THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved,
That this House at its rising do Adjourn till Monday, April 26; that the Government business as far as and including the Order for the Committee on the Railway Assessors
(Scotland) Superannuation Bill may be entered upon this night at any hour, though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of the Standing Order, Sittings of the House; and that, as soon as such business is disposed of, Mr. Speaker do Adjourn the House without question put.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that on the eve of an Adjournment for the Easter vacation, somewhat longer than it had been of recent years, some attention ought to be called to the fact that this year it was unfortunately not unlikely that events of importance concerning the policy of the Government might occur in the course of the vacation. A few weeks ago—even a few days ago—there appeared to be some prospect that the House might have an opportunity to Debate the policy of Her Majesty's Government in respect to Crete. But about ton days ago it became clear that the Government did not intend to propose any vote of money on which the movements of British troops in Crete; might be discussed, and the refusal of the Leader of the House to give a day for the Motion down last week in the name of the Leader of the Opposition made it clear that no other opportunity for discussion was to be afforded to the House. The grounds which were given by the Leader of the House for refusing time to consider that Motion were, he thought, unusual. In the period between 1877 and 1880 a considerable number of Motions made by the Opposition were treated as Votes of Censure, and time was given to discuss them as such by the Government of the day. Half of those Motions were of a character similar to the Motion of his right hon. Friend—[cheers]—and some of them at least involved a Censure far less direct, far more hypothetical, than was the case with his right hon. Friend's Motion. [Cheers.] That was notably the case with regard to the famous Resolutions of Mr. Gladstone on the Eastern question. Those Resolutions were put down by an illustrious private Member without the support of his Leader; they were modified, and ultimately obtained the assent of the Leader of the Opposition; but the majority of the five Resolutions were not couched in terms of direct Censure on the Government. The Resolution on which the Debate of four nights and the Division took place contained no Censure at all directed 959 against the Government, but it indicated a counter-policy, and if it had been adopted by the House the result would have entailed loss of office on Ministers. It was therefore treated as a Vote of Censure. The Resolutions were rejected by an overwhelming majority. It was said that the Liberal Party was not united on this question. He believed that the Liberal Party was absolutely united in the House in support of the Motion of which notice had been given by his right hon. Friend, and he believed that, without any exception, its Members would be found supporting it. [Ironical laughter.] The Leader of the House declared that the Motion was in some degree a hypothetical Motion regarding the future. If, however, Motions with regard to foreign affairs were not inevitably to be too late, and to be of no influence on the policy of the country, they must be in some sense hypothetical and have regard to the future. He remembered a Vote of Censure of which private notice was given which was couched in the same terms as regarded hypothesis and the future as the Motion of his right hon. Friend. It was a Motion which made it impossible that the Government of the day should take a particular course with regard to Zebehr Pasha and the Soudan. There was no difference of opinion between the two sides with regard to the history of the agent whom they proposed to employ; but the question was whether, in the circumstances of the moment, it was desirable to employ him. Before a decision had been come to on the question, Mr. Forster gave notice of a Motion in the same terms as the Motion of his right hon. Friend. The Opposition believed that they had behind them on this question the opinion of the majority of the nation. [Cheers and derisive laughter.] He undoubtedly believed that. [Cheers.] Hon. Members could only trust to the communications they received from various parts of the country, and he believed that never had so many Conservatives and Liberal Unionists cut themselves adrift from party ties as on this question. The Leader of the House had said that the forces of the Crown were being used in Crete for the purpose only of protecting the Mussulman minority, and that the purpose of the blockade of the mainland was simply the maintenance of 960 peace. If that were a correct description of the use to which the forces of the Crown were being put, but little objection would be raised by the Opposition; but how could this policy pacify the interior of Crete? At best it would be a policy of "patching up," and would not solve the Cretan question. As to the blockade, it might result, in upsetting the Greek Kingdom and rendering the continued presence of Greek troops on the frontier impossible; but would it result in restoring order in Crete? It had been shown that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and possibly of some others, that there should be an immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from Crete, but it appeared that some of the partners in the Concert of Europe were not so willing to bring that about. There were constant interchanges of views between the capitals of Europe as to the means which ought to be adopted to bring it about, and, in the present state of Europe and the Greek frontier, this was a difficult business which was undoubtedly rendered more difficult by the absence of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. They knew that when the Government first came into office the Armenian question went to sleep while the Prime Minister was at Dieppe in the autumn of 1895. The country did not even know whether the Concert of Europe was in the least united. For all it knew, there might be an almost insuperable difference of opinion among the various Powers. Was the policy of Germany and Russia, for example, the same as our own? ["Hear, hear!"] The policy of Her Majesty's Government was a policy of autonomy in Crete as opposed to the very clear and direct policy of union with Greece. That was, no doubt, an honest policy on their part, but was it an equally honest policy on the part of Germany and Russia? These Powers had not shown such friendliness towards the Greek Democracy, or the patriotic Prince who presided over the destinies of Greece, as to render it indisputable that that was an honest policy on their part. The Leader of the House had taunted the Opposition for opposing the policy of autonomy, or policy of Home Rule for Crete as he had called it. They had not, however, opposed a policy of Home Rule for Crete as they understood Home Rule. What they meant by Home Rule was union under a 961 Crown to which the people were either already friendly or to which they would be made friendly by the policy of autonomy in the sense of Home Rule. The autonomy which he regarded with suspicion was the autonomy which he feared Russia or Germany had in view when talking of the autonomy of Crete under Turkish rule. It was a curious fact that both the Sultan of Turkey and the King of Greece held the same language with regard to the circumstances which had brought their armies face to face. They said:—We were carrying on negotiations between ourselves with reference to the future of Crete, and we were on the point of arriving at a determination, and now we are brought to the verge of war by the action of the Powers and the Concert of Europe.The Government believed that the Cretans had always asked for autonomy, but having examined closely the history of Crete since 1826 he had failed to find that the Cretans had ever asked for autonomy as distinguished from union with Greece. In the war of independence the Cretans asked for union with their brethren on the mainland, and at the time of the treaty of 1827 the islands of Greece therein mentioned were thought by the Whig Party to include Crete. In 1828 the Cretans were blockaded by the fleets of England and France, the object being to protect them against the Turks. In 1830 the Cretans had risen again, and the following Motion was proposed in the House of Lords: —That no plan for the pacification of Greece can be approved as advantageous or honourable to His Majesty's Crown which does not give to that country a territory sufficient to maintain a national defence.Lord Holland, speaking on this Motion, said: —The day will come when we shall rue the errors of which our Government have been guilty;. … when our neglect of the opportunity of adding Candia to the territories of Greece will reflect upon ourselves with a force of which no man can see the remote consequences. However wise, however prudent the head of the Greek Government may be, he must either connive at his own subjects carrying on clandestine intercourse with the insurgents in Candia, or he must openly espouse the cause of their oppressed brethren. If such be his determination, what, then, will be the consequence? A new war, which may embroil all the Powers of Europe.962 Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston expressed similar views, and Sir James Mackintosh said:—Candia is essential to the safety of Greece and cannot be excluded from its territory without endangering the existence of the new State.Grattan called attention to the same subject on June 8, and O'Connell expressed the admiration that he felt for Prince Leopold on account of his refusal of the Crown of Greece upon the ground that Crete was not included. From 1827 to 1830 the Cretans were fighting for union with Greece, and in the insurrection of 1841 the same motive was apparent. Then the Turks met the great rising in 1866 by an offer of full autonomy, and that offer was unanimously declined by the Cretan insurgents, on the ground that they were righting for independence and union with Greece. In 1878 they again put forward the same pretensions, which were voiced by their delegates at the Congress of Berlin. France and Italy took note of their declaration, but suddenly there came the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and a compromise was agreed to by the Powers. In 1879 this matter was taken up in this country by a large number of persons, whose votes prevailed at the election in 1880. In 1879 Lord Rosebery and Lord Lansdowne put their names to a declaration that the possession of Crete was within the legitimate aspirations of the Greek people, and that the interests of peace required the annexation of the island to Greece. Now they never should have been able to carry out the compromise of 1882 if they had blindly followed the Concert, and if they had not gone forward by themselves. [Cheers.] It was that fact, and that fact alone, which carried out the compromise of 1882. The Concert failed as to the Armenians; they were out of reach; but as regarded the other two cases it succeeded. He now came to 1880. He was not concerned with defending that Government, because he was not a Member of it, but the right hon. Gentleman attacked it. [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: "I did not attack it!"] There was a taunt across the Table. What was the history of the blockade of 1886? The Collective Note to Greece to demobilise her army and withdraw from the 963 frontier was signed, not by Gentlemen on that side of the House, but by Lord Salisbury, in January 1886—["hear, hear!"] —and on the 26th of that month his right hon. Friend the present Secretary for the Colonies gave notice of his intention to oppose that policy. [Laughter.] Undoubtedly there was a considerable opposition to that policy, which was only obscured by the overwhelming importance of the Home Rule question, and which was defended on the ground of the continuity of their foreign policy. He was not in favour of the continuity theory, because it meant the withdrawal from the people of this country of the opportunity of expressing by their votes any views as to foreign affairs. ["Hear, hear!"] The Liberal Party were involved in the coercion of Greece in the name of peace entirely in consequence of this doctrine of continuity. What was the history of coercion in the present case? The Powers had not suddenly come together. They had been at the work for two years and a-half, and, having failed to coerce Turkey, they seemed to have been driven into the coercion of Greece. Then they were told that if they expressed a doubt as to the wisdom of the Concert, if they wished to take their own line, they should have the courage of their opinions. Did the Powers act together with regard to Armenia? Was it not stated that Russia protested against the coercion of Turkey, and went so far as to say that she would not allow it? Lord Salisbury was suddenly stirred out of his very slow and dragging action on this Cretan question, which resembled his action with regard to the Armenian question—["hear, hear!"]—by the dispatch of Greek troops and the appearance of Prince George of Greece. These were the events which forced the hands of the Powers, and, instead of being unwise, they were necessary for the existence of the Cretan people. ["Hear, hear!"] They would never be able to rob the Cretans of that freedom which that very action of Greece gave to them. The liberal Party had been taunted with using the phrase "the holy alliance," and with objecting to the damping down in the name of peace of Cretan liberty. There was once a holy alliance which was just what they described the Concert of Europe to be at the present time. Even Lord Castlereagh would not go into it. He meant the 964 holy alliance as it existed before Laybach, and especially in 1815–1817. They had heard the Prime Minister describe what had taken place as filibustering; but what was the action of Lord Palmarston as to Sicily? He prevented the other Powers from interfering with what would now be called filibustering. Nothing could equal the imbecility and helplessness which the Great Powers had shown in dealing with Crete, and which they would have continued to show had not the King of Greece by his action forced their hands. [Opposition cheers.]
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
who was received with Ministerial cheers: The right hon. Baronet has made a speech which has contained a great deal of historical knowledge and research; but much of his history, and more particularly that which related to recent events, I cannot myself accept. I shall venture in one or two respects to correct him; but I hope he will excuse me for saying that really the greater part of his interesting speech was not very material to the issue now before the House. [Opposition cries of "Oh!" and Ministerial cheers.] I do not say that with any idea of disrespect to the right hon. Baronet; but I hope the House will excuse me if I at any rate try to confine what I have to say within the somewhat narrow limits imposed upon us by the exigencies of the present moment. There is one complaint that I think cannot be made in reference to this Cretan question. No one can complain that there has been any lack of opportunity for criticising the conduct of the Government on the one hand or for defending it on the other during the past two months. ["Hear, hear!"] I have been refreshing my Parliamentary memory, and I find that in the last two months we have had the adjournment of the House moved three times on this question of Crete; we have had two discussions in Committee of Supply; there have been important speeches made in another place by the Secretary of State; and although it is true—as the right hon. Baronet rather unjustly taunted us—that we have not had our Vote of Censure, and although we have not yet persuaded the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the of position to repeat in this House that 965 martial oration that we so much admired at Norwich—[laughter and cheers]—it is just possible that that is a pleasure that lies before us this afternoon. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] In any case it is true that we have had in the space of less than two months no fewer than six Debates on this question in the House of Commons; and if I look at what has passed in foreign countries during the same time, I find that in the French Chamber there have been only two such Debates, and in the Parliaments of Austria, Italy, and Germany, there has only been one in each case; so that if the appetite for political information in this country is as much greater than it is on the Continent as is often claimed, so also has it had abundant opportunity for satisfaction. ["Hear, hear!"] A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition, in anticipating the Debate of this afternoon, before we separate for the recess, asked that some statement should be made on behalf of the Government of their case. I confess I should have thought that our statement of policy in regard to Crete had been made so frequently as to become tedious by virtue of recapitulation; and I shall not recapitulate it at any length this afternoon. Perhaps, however, I may be permitted briefly to summarise it, and in so doing I will also deal with one or two points stated by the right hon. Baronet. I First take the question of autonomy. The right hon. Baronet complained once more that no clear or definite definition had been given of that word. If we look to the proclamation that was issued to the people of Crete we find it contains this definition, which to my mind is perfectly clear and satisfactory—that it is to imply "freedom from all control of the Porte in internal affairs." Then the right hon. Baronet says,This may be your policy and I give you all credit for honesty; but I cannot speak similarly of the other Powers;and he seems to harbour dark suspicions that this policy of autonomy upon which the Great Powers have conjointly and with absolute sincerity embarked is one that is put forward by ourselves alone, and from which certain of our allies are keeping in the background. I can with truth say there is no ground whatever for those suspicions. [Ministerial cheers.] There is no reason to suppose that the 966 autonomy which this Government desires to make definite, absolute, ample, and clear is looked at from any other point of view by the other Powers. [Ministerial cheers.] Then the right hon. Gentleman says the Powers have interfered to prevent an arrangement being arrived at between the Sultan of Turkey and the King of Greece. Nothing has astonished me more in the history of the past few weeks than the extraordinary amount of information, entirely unconfirmed by what we know, which appears to be in the possession of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may be that those negotiations have taken place; but neither we nor the other Powers know anything about them, so that this particular charge that an arrangement has been prevented by the other Powers cannot be sustained. [Ministerial cheers.] Of course, the realisation of this autonomy and the promulgation of a new Constitution for Crete must depend, in the First place, upon the restoration of order in the island. Anyone that reads the papers must see that there are several obstacles to the restoration of order. Some of these are inherent in the nature of the present circumstances, but are, I think, capable of modification. Among these may be counted the presence of the Turkish troops in the island to which so much attention has been drawn, about which the views of Her Majesty's Government are very well known, and the importance of dealing with which we have never ceased to press upon our allies. Then there are other obstacles which may, I think, rather be called artificial than inherent in this character. Among those is the presence of the Greek troops in the island. If we look back to the answer made by the Greek Government to one of the Notes of the Powers, we find they defended the dispatch of Greek troops to Crete as being justified by the dictates of humanity. I for one have no desire to dispute that explanation; but I do not think that any one can contend that the dictates of humanity are being served by the continued presence of the Greek troops in the island. [Ministerial cheers.] Here are these Greek troops acting in violation of the expressed desires of the Powers—["hear, hear!"]—preventing that autonomy being given to the island which has been promised, and practically claiming the right to annex the island of 967 Crete to Greece. I have often said before that I really believe the retirement of the Greek troops from Crete would open wide the door which would lead almost immediately to a pacific settlement of this question; and I have always regretted very much that hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentleman opposite have not exercised that influence they are said to possess with the Greek Government in that direction. [Cheers and laughter.] It is because those Greeks have not been withdrawn that, as the House knows, a blockade of the coast of Crete has been maintained by the Admirals of the allied fleets since March 21, and simultaneously the Powers have with contingents occupied the principal ports on the coast, and have placed under their protection many thousands of helpless and defenceless persons of both sexes and all ages, who, but for that humane protection from the Powers, must have suffered terribly. [Cheers.] They have further done very good work—I am making these points in answer to the contention of the right hon. Baronet, that the action of the Powers throughout has been characterised by helplessness and imbecility—they have done inestimable work in relieving the people and in saving thousands of lives. But it may be said that there has been a great deal of fighting between the insurgents and the forces of the Powers. It is unfortunately the case that, the insurgents, in face of the reiterated and explicit warnings that have been addressed to them and have reached them, as we know, from the Admirals, have persisted in their endeavours to starve out the Turkish garrisons in the outlying posts; to get command of those outposts that command the towns where are stationed the contingents of the forces of the Powers; to cut off the water supply of the towns; and even to engage in hostilities with the European officers and troops. With all that we are familiar. But I am glad to say that within the last few days the situation in the island does appear to be a little quieter. The humane and pacific mission of the Admirals is beginning to be understood. They have succeeded in restraining the Turkish troops from disorder and excesses, and the last step they took in the disarmament of the irregulars, or so-called Bashi-Bazouks, has had a very beneficial effect on the restoration and maintenance of 968 order. In the meantime, as hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well, active discussions have been going on and are proceeding at this moment between the Powers as to the appointment of a governor, the institution of a Militia for the future preservation of order in the island, and as to the basis of the autonomous constitution which has been promised. Of course, while these negotiations are proceeding it would be most improper on my part, and no one in the House would ask me to enter into that; but I hope I have succeeded in giving, at any rate, in concise and accurate outline a résumé of what our policy has been and is in regard to Crete. I turn now for a moment to the mainland and the policy which the Government are pursuing in that direction. The Government have strained every nerve to prevent the outbreak of war, which they can only regard as calamitous to both Greece and Turkey, and as constituting a very grave menace to the peace of Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] They have shown the utmost forbearance in regard to the susceptibilities and sentiments of all concerned, and they have done everything in their power to prevent anything which might precipitate the outbreak of war. As the Leader of the House informed the House recently, Her Majesty's Government have declared their willingness in the last resort to join the other Powers of Europe, solely for the maintenance of peace, in carrying out that blockade, which, as we know, was enforced 11 years ago by right hon. Gentlement opposite—[cheers]—and in order to remove the necessity for any such operation, and to obviate the incentive to war which must inevitably arise from the assembling of these masses of men on the frontier, we have also taken part, as my right hon. Friend told the House last week, in a joint representation at Constantinople and at Athens, that the aggressor, whoever he may be, shall not be allowed to profit by his victory. [Cheers.] It is true that an unfortunate event happened upon the frontier three or four days ago; but the information we have received leads us to think that this was an entirely unauthorised raid, and that it was not participated in by any of the Greek regulars. It has also been disavowed by the Greek Government; while, on the other hand, the Government of Turkey has said that 969 if these instances of provocation are not repeated they are not anxious to find in this particular one, as they might have done had they so chosen, a casus belli. [Cheers.] This is a brief résumé of the position of the Government in regard to the island and the mainland. I now come to another point. We have taken all these steps, not in isolation, but in conjunction with the other Powers, who are equally animated with a desire for peace. Of course, as the hon. Baronet said, there must be in a matter of this kind some difference of opinion; of course in any action resulting from these combined forces there must be a certain amount of give and take. Compromise is the very essence of any such combination, and every Power cannot carry its own particular will or way; but whatever these differences of detail may have been on the broad principles to be followed there has been no difference whatever between the Powers, and on this basis the Concert remains quite unimpaired. Within the walls of the Concert this country has undoubtedly used its influence in the interests of moderation and conciliation. ["Hear, hear!"] It has taken such steps as might, without loss of dignity to any of the parties concerned, lead to a pacific settlement of this question. It has been disposed to concede the utmost latitude to any disposition or suggestion that makes for the cause of peace, and has allowed every opportunity—opportunities I am glad to say not yet exhausted— for affording negotiations on this matter. Nevertheless the Concert is very much denounced, and the right hon. Baronet has joined in this popular declamation against these proceedings. On one point I must confess I think he did a grave injustice both to the Concert and to historical facts; he said the Concert had wholly failed to coerce Turkey on the question of Armenia. [Opposition cheers.] If I may be allowed to remind him, he is confusing two entirely different sets of circumstances. When Lord Salisbury came into office the Concert of Europe did not exist; there was a combination of three Powers which had been initiated, for many reasons by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. A particular situation having occurred in Armenia the Powers who had consular representatives there joined together to deal with it, and in this way the co-operation of certain 970 Powers had been instituted. It was Lord Salisbury's policy, and his successful policy, to replace that combination, however justifiable, by the entire Concert of Europe. The difference between a concert and a combination is this; a concert means the whole of the six Powers, and a combination means a smaller number. [Opposition laughter.] I do not know whether my definition is very grammatical, but it is at any rate correct. ["Hear, hear!"] What is even more curious still is that in reconstituting the Concert of Europe, and in acting with it ever since, strange as it may appear, we have really been acting on the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I am, if I may say so, a most devoted and attentive student of his speeches, and in the course of last autumn I derived great consolation from what he said about Armenia. He made a speech on October 6, 1896, in his constituency in Wales, and this is what he said: —What we want is that which used to be called an entente, cordiale with foreign Powers, a friendly disposition which accommodates itself to the circumstances of the times as they present themselves, a little more international courtesy. I dare say I shall be told to-morrow that this is a, poor-spirited policy by those who pride themselves on splendid isolation." [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] "I confess that I am not an admirer of the splendid isolation which results in a humiliating impotence. I prefer a cordial, good understanding; a neighbourly spirit ministers to the happiness of mankind.Then a little later on he said: —What should be our policy if we want to strengthen the hands of the Government? Let us give them an assurance that in cultivating the friendship of other Powers"—[cheers]— "they will have the cordial and steadfast support of national sentiment.[Ministerial cheers.] Now we have been told this afternoon that national sentiment is represented exclusively on the opposite side of the House, and therefore really the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition ought to be the last person to object to us if we show that amount of deference to him which is involved in having adopted in the spring of this year the policy which he urged upon us in the autumn of last year. [Ministerial cheers.] I will take one other point in regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said; he talked about 971 the imbecility and helplessness of the Concert. Has the Concert even in this Cretan question been imbecile or helpless? During the last two months it has saved Europe from war. Is that no great achievement? From the start of this Cretan affair it has been the action of the Concert, and of the Concert alone, which has prevented Turkey from declaring war, and which has saved Crete from consequences much graver than any of those it has undergone. Nobody in this House can deny that, whatever may have been the motives of the action of Greece, that action was of a provocative character. Without declaring war, the Greeks assumed the rights of a belligerent without the responsibilities. They invaded an island belonging to another Power, they fired on Turkish vessels, attacked Turkish troops, and have since been in occupation of the island, and have massed large bodies of men, if not with the intention of making war, at any rate with, the obvious intention of threatening war on the northern frontier of Greece. Suppose that we had adopted the advice of the right hon. Baronet. If there had been no Concert, or we had receded from the Concert, and had failed to put pressure on Turkey, what would have happened? Do you mean to say that the Turks would not have sent reinforcements to Crete, and would not 12,000 Turkish troops in this internecine warfare have carried havoc and extermination throughout that island, and on the northern frontier of Thessaly would not the Turkish forces, which are understood to be largely superior both in numbers and equipment, have crossed the frontier long ago, if the pressure of the Powers had not prevented that? ["Hear, hear!"] The Powers have done their best, and I think they have succeeded in localising the disturbance. In the case of Crete they have localised it by blockading that island rather than the Greek mainland, and by assuming responsibility for the island, and in the case of the frontier they have tried to localise the disturbance there by making the joint declaration that the aggressor will in neither case be allowed to profit by his victory. I have little more to say; but there is one argument that I should like to meet. It is said, your intentions may be excellent, but, oh! how dilatory and slow you are in executing them. Is that very remarkable? When you take the case of Crete, 972 and remember that, not for generations, but for centuries, that island has been torn by internecine warfare, and that at the present moment there is this source of friction and misunderstanding in the conflicting and overlapping jurisdictions of the Admirals in the seaports, the Turks in the garrisons, the insurgents in the interior, and Colonel Vassos and the Greeks in his mountain fastness, can any sensible man expect pacification to be restored at once? I will take the really interesting and parallel case of Samos, which is habitually held out to us as a model which we ought to set before us. That was a State which was long part of the Turkish Empire, with a population, as in this case, mainly Greek, and though still remaining under the suzerainty of the Sultan it has acquired a constitution of an independent and satisfactory character. What happened in Samos? After the war of Greek independence in 1827, when the Powers declared that Samos should not be taken from Turkey, but should possess an autonomous constitution of its own, there was continuous fighting from 1827 to 1836. There were Collective Notes, blockades, incursions of Greek volunteers, Colonel Vassosses turning up by the score—almost every incident of the present situation was reproduced on a miniature scale at that time. And, although a constitution was given to Samos in 1832, it was not until 1850, after 23 years' fighting, disorder, and trouble, that the island settled down and accepted that autonomous constitution under which, it has ever since lived. [Opposition, cheers.] My desire is to point out that, if you now quote Samos as an instance, we ought to remember that the present constitution was not given to Samos without very many of those disorders which we are now combating.
§ MR. CURZON
I do not think so. I presume that everybody in this House is really agreed that the objects which the Government have set before themselves are the correct objects. [Opposition cries of "No!"] I am taking the objects as defined by my right hon. Friend behind me—the peace of Europe and the liberation of Crete. [Ministerial cheers.] There is nobody in this House who would dispute that those are objects which any 973 Government ought to set before themselves. The question seems to me largely to turn on whether you ought to pursue that policy by yourselves or in Concert with the other Powers. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says in a speech in the country that he and his Party have done with the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and also says that integrity is the basis of the European Concert, it would seem—and I dare say he would not deny it—that that speech involves a disavowal and repudiation of the policy of the Concert; and when he moved the other day in this House for an Address to the Crown praying that the forces of the Crown might not be used against Crete or Greece—in other words that Great Britain should not pledge herself in advance as to the steps she might be called upon to take in assisting to carry out the policy of the Powers—what was that but tying the hands of the British Government and disrupting and disintegrating the Concert of Europe? If that is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, instead of his calling upon us for a statement of our policy, which we have so often given from these Benches, ought we not to have some statement of policy from him? Either the Opposition have an alternative policy or they have not; if they have an alternative policy let us hear it in the House of Commons. [Loud cheers.] If they have not an alternative policy then let them cease to embarrass and hamper the Government by their attacks. There is only one reason why I feel glad that the Vote of Censure was not moved. Of course, if a Vote of Censure had been moved we should have had an overwhelming majority and should have extracted from that the consolation which large majorities never fail to give. But, after all, that is a cheap consolation; surely if no Vote of Censure is moved we are justified in inferring that there is a great body of sentiment, even on the opposite side of the House, that is in sympathy with our policy. ["Hear, hear!"] For my own part I think as long as we remain in the Concert of Europe, the power for good and the efficacy of this country is likely to be increased by the consciousness which will prevail abroad that we have behind us not merely a Party majority, but a large majority of the people of the country. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ * SIR WILLLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
, who rose amidst loud Opposition cheers: Sir, although the right hon. Gentleman has declined the challenge I offered—[Ministerial laughter and cheers]—I shall not decline his challenge to-night. [Opposition cheers.] I regretted, and still regret, that the House is to discuss matters of grave importance with reference to the future policy of this country in the presence of the great question which is upon us, the Eastern Question, upon a Motion of Adjournment. I am of opinion that that ought to have been discussed on a definite issue. [Ministerial cheers and Opposition counter cheers.] Yes, Sir, we presented a definite issue—[Ministerial cries of "No!"]—and the right hon. Gentleman in his closing sentences admitted it. He said that the Motion I put on the Paper called in question the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, which was the basis of the Concert of Europe. That is the issue that we have raised and intend to raise. The Leader of the House complained that this Motion was not sufficiently censorious.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman, I think, is a little bit unreasonable and a little difficult to satisfy. If that Motion had been carried it would have turned out the Government. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial laughter.] What more does he want? If it had been carried it would have put an end to the present Administration. And he says it is not a sufficiently adverse Motion! I have seen it absurdly stated that its terms were "unconstitutional." Why, of course, it would have been unconstitutional if the Government had remained in power, because it would have restrained their hands. But if it had displaced that Government, and put in office a Government in accordance with, the principles of the Resolution—[Ministerial laughter]—it would have been perfectly constitutional. Oh, but you say it would not have been carried. Very well, why did you not negative it? Why did you not substitute for it a Vote of Confidence. You might have done that if you pleased. The issue you would not face here or in the country was, whether the forces of the Crown were to be employed against Greece or not. That was 975 the issue we presented to the House. I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean said to-night. I have had the same Parliamentary experience he has had. We entered the House at the same time, and this I will venture to say, as Lord Kimberley said the other day, that in his experience no Government has ever declined to meet such a Motion as that, or shrunk from such an issue when presented to it. In the great contests in which we were engaged—aye, and in which many Members on that Bench were engaged—from 1878 to 1880, Motions far less adverse were brought forward, and the Government of that day, under the lead of Mr. Disraeli, never thought of shrinking from Motions of this kind when brought forward on the responsibility of the Opposition. The Government has declined to meet the Motion. That is their affair. But what it was our business to do was to put on record on the journals of the House the judgment and the opinion of the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, representing, as they believe they do, in that respect, the united Liberal Party—[Ministerial laughter and Opposition cheers]—I will venture to say that on this subject the Liberal Party are a good deal more united than the Party opposite, either here or elsewhere. We have put on record, at all events, the principles which we are prepared to maintain. We have complained that we have never succeeded in obtaining from the Government an explanation of the principles upon which they are proceeding. We have had an interesting and able speech from the Under Secretary to-night, but he has never gone into the principles which he at the root of the matter. He has given us a good deal of interesting detail upon minor matters, but he has never encountered the questions which we have put and which I will repeat to-night, and upon which we have never obtained any kind of answer from the Government. It is true there have been discussions here. Yes, on particular incidents, not on the principles of the policy which the Government are pursuing. There have been explanations in the French and Italian Chambers, and there have been certain spasmodic and fragmentary— what shall I call them?—not discussions 976 or declarations—in the House of Lords. But the right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, yes. We have explained our principles. We say they are "liberty for Crete and peace for Europe.'" [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, Sir. But what sort of liberty for Crete? I am going to ask that. Is it the liberty for Crete that the Cretan people desire? [Opposition cheers.] That is the question. These vague and general phrases are no explanation of the policy of the Government. What do you mean by liberty for Crete, and how, and with what prospects, are you providing for the peace of Europe? It is not vague phrases of this kind that we want, but something like reasonable explanation of the methods by which you are pursuing the objects at which you profess to aim. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says we have had explanations here. But he does not do himself justice. Really, the explanations we have had from the right hon. Gentleman have not been in the House of Commons. They have been at smoking reunions—[Opposition laughter]—and on platforms in the country. I am going to ask in the House of Commons some questions on these declarations which have not been made here. We have had abusive speeches against Greece delivered at Nottingham by one Cabinet Minister.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Baling
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
The other day a Member of the Cabinet said the Greeks were the most intriguing people in the world. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I did not say that. If the right hon. Gentleman quotes me, I hope he will quote me accurately. I said that of all the Eastern Christians the Greeks had developed the least the material prosperity of their country since they had had free government, and that they had a remarkable aptitude for political intrigue and misrepresenting those to whom they were opposed. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
We had a question put to the Home Secretary earlier in the evening as to what abusive language was, and if the words the noble Lord has just used represent his idea of complimentary language, we may be left to conjecture what are his conceptions 977 of abuse. We have had what I hope I may, without offence, call a more conciliatory speech from another Member of the Government, at Leeds, with reference to the Greek Kingdom. I complain that speeches of this kind, which profess to give the policy of the Government, are not delivered in the House of Commons. It seems to me it is part of a scheme to disparage the authority of the House of Commons—[Opposition cheers and Ministerial laughter]—to teach the people of this country that the House of Commons is a place of small account, and that it is not a place in which great questions affecting the interests of the nation should be discussed. I regret it, because I am old-fashioned enough still to have respect for the Parliamentary traditions of this country. I regret that the Government have set themselves to work to prevent discussion in this House. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!" and Opposition cheers.] Yes; as no Government before has prevented it, and say:—"We will allow no discussion in this House upon a great question of foreign policy unless you couch it in the form of a Vote of Censure." I say that no such contention has ever been made by any Government in this country before. If we are not to discuss the policy of the Government here, we can discuss it elsewhere. I do not know whether it is extremely politic on the part of a Government with a great majority, and who derive most advantage from the system of Closure in the House of Commons. I should have thought it might have been useful to them here. However, at all events, on a Motion of Adjournment, we have a right of inquiry of the Government which I, for my part, propose to make use of tonight. We have questions to ask the Government as to what they are doing and what they have done. But whenever we ask a question of the Government, they tell us, as the right hon. Gentleman has told us to-night:—" Oh, it is the decision of the Concert of Europe. We do not argue whether it is right or wrong." The right hon. Gentleman says, "In a concert you must have give and take." Yes; but I want to know who are giving and who are taking. As far as I can see, all the giving is on the part of Her Majesty's Government. They tell us:—" The Concert of Europe has decided so and so. 978 We do not tell you it is a thing we approve. We do not profess to defend it." Nobody can deny that is the line they took about the decision in the case of Armenia. But they say:—"The Concert of Europe has settled the matter. We accept it, we submit to it, and execute whatever the Concert has decided." That is a very serious position with reference to the condition of foreign affairs in Europe if all the British Government have to say is, "Whatever the six Powers decide by a majority, that is the policy of the British Government, and that is what the British Government are bound to do." For our part we do not accept that answer. We do not consider that their decision is conclusive, and we claim to investigate what that decision is, and what are the merits of it. We are told that the Concert of Europe is a magnificent conception, that it is a beneficent providence, which is to dispose of the destinies of the world. Well, the right hon. Gentleman has paid me the compliment to quote some observations of mine made last autumn. But they do not correspond to the present position at all. I was arguing at that time against what I considered to be an exceedingly mischievous practice in this House and out of this House of endeavouring to breed bad blood between the different nations of the world. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] That is the language I heard on those Benches about Russia, about Germany, and about France, and that language, I think, is most mischievous. [Opposition cheers.] But that is a very different thing from placing the foreign policy of this country in commission, and stating that, whatever is determined by a certain number of Powers, that England is bound to do. That is the policy against which I enter a protest. ["Hear, hear!"] We have been told that it is a federation of Europe and a legislature. That is an extraordinary and new doctrine. What becomes of the liberty of independent States if there is a federation which has a right to legislate for the world, and for all the States that do not belong to that federation? These are propositions which I absolutely challenge. ["Hear, hear!"] These are what I call the principles of foreign policy as to which we ought to have explanations. Upon this Concert of Europe the right 979 hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary is perfectly dithyrambic—I do not mean here, but where he has expounded the true policy of Her Majesty's Government on platforms elsewhere. He has told us that the Concert of Europe is a jury which returns a verdict, and he says it is a "Cabinet of nations, and that the destinies of Europe are committed to its collective wisdom and collective responsibility." When he calls the Concert of Europe a Cabinet of nations, I suppose that he has derived the opinion of its sagacity, its unanimity, its decision, its dispatch, and its efficiency from that Cabinet which he represents in this House. This Concert, this Cabinet of the nations, is very much, I suppose, like the Concert of the present Cabinet of Great Britain. But the Cabinet of nations must be judged, like other Cabinets, by its action, and still more by its inaction. Let us see what has been the work of this Cabinet of nations up to this point. We have had some experience of it for the last 18 months. The first question that was committed to its charge and responsibility was the question of Armenia. What has it done with Armenia? In November, 1895, it is quite true that, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, Lord Salisbury got together this Cabinet of nations, and he told us it had never been so harmonious, and never so determined to put an end to the horrors in Armenia. He assured us it was prepared to act to fulfil those pledges which the "legislature of Europe" had given for the protection of the people of Armenia. That was the assurance Lord Salisbury gave as to the action of the Cabinet of nations. Well, it did not act. [Opposition cheers.] We were told that this Cabinet of nations had determined that Armenia—which all the Powers at Berlin had promised to protect, which the British Government specially in the Cyprus Treaty, had promised to preserve—should be abandoned to its fate. This was the first work of the Concert of Europe. [Opposition cheers.] The reason they gave for this determination was a very remarkable one. They said that if the Turkish Government are not allowed to massacre the Armenians, all the Christian Powers will set to work to massacre one another. That is the actual ground which was alleged, and that is 980 what they call preserving the peace of Europe. [Opposition cheers.] That was the deliberate conclusion of what the right hon. Gentleman calls "the collective wisdom of Europe"—these Powers who say they are such ardent worshippers of peace, who were collected together to preserve peace—and what is their argument in favour of peace? Why that "if you do not do what we propose, we shall make war upon one another." That is really the argument which lies at the bottom of these professions of peace on the part of the Concert of Europe. [Opposition cheers.] The Concert of Europe then came to the conclusion—I hope it was not a unanimous conclusion, and I do not believe it was as regards Her Majesty's Government—that Armenia was to be abandoned to its fate. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!" and Opposition cheers.] Has Armenia not been abandoned to its fate? [Ministerial cries of "No!" and Opposition cheers.] Is there any attempt made to stop those massacres at which Lord Salisbury said the world had turned pale? [An HON. MEMBER ON THE MINISTERIAL SIDE: "You had better ask Lord Rosebery!"] All that took place after the Concert of Europe was established, and while it professed to be in action, and thus we see the cause of humanity and the claims of freedom are sacrificed to the jealousies and selfish interests of the Powers, who declare that they will go to war if they are called upon to listen to those claims of humanity for which they appear to care so little, and to those claims of freedom for which they certainly care a good deal less. [Cheers.] That is the first-fruit of this Concert of Europe, of this Cabinet of nations to whom the destinies of the world have been committed. What is the result? All these Powers have failed to fulfil the pledges which they gave at Berlin, and the British Government, unwillingly I believe, has been obliged to violate the pledge it gave in the Anglo-Turkish Convention. I confess I do not feel disposed to speak disrespectfully of these thrones, dominations, and princedoms. But there are people who have ventured to rush in upon 981 this matter. There is one eminent statesman whom I may venture to quote, because we all know that he knows everything better than everyone else. I need not say I refer to his Grace the Duke of Argyll. [Laughter.] This is what he ventures to say about the Concert of Europe:—That the Powers should have consented even to allow their representatives to spend time in such attempts as these after the experience of half a century of the hopelessly bad faith, and of the cunning procrastination of the Porte, is indeed astonishing. As usual, we seem to have been the leaders in this farce. Our Foreign Office boasted from time to time that we had got all the Powers to act in line, which was indeed true. But what was the line? It was what is called, in the language of military drill, practising the goose step.[Laughter and cheers.] That is not quite as poetical a description of the Concert of Europe as that given by the Under Secretary, but I venture to think it is, perhaps, a more accurate one. ["Hear, hear!"] Then we are told, "It is quite true that many thousands of Armenians have been massacred, but, we have got great reforms in prospect for stopping them in the future." What has become of these reforms?
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
For weeks and months the Ambassadors have been discussing them at Constantinople—discussions which remind one of the history of what took place in Constantinople among the Christian Powers before that city fell into the hands of the Turks. The Ambassadors, we have been told, made a plan, and they have referred it to the Powers. Have the Powers accepted that plan? What have they done? Has it been presented? Has it been accepted? No, Sir; the only commentary upon these discussions among the Powers at Constantinople has been the recent massacre at Tokat. That is what the Concert of Europe up to this time has done for Armenia. ["Hear, hear!"] That is its efficiency; that is the ground of the confidence that we are asked to show towards it. ["Hear, hear!"] The next question committed to it was the settlement of the affairs of Crete. How have they settled those affairs? How did they begin? The collective wisdom of the Powers, as the Under 982 Secretary calls it, devised a plan for reforming Crete. That plan proved so ineffective and so absurd that everybody has disavowed it; it has been withdrawn, and it never had any practical existence at all. What was that plan, and what have they been pursuing ever since? It was founded upon that integrity of the Ottoman Empire which was described by Lord Salisbury as backing the wrong horse. ["Hear, hear!"] All they have been doing in Crete has been backing the wrong horse and bombarding the wrong people. [Opposition cheers.] Then, Sir, in the midst of all this purposeless fumbling of the Great Powers came in the intervention of Greece, and the Greeks offered to Crete their liberties in the form in which, as my right hon. Friend has shown, she has always asked for it— in the form of annexation to Greece.[Cheers.] I said that there was a Member of the Cabinet who spoke in very different language of the Greeks from that which was assumed by the Secretary of State for India. This is what the Chief Secretary for Ireland said at Leeds the other day about Greece.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
There are so many members of the family in the Government that I am sure I may be pardoned for making the mistake. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear!"] lint whether he is in the Cabinet or not, this is what he said:—I do not say that in the first instance the action of Greece in sending troops to Crete was not susceptible of some excuse. It might have been excused in view of the undoubtedly dilatory action of the Powers, and all of us could not help admiring, when we were condemning, the pluck which Greece showed upon that occasion.[Opposition Cheers.] I think that is much more worthy language than that of the Secretary for India, but I cannot excuse the Under Secretary, though he is not in the Cabinet either. The people of Crete, he said, "had always been troubled." They have been troubled, and they have been troublesome, I am happy to say, to some purpose now. They had been violating the law, he said, ever since the time of Minos. Well, we are not acquainted with the laws of 983 Minos, but if they were at all like the laws of the Sultan of Turkey, the Cretans did quite right to violate them. ["Hear, hear!"] For centuries the Cretans have been the most oppressed people, perhaps, in the world. Let anyone read the accounts of the cruelties and slaughters inflicted on those people in 1866 and 1868. And yet the Under Secretary says, "the majority of the people, who are Christian Greeks, are perpetually warring against the minority, who are Mahomedan Greeks, who have hitherto had the protection of the Mahomedan garrisons." A nice protection to the people of Crete these Mahomedan garrisons! The right hon. Gentleman appears to think it very unreasonable of these troublesome people that they were not satisfied with the protection of these Mahomedan garrisons. Now, as soon as Greece appeared on the scene, then, and then only, the Powers began to bethink them of autonomy. It was Greece that invented for the minds of the Powers of Europe the idea of autonomy, which was not mentioned before. If autonomy is now offered to Crete it is due to the Greeks and to the Greeks alone. ["Hear, hear!"] The Cretans would never have had the offer but for the action of Greece—that proposition is incontrovertible. Now, here is a question I have a right to ask, and I hope the Government will consent to answer it. What is the position which the Powers claim to hold in Crete? That has never been explained by Her Majesty's Government, and I ask the Government to give an explanation. Is it under the authority of the Sultan, exercising by delegation the authority of the Sultan? What evidence is there of that? I know no evidence of it. Did Turkey invite the Powers to go to Crete? That is not the language held, at all events by the Under Secretary, for I find in one of the explanations of his given the other day he says:—We have taken Crete away from the Turk." ["Hear, hear!"] "We have confined his garrison to the coast, and are earnestly hoping to get rid of him altogether—the Turk has accepted his dismissal from Crete.["Hear, hear!"] Then you invaded a country not your own, you have occupied it, and you claim to dispose of it 984 as you think best for yourselves. You have ousted the authority of the Sovereign. You have not, it is quite true, been invited by the people, but you are going to impose on them a Government they do not desire. Now, what is the position of Greece, and how does it differ from yours? They came adversely, like you, into their position in Crete, and just as you took away Crete from Turkey, Greece has come intending no doubt to take away Crete from Turkey. The only difference I can discover in the international positions is that Greece was invited by the Cretans and you were not. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, I should like an answer to that question. You are both in possession adversely to the Sovereign; but while the one is there with the good will of the majority of the people, the other is in possession contrary to the good will of the people, and trying to impose on them a Government they do not want. ["Hear, hear!"] I should like to have an explanation of the situation from the Government. Why is the position of Greece in Crete a greater violation of international law than your position there? There is another question I should like to ask, for it is a matter we have never had explained. You are blockading Crete, and I should like to ask, whom are you blockading? For what purpose are you blockading Crete? In your declaration of the blockade in the Gazette, you speak of the six Powers and "neutrals." We know the six Powers; who are the "neutrals"? Who are the belligerents? Are the Turks neutrals or belligerents? They must be one or the other; which of the two are they? Are the insurgents neutrals or belligerents?
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
The hon. Member for Sheffield provides an answer, but he is not a Member of a responsible Government at present; he is not conducting the blockade, the Government are. I ask whether the Turks are neutrals or belligerents, whether the insurgents are neutrals or belligerents; and what are the Greeks, neutrals or belligerents? Who, in fact, are the belligerents? Are the insurgents belligerents? Are you then undertaking by force 985 of arms in Crete to put down the Christian insurgents; and are you putting them down by your own authority or by the delegated authority of the Turk? ["Hear, hear!"] The question I should like answered is, Is it your own spontaneous act to put down the insurgents in Crete, or are you acting on behalf of Turkey under the authority of the Sultan? I shall be told, perhaps, that it is to prevent the annexation of Crete to Greece; and I ask, why do you want to prevent the annexation of Crete to Greece? ["Hear, hear!"] I do not ask why the Concert of Towers want to prevent it—I have my own opinion about that—but I ask you why the British Government want to prevent the annexation of Crete to Greece? It is a question, I think, we have a right to ask in the House of Commons, for the whole of the danger to peace at this moment rests on the fact that you are determined that Crete shall not be annexed to Greece. Agree to that annexation and you will have peace to-morrow. I therefore ask you to state why it is you are opposing the annexation of Crete to Greece, which is what the Cretans demand. Is it on principle you are opposed to the annexation, as a thing you think wrong, an evil, a mischief? Not at all. The Under Secretary says this:—"If Crete, after duly considering these great questions"— well, they have considered them fur a good many years—" after recovering her equilibrium"—which you are disturbing by opposing annexation to Greece—"were definitely to decide on annexation to Greece, the Powers of Europe, as Lord Salisbury himself has said, will not permanently stand in the way." ["Hear, hear!"] I have no doubt that is your opinion and the opinion of Lord Salisbury; but I ask you now to say, have you authority to say the same for the other Powers, that they will be prepared to allow annexation to Greece, because your saying it alone is nothing so long as the Concert of Europe does not agree in this matter? If it be true that the Concert of Europe is fundamentally radically opposed, not only now but hereafter, to the annexation of Crete to Greece, what is the use of holding out these expectations you have no power to fulfil? This is the root of the whole question. If you and if the Powers did 986 not oppose the annexation you might have peace in 24 hours; therefore, the whole thing turns on the question why you are opposing the annexation. We cannot go back on the old answer that this is the will of the Concert; you must give some reason, some rational explanation, why you are pursuing the course which is the real cause of the present trouble. The Government say, "We offer autonomy to Crete." Yes, and you are blockading Crete at present to compel the great majority of the Cretan people—that is, the Christian population of Crete—to accept autonomy. You say, we will starve and bombard you until you accept autonomy. ["Hear, hear!"] What an extraordinary proceeding this is for a nation like England, professing the, opinion that a country should be governed as the people desire, not as other Governments may desire. Why do the people of Crete at this moment resist autonomy? I am not going to tell you in my own words, but in the words used by the Under Secretary in his speech at Southport the other day. He says:—I quite understand why and how it is that the Cretan people appear to resist this autonomy. I say appear to resist, because I decline to believe that it is either a genuine or a permanent resistance, but I think they resisted because I doubt if it is fully or adequately ex plained to them.Why is if not fully and adequately explained? The reason is that it does not exist at present, that the plan has never been formed. Then, he goes on to explain also:—As long as the Turkish troops are in the island I can quite understand that the people are reluctant to believe in the reality of the freedom that is offered to them.That is perfectly true, but you go on bombarding them all the same. [Opposition Cheers.] What can be more absolutely irrational than that? ["Hear, hear!"] What is your plan of autonomy? The Under Secretary says, "Oh, there are plenty of plans of autonomy "—ready-made autonomy—[laughter]—as if the Powers had a sort of slop-shop of autonomous Constitutions, and when the time comes they reach down one of them and starve and bombard the people into accepting it. [Laughter and Cheers.] That is the sort 987 of autonomy which they offer the Cretan people. The right hon. Gentleman says, and says truly, that they resist because "I do not think it is fully or adequately explained to them." It is only two or three days ago that I read in the newspapers that the Admirals had begged the Consuls to go into the country and explain to the Cretan people the autonomy, and the Consuls very naturally replied, "What autonomy are we to explain?" [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] "We have never heard, and we have never been told, what that autonomy is which is to be explained to them." The right hon. Gentleman says that one of the great difficulties is the presence of the Turkish troops. I ask again, and I say we ought to be told, why are the Turkish troops not removed? Who is opposing it? He says that the English Government have been pressing for it. Yes, we know that they have been, pressing, and we give them great credit for pressing it—[cheers]—but the fact is that they are not removed. This shows that the English Government in these matters is a quantité négligeable, and that their pressure is good for nothing. It shows that they are opposed somewhere. Who is opposing in this matter, which the right hon. Gentleman admits is essential to the pacification of Crete, and who prevents the Turkish troops being removed? Then the right hon. Gentleman, as I pointed out just now, said that, there was another thing which was of the most capital importance. I do hope we shall have an answer upon this point, because it has been told to us that the peace of Crete, and for aught I know the peace of Europe, depends upon the removal of these Turkish troops. We want to know when it is going to be done, and who is opposing it. Are the Turkish Government opposing it? ["Hear, hear!"] Are the other Powers of Europe opposing it? What is the use of telling us you are giving us an explanation of your policy when this, which is the most critical question of all, is one upon which you can give us no answer. ["Hear, hear!"] We know the thing has not been clone. The practical answer is given in the face of Europe that, although the British Government has been pressing for the removal of these Turkish troops, they are still there, and they are the real cause 988 of all the evil which now exists. But there is another thing which the Under Secretary told us with that extra-Parliamentary candour which he indulges in on the platform. He says: —The most important thing is the creation of a supreme governing authority. The present divided jurisdiction in the island—the Admirals in their ships and in the coast ports, tin-Turkish garrisons in the fortified positions, and the insurgents in the interior—are, and must be, a source of trouble and friction. It is of the highest importance that a supreme governing authority should be appointed, and that, in the absence of a permanent authority, some provisional authority should take its place.And then he goes on and makes this very important statement:—I am surprised at the suspicions and misconceptions that have surrounded this question. Surely it goes without saying that the Governor of Crete, when he is appointed, will not be a Turk. Of course, he will he a Christian; of course he will be nominated by the Powers.I ask this question. Have the Powers agreed to that, and have they determined to do it? You have told us it is the most important thing for the restoration of peace in Crete that this Governor should be nominated by the Powers, and I ask you, why has he not been nominated? ["Hear, hear!"] The friction that is going on is a scandal. I may say, to Europe and a reproach to the Concert of the Powers. [cheers.] You tell us this is a matter of supreme importance and that you are pressing it. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech to-day, told us that it is under discussion; but I saw a day or two ago that Turkey has presented a remonstrance against anything of the kind being done. [cheers.] Are you going to submit to that remonstrance or are you not? ["Hear, hear!"] You have told us that it goes without saying that there is to be a Christian Governor nominated by the Powers.
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, I hope we shall have it in a more definite form that the Powers have accepted it, and that the Porte, whether they choose or not, will be compelled to accept it. [Opposition cheers.] If the right hon. Gentleman says that, categorically it will be satisfactory. We are going on day after day with this 989 state of things which might be removed by this proceeding, and the thing is not done. I will proceed with my catechism. Let me ask this other question. Supposing that you have removed the Turkish troops, which you have not yet done, and supposing you have nominated your Christian Governor, what are you going to do then? You offer autonomy to the Cretans, and they refuse it. Are you going to make war upon them? Are you going to compel them, to accept the autonomy whether they choose it or not? It comes from hands which they do not regard as friendly, I am sorry to say. You have so conducted affairs in Crete by joining yourselves in these bombardments—always bombarding the Christians and never bombarding the Turks—that they do not regard you as their friends. They do not desire to accept this autonomy at your hands; they desire annexation to Greece, which, you refuse. Then, I want to know, are you going by force of arms to compel them? I see you have sent mountain batteries to Crete. [Opposition cheers.] What are you; going to do with, these mountain batteries? Are you going into the: mountains to fire autonomy out of these cannons into the Christians of Crete? ["Hear, hear!"] The "collective wisdom" must have some plan. When they have accomplished the removal of the Turkish, troops, and when they have nominated the Christian Governor, what is the plan of the "collective wisdom?" You are going to make war, if you do make war, upon the Cretans and Greeks. Why? I think we might to have some explanation, and what is that explanation? It is essential, we are told, to the great doctrine of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. That integrity of the Ottoman Empire is a sacred cause which no profane hands must be allowed to touch. The Concert of Europe are the hierophants who minister to the shrine of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. It is at that shrine that the human sacrifices in Armenia were offered up, and we are told that it is all for the love of peace. In Armenia you made a solitude and you called it peace. [Opposition Cheers.] It was in the name of peace that the Powers abandoned Armenia, to her fate. [Cheers.] I must say that, when we look at the 990 blood-stained plains of Armenia and the starving Christians in the mountains of Crete, I can hardly describe that collective wisdom as one whose ways are "ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace." ["Hear, hear!"] This method of pursuing peace, which has been the result of this collective action, is one which I think will be much more likely to bring war than ever to accomplish, peace. If you are to blockade Greece, why are you going to blockade Greece? That again, is in the name of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Who ever stated that? Who ever made that assertion on behalf of the Government?
§ * SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I thought I had explained what I meant by that. I say that the cause of the whole thing is the resistance to the annexation of Crete to Greece— [Opposition Cheers.]—and when we ask why you are opposing that annexation we are told we are bound to do it in the interests of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the whole thing rests upon the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and upon nothing else. There has been no doubt about that. Lord Salisbury's declarations have been clear and explicit upon that point. We have declared that we will not be a party to a policy founded on the integrity of the Ottoman Empire—[Opposition Cheers.]—and in that declaration we adhere. I believe that that declaration has the unanimous support of the Liberal Party—["hear, hear!"]—and a great support in the Party opposite also. I do not believe that they are in favour of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Lord Salisbury was greatly offended and greatly shocked because the Earl of Kimberley had declared that we had done with the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. and I had the honour of supporting Lord Kimberley in that view. He said it was a momentous statement. I daresay it was a momentous statement, and it was intended to be so. That is our view, at all events, of this matter; but we ask you what is your view of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and in what position England stands in regard to it? This is what I call getting to the root of the question. We want explanations upon 991 that subject, because it is professedly taken as the whole basis of the action in this matter in Crete. We had some explanation on the subject of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire from the Under Secretary of State. He says people are frightened at the bogey of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. First of all, it is a bogey. [Laughter.] Then he says:—Now the integrity of the Ottoman Empire may be viewed as part of the international law. It is an article of the Code of Europe which has been created and consecrated in decrees and treaties by the European Powers, and has been equally modified by them. Europe has created and consecrated that formula.Therefore, we hare got so far. It is a bogey which is a consecrated formula by the European Powers. That makes it quite clear, I think—[laughter]—what is the view of the Government of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. And then the right hon. Gentleman says it is "the most, elastic formula which is known," and he indicates that we are to be bound by this elastic formula unless we are released from it by the unanimous assent of the Powers. That is a singular explanation of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire which lies at the basis of your Eastern policy; but I am bound to say Lord Salisbury treats it in a much more serious manner than the Under Secretary. Lord Salisbury does not say it is a bogey at all.
§ MR. CURZON
I did not say it was a bogey in itself. I said it was made a bogey by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Laughter and cheers.]
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, at all events, it was made a bogey, and Lord Salisbury treated it in a much more grim and serious fashion. He says "the integrity of the Ottoman Empire "—and these are very important words—is established by the Legislature of Europe in a law laid down by the only authority competent to create a law for Europe.I have never heard of any authority that is competent to lay down a law, or of any Legislature in Europe whatever. It is a perfectly new, and in my opinion a most dangerous and mischievous doctrine. I never heard of a limited number of Powers setting themselves up as a Legislature in Europe to enact law. There are such things; as alliances, powerful 992 alliances, in Europe which make covenants with one another appropriate to the circumstances of the time. We know what those covenants were in 1856. They have been described as laying money on the wrong horse. [Mr. GIBSON BOWLES: "That referred to a proposal made by Russia."] I beg pardon; I say it was the whole policy in 1856, and the principle by which it was inspired is described as "superannuated superstitions, and antiquated diplomacy." That, is the basis of "the law of Europe, established by the Legislature of Europe." That, we are told, is the law of the Medes and Persians, which can only be altered by the assent of all the Powers to it. That, as I understand, is the doctrine you take up, and there can be no departure from the principle of the Treaties of 1856, which Lord Salisbury calls the law of Europe, and these are his words:—What is done will be done by the consent of all the Powers by which the integrity of Turkey was made part of European law.Is that your doctrine? ["Hear, hear!"] Very well, I will put it to the test. Part of that transaction was the tripartite treaty between Great Britain, Austria, and France, and the articles of that treaty are these. Article I says:—The high contracting parties guarantee jointly and severally the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire recorded in the Treaty concluded at Paris on March 30, 1856.No conditions whatever. The second Article is: —Any infraction of the stipulations of the same Treaty will be considered by the Powers signing the present Treaty as a casus belli. They will come to an understanding with the Sublime Porte as to the measures which may become necessary, and will without delay determine amongst themselves as to the employment of their military and naval forces.Is that the law of Europe? Is it the law even of the three Powers who signed that treaty? And if one of those Powers called upon us to perform the obligations of that treaty, do you mean to say you or any Government in this country would perform, them? Why, you know that if the integrity of the Ottoman Empire were invaded, either by insurrection within its 993 own dominions, or by any Power without it, England is not going to make it a casus belli, and the obligation is one which we do not acknowledge. [Opposition cheers.] I venture to say that neither this Government, nor any Government, would ever sit upon that Bench for 24 hours if it held itself bound to go to war under that tripartite treaty. That is a fair and distinct challenge upon the principles laid down by Lord Salisbury. We have a right, then, to ask what is the view of the Government upon the subject of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. We asked where we stood, and Lord Salisbury's definition of it, in my opinion, is a most dangerous one. He said:—"I feel it is our duty in sustain the federated action of Europe." [Cheers.] Yes, whatever it is, and without conditions.
§ * SIR W. HARCOURT
Ah! bin the gallant Admiral, I know, would go into battle at once. [Laughter.] There is no reserve whatever in this matter. Lord Salisbury said "he feels it our duty to sustain the federated act ion of Europe." He thought that was the duly of the British Government, whether that action was right or wrong. [Ministerial Cries of "Oh!"] We have been told, and told truly, by the Under Secretary that it is not for us alone to determine what that action should be; it is for others, and if the other Powers of Europe are of opinion that certain action should be taken, however impolitic, however unwise, however unjust we may think it, we are bound by the federated action of this Legislature of Europe which is entitled to make the law for Europe. Now, let there be no mistake about it, because this is the language of Lord Salisbury, find I beg the attention of the House to it, as this, as far as I know, is the policy of the Government:—Whatever measures the Concert or federation of Europe may, in its wisdom, think it right to take with respect to the integrity of Turkey, we will he no party to a violation of that integrity without their authority.[Cheers.] Lord Salisbury talked of momentous words. These are momentous words. These words express the policy of the Government, and in my opinion that is a most dangerous policy. [Opposition Cheers.] It is not a policy which the British nation will or ought to 994 support. Conceive what it is. It is not an alliance; it is a submission. Who knows that it will not lead, if the federation of Europe so determine, to the destruction of Greece—Greece, whose freedom is one of the brightest pages in the history of the English people. The freedom of Greece was not secured by the Concert of Europe. I will tell you how it was made. It was made by Mr. Canning refusing to go to the Conference of St. Petersburg, and it was made against the Concert of Europe. You may have the destruction of Greece enacted by this Concert or federation of Europe—if you like in the name of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire—because it suits the, convenience or the policy of other countries. I do not desire that we should quarrel with other States, but what I do say is that we cannot assent that the policy of the British nation should be made subordinate and controlled by the decisions of other States. That is a policy lo which, in my opinion, this great, and free nation will never consent, and it is a policy which we, at least, will meet with a united and determined resistance. [Loud Opposition cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, who was received with loud Ministerial cheers, said: I should hardly have risen to take any part in a Debate which does not seem to me likely to issue in much profit either at home or abroad, had it not been for the challenge; thrown out in the first instance by the right, hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and echoed in much more vigorous language by the right hon. Gentleman who has just bat down. They have charged us—the Party which in this House I have the honour to lead—with having adopted in reference to a Motion put upon the Paper last week by the Leader of the Opposition, a course unparalleled in Parliamentary history. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that we are afraid of discussion, that we are even—save the mark!—afraid of a Division— [a laugh] and that, in order to elude the unpleasant difficulties into which a Vote of Censure might have got; us, we have initiated a new precedent in Parliamentary history—one which none of our responsible predecessors would ever have ventured to adopt. Now, let me put that right at once. It is quite true that, on previous occasions other ex-Ministers 995 in the position of the right hon. Gentleman have put down Resolutions which did not perhaps in so many words express censure upon the policy of the Government; but, at all events, those Resolutions raised definite issues and were couched in clear and unmistakable language, and the House, after having debated them and divided upon them, presented to the country and to Europe a clear decision upon a clear issue. What was the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman presented to our notice? These are the words:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, graving Her Majesty that the forces of the Crown may not be employed against the kingdom of Greece or the people of Crete.In the face of what has been going on in connection with Greece and Crete, there could not be a more ambiguous Resolution put upon the Paper, and that it was purposely and deliberately ambiguous [Ministerial cheers]—is evident from the fact that the smallest change of words would have made the issue quite clear and direct, and that change of words, though I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman how effectively it could be brought about, the right hon. Gentleman deliberately refused to adopt. I will put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, who has occupied an hour and a quarter in catechising me. [laughter] He has accused the Government, in concert with, the other Powers of Europe, of constantly bombarding the insurgents. Is that or is it not using the forces of the Crown against the people of Crete? [Ministerial cheers.] Is it or is it not? If it is not using the forces of the Crown against the people of Crete, then I do not understand what one-third of the right hon. Gentleman's speech means—[laughter]—for he has perpetually gone on the assumption that we are engaged on behalf of Turkey in using the forces of the Crown against the Cretans. ["Hear, hear!"] If he does not think we are doing that, one-fourth of his speech to-night was absolutely pointless and unmeaning. [Ministerial cheers.] If he takes the other hypothesis, and says the forces of the Crown are at this moment being used against the people of Crete, why could 996 not he draw his Resolution so as to condemn the action which is now going on before his eyes? [Ministerial cheers.] No, Sir, the origin of this precious Resolution, with regard to which the right hon. Gentleman does himself the injustice to suggest that he is the author of it—[laughter]—is plain to the humblest observer of Parliamentary procedure. We all see what must have occurred— what undoubtedly did occur. There are Gentlemen in the united Party which follows the right hon. Gentleman— [laughter]—anxiously desirous that a real Vote of Censure, condemning what the Government are doing and what they have said they are ready to do, should be put to this House and to the country. Those persons—and I daresay there are not a few sitting on the other side were perfectly within their right in pressing on their Leaders that such a course should be taken, and if their Leaders had taken that course, we, of course, would have followed the universal precedent and have at once said, "Our policy is challenged; it is challenged in clear, definite, and unmistakable language; that challenge we will take up; that battle we will fight; that issue we will decide in the face of the country." [Ministerial cheers.] But these Gentlemen are not the only followers of the right hon. Gentleman. [laughter] There are others who take a very different, and I am bound to say I think a more statesmanlike view of the present position of this country; of the difficulties with which this country has to deal; of the responsibilities which rest upon this country; and of the course which it ought to pursue. They look very likely, as they have a right to look, upon the Government, in an attitude of critical suspicion. That is a very proper attitude for Members of any Opposition to take up with regard to the Government of the day. But an attitude of critical suspicion does not go the length of condemning either what we have done, are doing, or have said that we are prepared to do; and these Gentlemen, therefore, were not prepared to join in that direct Vote of Censure which their friends below the Gangway would have been delighted; to see proposed from the Front Bench. [Laughter.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have no wish to pry too minutely into the secrets of the Party opposite—[Laughter.]—and it may be that the persons of whom I speak are few in number. It is evident that they are powerful in authority—[Cheers and laughter]—and that they make up by their personal weight for the fewness of their numbers. However that may be, it is manifest; and seriously, nobody in or out of the House except Lord Kimberley —[Laughter]—who had not been able to find time among his multifarious labour of the House of Lords to discuss these questions in that assembly, and who therefore denounces us for not discussing them here—[laughter]— there is really nobody except Lord Kimberley who is simple enough to believe that the Opposition did mean to put down on the Paper a direct Vote of Censure dealing with the policy of the Government, or who does not see that, as I have already stated, this Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman is not his drawing or is the product of a body which apparently is even more difficult to manage than the Concert of Europe. [Laughter.] But when the right hon. Gentleman accuses us of violating Parliamentary traditions by the course we have adopted, let me tell him that, in my judgment, at all events, the man who made the Norwich speech out of the House—[cheers]—and who proceeds to make the speech to which we have just listened in the House, has, a theory of his duly to this House which I have never known any responsible Statesman to have before.[cheers.]
§ * SIR. W. HARCOURT
I have said every single tiling to-night that I said at Norwich. [Cheers and Ministerial.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, has both speeches in his mind with much greater fulness and accuracy than pretend to have. I am not, perhaps, so persevering a student of the right hon. Gentleman s speeches outside the House as my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Curzon) professes to be, and I may have been mistaken. But such recollection as I have of that speech leads me to believe that, animated no doubt 998 by the audience which he was addressing, the right hon. Gentleman put much more tire into his invective than he has thought it necessary to use in the tranquil and soothing oration which we have heard tonight. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman, at short intervals through his speech, put a series of questions to me which he prefaced by saying, "We have a right to ask the Government" this, that or the other thing. I am far from denying the right hon. Gentleman's right to put as many questions as he likes, but I would ask any man who listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman whether, after listening to that speech, he definitely made out what it is the Opposition, complain of in the course we are pursuing. I confess that if I had to frame a Vote of Censure if the right hon. Gentleman had done me the honour, which apparently he cannot contemplate without horror—[Laughter]—of asking me to be his secretary on the occasion and had requested me after hearing that speech to formulate the articles of impeachment which should form the subject of a Vote of Censure—I should have, been, exceedingly puzzled to do so.[Laughter.] There were a great many hard things said of the Concert of Europe, and of us for joining the Concert of Europe; but I did not make out, although I listened attentively to all the right hon. Gentleman said, whether at this, moment he did or did not wish us to make our polite bow to the other Powers and to say, "Gentlemen, we have gone so far: we can go no further; we mean now to revert to the splendid isolation"—which was the object of the right hon. Gentleman's vigorous attacks only 12 months ago. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] There are one or two questions put by the right hon. Gentleman with which I must deal.[Opposition cheers.] He asked one or two questions of international law with which I feel very unequal to the task of dealing. I do not believe that there is any irregularity in. the action which the Powers have taken in Crete. Whether our presence there is regarded with, pleasure or not by the Porte is a question with which it is not necessary for me to deal. At all events, the Porte has raised no objection to the presence of the European Powers there; on the contrary, they have signified their assent, and I do not believe 999 that we sire violating the technicalities—for after all it is a mere technicality— of international law. The right hon, Gentleman asked me some further questions about the blockade, and here I confess I am even more incapable of dealing adequately with, the theme raised than I am when he asks us how we justify the presence of the European forces in the island. The right hon. Gentleman is a great authority, an author, a professor, and a writer of letters upon international law, and is far more capable of dealing with this sort of question than I am; and he has the special experience necessary to deal with this question of a pacific blockade—[Ministerial cheers] — as he was one of the Members of the Government which, I believe, first in the history of Europe set the example of a pacific blockade. [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] I am quite sure there is no question that could be asked on that point on which he is not capable of enlightening and instructing the House. [Laughter.] Then the right hon. Gentleman asked us when the Turkish troops were going to retire, and he said, "You have stated that your policy is to withdraw the Turkish troops." And so it is—[cheers]—and that policy will undoubtedly be brought to a successful conclusion. But when the right hon. Gentleman says, "Why do not you withdraw them at once?" let me point out that in addition to any other difficulties which might occur to my mind, there is the difficulty which is being brought upon us by his friends the Greeks and the insurgents. ["Hear, hear!"] You have at this moment in the seaport towns of Crete congregated a vast body of' Cretan, Moslems, driven there from the interior. Europe itself is in occupation of these towns. On the double ground —that it is not our business to be driven out of them by any force, internal or external, and that it is our duty to see that these Mahomedan Cretans are protected from their embittered opponents; —we are bound to see that the positions we have occupied are from a military; point, of view safe from attack. [Ministerial cheers.] I doubt whether at this moment that could be effectually done without, at all events, some assistance from the Ottoman troops. The Ottoman; troops have shown themselves, under the guidance of the Powers, perfectly subject 1000 to control—I mean the Regulars. As far as I am aware no excess of any kind has been attributed to them by even the most violent and prejudiced of critics. [Ministerial cheers.] We have had to disarm a large number of these Moslem Cretans, who naturally burn, with the party animosities which so bitterly divide the island, and who could not be trusted with arms. That operation of disarming has been successfully going on. Not that these men are, so far as I know, in any sense worse than their assailants—["hear, hear!"]—for, mark you, these insurgents whom we are accused of bombarding, themselves fired upon women and children who were taking refuge in boats and whose sole desire was to be taken from the island to a place where they might live in reasonable safety. Although one is very reluctant to say anything which, would embitter the present feeling upon this question, though one is very loth, in short, to follow the example so freely set by hon. Gentlemen opposite of using the most violent language in regard to any excesses of the kind which, unhappily, are too apt to occur on such occasions as these—[Ministerial cheers]—let it be noted that the excesses on the part of the Cretan Christians are in some ways as deplorable as anything which can be justly, as far as I know, attributed to their Mahomedan fellow countrymen. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to make a series of half-queries, half-criticisms, upon the doctrine that the integrity of the Ottoman Empire ought, in the present position of Europe, to be maintained. And nothing is more characteristic of the unfair methods in political controversy on which the right hon. Gentleman has been forced back in this and in other cases than the use which he has made of the statement of Lord Salisbury and others that the integrity of the Ottoman Empire ought not, in the interests of peace and of mankind for the sake of all the highest interests of the peoples of the East—at this moment to be allowed to be interfered with lightly. The right hon. Gentleman when he speaks from platforms, or when he thinks his speeches will spread through the country, always uses this phrase about maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, as if it meant maintaining all the evils which are but 1001 too incident in Ottoman rule in various parts of Asia, and Europe. [Ministerial cheers.] No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that this integrity of the Ottoman Empire carries with it no such consequences. No one knows better that he that the granting of the freest institutions, the most staple Governments, and the best Administrations to this or to the other part of the Ottoman Empire is perfectly consistent with the maintenance of that integrity in the only sense in which that phrase is used by the publicists of whom the right hon. Gentleman spoke.[Ministerial cheers.] Is it not a somewhat discreditable use of rhetorical language —[loud Ministerial cheers.]—that the right hon, Gentleman should use the just emotions of horror which, the massacres in Asia Minor and the misgovernments elsewhere hare raised in the minds of the British people against the Government of the Porte—that he should use that prejudice in favour of the scramble for the fragments of the Ottoman Empire, which, apparently, is the policy the right hon. Gentleman desires to see adopted? [ Ministerial cheers.] There is always a danger in the popular use of words which have a technical significance to politicians and diplomatists. But it is the business of those who desire to see the foreign policy of this country conducted upon, methods and for objects which, I believe, are dear, not to one side of the House, but to the whole population at large, to take care that these misunderstandings are not aggravated, but are dissipated. It is their business not to use, but rather to, sacrifice, such small advantages as may possibly, for the moment, accrue from the raising of unnecessary prejudice, in order to secure the greater objects to which, I am persuaded, even the right hon. Gentleman himself is not in his more careful moments indifferent. [ Ministerial cheers.] I do not think it necessary to add anything to what my right hon. Friend has said with regard to recent events, either in Crete or in Greece. But let the House and the country remember that the single central question which we have to decide is this—Has this great country done more for the interests of peace and of freedom by associating itself with the rest of the Powers of Europe than it would have done if it had remained in strict isolation? 1002 [Ministerial cheers.] That is the central question; and it is the answer to that question which really contains the final judgment which ought to be passed on the policy of the Government. ["Hear, hear!" from Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT and other Members of the Opposition.] I hear the right hon. Gentleman cheer that. Therefore he is clearly of opinion—though he did not stale it explicitly in his speech, however much he might have hinted at it—that we ought from the beginning, ever since we have been in office, to have pursued our policy, if we could have so pursued any policy, in isolation and absolutely irrespective of the views and wishes or interests of the other Powers. ["Hear. hear!"] I should like to sec him formulate that in a Vote of Censure. [Loud Ministerial cheers.] I will promise him a day. [Renewed Ministerial cheers and laughter.] There are two parts of the world principally with regard to which that question is relevant at the present time. One is Armenia, and the other is Crete; and though Armenia, is not now in question the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, alluded to it too frequently for me to be permitted to pass it by absolutely without reference. The right hon. Gentleman actually went to the length of saying that Europe had made itself particeps criminis in the butcheries which have taken place in certain parts of Asia. Minor. [Opposition cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has himself tried to deal with the Armenian question. He was in power when the worst of all the massacres took place [Ministerial cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right hon. Gentleman was in power when the worst of the massacres took place; he was unable to deal with them, and neither he nor any responsible statesman has ever yet pointed out how they could have been dealt with by this country in isolation. [Ministerial cheers.] If the right hon. Gentleman in the course of this or of any other of his many speeches had ever suggested how this country, acting alone, acting probably in conflict with some of the greatest Powers in Europe, could have done more than we actually have done to prevent these massacres, he would have made some contribution, as far as Armenia is concerned, 1003 to the determination of the question whether we are right, or wrong in attempting to act with the European Powers as a whole. But when he tells us we have done nothing for the subject populations in Asia, let me tell him that his information is, in my judgment, wholly inaccurate. [Ministerial cheers.] I believe that we have done, not, indeed, as much as might have been done, certainly not as much as we all must wish could have been done, but something to improve the personnel of administration. And, if the efforts of Europe for reforms in Asia Minor and in Europe have received a check through the recent events in Crete, there is no ground for supposing that those labours are wasted or that they may not in due time hear legitimate fruit. But in any case, whether the reforms of the Turkish Empire, which I believe that Europe will get the Porte to adopt, do or do not succeed in producing a marked amelioration in the condition of the subject populations, this is certain—that if we have failed in concert with the other Powers, then a thousand times more completely and disastrously should we have failed if we had acted without the other Powers. [Ministerial cheers.] So much for Armenia: now as to Crete. The right hon. Gentleman considers that more would have been done for the liberty of Crete if we had refused to act with the other Powers than has actually been done. I am unable to follow the steps of the right hon. Gentleman's argument; I am unable oven to conjecture what the steps of his argument are, for he did not condescend to give them in detail. But if I can picture England holding aloof from affairs in, the East, and allowing those affairs to be managed wholly by the other Great Powers and by Turkey and Greece, then am bound to say that, whatever would have been the issue—though we no doubt should not be responsible for it, except by abstention—it would certainly not have been, as far as; I can judge, what it now is—namely, the conferring of complete freedom and autonomy upon the island, which has been so long the theatre of these internal difficulties and disturbances. [Ministerial cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman is perpetually haunted by the fear that the promises which we have held out to the House, and the pledges which we have given to the 1004 country with regard to the autonomy of Crete are not to be fulfilled in their entirety. I firmly believe that they will be fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, [Ministerial cheers.] I believe that the autonomy on which the Powers of Europe will agree will be at least as full as, and perhaps fuller, than that autonomy sketched by my right hon. Friend in his speech at Southport, and with regard to the fulfilment of which the right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had any confidence. I have that confidence. Europe has the power, and Europe is absolutely pledged to do it. And, if the present difficulties issue in a form of autonomy less complete and less satisfactory than that which has been found to work so well in other parts of the Turkish Empire, I shall then for the first time begin to doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman had not some justification for the attack which he has made on the Concert of Europe. I frankly say that I am unable to see any evil which has happened to anybody through our joining the Concert of Europe; and I do; see the greatest advantages which have accrued both to the cause of freedom and to the cause of peace. [Ministerial cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman openly said that the Powers of Europe, for their own selfish ends, wanted to keep the peace, but cured nothing at all for freedom and good government. I do not know whether it is consistent with the position of the Leader of a great Party to fling these accusations wholesale against Powers friendly to this country— [Ministerial cheers.]—Powers with whom he has had to deal in a responsible position, and with whom he may again have to deal in an equally responsible position. [Cries of"No!"] But as far as this country is concerned, at all events, even the right; hon.. Gentleman admits that our desires are in favour of good government and freedom; and he has produced no fact, nor made any valid suggestion, which would induce anyone to believe that what he admits to be our desires are not going to receive fulfilment. [Ministerial cheers.] When the right hon. Gentleman challenges me upon the right of Europe to prevent the scramble for the Turkish Empire, which he appears to desire, I tell him that in my judgment there is no right—no international right—more obvious and more above criticism. If you; are going to give a free hand to Greece, 1005 you cannot refuse a free hand to Bulgaria.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Exactly. You cannot refuse a free hand to Bulgaria. The hon. Gentleman agrees with me, not in the conclusions but in the premisses—a most inconvenient ally of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.[Laughter.] At all events, the hon. Gentleman and I are agreed that if you give a free hand to Greece you must give a like free hand to Bulgaria, to Servia, to Montenegro, to Roumania, if need be; and the hon. Gentleman quite consistently wishes to bring a Vote of Censure against the Government, whose view is, on the contrary, that the destiny of the Turkish Empire should as far as possible remain a question of international agreement, and not be given up to the general arbitration of internecine war. [Ministerial cheers.] Does the right hon. Gentleman opposite agree with us or does he agree with his hon. Friend below the gangway (Mr. Labouchere)? [Ministerial cheers and laughter.] Here, you have a choice between two policies, both of them coherent, both of them logical—the policy of the hon. Gentleman and the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is that the affairs of Turkey are international affairs, that the freedom granted to such portions of Turkey as it can be granted to should be by the united will of Europe, and should be subject In general European control; and that the decay of that Empire, if decay there is to be, should take place. The hon. Gentleman's view, on the other hand, is that the Turkish Empire has got to the point when you have simply got to let loose upon it the dogs of war, to let each Power scramble for what it wants, and let the weakest go to the wall. These are quite clear and inconsistent policies, and there may be something to be said for both of them. But what is there to be said for the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends—[laughter]—who are neither consistent advocates of leaving the whole matter to settle itself as it can, nor consistent advocates of the other policy—more difficult, more strenuous, but surely a more fruitful policy, the one which we advocate—that 1006 namely, of European control? [Ministerial cheers.] None of us on this Bench, certainly not either my right hon. Friend near me or myself, have ever for one moment disguised the difficulties and the dangers which are inherent in the common action of six such different Powers as those which divide Europe. I do not minimise them at the present time; I grant them to the full. But so long as the Powers can be got to work in harmony, and so long as that work is in favour of peace and of freedom, then why in Haven's name should we be false not merely to the traditions of this country, but to every tradition of honour, of sound policy, and of humanity by refusing to bear our share in that difficult but surely not inglorious task? [Ministerial cheers.]
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
said that those who had taken a deep interest in Eastern affairs had never understood the Concert of Europe in the sense now laid down. They had always understood by it the action of those Powers which were chiefly interested in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman in his references to events in the Armenian provinces had not taken the trouble to refresh his memory. As a matter of fact, the massacre at Sasun was by no means the greatest of the massacres; the greatest massacres took place in October, November, and December of 1895, and also January, 1896. That was since the present Government came into office. He only mentioned that point because the right hon. Gentleman appeared to think the greatest massacres occurred in 1894, which was not the case, With regard to what the Concert was doing in Asia Minor, the House had no information whatever, and there was no ground, so far as our present knowledege was concerned, why possible action on the part of the Concert in Asia Minor should be adduced as a reason for acting in accord with the other Powers in regard to Crete. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government had no knowledge of any negotiations between Turkey and Greece. It was a curious thing that what was matter of common knowledge should not have reached the responsible Ministers of this country. If the right hon. Gentleman would address a simple inquiry on that point to our Ambassador 1007 at Constantinople he would be able to obtain information which would have a useful bearing on the present situation with regard to negotiations between Turkey and Greece, which were stopped by the action of one or other of the Great Powers. With regard to Crete, if the Powers were in earnest, all they had to do was to insist on the trans-shipment of the Turkish troops, away from Crete, and at the same time to put before the people of Crete, in clear and unmistakable language, that the autonomy was to be a real and not unsubstantial autonomy, including the right to choose their own ruler and their own form of rule. If the Government would do that, and induce some of the other Powers to take the same view, they would find not only the situation in regard to Crete had been enormously simplified, but also that the chances of European peace had been vastly augmented, and that the difficulties which now loomed on the northern horizon would for the time sink into the background. It could not be contended that Germany, for example, a Great Power numerically, had the same interests in the Balkan Peninsula as Greece, or Bulgaria, or Servia, or even little Montenegro. Every one of these Powers had more right to be consulted than Germany, and yet in this matter the Great Powers professed to have the exclusive right to settle the population. The Hellenic race outside numbered three times the population of that in the kingdom of Greece, and it had a stronger right to be heard than any of the Great Powers. Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro had also a right to be heard and consulted. The Great Powers professed to have the East in their hands for disposal, but he protested against the exclusion from the councils of the Concert of the smaller and rising nationalities of the East.
§ * MR. C. J. MONK (Gloucester)
said it was right that Conservatives and Liberal Unionists should express their criticisms with regard to this question as freely as hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had seen no cause to change the opinion he formed many years ago that the protecting Powers made a grave mistake in not allowing the annexation of Crete to Greece in 1830; yet they could not shut their eyes to the fact that the Great Powers 1008 had now unanimously come to a decision that in no circumstances at present would they allow the annexation of Crete to Greece. It was clear that Greece singlehanded could not contend against the will of the Powers. If, however, the Powers had insisted on a simultaneous evacuation of Crete by the Turks and the Greeks, there would have been no probability of war. He believed that Greece was willing to assent to that, provided that the ruler should be selected by the inhabitants of Crete. What struck him most was the unreality of the situation. The Great Powers had offered autonomy to Crete, but Crete had never asked for it, while numerous revolutions had taken place in favour of annexation. They were constantly being reminded that the Treaty of Paris ought to be observed, whereby the Powers had pledged themselves to maintain the integrity and the independence of the Ottoman Empire. But that Treaty was torn to shreds many years ago by Russia when she expressed her intention of no longer being bound by the condition which confined her fleet to the Black Sea. Did France and Great Britain pay much attention to that Treaty when they established the dual control in Egypt, and removed Ismail Pasha from the Khedivial Throne? Was Lord Beaconfield deterred by the Treaty of Paris from bringing Cyprus from the Congress of Berlin in his pocket? Province after province had been torn from Turkey; some of them had been created principalities, with a sort of shadowy suzerainty left to the Porte, while some had been annexed to existing kingdoms. He had heard with pain and regret the endeavour made to humiliate Greece by throwing in her teeth her poverty and inability to pay full interest on the national debt. What was the cause of this? When the Hellenic Kingdom was established, its borders were curtailed to such an extent that the newly-established kingdom was utterly unable to maintain her proper state and find funds necessary for the position of a European kingdom. Since 1821 no fewer than eight insurrections had occurred in Crete, and on each occasion thousands of refugees had been sent to Greece. Thus Greece was made poor by having to maintain these refugees, and it was scarcely generous of English Members to reproach her with a poverty for 1009 which she was not responsible. He thought that if the British Government had left the Concert of Europe, it would have given a freer hand to some of the other Powers to coerce Greece. He believed that the presence of our Ambassador at Constantinople had an excellent effect in preventing certain outrageous proposals from being adopted on the part of one or more of the other Powers. He was sure that autonomy to Crete would eventually prove a failure. Autonomy might endure for a while, but annexation would come in the end, and with it would come rest and peace and prosperity to the fairest island in the Ægean over which the upas tree of Turkish misrule had long cast its deadly shade.
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
said that there were two circumstances which gave this Debate, special importance. One was that they were on the eve of a longer Easter recess than usual, and that during that recess hon. Members would have no opportunity of hearing from the Government what their policy was, or of checking it. The other circumstance was that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were one and the same person. When these positions were for the first time filled by the same person, Mr. Gladstone moved an Amendment to the Address objecting to the arrangement. Now Lord Salisbury was practically an autocrat in regard to foreign affairs, which added considerable danger to the situation. Lord Salisbury was a politician with a past, and that past was not such as to inspire great confidence in his conduct of foreign affairs. Had hon. Members observed how extraordinary a similarity there was between the progress of events in the last six months, and the progress of events in the same period 20 years ago? In June 1876 they learned for the first time through the Press of the Bulgarian atrocities, and there was at once a spontaneous uprising in the country. Attention was drawn to the subject, by the Marquess of Bath, a Tory in the House of Lords, and by Mr. Forsyth, a Tory also, in the House of Commons. By September 1876, the whole Liberal Party, with that third of the electorate which was neither Conservative nor Liberal, were united as one man under the leadership of that Minister who had been well described by a foreign Statesman as "The 1010 Minister of Pity." Suddenly, the force of the agitation that threatened to sweep the Government from office was dissipated, because certain prominent leaders of the Liberal Party refused to follow Mr. Gladstone's lead any longer. The result was that the rein was given to the Jingo anti-climax, and that state of things continued until Lord Beaconsfied brought, back his so-called "peace with honour" from Berlin. But from June 1876 to April 1878 there was one Minister in the Cabinet who was regarded by friends and foes alike as the one Member of the Government who was for the Christ inns as against the Turks. That Minister was Lord Salisbury. But when, in 1878, the Foreign Secretaryship and the reversion of the Premiership were offered to him, in spite of all that he had said during the preceding 21 months, he renounced what the people had been led to believe were his convictions, and became a party to the threat of war against Russia, and to a policy of which he, of all men, probably much disapproved. Therefore, he thought it dangerous that they should rise for the recess, during which the conduct of the foreign policy of this country would be wholly in the hands of Lord Salisbury, without knowing what the Government were going to do next. They had the experience of the past to warn them. On April 16, 1878, Parliament rose, and there was a Debate like the present, information being anxiously sought as to the intentions of the Government, for we seemed to he on the verge of win with Russia. Sir Stafford Northcote declared that the House might rely upon it that no new move was in contemplation; but two days afterwards they read in the papers of the proposed employment of the Indian troops. Precedents of that kind were not encouraging, and they were naturally anxious for more information than had yet been given them. He wanted to know what were the forces of which the Government were afraid inside the Concert? They were told that the Government were honestly anxious to give autonomy to Crete, that there was to be a Christian governor, and that the Turkish troops were to be withdrawn. Then why were these things not done? It was clear that within the Concert there were forces hostile to the Eastern Christians. The 1011 policy of the Government and the action of the Concert had not availed to save one single Armenian life, or to secure Armenian women from outrage. Why could not the Government imitate the example of Canning? They always spoke as if they must either remain muzzled inside the Concert or leave it. But there was a third course. There was the course taken by Canning—namely, that of remaining in the Concert for the purpose of smashing it. The three Great Naval Powers might then be able to come to an agreement for the settlement of the questions affecting Crete. As it was, our Fleet had shelled the Christians in the island, but had not fired a gun against the Turk; no effort had been made to remove the Turkish troops, and no pressure had been brought to bear upon the Turks in the island. The Government doubtless thought that with their majority they could be independent. They would do well, however, not to be overconfident, for the people were moved by this Cretan question to an extent not exceeded in the last 20 years. The people oared nothing for the Concert of Europe, and there was amongst them a feeling of intense indignation at the nation that in any circumstances whatever a British ship should fire against either Cretans or Greeks. He believed the Government was strong enough to smash up the Concert of Europe and make another combination which would tell for freedom and justice. Meanwhile they were left without, information, England being dragged at the tail of this Concert because the Government had not the pluck to resist it. This was the most degrading position which the country had been placed in for many years, and he believed it would bring a just retribution on the Government when the first opportunity occurred.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
* ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said the hon. Member for Devonport had taunted the Government with not having saved a single life in Armenia at the time when the Concert of Europe was being maintained, but he had also committed himself to the statement that England was first of all a Naval Power. What then did the hon. Member think that this country ought to have done? The whole 1012 argument of the hon. Member was not worthy of consideration. Moreover, his remarks were offensive as well as inconclusive. The hon. Member also said that they were either misled, or else that England remained in the Concert of Europe in order to smash it. The latter suggestion was an imputation of dishonourable conduct, which it was unnecessary to refute. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had made the strange statement that the Liberal Party was unanimous on this question. They had not seen many signs of this unanimity, at all events. The right hon. Member had also said, with a remarkable amount of assurance, that hon. Gentlemen opposite represented the opinion of the country. He took exception to any such statement. In that House the concentrated essence of the opinion of the country was represented, and he took exception to a Member of a Party which was in a very considerable minority claiming to represent the feeling of the country. That Parliament was young and vigorous, and had a long life before it. He had studied this question from a naval point of view. The Navy had a great deal to do with this question in 1829. He had always thought that a terrible mistake had been made at that time, and the Admirals on the spot after the battle of Navarino all strongly urged that Crete should be united to Greece. It was, however, useless to find fault with, past history. No doubt the statesmen of that day realised that it was necessary, in order to preserve the balance of power in Europe, to keep the Ottoman Empire as strong as possible. Of late public opinion had changed with regard to Turkey. No one now would lift a finger to save the Ottoman Empire if he had the power. He trusted that no more mistakes would be made. He knew from communications he received from Crete that the naval officers there did not like the business, they were engaged in. [Opposition cheers.] But they were the servants of their country, and wished to do their duty. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean spoke of England as the slave of the Concert of Europe, and advised that we should cut ourselves adrift from it.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
said he could well believe that France was in sympathy with England, but she was fettered by another Power, and as long as this was so, was it reasonable to expect that she, would follow us? If England retired from the Concert of Europe, the Cretans, whose liberty and freedom the Party opposite said they desired, would lose their best friend among the Powers of Europe. If England cut herself adrift from the rest of Europe she would have no voice in the settlement of the Cretan difficulty but by going to war. Looking at the matter all round, he was certainly of opinion, much as he disliked the present situation, that it would be a disastrous stroke of policy for England to retire from the Concert of Europe. We ought to reflect what advantages had accrued to the Cretans by the presence of England in the Concert of Europe. The blockade of Crete last autumn was prevented because England refused to be a party to it, and to play the part of policeman for Turkey. If England withdrew from the Concert of Europe her withdrawal would be final. She could not re-enter, and she would have no voice in the consultation from which she had withdrawn unless she asserted her power by force. Mr. Gladstone, speaking at Edinburgh on November 25, 1879, in denunciation of the policy of Lord Beaconsfield in sending the British, fleet to the Dardanelles when the Russians were outside Constantinople, and so preventing the Treaty of San Stefano from being brought into operation, said:—We always protested against single-handed attempts to coerce Turkey. We felt that single-handed attempts to coerce Turkey would tend to immoderate bloodshed and calamity and with uncertainty as to the issue. The coercion we recommended was by the united authority of Europe, and in a case where the united authority of Europe was brought into action there was no fear of having to proceed to active coercion.He respectfully commended this to the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Northampton. Could it be said that what was considered sound policy by the Liberal Leader then was not sound policy now? Turkey was now weak, and a more potent source of mischief than in days when she was strong, 1014 and he considered Mr. Gladstone's argument had greater force now. The Leader of the Opposition objected to the Concert of Europe committing us to any policy it chose, and said there were limits beyond which England ought not to go.
* ADMIRAL FIELD
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman gave it as his own opinion. As he had said, naval men hated this business. Their firing on the insurgents had been spoken of as if they did it of their own free will. The officers who ordered the guns to be fired would regret the necessity, but it was done to prevent the insurgents from occupying positions which dominated the town and anchorage. Warnings had been sent to the insurgents which they never received. That was not the fault of the naval officers. No doubt they fired wide. There was no real Concert of Europe until Lord Salisbury met the Czar of Russia at Balmoral in October last, and by his Dispatch of October 21. 1896, brought the Powers into line, Russia consenting to force being used if the reforms undertaken by Turkey were not carried out. The Concert of Europe existed nominally before, but there was no real Concert of Europe until that date. As long as the Concert of Europe existed it made for peace. He was quite sure that if the Leader of the Opposition were in office he would not care to see England withdrawing from the Concert of Europe and having no voice in the settlement of the Cretan difficulty except by the use of force. He studied with great interest as soon as it appeared the work of "Historicus" on "International Law." He always understood that international law was founded on the Concert of Europe. This Concert of Europe might arrive at a certain decision, and whatever that decision was, it would be entitled to more respect than the right hon. Gentleman (who was the author of those famous letters, signed "Historicus") had given it that night. The right hon. Gentleman had asked what they meant by a blockade. He was with him there, for he was sure he did not know what it was. He looked upon it as the exercise of a certain amount of necessary force to prevent supplies reaching the Greek troops. None of them wished to stop the supply of necessaries reaching the insurgents, and he hoped a blind eye might be turned to any 1015 vessel engaged in this latter work. What he presumed was intended was to hinder supplies reaching the Greek troops who had no business to be on the island. Why did the right hon. Gentleman say they were bombarding the Christians? They did not wish to starve them, or to hurt a hair of their heads, and all they were trying to do was to prevent them planting guns in a position which would enable them to fire on the passive inhabitants of these towns. Again, the right hon. Gentleman asked why were the Turkish troops not withdrawn? He wished they were, for he believed there would be no peace in the island until they were. The Admirals had recommended the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, and it was not the fault of this country that they had not been withdrawn. Where they had six leading men, representing six leading countries, none of whom could come to a decision upon what action could be taken without reference to the Government of his particular country, there must necessarily be delay. He knew that everybody on his side of the House wished to see all the Turkish troops out of the island, and for the sake of legality he wished to see the Greek troops also out of the island. He stood not on the order of their going, but he wished them to go at once. He did not, however, see how the matter could be forwarded by discussions such as had taken place that night, and which, instead of serving any useful purpose, could only tend to embarrass the Government in dealing with a question of great difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman had made light of the words, "integrity of the Ottoman Empire." He presumed the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that not a man in England would lift up his little finger to maintain the Ottoman Empire. He supposed it was a figure of speech, and to please other Powers, that they had to support the policy of autonomy for Crete when they should all prefer that the Cretans should have direct annexation to Greece. But they could not always get what they wanted at once; they must take it by instalments, and Crete had already been assured that if she would be patient and accept the benefits of the rule offered to her of autonomy, the annexation she desired would come in due course. He urged that the Government in their action in 1016 this matter, instead of deserving any censure, merited the support of the House and of the country.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
remarked that the hon. Member had asked why a little more patience on the part of the Cretans could not be shown in the Great Powers of Europe? Anybody who had followed the history and fortunes of this unhappy people, even for one year, could have no difficulty in answering that question. The Cretans, in August of last year, were promised certain reforms by the representatives of the Great Powers, and, trusting to these promises, they laid down their arms. Fortunately they did not part with them altogether. What was the consequence? Within two or three months of those promises being given, the Cretans were handed over to pillage, murder and massacre. On the 5th of February last, under the very guns of the ships of the Great Powers which were lying in the port, all the Christian quarters of Canea were delivered over to flames, and rapine was let loose in the streets. It was mockery for the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs or the First Lord of the Treasury to stand up at this time of day and say that the people of Crete ought to trust to the pledges given them on behalf of the foreign Powers, and ought to wait patiently for those reforms and this autonomy that were promised them. They were told that autonomy was certain. But what was meant by autonomy no man outside the sacred circle of the Foreign Office understood. The Under Secretary, speaking to his constituents on Saturday, declared that autonomy (which he denounced the Irish Members for opposing) was synonymous with Home Rule. Did the right hon. Gentleman really mean that it was a similar measure of reform to the Home Rule Bill for Ireland? If he did, then he had to tell him that that autonomy would be utterly valueless to protect the liberty of Crete. Home Rule for Ireland left the forces of the Crown under the control of the Central Executive in this country, and left the troops of Her Majesty in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the whole matter was settled when he declared that the autonomy offered to Crete was the same as that offered to 1017 Ireland. If the First Lord or the Under Secretary knew themselves, they let nobody else know what this autonomy, which was in a state of nubibus, was supposed to be. When the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs declared that the liberty of Crete was secured, he would refer those right hon. Gentleman to what the Consuls and Admirals on the spot had said, and he quoted an extract from The Times' correspondent at Canea, dated 8th of the present month:—In a conference thin morning at Suda the Admirals informed the Consuls that their Governments had considered that it might be advisable to explain clearly to the insurgents that the blockade was directed against, the Greek troops, and also that autonomy was to be granted to the island. The Admirals stated that they had informed their Governments that they considered such a measure, useless. The Consuls concur in this opinion, and express the conviction that, unless something more definite than a mere, proclamation of autonomy can be made by them, no result can be expected of a mission to the insurgents by the Consular body.So, out of the mouths of their own Consuls the Powers were condemned. After six weeks of muddling and absurd statements and answers, here was the joint wisdom of the Admirals and Consuls on the spot, declaring that unless some particulars were given of the terms of autonomy it would be no use the Consuls going among the insurgents or making any proclamation at all. In the very same letter there was a most characteristic, paragraph:—Since yesterday there has been sharp firing round Candia, which was continued to-day, the Turkish troops all sallying out, and the patrolling of the town being done by the European troops.And it was added the Seaforth Highlanders had been landed. In spite, then, of the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, no longer ago than the 8th of the present month the Turks required the Seaforth Highlanders to maintain order in the town while they went out upon one of their usual sallies. And all the time there was no authoritative, no specific or definite declaration before the insurgents of the scheme of autonomy which the Consuls would not take on themselves the responsibility of fathering. He maintained, and he insisted, that up 1018 to this hour the insurgents had not one shred of justification or ground for hope that if they laid down their arms they might place reliance on the action of the Powers. They were left to their own resources and their arms alone. When he heard men talk of the unreason and the want of patience displayed by the insurgents he felt how cruel it was to use such arguments against a race who for centuries had suffered persecution, tyranny and oppression beyond any other people in Europe. Disorderly and troublesome they had been, incurring the sneers and contemptuous allusions of the right hon. Gentleman the other day at Southport, but they had reason to be proud of their conduct. They had not been butchered like the Armenians; they had manfully faced their oppressors, and had struck back blow for blow; they were entitled to the sympathy of Europe. They had some excuse for their impatience; they had good reason to be suspicious. They had rebelled over and over again; they had fought for, and had now, their liberty again and again, but had been thrust back again under the feet of their oppressors. The gallant Admiral opposite had referred to the hatred of naval men of the job upon which they were engaged; he had the acquaintance of many naval men, and had not the slightest doubt that this was their feeling. This country had the particular duty to redress the grievances of the Cretans, for it was this country, against the views of France and Russia, after the gallant struggle from 1827 to 1830, thrust back the people under the heel of Turkey. The Cretans, after another noble struggle, appealed to the Powers at the Berlin Conference; they were listened to; they were promised reforms; they trusted to the faith of Europe, but that faith was basely broken; they were pushed back under the control of their enemies, and deeds of infamous cruelty were perpetrated such as could hardly be spoken of in the House. They had risen and fought again and again for their liberties, and last autumn the Powers of Europe again offered them a Constitution. There was no more touching incident in connection with this struggle than the way in which the Cretan leaders expressed their thanks to the Powers of Europe for the Constitution, expressing the confident hope that 1019 the Powers would superintend the carrying out of those reforms in such a way as would put a period to the sufferings of their country. But the Powers of Europe betrayed them again; they were again handed over to the cruelty and treachery of the Turks. To anyone who had followed the course of events, it must create a feeling of disgust to hear the First Lord of the Treasury say that the attitude of the Porte towards these people had been perfectly correct. What was that attitude? When the Constitution of last year was given to the Cretan people they did not like that Constitution; they desired, as they had always desired, to be united to Greece; but at the desire of the Powers and entreaties by the Greek Government, anxious to avoid the situation into which they had now been driven, they accepted that Constitution in good faith. And what was the conduct of the Porte? The Porte was bound to appoint a Christian Governor, and did so. But they forthwith sent a military Governor of higher authority, who overruled and set at naught the authority of the Christian Governor, and secret instructions were sent to the Turkish troops and Moslems in the island to take sufficient measures and proper means, in plain English, by murder and by the looting of Christian houses, to create disorder and secure that the new Constitution should not succeed. It was clearly and unmistakably the duty of the Powers of Europe, if they did not mean to break their plighted faith, to have forthwith and immediately taken measures by force to see the Constitution of August last loyally carried out by the Porte. What did they do? They sent ships to Crete. Were they for the protection of the Cretan people? No, they were not; and the Dispatches showed they were not. The ships were sent to Crete, not for the protection of the Christians of Crete, but for the protection of the British subjects there; and all along, month after month, there were instructions sent to the Admirals, and correspondence with the captains clearly showed that fugitive Christians were not to be allowed on board, and actually in the Dispatches descriptions were given of the precautions taken by captains, in case of riot and slaughter, to prevent Greek Christians taking refuge on the 1020 ships, and to reserve the protection of the ships for British subjects alone. The ships were in Cretan waters, not to secure the carrying out of reforms, but to protect British subjects and property when it became apparent that disorder would break out. So far as he could understand, the first step to protect Christians was taken on the initiative of the French Government, who gave orders to extend protection to all Christians and not to French subjects only, and then the British Government followed suit.
§ MR. DILLON
said they laboured under one great difficulty in having an Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs who must frequently regret that he was born in a constitutional country. There was an extraordinary statement in his speech the other day at Southport. He declared that the Opposition in the House spent about two hours every night—
§ MR. CURZON
No; I did not say that. I said spent about half-an-hour each night. And most of the time was occupied by the hon. Member. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DILLON
said he had a perfect right to spend half-an-hour on the subject; he would spent three hours if he thought he could be the means of saving one life among this Christian population. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman said at Southport the Opposition spent half-an-hour every night in trying to "score off him." The right hon. Gentleman was somewhat oppressed by the importance of his position. No one of the Opposition ever dreamed of scoring off him; it was never within the wildest dreams of their ambition; they did not dream of scoring off a Member of the Government of such abnormal intelligence and acuteness; they simply endeavoured to obtain such information as the British House of Commons was entitled to have. It appeared to some of the Opposition that the right hon. Gentleman, with the present Ministry, had turned attention so much to the proceedings of the Concert of Europe that they had come to regard the method of 1021 conducting affairs in Russia and Germany as far preferable to that which was followed in the House. No doubt it was more convenient for Ministers; but the right hon. Gentleman had been born in a constitutional country, with a free Parliament, in which he had a seat which, judging from his former action, he was extremely desirous of retaining, notwithstanding the criticisms to which he was there subject, and could not wish to move to a more distinguished place. All the Opposition had tried to do was to elicit such information as the House of Commons was entitled to possess. If the questions were numerous, and he was hard pressed, it was because the curt answers of the right hon. Gentleman gave very little information. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to be extremely hard on Irish Members; he spoke of them as a faction always in sympathy with insurgents in all parts of the world, and he supposed that was because they had so often been insurgents themselves. That was probably intended to be a cruelly crushing blow to the Irish people, but he, as an Irish Member, accepted the words in a totally different sense. He dared say it was quite true that they naturally sympathised with insurgents because they had so often been insurgents themselves, and he was not at all certain that that was a thing to be ashamed of. If the Irish Members were open to the charge and suspicion of being too sympathetic with insurgents, he thought they were entitled to retort that the worst people in the world who could be placed in unrestrained control of insurgents were Admirals. [Laughter.] If the first instinct of the Irishman was to rebel, the first instinct of an Admiral was to maintain discipline without any regard to the merits of the case. [Laughter] There was a special reason why he and the Irish Party with whom he acted took an interest in the fight of the Cretan and Greek peoples. The voices of O'Connell and Grattan were raised 60 years ago in that Parliament to claim that Crete should have her rights, and be set free from the tyranny of Turkey, while the name of a great and gallant Irishman had been identified with the War of Independence—one who, he supposed, contributed most to the vindication of the liberty of Greece, and, after all, the liberty of Crete was at one with 1022 the liberty of Greece. When one read the inscription over the tomb of Richard Church at Athens, "that he gave himself and all he had to rescue a Christian race from oppression and to make Greece a nation," he thought that was another bond which bound the Irish National Party to the cause of Greece. They were told that Greece and Crete and that the House of Commons must trust absolutely to the Concert of Europe, and the First Lord of the Treasury endeavoured to make out that this country was tied by the alternative of either withdrawing from the Concert of Europe or of submitting absolutely, without any limit whatever, to whatever the Concert decided. He utterly denied that any such alternative was placed before this country. The Concert of Europe might be, and he dared say sometimes was, a very excellent thing, but it had been, and they saw it might be, the most malignant and hateful enemy of liberty, and it would be an evil day for liberty if the doctrine were to be laid down, as it had been laid down frequently during these later days, that for the future this country and every great State in Europe was to be bound absolutely to the Concert to do what they willed and to abstain from doing what they forbade. The fault most of them had to find with the present Concert was that they did nothing, and that what little they did seemed to make for mischief. [Ministerial laughter.] Here was a passage which struck him as being most characteristic and most significant of the estimation in which the Concert of Europe was at present held, from the Constantinople correspondent of The Standard on the 3rd of this month:—The alarm inspired at the Yildiz Kiosk at the possibility of a break-up of the Concert of Europe is on the increase, and, in view of the present situation, a most important special Commission, consisting of six members—four Turks, one Armenian and one Greek—has been sent to Tokat to hang off-hand all whom the members are unanimous in finding guilty.That was an extremely significant fact, because, as far as he could see, the Sultan of Turkey was the only man who had displayed any great alarm or fear that the Concert of Europe might break up, or who seeemed to be disposed to place any very extreme value on that Concert. As to the present condition of 1023 Crete, they had been hearing from the Under Secretary for weeks, he might say for months past, optimistic statements in the House that the condition of affairs was rapidly progressing from good to better. In spite of these repeated statements, the condition of things had steadily gone from bad to worse. A very remarkable letter appeared in yesterday's Observer from an English gentlman who had just returned from the interior of Crete. Speaking of the proceedings of the Powers there, he said: —They allow the Turkish troops, the Bashi-Bazouks, and the men-of-war, to attack the Christians, and burn houses and churches, but they immediately bombard the Christians when they fight against the Turks even in self-defence. The consequence is, that they are rapidly reducing the island to a state of anarchy. What else could be expected from intrusting the management of negotiations which require skill, tact and patience to half-a-dozen peppery sailors, whose only idea of diplomacy is a proclamation of an amorphous autonomy, tempered by spasmodic bombardments?It was a mockery and an absurdity for Members of the Government to stand up, day after day, and declare that their one object is freedom in Crete and peace in Europe, when all their proceedings had a manifest tendency to create anarchy in Crete and war in Europe. With regard to the blockade, if it was true, as was stated on excellent authority, that the supplies of food were running short, and that it was peaceable inhabitants who were suffering most, he wanted to know on what grounds the Government could defend such conduct? According to Mr. Thomas Sandwith, who was for many years the British Consul in Crete,in 1878, when the interior of Crete was altogether in the hands of the insurgents, the peaceful Christian peasantry were allowed free access to the garrison towns in order to purchase provisions,because the Turkish Valistrongly condemned the policy of starving women and children, and the Porte acquiesced in his view.Yet the Concert of Europe was now engaged in what the Turkish Vali refused to do in 1878. The answer which the Under Secretary of State gave on the 7th of April to his question as to whether the Admirals had made any arrangement 1024 to allow provisions to reach the inhabitants of Crete was most insulting and cruel. According to the Crete correspondent of The Observer, while the Admirals would not allow food to be sent to the Christian troops or into the interior, they allowed food to be freely landed for the Turkish soldiers, and in some of the villages the Christians were already reduced to such straits that they were feeding on the roots of wild plants. Was that a decent condition of things to prevail through the operation of the British ships and the blockade carried out by the Christian Powers of Europe? In Candia, Retimo, and in other towns around the coast, the Turkish troops and irregulars were going out and pillaging Christian villages, knowing that when the Christian insurgents pressed them too hard they could retire under the protection of the troops of the Powers. It was idle for the Government to say they were operating in Crete in favour of the liberty of the people and were not taking a side. They were taking the side of the Turkish troops, and endeavouring to bring the insurgents to surrender. At present no sympathiser with the insurgents could ask them to lay down their arms. The insurgents would be fools to lay down their arms; indeed, what they had now to trust in were their rifles and the support of the Greek troops. In his opinion it was the duty of every man who had sympathy with a struggling people, and who valued liberty, to protest on every available occasion against the attempted starvation of the insurgents, and against the blockade and bombardment of Crete.
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said that of the hon. Member for East Mayo it might be truly said that, if he was not necessarily in favour of insurgents all over the world, by some curious chance he always happened to find himself in sympathy with people who were fighting against this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "This country," and Opposition cheers]—in favour of people whom he erroneously imagined to be enemies of this country. [Mr. DILLON: "Are the Cretans and Greeks enemies of this country?"] It was not long since the Mahdi was highly popular with the hon. Gentleman and his political associates, and it was, therefore, only natural that Colonel Vassos and his men should have inherited some little popularity. The 1025 hon. Member had frequently charged the Government with taking the side of the Turk. The hon. Gentleman was not a humorous or frivolous person; if he were one would be inclined to suppose that the charge was made in jest, for really a more preposterous statement it was impossible to imagine. If the Government had erred at all it seemed to him they had erred in showing partiality towards the Greeks. They rejected the original proposal to blockade the Greek ports, they allowed the landing of Colonel Vassos and his men, and they lately proposed, so it was understood, that the Greeks and the Turks should simultaneously withdraw their forces from Crete. It had always seemed to him that the Greeks had one legitimate grievance against the Government, and that was that they were permitted to land in Crete at all, because ever since Colonel Vassos and his troops were allowed to land we, in conjunction with the other Powers, had been endeavouring to turn them out. But apart from that the Greeks had no grievance at all. The Turks had, in his opinion, maintained an extremely correct attitude, but he found nothing to admire in the conduct of the Greeks—indeed he found nothing to admire in the conduct of the Greeks during the last 20 years. It had been said that in this business the Greeks had acted a noble and disinterested part. Assuming that they invaded Crete for the purpose of freeing its inhabitants, the Cretans were at this moment free; they had been practically free from the moment the first detachment of European troops landed in the island. Autonomy had been proclaimed. Why, therefore, did not Colonel Vassos and his troops withdraw? It was contended they were there to restore order. Hon. Members understood what that meant. It meant they were remaining there in order to organise annexation. It was also contended that there was nothing the Cretans desired so much as annexation with Greece. He did not believe it. A nation preferred to govern themselves to being annexed to other countries. As a matter of fact, he believed that on several occasions during recent years the Cretans had expressed their desire to be placed under a British protectorate. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh, but he would refer them to Mr. Stillman, The Times' well known correspondent in Rome, who knew the 1026 Cretans better than any person in the House; and, moreover, he believed his statement would be corroborated by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. [Mr. CURZON: "Hear, hear!"] Any hesitancy on the part of the Cretans to express a wish for independence was easily explained; it was owing to the fact that the Greek troops and the emissaries of Greek secret societies had absolute control of the island. Because the Greeks were not allowed to annex Crete they were desirous of making war on the Turks in Macedonia. It was asserted by many of the correspondents in Athens that the Greeks would be quite ready to abandon all claim to Crete if they obtained an accession of territory in Macedonia. If that were so, what became of their humanity and patriotism? Under such circumstances why should we, or any other European nation, shrink from resorting to coercion if it were necessary? The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean asked whether they were prepared to sacrifice the King of Greece by their action? It was highly probable that the dynasty was in danger. The King, no doubt, found himself in a very unpleasant position. But that was a question of minor importance. Dynasties in the Balkan States came and went. It was by a pure accident that his noble Friend, one of the junior Lords of the Treasury, was not at this moment Crown Prince of Greece. [Laughter.] Instead of being Crown Prince of Greece he was chairman of the Kitchen Committee—[laughter]—no doubt a position of dignity and responsibility. Could it be seriously urged that, for dynastic considerations, we were to leave the European Concert? ["Hear, hear!"] He was astonished that the right hon Baronet, a gentleman with pronounced Radical views, should, for such a reason, advocate this course. Everybody knew the extraordinary and almost insane distrust and suspicion that prevailed on the Continent with regard to this country. Could they imagine anything more calculated to increase that distrust and want of confidence than that we should leave the European Concert at this moment? ["Hear, hear!"] It would instantly be said that we got out of the difficulty for our own profit and advantage. The Cretan question, important as it might appear, was really only a small incident in the whole Eastern 1027 question. The Ambassadors had for some time been occupied in elaborating a general scheme of reforms to be applicable to the whole of the Turkish Empire. These reforms were necessary, not only for the welfare of the subject races of the Porte, but for the maintenance of the peace of Europe. Were right hon. Gentlemen opposite ready to destroy this hope because they approved of the action of a, recalcitrant Power at the present moment? They were told that there were only six Members of the Party opposite who were prepared to dissent from that policy; and he should expect to see them drummed out of the Party for refusing to bow the knee to the Liberal Forward programme. But he honestly and firmly believed that if the Leader of the Opposition had been in office during the last few weeks he would have acted in precisely the same way as the Government had done, and would have followed the very course which he had denounced that night. [Cheers.]
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE (Leeds, W.)
said they had obtained the minimum of information from the Government on the darker aspects of the Eastern question, and had failed to elicit what their policy was. The Leader of the House told them that the European Concert had done something, but he did not say what. So far as the Liberal Party were concerned, if the European Concert would do anything for good they would be all in favour of it. But during the last three years they had been unable to see that it had done anything at all for good. The only thing it had done was to compel the resignation of the will and power of this country into the hands of the other European Powers. If he had to choose a text on which to speak on this subject he would quote the words uttered by Lord Rosebery last year. What did he say?Diplomatic pressure is not limited to war or bombardment or blockade. No one can read the recent correspondence without seeing that as regards the idea of putting pressure upon the Sultan there has been an absolute destitution of any idea except to get the other Powers to join with us in putting pressure upon him, and, when that fails, there has been an absolute negation of any action at all.The policy of Her Majesty's Government had not changed since those words were 1028 uttered, and he did not suppose that Lord Rosebery had changed his mind. The Government had not explained why they objected to the union of Crete with Greece. They said that they were prepared to give to Crete the constitution of Samos, but not the position of Cyprus or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Surely that was a very fine distinction to make, having regard to the consequences involved. ["Hear, hear!"] The object of the Government was supposed to be the prevention of a general scramble; but by refusing the union of Crete with Greece they were doing their best to bring it about. The Turks and Greeks were facing each other on the frontier, and a catastrophe might occur at any moment. The right hon. Gentleman had thrown no light on the question with respect to which the Opposition had sought for information. All they knew of the scheme of autonomy was that the Cretans were not to have the right to choose their own chief. What were the Powers going to do about Colonel Vassos, who was provisioned for months? Were the ships of the Powers to blockade Crete all through the summer. [Cheers.] And in that blockade, was England to do the work of Europe? England had 15 ships engaged in the blockade, and the other five Powers had only 13 altogether.
§ MR. H. GLADSTONE
said that he accepted the correction. He had taken his figures from The Times, and in future he should be more careful in quoting The Times as an authority. ["Hear, hear!"] At any rate, we were providing more ships than any other Power. What was Germany doing? Germany took the lead in the policy of the blockade. How many ships had she sent'?
§ MR. H. GLADSTONE
said that, after all her furious fulminations against Greece. Germany could only send one ship and had sent no soldiers at all. 1029 [Cheers.] We had to bear the brunt of the task. But if Colonel Vassos were dislodged—and 30,000 or 40,000 men would be necessary to do that—who was going to take in hand the reorganisation of a conquered country? The Government had given no indication as to how the crisis on the Greek frontier was to be stopped; and the necessary conclusion was that neither the Government of this country nor those of the other Powers knew how to settle the question. They were drifting along from day to day without any definite policy, and trusting to the Concert of Europe to do something, although, for the past three years it had failed to do the very thing for which it was brought into existence. [Cheers.]
The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY and Mr. LABOUCHERE
rose together, each looking to the other to give way.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
, said: I only rise, as the Leader of the House is unable to speak again, to remind the House that there was an arrangement come to, with the general assent of both sides, that this Debate should close about Ten o'clock. The Government had originally intended that the Necessitous School Board Bill should be taken this evening, and, if necessary, continued to-morrow. But for the general convenience, and in deference to the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was settled that the School Board Bill should be postponed, that this Debate should conclude about Ten o'clock, and that the Agricultural Board (Ireland) Bill should be introduced tonight. I am sure both sides will feel that effect should be given to an arrangement so come to. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that he was not going to make a long speech. But the other day the Leader of the House had compared him to an eminent Nonconformist divine—[much laughter]— who preached 40 sermons from the same text. If he thought the 41st sermon would have more effect with the Government than the preceding 40 he might attempt it, but he could not hope for 1030 that. The Resolution before the House was that the House should adjourn for a fortnight. In view of the thorough distrust which hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House had for Her Majesty's Government, and in view of the serious crisis in the East, with the possibility of something occurring which might precipitate us into war, he did not think that the Parliamentary eye should be closed on the Treasury Bench. [Laughter.] He liked a holiday just as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite, but there were times when private pleasure must yield to public business. [Loud Ministerial laughter.] This, he was sorry to say, was one of them. Under these circumstances, he begged to move as an Amendment to omit the words "That this House at its rising do adjourn until Monday 26th April." [Laughter.]
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 210; Noes, 49.—(Division List, No. 170.)
§ The announcement of the figures was received with loud Ministerial laughter.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
entered a protest against the general course which the Government had adopted in the conduct of their business up to Easter, and he asked for some information as to the course of business for the remainder of the Session. The Government had enjoyed unexampled opportunities in the conduct of their business; no one on his side of the House had endeavoured in any way needlessly to embarrass them. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] The Government had made a series of distinct pledges on the question of Irish education, but the question was now no nearer a settlement than it was three years ago. Again and again the Government had also promised to deal with the Irish Universities, and the First Lord of the Treasury had this Session pledged himself to deal with the question. The right hon. Gentleman had asked for a specific pledge from the Irish Members and the Irish hierarchy that a seat of 1031 liberal learning should be established in Ireland in which the arts and sciences would be taught, and whether the Bishops in Ireland were in a position to meet Her Majesty's Government on that point. It had been stated in officious newspapers which supported the Government that the failure to deal with this question had been due, not to the Government, not to the Lord Lieutenant, not to the Chief Secretary, but to the Irish hierarchy. He gave an emphatic denial to that statement, and he said that the failure to deal with the question rested upon those who had broken faith in the House and with the Roman Catholics in Ireland. As this question had remained unsolved ever since the right hon. Gentleman, issued his memorable election address at Manchester ten or twelve years ago, he should like to know how much longer the pledge was to remain unfulfilled. As to the Bill for the Board of Agriculture, the Government had not been pressed by the Irish Members to bring it in, and the Government were not pledged to deal with the subject.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will not be in order in referring to the Bill which is down on the Paper.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that the Irish Secretary, to whose conscientiousness he desired to pay every tribute, had recently told his constituents that his desire was to bring home to the minds of the Irish people the fact that the Government of this country were their friends and not their foes. He did not himself regard the Government as the friends of the Irish people, but rather as their enemies. [Laughter.] His mind was open on the question, and he desired that the Government should remove his prejudice if they could do so. This Session they had had only few opportunities of discussing the policy of the Government, and such opportuities as had been given them had generally been abridged by the Closure. To-night, at a time when the Government were about to spend further sums—at the demand of a very respected Member, it was true, of their own Party—why were the voices of the 80 Catholic Members from Ireland disregarded, and the Government's own pledges derided? [An HON. MEMBER: "Are they all Catholics?"] Greatly to their honour, some Nationalist constituencies had returned a group of 12 1032 or 13 Protestants, who were just as much in favour of a settlement of this Education question as the Catholic Members were. In connection, with educational matters, the Government, were in the hands of the little Orange clique returned from the north-east corner of Ireland. No English Member had protested against the establishment of a national University for Ireland, but all through Ireland, ever since the First Lord of the Treasury made his speech, the tap of the Orange drum had been heard, and the Government were asked whether they were going to place education in Ireland under the control of the Pope. [Mr. WOLFF: "Hear, hear!"] That, of course, was cheered by the eminent Irishman opposite who sat for Belfast. [Laughter.] What was the Irish policy of the Government to be during the remainder of the Session? The Government had refused the Nationalist Members every concession in connection with the subject of education; they had trampled on the Treaty of Union as their forefathers trampled on the Treaty of Limerick, and they had disregarded their own pledges given in that House. Yet they professed to wonder why the Irish people distrusted them. The failure of the Government to keep their pledges respecting education was in no sense due to the action of the Irish Bishops, who had been quite willing to endeavour with the Government to arrive at a solution of the question in no narrow or bigoted spirit. If nothing had been done the fault lay with the faithlessness or powerlessness of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ Motion agreed to.