§ "That a sum, not exceeding £49,705, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1898, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
§ MR. DILLON
moved a reduction of the Foreign Minister's salary by £500, for the purpose of calling attention to the policy pursued by the Government in relation to the affairs of Crete. He said this was the last opportunity during the present Session, and probably the last opportunity for six months, on which the policy of the Foreign Office could be called to account, and yet they were calmly asked by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to wait until an authentic copy of Lord Salisbury's statement was circulated to hon. Members. If this practice was to be 246 persevered in, the least the Under Secretary might do would be to obtain from the shorthand writer, or secure an efficient shorthand writer for the specific purpose, of taking down the words of wisdom which fell from Lord Salisbury's lips in another place, and bring slips of them down here for the information of Members of the House of Commons. They had been informed by the Under Secretary that the settlement of the Cretan Question, to which the great Powers of Europe had repeatedly pledged themselves, had been postponed pending the negotiations for peace between Greece and Turkey, that was to say, indefinitely postponed. Why must the giving of freedom to the people of Crete be made dependent on the conclusion of peace between Greece and Turkey? He saw no reason for that, but on the other hand the strongest reason why the Great Powers should not delay the settling of the comparatively small question of Crete until the wider question was settled. Disorder in Crete might be the cause of the breaking up or indefinite postponement of negotiations. Crete was a small country, and the Cretan question was a small question, but small as it was, Crete had proved already it might be the centre of disturbance which might spread throughout the whole East, and he could not understand why the Great Powers should not make up their minds, at all events, to settle this part of the Eastern Question which they had easily under their control, and which they were bound by innumerable pledges to settle. They had been told over and over again that the condition of Crete was rapidly improving, but within the last fortnight there had been a repetition as close as it could be of what occurred in August last. Just as negotiations were tending towards a close, suddenly in the face of protests from the Ambassadors of the Powers, Djevad Pasha was dispatched to take command of the Turkish Army in Crete. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said it was to be hoped that the Porte would not persist in sending Djevad Pasha, because his arrival in the island might give rise to a false and dangerous impression. That declaration, however, had been treated with contempt. Djevad Pasha arrived at Canea with money and a quantity of arms and 247 amid Turkish rejoicing. The right hon. Gentleman, changing the tone of his previous answer, said that the Admirals in Crete had no ground for believing that Djevad Pasha had come on any political mission, but simply to take command of the Turkish troops. But every man in Crete knew that Djevad Pasha had gone to Crete on a mission similar to that undertaken by the commander sent from Constantinople last year—a mission for the purpose of intriguing against that autonomy which the Powers had pledged themselves to confer on the Cretan people. He feared that the results of the present operations would be to goad the Christians in Crete to take some foolish action in the belief that the pledges of the Powers had been broken, and that this would be made an excuse for the Powers to turn their backs upon the Cretans, and to leave them under the heels of their former oppressors. He called attention to the speech of Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords the previous day, as reported, in The Times ["Hear, hear!" from Mr. CURZON.] He did not think, in answer to that cheer, that the House of Commons should be sent to The Times newspaper for information on such a subject. If the speech of the Prime Minister reached the Cretans it would fill them with alarm and almost with despair. Lord Salisbury spoke in most uncertain language; it was no longer the language of the Leader of the House when he said that the faith of Europe had been pledged that never again would Turkey be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of Crete. The meaning of Lord Salisbury's declarations was that the Powers, having done their best and not having succeeded according to their desires, they would turn their backs upon the Cretans—in fact, Lord Salisbury contemplated the breaking of that faith previously declared and the abandonment of Crete to Turkey. Lord Salisbury's language was the language of a man who had despaired of the situation in Crete and of granting autonomy to the people; and he was prepared to run away from his promises and to abandon the people of Crete. When the foreign troops landed in the month of February last, Crete was in a condition of absolute anarchy and confusion. Canea had been just burnt to 248 the ground, and it was stated in a Dispatch, which he should read, that the foreign troops were landed in the island in consequence of the proceedings of the Greeks. The Dispatch to which he referred was No. 130 in the last Blue-book on Cretan affairs. It was a telegram from Rear-Admiral Harris to the Admiralty, communicated February 15th.Canea, Crete, February 15th 1897.The Admirals of foreign vessels held a meeting this morning, when it was agreed that 100 men should be landed by each for the temporary protection of Canea. Under the force of present circumstances and operations of Greeks, I gave my concurrence. This proposal has the full approval of Turkish Officials.It was clear therefore that the foreign forces were landed, not for the purposes of protecting the Christians of Canea and Crete as had been asserted, but for the purpose of off-setting them against the operations of the Greeks. Therefore, whatever might come to the future of the people of Crete from the foreign occupation was due entirely, on the word of Rear-Admiral Harris himself, to the landing of troops in consequence of the operations of the Greeks. Now here was a definition, in the words of the Under Secretary of State himself, of the position of Crete as regarded the Powers of Europe in consequence of the landing of the foreign troops. In a speech on the 26th of February, which had been frequently quoted, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used the following words:—Remember these Powers in August last, by the scheme I have mentioned, rendered themselves responsible for the present and the future of Crete, and the Powers of Europe in the execution of that task could not allow themselves to be superseded or to be set at naught.Now, that was an extremely important speech, and extremely important declaration; because it was a declaration that the powers of Europe—not the Sultan—would deliberately take upon themselves the responsibility for the present and the future of Crete; and, therefore, he held that all the anarchy, confusion, murder, incendiarism and riots which had occurred in Crete since the foreign occupation, in view of the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, ought to be laid and must be laid at the doors of the Powers of Europe, 249 who, having made that declaration and landed their troops on the island, ought to have accepted the full responsibility of seeing that, at whatever cost, order was maintained and life and property decently secured, which they had not done. Having landed their troops and taken that extremely important step, the next step taken by the Powers was to offer the Cretan people a fast pledge of autonomy. Now in considering the position of Crete by the light of the dispatches he was about to read, and in considering this promise of autonomy and absolute freedom from interference by the Sultan in internal affairs, they must recall what happened in August last. On that occasion autonomy in a modified form was offered to the Cretan people. It was offered in the nature of an ultimatum, conditionally. It was said in a proclamation to the people of Crete,If you lay down your arms and accept the constitution which the Powers now offer you, by a certain day, you shall have it, if not, take the consequences, the Powers will hand you over to the Turks!that was in August last; and after much hesitation and protest—because they were then, as they had always been, strongly in favour of the annexation of Greece—the Cretan leaders finally decided to accept within the specified time the offer of the Great Powers—they gratefully accepted the offer of a constitution for what it was worth. What happened? They accepted the offer of autonomy in August last under coercion and threat, and the result was that no single one of the provisions which they had accepted was carried into effect, and within five or six months under the eyes of the Great Powers the whole island was turned into a pandemonium, and the condition of the people became infinitely worse than it was before the Cretan leaders accepted the constitution offered by the Powers. They must bear that in mind when judging of these people. After the landing of the Greek troops, the arrival of the Fleet, and the consequent landing of the European troops, the Great Powers of Europe came to a decision to make a fresh offer to the people of Crete—an offer which was a vast improvement on the offer made 250 before; and it had this further attraction, that it was an offer without condition. Instead of offering a constitution by way of ultimatum, as before, they made an unconditional offer of autonomy which was repeated in a number of Dispatches. He took first of all Dispatch No. 300, page 131, because that was the first Dispatch in which the announcement of this offer of autonomy to Crete was made. It was a telegraphic Dispatch from Consul Sir A. Biliotti to the Marquess of Salisbury from Canea, March 19, 10 p.m., received March 20, 8 a.m. It said:—A Resolution dated the 5th (17th) March has been issued to the Cretan people to-day by the Admirals, stating that they proclaim and make known to the people of the island, under instructions from their respective Governments, that the Great Powers have formed an irrevocable decision to secure for Crete complete autonomy under the suzerainty of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, and that it is well understood that, as regards the internal affairs of the island, the Cretans will be free from all control of the Porte.Now, what he would call the attention of the House to was this: there was no condition affixed to that offer. It did not say: "If you lay down your arms within a certain period." It was a proclamation without condition, not for the future but to operate immediately.It is well understood as regards the internal affairs of the island the Cretans will be free from all control of the Porte.This was a statement made by all the Admirals, and it was stated in a proclamation made under the authority, and by the direction of their employers. Then it went on to say:—The Proclamation proceeds to declare that the Powers are framing, in concert with each other, regulations for the working of the autonomous administration, which will restore order, develop the resources of the island, and without distinction of race or religion guarantee liberty and security of property to the Cretans.That was rather different language from that which was heard in the House of Lords yesterday. And now he turned to the Proclamation itself, enclosed in Dispatch 310, page 152. Sir Alfred Biliotti'a Dispatch contained some extremely 251 in teresting passages. It was dated Canea, March 20th, 1897:—My Lord,—I have the honour to transmit herewith a copy of the text of the Proclamation of autonomy, dated the 17th inst., which was published yesterday: 'In the orginal draft of the Proclamation it was simply stated that the Powers would secure a complete autonomy under the suzerainty of the Sultan. I ventured to submit to the Admirals that such a declaration was not likely to satisfy the Christians, while it would have quite a different effect if it was explained, as in your Lordship's telegram to me of the 13th March, that while remaining under the suzerainty of the Sultan, the Cretans will be entirely free from the control of the Porto, as regards their internal affairs.'Now, those words could not be more categorical or more distinct.It is well understood that, as regards the internal affairs of the island, the Cretans will be free from all control of the Porte.And yet, in the face of that, the Government had allowed Djevad Pasha to land, who proceeded at once to take upon himself the widest possible authority over the internal affairs of Crete, because one of the first things he said after landing was that he intended to extend the cordon around Canea—than which a more burning question could not be raised, or one more calculated to involve the whole country in a blaze of conflagration. ["Hear, hear!"] So much for the question of autonomy. He said that the promise of autonomy which had been made to the Cretan people was a promise of complete and absolute control of their own internal affairs without interference on behalf of the Sultan, and that it was unconditional in its terms. Yet already the pledge was broken on the very day that the Powers allowed a fresh official from Constantinople to land upon the soil of Crete and take command of the Turkish army, which ought to have been removed out of the island long ago. Here was a Dispatch of the 11th of April, in which Sir Alfred Biliotti reported that the Russian Consul had that afternoon interviewed about 500 insurgents:—He advised them to accept the offer of autonomy, but they refused, saying that they knew by experience what the result would be.He would ask hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen, could anything be more 252 touching than those words? ["Hear, hear!"]And that they were fairly decided to adhere to the programme which they had set before themselves—'Union with Greece or death!'These unfortunate men, having been deceived more than once before, because they knew what the result would be. But since then, discouraged and despairing because of the result of the war between Greece and Turkey, they had frankly accepted the offer of the Powers and confirmed the application to Crete of the principle of autonomy. What would be the result? Already there was abundant evidence that their fears, expressed in the Dispatch he had just read, were only too well grounded, and that there was the greatest possible danger that the pledges given then would be once more broken. ["Hear, hear!"] He would turn for one moment to the question of the removal of the Turkish troops. He said that in the Dispatches over and over again it had been promised that the Turkish troops should be removed from the island when the Greek troops had left it, and not only in Dispatches, but in speeches delivered in that House, and in answer to questions given by the right hon. Gentleman himself. Take this one answer, delivered in answer to a question on April 7th last. Mr. Curzon said: "We have not heard of the formal proposal." The question had reference to a proposal on the part of the Government of France to remove the Turkish garrison at once.We have not heard of the formal proposal to remove the Turkish troops, addressed by the French Government. It is impossible to state at present when the withdrawal of the Turkish troops will take place, several of the powers having expressed their opinion that the withdrawal of the Greek forces should be an antecedent step. The initiative would, therefore, appear to rest with Greece.The conclusion they were entitled to draw from that reply, and from other statements in that House, was that as soon as the Greek troops were out of Crete, the Turkish troops would be made to follow. ["Hear, hear!"] In several Dispatches dealing with the subject, it plainly was then in the minds of the Government. What had happened? The last of the Greek troops left the island 253 on the 24th of May, but the Turkish garrison was there still; and not only that, but they had it from Lord Salisbury and the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, that they were likely to remain, and instead of the period of their departure coming any nearer, it would appear to be indefinitely postponed. The presence of the Turkish garrison was, he believed, the one great obstacle to the settlement of the Cretan question, and Lord Salisbury himself held that view in May. The first necessary thing to be done was to convince the Cretan Christians that the Powers of Europe meant to give them freedom and to protect them against the oppression of the Turks. Members of the Government had eulogised the conduct of the Turkish troops, and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in particular had spoken highly of their conduct in Crete. The Dispatches, however, did not justify this praise. Commander Noel, in a Dispatch to Captain Custance, dated Suda Bay, February 8th, wrote:—The district of Suda, since my arrival on the 2nd inst., has been, in common with the surrounding country, in a dreadful state of disorder and anarchy. Acute civil war has been raging between the Christian and Mussulman populations, accompanied by wholesale destruction of property, the Turkish authorities apparently not troubling themselves in the matter beyond the immediate precincts of Suda village, where, joining with the Mussulmans, they much aggravated the state of affairs.…. The Christian houses in Suda village were sot fire to, and soon after a general loot of all Christian property set in. This was principally carried out by the Turkish soldiery, who, issuing from the arsenal main gate, broke in, raided and ransacked the remaining Christian houses with undisguised brutality, returning with all manner of goods again into the arsenal, their officers meanwhile sitting inside the gates, apparently unconcerned.That was a sample of the Dispatches which must have been in the hands of the Under Secretary when he praised the conduct of the Turkish troops. The Dispatch which he had quoted, it should be remembered, described the situation in Crete before the Greek fleet arrived and the Greek troops landed. If this unhappy island should ever emerge from the state of anarchy, massacre, and burning which had been its normal condition for the last two centuries, it would be mainly due to the action of the Greeks, who had given the Cretan people their first chance of gaining liberty. The 254 present attitude of the Government with regard to the question of the withdrawal of the Turkish garrison amounted to a breach of faith towards that House and the Cretan people. Then with regard to the blockade, the Under Secretary had told the House that as long as the Greek troops remained in the island the blockade must be maintained, and in the Dispatches it was distinctly stated that it would cease as soon as the Greek troops were withdrawn. But three months had now elapsed since the withdrawal of these troops and the blockade was still maintained. He wanted to know what justification there was for that. Arms and ammunition were admitted freely into the island for the use of the Turkish troops but were not admitted for the use of the Christian population. What was the reason or excuse for this difference of treatment? They were told repeatedly in February by the right hon. Gentleman that the foreign warships had been sent to Canea to protect the Christians in that town; but they did not protect them until the Christian quarter was burnt to the ground. The instructions to the Commanders of the foreign warships were to protect English and foreign subjects, not the Cretan Christians. Captain Custance, writing to Admiral Sir J. Hopkins from the Barfleur, Canea, on Feb. 10, said:I have just returned from meeting Consuls with Governor-General. Government should know that complete anarchy exists in the island. They should bear in mind that this was before the arrival of the Greek troops and before Prince George arrived with his fleet. Weak Governor General without reliable force cannot cope with existing condition. It is not to be expected that 300 foreign police can control island in a state of revolution. They are too late. … On the 3rd instant, at 5 p.m., I sent by the French cruiser Wattignies orders dated the 2nd instant to Suda for Scout and Nymphe, and in consequence of a communication from the Consul supplemented them later by telegraph as follows:—'Afford protection as far as possible to all foreign subjects who have no ship of war present.'On the 4th inst. all the ships' captains met on board the Barfleur, and Captain Custance reported:The subject discussed was the safety of the people at Halessa. The Captain of the Suchet wished to land men for the protection of the houses of the Consuls and named 100 men as the number to land for the protection of that of 255 France. I was so impressed with the dangers of landing an international force that I steadily resisted this, and determined that if the danger became acute the British Consul and his family must embark.I would not take part in what might become the commencement of an armed intervention.. Besides, my policy was to discourage the landing of armed men from the ships.Then later on, after the burning of the town, he said:—About 1,000 people were shipped in the course of the afternoon, which practically cleared out the whole Christian population.… The town was cleared of Bengbezi Arabs, to prevent looting, and the empty Christian quarter was guarded.… On Sunday, 17th inst., I landed at daylight, and found the situation in Canea was much improved, as the whole Christian population—some 5,000 in number—had migrated to the Greek islands; thus one disturbing element has been removed.…. At 3 a.m. on Monday, 18th inst., I received the following telegram.… 'Am sending Rear-Admiral, but I wish him in the meantime to bear in mind that an aggressive policy is not desirable, and that if fighting between Turks and others becomes general, your care must be for the lives and safeguarding of British subjects and interests, without taking an active part against either side.'Those were the instructions sent out from England. How curiously they contrasted with the policy adopted afterwards by the British Admiral and troops. When the Christians were getting the worst of it, a telegram was sent out, on no account to interfere; but when the Turks were getting the worst of it, immediately the big guns of the British ships opened on the insurgents. ["Hear, hear!"] He would conclude by saying that his object in moving the reduction was to remind the Government of the definite and absolute and unconditional pledge they had given to the people of Crete, and to appeal to them not to adopt the spirit of Lord Salisbury's speech in the House of Lords the other day, merely because the Christian people were few in number, and were helpless against the whole power of the Turkish empire. He begged to move. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR ELLIS ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said the speech of the hon. Gentleman had been practically made on several previous occasions, and it had been over and over again satisfactorily disposed of. The hon. Gentleman laboured under a most grievous mistake as to his main premises. 256 To listen to him, one would think that all right was on the side of the Cretan Christians, and all wrong on the side of the Cretan Mussulmans. As a matter of fact, the Mussulmans were the injured and persecuted of the Cretans, and there were thousands of them at the present moment beleagured and almost starving, in the four principal seaport towns. Those unfortunate persons had been chased from their homes. Many of their friends and relatives had been murdered in cold blood. All their property had been taken from them; their land had been seized by the Christians, and there was not sufficient land near the towns from which they could obtain food for themselves, or pasturage for the few cattle they had remaining. The Christians, according to the statements made in the House by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had been wandering about, murdering, outraging, and plundering their Mussulman neighbours when they got the opportunity. He had not seen altogether eye to eye with the Government in regard to this Eastern question, but, at the same time, when the hon. Gentleman accused the Prime Minister of abandoning the Cretans because he had pointed out the difficulties of dealing with the question, the hon. Gentleman surely did a great injustice to the Prime Minister. There were great difficulties in dealing with this question. The greatest difficulty of all was the hatred and jealousy between the two religions on the island, and that hatred and jealousy which had existed for several centuries could not be wiped out in a few weeks or months. He welcomed the proposal of the Government to draw a line of demarcation between the two creeds. He had ventured to point out six months ago that the only hope of bringing about peace on the island was to settle the Mussulmans in one part, and the Christians in the other, and to try to make, by mutual exchange, a settlement of property under those conditions, and to maintain a cordon of foreign troops for a year or two between the two districts on the island. There was a time when most Members of the House thought that the Ottoman Empire was waning, and that the Sick Man was moribund, but the late war had shown that those views were mistaken. Those 257 views were, to a certain extent, shared by her Majesty's Government, and he thought the Government went further than was wise in publicly declaring their intention to deal in this or that way with the Ottoman Government in Crete. To-day Turkey had shown herself to be a great, powerful and militant State, and she held almost the balance of power in Europe. Great nations like Russia and Germany were contending for an alliance with Turkey, and, therefore, it was idle for hon. Gentlemen to find fault with the Government because, like the rest of the world, they had realised the times had changed. But he rose specially to refer to statements that had been made on the part of the Government with regard to the principles on which they were going to deal with the questions at issue between Greece and Turkey. First, it was said that the question was one between Mussulmans and Christians, and that being so, that this country would never consent to territory which had been Christian becoming Mussulman. That statement was attributed to our Ambassador at Constantinople and to the Prime Minister, but he was not sure that the former had made it, as his friends had since attributed to Sir Philip Currie the use of the words "Turkish" instead of "Mussulman." Then the statement was modified to the effect that no Christian territory should ever fall under the rule of the Turk. He was not sure whether that was an accurate version of what was said. At any rate, he noticed that in the House of Lords yesterday the Prime Minister stated that no territory which was Greek should become Turkish, and the House would observe how the statement was graduated down. He wished to protest against any such principle being laid down in this or any other question. He wanted to know seriously whether this country, which had a hundred millions of Mussulman subjects, over sixty millions of whom were in India, was prepared to state to the world either that no territory which had been Christian should ever become Mussulman, or that no territory which was Christian should ever become Turkish. There could be no more indiscreet principle laid down. It would be fraught with the greatest danger and mischief for this country. The policy 258 adopted by this country and the reckless abuse that had been lavished in this country upon the Government of Turkey and the Mussulman religion until quite lately was well known throughout the Mussulman world, and constituted a great danger to our security. Were they going seriously to lay down the rule that a bad Christian was to be considered in preference to a good Mussulman? [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] That was what it practically came to. It had been said with truth that the best Christians in the East were the Turkish people, and if they judged Christianity by its real works and moral qualities there was no doubt that the Turks were better Christians than the large proportion of the so-called Christians of the East. He believed as strongly as any Member of the House that Christianity was the religion, and that under it mankind could reach their highest development and well-being. But he also believed that one of the chief principles of Christianity was the doing of full justice to other religions—a principle which hon. Members opposite entirely ignored in the case of Mussulmans. If we persisted in our hostility to Turkey there would be a very serious Nemesis before us in our Indian Empire. Could Turkey be blamed for trying to establish a Mussulman revival throughout the East? Would the Roman Catholics be blamed if they organised to defend the Pope or their own religion when attacked. Would the Anglican Church throughout the world be condemned because it resisted a threatened attack by counter organisation. They heard a great deal about the pressure of Germany with regard to peace negotiations in order to obtain control over the finances of Greece. That was treated as if it were a gross outrage upon Greece, and as if it were done out of a spirit of mischiefmaking on the part of the German Government. He held that the only possibility of establishing such a financial equilibrium in Greece as would enable her to carry on her Government and meet her responsibilities was by establishing some foreign, control. He could quote many extracts from the opinions of prominent Phil-Hellenes to prove how corrupt and bad the modern Greek administration and finances were. Thus 259 Mr. E. J. Dillon, writing in the Contemporary Review for July, said:—When a Greek becomes Prime Minister he is the sold of the Government, and virtually the dictator of the kingdom for the time being.… Along with the Leader come his faithful followers, and their name is legion. They fill up every post of emolument, every place of trust, every position of power or influence, every nook, cranny, and crevice in the machine of State. To make room for these saviours of their country, every official and employé in the kingdom is turned adrift.… There is not a postman, a schoolmaster, nay, not even a schoolmistress or scavenger, who is not summarily dismissed to make rom for the rival candidates.…. The relations, comrades, acquaintances, and oven the servants of the Deputies on the right side of the House are the spoiled children of fortune as long as their political day lasts. All things are possible to them. Like constitutional monarchs of the bettor class, they can do no wrong, or at least none that is punished by the Law Courts.…. The administration of the law is equally corrupt. Yet evenhanded justice is the corner-stone of the modern State.The opinion of this country was totally different from what it was six months or a year ago in regard to these questions, and that being so, the Government might naturally be excused if in the tone of their utterances in this House there had been a change. He urged upon the Government and the House that whatever their feelings or prejudices might be, they should never forget this great vital fact, that the Sovereign of this country ruled over a hundred million of Mussulman subjects.
§ MR. FLYNN
said that one wondered when listening to the hon. Member's speech whether there had ever been such a thing as the Bulgarian atrocities, or the more recent massacres in Armenia, at which civilisation stood aghast, or whether all they had read on these subjects were the mere invention of newspaper correspondents.
§ MR. FLYNN
supposed that in that case the history of the Bulgarian atrocities would have to be re-written. He congratulated the hon. Member on his defence of Turkey, and of the deeds done 260 in the name of and by the authority of that infamous Power. In stating that the Cretan difficulty was based on religious animosities, the hon. Member ignored the fact that in Thessaly since it became a province of Greece the Mussulmans and Christians had lived peaceably side by side. There must have been something else behind the position of affairs in Crete. In this matter history was repeating itself, and to-day, in the same way as twelve months ago, the Turkish authorities were seeking to neutralise the promised reforms, and by sending Djevad Pasha to the island to prove to the unfortunate Cretans that the promised autonomy was a mockery, and that there was no intention to carry out the solemn undertaking of the Powers. The reforms promised last August, after scenes of bloodshed and massacre, were poisoned at their source by the treachery of the Turkish Government. In this matter they were not dependent upon the statements of newspaper correspondents, they had the Dispatches of the Government officials themselves. With regard to the non-execution of the August reforms Sir Philip Currie wrote to Lord Salisbury on January 6 this year:—By my instructions Mr. Block made verbal representations to the Foreign Minister in the same sense, and pointed out how ill-advised was the action of the Ottoman Government in the matter, as was shown by the growing discontent in Crete at the non-execution of the arrangements of August last, and by the renewal of disturbances in the island, which were caused mainly by the dilatory and obstructive attitude of the Porte. In reply, Tewfik Pasha stated that he would do his best to procure a favourable decision.A little later Sir A. Biliotti expressed himself forcibly on this point. He wrote:—The Christians are convinced, and all their proceedings are marked by that conviction, that all the incidents which trouble the public peace are devices of the native Mussulmans to prevent the execution of the promised reforms. I do not deny that the attitude of the authorities at Constantinople may have such an effect on the low class of Cretan Mussulmans; but it is far from being so with the educated class, who are as, if not more, anxious than the Christians that the intended reforms should be carried out without delay. In fact, they know that they have nothing to hope from Constantinople, and that the only protection of the minority to which they belong lies in the promised reforms. On the other hand, I have observed with the greatest pleasure that the 261 Christians laid down their arms at the fist recommendation of the Consuls to do so, which proves a sincere desire on their part to live in peace. When the Christians were taking up arms in former times they used to remain for weeks, even for months, on the mountains in spite of the entreaties of the Consuls. Therefore, the Christians and the Mussulmans are respectively well disposed, but there is such an insuperable distrust on both sides, that they can never come to a mutual understanding.By that Dispatch from a representative who had not been conspicuously marked by any undue preference for the Cretan Christians two things were proved. First, that the hon. Member for Sheffield was wrong in saying that the Mussulmans of Crete were more peaceful than the Christians, and that the majority of them were not as anxious for these reforms as the Christians were; and, secondly, that it was apparent to Consul Biliotti that the authorities at Constantinople were doing all they could to stir up disturbances in Crete, with a view of preventing the carrying out of the reforms promised under the seal of the Great Powers of Europe. A month later, on the 19th of February, Colonel Chermside wrote to Sir Philip Currie:—The clear-sighted observers were aware that both factions were considerably exhausted—were tired of the chronic state of insecurity—and that prompt and firm pacific action might result in the bulk of the people lending less willing ears to the agitators of both religious creeds. The Porte failed to accept loyally the arrangement, and to recognise the importance, in its own interest, of attempting to insure tranquillity by its prompt application. I am not inclined to question the statement that Saad-ed-Din Pasha had secret instructions to foster Moslem opposition to the introduction of the reforms.There was nothing in contemporary history more clearly and abundantly proved than the hostile attitude of the Sultan towards these reforms. With regard to the reorganisation of the gendarmerie, the European officers sent to form the Commission were strongly of opinion that it was absolutely necessary that a large foreign element should compose the force. The four Commissioners wrote last December to the Ambassadors:—The work of the Commission being so far advanced as to admit of the necessary steps being taken to enrol the men for the five companies which are urgently needed, we beg you to press the Sublime Porte to send instructions 262 to the Ottoman Delegates to agree to the admission of the non-Ottoman element, in conformity with the provisions of Article 13 of our Scheme. We are firmly convinced by our experience here that this element is absolutely necessary. The Mussulman and Christian deputies insist on a wide application of this Article.What was the reply?To the representations of the Ambassadors the Porte replies that the pay of the gendarmes is so small that the engagement of foreigners would be almost impossible, and that, moreover, the only foreigners admissible [rules?] would be Slavs of the Balkan States, but that among them the Montenegrins are extremely unpopular in Crete. That it is the duty of the Commission to take into consideration the views and the wishes of the Cretans.The Orthodox Bishops, the official representatives of the much-maligned Christian population, wrote to Consul Biliotti:—The Cretan people has accepted with gratitude, and awaits with entire confidence, all decisions of the Great Powers intended to insure its true welfare; but the growing opposition of the Central Government and the native Mussulman element to the will of Europe has unhappily resulted in a relaxation of public order, and even threatens to produce a very critical situation in the island. In the face of such a crisis, the Christian population believes that only the prompt reorganisation of the gendarmerie can stop the advance of this peril …… That being so, we think that, pending the reorganisation of the gendarmerie, prompt and vigorous steps should be taken to prevent the recurrence of such disasters.Sir P. Currie, on the same point, states—In view of the unanimous opinion of the Military Attachés that a non-Ottoman element should be recruited, the Ambassadors instructed their Dragomans to insist on the principle that strangers ('étrangers à l'Île') should be admitted, and that it should be left to the Commission to select men in accordance with the wishes of the population and the resources of the island. The Foreign Minister replied that the Council of Ministers must maintain its refusal to allow the admission of foreigners as non-commissioned officers and men.Finally, however, the Porte consented that something should be done, but it was then too late, the gendarmerie was never properly established. It was only a few months in existence when it was disbanded, and the island had been handed over once more to disorder and anarchy. If the unfortunate Cretans should be handed over again to disorder, bloodshed, outrage and anarchy, if they again 263 should become the prey of the unspeakable Turk, the responsibility of the Foreign Office would be a heavy one and a responsibility which he should be very sorry indeed to share.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. G. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
said the topics with which the speeches of hon. Members opposite dealt were topics of no recent interest, and he could not see any advantage in now coming before the House and, so to speak, dissecting a corpse. And when he observed that the hon. Member for East Mayo had not been able to persuade more than 11 of his colleagues to listen to his utterances, and when he observed further similar want of interest taken in the hon. Member's arguments on both sides of the House, it occurred to him that there was no particular reason why he should be called upon to make any lengthened statement as to the views of the Government, the more as it was only a fortnight ago yesterday that it was his duty to make a somewhat lengthened speech, and many hon. Members also spoke on the same subject. Whatever merits the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo had, he was sure the hon. Member would be the last to claim for it the merit of novelty. He had made the same speech so often that he must by this time be getting tired of it himself, and the only reason he could imagine for delivering it again was that he would not have another opportunity for six months of making the same speech on the floor of the House. He did not propose to repeat his defence, and he would only, with the permisson of the House, allude to those particular questions raised in which there was any novelty or which appeared to call for further information. The first question was how it was that the Powers who had taken in hand the settlement of this question were so slow about the adjustment of the Cretan aspect of it, and how it was the Turkish troops were still in the island, and why the scheme of autonomy had not yet been brought into operation. He thought he had adumbrated the reply to this in the remarks he made a fortnight ago. This question of the autonomy of Crete was a question which had to be settled not merely by the Admirals in waters surrounding the island or by the 264 Consuls on shore, but by the representatives of the Powers at Constantinople. It was not merely a military or a naval question or a question of police or of local administration; it was a political question of the very highest importance, which, of course, would have to be discussed and settled at Constantinople. Surely the hon. Member himself, with his keen sympathies for the suffering Greeks, and in his desire that they might be extricated from the unhappy position in which the war had left them, would admit that the evacuation question was a far more important question for the moment than the setting up of autonomy in Crete. That was the view of the foreign representatives. They were engaged on a work of the most consummate importance, the future of Greece and the peace of Europe, and only when they had settled that, as he hoped they might succeed in doing, would they be able to take up the smaller but not unimportant question of the future of the island of Crete. The next point was the question of the mission of Djevad Pasha. Now the other day they had a Debate on another subject in which the hon. Member for Northampton enlightened, but did not astonish the House, by saying that he seemed to be living in a world of illusions. The hon. Member for East Mayo seemed for the last six months, in relation to Crete, to have been living in a world of mare's-nests created by himself. [Laughter.] One after another these mare' s-nests had been brought before the House by him, and it had been part of his duty relentlessly to expose them. Undeterred by a long career of failures, not marked hitherto by a single success, the hon. Gentleman came down again with another mare's-nest, which was the mission of Djevad Pasha. Djevad Pasha, as he informed the House, had gone to the island as commander of the Turkish troops. It was true he stated that his arrival there was deprecated because it would create a false impression. That was obvious. The arrival of a military officer of his high distinction and previous career was, of course, calculated to elate the Mussulmans in the island, and the Powers would have been very glad indeed if he had not been dispatched; but the information he had given to the House showed that since his arrival Djevad 265 Pasha had not been discharging functions beyond those of his military post. He had been acting in concert with the Admirals, and if he continued to act in the same spirit there was no reason whatever why his presence in the island should be a source of further trouble. Then the next question was that of the attitude of the Admirals in relation to the protection of life and property. The hon. Member seemed to think he made a great point when he asked him how it was they allowed arms and ammunition to be landed for the Turkish troops but did not allow them to be landed for the insurgents. There was no parity between the two cases. The insurgents in the island were not defending anybody, they were not protecting anybody. On the contrary, they were acting entirely on the offensive. They were attacking, whenever they got the opportunity, the large Mussulman population of the towns and the Turkish troops themselves, and they had even attacked the detachments that represent the Great Powers. On the other hand, the Turkish troops were acting as a garrison responsible for the life and safety of enormous aggregations of people of their own religious faith, and as long as that garrison remained there, whether their presence was right or wrong, to suppose that they should be left without arms or ammunition was so ridiculous that he was sure the hon. Member himself on reflection would not suggest it as possible. The duty of the Admirals from the start had been directed to the prohibition of entry to the island of any arms or ammunition that might be used for the purposes of the insurrection, and he believed that both in carrying out that mission and in regard to the introduction of food supplies they had shown the most scrupulous fairness all round. There was one charge, amongst many false charges which the hon. Member was so fond of directing against the Admirals, that he thought they had a particular right to resent, and that was the charge that they had played into the hands of Turkey and gone against the Christians. Now, when it was remembered that the Admirals had for weeks past been in friendly communication with the leaders of the insurgents, that they had repeatedly warned them in advance of attacks likely to be made upon them by the Cretan Mahomedan irregulars, that they had 266 given them every facility for meeting in assembly and expressing their views, that they had provided them with stores and provisions; and further, when one remembered their attitude towards the Turks, that they had instructions to prevent the landing of any further Turkish troops, it seemed grotesque, and more than grotesque, it seemed cruelly unfair, that the hon. Gentleman should accuse these officers of such a charge. For his own part, he could not conceive a more delicate and painful task than that which had devolved on the representatives of the Powers in Crete and in Cretan waters during the last eight or nine months, and they ought to receive encouragement instead of unfair criticism from the representatives of the people of this country in the House of Commons. [Cheers.] He had only one other observation to make, and that was with regard to the wider charge of perfidy which the hon. Member had brought against the Government and the Powers. Over and over again he had heard statements like this—that "the Powers are going to lease Crete under the heel of the oppressor" that "they are going to break faith with the Cretan people," that "Lord Salisbury was running away from his promises." Of course, if the hon. Gentleman persisted in thinking that the Cabinets and Statesmen and Foreign Ministers of Europe were deliberately playing a false game by making pledges in the sight of Europe which they had no intention of fulfilling, but proposed to break—in that case it was no good arguing with him; but such a suspicion, he ventured to say, was not shared by a single other man in the House—[Mr. MACNEILL: "Oh, yes!"]—with possibly one exception. [Laughter.] He had only to say, as he had said before, that he believed there was not a pledge or promise from which one of the Powers had any desire to withdraw. Perhaps six months hence, when the hon. Member for East Mayo had another opportunity of making, not the same speech, but another on the same subject, he might have reason to regret the accusations he had so unfairly brought against the representatives of the Powers of Europe.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said that the character of the explanation offered by the right hon. Gentleman was substantially the same 267 as he had offered during the past six months. They did not seem, as far as he could judge, to be getting one inch nearer the consummation of what they all wanted to see in Crete than they were six months ago. The right hon. Gentleman had repeatedly pointed to the state of things in Crete, but Lord Salisbury himself had described the condition of affairs there a few months ago as a state of anarchy; and during the whole of that time the right hon. Gentleman would not contend that the wrongs had been one-sided on the part of the Christians in Crete. The right hon. Gentleman had at different times portrayed the insurgents in Crete as persons of a rather ferocious temper, and he had attributed to them some part of the blame for the anarchy that had taken place. Twelve months ago the Cretans expressed the greatest readiness to accept the Constitution which was offered to them by the Powers. Four months passed after that expression of that readiness, but there was some influence at work which prevented the unfortunate Christians from being able to reap the fruits of that Constitution. It was not surprising that in the circumstances they rose in arms; and what had been the position taken up by the Government? There had been a blockade, which was in the first place stated to be due to the presence of Greek troops in Crete, and the purpose of the blockade was announced to be the securing of the withdrawal of the Greek troops. But the Greek troops had been withdrawn and the blockade still continued against the importation of arms. The right hon. Gentleman said that the object of the blockade with regard to arms was to prevent arms from being obtained in support of the insurrection. The fleet of this country was being used, by the admission of the Government, to prevent the importation of arms in aid of the insurrection. That was a novel step for the British Government to adopt in regard to any country; it was not only novel, but, to his mind, it was absolutely unjustifiaable in the case of Turkey, because the insurrection was one against an unbearable tyranny which had existed for centuries in that island. Not only so, but it was an insurrection against a tyranny which had been emphasised in the strongest degree within the last 20 or 30 years, and it had 268 never been more brutal than within the last 10 or 15 years. They therefore found that the Government had adopted a policy which differed from anything that had been adopted in the earlier part of the Session. They were using the British fleet to prevent arms and ammunition from being placed in the hands of persons who were rebels against Turkey, and at the same time allowing the importation of arms for the assistance of the Turkish troops. That was a one-sided policy; the Government were sapping the military resources of the insurgents as against the Turkish authorities. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were attacks made by the irregulars. There was no doubt about it, and they were not prevented from getting arms and ammunition.
§ MR. CURZON
said that in Canea all the irregulars were disarmed, and in Candia an order was procured from the Turkish Governor to the effect that no one should be allowed to carry arms at all.
§ SIR R. REID
asked whether he was not right in saying that since the order there had been raids and conflicts between the irregulars and the insurgents? [Mr. CURZON dissented.] He was glad to note the contradiction, but his recollection was different. He was under the impression that since the disarming order those persons had either obtained arms from the Turkish troops or from confederates in the towns, and had used them for the purpose of attacking the insurgents. It was admitted by the Government, however, that while the Turks were allowed to have a supply of arms and ammunition the insurgents were not allowed to have a supply. Notwithstanding the explanations of the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, he described this as taking sides in the controversy. They heard a great deal at the beginning of the Session as to the intentions of the Government with reference to the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, and it was felt that if the Turkish troops were removed, and some proper force substituted, it would be comparatively easy to carry out the work of pacification. The people in Crete were under the deepest anxiety with regard to these Turkish troops, because, notwithstanding the apprehension to the contrary expressed by the 269 right hon. Gentleman, they knew that one of the regiments implicated in the frightful massacres in Armenia had been landed in Crete; and it was hard to convince the people to lay down their arms in the presence of this terrible soldiery. He should be glad to hear from the Government an expression of their views that the Turkish troops would have to be withdrawn. If they were not, what was the prospect of peace in Crete? If the Government were going to prevent the insurgents from getting arms, the correlative duty was imposed upon them to remedy their grievances. They had no right to disarm the population who were fighting in what they believed to be a just cause, or to prevent them from having access to munitions of war in the face of an armed enemy, unless they were prepared to see justice was done to them. We were, indeed, placed in an absolutely false position. The reason was because we had tied ourselves to the tail of the European Concert, and were not able to move either hand or foot without the consent of the other Powers, who, in their views, were largely reactionary. The independent voice and force of this country had been sacrificed to a supposed necessity for a strict alliance among all the Powers. In past times the Liberal policy, and he thought the Conservative policy also, had been, while considerate to foreign nations, never to yield up our independent standpoint or to fetter our action. This view had been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in his speeches outside the House. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] For his own part, he expressed deep regret that this matter had not been taken up in the spirit of his right hon. Friend's speeches, and brought to a fair issue on the floor of the House] of Commons—as to whether we were willing to consent any longer to the power and the influence of Great Britain, which had always in past times been used in favour of freedom, being neutralised by this unhappy and ineffectual Concert. He believed that if a fair opportunity were given of testing the opinion of the House many hon. Gentlemen would be found to approve of what he said—viz., that the Government were taking sides against the insurgents in Crete without at the same time being willing to take 270 the responsibility of rectifying their grievances. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said he entered into this discussion with great hesitation. But he should be most reluctant to let it be supposed that sympathy with Crete was confined to one side of the House. Although he had no authority to speak for others, he was quite sure there were many on the Government side of the House as well as on the Opposition side, who watched with anxiety and concern the slow development of the tragedy of Crete, and who were desirous of seeing some demonstration, not only of knowledge and good will, but also of energy which would bring about the conclusion of this tragedy. ["Hear, hear!"] They did not cherish illusions about the condition and merits of different parties in Crete. The hon. Member for Ecclesall, like many other persons, thought the Cretans were always wrong and the others always right. He had no such feeling. But let them remember this—that for two centuries the Turks had had dominion and authority in Crete; and what was the result? They had had their own way all that time, but there had never been anything like good government or contentment in the island. Grant the worst that could be said of the qualities of the Cretan Christians, it must be admitted that those who had had charge were somewhat responsible for the condition in which they were to be found. That had led, no doubt, to the decision of the Powers, in which Lord Salisbury concurred and which he helped probably to promote. In spite of the recent successes of the Turkish army against the Greek army, they all recognised who had any eye on history that the Turkish power was a waning power; bit by bit some portion of its territory was taken from Turkish dominion, and it did not go back again. Now the decision, as they understood it of the Concert of Europe with respect to Crete was that the time had come when Crete should be removed from the authority and dominion of Turkey. It was true that the Turk was to remain as the feudal lord, but with respect to internal administration he was to have nothing to do with it. The freedom of Crete was the one policy which the Government expressed in that House 271 and which the Powers of Europe undertook to carry through in concert together. Now, was that policy going forward? That was the real question, which was put, not in opposition to the Government, nor in any attempt to hamper them, but rather to strengthen. That was the question they desired to put. Was this matter going forward? He did not believe there was a man in England, or in Europe, who understood the situation in South-east Europe better than Lord Salisbury. His analysis of the case was perfect; but some of them did wish that, with his thorough knowledge and clear conception of the Powers in contest, and with his foresight of the inevitable, he would also be able to demonstrate something of the energy of purpose that would bring about the result he aimed at and desired as much as they themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, the hon. Member for Ecclesall recognised that there had been a change in tone, and they must all recognise it. That change in tone was most deplorable. Not only did it indicate a want of resolution or possible want of resolution on the part of England, but it indicated something that would tell upon the resolution of the Concert of Europe. Their whole trust in the accomplishment of what they desired depended largely, if not exclusively, on the maintenance of the position of England in the Concert, and there was some feeling of apprehension—it might be unjustified apprehension, but it was an apprehension which had something to say for itself—that we were not doing all we might, nor all that we could or should do, whenever this discussion arose. ["Hear, hear!"] With respect to the matter of the blockade. There was a blockade now, limited to a blockade of arms against the insurgents; and the Under Secretary said, quite naturally, it would be absurd to suppose that any other control could take place than that. But was he (Mr. Courtney) right or wrong in thinking that when these latter troubles arose, and Count Kalnoky wanted to establish a blockade which would leave the Turks free to bring in their arms, the other Powers agreed to the proposal, but Lord Salisbury refused to agree to a proposal which he thought one-sided? The blockade was subsequently agreed to because the situation had changed and 272 it was thought necessary to prevent the hostile operations which were begun by the intrusion of the Greek army. But inasmuch as that intrusion of the Greek army had ceased, they had now gone back to the status quo ante; they were now in precisely the same position as when Lord Salisbury refused to accede to the Austrian proposal. If it was unfair and one-sided then, was it not unfair and one-sided now? We were now doing what Count Kalnoky wanted to have done and we would not do; but in his opinion the reasons that defeated this policy when it was first proposed should operate to prevent its maintenance at this moment. ["Hear, hear!"] In the settlement of Crete they all desired that the Turkish troops should disappear; but they found a difficulty in getting them away. Well, they might help the process of getting the Turkish troops away by stopping the supply of arms, for, after all, the Turks would be no worse off than the people who were opposed to them. If they wanted to get Crete clear of the Turkish troops, the establishment of a blockade of both sides, or neither side, would surely be some help to a solution of the difficulty. The problem was not incapable of being solved. Had we not a Turkish island in our own hands, and did we not maintain peace there among a population divided into Mussulmans and Christians as in Crete? Possibly the elements there were not so acutely conflicting and the traditions were not so savage; but it was quite clear from what we had done in Cyprus that if we could introduce into Crete a European governor with a sufficient force at his back—partly recruited, perhaps largely recruited, at first outside Crete—we should have a fair prospect of the same establishment of order and peace in Crete as we had established in Cyprus. [Cheers.] But in order to do that we must make up our minds not only to wish but to be ready to do something to bring it about. We must make up our minds either to give a little money or to guarantee a little money. We could not start a régime that would bring the island to order without money, and we must promote the appointment of a governor able to control. He did not know how the situation stood with regard to M. Droz, but they would be ready to wait with hope and with great faith if 273 they could hear language that would confirm them in the belief that all was being done to bring this about that could possibly be done. ["Hear, hear!"] The Under Secretary had said,Are you accusing the Great Powers of Europe? Is there anybody ready here to ascribe perfidy to the allied rowers?Let them take a more reasonable and clear-sighted view. The different Powers of Europe had entered into the Concert with different degrees of desire for the end; and if events had happened which had diminished—he would not say the desire, but the possibly reluctant consent of one of the Powers to carry forward the Concert, and if the other Powers were saying, "Oh, because this and that one will not go on with this work we also cannot go on," they could not help detecting a certain want of resolution and thoroughness of purpose which was the root of all their anxieties. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not deny that the Concert of Europe had its merits; but he thought it was the duty of England, if she entered into it, to enter it with a clear notion of what she desired and a determination to attain her object, and to secure that, if the possibility of carrying it through became interrupted, she should be able to retire from the Concert. It was said in a former period of Greek uprising, when quasi concerts were going on, that we were much favoured by one astute Power which found in the multiplication of conferences and congresses an admirable means of sterilising the energy of every single Power which entered into the combination. Do not let our energy be sterilised. Let it be manifest here and throughout Europe that what we had entered upon we intended to carry through; at all events, that we would not be a party to a combination which, professedly desiring the result we ourselves desired, yet did nothing to bring about that result, showing too often signs of feebleness and almost a readiness to abandon this work which we had undertaken. [Cheers.]
§ MR. MICHAEL DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
said he had no intention of continuing the Debate on the Cretan Question. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the appeal made him in January from the Irish Benches on behalf of the Egyptian exiles in Ceylon.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
asked whether it was in order to introduce this Question. Was not the reduction of the Vote moved for the purpose of discussing the Cretan Question?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said there was no specific mention of Crete in the Question before the House, which was the reduction of the salary of the Foreign Secretary.
§ MR. DAVITT
resuming, said the right hon. Gentleman had been presented with a memorial which had been widely read by hon. Members on both sides of the House and with much sympathy. These men had been in exile during the last 14 or 15 years, been compelled to live in a climate notorious for its humidity, the effects of which upon natives of one of the driest climates in the world could be well understood. He had been told by people who had visited these Egyptian exiles that they were all suffering from rheumatism. That fact alone ought to influence the Government to give a favourable response to the appeal that they had addressed to Her Majesty and Lord Salisbury. These men were approaching the end of their lives, and in pathetic language they asked to have the poor privilege of returning near to their native land in order that they might have an opportunity of seeing their grandchildren, born since their deportation. They declared that they had abandoned their early political ambitions and projects, and pledged their words as soldiers and gentlemen, that if they were allowed to go to Cyprus they would take no part whatever in any agitation against what he hoped would be only the temporary domination of England in Egypt. On both sides of the House there existed a strong feeling that these men's request ought to be acceded to. As yet the Government had not extended much sympathy to prisoners in this memorable year, which had supplied them with an opportunity of exercising acts of clemency which would, he believed, have been exercised in similar circumstances by any other Government in Europe or Asia.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
hoped that the Government would consider this matter favourably. Why did these exiles remain in Ceylon? The reason was that they received what was called a pension from the Egyptian 275 Government. It was not a pension really, but an indemnity, all their property having been confiscated, and were they to leave Ceylon without permission this money would no longer be paid to them. With regard to the Cretan question he wanted to say that the Opposition objected to our forming part of what was to all intents and purposes a holy alliance of the Continental Powers. In that Federal Council of Europe, as Lord Salisbury called it, this country must in the nature of things always be in a minority, for our principles in regard to liberty were very different from those current in Russia, Germany, and Austria. The prevailing view of this holy alliance was that when people broke out in rebellion against their Government—whether that Government was good or bad—they were thereby threatening the peace of Europe, and that all Europe ought to interfere in order to rivet the chain round their necks. But that had never been our policy in the past—witness Italy and Poland. Never before had we interfered on the side of wrong and against the side of right. What he asked the Government to do, was to stand aloof and not to interfere in the insurrection in Crete either on one side or on the other. When they asked the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in that House for an explanation of the policy of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman referred them to the statements of Lord Salisbury. That was not treating the House of Commons as it had a right to be treated, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would supply them with fuller information in future. He asked whether the Government were really going to insist upon the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, whether Crete was to be granted an independent autonomy, and if so, whether measures were going to be taken to insure that the Cretans should enjoy the full benefits of that autonomy. That such measures were necessary was proved by past experience. For years there had been an excellent constitution in Crete, but the carrying out of it had been in the hands of the Turks, and the result had been constant anarchy and disorder.
§ MR. CURZON
observed that as he had already spoken, the Rules of the House did not permit him to take up the 276 challenge of the hon. Member for Northampton. It was indeed only by leave of the House that he could say anything upon the specific subject which had been raised by the hon. Member for South Mayo. The House, he thought, would agree with him that the case of the Egyptian exiles had not suffered at the hands of their sympathetic advocate. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not know whether the hon. Member's information as to the exiles' health was correct or not at the present moment, but when he was himself in Ceylon a few years ago and saw Arabi Pasha and some of the other exiles, they certainly were not suffering from ill-health. As to the climate of Ceylon, he should say himself that the island was one of the most agreeable places on the face of the globe. The hon. Member asked whether the Government would allow these exiles to come back to Europe in accordance with the terms of their petition. But this question was not one primarily for Her Majesty's Government. It was primarily a question for the Egyptian Government, against whom these individuals had engaged in a conspiracy and insurrection. The rebellion was unsuccessful and Arabi Pasha and some others were condemned to death, but their sentences were commuted by the Khedive on the understanding that they would be banished for life and Ceylon was offered by the British Government as the place of their exile. It was quite clear that if these persons wanted to return to Egypt, the matter was one upon which the voice of the Egyptian Government must not only be considered but must prevail. The hon. Gentleman had said nothing whatever about the terms of Lord Cromer's Dispatch which accompanied the memorials. The House should know—
§ MR. CURZON
said he could not speak for the opinion of the Khedive. He could only put before the House the opinion of the Egyptian Ministers, given by Lord Cromer in his Dispatch of June 10, 1897, in which he said:—I have the honour to enclose a copy of a memorial which I have received from three of the Ceylon exiles, and in which I am requested to support a petition addressed both to the Queen and to your Lordship, praying that the peti- 277 tioners may be allowed to reside in Cyprus. I cannot doubt that the real object of the petitioners is to return to Egypt. I find on inquiry that the Egyptian Ministers are much averse to the return of the exiles. I agree in thinking that their return would be undesirable.There was, therefore, the opinion of the Egyptian Government and of Lord Cromer in opposition to the return of these exiles; but, of course, if the Egyptian Government made any representations in the opposite sense, they would be duly considered here. As, however, their opinion was unfavourable, her Majesty's Government had no alternative but to act upon it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said that Lord Cromer's Report only applied to these men going back to Egypt. Lord Cromer said they ought not to be allowed to go back to Egypt and that the Egyptian Ministers objected to their coming back to Egypt.
§ MR. CURZON
The hon. Member is quite wrong. The memorial was put before the Egyptian Government, and they objected to the petitioners going to Cyprus, because they believed it was only a blind in order to get to Egypt.
§ DR. CLARK
said they had been fifteen years in Ceylon, and during that time had made no attempt to interfere in anything Egyptian. Why, then, should they be kept in Ceylon? Why should they not be allowed to reside in a climate similar to that of Egypt? He dared say that Lord Cromer, who was Arabi's old enemy, would do his level best to prevent them from leaving Ceylon. Mr. Gladstone was responsible for the Egyptian war in 18S2—["hear, hear!"]—and he had expressed his regret for it, and these men had suffered for trying to bring about all the reforms Lord Cromer had introduced. However, they were not successful, and therefore must suffer.
§ Question put, "That '£49,705' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 110; Noes, 50.—(Division List, No. 374.)
§ DR. CLARK
said he wished to call attention to the extraordinary conduct of Lord Salisbury in requiring to bring 278 the question of the protection of the fisheries in the north of Scotland before the various persons who signed the North Sea Convention. A Select Committee sat in 1892 for the purpose of hearing evidence regarding the delimitation of the fishing beds in the north, and reported almost unanimously in favour of extending the present three mile limit; and of giving greater powers both in England and in Scotland to protect the fishing beds from the consequences of over-trawling. The Committee heard witnesses representing the trawling industry, who admitted that this destruction was going on and desired that some change in the existing system of fishing should be made. Trawling it was said was not paying because the best fish had gone and only immature fish could be caught. There was a difference of opinion in Committee as to whether the sale of undersized fish should be prevented, and eventually the Committee reported against that course for various reasons. In most countries on the North Sea there was a limit to the size of fish that could be sold, but in this country there was no such limit. The Committee recommended that an effort should be made to extend the territorial limit for fishing purposes, and they recommended that the Government should apply to the various Powers that signed the North Sea Convention in order that this should be done. Afterwards a Bill promoted by the Scotch Fishery Board was passed through the House of Commons to control the methods of fishing, and to give the Board powers within the 13 mile limit. The Bill was originally brought in by a Conservative Government, when the Marquess of Lothian was Secretary for Scotland, and it proposed an 18 mile limit. Thirteen miles was suggested by Lord Salisbury, who pointed out that the limit was based on the carrying powers of a gun; and that as the old gunshot was three miles, at present it was 13 miles. When the Board of 1895 was introduced it contained a provision preventing trawling within 13 miles. That was passed by the House of Commons, but in the House of Lords, on Lord Salisbury's Motion an Amendment was put in to the effect that the Scotch Fishery Board should not put these powers in force until all the Powers signing the North Sea Convention agreed 279 to them. Lord Salisbury, he held, thus became morally responsible for seeing that his Amendment was carried out. Two months after it was carried, he became Foreign Secretary. The Government had been pressed to apply to the Powers during the past two years, but had not done so; and indeed Mr. Curzon had told the House that they had no intention of doing so. If that was so, they were entitled to say that the Amendment was made in the House of Lords by false pretences. The present position was this. They were able at present in certain places beyond the three mile limit—in the Moray Firth—to prevent English and Scotch trawlers from carrying on their operations, but foreign trawlers were at liberty to fish in these waters. They had a notorious case of that kind recently. There was a law by which they could prevent fish so caught in these waters from being sold, and when that German trawler came into Aberdeen it was met by a gunboat and marines, who by physical force prevented the landing of the fish. Surely they were entitled to ask Lord Salisbury to take some steps to put his own Amendment in force. To a great extent Lord Salisbury he believed was acting in the interest of the English trawlers, by whom great mischief was done. Even in the reign of James I. English fishermen went to the Scotch waters and fights ensued as they did now. Both the English and the Scotch Parliaments appointed Committees to consider the question, and Lord Cranborne, the Prime Minister's ancestor, was on the English Committee. These Committees recommended a limit of fourteen miles, or a mile more than the limit now suggested. By his action Lord Salisbury was now enabling the English people to poach in Scotch waters, and this the Scotch people desired to prevent. The Scotch system was different from the English. About 72 per cent. of the fish in Scotland were caught by drift nets or lines, and only about one-fourth from the trawls, while the great bulk of the English fish were caught by trawls. Here was a very valuable source of food being destroyed. The only question on which there was a difference of opinion was as to the remedy, and as between the two alternatives suggested the view of the Committee was, not that the size of fish should be limited, but 280 that the fishing beds should be preserved by preventing trawling within a certain limit. In the past, they had seen the white fish in the Moray Firth destroyed. Now they were coming back again; and what they wanted to do was to prevent further destruction taking place.
§ Mr. R. B. HALDANE (Haddington)
said he understood the Government did not intend to pursue the negotiations with reference to the 13-mile limit within the convention of the Powers concerned. He believed there was difficulty in the matter, and he did not blame the Government for not treating a vexed question of international law separately. The Scotch fishermen were in a great difficulty as to the future. This Act was hanging over their heads, and they were in great uncertainty as to their calling. He hoped the Government would do what was in their power in the way of negotiation with foreign States or would introduce legislation. The protection of the line fishermen on the east coast cried loudly for a remedy, and with things in the uncertain condition they were at present it was impossible to make progress. The Government might find it possible to come to a decision, and either negotiate with foreign Powers, or the Board of Trade in England, which was jealous of the superior advantages the Scotch fishermen were getting, might make up their minds what course they would allow the Scotch Office to take in the matter.
§ * MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said that if his hon. and learned Friend did not blame the Government he himself blamed them for their neglect. The Government said they had done nothing, and did not intend to do anything. That was not treating the subject or the House fairly. He wished again to call attention to the high duty imposed by the United States, Russian, and Austrian Governments on Scotch herrings imported into those countries. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in reply to repeated questions, said it was useless for him to interfere, as his efforts were foredoomed to failure. In July last year a memorial, signed by a number of Unionist Members and 15 or 16 Unionist candidates, was sent to Lord Salisbury, urging upon him the importance of extending the three-mile limit to 13 miles, and Lord Salisbury promised his 281 "most careful consideration." It was not pleasant to be eternally asking questions in this House. [Laughter.] He would much rather not ask a single question the whole Session. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] It was not pleasant to raise questions on Report or on the Appropriation Bill, but Members had to use every means to bring pressure on the Government, and he would use every means rather than see the affairs of the Highlands of Scotland or of the line fishermen of Scotland, Ireland, or England pushed aside and ignored. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CURZON
said that the Government were willing to move in the interests of the fishermen was shown by the success of their efforts as regarded better wharfage for the reception of Scotch herrings. Turning to the more important question of the 13-mile limit, he said it was quite true that under Section 10 of the Sea Fisheries Act of 1895 jurisdiction was given to the Fishery Board in Scotland to make certain bye-laws for the observance of British fishermen within the 13-mile limit, and that the result of an Amendment introduced by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords was that no such bye-law should be held to be operative until foreign Powers had accepted the jurisdiction as binding upon their subjects. It had been suggested that by introducing that Amendment Lord Salisbury had made himself morally responsible for this appeal being made, and that there had been some breach of faith on the part of Lord Salisbury in not making it. But there were many considerations to be taken into account. There was no inherent or à priori objection on the part of the Foreign Office; but there were aspects of the question which, though they did not seem to have entered into the purview of hon. Gentlemen opposite, must, from the Foreign Office point of view, be considered. This question affected other classes of fishermen besides the line fishermen, and not only so, but it raised far wider issues of international and political importance. If the appeal were made to the signatory Powers it was extremely doubtful whether it would be accepted. But supposing it were accepted, what would be the consequences? In the first place this would be looked upon by 282 the fishing interest generally, as a concession made to the line fishermen alone, and no doubt great jealousy and ill-feeling would result therefrom.
§ MR. CURZON
said no doubt that was the case, but he could not believe, if the appeal was successful, that it would be cheerfully acquiesced in by the trawling industry on any part of the coast. Another point was that if the proposal were accepted, other Powers would at once propose corresponding restrictions upon their own waters, and British fishermen might find that they would lose more than they would gain by being excluded from some of their most profitable fishing-grounds—namely, those around the coasts of Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Holland, Spain, and Portugal. One thing was certain. If this change were adopted in the first instance for fishing purposes, they would soon find it claimed for other purposes of a very much more serious nature. A proposal was made by the Netherlands Government a short time ago for a similar extension of the territorial limit, and that application was not entertained. Of course, the moment they touched a question of this sort they raised any number of issues affecting the sovereignty and jurisdiction of States. Hitherto, the three - mile limit had obtained throughout the States of Europe, and had almost the force of International Law. So it was regarded by all maritime countries, and now it was proposed to substitute for this limit an indefinable area, the limits of which were situated at such a distance from land that they could not be seen, and over which it would be extremely difficult to exercise adequate and efficient control. An alteration of this kind, if it were to be accepted as having the force of an international law, must be made with the common consent of all the maritime Powers, but Russia, Sweden and Norway were not included among the signatories to the North Sea Convention. It must be obvious that they could not with any chance of success or with any decency propose a gigantic 283 change of this kind and leave out of their consideration a number of the Powers affected. He hoped hon. Members would see the force of what he had said, and that they would recognise that whatever solution was ultimately arrived at the case was certainly one in which great caution was required.
§ * MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, W.)
while appreciating the points brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman did not think his reply would give much satisfaction to the Scottish fishermen. It should be remembered that when the Act of 1895 left the House of Commons it gave the Fishery Board power to close certain areas within the thirteen-mile limit. But in the House of Lords and at the instance of Lord Salisbury a restriction was put in that the clause should not come into operation unless the previous consent of the signatories to the North Sea Convention had been given. The same question had arisen in the Committee. In the original proposal of the Committee the proviso was not inserted that the consent of the North Sea Powers should be necessary, but the Report of the Committee was that the consent of these Powers should be necessary. During the discussion it was pointed out that the insertion of the Amendment in the Bill would render the clause inoperative, and surely after the course Lord Salisbury took they had a claim upon him to take action in the direction of making the clause operative. The first difficulty pointed out by the Under Secretary was that they could not extend the territorial limit for fishery purposes only. The question of the territorial limit was a difficult problem of international law which had been much discussed by international lawyers. But it had made great progress during the last few years, and three years ago the Congress on International Law at Brussels came to a unanimous decision on the motion of the French delegate in favour of extending the territorial limit for fishery purposes to six miles. The law at present, both in Spain and Portugal, was that for fishery purposes the Government had power over its own subjects for six miles and prohibited trawling up to that point. 284 These were actual precedents in which individual Governments had extended the territorial limit for fishery purposes, and no objection had been urged on the part of other Governments. More than that, there was a precedent in our own legislation in 1889. An Act of that year gave the Fishery Board power to close to all British fishermen the Moray Firth, a large area of water on the North-east of Scotland. The action taken under the Act was disputed but upheld, and the present Lord Advocate was instrumental in upholding it. The right hon. Gentleman had said we could not negotiate in a matter of this sort with the North Sea Powers only. There were, however, precedents for fishery arrangements in the North Sea,. This was pre-eminently a question affecting the East Coast of Scotland, and that was the reason why he urged the Government to take action with the signatory Powers to the North Sea Convention. It was perfectly clear to anyone who had studied the history of recent fishery matters that there had been very serious disagreements and trouble between British fishermen and the fishermen in Iceland and on the German coast, and it was almost inevitable that before very long there would have to be negotiations for an international settlement of various fishery questions. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that the Netherlands Government had actually made a proposal that the North Sea Powers should enter into negotiations for an extension of the fishery limit.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN
said that an opportunity was thus afforded the Government of entering into negotiations upon this very important subject. It was to be regretted that the Government had not merely done nothing of their own initiative, but had negatived the action of a foreign Power. He hoped the Government would not shut their eyes to the great urgency of this question, and that before another year had elapsed something would be done to settle what was the cause of a good deal of disquietude and dissatisfaction to the fishing population on the east coast of Scotland.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.