepted all their demands and they should now give ample time to allow the excitement to subside, and await patiently the result of His Majesty's efforts to tranquillise the disturbed districts. This therefore was the solid fact with which we were confronted—namely, that the Powers were individually and collectively opposed to taking any action, were resolved to maintain the status quo, and were decided to prevent a European war at any hazard. Having shown that concerted action was impossible, I come to a point which has been made more perhaps out of the House than in it, and that is the assumption that, although concerted action was impossible isolated action by this country was not only possible, but was a duty. I ask the House to look the facts in the face. What are the ample means and what are the steps to which the Member for Aberdeen made reference in the Debate on the Address that the Government could have availed themselves of? This is not a question of politics; it is a question of geography. Lord Rosebery, at the beginning of this Session, made a speech in the House of Lords in which he took credit to himself for having observed silence during the Recess, and for not having, by a word or gesture, hampered the Government. It is possible for a Statesman to be silent in speech and to be very eloquent on paper—[cheers]—and I distinctly remember one or two letters from Lord Rosebery in the course of the Recess which did not seem to have been intended or calculated to strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government. [Cheers]. In one of these letters he spoke about Lord Salisbury as being in 79 the possession of a dictatorship, supported by an Armada. I do not know that the possession of a majority of 150, which I suppose is what he meant, counts for much in the mountain region of Armenia, whilst as to the Armada, let hon. Members get a map, and see what use an Armada was to stop the massacres in the Armenian provinces of Asia Minor. Why, these incidents were taking place in a remote mountain district, the only maritime access to which was by the Black Sea, the approaches to which were not in our possession or control. They were taking place in the depth of winter, and between any port which we could have landed at, or could have seized, and the scene of action, there were something like 150,000 to 200,000 Turkish troops in arms. Does anyone, then, tell us that we could have made any impression whatever upon Armenia by seizing Smyrna, as has been suggested, or any other port in Asia Minor? It reminds me of the well-known saying of Sidney Smith, that you might as well expect to produce an impression on the Dean and Chapter by tickling the dome of St. Paul's. Suppose we had taken these steps, what would have happened? Would it have done any good to the Armenians? That terrible massacres were going on we were certain. But in such a case, for massacre might have been substituted extirpation. Moreover, already there had been riots and loss of life in Constantinople, and we could not be certain that serious risings against Christiana would not have occurred in other parts of the Turkish Dominions. Above all, we had the clearest warnings from other Powers that any such steps would, in their opinion, be the inevitable presage of a European war. Under these circumstances, I do not think that any Member of this House, looking these facts in the face, will pretend that the Government could possibly have taken isolated action at that time. [Cheers.] Crusades are all very well in their way, but crusades, at any rate in the Nineteenth Century, must have not merely a chivalrous, but a practical aspect; and I do say if we had taken those steps and had incurred those perils, which were not obscurely predicted, the Leaders of the Government would have been acting, not as Statesmen, not even 80 as philanthropists, but, in my humble judgment, as public misdemeanants who were running the risk of committing a crime against civilisation. [''Hear, hear!"] On the other hand, I gather from the opinions of some hon. Members, that the Government ought not to have gone as far as they did. I say nothing of the moral obloquy that would have attached to any Government in this country which had taken up this cause, and having taken it up, had allowed it to drop. But, again, I am disposed to look at the matter from a practical point of view. Since July, when we took over office, the situation has much changed. By the end of October reforms had been carried in a shape which, though substantially the same, was yet an improvement upon their original form. The Powers had also been brought into line by the activity of the Secretary of State, and by the outbreak in Constantinople and the explosion of fanaticism in Asia Minor. In the interval had occurred the intervention of Austria, and as late as November 5th, the Powers were still so far united that their representatives in Constantinople, after exchanging views, addressed an identical Note to the Porte saying they were obliged to refer the matter to their Governments, who would concert together, if the Porte did not adopt effectual measures for carrying out the reforms immediately. On November 21st, a second communication was addressed to the Turkish Government; and we were therefore justified in thinking that the Powers meant something by their concerted action; and if these hopes afterwards turned out to be unfounded, deplore it as we may, the blame does not rest upon us, but upon others. Hon. Members in this House should not lose sight of the fact that our policy in this matter has aroused the gravest suspicion on the part of Continental Powers. The explanation of a good deal that has occurred is that, throughout, Russia, Austria, and other Powers have persisted in seeing behind our action something that was not in it, and have declined to allow to us what I venture to assert were the purely disinterested motives by which we were actuated. They would not believe that we had not some personal, or party, or national end to gain. A better illustration 81 cannot be given of this than what happened in the action suggested by Lord Salisbury. The Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, M. Nelidoff, said, on December 11th, that his instructions did not authorise him to act in concert with the other Ambassadors for any purpose except that of securing the safety of the foreign colonists in Constantinople and its neighbourhood. Upon that, Lord Salisbury, who was anxious to carry the matter further, requested, on January 29th, the Russian Government that M. Nelidoff should be authorised to join in consultation with his colleagues as to the present condition of the Turkish Empire and the nature of the remedial measures to be recommended. This was most seriously misconstrued by the Russian Chancellor, Prince Lobanoff. He replied (page 295 of the last Blue-book), on January 29th, that Lord Salisbury had proposed a course of action which would be a breach of Article IX. of the Treaty of Paris, and that the Russian Government refused to sanction any course of conduct which might lead to European interference with the internal affairs of Turkey. What was meant by Lord Salisbury as a request that the Russian Ambassador should receive instructions from his Government to consult with his colleagues was apparently interpreted by Prince Lobanoff as a suggestion on the part of the Secretary of State to establish a sort of tutela of the Powers. Before I leave the question of our action in Constantinople, I should like to point out, in answer to the complaints against Sir Philip Currie, what Sir Philip Currie has succeeded in doing. ["Hear, hear!"] I think we hear the word failure used a little too often by Members in this Debate. People seem to have got into the pernicious habit of admitting that there has been a complete failure, and the only step that they then take is to try and show that they themselves are not responsible. I do not admit failure. I believe I am capable of showing that very substantial benefits have been secured by the action of Sir Philip Currie at Constantinople. In the first place, it was due to his threat of sending the British Military Attaché to Sasun that the Commission was sent there at all. Next, it was the action of the British Ambassador that saved 82 the lives of 2,000 Armenian, refugees in the churches at Constantinople after the riot of September 30th. [''Hear, hear!"] It was due to him that certain officers, particularly the notorious Vali of Bitlis, and certain police officers, were dismissed from their posts. Sir Philip Currie has also persuaded the Government to reappoint the Military Consuls, who were originally sent to Asia Minor in 1879, and who were so foolishly withdrawn in 1881. ["Hear, hear!"] Then we owe to Sir Philip Currie the successful mediation at Zeitun. Not one word has been said about that, and yet, but for British intervention, many thousands of lives might then have been lost. Finally, there were the reforms themselves. Before we drop the subject, do not let the House carry away the idea, because this scheme of reforms has not been so far put into operation, that therefore it will never be put into operation in future. The scheme is a very good one, which covers a wide field of action, administrative, judicial, financial. I know that hon. Members opposite are somewhat sceptical as to whether these reforms will ever be carried out, and I do not say that we have any guarantee that they will; but that is a matter which depends on the initiative of the Sultan alone. I am speaking of Sir Philip Currie now, and I am endeavouring to show that the reforms which have been introduced are the reforms which he initiated, and that he deserves the credit of drawing up the scheme. [''Hear, hear!"] I must allude at this stage to a most extraordinary suggestion that fell from the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution. He seems to be under the impression—and that impression appears to be entertained by other hon. Members—that Russia, although unwilling to allow other Powers to take active steps in Armenia, was prepared to do so herself, and was only retarded by the jealousy of the other Powers. Sir, that is a complete fiction. ["Hear, hear!"] It is clear that to any such course of action there must be four parties—the Sultan, the population of Asia Minor, Russia, and the other European Powers. I have never seen any reason to believe that the Sultan has any anxiety whatever to hand over any part of his Dominions to Russia. [Laughter.] Then, as regards the population 83 of Asia Minor, does the hon. Gentleman suppose that the Mussulmans of Asia Minor desire to be put under Russia? Is he even certain that the Armenians themselves desire to be transferred to Russian control? [''Hear, hear!"] I doubt whether the experience of the Armenians in the Caucusus is such as to encourage them to desire a change of Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Next, as regards Russia herself, we have had the clearest intimation, as far back as July 3rd—the first week of our taking office—that the Russian Government was averse to undertaking any responsibility for the administration of any part of the Turkish Dominions. Then I come to the fourth party, the European Powers. I have, during the course of the past month been asked a number of questions in this House, which seem to me to show on the part of hon. Members who have asked them a most extraordinary ignorance of international law and practice. Some hon. Members seem to suppose that because the Sultan misgoverns part of his Dominions, an obligation rests upon Europe to step in and deprive him of what portion of his territories they please, and hand it over to any of the European Powers they may choose. The hon. Mover of the Resolution even went further. He suggested that we should ask Russia to undertake this mission which she has refused to undertake, and that in order to persuade her we should give her a port in the Mediterranean. The hon. Member did not say whose port. [Laughter.] I did not gather from him whether we were to hand over Malta or Gibraltar—[laughter]—or whether he proposed, in pursuance of his previous line of argument, to seize somebody else's territory in order to give it to Russia. [Renewed laughter.] We have heard a great deal from the Benches opposite about unauthorised and filibustering raids into other people's country; and it certainly astonishes me to find that the very men who use this strong language about South Africa should encourage the Government to take much more flagrant steps, and to implore that in this great campaign of treaty-breaking England should be the leader. [Ministerial cheers.] Before I finish I wish to say a few words about the massacres. If 84 it had not been for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett) I do not think I should have been tempted to say anything about them. I think my hon. Friend has not succeeded in giving the House a fair impression of the nature of those massacres. I do not see how it is possible to deny or even to minimise the appalling character of these events. I suppose I have read more about them than any other man in the House, because, in addition to the Papers in the Blue-books, I have had other information, public and private, put before me, and my impression of the massacres is this. There are certain common characteristics that may be traced in the history of all these events. They all occurred posterior to the granting of the reforms in Constantinople, which in itself suggests some connection with that step. They occurred almost simultaneously in widely-scattered parts of Asia Minor. They were begun in most cases by the Turks. I regard the countercharge, though true in a few instances, as having broken down in the great majority of cases. The massacres were openly participated in by Turkish soldiers and gendarmes. The proceedings were conducted with an organisation that was perfect and almost mathematical. The massacres in some cases began and ended by sound of trumpet. The Armenians were almost the only Christians who suffered. The lives of other Christians were spared, and the number of Turks killed was quite insignificant. And finally these massacres were followed by the forcible conversion of the survivors to Mahommedanism, accompanied by the greatest cruelty. I do not care to dispute with my hon. Friend on this side of the House as to the actual number of the slain. The number of 25,000 has been given on the authority of the Delegates of the six Embassies at Constantinople; and further, the evidence on which they reported was evidence derived from their Consuls on the spot—as well as from eye-witnesses, missionaries, priests, travellers, and others—and figures are only given where the data for a correct estimate existed, and many of the districts are omitted altogether. I myself believe that the number of 25,000, instead of being a maximum, is rather a minimum. 85 It is fair also to bear in mind the incidents that have followed this carnival of blood. Whole districts have been desolated; whole villages have been destroyed. Thousands of persons are at the present moment wandering about in the cold mountain districts of Asia Minor, homeless, penniless, clothless, foodless, and capable of absorbing every penny of the tens of thousands of pounds that you can send them. I do say deliberately, seeing that this has been challenged in this House—and I am only repeating what has been said by others of greater responsibility than myself—that this is one of the most appalling stories of misery I have ever read. If the poet's saying is true that ''mortal tears to mortal woes are due," I cannot myself imagine a more pathetic spectacle in history. [Cheers.] I do not think I need detain the House any longer. I have covered a somewhat wide field of controversy. But I hope I have satisfied the House that, by inquiry, by agitation, by protests, by suggestions, by active interference within the limits which were possible to us, Her Majesty's Government have done the best in their power to ameliorate the condition of these unhappy people, and to obtain for them the boon of justice and elementary security of life and property. [Cheers.] Sir, we have done all that we could. We shall not abate our efforts in the future. But as regards the past, I hope the House, before it closes this Debate to-night, will clearly have arrived at the conviction that further than we did go we could not go—[''hear, hear!'']—that, unable to get others to go along with us, we were not prepared to act alone; and that we should have done wrong if we had acted alone. We were not prepared at any moment to go to war for the sake of Armenia. We were not prepared to plunge Europe into a Continental war for the sake of Armenia. We were not prepared to jeopardise the interests of this country and I will go further and say the interests of the Armenians themselves, in pursuit of what was no doubt a perfectly disinterested, but what might, in the last resort, have turned out to be a perilous, if not a fatal philanthropy. [Loud Cheers.]
§ MR. ALBERT SPICER (Monmouth Boroughs)
said, that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in his very able and, in the main, conciliatory, speech had found fault with some hon. Members for putting too much confidence in the communications and opinions of Radical organs. Nothing, however, which he had read in the Liberal Press respecting the fearful state of things in Armenia had made as deep an impression on his mind as the burning and eloquent words of the right hon. Member himself. He was, he confessed, a reader of The Daily News and Daily Chronicle, but he could not be contradicted when he said that on the subject of Armenia last autumn the statements and utterances of The Times, which could hardly be included among Radical organs, were nearly, if not quite, as strong as those of the newspapers which the right hon. Member described as Radical. The right hon. Member had criticised with some severity hon. Members who had striven to arouse public opinion on this question. He was to be numbered among such Members, and he wished to say that what he did was not done out of Party spirit, and that he should not be ashamed to repeat in that House all that he had said on public platforms. He and other Opposition Members who spoke on this subject in the autumn thought that they were helping to strengthen the hands of the Government, and were encouraged to take the course which they did by the speeches of Lord Salisbury himself. If they were at all to blame, the diplomatic methods of the day-were in a large degree responsible. He questioned whether these methods were suited to the present time. They were all very well when the Foreign Office obtained its information sooner than anybody else, but now the Press had agents all over the world, and in many instances got information before the Foreign Office. Could not the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs do something to modernise the diplomatic methods now in vogue? Would it not be well for the Foreign Office to take the country more into its confidence 87 when matters such as were now under consideration arose? When the conscience of the nation was aroused, as it was during last autumn, they could not remain silent if they would. He doubted whether the present Government realised as seriously as their predecessors the obligations that this country took upon itself in 1878. It had been said that hon. Members on his side of the House had misinterpreted some of the clauses of the Treaty of Berlin and of the Cyprus Convention; but he held that they were justified in their interpretation by the speeches delivered by Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury after their return from Berlin. Those who took part in the meetings held in the autumn could not justly be blamed for believing that, under the Berlin Treaty and the Cyprus Convention, we had very distinct obligations with regard to the good government of Turkey, and that, in the event of Turkey's not carrying out her pledges, we had the right to interfere, either in concert with Europe or alone. He supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Flintshire, but did not feel as kindly as that hon. Member did towards either the late Government or the present one. His complaint with the late Government was that, although they recognised clearly the obligations which this country was under, there did not seem to have been during their tenure of power any agreed policy as to what should be done in the event of Turkey's refusing to effect reforms. With respect to the Members of the present Government, his complaint was that they had changed their attitude in some degree after their return to office. Within a day of Lord Salisbury coming into Office, he based his argument on different ground. In a Dispatch, No. 105, July 4th, Lord Salisbury wrote to Sir Philip Currie stating that, in a conversation he had with the Turkish Ambassador, he urged that it was absolutely necessary for the Turkish Government to make concessions to public opinion, cspecially in England, with reference to the reforms in the Armenian Provinces. That was the argument the Prime Minister used throughout the Dispatches—concessions were to be made, not because there were Treaty obligations, but because it would be wise for the Turkish Government to make concessions to 88 public opinion in England and elsewhere. That seemed to him to be, to a certain extent, a lowering of the flag. Lord Salisbury clearly recognised the arduous task we had undertaken, and yet when he came into Office there was no sign whatever that he laid down the same doctrine that he had laid down in 1878.
§ MR. CURZON
The hon. Member is quite mistaken. Lord Salisbury has acted throughout in pursuance of the obligations imposed upon this country by the Treaty of Berlin.
§ MR. SPICER
maintained, however, that there was a distinct difference between the expressions made use of. If he was conducting any negotiation in business, and he noticed that the principals of the firm, where changes in management had taken place, with whom he was in negotiation had taken a new line, he would come to the conclusion that they were not so heartily in sympathy with the matter under discussion as those who had preceded them. The Blue-books showed this change of attitude. In other cases he admitted that Lord Salisbury used comparatively strong language in his demands on the Sultan, but he thought that the Government had used this kind of language after they knew that the other European Powers were not prepared to go with them, and after they did not see their way to incur the risk of war on behalf of this country. He did not say a word as to this, but he thought it was a great mistake to go on using this strong language when we were not prepared to back our words by our deeds. He trusted that, even at the eleventh hour, some means might be devised by the Government to stop these massacres. At the present time, it seemed to him that England had been distinctly humiliated. No one could read the Blue-books without feeling that we must occupy a different position in the eyes of Europe to-day from what we did, at any rate, some years ago. He hoped that in the future, more than in the past, something would be done to fulfil the obligations into which we had entered with our eyes open, and to give effect to the determination to carry them out.
§ COLONEL HUGH McCALMONT (Antrim, N.)
said, he had lived a long time in Armenia at the time of the Russo-Turkish War, and he deplored the 89 language used by the hon. Member for Flintshire with reference to the Turks, who had been described as "hopeless barbarians." He was attached to the staff of one of the Turkish pashas during that war, and he could say of personal experience that the observations of the hon. Member were uncalled for. There were atrocities in 1877, and at that time the Turks did everything in their power to put an end to them. He had seen Kurds severely punished for the crimes. It must be remembered also that the Turkish Government were in a difficult position. They had to govern Armenians, Turks, Circassians, Russian Kurds, and Turkish Kurds; and the people of this country had no idea of the difficulty of controlling such people. When he was in Armenia a massacre occurred, and he was instructed to convey to the Pasha that they must be put an end to and the offenders punished. The Turks took strong measures to find out the criminals, and when found these men were severely punished. He and Colonel Trotter, the military attaché, received the thanks of Lord Derby for the measures they had taken, to impress on the Turkish Government what was necessary to be done. While the Turkish Government had an almost impossible task to perform their difficulties were not in the least lessened by an outcry like the present in England, which he believed to be one of the causes that had led to this revolution in Armenia. The Berlin Treaty had not really been carried out, and he believed in Lord Beacons field's policy with regard to it. In 1879 Lord Beaconsfield appointed military officers with consular powers to watch over affairs in Armenia, but they were withdrawn by Lord Granville in 1881. At that time the reports from Armenia wore bad; the country was just recovering from the devastating war; it was a period of calm after the storm. He believed the Government, for example, would have been warned in time of the intended massacre at Sasun if military consuls had been at Van and Mush. He thought that it was a terrible state of things for this country to have taken upon itself to help Turkey to carry out reforms of administration at the time those military consuls were withdrawn. Very great blame rested upon this country for proposing to stand forth in Europe as the 90 leaders of civilisation when we had not sent men out to Turkey, whether military or civilian, to watch over affairs in Armenia, and to take measures for hindering the commission of the fearful crimes they now deplored. It was a terrible thing that we had held out hopes to those unfortunate Armenian people. He had been asked himself, not only by Armenians, but by Kurds and Circassians and Turks: "Whom have we to look to?" and he had said: "Unquestionably, you must look to England; that is the home of freedom." Yet we had sacrificed these people, and nobody regretted it more than he did. He hoped they would hear no more denunciation of the Turks. The Turks were just as good people as we were. They were not barbarians, but they were badly governed. Having stood alongside the Turks when they were fighting against Russia, he was ready to stand up for the Turks.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.),
as one who had been in Constantinople at the time of the recent riots, supported the view that those disturbances were caused by outside intrigue and by foreign gold. He believed they were got up on the other side of the Danube and on this side of the Channel by persons whose only care was to keep a whole skin to their bodies, keeping themselves out of the way while other people did the work. How did the disturbances begin? A deputation of Armenians waited on Said Pasha, and upon their being inspected before they got to the Porte it was discovered that nearly all of them had a loaded revolver in their pockets. Suppose a deputation of Uitlanders had gone to President Kruger with bowie knives up their sleeves, that astute personage would have cut off the head of the tortoise sooner than he did. The next thing—and he was in the neighbourhood at the time—was that the Armenians got into the streets of Stamboul and, without any provocation, shot a Commissioner of Police engaged in the execution of his duty. That very night at Stamboul there was so little row that the shutters of Armenian shops were not even, put up. Then there was the gathering of the 2,000 Armenians in the churches at Pera. From all the information he could gather he did not think there was very much 91 reason why these men should have intruded themselves in those churches. He believed they were ordered to do so by those extraneous Committees in order to call the attention of Europe to what was going on, and to show that their case was considerably harder than it was. In his opinion, too, the bullying of the Sultan by Sir Philip Currie had not resulted in very much good for our diplomacy or prestige.
§ MR. T. W. LEGH
observed that the Armenian Blue-book could not be read without a feeling—not out of shame and humiliation—but even of surprise. Anybody who knew the rudiments of the Eastern Question ought to be aware that the only country which had any real influence and power in Turkey was Russia. Yet, it appeared to him that both the late and the present Government—for one was almost as bad as the other—had never taken the pains to ascertain how far they were going to set the assistance of Russia in following out their policy. It was obvious from the first that they were not going to get assistance from the Russian Government at all; and he quoted from the Blue-book in confirmation of that view. It was surprising, with this knowledge in their possession, that Lord Rosebery and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen should have gone about denouncing Lord Salisbury and his colleagues, and should have allowed their supporters to go about saying that we were preventing Russia from settling the question satisfactorily. He welcomed the wording of the Motion. It worked a welcome change in the attitude of the Anglo-Armenian Association and those Gentlemen who had been most active in the defence of the Armenians in this House. It was at all events satisfactory to know that they had abandoned the idea that we had a right to sit here and dictate to the Turks how they were to rule their most remote possessions, while at the same time we did not pledge ourselves to defend them if attacked by a Foreign Power. Much was said about our obligations, moral and treaty, to the Armenians. But what was the real cause of the Armenian demand for autonomy? It was the action of Russia in creating Bulgaria an independent State. He had always maintained that we had no special liability under the Cyprus Con- 92 vention. Cyprus was occupied for purely military reasons, as an equivalent for Russian aggressions in Asia Minor; and it was set out in the Treaty that if Russia evacuated her acquisitions we would evacuate Cyprus. But the friends of the Armenians had fostered the idea that this country took Cyprus for the express purpose of benefiting the Christian population of Asia Minor. No one contended that because the French occupied Tunis they were responsible for the condition of the interior of Africa. There could be no doubt as to the misgovernment of the Armenian districts, but this country was very much to blame. The inducement held out to Turkey to introduce reforms was, that if she did, we would defend her from foreign invasion. But with the change of Government in 1880 a change of policy on the Eastern Question took place, and the Consuls stationed in Asia Minor—who were the sign of our protection—were withdrawn. It was not surprising that the Turks after that failed to carry out their part of the bargain. The Turk was unprogressive and semi-barbarous; and the only way to induce him to accept reform was to bribe him or force him. But whatever crimes the Turks were guilty of, they had not received fair play in this country. The case for the Armenians was constantly overstated in this country. It was frequently declared to be a case of religious persecution. But Asia Minor was inhabited by other Christian populations besides the Armenians? and how was it that atrocities were never perpetrated on any but the Armenians? There was the clearest evidence in the Blue-book of an organised revolution among the Armenians. That was practically admitted by Sir Philip Currie himself, when he wrote in April, 1895:—It cannot be expected that the Report will be considerated adequate by the Armenians. No plan that does not put into their hands the domination now exercised by the Turks would satisfy their aspirations.When the Armenians were represented as harmless sheep, he must recall the occurrences at Zeitun, when a Turkish fort was captured by Armenians, and, according to the evidence of our own Consuls, the Turkish soldiers were massacred in cold blood and shocking 93 mutilations were performed. Mr. Shipley, in his final Report, said that an "agitation subversive of the authority of the Government" had been carried on for some years; and the statement was borne out by the statements of Prince Lobanoff on May 23 and June 14, of Consul Gray in August and September, of Sir Philip Currie on October 3, and of Mr. Herbert on October 8. This country could not clear itself of a certain amount of responsibility for the horrors which had occurred. There was much to be said for Prince Lobanoffs complaint of the Armenian Committees in London sending arms and ammunition to the Armenians, and that the excitement was the result of the uncompromising manner in which the agitation was conducted. The Armenians as a race were exceedingly clever and intelligent, while the Turks were phenomenally stupid. The consequence was that the Armenians could place their case effectively before Europe, while the Turks could not. Their cause was espoused by the clergy, and by many distinguished men and politicians, while the Turks had none to speak for them, except the temporary triple alliance between the hon. Members for King's Lynn, Thanet and Ecclesall; and nobody but the English people took the faintest interest in the condition of the Armenians. The moral of these Blue-books was the extreme danger of allowing ourselves to be carried away by emotion into attempting more than we could perform; the extreme danger of allowing our policy to be dictated by Exeter Hall and well-meaning enthusiasts. All that we had done had only resulted in making the condition of the Armenians worse, in converting Turkey into a thoroughly hostile Power, and in paying the game of Russia. A short time ago he had thought the time propitious for coming to an amicable arrangement with Russia; he was not sure that the time had not passed now, because Russia had got what she wanted without us. No Party capital could be made out of this question. One side was as much to blame as the other. But it was only fair to make it clear to the unhappy Armenians that we had been foolish enough to attempt more than we had the power to perform, and that henceforth any efforts of ours in their cause could only be made in conjunction with the 94 other Powers, who had as much right and obligation to interfere as ourselves.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said, that in bringing forward this motion, the hon. Member for Flintshire had wished to express the sympathy of the House for the suffering Armenians, and to urge the necessity of further action, in order to ameliorate their condition. The Debate had answered one useful purpose. It had brought us face to face with the actual facts of the situation. He was very glad to see the growing tendency towards excluding foreign policy from Party politics, which were most injurious to the right conduct of foreign affairs; but at the same time there was a growing feeling that there should be more publicity given to the general drift of foreign policy. A good deal might have been saved if the country, and especially the House of Commons, had been put in full possession of the facts of the case during the last twenty months. To a certain extent he agreed that they must be experts who should deal with a large portion of foreign affairs, but the experts sometimes made mistakes, and he felt that if hon. Members had realised more fully the true position of affairs we should not have drifted into the impossible and humiliating position in which we now found ourselves. The tendency of foreign politics from 1875 to 1895 could be summarised in a few sentences. The attitude of England had been one of advocacy of Turkey and one of distrust of Russia. A great change had taken place in the relative position of these two countries, Russia and Turkey, during the last 20 years. Turkey was gradually sinking, Russia was gradually getting stronger and conquering. The weakness of Turkey had always been owing to the fact that she had in her dominions a large Armenian population, amongst whom insurrections frequently occurred. The net result was that we had to-day come to the conclusion that two views must be held as to the Turkish Convention. Some persons said that the Convention was not binding upon us, and there were others who contended that it was. But however that might be, however impossible; or possible it was to carry out the obligations of the Convention, the question was what to be in the future. A perusal of the Blue-books showed that 95 it was undoubted that thousands and thousands of Armenians had been massacred under the most heartrending circumstances, and that the immediate cause of the massacre was the agitation for reform. There was also abundant evidence that there was a complicity of the Turkish Government with the atrocities; they knew what was going on. Whether they actually ordered the atrocities, the massacres, there were no means of determining; but it was undoubtedly the fact that they knew the atrocities were to take place, and that they did very little to prevent them. Furthermore, it seemed to him proved that Turkish officers and troops took part in the massacres. The real keynote to the whole position was the attitude of Russia. The main difficulty in the solution of the question was the attitude of Russia, and he found himself in accord with the hon. Member for Flintshire in the view he took—namely, that, although Russia had not acted during negotiations as she ought to have done, it was our duty to give her a fair chance of reestablishing the character which she had earned for herself. She was the only Power suited, by her geographical position and in other ways, to permanently restore order and good government within the confines of the Armenian provinces. He thought that we ought to brace ourselves up as a nation in order to insist in some way or another, either with the Powers or without them, upon bringing the power, and character, and influence of Great Britain to bear in restoring order, in giving freedom and liberty of conscience, and safety of person and property to the persecuted Armenians.
§ MR. H. M. STANLEY (Lambeth, N.)
said, he was exceedingly interested in this question, because many years ago, when a young man, he had travelled through much of Asia Minor, mostly on foot. When the hon. Member for Flintshire began his speech he found himself in hearty sympathy with very many of his expressions; but as the hon. Gentleman went on he became horrified, because he found he was going to dispart the Turkish Empire. They had had an extremely anti-Turkish speech and an extremely anti-Russian speech. They had also had the golden mean from the 96 Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with whose sentiments he heartily agreed; in fact, he had been under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman had telepathically stolen his own sentiments. He had been unable to understand the principles which guided hon. Gentlemen opposite in their dealings with mankind, because he found them so utterly inconsistent; in fact their inconsistency had become a proverb. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Sultan was wholly inexplicable. It seemed to him that if the right hon. Gentleman had not closed his understanding the explicability of the course of the Government would have been extremely manifest to him. The hon. Member for Flintshire said his Resolution was one of sympathy with the Armenians. With the Armenians he was quite sure the hon. Gentleman would obtain from every one in the House sympathy to a certain degree, so long as they behaved as suffering Christians. When they became rebels against the Government they must naturally expect the fate of rebels. [A laugh, and a voice "Shoot them."] But in some quarters sympathy meant armed intervention. He had received a circular wherein it was expressly stated that enduring peace could only be based upon justice and right doing. Those were beautiful words which all could heartily agree with. But how did the hon. Member for Flintshire interpret the principles of justice and right doing?And, therefore, it is imperative that treaties between Great Britain and Turkey insuring good government and freedom for the Christian subjects of that empire should be enforced by Her Majesty's Government.Who gave us the right to enforce these principles on the people of Turkey? He said just now that the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen opposite had become proverbial. Not long ago a well-known character fancied he heard the shrieks of women and children at Johannesburg, and he led his gallant companions across the border and plunged right into the heart of the Transvaal. The hon. Member for Flintshire fancied he heard the shrieks of the suffering Armenians, whereupon he desired that Great Britain should plunge into the heart of Asia Minor and crush their oppressors. He 97 thought that if we had followed such mad advice we should deserve to be put in the same place that poor Dr. Jameson was now in. The Blue-books showed that the present Government had done precisely what their predecessors did. They had protested energetically time and time again. They had insisted on a Commission of Inquiry and that our own officials should be sent out to the scene of the outrages to find out for themselves whether the facts were as stated. The Government had been untiring in their efforts to keep up the interest of the other Powers in maintaining the peace, just as their predecessors were, and one could not but admire the goodwill manifested by the various Ambassadors and Governments concerned during the Court of Inquiry—he alluded to the proceedings at Constantinople. The loyalty shown had been admirable, and there had been perfect harmony among the Ambassadors. Lord Kimberley, in a letter to Sir Philip Currie in December 1894, stated that Rustem Pasha complained of the agitation in this country, and strongly maintained that the disturbances in Armenia were purely revolutionary. That was his own opinion, and from a perusal of the Blue-books it seemed to him that neither of the causes which originally led to the disturbances in Armenia would justify armed intervention by England in the internal affairs of Turkey. The Turkish Government certainly had the right to do their best to suppress political or revolutionary disturbances in their territories in Asia Minor, and in this they only followed the example of civilised Powers. The excesses of the Turkish soldiers had, no doubt, been great, but it should not be forgotten that their passions had been unwisely aroused, and that they had had to suffer also. [''Hear, hear!"] With the sufferings of the Armenian people he believed everyone would sympathise, but, on the evidence presented by the Blue-books, he believed the Sultan was perfectly innocent of the charge of having excited his soldiers to brutality. Reverting to the inconsistency that prevailed in relation to this question, he might remark that they all knew how desirous many persons were of finding a mode by which we could leave Egypt with dignity, and with confidence that the order established in Egypt would not be disturbed 98 on our retirement. How came we to go to Egypt? We occupied Egypt in consequence of interfering in her internal affairs, and we have remained there ever since. Just in the same way it was now urged on us to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, and if we did so and once got there, he was quite sure it would be in the nature of Englishmen to remain there as long as possible. [Laughter.] Then hon. Gentlemen opposite would come to that House and make long and eloquent speeches to prove that we ought at once to retire from Turkey. [Laughter.] Well, prevention was better than cure, and it would be far better if we left the internal affairs of Turkey severely alone, and not try to occupy Smyrna, Stamboul, or Salonica, and then we should not be under the necessity of retiring some day. [''Hear, hear!"] While we gave our sympathy to the Armenians in their troubles, it should not be forgotten that the people whom England was incited to coerce were Mahomedans, and that in India and elsewhere we had millions of Mahomedans for fellow subjects. ["Hear, hear!"] As a State, therefore, England had no right to make the slightest difference between Christians and Mahomedans, and he feared this consideration was not always borne in mind. A careful perusal of the Blue-books had strongly impressed him with the feeling that unfairness had been done to the Sultan and the Turks. They showed that, while there had been a disiclination, even on the part of our officials at Constantinople, to believe what was stated by the Porte, credence had been unhesitatingly given to the statements of the Armenians. The Sultan had expressed his desire that the actual facts relating to the disturbances should be represented to Great Britain, and his Government had shown all through a desire to be on friendly terms with this country. The previous Government pursued a certain line of action towards Turkey which the present Government, on the principle of continuity of policy in foreign affairs, and urged on by hon. Gentlemen opposite, our Government might unhappily have been induced to follow but for the warning given by Prince Lobanoff that Russia and France would not join in coercive measures against the Sultan. In his opinion England adhered to her 99 ancient friendship with Turkey. He did not think Russia had any desire to act against the wishes of Great Britain or France in regard to Turkey, and he was glad to hear from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that the Government reciprocated that feeling wards France and Russia. The sentiment of justice and right-doing, if fairly observed and acted upon by England, would help her over many difficulties in this and other questions, and keep her in the paths of peace and prosperity. [Cheers.] There had been, many mistakes committed of late, from the time Mr. Olney sent the famous Dispatch to Lord Salisbury last July and Lord Salisbury replied, to the time when President Cleveland rose and sent that threatening Message in which he said that all the power of the United States would be used to resist our usurpation of Venezuelan territory. Mr. Kruger, again, in the Transvaal, made a mistake in not conceding reforms to his Uitlanders; poor Dr. Jameson made a great mistake in rushing into the Transvaal before he ought to have done, and he thought Mr. Rhodes also made a great mistake. He hoped the Government would take warning and not commit the next mistake. They wanted to be able to say when, at the end of five, or six, or seven years they went to the country, that they had maintained peace and tranquillity with all the world, that they had quadrupled their wealth, and increased their Navy and their Army.
§ MR. J. F. OSWALD (Oldham)
said, that Lancashire took a very keen interest in this matter. The heart of the Lancashire people responded at once to the dictates of humanity and generosity. He had had a great many memorials from his constituents upon this subject, and the view taken in those memorials, the view of the simple folk, was that this matter was one of very grave importance to this country. It had been said that the Armenians were not a first-class body of men, but he did not see in that any reason why they should be massacred. And even supposing there might be some justification for the massacre of the men, not armed in the same way as those who attacked them, what defence could be made for the troops of the Sultan who perpetrated atrocities upon defenceless women and 100 innocent children? The argument of provocation had been addressed to the House. Every crime was promoted by provocation—the provocation of passion, of want, of cupidity, of lust, of drink, but had it ever been heard in a Christian country that crime was to be defended because of provocation? Could they wonder that the great nation outside the House was stirred by those things that had occurred in Armenia? [''Hear, hear!"] While he agreed with the hon. Member for North Lambeth that all religions were entitled to equal consideration in that House, they could not forget that this was a Christian nation, and that the Queen was called to this day by the honourable style, ''Defender of the Faith." In addition there were treaty obligations by which this country was bound in this matter, and which this country could not disregard. This country had a duty to perform in this matter, and that duty was to stop and to render impossible in the future such atrocities as they had been made familiar with in the past. There were voices in the country which must be heard in that House—the voice of religion, the voice of humanity, and the voice of duty—and must be replied to, and must be satisfied. It had been said that this matter could not be attended to because the Concert of the Great Christian Powers of Europe could not be found to respond to these voices. What he devoutly hoped was that the powerful Government now in office might be able, with the Concert, to achieve what they all so greatly desired. That was that these atrocities should be stopped. It was absolutely necessary, whatever happened, that they should interfere, and, with or without the Concert, stop these things. He could not help thinking that to a certain extent the Sultan trifled with this country, but the cry of the suffering Armenians came to them in such a way that they felt it must be attended to. He desired the House to bear in mind the treaty obligations and the public acts which demanded interference, and if necessary he hoped that the Government would find some way of getting out of this difficulty even though they might not be able to act with the Concert. In Her Majesty's 101 Gracious Speech reference was made to the condition of afiairs in Ashanti, and they all knew that the King of Kumasi had been deposed, one of the reasons for his deposition, being that he would not, according to treaty, suppress human sacrifices in his country. Of course that potentate was far removed from civilisation and the human sacrifices were part of his religion. What he wished to call attention to was the fact that when the King would not suppress human sacrifices, the troops of this country were able to penetrate into his far-off land, punish him, and prevent the dreadful doings which were being there enacted. Hitherto this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had not found many impossibilities or even obstacles in its way when it had made up its mind to advance in the right direction, and it would not in this case if it became necessary to interfere with the strong arm. He declared that the cause of the suffering Armenians was the cause of the weak against the strong, of the poor against the rich, of the just against the unjust. That was a cause which was always popular in this country, and if they wanted to be popular they must maintain this causes. It was, indeed, their duty to maintain it. It was useless to expend millions on their Navy or Army, to speak of their wealth and the advance of their education if they permitted such things as these to exist. In the old days their forefathers would not have permitted them to exist. He hoped the House would be impressed with the importance of the subject debated that evening, and would support, as far as possible, the Resolution of the hon. Member for Flintshire. He believed the Government would do their utmost to put a stop to such scenes as those which they had to deplore, and so order affairs in Turkey as to make their repetition an absolute impossibility.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
observed that there had been some amount of difference of opinion and sentiment in the speeches delivered in the course of that Debate, but he thought the views expressed by the hon. Member who had just sat down, that the feeling outside the House was very strongly indeed, one of horror at the cruelties which had been perpetrated, and sympathy with the victims, would be found to be 102 held by an enormous majority of the people of this country, and that the sentiment of sympathy expressed by the hon. Member for Lambeth with the potentate who had been described as "our ancient ally," received no longer any support outside an exceedingly small circle. He should try to give the House a few data for forming an opinion of the character and conduct of that "ancient ally." A good deal of light had been thrown on the question by the publication of the Blue-books since they had a short Debate on the subject three weeks ago. But, as they all knew, Blue-books were very little read in this country. These Blue-books had probably been hardly read at all outside a small circle of politicians, and he doubted whether more than a dozen persons even in the House had gone through the toilsome and painful task of reading the three books, and especially the last one (Turkey No. 2, 1896). It was, he thought, as painful a task as anyone could ever undertake; but it was not until one had read and re-read it, until its accounts, written in fire and blood, were burned into the mind that it became possible fully to realise what sort of a Government the Turkish Government was He must ask the pardon of the House if ho was obliged to weary it by quoting extracts from the Blue-books. He had carefully selected a few in order to give those who had not time to read the documents for themselves some idea of the way in which the Turks conducted their policy towards the Powers, and of the deliberately prepared way in which the massacres had been carried on. He would take, first, the question of the reforms, which were referred to by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and for whose acceptance by the Sultan he seemed inclined to give that sovereign some credit. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that something of practical value had been attained by the nominal acceptance of the reforms. Now, the history of the reforms was worthy of note. They were presented to the Turks on the 11th May by the late Government. The Turks, as usual, procrastinated and evaded, and when the late Government were defeated on the 21st June, they had not yet succeeded in inducing the Sultan to accept the proposed scheme, 103 which itself fell short of what Lord Rosebery's Government had originally proposed, because concessions weakening it had been made in order to secure the adhesion of Russia and France. Their patience was then nearly exhausted, but, as had been said by the late Under Secretary, the moment had not then yet arrived when it had become necessary to consider what coercive steps should be taken to compel their acceptance and secure their application. Those reforms were finally accepted by the Sultan, in a modified form, on the 22nd October, and he could not say he agreed with the Under Secretary in thinking that those modifications had been improvements. Thus it took Lord Salisbury four months to obtain even this from the Sultan. And what were the reforms worth unless they were put in force? He should show that they never had been put in force and that the Sultan never meant to put them in force after the 22nd of October. Nothing whatever was done to carry them out. The Sultan promised on the 1st November that they should be published. He repeated the promise on the 5th November, and then said they would be published the next day. They did not appear the next day or the day after, and inquiry was made by the British Embassy with the result that the Sultan said, on the 7th November, that he had changed his mind—that he would not publish the reforms, neither would he allow the Armenian Patriarch to publish them. From that day to this they had never been published. What was the result of that non-publication? They would find it stated at page 331 of the Blue-book, where it was set forth by the Delegates of the six Powers who drew up their collective Report on the massacres. Speaking of what had occurred at Aleppo, this Report said in stating the causes which inflamed men's minds—The announcement of the reforms decided upon by His Majesty the Sultan, which, not having been published, were interpreted by the Armenians as conferring new privileges upon them, and by the Mussulmans as putting them in a position of inferiority to the Christians, and as not applicable to themselves, caused excitement and created enmity between the people of different religions.It appeared, therefore, from that statement that the best thing that could have 104 been done for the peace of the country would have been for the reforms to have been published. They did not do injustice to the Mussulmans, but were merely a re-enactment of existing laws, and the Sultan, so far from producing tranquillity by refusing to publish them, gave an incitement to disorder. So much for the publication, now for the execution. On the 24th October, the Sultan assured Sir Philip Currie that the reforms would be faithfully carried out and good men appointed to the Governor ship and to sit on the Commission of Reforms. Soon Sir Philip heard that the Sultan intended to place at the head of the Commission Shefik Pasha, and on December 11th, the last date at which the Blue-book mentions him, this tainted man was still President of the Commission, one of the Commissioners in the A sun Inquiry, whose conduct there had been very bad. Sir P. Currie telegraphed to Lord Salisbury that it would be a bad appointment and Lord Salisbury approved the strong protest to the Turkish Government which Sir Philip had made. But, in spite of that, Shefik was appointed on November 3rd. Pressure was brought to bear on the Sultan to withdraw him, but he refused to do so. The Commission of Reforms itself never held a meeting until November 20th. Massacres had then been going on for six weeks. The Sultan said it was no use carrying out reforms until tranquillity had been obtained—a tranquillity which he was pursuing by means of massacre—and nothing was done. On 24th December our Ambassador reported that the Commission was still doing nothing. While the "Reforms" were thus being turned into mockery, the Ambassador was from time to time instructed to make requests for the dismissal of certain corrupt officials, and to complain to the Sultan, of acts of oppression and cruelty that were being perpetrated. These requests were met with continual denials and evasions and no redress was ever given, no regrets for atrocities committed ever expressed. Mr. Herbert summed up the whole state of affairs in his Dispatch of 5th November, which gave in the clearest way a summary of what had happened up to then. He had repeated to the new Grand Vizier the arguments used on former occasions in regard to the publication of reforms, and had pressed 105 that functionary to proceed with it. In reply the Grand Vizier used language similar to that employed by the Sultan, and stated that it would be absolutely dangerous to publish reforms at this moment in view of present effervescence among the Mussulmans. Then the Dispatch proceeds:—An appeal was also made by me to his Highness that at this critical juncture the Turkish Government might receive the assistance of England. I reminded him that the friendly advice which Her Majesty's Embassy had repeatedly offered had been hitherto steadfastly ignored by the Turkish Government, that every measure which had been suggested by us for the better government in the provinces had been opposed by them, step by step, and that the present state of affairs was entirely due to the policy which they had thought fit to pursue in spite of all our warnings.This record of the Sultan's dealing with the "Reforms" he had just before promised to publish and to enforce showed sufficiently the value of paper reforms, and showed what the good faith of the Sultan was. Meantime, massacres of unexampled magnitude and horror had been going on. He would call the attention of the House to a few cases out of the many which the Blue-book (Turkey, No. 2) contained, that set in the clearest light the complicity of the Turkish Government in those massacres. The officials of that Government, with a very few honourable exceptions, either joined in or connived at the massacres by refusing to interfere for the protection of the Christians. The soldiers and the Redifs, or reserved forces, and the police also took part in them. The Kurds and other marauders openly declared that they had the authority of the Government for the massacres. No one, whether civil or military officer, who took part in or connived at the massacres was punished. And there was also this significant fact, which proved that these massacres were not due to outbursts of irrepressible fanaticism, that wherever the officials did try to stop the massacres they succeeded. He would now give some instances. Writing of the Sasun massacre, Mr. Shipley in his report said:—Speaking with a full sense of responsibility, I am compelled to say that it was not so much the capture of the agitator Murad or the suppression of a pseudo-revolt which was desired 106 by the Turkish authorities as the extermination, pure and simple, of the Ghelieguzan and Tulori districts.The instance of the massacre at Constantinople was familiar to hon. Members. The Ambassador declared that that massacre was carried out with the connivance of the police (telegram of October 2nd 1895). As to the massacre at Trebizond, in which the complicity of the authorities is fully shown, as has been already pointed out in this Debate, the report of Delegates representing the six Powers said:—It appears from the Inquiry held by the Consuls that there was no provocation on the part of the Armenians.Then there was a massacre at Kara-Hissar. The Blue-book (Turkey, No. 2), at page 183, contains a letter enclosed by Mr. Herbert, of the British Embassy, which said:—It is totally untrue that the Armenian Government gave the slightest provocation on this occasion. It was a deliberately planned affair for their extermination in our district. I have examined unimpeachable witnesses, and I am in a position to prove all I have said. I myself have seen and witnessed such heartrending scenes that I am half distracted. I am in a position to name the real promoters (amongst our local authorities) of these massacres in one vilayet of Sivas, also the villages, even the villagers, who took the initiative in this affair and the greater part of the butcherings.There were also massacres at Kharput, Bitlis, and Marash. Our Consul at Aleppo forwards a report showing that a horrible massacre there, on November 18th, was perpetrated by the soldiers "with the evident approval of the Government." We had not a Consul in every place; but the Consuls have taken every pains to secure trustworthy accounts, and some of these accounts come from American missionaries, who, to his knowledge, were faithful and impartial narrators of events. Without reports from them we should have known very little of massacres at some of the places where the most frightful slaughter has taken place. At page 325 would be found an account of the Kharput massacre, as to which the delegates of the six Powers reported:—The officers and soldiers took part in the pillaging. The Kurds asserted that they acted with the connivance of the authorities. The 107 latter finally saw that they must act, but it was too late; and as the officers, soldiers, and gendarmes had taken part in the pillaging, they did not dare to take steps to punish anyone.The account of the Bitlis massacre was at page 214, enclosed in a Dispatch from a British Consul, and it contained this passage:—A bugle sounded; soldiers were on the scene to help kill, and the approaches were all held. Zaptiehs and police were especially active in the butchery and pillage. The call-off was not sounded till evening. There is not the least doubt that the whole thing was planned by the Moslem leaders, with the knowledge, and even support, of the Government.There were further details at page 268, where it was stated:—In Bitlis all the efforts of the authorities are now directed to proving that the Armenians were the cause of the outbreak there, and to implicating the missionaries. I learn that the Armenian prisoners have been previously tortured to sign a telegram to Constantinople to that effect.On page 229 there was a statement by the Consul that the massacre at Marash on November 18th was perpetrated by soldiers. In an account of the massacre at Marsovan on page 238 it was stated that—The soldiers joined in the attack and assisted the mob to dispatch the Armenians. … Men and women were killed like sheep after refusing to accept the faith which was offered them as their only alternative.These statements were substantially adopted by Lord Salisbury himself when he said:—In too many instances the Turkish authorities have encouraged and taken part in the outrages which occurred.This view was confirmed in several remarkable passages by Sir P. Currie. At page 210, writing on the 13th of November, he said:—It may be roughly stated that the recent disturbances have devastated, as far as the Armenians are concerned, the whole of the provinces to which the scheme of reforms was intended to apply; that over a territory larger than Great Britain all the large towns with the exception of Van, Sasun and Mush have been the scene of massacres of the Armenian population. A moderate estimate puts the loss of life at 30,000. 108 The survivors are in a state of absolute destitution and in many places they are being forced to turn Mussulmans. The charge against the Armenians of having been the first to offer provocation cannot be sustained. The participation of the soldiers in the massacres is in many places established beyond doubt.This was a very remarkable statement, because in it Sir Philip Currie called attention to the fact that (with one exception) these massacres occurred in the districts in which the scheme of reforms was intended to operate, and, that, as according to that scheme, the proportion of Christian officials were to correspond with the members of the Christian population, the object of the Turkish Government evidently was to reduce or exterminate that population so as to limit or prevent the operation of the reforms. That, indeed, must be obvious to any one who studied the papers. Now, who was it that was ultimately responsible for the orders under which these massacres were carried out? At page 254, Sir Philip Currie supplied an answer to this question. He said—I regret that I am unable to report any improvement in the state of affairs here. Kiamil Pasha remains in office but appears to exercise no control over the affairs of the Empire. Such orders as are given emanate from the Sultan. The perpetrators of the massacres remain unpunished, while innocent Armenians arc committed to prisons on frivolous charges.Therefore it was not "the authorities" only but the Sultan himself, from whom alone orders proceed, who was responsible. The Sultan was unquestionably believed by the Kurds and by the troops, as well as the mobs, who slaughtered the Christians, to have given the orders. At Gurim, for instance, the mob shouted as they flung themselves upon the innocent and helpless victims, "Our Padishah wills it." The most material fact of all, the most conclusive proof that the Sultan was guilty of the crimes that had been perpetrated, was that no one was punished. At page 224 Sir P. Currie said:—It must be borne in mind that since the commencement of the disturbances in the Asiatic provinces no Turkish officer, civil or military, has been punished for the outrages inflicted on the ChristiansA most remarkable conversation was recorded at p. 199 of the Blue-book, in 109 which the Ambassador reminded the Sultan that no one had yet (November 29th) been punished for the massacres; and the Sultan, says the Ambassador significantly, made no reply to this observation. The conviction must be forced upon anyone who read the Dispatches contained in this volume, that these massacres were not isolated outrages, but that they were part of a deliberate scheme planned by the Sultan himself to exterminate the, Christians by sword or by famine so as to get rid of the application of the promised reforms. The Ambassadors of the six Powers had 10 days before (p. 160) collectively told the Sultan that he "could stop the massacres if he was sincere in his professions," and urged him to dismiss the functionaries responsible for the massacres. But the massacres wont on. To the incidents of horror which marked these massacres he would refer very briefly. He found at page 157 that at Armudan, even the school children were killed, the school and church burnt. At page 205 there was recorded the torturing to death of two young Armenians. At page 265 it was mentioned that the Commissary of Police threatened to torture a Protestant teacher. At Gurun he read of 50 boys and girls carried off. And at page 279 a British Vice-Consul telegraphed that "boys and girls were being brought from the interior by Circassians and sold to Turks." Those who knew the East, knew that when these children were sold to the Turks, something far worse than slavery was the fate reserved for them. The cases in which large numbers of Christians had been forced to choose between Islam and death, were very frequent. Thousands had been forced to renounce their faith, but many had stood firm and died the death of martyrs. A terrible instance was given on page 270—At Tchmeh, the chief town of the Tchar-sandjack Caza, a week after the raid upon it, during which several Armenians were killed and some houses burnt, a large number of their leading men were in their church; they were brought out one by one by the Turks, and asked if they would accept Islamism. Thirty, among them and their priest, remained true to their faith, and were killed at the church door. At Ouzunova, a Protestant Armenian village five miles from Tchmeh, the inhabitants, after being robbed of their goods and stripped of their outer garments, were told that they must become 110 Moslems. Ten were killed for refusing, and fifty-five men, women and children threw themselves into the Euphrates and were drowned sooner than apostacise.He also referred to page 207, where it was related that 30 persons who remained true to their faith were killed at the church door. At another village the inhabitants, after being robbed, 10 were killed and others, men, women, and children threw themselves into the Euphrates. That was the statement in a Dispatch from a British Consul forwarded by Sir Philip Currie.
§ MR. BRYCE
Of course not, the names of those who supply our Consuls with information cannot be given. Of course, it was totally impossible in a country like Turkey to give the names. But the Consuls report what they have ascertained and believe. These martyrs of Ichme and Ouzannova are only a few out of the many who have suffered death for their faith within the last six months. The Christian peoples of Europe celebrated in their churches the heroes and the heroines of early Christendom, who, from St. Stephen downwards, had met their death rather than deny their Lord. Were these poor Armenians on the banks of the Euphrates not martyrs, in as true a sense, and as worthy of their reverence as those who perished under Nero and Diocletian? An attempt had been made to lay the blame of the massacre upon some so-called revolutionaries. But there would be found proof in these Papers that the massacres were not the result of any Armenian revolutionary movement. The facts entirely negatived that view, and Lord Salisbury evidently rejected it. He was prepared to believe that there were some revolutionaries in Armenia who would have desired to upset the Government, but anyone who read the Blue-book would see that it completely refuted the idea that the massacres were due to any revolutionary movement on the part of the Armenians. There was only a small number of cases in which provocation was given, but there were many cases in which it was perfectly clear that no provocation whatever was given. It was still more absurd to allege that those 111 massacres were due to Revolutionary Committees in London. He did not know any Armenian Revolutionary Committee in this country. He knew of three Committees. One was the Grosvenor House Committee, presided over by the Duke of Westminster, with several bishops upon it. That was hardly a Revolutionary Committee. Another was the Anglo-Armenian. Association, which had his hon. Friend the Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk for its president, and not a few eminent and respected ecclesiastics among its members. Was that supposed to be a Revolutionary Committee? The third was the Armenian Relief Fund—entirely engaged in relief and charity. He knew that his hon. Friends like himself, had always dissuaded Armenians from taking up arms or in any way revolting against the Government. He, personally, had never lost an opportunity of impressing upon them not to expose their countrymen to danger. Not that he thought they would be wrong in desiring to overthrow the Turkish Government if they had the means of getting rid of such a curse to mankind as that Government had become. He would go further and say that the overthrow of such a Government as the Turkish Government—which only existed to rob and murder its subjects ["Oh!" and cheers]—was not only a right, but might well be deemed the duty of all who desired the welfare of their fellow subjects and fellow Christians. But it would be a wicked thing to expose innocent people to danger with no reasonable prospect of success, and he had, therefore, always urged on Armenians to endeavour to maintain a perfectly constitutional and peaceful attitude in the hope that some remedy would be found, some help be given them by England, if not by the united Powers of Europe. Englishmen had openly sympathised with oppressed people before now. Had they not formed a Committee for the liberation of parts of Greece? In earlier days did they not sympathise with Italy and Poland, and he thought that they were not ashamed of the partthen taken. [Cheers.] He had therefore sought to encourage the Armenians to calm their feelings, and to hope that some day Europe would step in to help. That hope had not been realised. They had been told tonight why Europe had not intervened. 112 He had thought for a long time past that there was no use asking for such a thing as autonomy for the Armenians. But he had hoped that Russia would, at any rate, have been willing to help England to save the lives of innocent and defenceless Christians, and that the Powers of Europe would have been so shocked by the atrocious cruelties of the Turks and by the forced conversions that they would have found means to stop this saturnalia of bloodshed. It was clear that Russia would never allow Armenia to get that. A system of autonomy would undoubtedly be the most satisfactory solution of the difficulty; but as it was plain that Russia would oppose any such proposal, it was therefore impracticable. Europe had not even succeeded in stopping the massacres and obtaining the dismissal or punishment of those who had organised them. He would not go into the miserable story of the feeble attempts made by the so-called Concert of Europe during the months of October, November, and December to check the massacres which were then going on. That story need not be repeated now, as it already belonged to history. Russia had certainly gained her objects, but she had purchased them at the cost of untold suffering to the people of Armenia. He did not desire to delay the House by remarks on the policy of Lord Salisbury, but he felt that the Dispatches sent to the Turkish Government during the months of October and November, when every day brought news of fresh massacres, might have been more earnest and more forcible. Attacks had been made in the course of the Debate on Sir Philip Currie. He thought those attacks were most unjust. Every one who knew Sir Philip Currie—and he had had the pleasure of his acquaintance for many years—was aware that he went out to Constantinople with the most friendly sentiments to Turkey. Sir Philip was a shrewd and experienced man, not in the least likely to be carried away by sentiment, and he had desired, as every skilful and judicious Ambassador would, to show all consideration to the Power to which he was accredited. But the fact that Sir Philip Currie, disposed as he had been at starting to take a fair and even a favourable view of Turkish government, had, not with standing, thrown himself with so 113 much earnestness into the protection of the Christians, and the exposure of the evil deeds of the Turkish system was as strong a proof as could be wished of the guilt of the Turks, and the irreclaimable depravity of their Government. He supposed that after the answer which Lord Salisbury had received on the 9th August from Russia, he had begun to despair, and in this was to be found the explanation of his somewhat spiritless and listless Dispatches. But that was the first intimation which Russia ever gave that she would object to the individual action of any other Power. He must repeat that Russia never conveyed to the late Government anything more than that she would not herself join in any action against Turkey. She never conveyed to the late Government that she would object to England acting alone. He could not help regretting the line taken by Lord Salisbury in his speeches, and feared it had not only raised expectations here which had been belied, but had even aggravated the lot of the Eastern Christians. To use a colloquialism, Lord Salisbury seemed to have tried to ''bluff'' the Sultan. His Lordship seemed to believe that the threats he was uttering in his speech would have the effect of bringing the Sultan to reason and making him yield to the demands which England made. But in following that line of action, Lord Salisbury was himself creating the danger against which he subsequently warned the country, of making threats which there was, as by that time he might have known, no likelihood that collective Europe would carry out. He could not help thinking that in that way Lord Salisbury had unwisely raised hopes which were doomed to disappointment. But he confessed he felt some diffidence in criticising the policy of the Government, because as every one knew, and as the Under Secretary had implied, the whole case was not presented in the Dispatches published in the Blue-books, and much might have passed between the British and Russian and other Governments that was not set forth in these publications. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had challenged him in regard to a statement that he had made in. a speech on the Address that there were other ways of working upon Turkey besides armed action directed against 114 Constantinople. The hon. Gentleman advised his hon. Friend the Mover to look at maps, and said there was no part of Armenia accessible to the British fleet. But he asked the Under Secretary to refer again to his map, and to note that the Turkish Empire had other coasts besides those of the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmora, and the Ægean, that in the Persian Gulf and in the Red Sea, Turkey had vulnerable points through which very important and effective pressure could be brought to bear upon the Sultan without firing a shot, pressure to which it was highly probable that the Sultan might have had to yield. It was not desirable or necessary or proper to go further into the subject. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government knew what he meant. But whether or not the Government considered there was too much risk in employing the pressure he suggested, the Blue-books did not enable the House to judge; and, indeed, he would not have at all introduced the subject only that he thought the challenge of the hon. Gentleman required an answer. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had asked them (the Opposition) whether they desired isolated action on the part of Great Britain. They had never asked for isolated action that might involve a European war. They had always felt that the evils which might arise from a European war were greater than even the evils of the Armenian massacres, and therefore they did not complain of the Government for not having entered upon any course which in their judgment was certain to lead to a European war. ["Hear, hear!"] But how had the present position come about? The Under Secretary had made a significant observation. The hon. Gentleman said that one of our difficulties in this matter was the suspicion with which we were regarded by Russia, and the fact that Foreign Powers did not believe in our disinterestedness. He was afraid that was true. But why was it true? It was true largely because we took Cyprus in 1878. [Opposition cheers.] One of the greatest difficulties with which we had now to contend was that which arose in consequence of the reproach that we had incurred by our action in 1878, when, professing a desire to preserve Turkey and the balance of power 115 in the East, we had sought, and most unwisely sought, to obtain something for ourselves. He assumed from the attitude which the Government had adopted that they had now abandoned all hope of doing anything for the Armenian Christians. Russia was now virtually mistress not only in Asiatic Turkey, but in European Turkey, as she was in Bulgaria too, and he could only hope that she would see fit to adopt such measures as would put a stop to these massacres, and that for the present at least we had seen an end of them. The Turks now knew that the Concert of Europe had broken down, that there was nothing to hope for from the action of England, and that thenceforth they would have to deal with Russia alone. They might now be expected to obey Russia, and the responsibility which Britain had formerly assumed had now passed to Russia. Thus had ended the policy which was proclaimed with so much pride in 1878. That policy had two objects in view, the first was to keep back Russia, and the other was to introduce reforms into Asia Minor. Both those objects it had failed to secure. Russia was now more powerful in the whole East, and was more supreme over Turkey, than she had ever been before, while the Armenian Christians had been exterminated in many districts. In the course which Britain had endeavoured to take, she had encountered obstacles which we had found ourselves incapable of overcoming, for the very reasons which had been so powerfully stated by Mr. Gladstone when in 1878 he denounced the Anglo-Turkish Convention as an "insane Covenant," with the result that our policy with regard to Turkey and the Eastern Christians had hopelessly and irredeemably broken down. The only consolation that he could find in the present position of things was that now all idea of any future alliance with Turkey must be finally abandoned, that never again would any British Minister venture to speak of so detestable a Government as a possible ally, or attempt to save it from that vengeance of Heaven which its crimes had so long and so richly merited.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had contended that revolution against the Turkish Gov- 116 ernment was a sacred duty on the part of the Armenian Christians, and secondly that Russia had never conveyed to the British Government that she would oppose single-handed interference on the part of this country or any other Powers with Turkey. But on the 4th of June, Prince Lobanoff had written to Lord Kimberley that in no circumstances would the Russian Government adopt coercive measures or consent to the creation in Asia Minor of a district in which the Armenian Christians should have special privileges. The right hon. Gentleman had deliberately withheld that declaration.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, if it was not deliberation on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, it was inexplicable, gross and crass ignorance. [Laughter.] Let the House mark these words:—In no circumstances, however, will the Russian Government adopt coercive measures, or consent to the creation in Asia Minor of a district in which the Armenians are to have privileges not given to the rest of the Empire, and which would constitute an independent kingdom of Armenia, such being evidently the object the Armenian Committees have in view.Could anything be plainer than that? Prince Lobanoff said:—" You, the Armenian Committees, have a certain object in view. I define it, and I tell you I will never consent to it." This Debate was on a Motion which represented the defeat of the Government and the rout of the Armenian Committee. It had been whittled away and watered down and left without any of the conclusions to which it was pointed, and he himself had failed during the whole of this Debate to gain any official information as to what the future policy of this country was to be or ought to be. The right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary, accepted the Motion, but with this difference, and this difference only, that further endeavours were to be made, but not by force of arms. But it had been proved to demonstration on both 117 sides of the House that unless the Government were prepared to do something amounting to force of arms, their future efforts would be as fruitless as their previous endeavours. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman made the usual official eulogium on Sir Philip Currie. That could not be avoided. It was always done entirely irrespective of the merits of the person to whom it was addressed. It was, in fact, an official right. The right hon. Gentleman said of Sir Philip Currie that his lips were tied. At any rate his pen was not devoid of ink [laughter]; for there were before the House three large Blue-books full of Sir Philip Currie's defence of himself. He had also written a letter to the Duke of Westminster, which was published in the Papers, in which he committed himself to the statement that the Ministers of the Sovereign to whose court he was accredited were mere cyphers. Sir Philip Currie addressed a letter to that effect to the Duke of Westminster for publication. If it was not meant for publication, the responsibility for its appearance rested with that eminent landlord and Duke who had not been made Master of the Horse, and who ever since his failure to become Master of the Horse, had engaged himself with great assiduity in Armenian atrocities. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite (late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs) said, in effect, that the fundamental policy of the British Government must be the abolition of the Turkish Empire. He hoped the country would remember that when it again took the right hon. Gentleman into its councils; he hoped that the Liberal Party, if they again took the right hon. Gentleman into the Cabinet, would remember that they would be taking in a Statesman pledged to the abolition of one of the oldest and most trustworthy allies of England. The right hon. Gentleman also said that it was necessary to get secure guarantees for the better Government of these provinces; that was to say, the right hon. Gentleman would abolish the Turkish Empire and then, having abolished it, would take guarantees from it. [Laughter.] How was the Turkish Empire to be replaced? That had never occurred to the right hon. Gentleman 118 nor to those Gentlemen who went about making new maps of Europe in five minutes and parcelling out Empires as though they were playing a game of dominoes. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Eye knew, apparently, how to replace the Turkish Empire, for he proposed to alter the whole map. The hon. Gentleman would give Russia a part, and Austria a part, and make a kingdom of Cilicia, and put Greece into Smyrna. The hon. Member for Flintshire said that as many as 250,000 people had been slain.
§ MR. S. SMITH
explained that his statement was that the loss of life in two years in consequence of massacres, famine, and disease would amount to about 200,000.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
was glad that the hon. Member had reduced his total by 50,000. The hon. Member talked of the loss of life through hunger and disease. Did he include measles and maladies of that kind? To charge the Turkish Government with responsibility for deaths resulting from disease was preposterous. The hon. Member for Flintshire and his Friends were very wild and vague in their figures. The hon. Member and his Friends said that Russia had behaved very badly. Of course she had behaved badly, and that was the reason why the hon. Member and his Friends had been obliged to water their Resolution here. But apparently because she had behaved badly, these hon. Members said: "Oh, let us give her a port in the Mediterranean, "Such a proposal was extravagant and absurd. Philanthropists were no doubt the most excellent people in the world as long as they only talked, but when they were let loose in the world of affairs, mistakes, failures and ruin were certain to follow the adoption of their suggestions. It was rather remarkable that philanthropists like the hon. Member for Flintshire should come forward as the friends of Russia, the great representative of tyranny in the world, that they should always be prepared to find excuses for Russia, and that they were for ever ready to believe anything of the Turks. It should be borne in mind that the Armenian lands were very wild and remote, resembling the Ireland and Scot-land of 200 years ago. When conspiracies 119 and armed risings took place in such countries, it was inevitable that they should be put down with a strong hand. A telegram in the newspapers that day informed them that there had been a rising at a place near Madras, and that 100 Moplas had been killed by our troops. Did hon. Members opposite wish for Russian or Turkish interference in consequence? There was no doubt that there had been a conspiracy in Armenia of a most odious character, a conspiracy kept up and money extorted by threats, and having for its object the overthrow of the established Government and the triumph of anarchy. That was abundantly proved by the contents of the Blue-books. He would read one extract, in the hope of opening the eyes of hon. Gentlemen who, by their action, made themselves parties to this conspiracy. Writing from Trebizonde to Sir Philip Currie, on October 28th, 1895, Consul Longworth said:—It cannot be denied that of late years weapons from the Caucasus and seditious prints from Europe have been surreptitiously introduced and sedulously distributed among the Armenians in Asiatic Turkey. They may have influenced the minds of the people elsewhere, but in this vilayet even a ripple was not observable of a possible agitation. Secret agents, I believe, were to be found here as in other Armenian centres. They were selected, doubtless, from among the more reckless and unscrupulous. Assassination of at first informers only, but now of Government officers and others obnoxious to the society, appears to be the view taken by these men. The basis of operations, which was a few months ago Athens, is now believed to be London. Nararbeck, the editor of the Huntchak, is probably one of the chief originators and promoters of this baneful organisation. Whoever they may be they are directing the movement from abroad and with all safety to themselves, are rendering existence for their countrymen unbearable in Turkey. The object may, or may not, be to arouse the Moslems against the Christians and bring about such massacres as would horrify Europe. That it is anarchical in character must be patent to all, for in its conception enters the creation of political confusion and lawlessness through violent means.Even the incendiary literature was printed in London. There was an Armenian inflammatory newspaper with a London name in English type at the bottom of it. It was not creditable to Members of the House or to this country that such means should be taken to excite disorder and confusion and to raise anarchy in a country like Turkey, 120 already only too disposed to disturbances. The Sasun massacres had been exaggerated of course, for by the official report of the European Delegates it was shown that, so far as the evidence went, they amounted only to 265,000. Then he must remark on the want of good faith and the disengenuousness of the Ambassador who had been so much eulogised. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs told the House that the European Delegates stated that 25,000 had been killed in the last massacres. That was not so. That was not a statement of the European Delegates but a statement of Sir Philip Currie alone; and if hon. Members compared the Ambassador's statement with the list of the Delegates it would be found that by the latter the number was less than 23,000. [Ironical laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but the fact was important as showing the inaccuracy of the statement made. In the case of Bitlis 800 was the number put down on the list, but the missionaries only returned 500 as killed; in Diarbékir the list gave 2,800 as killed, the official list reported 260; in Sivas the list gave 1,500, but Mr. Herbert reported 800. So that even from the 23,000 many hundreds had to be deducted in order to arrive at the true number, and then he expected that this number would have to be divided by about 100 to reach the true total. What was the action that was taken? After much trouble and negotiation they came to the Joint Note of May 11th. That Note was discredited from the first. Russia and France deprecated it, but all the same it was presented and such as it was, it was a poor thing. There was nothing new in it, and it was a poor, miserable complication of old, worn-out devices. This Joint Note was the invention of the English Government; it was the dose of medicine they designed to effect a remedy; they had selected the drugs and compounded the potion themselves, and if it did not produce a cure the fault was not in the patient, but in the doctor. According to Lord Salisbury the Joint Note of May 11th was all that was required, and it was on the acceptance, by the Sultan of the Joint Note, that the telegram was sent to Sir Philip Currie congratulating him on the 121 tremendous success his diplomacy had obtained. On the 30th of May, however, the late Government already knew that Russia would not countenance anything like force. That Government was again told on June 4th that whatever attempts Lord Rosebery might make on the independence of Turkey, or to ameliorate the lot of the Armenians by the pressure of force, he would get no support from Russia. Nevertheless, on August 5th, Lord Salisbury approached Russia again with the suggestion of force. It was again repudiated. The fleet was afterwards sent to Salonica and Lemnos, and Russia again told the Prime Minister that in no circumstances would she countenance the use of force to Turkey. On November 9th Lord Salisbury went to the Guildhall and made a speech in. which he menaced the Turkish Empire and the Sultan, and used every kind of threat couched in diplomatic language. On the 3rd of January of the present year he again approached Russia with a request practically to join with England in using force. Again, on January 29 Russia replied that she would take no part in any such undertaking. And here occurred what really was one of the most remarkable points in the whole of this story. It was reserved, forsooth, for Russia, the great treaty-breaking Power of the world, to rebuke Lord Salisbury for wishing to break treaties. Prince Lobanoff pointed out that Lord Salisbury's proposal "appeared to be a direct interference in the internal affairs of Turkey—an interference which was distinctly forbidden by Article 9 of the Treaty of Paris, and by implication in Article 63 of the Treaty of Berlin." Lord Salisbury replied that he was misunderstood—a reply that was scarcely ingenuous. Then Lord Salisbury changed his tone and the very next day made a speech in which he spoke of giving the Sultan time. He never thought of giving the Sultan time until he found himself abandoned by the Russian Gov- 122 ernment. And what was the short outcome of all these attempts and negotiations? Failure—failure throughout. They had not stopped a single atrocity so-called, nor given increased tranquillity either to Armenia or Turkey; on the contrary, every step had been followed by further disturbance and by greater outbreaks of cruelty. They had not even succeeded in making a great Ambassador out of a small Foreign Office clerk. And now they were obliged to come here and accept an Amendment which pointed to defeat, and which promised in the future something which nobody could define or understand except that it wanted the one element which might make it of use. He little expected to find any hint given by a Constitutional and Conservative Government, by the mouth of the First Lord of the Admiralty, that they were prepared to call in question the obligation of solemn treaties. He only trusted the failure which had fortunately attended the efforts of Her Majesty's Government would teach them this lesson, that it was their business to stand by their treaty obligations, and to see that the good faith of England was not capable of being called in question, and so to act that other nations might rely upon our pledged word.
§ MR. FRANCIS STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
desired to reply to certain statements made in the course of the Debate, rather than to enter upon the general question. The hon. Member for King's Lynn disputed the authority of the statements as to the massacres of last autumn, which were set forth in tabulated form at the close of the last Dispatch, Turkey No. 2. Sir Philip Currie stated that it was mainly based on a comparison of the Consular reports addressed to the various Embassies, though some of the details were derived from Catholic priests and Protestant missionaries, not natives of the country; but their evidence was admitted only when they described events of which 123 they had been eyewitnesses. On the basis of that information Sir Philip Currie, acting in concert with the other Ambassadors, had been able to draw up the statement which gave the minimum of 25,000 persons massacred last autumn. That left out of account the country districts in three vilayets, and so harmonised with the December statement of the loss of life at 30,000. The statement that the Armenians gave the provocation could not be sustained. It was true that in the great majority of instances only Armenian Christians suffered. But the Joint Note of November 5th, 1895, described the massacre of Christians without distinction of race and creed. The Blue-book on the Sasun massacres was discussed on the Address, and there was no reason for discussing it again, but the speech of the Under Secretary might be left to dispose of the statement of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division, of Sheffield as to the existence of a revolutionary movement and the extent of the loss of life. The complicity of the Turkish authorities was fully proved in that case. He was glad to hear the Under Secretary pay a tribute to Sir Philip Currie for his services in connection with the Zeitun case. It would be quite unfair to compare the case of the Zeitunlis with that of the Armenians of the plateau. The former were a hardy mountaineering race, who had been practically independent, and who were inured to arms. Till 1860 there was no Turkish garrison in Zeitun. The latter had for centuries been deprived of arms, and were quite at the mercy of the Kurds. There was an impression that the London Committee were in favour of an independent Armenia, but that was not the case. They had always recognised that the Armenians of the plateau must be under some external control, because they were in a minority as compared with the other races taken together, though they were more numerous than the Turks, Kurds, Circassians, and other races taken singly. The Foreign Office 124 were well aware of the views of the London Committee, and it was surprising that Sir F. Lascelles had not been instructed to correct Prince Lobanoff in the statement which he made. Prince Lobanoff had laboured under the impression that the revolutionary movement was worked from London, and others had so laboured. There were only three London. Armenian Committees in existence as far as he knew. There was the Armenian Relief Fund Committee. The only object of that Committee had been to send sums of money for the relief of distress—they had sent about £30,000; he wished they could send more. There were the Grosvenor House Committee and the Anglo-Armenian Association, neither of which was a revolutionary body. The latter Association had been in existence six years, and it had certainly always discountenanced the revolutionary movement. There was no reason whatever for ascribing any revolutionary tendency to the movements of any one of the three Committees. Having served on all these, and having been mainly responsible since 1892 for the conduct of the third, he could testify to the fact. It was also a matter of regret that in the Blue-book the words "Armenian Committee" should be used so very vaguely. They were used in the most diverse senses, being applied sometimes to the Anglo-Armenian Association at Constantinople, sometimes to the Huntchak Committee, and so forth, and it was impossible to know to what Committee the Dispatches referred. Again, it was well to notice that there was a distinct difference between what was said on the 4th of June and the 9th of August. On the 4th of June Prince Lobanoff said Russia herself would not use force, but she did not object to the use of force by others. From the Dispatch of August the 9th, it was clear Russia objected to the use of coercion by others—that the employment of force by any one of the three Powers would be distasteful to Russia. 125 They must take that statement, however, with a certain grain of salt, because, in the November Joint Note, there was reference to the case of Syria in 1860. In that Note Russia, in common with the other Powers, must have distinctly contemplated the use of force. Then, in the conversation reported at the close of Turkey, No. 2, 1896, there, were references to the Treaties of Paris and Berlin. Prince Lobanoff urged the two Treaties as arguments against interference by us, much in the same way as the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a few days ago, mentioned them as grounds against the occupation of the Provinces by Russia. It seemed to him the position of either of the two gentlemen he had named was hardly in accordance with the facts of the case. He could not see anything in the two Treaties to prevent Russia, with the consent of the Powers, doing what the Powers might invite her to do. The Debate had not been without its use in so far that it had elicited from the House a definite expression of sympathy with the Armenians, an emphatic declaration from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to the complicity of the Turkish authorities in what had taken place, and an assurance that the efforts made in the past for the benefit of the Armenian people would not be relaxed in the future, thus warranting the hope that they would finally secure that safety for their lives, honour, and property of which they had been long deprived. [Cheers.]
§ Motion agreed to.