§ MR. DISRAELI (Cheshire, Altrincham)
proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,—And humbly to represent to your Majesty, as the Sovereign of many millions of Mussulman subjects, the urgent desirability of sending a special envoy to Constantinople, in order to guard not only British Imperial interests but to promote the carrying through of appropriate reforms for all the inhabitants, irrespective of race or religion, of the Ottoman Empire.He said he need not, he was sure, apologise for moving this Amendment, as it was a worthy and fitting Amendment to move to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. Our diplomatic arrangements at Constantinople had been watched with peculiar interest by the 50 million Mussulman subjects of the Queen. The strong leadings which the authorities at Constantinople had received from Her Majesty's Government and the other Powers of Europe had struck considerable consternation amongst those same Mussulmans. Hon. Members had read lately that the coercion of the Sultan of Turkey had been received by the Indian Mahomedans in a very different spirit to that in which it had been received by the English people, a fact, which demanded the most serious consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] Hostile coercion was one thing, and friendly pressure was another. The Sultan was the head of a friendly Power, and the Mussulman population of our Empire could not understand the change of policy on our part during the last few years. That change of policy had largely lost us that prestige which England used to have in the East. He could not gather what the policy of the future was to be, but it might be said that now the Powers were in line and determined upon one definite foreign policy. 578 The state of affairs in Turkey had now become a matter of almost European concern, almost a matter of European conference, and the successful diplomacy of our Foreign Minister—["Hear, hear!"]—diplomacy which had brought Russia into line with the rest of Europe—showed the great importance of the subject. It was well, under these circumstances, to let Turkey see that, at all events, our power and prestige was not going to lose anything by its representation in Constantinople itself, that the Sultan might expect to receive from England that courtesy which he had always received in the past. A special British Envoy at Constantinople at the present time might conclude what had been a dreadful chapter in the history of the East, and might fulfil the expectations of future permanent security and peace. At the present moment a strong man was needed, one who could go to the Sultan accredited by Her Majesty with the Sultan's knowledge that he came to Constantinople with an open mind to review matters as they stood. The British Ambassador now at Constantinople was hardly the man to conduct negotiations, which had become of a very delicate character. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] It was a matter of open notoriety that the Sultan was not, and had hardly been, on speaking terms with the Ambassador of England. Whether the Sultan had done right or wrong it was not proper that the accredited Ambassador of this country should stand in an inferior position to the messenger of any other country in Europe at Constantinople. ["Hear, hear!"] It was an open fact that, while the Ambassadors of France, Russia and Germany had had open audiences of the Sultan on any occasion they liked—in fact, the proceedings had been described by a distinguished Anglo-Turk—[laughter, and cries of "Name"]—as "running in and out of the Palace"—[renewed laughter]—the British Ambassador had isolated himself by his language and his actions from the credit and confidence of the Sultan. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] However evil the man, however monstrous the deeds of which the Sultan was, rightly or wrongly, indicted, he ventured to think that the British diplomatist who was accredited to the Porte, whether the Sultan liked 579 or disliked him, should be in the position of a prsona grata at the Turkish Court, and should at all times and in all places be able to uphold the interests intrusted to him. He did not know whether this was part of a new policy to give up English prestige and influence at Constantinople, nor did he know whether it was the wish of English Ministers at the present day to allow Russia to obtain the ascendency which England had always held, and which she ought always to hold. ["Hear, hear!"] It was the Russian diplomatists who were at present in high favour with the Porte, and who were able to obtain measures of reform and redress for their own countrymen which the English Ambassador could not secure. All this went far to weaken the British position. The Turks could not understand why England did not see the game Russia was playing. Russian prestige at Constantinople would mean, perhaps, command of the Dardanelles, and then England would see her naval power in the Mediterranean weakened, and her hold on Egypt and the Suez Canal and her path to India threatened. ["Hear, hear!"] As he believed that the solution of the Eastern Question was to be sought and found at Constantinople now, as it had always been, and not in the offices of the Anglo-Armenian Committee, or any other place, and as the solution of the question was now of a graver character than ever, he thought the adoption of his Amendment would be a wise and a strong step in the right direction. After all those years of failure of British diplomacy he thought there must be some weakness, not only in our administration in the East, but also in our administration at home, weakening our diplomatic relations with the Porte and destroying that Power which used to be the strongest Power at Constantinople. ["Hear, hear!"] He begged to move the Amendment.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said he had listened with interest to the speech just addressed to the House by the hon. Member for Altrincham, and he thought it would be admitted that the hon. Member had dealt with an exceedingly difficult and delicate question with much moderation. 580 He did not think the gravity of the crisis in the East was fully realised at the present time. He believed that unless the greatest caution, tact, and moderation were now displayed both by Her Majesty's Government and by their representative at Constantinople, a very terrible crisis might result—one which all lovers of humanity would deplore. If once against that terrible race the religious antagonism or fanaticism were aroused in the Ottoman Empire, it would not be a few hundreds or thousands of victims who would suffer, but a very large portion of the whole Christian population of the Ottoman Empire might become the victims of another outrage. It had always been the object of persons in this country who had had to deal with the Eastern Question in a responsible position, above all things to avoid raising that terrible religious fanaticism which underlay all movements in the East. For the past two years that danger had been forgotten in this country. Language of the most reckless and unjustifiable kind had been used not only towards the Sultan but towards his Ministers, the Turkish people and the Mussulman religion, and he held that that language and the injustice with which the Turkish Government had been treated were largely responsible for the terrible events which had taken place in Asia Minor during the last few months of 1895. He did not believe it possible to find a case in history in which language so reckless had been used in regard to the Sovereign of a friendly Power as had been used towards the Sultan and his Government during the last two years. That language was absolutely unjustifiable. A very bitter feeling had in consequence sprung up towards this country in Turkey, and that feeling was deliberately increased by the various provocations on the part of the Armenian Secret Societies. They had now had for a period of twelve months, with two exceptions, comparative tranquillity throughout the Ottoman Empire. Hon. Members opposite laughed, but he was simply stating what was the fact. They seemed to forget that upon the maintenance of that tranquillity depended the lives of thousands of their fellow-beings. When in Constantinople he had the opportunity of speaking to the heads of all the great Christian communities there, and everyone said that the first 581 object of statesmanship and diplomacy was to maintain that tranquillity. That tranquillity was due to the fact that the Sultan and the Government of Turkey had issued the most stringent orders that any person who attempted to break the peace should be immediately dealt with in the sternest way. That was a fact which ought to be recognised in this country instead of the most unmitigated abuse being lavished on the Turkish Government for thing's which they had actually not been guilty of. In addition to those orders it was well known that the Sultan had promulgated a number of valuable reforms which had been asked for by their Ambassador, and which had been actually made into law. Those reforms consist of the appointment of Christian sub-Governors, of Christian members of the gendarmerie, of the release of all the Armenian prisoners except those who had been convicted of acts of extreme violence, and of considerable grants of money to the relief of the Armenians themselves. The Blue-book just published for the first time showed this country in the light of a leader of a policy of coercion towards Turkey, and undoubtedly that constituted a very grave fact. His hon. Friend in his interesting speech reminded the House that Her Majesty was the Sovereign of seventy millions of Mussulman subjects, and was in fact the first Sovereign of Mussulmans in the world. It was a grave fact that the Government of this country should appear for the first time in what appeared a spirit of hostile coercion towards Turkey. The great achievement which this Blue-book had apparently been published to prove was that the Government had brought into line the Government of that Power which had always been most hostile towards Turkey, and which in recent years had thwarted every effort for the improvement of Turkey, whether the effort had been made by a Conservative or a Liberal Government in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth (Sir W. Harcourt) knew that his efforts, as were the efforts of the Government which succeeded him, were deliberately thwarted by the Government of Russia. When we were trying to coerce Turkey in a hostile way in conjunction with the Government of Russia, and more or less with other Governments, what was the danger? As 582 had been pointed out, the danger on the one side was that of irritating Moslem feeling, and on the other side was a more threatening danger. With every step we took in this direction we were driving the Sultan and the Turkish Government nearer and nearer to Russia, and more and more would the Turkish Government be inclined to submit to the terms under which the Government of Russia were prepared to render any support to the Government of Turkey. It was no use shutting our eyes to this fact. If the Turkish Government consented to put the Dardanelles into the hands of Russia to-morrow that Government might have a Russian fleet and a Russian army in alliance and support. This was a great fact to which no British Government should shut its eyes. If once the Russian power was at Constantinople, then we must be prepared for the loss of our naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, and our occupation of Egypt and the Suez Canal would be absolutely useless. There would be placed under the control of Russia half a million of the finest fighting force in the world, rendering an attack on our Indian Empire certain and almost certain to be successful. That must be the consequence of placing Russia in control of Constantinople with supreme influence in the Ottoman Empire. And so he came to the Amendment of his noble Friend, and what he had said was leading up to that. He had tried to point out the gravity of the crisis, the danger that accompanied a policy of hostile coercion, not only in irritating Moslem feeling throughout the world, not only as regarded the fate of Constantinople and the existence of the Christians in Turkey. Before we could intervene for the protection of even the coast-line, these Christians might become the victims of an outburst of Moslem fanaticism. Every turn of the hostile screw would force the Sultan against his will more and more under the control of the Russian Government. He did not believe that the Sultan or any considerable portion of his subjects were anxious to fall under the power of Russia. He believed, and certainly he could speak of the majority of Turks with whom he had conversed, they dreaded and detested the power of Russia, and yet the British Government, by this policy of hostile coercion, were forcing Turkey from us 583 and towards our great rival. His hon. Friend's Amendment referred to a Special Envoy to Constantinople, and his hon. Friend had dealt with the subject with much care and moderation of language, which he hoped to imitate. He felt it was a most delicate matter to say anything about the representatives of the Crown at the present crisis, but it was a fact well known throughout Europe that the relations between the British Ambassador and the Sovereign of Turkey were, and had been for the last two years, exceedingly strained, and the position had become almost impossible. Some people might say this was creditable to the Ambassador, and discreditable to the Sultan, but anyone who knew any thing about the ways of diplomacy would know that an Ambassador in that position was deprived of influence. Whatever he might think of the Government, it was his duty to maintain courteous diplomatic relations until he was withdrawn. It was a notorious fact that these relations were strained until the position was well nigh intolerable. This was notorious in Constantinople and known in every Chancellery in Europe. Owing to this fact the policy of this country would fail. The policy foreshadowed in the Blue-book might be good and might be necessary, but it would fail for this reason. His hon. Friend was justified in the suggestion he had made, and the Government would do well to consider it. One remark as to the way in which British policy might best become successful. A great deal had been said about the concert of Europe, but the concert of Europe up to the present had been a sad failure, and had achieved very little, and though there now seemed to be some prospect of its succeeding, he thought that was very shadowy. He would urge upon the Government a recurrence to the policy with regard to their European support and European alliances which was pursued by Lord Beaconsfield in 1878. On that occasion the Prime Minister was confronted by a crisis as difficult as at present, perhaps more pressing, and he secured strong support in Europe. He secured the support of those great Powers of Central Europe whose political interests were identical with ours, and was thus enabled in that great crisis to avoid a European war. He knew that Sir William Har- 584 court was very fond of indulging in attacks upon Lord Beaconsfield's policy, and trying to persuade himself that it had failed. It was not Lord Beacons-field's policy that had failed; it was the reverse of his policy. The policy of Lord Beaconsfield was one of friendly pressure, and not of hostile coercion. The policy of Lord Beaconsfield was based on the support of the German monarchies and of Italy, but the policy of the last three years was based on the supposed but impracticable support of France and Russia.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The policy of Lord Beaconsfield in the East is not raised on this Motion, and has nothing to do with the sending of a special envoy to the Turkish Government.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
was sorry he had digressed from the exact point of the Amendment. In his opinion the best way of carrying through reforms now would be by getting the support of those Powers whose support we had before, and which was effective. He would further point out that it would be wise to institute practical supervision over the work of reform and over the administration, rather than by fantastic schemes of which they had heard so much of late. The appointment of military consuls was a, practical measure of great value, and the Government would do well to adopt some such measure on the present occasion. If the Government intended their policy in the East to be successful, they must obtain the support of those Powers whose general political interests were identical with ours, and on whom we could rely in case of need. So long as this country attempted to rely on the support of Russia and France in this matter, they were bound to fail. If they once put before the Sultan a clear and definite scheme, in a friendly way, as England used to do in the past, by an Ambassador who would address himself in a diplomatic and friendly way to the Sovereign of the great Mussulman, State, and if that scheme of reform got the support of Austria, which was interested as much as we were in the East, of Germany, and of Italy, with whom we could cordially co-operate, then, and then alone, in his opinion, Her Majesty's Government could hope for success in their policy with regard to Turkey and the Mussulmans and Christians of that country.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MR. G. CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
There was one statement in the speech of the hon. Member who has just concluded in which I quite concur—namely, in the admission that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and whose hereditary and legitimate interest in this question we all allow—["Hear, hear!"]—made a most temperate and moderate speech. I own I feel some difficulty in understanding his position, because I gather, on the one hand, that he approved the policy of Her Majesty's Government—an admission which we were grateful to receive—but, on the other hand, he deprecated what he described as a policy of coercion of the Sultan, mainly on the ground of the consternation that it was producing or would produce among the Mahomedan inhabitants of the Indian Empire of Her Majesty. I do not believe for one moment in this consternation. ["Hear, hear!"] I have had, perhaps, as many opportunities as the hon. Member of studying the question, and I have had no evidence before me that any such consternation either already exists or is likely to be called into existence. ["Hear, heat!"] Anyhow, whether that be so or not, I would submit to the House that, our policy in Europe in discharge of the responsibilities which, by treaty and otherwise, we have on many occasions assumed, ought not primarily to be dictated by considerations of the effect that policy may produce upon the inhabitants of Her Majesty's Empire in India. ["Hear, hear!"] I go further than that. Both hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have described our policy as one of hostile coercion against the Sultan, and have objected to it on those grounds. Sir, it is not our policy alone. The policy we are pursuing is not the policy of one Power, it is the policy of the combined Powers of Europe, and whether it be, in the last resort, a policy of hostile coercion or not depends, not upon us, but upon the Sultan himself. ["Hear, hear!"] It rests entirely at this moment with the Sovereign of Turkey whether that policy, which is not in its inception or design one of coercion, but which is a policy of reform in the interests of every section of the Ottoman Empire—of Turks, as well as of Christians—it rests, I say, with the Sultan himself 586 to decide whether that policy, in the objects of which I believe there is not a man in this House who is not agreed, is successfully carried out, or whether, in consequence of obstruction, it develops and is translated into that hostile coercion to which the hon. Members so much object. ["Hear, hear!"] An Amendment has been moved by the hon. Member, the terms of which have been read and which are on record on the order paper of this House; but I cannot help calling attention to the fact that the words of the Amendment, although some attention was paid to them in the speech delivered by the Mover, were studiously ignored by the hon. Member who seconded it. The hon. Member said nothing whatever about the Amendment.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I beg pardon. I distinctly said that I thought it was very unfortunate that the relations between the present Ambassador and the Porte were so strained.
§ MR. CURZON
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for the correction, because it enables me to bring before the House that which lies directly before it. We are not here to discuss the general question of the Ottoman Empire or the general policy of the Government. What we are discussing is an Amendment which is a Motion of want of confidence in the present representative of the Queen at Constantinople. [Cheers.] That is the true point and germ of this Amendment, to which I purpose to address myself. I am not going to take the line of deprecating such an attack. If the spirit which I suppose underlay the two speeches to which we have listened exists either in this House or outside—which I do not for one moment believe—I think it would be far better that that spirit of distrust should be expressed and debated on the floor of this House than that it should simmer in the Lobbies or that it should find anonymous and irresponsible expression in the Press, although I feel bound to say that I have seen no countenance in the Press on either side, and I expect to find in the Press no echo of the spirit of protest and complaint to which utterance was given in the speeches of my hon. Friends. ["Hear, hear!"] In speaking of the Ambassador at Constantinople, upon whom no one can deny that a slur is 587 intended to be cast when a proposal is laid before us that a Special Envoy shall be sent to Constantinople to take his place—in speaking of that distinguished representative of Her Majesty, I will not shelter the Government or shield him behind the plea that he is an absent man and cannot answer for himself. Though it may be a general rule of popular acceptance that representatives of the Queen in foreign parts ought to be exempted from the criticism and the censure of this House where they cannot speak for themselves, yet I can well understand that there may be cases in which a Viceroy, or Ambassador, or Minister, even though he be absent, and even though he be subjected to compulsory silence, may yet be open to the legitimate criticism and even the animadversion of this House. But my point is that this is not one of those cases—["Hear, hear "]—and that in the few vague phrases of my hon. Friends there is no foundation whatever for the charges which, by implication more than by direct expression, they have advanced. Now I proceed to consider those charges. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said that we required at Constantinople a strong man with an open mind. What was the imputation that he desired to convey? It was that Sir Philip Currie was not a man of open mind and not a strong man. Well, I should imagine that if any man ever went to Constantinople with prepossessions which were likely to lead him in the direction which the hon. Members have described as the old traditional policy of this country, that man was Sir Philip Currie. He first went to Constantinople in 187G as secretary to the mission of Lord Salisbury, and then he was secretary to the special English mission at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. If any prepossession or prejudice—which I do not admit—had existed in his mind it would have been a prepossession and prejudice of a Turcophile character, and if in the passage of events Sir Philip Currie has had to change his views—which I do not for a moment say—it is because he has since then acquired an experience which too many of us in this House lack. [Laughter and "Hear, hear."] The hon. Member went on to say that under the guidance of our Ambassador we had adopted a new policy, 588 and he appeared to make Sir Philip Currie responsible for the change, as he appeared to regard it, in the direction of our policy. But if—I will not say the policy—but if the feeling upon which the policy of this country towards Turkey is founded has in any respect changed in recent years, it has not been due to any Ambassador or to any Foreign Minister, but to the action of the Turkish authorities themselves, and to the remorseless and irresistible logic of events. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member made it a matter of complaint that the Sultan was not on speaking terms with the British Ambassador, and that the relations between the two were strained. I do not know from what personal experience my hon. Friend the Mover speaks.
§ MR. CURZON
I do not object to the correction, but I do not know whether he speaks from personal experience or whether he has culled his information from more authoritative sources. [Laughter.] In either case the allegation of the hon. Member is not borne out by the reports received.
§ MR. CURZON
We have constant reports from the Ambassador of interviews with the Sultan in which views are expressed on both sides. We have had no difficulty in receiving from our Ambassador the opinions which the Sultan has desired to place before us, and I have no reason to suppose that the suggestions of the hon. Member are in any sense true. [Cheers.] He has tried to convey to us that the Ambassador of this country stands in an inferior position at Constantinople to the representatives of the other Powers. I believe that to be an unfounded and grotesque insinuation. The hon. Member has said that he cannot secure for British interests and British trade that legitimate protection which other Ambassadors secure for the subjects of their various nationalities. If British trade be the question at issue I may be allowed to say a word, because as representing the Commercial Department of the Foreign Office, I have charge of a good deal of the work, and I am bound to say that in the hands of 589 Sir Philip Currie, so far from detecting any inability to secure due regard for our interests, I find, on the contrary, that we have as vigilant and successful an influence applied to our concerns as we could possibly desire. [Cheers.] I do not desire to argue with my hon. Friends on these small points. Not having myself lately been at Constantinople—[laughter]—I am not in a position to argue the matter with the various emulous pilgrims—[laughter]—who have recently been sojourning there. But what is the moment which my hon. Friend has selected to bring this implied vote of censure on Sir Philip Currie before the House? A more inopportune moment he could not possibly have chosen. [Cheers.] We have just laid before the House of Commons a Blue-book, which, I venture to say, has elicited greater unanimity and satisfaction on both sides of the House than any Blue-book which in my short recollection of Parliament I can remember. For that common recognition on both sides of the House Her Majesty's Government are profoundly grateful. In speaking of the Eastern Question it does not do to he over sanguine, but I venture to say that the result of a perusal of the Blue-book is to enable us to obtain an outlook at the present moment more favourable than it has been for some time past. In these discussions, which have been taking place at Constantinople, which are now taking place, and which this Blue-book records, Sir Philip Currie has represented the Government to its entire satisfaction. [Cheers.] With the experience of three years behind him, with his knowledge of the Eastern Question, and with his ability and resource, he has in every respect completely and satisfactorily carried out the views of Her Majesty's Government. [Cheers.] This is the moment which my hon. Friends choose—
§ MR. CURZON
That makes the case worse than it was before. The hon. Gentleman suggests that this is the only moment which they can choose. The very moment when we are within, as we hope, a near distance of reaching a satisfactory conclusion, is the only moment when the thing can be stopped, and when the concert of Europe may be 590 broken down. This is the moment when they intervene to secure the supersession of the British representative at Constantinople. The Government see no necessity for any supersession at all. [Cheers.] If they were at the present moment to send out a Special Envoy to Constantinople, as has been done in entirely different circumstances on previous occasions—
In 1876 Lord Salisbury went out as Special Plenipotentiary and representative of this country to Constantinople. ["Hear, hear!"] For what purpose did he go out? He went out to take part as an Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in a European Conference which was summoned to take action at Constantinople subsequent to the Bulgarian atrocities and the Servian war, and previous to the Russian invasion. The difference between the two situations is obvious. In one case you have a European Conference in which representatives and plenipotentiaries of the Great Powers are sent out to Constantinople—["No"]—to conduct an international European Conference. In the other case you have a conference of Ambassadors at Constantinople, of persons necessarily best acquainted with the situation, possessing no initiative, charged with no powers of their own, but instructed to refer the result of their deliberations to the Powers, who will deliberate upon them and take action. A greater distinction between the two situations cannot be imagined. But the point I desired to put before the House before I was interrupted was this—that if we were at the present moment to adopt the advice of my hon. Friend, to supersede Sir Philip Currie and to send out a special envoy to Constantinople, we should not only be inflicting a most gratuitous public slur upon a distinguished representative of the Crown—[Opposition, cheers], but we should be doing more than that; we should be taking a step that would have a very wide and unfortunate effect upon the action and the possibilities for good of Her Majesty's Government. [Cheers.] I venture to say that if we now adopted his advice, and if any special envoy, either in supersession of or in supplement to the British Ambassador, were sent out to Constanti- 591 nople, there is no step that can be imagined which would be more calculated to weaken and to cripple the authority of Her Majesty's Government in the councils of Europe. [Cheers.] At the very moment when the concert of Europe has been re-established, when it is proceeding harmoniously, when the suspicions that appeared to divide its members have been removed, and when practical unanimity has been secured, we are invited to remove or to supersede or to supplement the representative of this country at the Council Board, and to acknowledge by so doing that our policy up to this point has been a mistake or a failure. On behalf of the Government I must decline for one moment to entertain any such suggestion. [Cheers.] The Government intend to pursue their policy, and they are satisfied with the agent who has hitherto assisted to carry it out, and we hope the House will with practical unanimity reject a proposal which, if it were accepted as part of the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech of Her Majesty, would convey both an injurious and an uncalled-for imputation upon one of our most eminent representatives in foreign parts, and would at the same time be generally interpreted as an abnegation of the responsibilities which we have assumed in the face of Europe and as a repudiation of the policy which we intend to follow and, if it be possible, to prosecute to a successful issue. [Cheers.]
SIR WILLIAM HAPCOURT (Monmouth, W.)
We on this Bench find ourselves in a situation unusual, but not disagreeable. It becomes our duty to support Her Majesty against the attacks of the irregular janissaries below the gangway. [Laughter.] I am not suggesting to Her Majesty's Government that they should resort to the measure which the Sultans of Turkey at an earlier period of the century took with regard to those troops, and I should not have risen at all to make any remarks, agreeing as I do with what has been said by the Under Secretary upon this occasion, except that I thought, having been myself with my colleagues acting with Sir Philip Currie at Constantinople, I ought not to be silent in repudiating this attack made upon him by the hon. Member in the motion he has submitted to the 592 House. [Ministerial cheers.] For a more able, a more faithful representative than Sir Philip Currie Her Majesty has never had in her service. [Cheers.] What the Under Secretary has said is perfectly true. I should not describe Sir Philip Currie exactly, perhaps, as a Turcophile, in the words of the Under Secretary, but I can say of Sir Philip Curiae—and I know it from my official knowledge—that he went to Constantinople full of hope and belief that by friendly representations to the Sultan of Turkey something might be done to advance reforms in that empire. He has found by experience, as every man who has gone through that experience has found, that all these hopes were disappointed. Mention has been made of a special envoy to Constantinople, as represented by Lord Salisbury in December, 1876. In the representations that were then made, the hopes then experienced, were they not entirely disappointed, and did not the whole objects of the conference fail? That the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment should not approve of the present policy of Her Majesty's Government I am not surprised, because it is and is allowed to be, a reversal of the policy which was adopted 20 years ago by Lord Beaconsfield. The object of the hon. Member for Sheffield and the hon. Member who moved this Motion must have been that some now Commissioner should be sent to Constantinople to put more "money on the wrong horse." [Laughter.] I should imagine that that is to be the mission of the Special Envoy, on the ground that Sir Philip Currie has not been sufficiently lavish of the money so expended in the last 20, I might say in the last 40, years ["Hear, hear!"] No, Sir; it has become apparent to everybody now that other measures and another policy must be adopted, in hopelessness of representations of the character which have been made over and over again, and always in vain. [Cheers.] The hon. Member for Sheffield said, "Why do not you make an alliance with Austria? Has he read the Blue-book which has just been presented? Has he perceived that when the British Government applied themselves—and properly—to Austria, the answer of Austria was—"We will make no more representations to Turkey 593 until we have settled the methods of coercion which shall be employed to enforce those representations." Is it in that spirit that the hon. Member desires that a Special Envoy should be sent to Constantinople? That is, I am glad to know, the policy of Her Majesty's Government to-day; and if—and it is perfectly true, as the Under Secretary has said—that the recent correspondence has been received with favour, it is because it indicates that the Government of Great Britain has been labouring to induce the Powers of Europe to act on the conviction that paper remonstrances with Turkey are in vain, and always will be; and that if you intend really, in the cause of civilisation and humanity, to accomplish anything at all, you must settle among yourselves beforehand—and that, I think. Lord Salisbury has rightly laid down as the policy to be pursued—those measures of material pressure which can alone give your remonstrances any force or effect. [Cheers.] I agree with the Under Secretary that this is a moment, not to weaken the hands of the Government of Great Britain—[general cheers]—but to strengthen them in the course which we desire them to pursue. And we will be no parties on this side of the House to any attempt to cast a slur upon the agent of the Crown who is pursuing an object in which the honour of this country is involved, and by which, I believe, the cause of civilisation will be served. [Cheers].
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not rise to continue the Debate, which has, I think, gone on for a sufficient length of time. If the right hon. Gentleman and I were to discuss at length our views of the history of the Eastern Question for the last 30 years, no doubt we should find plenty of points of difference. But on the particular point nominally before the House, a point which has been left out of sight a good deal by some of the speakers, we are absolutely at one; and I believe that there is, on the whole, hardly any difference of opinion between the two sides of the House with regard to the necessity from the public point of view, of supporting the distinguished diplomatist who is so ably representing Her Majesty at this 594 moment at Constantinople. ["Hear, hear!"] If I am right in saying that on that point we are agreed—and after all, all other points tire irrelevant to the Amendment before the House—I am not going beyond my duty in asking the House to bring this discussion to a close as soon as possible. ["Hear, hear!"] Any appearance of divergence among us to-night would, even from my hon. Friend's point of view, have a disastrous effect upon Turkey. The great point is that Turkey should understand now that all sections of opinion in England are united and in accordance with the general policy of the Powers of Europe. Against that unanimity I am convinced that there are no powers of obstruction in Turkey which could struggle successfully; and I should deprecate in the interests of Turkey itself any appearance of want of unanimity at the present time. ["Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friend seems to think that we are acting in this matter in a spirit hostile to Turkey. That is not the case. Our firm conviction is that the salvation of Turkey depends absolutely upon the acceptance of reforms by Turkey, [Cheers.] Turkey reformed is Turkey invulnerable. Turkey unreformed is Turkey foredoomed to speedy dissolution. [Cheers.] Holding that view, we separate ourselves from the people who think that in this policy we are putting ourselves in antagonism to the interests of the Turkish Empire as a whole, or to those of the Mussulman population. That being admitted—as it is on all sides of the House—surely we shall be doing the best for the general foreign policy of this country in connection with the Eastern Question and for the interests of Europe as a whole, if we bring this particular Debate to a conclusion. If I may travel beyond the Amendment, and make an appeal to the House on the suject of the Address itself, I would suggest that I am justified in asking the House to bring the discussion on the Address to a close to-night. [Cheers.] I quite agree that if the question of the financial relations of Ireland had been brought on, hon. Gentlemen might justly have asked for more time. But as by general consent the Debate on that question has been deferred to a future day, I am not trespassing on the privileges of Members in asking them to bring this 595 Debate to a conclusion to-night, so that to-morrow we may begin the ordinary work of the Session. [Cheers.]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Ragis)
said he regretted that the Debate had not been carried on in the tone adopted by the Leader of the House at the end, and by his hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham at the beginning. He rose merely to remove a few misapprehensions from the mind of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who had not shown in his speech that holy calm which should characterise the utterances of Under Secretaries. The right hon Gentleman went beyond the usual confession of ignorance, which was common to all of them, for he rejoiced in his own ignorance. He stated that he had not been to Constantinople, and had no recent information, and then like the great Apollyon he went forth to slay the poor pilgrim who had gone about to get information that would be useful to the House. For his part, he held it was a virtue for an hon. Member to employ his leisure not in shooting game or other amusements, but in endeavouring to obtain information in regard to a question about to be debated in the House. He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire through his speech, in answer to Lord Rosebery. He would only say that the right hon. Gentleman ought to feel indebted to his hon. Friend for having afforded him the opportunity for making that answer. The right hon. Gentleman said that the great thing in dealing with Turkish matters was to state beforehand what they were going to do. The right hon. Gentleman left the country to imply that that was what was going to be done in the present case. He was afraid the right hon. Gentleman had not read the Blue-book, or did not understand it, for otherwise he would see that so far from settling anything the last communications that had passed between the Powers had absolutely and completely unsettled everthing that had been settled before. The right hon. Gentleman would see on referring to the Blue-book that Lord Salisbury had written that before the Ambassadors had come to discuss the plan, and before the plan had been presented to the Sultan, the Powesr must in the first instance be agreed that 596 in case their proposals were rejected they must use coercion. Not a single Power had agreed to that. [Cries of "No, no!"] He regarded non-compliance in this case to mean refusal. If hon. Members would refer to the Blue-book—
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he bowed to that ruling. He had been tempted into that line of discussion by the irregularities of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He now came to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who was always interesting. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Motion amounted to a vote of want of confidence in Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, Under-Secretaries really never studied history. When Lord Salisbury was sent as a Special Envoy to Constantinople, while Sir Henry Elliott was Ambassador there, the same ridiculous idea seemed to have occurred to foolish people, that it was meant as a slight upon the Ambassador. Lord Derby then wrote to Sir Henry Elliott, pointing out that the appointing did not indicate in the slightest degree any want of confidence on the part of the Government in Her Majesty's representative at Constantinople. If then it was no slight on Sir Henry Elliott to send a Special Envoy to Constantinople in 1876, it was no slight on Sir Philip Currie to send a Special Envoy to Constantinople in 1897. [Cries of "There was a Conference then!"] There was not in 1876 a general sending out of Ambassadors to Constantinople by the Powers, it was done especially by England. There was no slur intended to be cast on Sir Henry Layard, our Ambassador at Constantinople when the First Lord of the Admiralty was sent out, nor was any slur intended to be cast upon Sir William White when Sir Henry Drummond Wolff was sent out. He thought these precedents showed that no slur whatever was cast upon the Ambassador by the Amendment. A very grave and serious crisis had been reached in the affairs of Turkey. The consultations now taking place between the Ambassadors were in effect a very serious European Conference. Surely if there was an occasion for a Special Envoy being sent out it was 597 this. It was said that our Ambassador was not on speaking terms with the Sultan; he should prefer to say that he was on speaking terms, but that he spoke in a way not perhaps highly to be desired on the part of an Ambassador. He had presented four schemes of reform, the first of which was a failure, the second was contemptuously rejected by Russia, the third was rejected with nothing less than contempt by Austria, and the fourth had provoked a strange and unwarranted rebuff from the Russian Ambassador. Those were instances in which Sir Philip Currie had exercised what he was sure were great abilities, but had exercised them without success. It would be well, therefore, in such a crisis as this, when the moral welfare, not only of the Turks and Turkey, but of England, as well as the most important interests of Europe were involved, if we sent out to strengthen the hands of our Ambassador a Special Envoy to assist him. He joined with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in expressing his conviction that it was necessary to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Dominions, and to introduce the necessary reforms. But he was firmly convinced that so long as they approached the only man from whom those reforms could be obtained in a spirit of insolence and arrogance, they would not succeed. A change was required in the manner rather than in the matter of the address to the Sultan. His belief was that there was every desire on the part of the Sultan to reconcile himself to Europe, and especially to England, by introducing these reforms, and he thought that whether Her Majesty's Government accepted this or any other step which might facilitate the granting of these reforms, they should take every possible means not to let the present opportunity slip.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to amid cheers.
Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth: —
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament
assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors.