§ SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
On the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill, Sir, Members are sometimes called to order when they attempt to discuss, not the administration, but the legislation, of the Government. There is no temptation to-day, I think, for any Member to be called to order on that score, because the Bills of the Government this Session have been Bills which the Opposition have found themselves able to support. Practically, no contention has arisen between the two sides. Matters are very different, however, when we turn to administration, and I think the House ought not to separate without some remarks being passed upon the administration during the present Session. Sir, there are only two heads of the administration of the Government to which I wish to refer, and to one most briefly. The subject to which I wish to refer very briefly is not one upon which there is a general concurrence of opinion in this House or a general concurrence of opinion, in the country—I allude to the Government having lost this year a unique opportunity of carrying out Army reform, and it is possibly one which will never recur. The Government have in. creased the cost of the Army last year and also this, but they have not increased its numbers, and although there has been just an opening of the door as regards the future by the Introduction of one of those schemes of Army reform in a very modified degree, to which some of us attach great importance—namely, the three years' service system, yet, on the whole, I cannot but think that the Government have lost, and probably lost for good, a great opportunity of reforming the Army of this country. Now, Sir, the other question of administration is one upon which I venture to say there is something like a universal concurrence of opinion in this House and in the country at large, and I allude to 770 the conduct of foreign affairs. We have had in this House, of course, defenders of the policy of Lord Salisbury, that is, his colleagues, who naturally cannot help themselves in this matter. But, as regards independent opinion in this House, I have never known a Session in which, with reference to events of the most momentous and of the most far-reaching character, the condemnation has been so general and the defence so exclusively confined to the gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench and are almost under an obligation to support the policy for which they are, as a body, responsible. The whole of the Press has condemned their policy, and it has been condemned by great numbers of the independent Members, of this House, while many of those on the other side of the House, who have gone so far as to give that policy their support in the Division Lobby, have qualified their support in their speeches to such an extent that some of those speeches have been more damaging to the policy than any we on this side have addressed to the House, Now, Sir, before I allude to the question of Chin I should like to refer to the extraordinary breakdown of Lord Salisbury's Cretan policy since last year, and the extent which that breakdown has now attained. In the recent replies which have been made by the Under Secretary of State with regard to the present condition of Crete he has alluded to two subjects with which we, a year ago were mainly concerned. A few months ago he thought there was a probability of the Powers uniting in the selection of a Governor General for Crete. The last replies of the Under Secretary have shown that there is no chance of an agreement, and I fear that it is to the continuance of the present almost absurd form of government that we must look forward. The Under Secretary, on the 15th of July, spoke of thedifficulty experienced in selecting a governor acceptable to all concerned.I am very much afraid that by "all concerned" he includes Turkey. I understand him to do so, because he told us some time ago that Russia, France, and England were agreed upon a candidate, that that candidate had the support of 771 the great majority of Cretans, and that he believed that steps would be taken immediately after the evacuation of Thessaly to put forward that candidate. He afterwards told the House that Austria and Germany were offering no opposition to the candidate, and we know that Italy has been an active supporter. Therefore the only opposition that must have caused this breakdown for an indefinite period must have been the opposition of the Porte. Last year, and even at the beginning of this year, we were constantly informed by the Government that the Ottoman troops were to be withdrawn from the island, but the last answer which has been given on this subject, namely, on the 19th of July, was—The retention or withdrawal of the troops is a matter of arrangement.Of course, we know that the answer of the Porte will be the same as the answer to the proposal to nominate a non-Turkish subject as governor of Crete—it wall be a non possumus. The position of affairs in Crete, unsatisfactory as it is and full of danger, is thrown back for an indefinite period. I see the Solicitor General in his place, but I do not see the Attorney General, who no doubt is engaged elsewhere; but the Attorney General made a speech the other day in which he described the achievements of Lord Salisbury in foreign affairs during the present year, and he expressed the belief—a belief which I venture to say is not shared by any independent Member of the House of Commons or by anyone outside—that the achievements of Lord Salisbury have been of a satisfactory nature, and will be remembered when everything else of this year has been forgotten.
§ SIR C. DILKE
I am glad to hear that there is one independent Member who agrees with the Attorney General. Sir, we have had opportunities this Session—and therefore I shall not repeat on this oecasion what has been previously said—of examining in detail the conduct of Lord Salisbury in Foreign Affairs in such matters as Tunis and 772 Madagascar. No defence has been offered by any independent Member of this House, and the defence offered by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and that offered in another place by Lord Salisbury himself, fail to convince the Conservative Press, and, I believe, the constituencies of this country. We say that the breakdown of this policy was the direct result of Lord Salisbury's own acts. He cannot attribute it to anyone else. He could hardly say that his colleagues are personally responsible, as both in the case of Tunis and of Madagascar the policy was his own individual act. As regards the case of Siam, some defence was offered. The Under Secretary—I am sorry that he is not in the House to-day, because I hesitate, in his absence, to speak so strongly as I should like to do—when he was in opposition in the last Parliament made the Siam question the main ground for attack upon those who were then in office. But the Under Secretary's defence of the proceedings in Siam no more bears investigation than Lord Salisbury's defence of the proceedings in Tunis and Madagascar. We find the French occupying portions of Siamese territory by military force, in defiance of pledges which the late Government obtained. The Under Secretary ventured to tell the House that this was under a convention "concluded when right honourable Gentlemen opposite were in power." But, Sir, that is not the case. The late Government obtained a pledge of evacuation of that territory, under conditions which were fulfilled about the time that Lord Salisbury came into office. The territory has remained occupied in spite of that, and the Under Secretary, who used to maintain the extreme value of this territory when he was in opposition, now suggests to the House that it is worthless, and that we should not concern ourselves about it at all. Now, Sit, I have always been an advocate of peace, but some of my honourable Friends on this side of the House think that strength of language is somewhat inconsistent with peace, and that is a matter on which we have often argued. But I believe, and I think that the great majority of Members in this House and the great majority of people in this country believe, that the use of perfectly firm, clear, and straight forward language in these 773 matters is the best mode of securing peace. You do not in the long run secure peace by vacillation of conduct and infirmity of language, of which we have had too much in recent years. I have not always praised the action in foreign affairs of Liberal Ministers, but as regards Siam, I venture to say that they did use strong language on one occasion, and that it was backed up by strong action, and that that strong language and strong action were effective. I was therefore amazed when the Under Secretary went out of his way to say—I was never more astonished than when I heard that the late Government, in respect of Siam, used very strong language to some other Power. This is the first time I have heard of it, and I confess that the very idea fills me with surprise. It did not prevent the French from occupying Chautabun.Well, it did prevent the French from occupying Bangkok. The language to which I refer was used by the then Under Secretary in this House, and the action of the then Government, backed up as it was by acts consistent with a firm policy, produced the necessary result, and maintained peace. That is a matter upon which the late Government deserves to be congratulated by the House. Now, Sir, I turn to a matter which, I venture to say, is in all minds at the present moment, and that is the latest development of Lord Salisbury's foreign policy, which has been before us not only in the last few weeks of the Session, but all through the Session, and especially within the last few days. Some of the most important declarations with reference to this matter, and some of the most interesting statements of fact were made only yesterday in reply to questions in this House. Now, Sir, as regards the matters discussed in the earlier portion of the present Session, I do not propose to speak; we have made our views clear to the. Government, and it is useless to repeat the arguments which were then addressed to the House, and which, I believe, met with the approval of the independent judgment of the House, especially in regard to the manner in which the occupation of Wei-hai-Wei took place, and with regard to what the noble Lord the Member for York called the shameful and 774 humiliating instance of weakness and vacillation in foreign policy, which resulted in the withdrawal of British ships from Port Arthur. I believe that the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in his speech the other night, pointed out with extreme power, and, I think, with unanswerable force, in the judgment of all who heard him, that that was the time when you might have seized the opportunity of coming to something like an arrangement with regard to the future of China. But I will not go back into the history of this question. When, however, the Attorney General spoke of the achievements of Lord Salisbury, not only in foreign affairs generally, but with regard to China in particular, he instanced, as the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has instanced, the enormous advantages which are supposed to be conferred by the opening of the West River, and the rivers generally. I shall not go back to this question to-day, because the honourable Baronet the Member for Northumberland dealt admirably with it in his speech the other night, and he showed that the benefits and the blessings which were held out to this House in the highly-coloured speech of the Under Secretary, had failed to flow from that policy. Sir, what is the latest development of this question? The Government have now sent instructions on two points. The first, which is the one on which I wish to mainly dwell, concerns British trade. Sir Claude MacDonald wasto press for the insertion in every concession granted by the Chinese Government of proper provisions for the equal treatment of all nations and trade.The other point, which is much less tangible, much more important, and much more risky, which is unlikely ever to have much practical effect—as I shall try to show—is that we are to support China against any act of aggression. Well, in my opinion, that act of aggression will not arise. Russia at the present moment is not in such a military position in North China as to risk war, and will not attempt any such act of aggression as would be certain to bring about war. She is probably as yet less strong in the Pacific than Japan, and far less so than we are. Moreover, the 775 United States would be greatly interested in certain acts of aggression, because their trade would be largely concerned. But there is another reason why no act of aggression is likely to arise. The Chinese capital in the north of China— Pekin—is very much exposed to Russia. The Chinese know what is likely to become of their interest in Manchuria, they know how near Russia is, and they know how much nearer she may be in five or six years' time, and it is certain that they are not going to expose themselves to the resentment of Russia by complaining to us that such an act of aggression has arisen. There is an open door in China at the present time, and that is Pekin, which Russia can have in a very few years. I do not, therefore, think that the second part of the instructions sent out will be useful. The first instruction is moderate and reasonable, and may possess—I believe it does possess—an incalculable importance to British trade. I want to see how far the Government are acting upon it. Yesterday it was elicited from the Government that that instruction was given in March. It has lately been renewed in a more definite form. Well, Sir, what is the development since March? At the end of June a Foreign Office Note appeared in Paris with regard to the Pekin-Hankau Railway. Lord Salisbury a few days ago in another place declared his belief that this concession had been given to a Belgian syndicate. It is true that a concession was given a year and a half ago to a weak Belgian syndicate, but, according to the French Foreign Office Note, it has now been replaced by a Franco-Belgian syndicate, acting through the Russo-Chinese Bank. The instructions to Sir Claude MacDonald having been given in March, what does the Foreign Office Note at the end of June say upon this subject? It says—Besides the important part reserved to French industry in the orders for materials to which those enterprises will give rise, French influence in China cannot fail to derive Happy results from this success obtained by our diplomacy at the moment when the railway question plays so important a part in the international relations of the Chinese Empire.That shows that the French Foreign Office takes a very different view from 776 that which Lord Salisbury expressed the other day in another place with regard to the political as well as the commercial importance of the opening of railways in the Chinese Empire. Now, Sir, it must be remembered that while Lord Salisbury has claimed credit in the country for the virtual acquisition, as a future sphere of British influence, of the Yang-tsze Valley, he has declared that we should respect the policy of the open door, and that equality of opportunity is to be given to everybody—that is to say, to Russia, Germany, and France—with no particular advantage to ourselves. But I have shown what is the new French policy since the date of the instructions. Now let us consider what is the German policy on this subject. The Under Secretary was asked last night by an honourable Member who sits on this side of the House a question with regard to the railway in the German sphere. If we find that France, and Russia, and Germany are closing the door, not only in what they seem to consider their spheres of influence, but also in the case of the Pekin-Hankau line, within our sphere, what follows? We are to open the door to everybody, and allow them to come into our sphere of influence, while they are adopting the policy, in some degree, at all events, of excluding us from theirs. That policy has been fully developed as regards railway material already, and I venture to suggest that people in this country must be very blind if they do not reason from what is being done with regard to the supply of railway materials to what will be done with other trade. It seems to me to be a policy of "Heads they win, and tails we lose." Now, Sir, what was the answer given yesterday on this point with regard to Germany? That, in the first instance, work and supplies should be offered to German industry and trade in connection with railways in their sphere of influence. The supply of rails to China is not merely an indication of the future policy of the Powers with regard to the concessions which they obtain, but it is an important matter in itself in view of the great value of our trade in steel rails. We know what the policy of Russia is in this matter. In the speeches which have lately been made 777 Russian statesmen have boasted that not a bolt or a nut used in the construction of the Siberian railway has been made out of Russia; and I am very doubtful indeed whether we shall prevent that policy being extended to Manchuria. Well, now, Sir, that is the admitted policy of the Russians, and they are proud of it, and claim it as a great merit. Then a further answer was given yesterday as to the terms of the concessions granted since March last, and that led the Under Secretary to declare a little brusquely and petulantly that he would say nothing in regard to the concessions granted since March last, on the ground that he had not seen them. The House will separate without knowing what will be the result of the instructions given in March. Surely all this reveals interference with the natural course of trade. There is a large trade involved, and if the door is really open that trade would be done, not by Russia, Germany, or France, but by ourselves, the United States, or Belgium, whence would come the supply of railway material. Here is the artificial interference on the part of these three great Powers; and as the policy of the Government has not been successful in preventing it in the past, I cannot think it will be other than less capable of preventing it in the future. Now, Sir, yesterday the Under Secretary was also pressed upon one other matter, which is perhaps the greatest of all, and that is with reference to the Niuchwang line. It is difficult for us to say much about it, as no information will be brought before the country until after Parliament has risen, and everything must be consequently said in the absence of information. I believe, however, we shall find that before Parliament meets again the door has been very distinctly closed against us, unless the trade interests of the United States lead that country into agreeing with England in any action that may be taken in the matter. On the whole, I cannot but fear that the situation will develop in a very short time into this state of things—that China will take her place by the side of Turkey and Persia as one of the chain of protected empires with which Russia is surrounded.
§ MR. DRAGE (Derby)
There is a Russian proverb much in use in my 778 student days at Moscow, "God is high, but the Tzar is far off." According to some, the stake for which we are playing in the far East is high, but Pekin is far off. I desire to show that the stake indeed is high, but that it will be fought for not only in Pekin, but in many other places all over the world. I hope to show, before I sit down, that we have to deal with a fixed policy decided on long ago, and that ample evidence can be found in the Russian laws and regulations to support the speeches recently delivered, and referred to by the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, by the Tzar and others; and before I sit down I shall quote the principal author of that policy. With regard to the immediate stake for which we are fighting, it has been said by the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that it is only in the East, and in the Far East especially, that we can hope to create and maintain open markets for British industry. The question that arises is, what is the total amount of British goods and British shipping at stake? The total value of British goods imported into China has been stated by the President of the Board of Trade to amount to £27,500,000; British ships carry 82 per cent, of the trade and pay 76 per cent, of the total Customs of China. In the Yang-tsze Valley, which has been marked out as our special sphere of interest, 64.8 per cent, of the shipping is British, 23 per cent. Chinese, and 12½per cent, falls to other Powers. No fewer than 1,690 British steamers of 2,252,000 tons are entered and cleared within a year. With regard to Hankow, which is menaced by one of the proposed railways, the Foreign Office Report states that it is the greatest distributing centre of the Empire, and 50 per cent, of its trade is British, while 1,109,000 tons out of 1,783,000 tons of British shipping entered and cleared from that port. With regard to the general attitude of Russia to the British trade, the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has stated in his book that every port, every town, every village, which passes into French or Russian hands is an outlet closed to Manchester, Bradford, or Bombay. But the state of affairs is 779 much worse than that. The duty on iron goods is from 25 to 30 per cent.; and the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has pointed out that iron goods will form no small proportion of the fresh trade with China. The policy of Russia in this regard can be elicited from the attempt recently made by the Russian Government to form a contract with a British firm for the establishment of a shipping yard on the Baltic, at which only Russian materials are to be used and only Russian workmen are to be employed. Evidence has been given by the right honourable Gentleman opposite that it is intended to carry out that policy with regard to the railways about to be constructed in China. Similar heavy duties have been imposed until recently on shipbuilding, but they have been remitted for 10 years, in order to enable the Russian mercantile marine to meet the large and ever-increasing demand now made on it. It is not only British goods and British materials that Russia seeks to' exclude. There has been much evidence recently in China of the struggle to exclude British capital, and evidence of a similar kind has been furnished by the replies of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of state for Foreign Affairs with regard to the action of the Russian Government in Persia. The House is aware that the Imperial Bank is the only British institution in Persia, and that it had almost concluded a loan with the Persian Government on the security of the Customs in the Persian Gulf. This was, however, prevented by representations made by the Russian Government, and although the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, in reply to a question, that the refusal was due to the fact that a larger amount of money had been offered by another Government, and that no threats had been used, I am informed, on the best authority, that it was entirely due to menaces used by the Russian Government that that negotiation fell through. A similar attitude has been shown in a remarkable manner to British shipping. A law has been passed, which comes into force in 1900, which shows the foresight of the Russian Government, and the hope that she entertains of one day ruling the 780 sea. Under that law, goods carried between Russian Ports, including Vladivo-stock in the Far East, must, after 1900, be carried solely in Russian ships. The only exception made is in respect of the carriage of salt between the Baltic and the Black Sea. Another law shows that it is intended to pursue the same policy with regard to British seamen. In 1900 a new law comes into force under which no British seamen can be employed in Russian ships. Further instances of similar action will be in the recollection of the House in the attempted exclusion of British engineers from Manchuria, and in the dismissal of the lighthouse-keepers from the Gulf of Liotichau, the only reason given in the last case being that they were under the employment of Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector-General of Customs. Much has been made in recent speeches of the conventions which have been entered into between Russia and China. There is a remarkable article in the Russo-Chinese Convention with regard to Port Arthur. It is the first article, and it runs—The sovereign rights of China shall not be infringed by the lease of Port Arthur and Talienwan.Nevertheless, Port Arthur has been declared a naval fortress of the second class, and Rear-Admiral Stark, the second-in-command of the Pacific Squadron, has been appointed its commandant. I asked a Question of the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs some weeks ago on this point, but no information had, up to that time, reached the Foreign Office on the subject—whether the right honourable Gentleman had heard what I am informed is an undoubted fact—namely, that Russian merchants in Odessa have been informed by the Russian Foreign Minister that Port Arthur is a Russian port, and that Russian goods will enter free of duties, to which British goods will be subject. Further, it is the fact that, in defiance of the above article. Chinese ships will only be allowed to enter under the command of Russian subjects and, if nothing more was necessary to enforce Russian possession, one may state that 12,000 Russian troops are in occupation of the town. One may well ask where is the open door, when 781 one recollects that a large proportion of the goods which will be imported through Port Arthur are precisely those iron rails and iron manufactures which are likely to play such an important part in the development of China. The above is a mere statement of facts and laws actually in existence. The House will be interested to know what is the policy which is governing those facts, and who is the responsible author of it. A remarkable statement has been made by Prince Uchtomsky. The House may ask who is Prince Uchtomsky. He is a person not much known in this country, but he is President of the Russo-Chinese Bank. He was the head of the last official Russian Commission in Pekin, and he accompanied Nicolas II. on his visit to China. He is further the editor of the St. Petersburg Viedomosti. He is therefore practically an official personage, whose utterances are well within the control of the Government of Russia, and it would be interesting to know whether, if his policy has been brought to the notice of Her Majesty s Government, any representations have been made by them to St. Petersburg on the subject. He has stated in the article which I quoted that the policy of Russia is: first, to absorb China, under the ægis of the present dynasty; secondly, to exclude British trade; and, thirdly, to form a Continental alliance with the object of crushing Great Britain. If that is the policy of Russia, and I have shown that there are facts outside Prince Uchtomsky's statement which go to prove it to be so, it is useless to hope to restrain Russia by spheres of influence, or any bonds which diplomacy can weave, especially when it is recollected that a Russian high official has said, "We shall conquer China by railways." There is one passage, however, which I should like to read to the House. It is one of the concluding passages in the article—The pith of the prince's ideas is the overthrow of England. The removal of English competition from the field is necessary to enable Russia to offer us (namely, Germany) a preferential position in China from a commercial point of view. So soon as England is eliminated from the rivalry of the nations in East Asia, it becomes quite a secondary question whether we should barter Shan-tung to Russia for a position in the Yang-tsze Valley.782 Whether this policy has the attractions for Germany which the Prince hoped or not it is hard to say, but one may remind the House that the results of the predominance hoped for Russian in China will be most serious for England in other parts of the Far East. A remarkable book has been written by Mr. W. A. Pickering, entitled, "Pioneering in Formosa." Mr. Pickering was Protector, of the Chinese in the Straits Settlement, and Sir Robert Hart has said of him that he has had unique opportunities of becoming acquainted with all classes and races of the Chinese. Mr. Pickering states—Unless England secures her proper share of the Celestial Empire, we shall not only lose the markets which are more and more absolutely essential for the very existence of the masses in the Three Kingdoms, but we shall be endangering the safety of our Colonies, of Hong-kong, the Straits Settlements, and also our possessions in Burmah and the Malay Peninsula. In these countries and islands, the backbone of the population, the sources of revenue and prosperity are the Chinese, of whom in the Straits, the Malay States, and Hong-kong, we have, at a moderate estimate, three-quarters of a million of adults, the majority of whom, leaving their families at home, are entirely at the mercy of the Powers which rule the Celestial Empire. Were England to neglect her duties, and allow the French and the Russians to be paramount in Pekin, I feel certain that in case of war, the Chinese of our Colonies could be so manipulated, either by promise of favour or by threats of punishment to their families in China, that we should find it difficult to keep down revolution within, and at the same time defend our coaling stations and most valuable Colonies from external attack.That is a sufficiently gloomy picture of the results in the Malay States. I need not dwell on the results of the establishment of the Russian naval power in the Pacific, at our Canadian and Australian Colonies. The right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his book, considers that the establishment of a Russian naval force at Port Lazareff would be most prejudicial to our interests in the Far East. How much more would he say so if he had had to deal with the establishment of Russia at Port Arthur? With regard to the effect of this policy on India, I am aware that it is no longer the fashion to speak of a Russian invasion of India as impossible. It is generally accepted, and 783 indeed Prince Uchtomsky considers that the Russians intend to advance to India in order to bring pressure to bear upon us elsewhere. Lord Roberts, in his remarkable speech in another place, has laid stress on the possibility of such an undertaking, and the necessity of coping with it. But the idea of the conquest of India has sunk far deeper into other heads than those of Russian diplomatists and Russian officers. I recollect, When I was a student at Moscow, asking some questions of the children in the schools, whose education is not generally supposed to be very advanced. It was true that they did not know, for the most part, where Australia or Canada were, but they had a distinct idea of British Hindustan. They could point it out on the map, and informed me that it was a country oppressed by the British, which it was the mission of Holy Russia to liberate. I have dealt already briefly with the question of Persia and the Persian loan. I may point out to the House, in passing, that the date of 1900, which we have already seen to have a remarkable effect on Russian foreign policy, occurs again in Persia. Persia has entered into a Treaty with Russia, by which she binds herself to make no railroads till the year 1900, but there is a, question in connection with Persia that I should like to address to Her Majesty's Government. The House is aware that there is an independent sect of Christians called the Nestorians in Persia. I am informed that they have made an appeal for protection to Her Majesty's Government, which has been refused. It would be curious to know on what ground that refusal has been made, if it has, indeed, been given. I need not dwell on the interests which we have opposed to Russia in Armenia and Abyssinia, but I may remark in passing that from a recent communication in the Russian newspapers, it appears that a large number of Armenian refugees at present in the Caucasus are about to be forcibly repatriated. It would be interesting to know whether they are to be armed, as I believe has been the case in former instances, with rifles obtained from Russia, and whether any sum of money will be given them for their maintenance when they cross the frontier. There is one other quarter in which our 784 interests again come into contact with those of Russia. It is in the north of Norway. The attention of the House has recently been called to the fortifications of the great naval arsenal at Ekaterina, and to the connection of Port Victoria, an ice-free port in Norway, with the Russian railway system. It is curious that here, too, under the original plans, works were to have been completed by the year 1900. Thus we have the laws mentioned coming into force in 1900; we have the project of the Siberian Railway, which was to have been completed in 1900; we have the Persian Railway programme suspended till 1900; and the Russian programme in the north of Europe to be finished on the Murman coast in the same year. It is needless to add that one of the official titles of the Tsar is "Heir of Norway"; in fact, if it had not been for the premature action of Germany in Shan-tung, Russian plans would have been laid without our being able to cope with them, and probably without our getting any adequate information with regard to them. In every district in the world the House will observe that we find ourselves face to face with a young nation, a strong nation, a nation that knows its own mind, and has a definite policy, which it intends to carry out. As against that nation there are the guarantees that this country has given as to the integrity of China by the vote of the House of Commons; the integrity of Turkey in Asia by the Berlin Treaty; and the integrity of Norway by the Treaty of 1855. There are interests in India, Abyssinia, and Persia. The struggle, as I have shown, will be not only religious and political, it will also be economic. Russian diplomatic methods, I venture to suggest, can only be met by drawing the line and defining what will be the casus belli. Russia is not now ready to fight, thanks to the premature action of Germany; but she soon will be. Those who criticise the Government are often met with the reply that they suggest no alternative policy. The policy which I venture to put forward is the effective occupation of our sphere in the Yang-tsze Valley, on the same methods that the Russian Government have employed in Manchuria. I would further suggest that in carrying this out we may make use of the local govern- 785 ments, and act, as we have acted in Egypt, under the suzerainty of the Sultan. Further, I believe we should maintain the open water ways, that are already open, and patrol them with gunboats, as we already patrol a portion of the Gulf. Railways, both for strategic and for commercial purposes, should be formed by the Government. The honourable Member for Northumberland has stated his belief that capitalists would come forward if they had confidence in the Government. Whether capitalists come forward or not, it seems to be of the highest importance that such railways should be made. Further, one may suggest that the Government should organise a Chinese Army and Navy in the districts within our sphere of influence. The organisation of the Navy has been stated by the Duke of Devonshire, in another place, to be part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and with regard to the organisation of the Chinese Army, there is a remarkable State Paper by General Gordon which the Government doubtless has had before them. But above all it is necessary for the Government, once and for all, to put their foot down, to recognise facts, and to define the issues on which they propose to meet the advancing power of Russia. Lastly, I would say that it appears that in Asia again the empire of the world is at stake, and will have to be fought for in the twentieth century, which seems to be likely to be a century of struggle. One hundred years ago Napoleon I. said that in his belief Europe, within a century, would be either Cossack or Tartar. He did not contemplate the possibility of a Chinese army, led by Russian officers, overrunning Europe. Such a possibility, however, is within the contemplation, at any rate, of some Russian thinkers. I do not believe that such a plan, if it is attempted, would succeed. I am not a Russo-phobe; I know Russia too well. I believe that the battle which England has to fight on behalf of religious, economic, and political liberty, will not be fought in vain, and if I may conclude by some eloquent words from the book of the right honourable Gentleman the 786 Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—We are, and have it in our power to remain, the first Power in the East.Pray God our greatness may not fail Through craven fear of being great.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
If I might render one service to the Government it is to make it clear that in this Chinese crisis the Government has acted with the practically unanimous support of the English Parliament. It is noticeable that from the begining of the crisis not a single word has been uttered by the Opposition that could in any way hamper the policy of the Government. They have never shown either that they are indifferent to the Treaty rights of England or that they are of great importance; whatever the leaders of the Opposition may have thought of the warlike declarations of the Members of the Government, they have very carefully framed their own speeches so as not in any way to detract from the force of these declarations. I have no doubt that the same patriotic course will be followed, but what has happened does not seem enough to have convinced foreign nations of the seriousness of any threat uttered by Her Majesty's Ministers. During the last five or six days we have had an opportunity of seeing how foreign nations have received those declarations. The result is not flattering to our self-esteem. I suppose there is no country in the world where less regard is paid to the opinion of foreign newspapers than in England. The views of foreign pressmen in regard to this crisis are shared by foreign statesmen. Certainly they are the views which Russia and France and Germany have acted upon with striking success. In face of the retreats and surrenders of the present Ministry I fear we shall have to go to war before anyone will believe that the Government means business. That seems to be the greatest danger of the existing situation. We have made many threats, but they appear to have made little impression upon those to whom they were addressed. They appear, also, to have made little impression upon those who uttered them. At the beginning of the 787 year the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that the open door to China would be maintained even at the risk of war. [Cries of "Cost."] Whether it is risk or cost, it is a very serious word uttered by such a Minister. Then after that statement; we had a declaration from the Under Secretary of State not less precise and not less ominous. The First Lord of the Treasury endorsed the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. About a fortnight later there was an opportunity of putting that heroic statement into practice. A request came from China to enter into friendly negotiation with us to protect her against foreign pressure. How was that request received? The First Lord of the Treasury said it was tantamount to a request that we should guarantee the territory of China. The right honourable Gentleman said that Her Majesty's Government would not guarantee that protection, and the result was that we left China exposed to any foreign pressure that might be put upon her and left our Treaty rights naked and defenceless to the first comer. The right honourable Gentleman made a threat of war, and we receded from it a fortnight after it was made. The Colonial Secretary has told us that it is hopeless to talk of maintaining the policy of the open door in China while we are isolated; that, in other words, we cannot fight for our policy in China without the assistance of military allies. I would ask the Government, where is our military ally? We have not got one, and I would go further and say we do not need one. Perhaps the Colonial Secretary forgot that England is in Asia a great military, as well as a great naval, Power, and that in India we have 300,000,000 of subjects, comprising among them some of the finest fighting races in the world. A statement so damaging to our prestige as that of the Colonial Secretary is one that we ought to have either withdrawn or qualified. It is a dangerous and unmerited slur upon the resources of the country, and yet it remains uncontradicted. I hope the House will receive a plain statement of policy from the First Lord of the Treasury as to whether we do, or do not, pretend to have a sphere of influence in China. If we have, is it consistent with 788 any sphere of interest we might claim to possess that rights preferential against ourselves should be given to foreign Governments which may be used detrimentally to our trade? The First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a former occasion asked, "Where is the open door closed?" I must say that it is astonishing that what has happened in China should have happened, and yet these two distinguished Ministers should not be aware that over a great province in China we have no longer any right whatever to share in the industrial development of that province except by permission of a foreign Power not in the least degree likely to give that permission. The Treaty of Tien-tsin gave us all the privileges, advantages, and immunities that may hereafter be granted to the Government or the subjects of any other Power. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury went on to argue as to the objection to Germany, and to the introduction of foreign, capital, and he defined what was our sphere of interest. Well, now, I ask, does he stand by that statement? Because, in order to illustrate what he meant by this sphere of interest, he gave this very illustration of the making of the railway. First of all, we must remember that there are two railways projected into our sphere from the north. One of these railways formerly ran through the German sphere of interest; then it was carried further west, the original line having become worn out probably, and it came nearer to the Pekin and Hankau Railway, which was within our sphere of interest, and the French Government now object on the same ground, saying—You must not construct a railway down the Yang-tsze Valley, which is so near our sphere of interest. I do not wish for one moment that you should suppose we are objecting to foreign capital; I rather gather that that was the objection entertained sometime ago by the Government; but what I do object to is foreign Governments controlling railways under powers which may be detrimental to our trade. I object to our having railways under such conditions as these. What are the conditions on which these railways are penetrating our sphere of influence? I beg the attention of the House to this 789 subject, because I say, with great respect, that there are many Members who have not sufficiently noticed the point. The demand made by France, for instance, for a railway from the south, approaching very near to the Yang-tsze Valley, to which it would probably be extended, was made in the terms upon which the Russian Government were to construct the Manchurian Railway. The terms of the Manchurian Railway were that goods travelling over the line should pay lesser customs duty, and the valuable right was conceded to have a fixed duty, to represent all internal transit duties. The great question in China is the internal transit duties, which keep China practically a closed market. Thus Russia, in respect to this railway, secured a little imperium in imperio, and, by conditions analogous to these, applied to railways running into our sphere of interest, the only avenues by which commerce could approach the Yang-tsze Valley would, in commercial substance, if not in diplomatic form, be closed against us. That is the point to consider. We have to look at the substance of what we have got to fear in the Yang-tsze Valley in regard to the railway privileges which are granted against us. But see how the Government have utterly and hopelessly ignored that great difficulty in this problem. When speech after speech is made, treating diplomatic phrases, fantasies, and shadows as real things, the substantial thing to consider is whether these preferential rights and privileges will be detrimental to British trade. This the Foreign Office have overlooked, and it is, I think, one of the most melancholy instances of their incompetence that we have heard of in dealing with these Chinese matters. The First Lord of the Treasury gets up in his place and points out that the fundamental thing to remember is our sphere of interest, and that there are no preferential rights against us in respect of the railway. The Under Secretary, sitting near, hears the observation. By and by there arises the question, what is our sphere of interest to be? It becomes the duty of the Foreign Office, first, to delimit that sphere of interest, and, secondly, to ascertain what that sphere of interest is. Obviously, the whole object of having a sphere of interest is to be secured against preferential rights. But when the dis- 790 path appeared it was seen that it was confined to declarations against alienation of territory. That is not what Sir Claude MacDonald referred to. Our object was to prevent special privileges operating against us. Any lawyer or man of business would have had that in his mind. But what happens? There is the dispatch, written by Sir Claude MacDonald. It comes through the Post Office to the Foreign Office. When it gets there the statesman who read the dispatch, instead of noting the omission of this one thing needful—that there was not a word of exclusion of preferential rates against us—all he did was to discover some grammatical obscurity in one of the sentences, and he proceeds to denounce this grammatical obscurity in language which, in itself, is about as ungrammatical as it well can be. Yet that is the way in which the Foreign Office, at a great crisis in our present Parliamentary life, and a great crisis in British trade, behaved. Here is the question of delimiting our sphere of interest, and it never strikes a single member of the Ministry that words should be inserted in that dispatch to meet the object we all have in view—the maintenance of the "open door." Well, now, Sir, this is only one illustration among many of the extraordinary way in which the Government has forgotten or overlooked the central Imperial point. Take another illustration of my argument—the well-known case of Talienwan. When Russia sent telegrams that Talienwan would be open, like other ports on the Chinese mainland, again, there should have been a definition of the phrase, and an explanation whether there would have been a tariff. Any ordinary business man would have ascertained what that tariff was to be. Such a question of that kind cannot, however, have even touched the mind of any Minister. They seem to have treated it in the same way as Voltaire treated the bookseller's warning when he feared that a certain passage in the book would be treated as seditious. Voltaire said, "Oh, that is much too important to be noticed!" The Government seem to have adopted the same view. Whenever an important point arises on these questions, it is curious to observe that the First Lord of the Treasury in this House and 791 the Prime Minister elsewhere give totally different versions of the case. For a whole fortnight, or very nearly, that dispatch lay in the Foreign Office before the opening of Parliament, while all England wanted to know its contents. There is no doubt there was some truth in the right honourable Gentleman's description that the condition of things was something approaching to a panic in the public mind. The Prime Minister and the Under Secretary of State for War, or the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, never seem to have met together for five minutes to ascertain the meaning of that dispatch concerning Talienwan. Five minutes would have settled it. They might have been all wrong; but they would at least have had the satisfaction of all making the same mistake. Well, not only did they succeed in being all wrong, but wrong all along the line. There was certainly a want of intelligence displayed in regard to the matter. I certainly am not one to be impressed by any airs of superiority either in opinion or judgment on the part of the Foreign Office, if we are to judge it by conduct such as this. Now, what is the condition of things to which the Government must apply itself? A few months ago, as I pointed out to the right honourable Gentleman, the Government refused to give a promise of protection to China in respect to a loan, which would have been of enormous benefit to England, which would have opened two of the greatest ports in China in the centre of the Yiang-tsze Valley. Another advantage we should have enjoyed would have been the settlement, once for all, of the question of the internal transit dues. Those were the advantages we were to get for that loan, yet we withheld a promise of protection. Why? Because it wais said it might involve hostile action. But now, we are giving a promise of protection in respect to something that will be of less advantage to us—a promise quite as serious and as likely to land us in a great war, and not even for an advantage within our own sphere of influence, but one which comes within the Russian sphere. So, having refused to give a promise of protection of English trade interests within a sphere which the Government have stated to be specifically our own, they now extend a promise of 792 protection, with all its consequences, to a sphere of interest outside our own. That is why I say the question is put with a desire for information—Are we pretending only to have a sphere of interest? We ought to know that specifically. Well, Sir, I might go on and on; but I have expressed my views sufficiently. We, on this side of the House, at all events, are entirely of one opinion on this matter. I think it is our duty in relation to our constituents and the country's interest to make these criticisms of a Government which has claimed so much for its foreign policy. In these days, at all events, we should steer clear of provocative demands about Wei-hai-Wei, and, above all, of insults in regard to "long spoons," without which the Government might very well manage to maintain both the honour and the treaty rights of England in all parts of the world.
§ MR. GRETTON (Derbyshire)
I wish, Sir, at the outset, to dissociate myself from some of the remarks which have fallen from the honourable Member who has just spoken. I cannot follow him in many of the points which he has raised. They are matters of past history which, whether right or wrong, cannot be redeemed. It seems to me that we ought rather to deal with this really important question on the events which now lie before us in relation to foreign policy. I should like to express my entire agreement with the remarks of the right honourable Baronet who opened this Debate. I mean that it is generally agreed among those who are competent to form an opinion that there is no immediate danger of war in the Far East, and that those Powers who might intervene in that part of the world with armed force are not at present in a position to do so advantageously to themselves. The position seems to me to be rather a struggle for commercial advantages, and a struggle to maintain any commercial advantages they have. I believe we all, without the slightest difference of opinion, approve in the abstract of the policy of the open door. There is considerable doubt how far that policy can now be carried into effect. Now we have, to a very great extent, lost that open door in Northern China, 793 and which we hoped at one time, by agreement with Russia, to maintain, and which they seemed anxious to see established. Well, Sir, it seems to me that the position to which we are now driven is that of a commercial struggle, and undoubtedly the key to that struggle is the making of railways. There is one point in the making of railways by foreign Powers in the Yang-tsze Valley which has not yet been touched upon. Those railways will no doubt be made along such routes as may seem most desirable, and they will not be made with any special regard to our exclusive interests. That is a serious objection, no doubt. But what we want, and what we must have, is strategic protection; and there are such things as strategic railways, as well as commercial railways. No one in this House will have any right to object to the making of such railways; but as regards our own position, the Government are prepared to support British capitalists in their endeavours to obtain concessions, but they will not guarantee their protection to those concessions. That seems to be a very serious defect indeed in the policy of railway construction in China. Foreign Powers in the whole scope of their diplomacy refer to the great strength that is to be obtained by commercial interests where the Government give a guarantee to their subjects launched in commercial enterprises in China. From the experience I have gained myself, I cannot conceive for one moment how it would be possible for English capitalists to compete with foreign capitalists guaranteed by foreign Powers. That is undoubtedly a growing grievance. We are now a nation alive to the fact that foreign trade is the very life of the Empire; and, a determined attempt is being made by foreign Powers to encroach upon our trade. The attitude of the Government in relation to this is causing much uneasiness. China, one of the greatest markets of the world, is being competed for on all hands; therefore I welcome any indication of increasing firmness, which, I understand, is being manifested in some fashion by the Government. I trust, as a supporter of the Government, that they will maintain this attitude far more firmly henceforth than they have done in the past few months in regard to our 794 interests in the East. By so doing they will avert the risk of war and earn the gratitude of the nation at large.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
Not only is there a large following on that side of the House who are against the Government's recent foreign policy, but I have noticed with peculiar interest the hostile view taken on that side of the House of the Government's conduct; in fact, only a week or two ago we had an independent Member of the Unionist Party writing a letter to the West of England in which he praised up Lord Salisbury's policy to the utter-most—that was the right honourable Member for Bodmin; but although that letter appeared in all the newspapers there it did not prevent the return by a decisive majority of an opponent of Lord Salisbury's policy in the election at Launceston. That shows that we feel a keen anxiety on these matters in the west of England, and we desire to have some explanation of the policy which is being pursued by Her Majesty's Government. What I complain of greatly is that the statements of Ministers are very misleading. It is impossible to gather from them what is the real situation. It is only recently that Lord Salisbury said that we had Russian assurance to the effect that in China we had a certain free port. Well, Sir, that was a fiction that was immediately exploded directly the China papers appeared. Then the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on April 6th last, said thatterritories of the provinces adjoining the Yang-tsze Valley shall hot be mortgaged, leased, or ceded to any foreign Power.But when we come to the real text of the matter we find, it has no substance. Ministers have trumpeted forth assurances which have been given them by the Tsung-li-Yamen, assurances which, as the Times said, were so illusory, and evasive that no business man would invest a single sovereign on the strength of them. Twelve months ago China would have given precisely the same assurance in regard to Port Arthur, and that is now in the possession of Russia. I complain that these statements are not borne out by facts. Again, on March 2nd, 795 the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said—From the middle of the ensuing summer we shall be able to take British merchandise in British ships to every riverside town and station in the whole of the interior of China.Again, Nanning is not open to British commerce, and no doubt that is owing to French opposition, despite the declaration of the Foreign Secretary. And I say that we should not have these statements made when they turn out to be worth nothing at all. In the province of Shan-tung, according to an answer given by the Under Secretary yesterday, the German Government claimed preferential rights for German goods. Von Bulow said rights must be given first to German industry and to German trade. What is the use of the Government talking of the "equal rights" and "free competition" in Shan-tung when the first chance is to be given to German traders and German goods? This is the sort of fiction which is exploded immediately on the receipt of the dispatches. I ask whether we have the same rights in the Yang-tsze Valley as the Germans claim in Shan-tung. Have we got the same mining and railway privileges there? What sort of open door is it? Is it the sort of open door of which we had an example in Madagascar, where British goods were penalised to the extent of 2s. in the £ for import duty? If preferential rates are imposed in the way I have pointed out it must inevitably follow that it will hamper British commerce and British trade. Now, Sir, there is the question about equal rates; I should have thought that if the Government attached so much importance to this matter in the country, they would have sent a telegram to Sir Claude MacDonald asking him whether these assurances, with reference to equal railway rates, were inserted in the concessions given to other persons, to build railways in China. I contend that if the late Government had perpetrated half the blunders that this Government has we should have had the platforms all over the country ringing with denunciation. The honourable Member for Sheffield has said that this House has passed a resolution to the effect that the policy of this country was to maintain the integrity 796 of the Chinese Empire, but if the same policy as has been pursued by the present Government had been pursued by the late Ministry we should have heard nothing but attempts to humiliate them. Now, Sir, the question which was asked yesterday about the railway to Niu-chwang is a question that has been on the stocks for more than two months. What we want to know is whether British capital shall be allowed to build and exploit railways in China. We cannot get an answer. The Under Secretary of State said yesterday that he would not be able to give an answer until after Parliament was prorogued. I think we ought to have some more definite assurance than this. Parliament will be prorogued for six months. The whole of the affairs in China will be in the hands of Her Majesty's Government in the meantime, and of course Her Majesty's Government will therefore be free from questions. But I say that were it not for the questions that have been asked in this House I think a greater sacrifice of British interests would have been made than those which have already been made. Russia will build her railways for Manchuria. She has 20,000 troops there already, and now she has given over concessions to China. Russia will, therefore, have a predominant interest, and she will be able to exclude British goods. We know that that is the case in Germany, and in the south of China, precisely the same thing is going on. Her Majesty's Government have made a, very great show with reference to the possessions they have acquired, but what we want to know is whether Her Majesty's Government are going to be firm, and whether they intend to uphold those rights which Lord Salisbury has told the country they will uphold. Sir, the honourable Member for Berwick has stated that it was necessary that this country should come to an understanding with Russia as regards Chinese matters—that both countries will have to meet in China, and that it is better to meet as good friends than as enemies. Sir, I do not think that that good understanding will be brought about between Russia and this country by such speeches as that made by the Colonial Secretary at Birmingham two months ago, when he hurled an insult at Russia. Then, again, we have had a direct menace 797 thrown at Russia by the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty the other day, who said that, in consequence of the action of Russia, we were going to build more warships. I do not object to having our Navy strong, but we do not want to maintain a Navy in order that the right honourable Gentleman may hurl insults at foreign Powers. I recollect—it was not so long ago—that the same right honourable Gentleman, the Member for Birmingham, in a speech, jeered at Russia, and told her that she was hardly fit to be in company with respectable people. The same right honourable Gentleman stated the other day that what he wanted was better relations with Germany and with Russia. How are we going to get better relations if right honourable Gentlemen make use of such statements? I do not wish to say a word that would lead to war—at any rate, I hope I will not give my support, humble though it be to a policy that might lead to war. If the Government go on and allow themselves to be squeezed and squeezed again in China, I think they will be taking a course that will lead to war, because the people of this country will not allow their "plain rights" to be overridden. I do trust that Her Majesty's Government will vindicate the rights of this country with more firmness in the future than they have done in the past, because in the past they have only succeeded in irritating everyone and gaining nothing for themselves.
After the usual adjournment,
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
Sir, I remark that the right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean declared that he never knew a policy so severely criticised both in the House of Commons and in the country as the present policy of Her Majesty's Government with respect to China I do not think that is quite true, because I think that if all the Members in the House of Commons chose to speak, I doubt that you would find that severe criticism of the policy of Her Majesty's Government which a small body of Members on this side have indulged in. To my mind, so far as the country is concerned, the present has undoubtedly criticised the action of the Government, 798 but in the present Eastern Question, as in the South African policy of a year or two ago, the Press is trying much more to make public opinion than to reflect it, but so far as my own observation goes the policy at present pursued by Her Majesty's Government is not strongly criticised by individuals in the country. Now, I desire to say that I have been throughout, and am now, a strong supporter of the policy pursued by the Government from the early part of January, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his now celebrated speech, down to the present time. One of the main features, perhaps the most salient feature, of the policy of the Government which has been attacked by their critics is the fact that they did not agree with Russia before the occupation of Port Arthur and Talienwan as to what spheres should be respectively occupied by the different countries. To my mind, such a policy would have been bad and wrong. It would mean that this country was to say to Russia—You, who are the opponent of China, and we, who are the friends of China, shall go behind the back of China, and say what parts of that country we shall respectively take.That seems to me to be something closely approaching to an immoral proposal, and not very far removed from those partition treaties which stink in the pages of history. Such a policy is by no means so sound a one as that pursued ultimately by the Government. It seems to me that if the Government were to take that advice and go in for a policy of spheres of interest, they would be abandoning a position in which they stand upon firm and solid ground for one of quick sands, which may easily land them in difficulties. They have a policy now which attracts to it the sympathies of the great commercial nations of the world. That policy is one of equal opportunities for all throughout China so far as this country is concerned. It would be inconsistent with that policy, it would be impossible to harmonise with that policy, a policy of spheres of interest from which we, like others, are to exclude the other nations in commercial rivalry. The moment you abandon the policy now being pursued, do you not see you will do away with the sympathy which is sure to be attracted by coun- 799 tries like America, Germany, and other commercial countries? I want to know in what degree has the policy of the Government been unsuccessful? Where is the open door closed? Critics of the Government might say where they thought it was going to be closed, but I ask them where is it closed at present? Is it closed anywhere? I will make but one criticism on the whole policy, and that is that I think it would have been wise if a somewhat stronger line had been taken up in regard to the action of Germany in Shan-tung. Apart from that, I can see nowhere, look where I will, where it can be fairly said that the policy initiated in January has been in any way even prejudiced. It is folly to say that in order to avoid concessions to make railways being given to Russia or to France we must almost come to loggerheads with these countries or with China. The time when we had firm ground for resisting, by the whole strength of the Empire, aggressions of that sort was when the Treaty of Tientsin was violated. I altogether deny that we have the right, or that we ought to engage in warlike operations with China in order to force her to give us concessions which, for some reason or other, she prefers to give to someone else. I do not think the question is capable of argument, because we do not know the conditions that will arise in China as soon as the pressure of the great population of that country disturbs the present balance. I do not believe that the power of Russia is such as to enable her in five or six years' time to do anything which should give rise to those extraordinary feelings of nervousness existing in the minds of honourable Members and in the columns of the daily Press. I repeat that the occupation of Wei-hai-Wei is a complete answer to the occupation of Port Arthur, and anyone who looks at the map and studies the geographical position of that port will see that it can be fortified with very little trouble or expense. It is a mistake to suppose that Wei-hai-Wei can only be made useful by the expenditure of vast sums of money. It is larger than Port Arthur, and can be easily defended. It is ridiculous to say that the occupation of Port Arthur gives a command over Pekin and the Gulf of Pechili, which is not 800 counter balanced by the occupation of Wei-hai-Wei. We have no place in the North Pacific which, will answer to the position of a secondary coaling station, and in this sense Wei-hai-Wei will be a very valuable acquisition. But is or is it not true that the occupation of Port Arthur is a danger to our interests in the North Pacific, apart from the question of dominion in China? My opinion is that when once we lose the exclusive possession of ports in the Far East, as we have done in the course of the last 30 or 40 years, especially in the last 10 years, then the intrusion of another Power, so far from being a disadvantage and danger, is more likely to prove a positive advantage to us and a benefit in time of war. I put this forward as my view, and I assert it has been confirmed by the experience of the past. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not be driven from the firm ground on which they are now standing by any of the nervousness or fear which has been expressed this afternoon.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
I venture to say that the speech of the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down is worthy the attention of the House, and may form a useful corrective to the warlike speeches which have proceeded from other honourable Members on both sides of the House. Probably the more pacific attitude of the honourable and gallant Member is due to the fact that he has had more experience of the actual operations of war than the other honourable Members have. We have been told in the course of this Debate, that we should occupy the Yang-tsze Valley, which is the best port of China, and is therefore looked upon as the natural and legitimate heritage of the English. The honourable Member who advocated that policy said that England is a great military power in Asia, but many among the millions of the people of India are no more capable even of military training and no more fit to be made soldiers than the women of other countries. It is only owing to that fact that England has maintained her rule in India so long. It is impossible to look to India as a source of strength in an aggressive policy in China. Where, then, are you to get the men to carry out these aggres- 801 sive exploits? Not from the commercial classes of this country, who are now clamouring for a Jingo policy, because the one thing the commercial classes of this country avoid is military service. They do not supply many officers to the Army, they never enlist, and they look upon it as a disgrace if anybody connected with them does enlist.
§ Mr. VESEY KNOX
How many of the middle classes are private soldiers in the British Army? An infinitesimal section. If you want to advocate an aggressive British policy you ought to begin by making the same sacrifice that is made by all classes on the Continent, and adopt compulsory military service.
§ Mr. VESEY KNOX
At the beginning of this century you had in Ireland and in the north of Scotland a population with military instincts, but you cleared them out, and they have gone to America; but I trust statesmen may find a better use for them, and having cleared out this spontaneous military element, how are you going to advocate an expansion of your already great Empire without making that sacrifice which is made by Continental countries? As against military powers, England has, for an aggressive policy, practically speaking, no army, and a policy which can only be carried out successfully under a system of compulsory military service is not likely to be popular when that fact is realised. Commercial people will not view with favour an aggressive policy when it comes to sending their sons to stew in malarial countries. What has occurred to warrant these proposed aggressive exploits in the Yang-tsze Valley? It is assumed that the contract for the Pekin-Hankau Railway will be given to Russia. I have seen the original contract, and the railway is to be promoted by the Chinese Government. The contract was made between the Chinese Railway Department on the one hand, and the concessionaires on the other, and the railway will be built by contractors, and managed by the Chinese Railway Department, I am told 802 that the only material difference that has been made in the original contract with the syndicate is that prices are to be fixed by agreement between the Chinese Railway Department and the diplomatic representative of France. That seems rather a new duty for diplomacy, but I have no doubt it means that arrangements will be made to import materials from European countries where there is compulsory military service. If the French Government exert their influence, and use their military strength and military alliances, to see that the products of their industries shall be favoured, England cannot complain, because we have not the military strength to put against France, although we could if we paid for it, and made the same sacrifices. There is nothing strange in Russia's refusal to allow British vessels to join her in her coasting trade, for it is in accordance with the policy of most countries in the world, including the United States, which exclude British vessels from their coasting trade. On the whole, when you consider that England has no Army to speak of, and that it is a physical impossibility for us to take the Yang-tsze Valley, or any other indefensible part of the world, the Government, on the whole, has done fairly well. If it is said that the Government ought to be displaced by another Government, I ask, what is to be the policy of that other Government? If the policy is to be the occupation of the Yang-tsze Valley, I hope that the flower of the English nation are not going to be compulsorily sent there. We have been told that the Government have done nothing, and that Russia has done a great deal; but I do not know that Russia has made more advances than we can expect. As for the forecast of the future that has fallen from the honourable Member for Derby, I differ from it, and I say that, in all probability, Russia will take the greater part of China, and you cannot stop her.
§ SIR T. SUTHERLAND (Greenock)
As one of the few Members of this House who have lived in China, and been connected as a business man with that interesting country for the greater part, of my life, I claim to represent the views of those who have commer- 803 cial interests in that part of the world. I consider that the situation in which we find ourselves placed is one of singular gravity. There can be no doubt about it. Many of the discussions which have taken place have put obstacles in the way of the Government, but, at any rate, I think these discussions will be the means of showing to foreign Powers that the Government are well supported by public opinion in this country in every effort which they may make to prevent the pre-eminence of this country in connection with commercial enterprise in China from being defeated or endangered. Well, Sir, speaking as a business man, I am not disposed re take anything approaching a pessimistic view of the situation in which we find ourselves. I think it is only fair to the Government that we who are engaged in commerce in China should give them credit for what they have already done in spite of obstacles of no ordinary character. Whatever we have lately gained—and the gain has been considerable—has been gained in the teeth, as I have said, of obstacles of no ordinary character. For myself I attach very great importance, for example, to such operations as those which have opened up the great West River to the navigation and commerce of this country. I consider it a matter of the greatest possible importance that we have been able to secure the navigation of the inland waters of China, for this will, I am sure, be fraught with the greatest possible advantage hereafter. I also look upon it as an enormous boon that we have been able to> extend the colony of Hong-kong to so great an extent, and I am quite sure that, in the course of a few years there will be established there one of the greatest manufacturing centres in the world. These are matters for which it appears to me the Government and Her Majesty's Minister at Pekin are entitled to the greatest possible credit. There are other directions in which I think something has been done to uphold our influence in the Far East. I refer, for example, to the influence which we have undoubtedly exercised in the settlement of the affairs of Korea—a country which will be of greater importance in the future, commercially, than we imagine at the present moment 804 —and in securing that the Inspector General of Customs and the Minister of Foreign Commerce in China will always be a British subject. These are matters of great moment, which are highly appreciated, as they deserve to be, by those who are engaged in business in that country. If I pass from the commercial to the political side of this question I make bold to say that I consider the Government did the very best thing they could do in taking possession of Wei-hai-Wei. After the Russians had taken Port Arthur it would have been impossible, in my opinion, for the British Minister to hold up his head in Pekin if we had not taken some counter balancing step. I regret to say I think that with a little more determination and energy on the part of the Government we might have prevented the Russians from taking Port Arthur; but whether I am right or not as to that I do feel, as I have said, that it would have been impossible for the British Minister to maintain his position at Pekin but for the step that has been taken in the acquisition of Wei-hai-Wei. There is no doubt whatever—and I agree with much that has been said upon the subject—as to the great progress which Russian diplomacy has made in China of late years, and I attribute that to the fact that we have been very much behind the age and have not been able to discern the signs of the times sufficiently early. The fact is that this country has not been adequately represented at Pekin since the lamented death of Sir Harry Parkes. We had in him a Minister who knew every move in the game, but since his death we have, in my opinion, and in the opinion of everyone who has lived in China and has business in China, been practically unrepresented. I do not, of course, speak of the present Minister, who appears to have acted admirably, but he went to China, completely ignorant of the whole scope and range of affairs in that country, and naturally looked to the Foreign Office for inspiration as to his course of action and the only idea the Foreign Office seemed to have was that, as we were prepared to stand aside, every other country would be likely to follow our example. I could, if it were necessary, 805 dwell upon the shortcomings of our Foreign Office in connection with the point to which I am now alluding, but I will only refer to one of them, which will show anyone who has a knowledge of this matter how inadequate the acquaintance of the Foreign Office is with the necessities of the case as they were presented in China. I refer to the extraordinary dual appointment which was made when the Consul-Generalship in Shanghai was combined with the position of Judge of the Supreme Court. I do not know by what Government this extraordinary appointment was contrived or made, but I do know that it was only after great pressure on the part of those in China that it was put an end to. This appointment was a clear indication that the Foreign Office absolutely failed at that time to realise the necessity which pressed upon us of seeing that the great commercial interests of this country were not neglected in China. I believe the possession of Wei-hai-Wei will enable this country to ward off the disintegration of the Empire of China. The situation is undoubtedly a grave one. It is impossible for a private Member of this House, to do more than indicate the lines en which the Government should proceed in protecting the interests of this country. I do hold, however, that there are two distinct lines of policy which ought to be diligently pursued—the one aiming at the integrity of the Yang-tsze Valley and the other aiming at the integrity of the hinterland of Hong-kong and the great province of Kwang-tung. Looking at the matter in the most moderate light I think there can be no doubt that the so-called Belgian railway concession is something like a slap in the face for Great Britain. I do not believe for a single moment that any Belgian syndicate is going to raise five or 10 millions to construct a railway from Pekin to Hankau, and I have the best reason to know, or, at all events, to believe, that the scheme is a purely Russian and French scheme. I doubt very much if it were allowed to go on without any intervention or guarantee on our part whether foreign capital would be likely to be spent in China to the extent which would be the case if there was a guarantee from this country. I 806 feel perfectly certain that the same amount of money would not be circulated. We have only to repeat the policy of 40 years ago and blockade her rivers and ports, and China will do whatever we desire. But if we were to pursue a policy of that kind we should be cutting off our nose to spite our face, for the sacrifice of our trade and our interests would be far greater than that which would have to be made by any other country. What I think the Government have to do in this matter and in all these matters connected with China is not so much to put pressure on poor, unfortunate China as to speak plainly and courageously to foreign Powers. It is not only our interest, but the interest of Europe in general, that China should be protected from disintegration. If a conflict should arise over the breakup of China a war will be entered upon which in all probability this generation will not see the end of. The struggle would be gigantic; but if we take a decided line and use that decided language in regard to the integrity of China which we ought to use, the situation can be, and will be, saved. Sir, I hope the Government will feel, as I believe they ought to feel, that in this matter they have this House and the country at their back in a policy of not only preserving our interests, but the integrity of China. I believe that, if the Government have the courage to act, the political danger which now menaces China will be averted. While I take that view with regard to the political position in China, I by no means take a pessimistic view with regard to the commercial position, whatever might happen, for I believe the same enterprise Which has given predominance to our trade in every treaty port in China will be maintained and carried out, whatever the future of China may be.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I think no one will deny that the day has been well spent in a most interesting and instructive Debate on a question in which both sides of the House and the whole of the country are equally interested. I entirely agree with the honourable Member who has just sat down, who has addressed the House with so much knowledge of the subject, and 807 has cast so much light upon it, that there is every desire in both parties of the State to give the Government support in dealing with this great question. Sir, I think that upon this side of the House we have a right to claim that we have not throughout the whole of the last nine months embarrassed the action of Her Majesty's Government. We have always been ready and willing to assist them in any policy which appeared to be directed to the objects which we all have at heart. But, Sir, the real difficulty we have is to know what is the policy of the Government that we are called on to support. I cannot say that in the answers to questions addressed to them they have in any way diminished our difficulty. We are to-day as far off knowing what is their real policy, and the measures by which they have sought to give effect to it. The speech of the honourable and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Holderness Division of York has been almost the only speech to-day upon which Her Majesty's Government can congratulate themselves, and the First Lord of the Treasury might almost make a complaint, as did the head of the Local Government Board the other day, as to the want of support from his own side of the House. I hope, however, that if they have a policy they will not think themselves on that account bound to abandon it. The honourable and gallant Member for Holderness very properly put in contrast the policy of the open door with that of the sphere of influence. These are two very different policies, and the great danger at this moment, as my honourable Friend the Member for Northumberland pointed out, is that the country may fall between the two stools. This is the thing that is disturbing the public mind at this moment. Have you succeeded in the policy of the open door, which both parties are willing to support, or are you falling back on the policy of the spheres of influence? Now, that has not been made clear at all. I perfectly agree that the policy of the open door, which involves no special occupation of China, and which claims the whole of China as the sphere of British commerce, is to be preferred. What we do want is that which is guaranteed to us by the Treaty of Tien-tsin—equal facilities and equal 808 rights to all the nations of the world. That is what we understand by the policy of the open door. The members of the Treasury Bench say that we have the open door; but that is what nobody except the occupants of the Treasury Bench is satisfied with. That is the disquiet which exists in the country as to whether we have the open door. The honourable and gallant Member for Holderness said, "How can you, prove you have mot got the open door?" Allow me to observe that when we talk of the open door we do not mean the planks composing the door, but the room into which the door leads. If the room is occupied you will have accomplished nothing in having the door open. Therefore the question arises, what is there behind the door? Are we satisfied as regards the room inside, upon which these doors are open? Now, Sir, what I venture to complain of strongly is this, that the Government have not dealt fairly and frankly with the House and the country in telling them what is the real situation and what are the real circumstances. That became extremely apparent by the questions and answers asked and given yesterday, and it is upon that point that I desire to fix the attention of the House. There have been revealed to us in August things that we ought to have known long ago. We have had Papers presented with reference to China which would have had great importance and influence in this country, and still greater importance and influence in foreign countries, of which till yesterday we were never told at all. We are told that instructions were given on the 25th July to Sir Claude MacDonald promising that support should be given to commercial interests. I ask, why is it that instructions of this enormous consequence to the protection of the commercial interests of this country in the interior of China were not given before July 25th? Then the Under Secretary informs us, to my infinite surprise, that the instructions to resist preferential treatment for foreign subjects or trade were sent to Sir Claude MacDonald in March last. Why are these instructions not in the Papers delivered to us. The most material facts in 809 this matter were those instructions, and yet the House of Commons is kept in ignorance of any such instructions being given so far back as last March, and, moreover, they have never been published to the world until now. How important would it not have been to the nations of Europe to know that England wished for no preferential rights to be established. What a way of editing the Foreign Office Papers! Everything that ought to have been in these Papers is absent, and a good deal that ought not to be there gets in. If ever there was a Paper which should have been delivered to the House of Commons when the Chinese Papers were laid on the Table, it was the instruction of March last, of which the instruction of July is the repetition and continuation, that there were to be no preferential rights. Have they prevented any preferential rights being established? And now comes a repetition of the charge I make against the Foreign Office of having kept back from the House and the country Papers of most consummate importance. There is the question of the railway from Tien-tsin to Chin-kiang. What is the information that was given to us yesterday for the first time by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs? He tells us that Sir Claude MacDonald telegraphed—when?—not in July, but on 18th of February—Sir Claude Mac-Donald telegraphedthat the German Minister had opposed a scheme for a trunk railway from Tien-tsin to Chin-kiang on the ground that no railway could be constructed in the province of Shantung without an arrangement with Germany.Now, a more serious allegation than that could not be made. Here you have on February 18th, the very commencement of the Session, the very commencement of these things Which, resulted ultimately in our taking Wei-hai-Wei, a discussion as to what was the position in regard to the commerce of Kiaou-chau; and you have the British Ambassador reporting that the German Minister has opposed the scheme for a trunk railway on the ground that no railway could be constructed in the province of Shan-tung without an arrangement 810 with Germany. And then the Under Secretary proceeds to read—A protest was at once made at Pekin on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and also to the German Government, through Her Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin.Then the Under Secretary goes on to read the Memorandum, the official Memorandum by the Foreign Minister at Berlin, of which till yesterday we had never heard anything at all. What an extraordinary manner of treating the House of Commons! This is one of the most important issues. How will it bear upon your open door? Here is the issue raised as to whether or not Germany in the province of Shan-tung shall or shall not have the right to put a veto upon a particular railway and to stop the concession. A Memorandum—a Memorandum of immense consequence in the whole of this controversy—is kept back from the House, which is supposed to be informed as to the attitude of Germany in regard to Shan-tung, and as to the whole attitude of the German Government in reference to China. Then in this document, though they repudiate the right to exchange privileges in Shantung, they assert an extraordinary claim, which, as far as we know, the Government has not protested against, which, so extraordinary is the reserve, and the keeping back of information of this character, as far as we can learn, the Government has accepted, for we find no repudiation of it. In the Memorandum it is stated—The demand put forward by the Imperial German Government at Pekin was merely to the effect that should the Chinese Government desire to obtain foreign assistance for the construction of railways within the limits of the province of Shan-tung, they should, in the first instance, offer the work and supplies connected therewith to German industry and German trade.Is that the open door? Then what became of that concession? All we get from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, when he is pressed upon the subject by the honourable Member for Chester, who asked him whether the concession was successfully carried through, was that he was not aware the concession 811 had been carried through; and he ended by saying—'Oh, no, Sir; that concession has not been given.Well, then, it comes to this, that this concession fell through after the protest which was made by the English Government on February 18th against the course taken by the German Government, who imposed as a condition upon that concession that the whole thing should be carried out by Germany, and by Germany alone. Is that the open door? Why, Sir, it is perfectly plain from all these transactions, which until to-day have been kept in the dark—the declaration by Sir Claude MacDonald that this course had been pursued by the German Government, the protest of the English Government, and the final declaration of the German Government—.that the German Government claim the right that if any railway is made in the Shan-tung peninsula it must be made subject to the condition that nothing but German works and supplies connected with German industries and German trade are to be employed. Does it mean that no concession can be made to Great Britain, to France, or to Russia, or any other country, of a railway, except upon the condition that all the materials must be purchased in Germany? That is what we have a right to ask, because ever since February—now six months—they have had that statement from Germany before them; and even now we do not know what answer they have made to that claim on the part of Germany. We have nothing before us. The whole of this transaction has been kept back from the House. Well, now, Sir, I cannot accept the statement of the honourable and gallant Member for Holderness that the door is open. If what I have referred to is the case in the Shan-tung peninsula, what is the use of talking of an open door? Sir, we have been pressing the Government all through the Session. We say, we are supporting you in the policy of the open door, but tell us what you have done to secure that open door. We asked them as regards the Government of China. They gave a conversation upon that subject. I have asked more than once: Have you in any 812 diplomatic document reduced to a certainty, in the ordinary way, the pledges respecting Kiaou-chau, that this policy of the open door is carried out? Sir, I find nothing of the kind has ever been done. I have never got an answer to that. All that we have got is the statement of Herr von Bülow in the Reichstag on February 8th, namely—To the first question addressed to me by Dr. Barth. I would reply that, in my opinion, too, the best way to serve our commercial interests would be to put Kiaou-chau on the footing of a free port. I should not like to pledge myself beforehand especially to foreign nations.There is no engagement. If it suits them, the Minister says, to have an open door, they will have an open door, but there is no engagement made to any foreign nation whatever. Herr von Bülow also said—It is better to hold ourselves free to do what we like, as I believe the English have done, and are doing, at Hong-kong.And that is the only security we have got in the Kiaou-chau peninsula. What security have you in the interior for anything like what is guaranteed by the Treaty of Tien-tsin—equal facilities and equal rights with any other nation? None whatever. On the contrary, in the document, which we had for the first time yesterday, you have an absolute denial of any such equality of treatment given. Then, Sir, it comes to more than that, because the English Government, why or wherefore I have never been able to understand, at the time that they occupied Wei-hai-Wei, made a voluntary declaration to the German Government apologising for occupying a part of the province of Shan-tung. Why was it necessary to make any explanation? Nobody would suppose that the Germans had claimed the exclusive, or even preferential occupation of Shan-tung. They had got Kiaou-chau, but they had not, as far as we have heard, claimed that they were the proprietors of the whole of Shan-tung. They seemed to have put their rights in Shan-tung as clear and distinct as Kiaou-chau, of which they have got a lease, and yet on March 26th, immediately after this protest of February 18th, on the subject of the equality of treatment, the Government 813 addressed this extraordinary dispatch to Sir F. Lascelles—Her Majesty's Government have demanded a reversionary lease of Wei-hai-Wei, and it is possible the German Government will address you with regard to our occupying territory which forms part of the province of Shantung.Why should the German Government address Her Majesty's Government unless they have got rights in Shan-tung with which you were interfering? Why, if the German Government are occupying Shan-tung, were you not entitled to occupy Wei-hai-Wei without giving an account to the German Government? Yet the Government assume that they have to make these explanations. And the explanation is this—Should this be the case you are authorised to explain that Wei-hai-Wei is not at present, and cannot, we believe, be made a commercial port, by which access can be obtained to any part of the province.That is to say, if it could have been made a commercial port giving access to Shantung, then the German Government would have been entitled to object. That is the view apparently which Her Majesty's Government at that time took of the German rights in Shan-tung—that you had to explain to them that you were not occupying the place as a commercial port by which access could be obtained to the province. Then the dispatch goes on—We do not wish to interfere with the interests of Germany in that region.What does that mean? Does that mean the open door? Does that mean equality of rights all over China? Why is it necessary, in order to justify your possession of Wei-hai-Wei, to assure the German Government that you do not intend to interfere with her interests in the province of Shan-tung? Who can complain after this if the German Government do set up these rights in the province of Shan-tung, which are preferential rights? You may use whatever phrase you like, but the distinction between preferential rights and exclusive rights is very much like the distinction between spheres of influence and spheres of interest. It is quite plain that preferential rights do exclude people and 814 place them under disadvantages which make it impossible for them to exercise their rights. Nothing could be more clear and distinct than that. In the very case referred to here, against which the protest was entered on the 13th March, you did put an end to that concession. It is upon the spontaneous, as it were, offer of the English Government that the Germans are placed in undisputed possession of preferential rights in the province of Shan-tung. The answer to that is, is not that setting up the doctrine of the sphere of influence against the doctrine of the open door? It is exactly that which constitutes the difficulty and danger of the present position—that you are neither standing on one policy, nor on the other. Why, Sir, the demand—it seemed to me at the time, and I said so, I remember, upon the Address—the claim in respect of the Yang-tsze Valley is not an open door claim; it is a sphere of influence claim. You know, if you are claiming the open door all over China, it is idle to specify one particular place. According to the old doctrine of law, the specification of one is the exclusion of others, and, therefore, when you come to talk about occupying the Yang-tsze Valley, it is maintaining the doctrine of the sphere of influence, that is to say, the partition of China— because that is what its real meaning is— as against the doctrine of the open door. And really what we want to know is this: upon which horse are you declaring to win? Are you going to win upon the sphere of influence, or upon that of the open door? Because it seems to me, to vise the excellent phrase of my honourable Friend the Member for Northumberland, the sphere of influence you have not got, and the open door has become nothing but a phrase. And that is the situation as far as we can glean at present. Now, Sir, this case of Shan-tung is really a test case in regard to the position in which we stand. Are we to be told that the Government has accepted the preferential claim on the part of Germany in the Shan-tung peninsula? On 23rd April, in 1898, I find in the Berlin Imperial Gazette—I have read what 'has been the declaration of the English Government themselves, but this is the Berlin version 815 of that communication, which was made when we took Wei-hai-Wei—it is said—The English Government, in view of the approaching occupation of Wei-hai-Wei, has spontaneously intimated to the German Government that it has no intention of injuring or calling in question German rights or influence in the province of Shan-tung, or of creating any difficulties for the German Government in that province; and that, in particular, it has no intention of laying down railway communications with the interior from the territory which appertains to that port.When we ask about this, we are told it is a physical impossibility; but that is not the spirit of those communications. It was not because there were physical difficulties which the English engineers have always been able to overcome. It was acknowledged when we settled at Wei-hai-Wei that we were not going to interfere with the predominant influence and preferential rights of the Germans in that province. That, I think, is perfectly clear from the face of that letter. Now, Sir, I have dealt with that part of the question which deals with this railway. Now, there is another railway in regard to which we have had no information, and that is a railway from Pekin to Niu-chwang in the neighbourhood, of Port Arthur. We are told that that is under discussion. How long has it been under discussion? The honourable Member who spoke last said it was more important to consider its relations to Manchuria than it would be to consider its relations to Pekin. I can quite understand that, because what we want is to get our trade through these ports into Manchuria, and from Manchuria to the ports. The question is: how are you going to stand with reference to the communication between Russia and! Manchuria? Everybody knows—there is no speculation there—that there are preferential rates upon the Manchurian Railway in favour of Russia. Therefore I say, what is the use of telling us that at Talienwan, or Port Arthur, or anywhere else, it, is not necessary to have customs duties, when, if you went in free, you cannot get beyond the port? You may have a perfectly free or open port, and yet if you have a railway with preferential and differential rates you might just as well have customs duties, because it would come to precisely the same thing. Therefore the whole of 816 this question of internal communication is the whole question of the open door. As I say, the open door is only a road to the trade which lies in the interior. Therefore this question is, without doubt, of the greatest importance, and it is one upon which we are left absolutely in the dark upon the explanations which have been given by the Government to Parliament. Well, now, Sir, I come to the Pekin-Hankau Railway. That is a matter of immense consequence. It is a railway which goes into the very heart of the Yang-tsze Valley. How is that railway going to be regarded? How are you going to regard that? Does the honourable and gallant Member for Holderness regard that from the point of view of the open door, or does he regard it from the point of view of the sphere of influence?
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
I said all those matters are covered by the Treaty of Tien-tsin, and that we have a perfectly good right to insist upon them at any time we choose.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes, we have a perfect right to insist, but the question is what you have done. You began with your protest, which I referred to, of 18th February. We are at a distance of six months from that time, and we have a right to ask how far those rights have been asserted, and how far they have been consistently secured. Of course, if you regard the matter from the point of view of the sphere of influence, I suppose you might say that in the Yang-tsze Valley nobody shall make a railway except they use British materials and British goods; but if you take it from the point of view of the open door, what measures have you taken to secure, whatever railways are made, and by whatever nation, that there shall be equal rights to the English people? That is the whole question, and we have a right to ask Her Majesty's Government how we stand in that respect. Now, Sir, when we ask what has been done with reference to this Hankau Railway, first of all we are told that it is a, Belgian syndicate. Well, the honourable Member who spoke-last and knows as much about it as anybody says it is nothing of the kind, it 817 is a railway made, not by the Belgians, but by much greater and more influential powers. Well, we ask over and over again, the honourable Member for Barnsley, who has taken so intelligent an interest in putting questions to the Government from the beginning, has been asking over and over again, what are the terms of this agreement. It is an agreement backed by the Russo-Chinese Bank, and it is believed that the French Government have am interest in that railway. It is of the highest consequence to us to know what are the terms of that concession. Well, as we understand, that concession was made in June last. We know what Manchurian railway concessions have been. It is of the most immense consequence that we should know what are the terms of this concession which the honourable Member for the Holderness Division says comes under his open-door principle —whether it is made on the open-door principle, whether everybody is to have an equal right in the use of this railway on equal terms. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs says he does not know what the terms are. Some weeks ago he said the concession was on its way from Shanghai to Pekin. I do not know how long it takes for a document to travel from Shanghai to Pekin, but here you have some five or six weeks elapse and yet you do net know what the terms of this most important concession are. Well, Sir, other countries learn what the terms of concessions are, especially if they are made to the British Government. They do not take six weeks to discover them. The Chinese Government all along knew what the terms of this concession are. They are the parties who made the concession. Why have we not obtained from the Chinese Government the material points, I will not say all the details, of the concession, but the points which affect English commerce? Why have we not had them long ago from Pekin? Why, if we had the same influence at Pekin that ether Governments have, we should have known the terms of this concession long ago1. That is perfectly plain. We have a right to complain that we do not know what the terms of this concession are. Well, there are other documents, there are other 818 railways, in regard to which the information has been equally incomplete. However, those matters, I think, nave been already sufficiently dealt with by the able discussion of this matter by my right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, in his extremely able speech, and by the honourable Member for South Shields, and therefore I will not detain the House by going over those points again; but with reference to the whole of this question, in the first place, I know that the Government have said, "Do not speak to the man at the wheel; do not ask for information; imitate the despotic Governments of Europe." But, then, Sir, the despotic Governments of Europe are independent of public opinion and the English Government depends on obtaining the confidence of the people and the support of the House of Commons— a confidence which the country is willing enough to give in these matters without respect to party, and which, I think, the House of Commons has shown itself ready to give without respect to party. We are all desirous that the interests of the country, and of commerce, upon which the prosperity of the country depends, should be protected and promoted to the greatest possible degree, and, therefore, Sir, the Government have no right to complain, and I think they will not complain, when we are anxious to know what measures are being taken for the promotion and protection of those interests, and how far they have been successful. I say, Sir, the Government ought to deal frankly with the House of Commons and with the country, and ought not to whine and complain when they are asked for information upon matters of this consummate importance. I hope to-day that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to give us and to the country outside mere satisfaction than it has hitherto received. I regret that indisposition has prevented the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs from being here, but it is still more important that the Leader of the House of Commons and the principal Member of the Cabinet should to-day declare and lay before this House what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, that he should lay it down in clear and distinct and definite terms, and that 819 he should give the House some greater assurance than it has yet received that that policy, if sound in its principle, has been vigorously and successfully asserted and carried out. Something has been said upon the subject of Russia, and I very much agree with the observations which have been made by a good many Members of this House as to our position in respect to that Power. I regret the language which has been used by responsible Members of the Administration upon that subject. Language of mingled menace and insult makes statesmanlike diplomacy and friendly relations with nations impossible. I regret that, though in milder terms, and in, perhaps, not so. warlike a manner, the First Lord of the Admiralty shook his mailed fist in the face of Russia, and menaced her with four battleships to settle this great question. But you are not going to settle this great question by the addition of four battle-ships to your Fleet. If you are going into a conflict with Russia, that conflict will not be waged on the sea. If you are going into conflict with this great military Power, it is not upon the sea, but upon the land, that that conflict must be waged. These are considerations to which the honourable Member for Northumberland has called attention, and very properly called attention, and, in my opinion, it is the part of wisdom, the part of prudence, and the part of statesmanship, to seek to settle this question, in which the prosperity of this country is so deeply involved, by those means of diplomacy which are the arts of peace. You should approach those countries in a manner which will be likely to lead to a pacific issue. My honourable Friend the Member for Northumberland the other night called attention most wisely to the fact that, before the occupation of Port Arthur, when you had ships there, you ought to have called upon Russia to come to an understanding with you. I believe that that is the proper course now to be adopted. I remember very well Lord Beaconsfield using a famous expression full of truth and of meaning when he spoke of the defence of India. He said—India is not to be defended upon the frontiers of India. It is to be defended in London.820 Now, what did he mean by that? He meant that the defence of the great interests of nations is to be made by direct communication between the representatives of those great peoples. In my opinion, this question is to be settled, not by the squabbles of Ambassadors at Pekin, but by the intervention of the Foreign Offices in London and St. Petersburg. It is by representations of that character that the peace of the world can be best protected, by which, in my opinion, the interests of Great Britain, and the commerce upon which those people depend, can be best defended.
§ THE FIRST LORD of the TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
Before, Sir, I deal with the somewhat aggressive speech of the right honourable Gentleman and its extremely peaceable peroration, I should like to express my great regret to the House that it rests with me, and not with the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to deal with the various criticisms which have been put forth in the course of this Debate. I am especially sorry for two reasons. I am sorry because he is necessarily more acquainted with the details of some of the questions which have been brought up than I can possibly pretend to be; and I am sorry, in the second place, because I think it is peculiarly unfortunate that, on the last occasion on which it would have been in his power to address this House upon foreign subjects—in which he has made such a great reputation, and so deserved a reputation, during the last few years, and especially during the last two or three years—severe indisposition has made it impossible for him to be with us this afternoon. Sir, I am sure the House will greatly regret, not only the absence of my right honourable Friend, but the cause which has rendered that absence necessary. Now, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman opposite began his speech this evening, as he has begun several of his speeches upon foreign affairs, by appealing to the House generally, and to this Bench in particular, whether he or his colleagues have not, through all their years of opposition, scrupulously abstained from doing anything that could possibly in any way be said to embarrass the foreign policy 821 of this country. Now, I do not in the least desire to criticise the course which the right honourable Gentleman and his supporters have pursued in this Debate. They have had, I am sure, a most sincere desire that the foreign policy of this Empire should be conducted successfully and honourably. They have had, nevertheless, a sincere desire to show that the present Government are not conducting foreign affairs either with decision, credit, or success. They are, I am sure, patriotic statesmen, they are also members of the Opposition, and if, in the course of their speeches, it is sometimes obvious that they wish to damage the Government more than they wish to assist the foreign policy of the Government, that is not a matter of which I complain. I am glad to think that, as far as I am aware, no statement has been made by them, and no attack on the Government which has been made by them, has had the least effect upon the course of our foreign affairs, and I am sure that that is a result which they will be the first to rejoice at. Before dealing with the remarks of the right honourable Baronet who initiated this Debate, I ought, perhaps, to say that, while I think I have not improperly or ill-naturedly described the speeches of the right honourable Gentleman, I should be sorry if it was thought that that description was intended to apply to the speeches of the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He has made a good many utterances upon foreign affairs necessarily in the course of this year, and in the previous year, and I am bound to say that the tone he has adopted contrasts somewhat unfavourably with that of the Leader of the Opposition. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean began this Debate by enumerating the subjects with which he did not propose to deal, but he contrived in the course of his remarks to insinuate that, if he had had sufficient time, he could have shown that the same indecision and incompetence which, he declares, have characterised our Eastern policy might be traced in the case of Tunis, of Madagascar, and even in the case of Siam.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I did not quite gather that view of the right honourable Baronet's remarks, and, judging from the course of the Debate this afternoon, there has been no reluctance to repeat either arguments, statements, or accusations which have been made in the course of the Session, I will simply say, before dismissing that part of the right honourable Baronet's speech, that, in my judgment, both as regards Tunis, Madagascar, and Siam, a complete answer has been given more than once by my right honourable Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
The FIRST LORD of Tins TREASURY
Oh, yes, he has spoken about Madagascar; and when the right honourable Baronet goes to the length of comparing the policy of the present Government and the policy of the late Government with regard to Siam,, entirely, apparently, to the credit of the late Government and the discredit of the present Government, I confess that I am lost in amazement and greatly amused. I do not wish to drag up old controversies or to say with regard to the policy of the late Government in reference to Siam what I think might possibly be said with regard to it. They may have had reasons, of which I am ignorant, for the course they pursued, but whether they were right or whether they were wrong, this is not the time to attack them. But, at all events, I think I may say that we did more for the preservation of Siam, for the maintenance of its independence, by the arrangement which Lord Salisbury entered into with France on that subject than the late Government or any preceding Government have ever done. I confess that when I hear Siam brought up as an example of our indecision and incompetence I find it difficult to believe that the critics who use such language and make such insinuations are otherwise than blinded by party zeal and by a desire to make party capital. But I am aware that the House is not in the least interested in the right honourable Baronet's unceasing polemics on the subject of Tunis, Madagascar, and Siam. "What they are interested in at 823 the present time is the subject which has occupied most of the afternoon—namely, the policy of the present Government, and of other Governments, in the Far East. I for my part have never complained of the public anxiety with regard to the ultimate issue of the events which are now taking place in the East. They must cause anxiety to the public as they do cause anxiety to the Government, and I should certainly not express my own view if I for one moment pretended that the solution of the question was either simple, easy, or obvious. Let it be observed that it is almost inevitable that, when other nations begin to take, as they are beginning to take, a share in the Eastern commerce which, practically, used to be monopolised by us, and an interest in Chinese affairs which practically rested almost entirely in our own hands, that necessarily and naturally produces a certain degree of what may be described as anxious irritability. It is neither wise nor statesmanlike to pretend that circumstances can always remain what they were, or that England, either in China or elsewhere, can expect to maintain precisely the same relations to other nations which she did under very different conditions of industrial competition. I for one do not stand here to pretend that either this Government or any one Government, or this Empire in alliance with any other country, can possibly turn back the tide of events or prevent the natural and legitimate development of other great commercial and military Powers. It cannot be done. But what we may look forward to, and what, I think, we may look forward to with some confidence, is that while in China and elsewhere the relative superiority of this country cannot be maintained at its old level, the actual volume of our trade —for trade is the subject which has chiefly occupied us this afternoon—may be expected to increase as rapidly in the future, in my opinion at all events, as it has in the past. The relative importance of the trade must, of course, diminish. You cannot prevent other countries manufacturing and exporting their manufactures, and if they did not manufacture and did not export in previous years that means a relative diminution of our share. It does not mean that anything is occurring inimical to our 824 commercial development. It does not mean that manufactures in this country are to be in any way injured. It does not mean that those vast populations which are dependent on our industries are going to see all the markets of the world closed against them. Well, Sir, I turn to another point and another argument rather germane to it. The contest, the right honourable Gentleman said, is a diplomatic contest and ought to be kept strictly within diplomatic lines. He is of opinion that diplomacy ought to be sufficient to secure for England everything England desires, and to prevent other countries getting what other countries desire. That, is, apparently, in his view, an object which diplomacy, skilfully directed, can accomplish. At the same time, the right honourable Baronet who initiated the Debate told us that Pekin—and I am quoting his own expression—was now an open door, that Russia was at that door, and that it was impossible, therefore, to prevent Russia having a preponderating influence in the councils of the Chinese Government at Pekin. Then I want to know how those two positions are to be reconciled. The Government are not responsible for the growth of the Russian Empire along the northern part of Asia. The Government are not responsible for the fact that, as Russia borders China by land, for these thousands of miles she had military power closer to Pekin than any other nation. That state of facts was not brought about by this Government, and, whatever their legitimate consequences may be, those consequences must be endured. I do not believe those consequences will be of the serious character which some appear to suppose. I do not hold that view, but it is characteristic of the inconclusive character of all that falls from the right honourable Baronet on this subject, that while he told us that Russia was, in his view, in this dominant position at Pekin, nevertheless this Government had shown Great incompetence and had not obtained diplomatically for this country all that he desired.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I beg my honourable Friend's 825 pardon. The position of Russia in regard to Pekin to which the right honourable Baronet referred was a military and not a naval position, and I may inform my honourable Friend that Port Arthur is a naval base. Port Arthur can only be useful to Russia in the event of their desiring to deal with Pekin by their fleet rather than by their army. As I am on that point—and I do not wish to discuss this question at length:—and as Wei-hai-Wei has been introduced into the Debate by more than one speaker, I may perhaps be allowed one word on that subject. There are honourable Gentlemen who think that instead of occupying Wei-hai-Wei we ought to have occupied Port Arthur. I wholly dissent from that view. Prom purely naval and strategic considerations I am convinced that Wei-hai-Wei is far more suited to the interests of this country than a place like Port Arthur, which, whatever its natural strength may be, is joined by land to that portion of the continent of Asia on which Russia must always be superior to us from a strictly military point of view. Wei-hai-Wei strategically may almost be regarded as an island; Port Arthur never could be for us an island. It is a port attached to a portion of the mainland where that country which the right honourable Baronet speaks of as our chief danger and rival has and must have a preponderating military force. I therefore say that, taking it as an abstract question of naval and military science, it is far better for us to have our secondary naval base at Wei-hai-Wei than it would be to have it at Port Arthur. But, leaving the military aspect of the case, I come to those portions of the controversy which have ranged round the phrase the "open door." The right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down tells us there are two policies open to us, and only two, in China—one is the policy of spheres of influence, which he says is a phrase perfectly well "understanded of the people"; and the other is the policy of the open door. He says everybody knows what a sphere of influence is. Well, the phrase may be a clear one, but it applies to a great many different possible conditions. I do not know how he uses it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I think the ordinary acceptation of the phrase—and I think it was so defined by the Prime 826 Minister—is that a sphere of influence is a sphere in which several Powers have agreed that none of them shall interfere with the other to whom the sphere of influence belongs. I used the term as it has been used in connection with Africa.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Then the right honourable Gentleman means by the policy of spheres of influence in China the partition of China among the various nations.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Precisely in the same way as portions of Africa have already been partitioned, and that we are to be responsible more or less for the government, more or less for the defence, more or less for the internal order, and more or less for the whole machinery of civilisation as in many cases we are responsible to some indefinite degree for parts of Africa which are within our sphere of influence. I do not discuss the policy of spheres of influence further, because I do not think anybody in this House has ever advocated that we ought to desire it or to aim at it in the present position of affairs. I do not look forward to the future; I do not venture to prophesy; but I say with regard to the present, with which alone we are concerned, that neither this country, nor any other country, I believe, desires the partition of China in the sense of which the right honourable Gentleman speaks. But, Sir, he went on to attack the Government for permitting the door to be closed, because, as he said, we have permitted or there have been concessions to other Powers of railways or concessions of a similar character in which we have no share. Now, I do beg the House to clear its ideas upon this question of the open door and equal treatment. In that embracing phrase are contained, in my opinion, two sets of considerations dealing with two matters entirely separate—so separate that they cannot be dealt with by the same formulae or pursued by the same policy. There is, in the first place, the question of what may be called equal trade opportunities, the right, that is to say, of importing goods at the same rate as any other nation 827 imports goods, the same right of using railways as any other nation has. That evidently has nothing whatever to do with spheres of interest or influence. It is, or ought to be, of universal application. We ought to have all over China the same right of importing and transporting goods that the French, the Germans, the Belgians, or the Americans have. There is a wholly different set of questions connected with, concessions, and they cannot be treated in the same simple and obvious manner. When my right honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the open door he meant and explained that he nieant— if it required explanation—that he was dealing, not with concessions, but with this question of the importation and transportation of goods. He was making a profession in favour of that principle which we have on both sides of the House—on this side of the House for many years and on the other side for some years—been so anxious to maintain, that, namely, of markets for British manufactures which would be under no disadvantage from hostile tariffs or anything equivalent to hostile tariffs. That is the open door of which he spoke when he used that famous phrase which has been quoted and requoted almost ad nauseam. I maintain that so far as the open door—in the only true legitimate sense—is concerned it has never been shut. We have no evidence that anywhere in China there exist preferential rates which act in favour of the foreign manufacturer and against the British manufacturer. We have no evidence that either in connection with any line which has been constructed, or any line which is in process of construction, is there the slightest intention to put tariffs against British goods—at all events, we say that has not been done at present, and that there is no apparent probability of its being done. Has any case been brought forward by any speaker this afternoon to the contrary? I can only think of one example to which the right honourable Gentleman referred—the case, namely, of the tariff or the importation dues on goods passing the frontier on the Manchurian railway as compared with dues to be levied at the ports of Talienwan or Port Arthur. It is, I believe, true that by the terms of the concession there are to be special 828 rates for goods coming from the landward side into China which are in favour of the land importer and against the sea importer.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I referred specially to the stipulation in regard to the Shan-tung peninsula that no railway should be made without a preference being given to German material and capital. That is not equal trade opportunity.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If the right honourable Gentleman will do me the honour to follow my argument he will see that I am dividing and have divided the question into two separate branches, and it is a confusion of those two branches which has led, in my opinion, to much of the misunderstanding which has prevailed. One branch is the importation of goods. Am I to understand the right honourable Gentleman's observation to mean that so far as they are concerned the door is still open?
§ MR. ROBSON
The differential import duties apply not only in the case of the Manchurian railway, but in the case of any railways which Germany may construct in her own sphere, and they will be imported at 30 per cent, less duty.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
There is no German concession for a railway from a land frontier of China into the interior.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
But there is a difference, no doubt, in the tariffs from the land frontier of Manchuria as compared with the harbour tariffs. But whether that be good or bad, it does not rest with us to complain of it, nor can it be regarded by us as a breach of the Treaty of Tien-tsin; because we have ourselves made a treaty with China for the transit of goods across the Burmah frontier into China, and we have introduced into the convention with China stipulations based upon precisely the same lines. Apparently Russia copied us, and us alone, when she introduced this differential treatment. The late Government made that treaty, and if anyone desires to see it they will 829 find it in the convention made between Great Britain and China in 1894. In every other respect, so far as I know, that is the only thing which can be plausibly regarded as shutting or half-shutting the door. As far as I know, and as far as I have learnt from any speaker in the Debate—and most of them have been hostile to the Government—no other case has been given of preferential treatment of foreign-manufactured goods as against British producers. If it is admitted, as it must be, that in the only sense in which my right honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer used the phrase "open door," the door is still open, I come to the other branch of the subject—the question of concessions. Here at must be perfectly manifest to everyone that the laws of nature themselves prevent us from having absolute equality of treatment between the different nationalities; because a concession must be given to someone, and when the someone has got it, other people must be excluded. We have many concessions which, are worked for the benefit of British investors. We have an enormous mineral concession in the north of China which will be worked for the benefit of British investors. That is not equality of treatment. It is inequality inseparable from the nature of the concession. Whenever concessions are made they must be given to somebody, and everybody else must be excluded. That inequality is inevitable, and it cannot be avoided, and no complaint can be made of it. Of course, it is open to anyone to say that we are not getting our fair share of concessions, that while other people get them we are refused, and that the whole of that field for British investment is being taken out of our hands by foreign Governments and syndicates. I do not think that there is any evidence of it. All the evidence is the other way, and when the time comes that China is fully supplied with railways, it will be found that in every branch of activity and industry the British investor and British companies have at least their fair share of all that has been done.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
If the right honourable Gentleman is now leaving the question of concessions I wish to say that that is not the point. I assumed that the concessions were given, but the ques- 830 tion is whether, under the terms of these concessions, the concessionaires could' give favourable treatment to themselves, or exclude others.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have not lost sight of that point, and I have not at all left the subject of concessions yet. The right honourable Gentleman complained very severely of the arrangement which has been come to with reference to Wei-hai-Wei and the Shan-tung Peninsula; and he thought that it was an endorsement by the British Government of a German monopoly in the Shan-tung Peninsula to which Germany had no right. Sir, that dispatch is not capable of the construction which the right honourable Gentleman put upon it. I have already stated to the House what the circumstances connected with Wei-hai-Wei were. We obtained that port from China, not in relation to its landward aspect, but in relation to its maritime aspect—not as a commercial harbour, for which it is wholly unsuited, but as a naval base. It is not physically an island. We should have preferred it if it had been. But in any case we wish to treat it as an island. That being our intention, should we or should we not have expressed that intention to the German Government? The right honourable Gentleman says—What right had the Germans to be consulted or told what we were going to do?I do not say that the Germans have had any such right; nor, as a matter of fact, were they informed, until a few hours before the transaction became public property. But I want to know what would have been said in this House, and I presume by the right honourable Gentleman himself, if the Germans bad taken a military port at the mouth of the Yang-tsze river. According to the right honourable Gentleman's views, the whole of China, lies equally open to the whole world, and no nation has a right to complain of what another nation does in any part of it. That may be a sound principle; but would the right honourable Gentleman have regarded the taking by the Germans of a military port at the mouth of the Yang-tsze with the same indifference as he saw the taking by them of a military port in the Shan-tung Peninsula? Of 831 course he would not, and neither this House, nor the country would hare done so, and no one will maintain that it is the same thing whether the port taken is Kiao-chau or at the mouth of the Yang-tsze. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the Germans had done that without explanation to us, without giving guarantees to us that no menace was intended to our interests, we should have been deeply and justly offended. And surely what we should have expected the Germans to do to us we might well do to them—But," says the right honourable Gentleman, "you not only informed the Germans that you did not wish to menace any of their interests in the Shan-tung Peninsula, but you actually by your dispatch endorsed the pretension that they had special rights there possessed by no other Government.Sir, if the right honourable Gentleman will look at the wording of the dispatch he will see that no such implication or admission was made. I think it would have been a very unfriendly act to insist, for instance, to the Chinese Government on a railway through the Shan-tung Peninsula to Kiao-chau, just as it would have been an unfriendly act on the part of Germany to have insisted on a railway from one of our ports to another port in China. There is not one word, as far as I am aware, in the dispatch which implies that Germany is in possession of any other rights than those which she actually possesses by existing Treaties, and if there are such words I should be glad to know what they are.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
In this dispatch the Government say—We do not wish to interfere with the interests of Germany in that region,and the previous sentence says—You are authorised to explain that Wei-hai-Wei is not at present, and cannot, we believe, be made a commercial port by which access can be obtained to any part of the province.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
What rights Germany has of course we respect; but there is nothing in that statement to prevent a British subject from getting a concession in the Shan-tung Peninsula; and it has never teen so understood.
§ The FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
No; the right honourable Gentleman is mixing two things up. Germany has no more rights in Shan-tung than we have in the Valley of the Yang-tsze, as I understand it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
It does not say rights. It says, "interests of Germany in that region." It is clearly an interest of Germany to obtain all the concessions in that province; and what I understand the British Government to declare is that they will not interfere with those interests.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right honourable Gentleman is wholly mistaken as to the purport of that dispatch. It is simply to explain the relation of Wei-hai-Wei to the Shantung Peninsula. We desired to explain in the clearest language that by taking Wei-hai-Wei we did not wish to interfere with the Shan-tung Peninsula, but simply wanted a secondary naval base in the northern seas of China. I think that that was a perfectly legitimate thing to do, and I do not see how it could be more clearly or expressly provided for. Then, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman says that the open door is destroyed. He says—The open door is shut by the provision that all the railway material is to be bought from the country to which the concession has been granted.We never assented to the German views on that subject.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I forgot to ask whether the correspondence of February 18th on that subject and the answer of Her Majesty's Government to the German Government will be given to Parliament at once. Here is the document of the German Government, to which there is no answer given—The demand put forward by the Imperial German Government at Pekin was merely to the effect that, should the Chinese-Government desire to obtain foreign assistance for the construction of railways within the, limits of the province of Shan-tung, they should, in the first instance, offer the work and the supplies connected therewith to German industry and German trade.833 I wish to ask the" right honourable Gentleman whether that document, and the reply to it, will be presented to Parliament?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I must see the documents before I promise to lay them on the Table, but I do not think it is really material. As I understand the German claim, as expressed in that dispatch, it is to have the first offer for the railway material given to German firms. I also understand that if other firms—American, English, or Belgian—offer at a lower rate, that lower rate is to be accepted. That is the interpretation which I have always put on that statement of the German view, and that entirely meets the point raised by the right honourable Gentleman opposite, which was that Germany could not produce railways so cheaply as Belgium, England, and America, and that it was intended to exclude those countries from ever supplying the material.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I speak under great difficulties, Mr. Speaker. With regard to the French official note, I am afraid I can tell the House nothing; the first I heard of it was what fell from the right honourable Baronet, and I can throw no further light on it. But it referred, if I remember his statement, to the Pekin-Han-kau line. Well, the whole subject of that line is now under discussion; and, although the right honourable Gentleman has spoken as if everything connected with it had been settled! between the Yamen and the Belgian syndicate, I do not believe as a matter of fact that that is the case. The information we have may be incorrect, because it is never possible absolutely to guarantee the accuracy of the statements made, but what we hear is that the concession was offered to a Belgian syndicate and that as a matter of fact the Russian bank to which the right honourable Gentleman refers is not at the back of the railway at all—that it is not behind the concession. I give that for what it is worth; but, at all events, this is certainly true—the matter is still under discussion, it is not settled, and 834 Sir Claude MacDonald is in communication with the Yamen on the very subject: of this railway. Whether it be a Belgian syndicate or a Belgian-French syndicate I do not know. There is nothing more I can say upon the objection that has been raised to our policy. It is admitted that so far as the import and transport of goods is concerned the door is open; it is admitted, therefore, that, so far as the pledges of the Government are concerned, those pledges have been kept. With regard to concessions, I think we have obtained a good many. The quarrel over concessions is not a very dignified or agreeable function, and how the whole question is going to end nobody can foresee. The right honourable Baronet, who thinks that Russia is from the very' nature of her position able to exact anything she likes from the Yamen, must necessarily suppose that as against our interests Russian interests will be triumphant all along the line, but I see no necessity for taking so pessimistic a view of the situation. I shall be very much surprised if English concessionaires do not get their full and fair share of all the concessions which are likely to be made, and I suspect the number of concessions that will be made will be considerably in excess of the number of railways that will be made. That, however, is a matter of private speculation, and with regard to the future I venture to say nothing. Before I sit down I must say one word about the extraordinary peroration of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire. His whole speech, up to that peroration, followed, as he is usually glad to follow, the general line of public criticism upon the Government—public criticism from Unionist newspapers and Unionist Members, as well as from some Members on the other side of the House. What is that criticism? The criticism is that we have not, to use a vulgar phrase, stood up sufficiently boldly to China and to Russia, that we have not run the risk of war, that we have shown undue timidity. I think those accusations are wholly baseless, but what I want to point out is how ill they come from the mouth of the right honourable Gentleman. What did the right honourable Gentleman say at the close of his 835 speech? At the close of his speech he said—Russia is a great military Power, you are a very small military Power, a fight with Russia would be a fight by land, not a fight by sea; you have therefore no chance against your gigantic foe, all you have got to do is to make friends with him, and keep peace with him—make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right honourable Gentleman said that you must be careful how you enter into a conflict with a Power that can threaten India and invade China, and which, whether upon the Indian or Chinese frontier, you are equally powerless to resist—Your weapons," said the right honourable Gentleman, "are not the material weapons of repeating rifles, ships, guns, and troops; what you have got to do is to defeat Russia in the contest of diplomacy.Well, Sir, I do not know whether we are to regard this as a statesmanlike exposition of the policy of the Opposition. They hold, if the right honourable Gentleman may be regarded as a fair exponent of their views, that Russia has great material interests in squeezing us out of our fair share of the China trade; they hold that we are perfectly powerless by force to prevent that operation of squeezing out being carried to a successful issue; the Opposition hold that a war with Russia is an undertaking which no sane man would engage in, since, from the very conditions under which it must be undertaken, we are powerless in the sphere of military operations While Russia is all-powerful. But, while thus thinking that Russia's interests are to squeeze us out, and that we are helpless to prevent that operation, they also insist that a few soft words, or a few dexterous suggestions made at the Court of St. Petersburg, or in London, are sufficient to stem the tide of Russian progress. Well, that really is the unnatural marriage of the policy of my honourable Friend below the Gangway, with the peace at any price policy dear to the heart of the right honourable Gentleman. The peroration was his own. It expressed, I am 836 sure, his genuine sentiments, but the speech was not his speech, it was borrowed from my honourable Friend, and it became Wholly irrational when divorced from the conclusions which my honourable Friends below the Gangway do not hesitate to draw. Their view is, like that of the right honourable Gentleman, that Russia has great interests in squeezing us out of our position in China, but they hold, and they hold rightly, that the idea of the prevention of that operation, if Russia sincerely desires it, can only be effected if behind your diplomacy there is ultimately the threat of force. However, that conclusion the right honourable Gentleman repudiates, and by repudiating it he turns his whole speech into nonsense. The two halves— the peace at any price half, and the vigorous foreign policy upon firm and manifest lines half—those two halves cannot be made to match, they cannot be made to fit in with one another, and until the right honourable Gentleman can come forward and tell us in which of the two halves he really believes, and which, were he in power, he would press on the attention of the country and carry out through the agency of the Foreign Office—until he tells us which of those two inconsistent policies is his policy— I do not admit that he is a competent critic of Her Majesty's Government.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
I am very reluctant to follow the right honourable Gentleman in his very able speech. I think Members will especially thank the Leader of the House for the way in which he has dealt with the criticisms of the Member for West Monmouthshire. Sir, the reason why the criticisms of the Opposition upon the Government foreign policy have fallen so feebly and ineffectively, notwithstanding the very able speeches that have been made by the honourable Member for Barnsley and by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, is that the right honourable Gentleman has always been unable to square his little England views and policy with the opinions which are put forward by some of his followers, and the result is that the Opposition has been wholly ineffective. Now, I only propose to say two sentences about this 837 Chinese question, and they are due to the remarks which were made by my right honourable Friend in the speech that he has just concluded. Sir, everyone will feel that the right honourable Gentleman made a most effective reply to the attacks which have been made upon the Government, but, at the same time, I am sorry to say that my right honourable Friend has shown by one portion of his speech that he, and presumably the Government, are still unappreciative of the real key of the position in China. Sir, I am sorry that my right honourable Friend took me to task rather sharply upon the question of strategic position, and I shall be very grateful indeed if he will give me his intention upon this question whilst dealing with that point. The strategic position is the; key of the whole situation of the occupation of Port Arthur, and the Russian occupation of Manchuria. It is not only the initial vice of the Government policy, but the continuing vice that they do not yet realise that the Trans-Siberian Railway to Port Arthur, and the occupation of Manchuria, is the key of the whole position, and that until they deal with that all their talk about the guaranteeing of the neutrality of the Yang-tsze Valley, of their undertakings about concessions and railways, are practically worthless. Sir, my right honourable Friend has repeated to-night the statement that the Government found the position hopeless in Manchuria because the Russian frontier and the Chinese frontier marched together for 4,000 or 4,500 miles. Well, if you deal with the question in that way, and from that standpoint, then I admit the Chinese question is hopeless. It is true that for 4,500 miles the borders of the Chinese and Russian territory march together; it is perfectly true that Russia is able to strike at any vital part of China across any portion of that frontier, but the difficulties are so great that Russia could not have put a single soldier against any part of China until the Trans-Siberian railway was constructed. This strength of Russia is entirely due to the fact that Her Majesty's Government did not insist upon maintaining the independence of Port Arthur and Manchuria. If the Russian Government could have struck any vital part of China, from their own frontier, 838 why on earth did they undertake this Trans-Siberian railway, which will cost them 20 millions of money, and which will take six years to construct, and which will not be complete for many years to come. If they could have marched into China across their own frontier, why did they undertake to make this railway? Why, the whole position was in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. They have it in their power, if they have the courage to do it, to crush Russia in three months in the whole of North-Eastern Asia. We command the road to Manchuria at the present time, and not a single Russian soldier can go by land there at the present moment, because the distance is so great, and it is solely because we allow the Russian troops to be sent by sea that the Russian force can be increased in Manchuria, and a tremendous naval base to be set up in Port Arthur, that anxiety is felt with regard to China. By an arrangement with Japan, it would be in our power to destroy the Russian position in North-Eastern Asia any time we chose, and Russia would not risk a conflict with this country with regard to any portion of Manchuria or Port Arthur if she only knew that we meant to resist her. But, when Russia can send her troops by land along this railway into Manchuria, then Russia will hold the key of the position, and she would then be able to hold, not only Manchuria, but to conquer the rest of China as well. But I did not rise to say much about Manchuria or China, and it was only the fact of the statement made by my right honourable Friend that led me to say what I have said. I ask, however, the indulgence of the House to say something about the present position of affairs in Crete. From all sides of the House there have been references, and just references, to the necessity of this House having a strong military support from other Powers, especially in view of the prospects of early difficulties, and perhaps war, with Russia. Well, we can only get that effective support from the Ottoman Empire. We have there ready the fighting material, which is the finest in the world, which is most ready and anxious to support us, and which is equal to more than half of the Russian Army. But what policy are we pursuing at the 839 present moment in Crete? Sir, for a year and a half Crete has been in a state of practical anarchy, and one-third of the population are refugees from their homes and property, and they are ruined and starving. There are 100,000 human beings at this moment herded together in three or four towns, with nothing to live upon but doles of charity, and these are the persons who, by their past history and habits, would feel the pangs of such privation all the more. Now, Sir, those people are not Christians, but they are Mussulmans, and I say that that should make us more anxious than we should otherwise be to do justice to these unfortunate sufferers. Sir, I do not believe that the Government fully realise the enormous influence which their policy in Crete will have over the Mussulman population, and the advantage it would be to have their sympathy because the influence of Mussulmans extends from one end of the world to the other. Even after the victory of the Sultan's army in Thessaly he received letters of congratulation from almost every Mussulman in India, and we have had a series of risings in India, and we have had threatenings of Mussulman outbreaks in other parts of India. The cost of that terrible struggle was tremendous, and entirely out of proportion to the advantages resulting from it. Sir, we ought to be very careful what we do to arouse Mussulman sentiments throughout India and the rest of the world by treating Mussulmans unjustly. Now, I do say that we are treating the Mussulman population in Crete unjustly to-day. We are in a great measure responsible for the state of things existing there, for our Government refused the proposals of Austria and other Powers for a naval demonstration which would have prevented the outbreak at the commencement of the war and we allowed Colonel Vassos and his force to go into Crete, which was the cause of the trouble. Our Government refused to interfere in the early stages of the Grseco-Turkish warlike operations. Therefore our Government are very much responsible for what is now happening in Crete. Now, nothing has been done for eighteen months to re-establish order and peace in Crete, or to restore the Mussulman refugees to their property. We owe something to them, and to the Turkish 840 Government, for the Sultan granted autonomy to Crete on the distinct understanding that the Powers would see that the rights of the minority were preserved. Now, what did we do to secure the rights of the Christian minority in Armenia? Why, Sir, we risked plunging Europe into war for the Christians. We upset our whole foreign policy, and we alienated not only Turkey, but Germany as well, and other Powers in order to try and get local autonomy for the Armenians in Asia Minor. Now, Sir, why should we not do something to obtain equal rights for the minority in Crete, who' are Mussulmans. What are we doing now? Why, Sir, we are trying to set up a régime in Crete which is, without exception, the most extravagant, ridiculous, and impossible form of government that was ever proposed by any country in the world or under any circumstances. We are trying to govern the coast towns of Crete by a quartette of naval commanders who are constantly being changed, and who know nothing about the position. I am told that it is not uncommon for one or two of these naval commanders to come together and not understand a word of the language in which the discussions are carried on. That is the sort of thing which this country believes will succeed with regard to Crete; that is government by a quartette of naval commanders who know nothing about the island, and who spend most of their time discussing———
[Attention having been called to the fact that there were not 40 Members present the House was counted. Forty Members having returned, the Debate was resumed.]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I was referring to the quartette of admirals who form the Government, and to the case of the towns. Now, how do we proceed to govern the interior? Why, it is to be governed by a band of chiefs, by a band of these insurgent chiefs, who are, in fact, the leaders of the men who have been urging the inhabitants to murder the Mussulmans. That is the Government we have set up in the interior, or which we are trying to set up in the interior. Now, Mr. Speaker, 841 there is no proposal that this Mussulman minority shall be represented on this governing body. I cannot conceive why the Government have not insisted upon at least a small or moderate representation of the leaders of the Mussulman inhabitants being placed upon this Committee which is to govern the interior of the island. They have not done so, therefore the whole of the Musulman population in the island of Crete is left at the mercy of this Christian majority, who have driven the people out of their homes.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The honourable Member opposite says "Hear, hear!" and no doubt what he has in his mind is the comparison which exists between Crete and Ireland. Sir, there is an exact analogy between Crete and Ireland. In both countries you have a minority belonging to the sovereign power, and you have a majority hostile to the minority and also to a certain extent hostile to the sovereign power. You have the same difference of religion, and if autonomy were to be given to Ireland you would have exactly the same conditions as in Crete. You have the Protestants driven into the north, and you have the hostile majority in other parts of Ireland. Now, Sir, the analogy is perfect between Crete and Ireland. The analogy is exact. Therefore I am not surprised that the honourable Member for East Mayo has persisted in championing the cause of those who plunder and massacre, and defends the cause of the Christian insurgents who have driven these poor people from their homes. Now, Sir, there is another point. Let me say a word with regard to the proposal to withdraw the Turkish troops. For a long time the Turkish troops have been the sole protection of the Mussulmans, and but for them the insurgents would have driven them out of the island. If you withdraw the Turkish troops, unless you send a strong European force to protect them, there is no doubt the Mussulman minority will be exposed to massacre. I am sure that any of the Powers—except, perhaps, Russia, which is interested in keeping this state of things up—will say that this pro- 842 posal is absurd and unjust. My right honourable Friend—or, rather, the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs— told me the other day that he was unaware of the Russian propaganda in Crete, but the British representatives in Turkey are not unaware of it, and I would advise the Government to make some inquiries on the subject. It is quite true that the Russians are making a great effort by liberally distributing charities, and they are doing all that with an object, and their movements are not limited at all to the distribution of charity. It is a political movement, and its object is to get a firm hold of the insurgent leaders in Crete. My right honourable Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs—whose absence we all regret, and whose future absence we shall most deeply regret—did not state what is the most important part of the question—that is, that the Russian sphere of influence, by naval or military occupation, is so near to the Suda Bay that it could be extended to Suda Bay at any moment. Now, there is a general impression prevailing among people who know, among Europeans and diplomatists, that Russia will never go out of Crete, and that it is the intention of Russia to make a second Port Arthur in Suda Bay. Now, perhaps Her Majesty's Government will pay attention to that before it is too late. The strategic position of Crete is very important, because it blocks the approaches to the Dardanelles, and if Russia held that position it would be a matter of the very gravest importance and would be an injury to this country. Now, that is the policy which Russia is aiming at, and it is universally believed in Turkey that that will be the outcome of the present operations of Russia in Crete. Now, what is our object in the policy which we have been pursuing? Who have we benefited by this policy? I do not believe that even the Christian insurgents are satisfied. I do not think it can be said that we have benefited the Greeks by our policy, and it cannot be said that we have benefited the Armenians by our policy toward Armenia. Then, who have we benefited? Let us come to the practical point. We are doing no good to anybody who can do any good to us, but 843 we are doing a great injury to the Mussulman population in Crete, and we are alienating Turkey and the whole of the Mussulman population of the world by our policy in Crete. We object to the appointment of a Christian Governor General, who is a subject of the Porte, and why should we? The Sultan is recognised as the Sovereign of the island of Crete by the whole of Europe. Autonomy has been promised to Crete, and Europe is bound to it, and Turkey is also bound to it. Is there no able and honourable man among the subjects of the Turkish Empire suitable to be the Governor of Crete? I think a most pronounced opponent would admit that there was. The man proposed by the Sultan is a man of great repute, and he is respected by everyone who knows him, and he has the advantage of local knowledge of the island. I want to know what we are gaining by the policy we are pursuing? What is the object of it? We need the military force of the Ottoman Empire, and we shall have to have it. It would be impossible for us, in a great struggle with Russia, to do without it. Why should we set ourselves up above Germany in this matter? The Germans have pursued a policy of friendliness towards Turkey, and what is the result? Why, the German Emperor, by his policy, has secured the military predominance of Europe, and by his policy he has turned the scale. The result is that Turkey, which, no doubt, offers a fast field for British trade and enterprise, has become a vast field for the trade of Germany. We are going further afield in China under all sorts of difficulties to secure an opening for our markets, while, at the same time, we are doing our best to close the doors of one of our best customers and friends near at home. I hear a good deal said about Russia from the Front Opposition Bench, and about the necessity of being friendly with Russia, to increase our trade. Now, whereas the tariffs in Russia are very high, on the other hand, in Turkey they are the lowest in Europe, and I believe it is a fact at this moment that our trade with Turkey is larger than with Russia.
SIR E. ASHMEAD BARTLETT
Well, I confess that I do not see the force of that interruption of my honourable Friend. Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to beg of the Government to consider this question of Crete, because it is a question of very great importance to this country. I want to say a word or two about the feeling of Turkey upon this subject. I will only base my opinion upon this, that there is a strong feeling that the Mussulmans of Crete are being treated very unjustly and very unfairly, and I put it on the grounds of our human duty to these Mussulmans, 100,000 of whom are suffering almost entirely through our own mistakes in the past. So much has this been recognised that two great Powers who are opposed to our policy—Germany and Austria—have withdrawn, and we are risking alienating the whole Mussulman population, and turning them against us, while we are doing no good to anybody. Now, that is the humane side of the question. We cannot afford to alienate this military force. I do not care one bit for the outcry which has been raised through this sham sentiment. I know what the Turkish people are, and I know that there is not a finer people or a truer-hearted people in the world. I know that they have been grossly misrepresented in this House, but I am appealing now on the ground of British interests. I say that we cannot afford at this crisis, when we are threatened on all sides by Russia, to alienate the military forces of Turkey. There are 800,000 fighting men there, whom you cannot equal in any country in the world for physique, if not for courage, and we are deliberately turning that force against us by a policy in Crete so fatuous and useless and so incredibly absurd as to pass the power of language to describe. That is the fact, and therefore I have ventured at this late period—and I apologise for so doing—to speak on this subject at such length. I am in hopes that this question of Crete will not be allowed to drift along any further, but that Her Majesty's Government will reconsider the fatuous policy they have hitherte pursued.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I heard with regret that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is no longer to take any 845 part in our Debates. I am only expressing the views of every Member in this House when I say his presence and his speeches were always interesting and instructive, and will be greatly missed, and however we may differ from him in politics we wish him nothing but happiness and success in the new sphere to which he has been called. The principle of the Foreign Office—one of the great principles which guide that office—was laid down some time ago, in answer to a question of my own, in language which has since become classical, and has frequently been acted upon. It is stated that it is not the duty of the Foreign Office to take an intelligent anticipation in events which are likely to take place. That is extraordinary language, but the other day, in reply to a question I put in reference to an exceedingly important memorandum which has been signed by the Executive Committee of the Cretan Assembly in December to the admirals in reference to the new constitution which they have set up in Crete, when I asked the Under Secretary of State whether he could lay before the House—whether his attention had been called to that Memorandum, which, I think I shall show is of exceptional importance, his answer was that he had seen it published, in the Manchester Guardian, but it had not reached the Foreign Office. That is an extraordinary thing, because that declaration, which I saw and read in the columns of the Manchester Guardian, which, undoubtedly, is a document of the greatest importance, was actually made public by the Manchester Guardian, and was unknown to the Foreign Office, although it contained passages which certainly ought to have come under the eye of that Office. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs went on to say that, while it would appear from the copy of the Memorandum made public by the Manchester Guardian, that the Cretan Assembly had not accepted the new constitution, the fact remained that they had accepted the new constitution unanimously, and he appeared to think that that closed the question. I need not recall the discussion which took place two years ago, when the Assembly of that day cheerfully accepted a previous constitution in 1895 from what was then known as the Concert of Europe, and 846 presented to the insurgents of Crete, with the consent of the foreign Powers. Every question we then put was met with the stereotyped reply that this new constitution had been accepted by the people with thanks. We know what happened. The people of Crete on that occasion trusted in the five Powers, and their determination to see that justice was done, and knowing that they were powerless in the face of the great Powers of Europe and Turkish rapacity, they did accept the constitution of August, 1895, but they never said it would work. They drew up a document showing its weak points, and their leaders criticised it in such a way as to show that they were intelligent men, and we know that in a very few months after they accepted that constitution, the disorders which commenced in Canea culminated in occupation of the seaport towns by the troops of the Powers. I know that this is a question which does not interest either Her Majesty's Government or the British people like the railroads of China, because Crete is not a country with which we may expect to do much trade or from which we expect to obtain much profit. But, Sir, when we find that the question of the condition of Crete and the opinion of the insurgents of Crete, as expressed in this memorandum to which I desire to draw attention to-night, is attempted to be disposed of in a few words by the Foreign Office, I think it would be wise of the Government to remember that the disturbances to which Crete gave rise culminated in a great war, and brought the whole of Europe to the verge of a great contest. Although the island is a small one, still the question of its government is one which may come to interest Europe very keenly. What are the words of the memorandum? The admirals, as we all know, in consultation with the consuls of the European Powers, drew up a new Constitution, under which, for the first time, the insurgents in the interior of the island were recognised as a Government. I heartily congratulate the people of Crete that after 300 years of misery and suffering they have at last wrung from Europe the right to rule their own island. I think that is a great advance, and a step in which I heartily rejoice, and I say that I think the Cretan 847 Assembly, and the chiefs have shown the greatest possible wisdom and control in accepting, however much they may disapprove of it, the Constitution at the hands of the four Powers, because it is a step towards the goal for which they have fought so long. But although they accepted the constitution, they sent a memorandum as to their views of the probability of its working with success. Now, I say that the language in which that memorandum is couched is the language of intelligent, moderate, wise and prudent men, and it is absolutely astonishing to me that a remonstrance so moderate in its terms, so animated by its desire for the best interests of the country, should be treated as it has been with such absolute contempt as being unworthy of the notice of the Foreign Office of this country. Surely one would expect that it having come with the full authority of what has now been recognised as the de facto and legal Government of Crete, it would have received due notice from the Government of this country. The memorandum suggested certain alterations and amendments, and one would have thought that the Government would have considered in a favourable spirit the suggested alterations, and have accepted a great many of them, especially as regards the great difficulty pointed out by the CretanAssembly— pointed out in a most statesmanlike document. The admirals have not seen their way to meet the Cretan Assembly. I will take the chief points, because what I most regret is the inability to meet them in the most important point of all—the withdrawal of the Ottoman troops from the seaport towns. The admirals of the four Powers have urged the withdrawal of these troops, the actual men who are responsible for the maintenance of order and the preservation of life. Their opinion, as I understand, is that the withdrawal of these troops is essential to the good government of the island. Now, is it not astonishing that, in spite of the remonstrances of the Cretan Assembly and the opinion of the admirals, no steps are taken by the four Powers to withdraw them? We ought to know who is objecting to their withdrawal, we ought to have some further information upon that point. I asked a question the other day as to whether the Concert of Europe was still in existence, 848 and I gathered from the reply that was made that it does not exist since Germany and Austria withdrew their forces from Crete. I wonder if we have all taken notice of the fact. The first step towards the dissolution of the Concert of Europe was the withdrawal of the German and Austrian forces, and the four great Powers have shown that both Germany and Austria are no longer engrossed as regards the question of Crete. We might be informed by the Government, who is now responsible for the maintenance, in spite of the unanimous recommendation of the admirals, of the Turkish garrisons in the seaport towns. I do not think it would be possible to exaggerate the importance of this question. I noticed the other day a serious notice addressed to the four Powers by the Ottoman Government of a most sinister kind, which remonstrates against the withdrawal of the Ottoman troops, and that is followed up by an attempt to land a fresh supply of Ottoman troops upon the island. When the admirals prevented that the Porte again remonstrated and complained in what was a most sinister manner, because in the newspaper the Porte is said to have stated that there was extreme danger in detaining men whose time had expired in Crete, because probably disorder would arise if they were detained; and we all know that one of the recognised methods of the Turkish Government in Crete and else where is to bring about those disorders which they indicate may take place, and as they can pursue their policy they can improve their position in the island by setting up disorders in Candia and other places all over again. It is a cruel thing, when these people who have come through hundreds of years of bad government and arrived at a successful solution of their miseries, with this Constitution upon which they will be tried, the first attempt which they have been privileged to make to exercise their rights of freedom, to condemn them to commence their task of governing the island under circumstances which the admirals think make it impossible to do so with success. A greater act of cruelty could not be conceived. These men have shown wonderful capacity and extreme perseverance so far as I can observe, and they have a terribly difficult problem with which to deal. These people have 849 stated that if the Ottoman troops were removed and the Christian refugees allowed to return they would undertake to repatriate and reinstate in the towns and villages all the Mussulmans, and see that order was maintained. It may be said that they could not do this, but I say we are bound to give them a fair chance, and, until we do, there will not be peace. Under the new Constitution there is a gendarmerie under European officers, and inasmuch as they have obtained by their new Constitution what they bargained for and hoped for, and more than they thought they would three years ago, they also put a bond upon the Powers to secure that they shall carry out their great work successfully. I myself would like to see the seaport towns occupied by the forces of the four Powers for the next four years, in order that they might, in the event of outrage and violence, be able to intervene with due authority to see that order is preserved. But having at last recognised the Christians in the island as a legal Government, I think the four Powers are bound to give them a fair chance, and not ask them to accept a more difficult task under conditions which are declared by the admirals to be impossible. The honourable Member for Sheffield said that the reason that Irishmen sympathise with these rebels was because they are rebels themselves. I believe there is a great deal of truth in that remark. We do sympathise with people who have had hard times, and who have struggled through, and, having regard to the difficulties of our own country, we are in a better position to enter into the difficulties of other countries, and we do desire that they should have fair play. There is just one other point connected with the condition of the island, and the chance which I so earnestly desire that these people should have— and I desire that they should have a fair chance—and that is the condition of the towns. Now, the condition of Candia, which is the town in English occupation, is by universal testimony much worse than Ritimo or Canea, and other towns occupied by the French and the Russians, and where order is observed, and where the Christians who come into the towns are comparatively safe. In Candia police 850 is not administered by the English, as the Turks have more power; and in Candia no Christian is safe. Candia is the largest of the important ports of Crete, and is shut to the inhabitants of the island. I have throughout the whole of this year frequently had occasion to bring to the notice of the Under Secretary the fact that the inhabitants were in great necessity and want, and I was met with sneers, and informed that the Christian population was not only not in want, but in a state of affluence, having not only their own crops, but the crops of the Mahomedans as well. I have testimony here which proves incontestably, to me, at all events, that throughout the whole of last spring there was an immense amount of want and cruel suffering owing to the interruption to trade at the port of Candia, and that many women and children were reduced to the very verge of starvation, and hi some cases lived upon the herbage of the fields. That is a state of most desperate suffering, and it is established beyond doubt; and we now have here what I may term a most dignified remonstrance in this Memorandum, signed by the President of the Assembly, the head of the Executive in Crete, begging that the port of Candia may be opened, and pointing out that the corn, wine, and raisin harvests promise to be most plentiful and yield superabundant crops; but unless the port of Candia is opened to the Christians the bulk of the harvest will be lost, and the consequence will be that the same distress will be inflicted upon the population as they suffered last year. Now, is it not monstrous? You have set up a Government, and the man who is the head of that Government tells you that you will waste money if you keep Candia closed, and that this good harvest will be wasted and ruined. Where are the taxes to come from, and what hope is there of this Government being able to govern the people if you will not take steps to open it? I say in my deliberate judgment that until two things are done you cannot open the port of Candia to Cretan trade. First, you must get rid of the Ottoman troops, and then you must get rid of Colonel Chermside, who is as great a friend of the Sultan as the honourable Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield 851 himself. You have got to get the Ottoman troops out of Candia, and you have to put in command of the port an officer who is not a philo-Turk; and to tell me that two or three British regiments, under the guns of two or three British ironclads, are not sufficient to keep order is preposterous and absurd. What were the words of Colonel Chermside himself when he spoke to Mr. Evans? That he was there not to order the Turkish authorities, but to co-operate with them. That was the answer given to Mr. Evans, that the British troops were not there to preserve order at whatever cost, but were only there to co-operate with the Turkish Government; and I say under those circumstances it is absurd to talk of preserving order. I have brought this matter forward at this late stage of the; Session because, I confess, I am very glad and feel triumphant that those unfortunate people have at last succeeded in obtaining the recognition of Europe to their liberty; and I do strongly press the Government that every effort should be made to give them full play, and every inducement, and every chance to govern their island, and I say that if their new Constitution is a failure the blame will rest with Europe.
§ MR. LOWE (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I wish to ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes while I raise a question other than that which has up to now engaged its attention during the present sitting. Although this question does not relate to China or to Crete, it does affect British trade, and, to some extent, it involves the policy of the "open door" I refer to recent seizures of arms and ammunition belonging to British traders and manufacturers in the Persian Gulf. I bring forward this question in no spirit of hostility to the Government or to the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. On the contrary, I wish to acknowledge the courtesy with which he has treated those who have interested themselves in this question, and the readiness with which he has afforded them information. It may be in the recollection of the House that the right honourable Gentleman was good enough to receive a deputation of gun makers and others upon this subject in June last, and that in his reply to that 852 deputation he went very fully and carefully into this question. It may be thought by some that that should have satisfied the gun-makers, and that no further action should have been taken by them or by those who represent them in this House in reference to the matter. Well, that might have been so, if any hope had been held out to them that their grievances would be redressed or that restitution would be made or compensation given to them for the loss of their property, of which, whether rightly or wrongly, they had been deprived by the action of the Government; but no sort of encouragement of this kind was held out to them. Moreover, they felt that the suggestion which was made when the attention of the House was first drawn to this subject, that these arms and ammunition had found their way to the Afridis, and also the suggestion that these gun-makers had been engaged in an illicit and unlawful trade, had cast a slur and an imputation upon their honour, as well as their patriotism, which it was essential to their good name that they should take the earliest opportunity of endeavouring to remove in the most public manner possible. And in addition to all this the views which the deputation expressed to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, but which ware not received with match favour by him, have since received judicial sanction and been confirmed and supported in the most complete and explicit manner by Mr. Justice Bigham in a case which recently came before him. Well, I thought it necessary that I should say thus much by way of introduction, in order to justify the course I have taken in bringing this matter before the notice of the House, and I should now like, with the permission of the House, to very briefly recapitulate the facts of the case. It is well known that the manufacture of arms and ammunition has long been one of the staple industries of Birmingham, and that many of the citizens of Birmingham have been long and honourably known in connection with this trade all over the world. In recent years an important branch of this trade has been that carried on with ports in the Persian Gulf. It was begun in about the year 1880, and it has increased year by year since, until Inst year it had even grown in value to the large amount of over 853 £100,000. During the whole of this period, from 1880, it had been carried on in the most open manner without the slightest interruption, without any fraud, evasion, or concealment, and with the full knowledge and consent of both the British and Persian Governments. This was so up to December of last year, when it was stopped suddenly and without notice, under circumstances to which I shall presently refer. The bulk of this trade was carried on with two ports— namely, Bushire, which is in Persian territory, and Muscat, which is not in Persian territory, but which is the capital of an independent State on the other side of the gulf. With regard to Muscat, I cannot find that there does exist, or that there ever has existed, any prohibition against the importation of arms into that place or the country of which it is the capital. As regards Bushire the case is somewhat different, for it is only fair to say that a prohibition against these importations into Persia was issued by the Persian Government in the year 1881. But I have it upon the most reliable authority that although this prohibition has not been formally repealed, it has never been acted upon until now, and it has been universally regarded both in Persia and in this country, as a merely nominal prohibition for securing a monopoly of the trade in arms to the Persian Government, and for enabling them to exact whatever rate of import duties they might think fit, however excessive and exorbitant those duties might be; and I may mention to the House in proof of this fact, and also as showing that this trade has been carried on in a perfectly open and legitimate way, that the Consular Reports sent from Bushire year by year, either make no reference to this prohibition or refer to it as merely a nominal prohibition, and down for the purposes I have indicated, and they all of them refer to the trade in such a way as to show that it was well known to, and well recognised by both Governments. Well, these were the conditions under which this so-called illicit trade had been carried on without interruption from the year 1881 down to December of last year, a period of nearly 17 years, and those who were engaged in it had no reason whatever to suppose that anything had happened to alter or vary these conditions in the slightest particular. But 854 suddenly, and without any warning being given, and without any reason being assigned, a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition belonging to British merchants and manufacturers, stored at Bushire, which had actually passed the Customs, and upon which duty had been paid to the Persian officials, were seized by the British Consul or his subordinates, and were handed over by them to the Persian Government. This seizure was made, I believe, upon the 7th December last. Now, the Under Secretary of State, in his answer to the question which was addressed to him the other day by the honourable Member for the Wick Burghs, said that the arms and ammunition stored at Bushire were not seized and confiscated by Her Majesty's Consul General. Now, I do not in any way wish to call into question the information upon which that answer was given, but it does not correspond with the facts which have been supplied to me. I hold in my hand a statement made, by a gentleman who was present when the seizure was made, and he distinctly states that, although some subordinate Persian official was present, he took no part in the seizure, that the Consul General and his assistants took the initiative in the matter, and that the Persian official took a back place; and he concludes his statement by saying that if it had not been for the part taken by the British officials, the goods would not have been delivered up, as the Persians had no right to enter the premises where they were stored. That is the statement of Mr. Dharwar, a partner in the firm of Messrs. Fracis Times and Company, merchants, carrying on business in London and at Bushire, and he is quite prepared to substantiate that statement upon oath. That was in December of last year. In January of the present year a further seizure was made. A cargo of arms on board an English vessel known as the Beluchistan, which had been shipped in a perfectly open manner from this country and marked with either Bushire or Muscat as their port of destination, were seized by the commander of H.M.S. Lapwing on the high seas, somewhere off Muscat, and handed over by him to the British Consul at that place. Now, Sir, the action of the Government in causing these seizures 855 to be made was either legal or it was illegal. Either they were justified in taking this course, or they were not; and that is the direct issue which I wish to place before the House. Mr. Justice Bigham, in the case to which I have already incidentally referred, most distinctly gave it as his opinion that at least one of these seizures was illegal. The particulars of that case are these: An action was brought by a firm of merchants (Fracis Times and Company, to whom I have already referred) against the Sea Insurance Company to recover damages for loss of some of the goods shipped on the Beluchistan under a policy of marine insurance. The defence was that the insurance company were not informed of the supposed prohibition, which, had it been disclosed, would have affected their risk, and that the trade was contrary to Persian law. Mr. Justice Bigham decided that the trade had been openly conducted, and that if the so-called prohibition was effective at all for any purpose, it was merely for the purpose of enabling the representative live of the Shah, to levy heavy duties upon the goods imported. He believed that the seizure by the Lapwing was due to the action of the British authorities only; that the importation of arms was not contrary to the law of Persia as administered and practised, and was certainly not contrary to the law of England, and he gave judgment for the plaintiffs with costs, and refused a stay of execution, stating that he considered the underwriters ought to pay. Well, assuming that decision to be good law, I fail to see upon what ground the British Foreign Office can justify their action in assisting the Persian Government to enforce a bogus prohibition against British subjects, whom and whose trading interests it is their first duty to protect. But even supposing, for the sake of argument, that this was not a bogus prohibition, but a real and effective prohibition, what right had the Persian Government to call upon the British Government to assist them in enforcing it against goods upon which they themselves had actually received the import duties. Then, too, as regards the goods seized on the Beluchistan, again assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was a good and effective prohibition, 856 still it seems to me that the action of Her Majesty's Government was still a little hasty and premature, because no Persian prohibition could be said to apply to the high seas, and I have already shown that it did not apply to Muscat. Indeed, I hold in my hand copies of two letters from the Sultan of Muscat, in which he states that no such prohibition exists in his territory, and that the entry of arms and ammunition is perfectly free, open, and welcome. And the Government might, I think, at least have waited to see whether the goods would be landed in Persia or not before they seized them. It was, in the first instance, alleged, as I have already said, that these arms were finding their way to the Afridis and other hostile tribes on the north-west frontier of India to be used against our own soldiers. Well, if that suggestion had been well founded I should have been the first to say the Government were bound to take the action which they did take, and I are certain the Birmingham gun manufacturers, whom I represent, would not have uttered a single syllable of complaint, however much they might have lost or been damaged by the transaction. But, after full inquiries, it turns out that there is not, and never has been, the slightest shadow of foundation for this allegation, and the idea has now, I understand, been entirely abandoned by the Under Secretary as a reason for the course which he has pursued. Now, what I want to get at is, what are the reasons on which the Foreign Office now rely to justify the action which they have taken in this matter? So far as can be gathered from answers given by the Under Secretary of State to questions addressed to him in this House and to the deputation which waited upon him, his reasons may be briefly summarised as follows:—In the first place, the right honourable Gentleman persists in saying that this was an illicit trade, and therefore liable to be stopped at any moment; secondly, that the Shah thought that the tribes in and round Persia, were becoming too effectively and too heavily armed, which he considered constituted a source of menace and danger to certain portions of his dominions, and therefore he had called upon the English Government to assist 857 him in preventing any further importations of arms; and lastly, that the British Government also thought that certain not very clearly defined British interests and other branches of British trade might be prejudicially affected by similar causes; and the right honourable Gentleman gave as instances of what he meant:—That robbery and piracy on the Gulf had lately been increasing; that there had been a native rising at a place called Mekran; and that Mr. Graves, an official of the Indo-European Telegraph Company, had been murdered. Well, I have already dealt with the description of this trade as illicit. According to Mr. Justice Bigham it was not contrary to the law of England or Persia, and it was certainly not contraband in the ordinary acceptation of the term, because it was carried on in an open manner, and the heavy import duties which the Persian officials demanded were cheerfully and readily paid, so that I fail to see how the term "illicit" can be correctly applied to this trade. As to the rising at Mekran, it turns out that this was not at all formidable, that the insurgents were poorly and imperfectly armed, and that they bad no breach-loading guns. And lastly, it turns out that poor Mr. Graves was killed with knives, and not with guns at all. Well, these reasons might have been considered sufficiently valid reasons for interference if the trade had been stopped gradually, and if a fair and reasonable amount of notice and warning had been given. That, however, would have been a very different matter to pouncing down upon these unfortunate traders all at once, and without the slightest warning. There may exist some good and sufficient reasons which have not yet been disclosed, some set of circumstances of which we are at present ignorant. If so, these circumstances should at once be openly stated. But, apart from any such undisclosed reasons being assigned, I think that the Government might at least have insisted that a fair amount of notice and warning should have been given before they allowed British trading interests to be interfered with in this wav. But my object in raising this question is not to bring an indictment against the Government in respect of the past so much as it is to ask them to see 858 if some adequate remedy cannot be found for the undoubted injury which has been inflicted. These manufacturers have had a large and remunerative branch of their trade entirely stopped and done away with. They have been deprived of property of very considerable value, and a large number of their workpeople have been thrown out of employment. Resolutions condemning the action of the Government and asking for redress have been passed by several large meetings of people interested in the gun trade in Birmingham, and similar resolutions have been passed by such influential bodies as the Birmingham. Chamber of Commerce and the Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House. Now, it is a well-known part of the declared and recognised policy of the Government and the Unionist Party to foster and encourage rather than to hamper and to hinder British trade in all parts of the world wherever it may be found. And if it can be proved, as I believe it can be proved if an impartial inquiry is held in this case, that an injustice has been committed, and that the Government have, it may be unwittingly, proceeded with an unnecessary degree of severity and without sufficient regard to the interests of British trade—then I respectfully submit that the only means by which they can now conform to this prominent feature of Unionist policy is for themselves to take the initiative in removing that injustice, and in compensating those who have suffered under it; or they should, at the very least, restore this property to its rightful owners and make them compensation, for the damage they have sustained owing to its detention for so long a time.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I had intended to speak at some length on the subject of this Debate, upon the point to which my honourable Friend the Member for Mayo has called attention. I think that point has been entirely justified by the arguments brought forward, and therefore I shall confine myself to a few words on something which has gone out of sight largely owing to the pre-occupation of our minds with the Chinese question. I must remind the House that the question of Crete is only slumbering. It would be a great mistake to suppose that 859 because the island is comparatively quiet that danger may not occur—dangers which will arise owing to the differences on either side, which may in all probability bring us a crisis like that of two years ago in Crete, One great step is the recognition by the Powers of the right of self-government of the island. There has been such very long delay in establishing autonomy, and it is something to congratulate ourselves upon that at last we have the constitution of a Cretan Assembly, and the recognition of its Executive, because that shows that the Governments of this and other Powers of Europe are alive to the necessity of recognising the self-government of Crete in some practical form. I do not deny that sometimes a provisional arrangement has great merit, because it often forms the basis of a permanent arrangement to be farmed on the basis of the provisional one; but there is great danger still, considering the animosity of the two religions, and trouble may again arise. We know that the people at Constantinople and the wicked, crafty, and malignant figure who sits at the head of the administration would be only too glad to take advantage of any difficulties that might arise, in the hope that he would get something back out of it, I would therefore urge the Government to endeavour to arrive at some permanent solution, and not allow the Government to remain longer in abeyance, and also that they should get rid of the Turkish troops. Apparently the Admirals themselves are of opinion that they should go, and the Government will be well advised, therefore, if they take steps to convey to the Sultan that the Turkish troops must go, and they will not have the island tampered with, and that any attempt at insurrection will receive no tolerance at their hands. I join with the other honourable Members who have spoken in congratulating the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State on the arduous and honourable duty to which he has been called. Although we regret his absence here, we heartily wish him well, and I hope it will be possible for the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to give us some assurance that the Government have their attention fixed upon this very difficult question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I can see, I think, that some answer is due to my right honourable Friend behind me. I have no right to address the House again, but perhaps I shall be granted a certain amount of indulgence in this matter. As regards Crete, I am not disposed to differ from the view which the right honourable Gentleman takes as to the difficulties which still await us in dealing with that island. I am far from taking an optimistic view in the one sense, at all events, of supposing that our difficulties are at an end or that the solution of them is easy. Our difficulties are not at an end, nor is the solution easy, and I am the person to admit it. Now, having said so much of Crete, I ought to say that I can by no means concur in the truth of the picture as drawn by the honourable Member for Mayo of the present condition of Candia. There are 53,000 refugee Mussulmans there who have been driven from their homes, and there are 700 British troops there, but I think the difficulties are being adequately met at the present time, and that great as are the embarrassments of the situation a conspicuous measure of success is now being obtained. So far from Candia affording unfavourable contrasts to other towns in Crete, I believe that precisely the reverse is the case, and if it is any comfort to the honourable Gentlemen who seem to think otherwise I can tell them that a weekly bazaar which has been instituted in the port is a great success, and as much as,£1,000 of trade has been done in a single day. Now, turning from this question, which I don't presume to say is exhausted by these very few remarks, and turning to the subject to which the honourable Member behind me referred—the importation of arms into Persia—I would venture to remind him that, while he comes forward as representing his constituency in this matter, the trade in arms does not concern Birmingham manufacturers so much as Belgian manufacturers. In many cases both the rifles, guns, and' cartridges which had been illicitly imported, were made, not in this country, but in Belgium. I will not labour the point; the honourable Gentleman has made a claim for compensation to those merchants whose goods were seized in the 861 Persian Gulf, under the authority of the Persian Government and that of the Sultan of Muscat. What is the basis upon which he bases his claim? He admits, as everybody must admit, that the trade in arms is an illicit one, but he says though illicit it has been carried on ever since 1880, and though in 1890 there was some talk of prohibition, it was always found possible by merchants interested to get round prohibition by paying extra duty to the Persian Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have no reference here, but I think my honourable Friend is mistaken. I think there was a prohibition subsequent to 1881, but I ventured to point out to my honourable Friend that these manufacturers, or exporter's rather—for this is an exporter's rather than a manufacturer's question—knew that their trade was illicit. I think that cannot be denied, because in the first place the very fact that they gave these extra duties is clear evidence. At the same time, it is true that in Eastern countries a little judicious expenditure of money may do a good deal to get round the best known and best established custom. The fact that for year after year it has been possible to carryon the trade, in spite of arbitrary and heavy duties, does not and ought not really to justify those who carry it on in making complaint when the law has interfered. My honourable Friend appears to think that the importers, or exporters, whichever they choose to call themselves, carried on this trade with an absolute assurance that nobody would resent it. I think there are facts which conclusively prove that that is not the case. My honourable Friend asserts that that traffic was always carried on in the most open way, and that no precautions were taken for concealment. But the fact which has been brought to my notice is that in many cases considerable pains have been taken to conceal both the destination and the character of these goods. In two cases I am informed that the goods were consigned to individuals who repudiated absolutely the fact that they were the 862 consignees, and in other cases that rifles, have been described as hardware in the bill of lading; and although that may not be an absolutely inaccurate description nobody can say that it is calculated to give much information to the Customs House officers, and it cannot be said therefore that this trade has been carried on in the light of day under those circumstances. I believe, however, that the people interested have been informed that applications for intervention on their behalf will be entertained if they can prove that the arms seized were not consigned to Persia, and if sent there they were sent therewith the permission of the Persian Government. This proof, as I understand, none of these gentlemen have yet attempted to give. It is a matter of a purely legal aspect, and must be so dealt with. But let me say in addition, and in conclusion, that when my honourable Friend brings this forward as a case which requires the intervention of the Unionist Government on the ground that the Unionist Government is deeply committed to the policy of increasing British export trade, then I cannot admit the validity of his arguments. Whatever else the Unionist Government may be committed to, it is not committed to the furtherance of smuggling or to the introduction of any goods into any country which by its laws prohibits the introduction of such goods. In the second place, I would venture to point out to my honourable Friend that even from the point of view of British exports it is extremely inimical to British trade to export arms into the Persian Gulf. The Persian Government and the Sultan of Muscat both complain of the ill effects upon the order of their country through the easy access of arms, and our own information is that the introduction of arms does tend to those acts of piracy and highway robbery and general disorder which are some of the great obstacles to the augmentation of British interests in the Persian Gulf. While I think my honourable Friend has no particular ground upon which to base the claim, he makes on behalf of those for whom he speaks, on the broader ground of legitimate British commerce. I would venture say that this House ought to do all in its power to discourage the importation of arms against the laws of the countries 863 themselves—laws which are well defined —under which our commercial interests have grown up in those remote regions.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I am sorry that I must ask the indulgence of the House while I recall to its attention the Chinese aspect of the Debate. I should not have troubled the House upon this subject had I not found myself in a singular position, which I am anxious to explain. I made every effort in my power to attract attention when this aspect of the Debate was more in evidence, but I have only been successful now in the operation of catching your eye. The Debate upon this subject this afternoon, although it is very much what I might call a select Party attack upon the policy of Lord Salisbury and his Government, and although, under ordinary circumstances, it is perfectly fair to discredit and blacken our opponents as much as the laws and the manners of decency will permit, I think there are peculiar circumstances connected with the Chinese question which do not make any attack upon this side of the House, entirely of that character, because we all know that Lord Salisbury is exposed to attack upon his policy, not only from this side of the House, but also from the other. It seems to me that Conservatives and Radicals alike are doing all they can to goad Lord Salisbury into a policy of Jingoism, and of territorial annexation in China, into a war against Powers more formidable than ourselves, from a military point of view, in order to enforce the policy of what is called the "open door" I think that is a disastrous mistake, and is the effect of the Jingoism and military discussions which have prevailed in connection with this matter. I think that Lord Salisbury in many respects is, at the present moment, one of the safeguards against the prevalence of this disastrous view of things, because, in the first place—and in that respect he should be encouraged, supported, and thanked by all those who view matters from the point of view in which I believe he regards them himself —I think, from all I can see, that Lord Salisbury, and those of his party who adhere to him, is distinctly anti-Jingo at heart. He does not look upon military success as the greatest glory of this or any other country, but he regards indus- 864 try as in every respect the highest British interest. The "Rule, Britannia, "people are anxious to pick a quarrel in order to show that we are always able to thrash creation. Lord Salisbury is, no doubt, prepared for any emergency, but is not going to expend his energy in trifles; but to wait until, in unavoidable self-defence, he could do something with success where the game is worth the candle. Some say we did not do so in Port Arthur. The great question is, do the Government mean to fight for Port Arthur, or to risk a fight? If you do not, you should not bluff, and give foreign countries the opportunity of speculating upon the question of why does a donkey eat thistles, with reference to yourselves. I think there is a great deal of the wise Little Englander in Lord Salisbury—thesort of Little Englander who does not regard England, as fat and bloated England seeking to throw on more superfluous flesh, and ready to burst with superfluous blood, but rather as a spare, lithe, and agile England, with all its faculties braced up, ready to aim at the true greatness of nations—wealth, civilisation, and justice. I am glad, therefore, to have broken out from the position of seeming to encourage what I consider to be the bad influence which prevails in this country. The tendency of the typical John Bull is to regard the world generally as made for his occupation, and he takes it as a duty to himself to put down, by means of armies and navies, all those greedy and impudent nationalities who wish to get a share for themselves. I prefer what I understand to be Lord Salisbury's attitude, to what I understand to be the attitude of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, who appears to me to be filled with the desire to take and annex, wherever and whatever he can, all over the world, whatever may be the cost, whether it be a white elephant like Uganda—although I do not say he had the determining voice in the policy—where we know there cam never be any trade, and where we send British soldiers to shoot down our prospective customers, and where our trade at best can only be a few hundreds of saucepans from Birmingham, or whether they be other places all over the world, with the result that the Germans rush in and trade in places where they have 865 never had to pay the cost of the stall or anything else. The right honourable Gentleman reminds me of the man who is continually haunting auction rooms and remnant sales in order to pick up whatever he can lay his hands on, at whatever cost, under the idea that it will be in the end a splendid investment. Nothing discourages him; we know he will buy paralytic eight-day clocks with neither springs nor pendulums, old guns and pistols, which are a kind of life insurance to the enemy 50 yards in front of them, bales of cotton and wool, too old for use, old horses, which are only lit to go to the knacker's yard, novels, that will, by and by, come under the operation of the sanitary authorities, and be speedily demolished, and who answers all advice by saying, "Who knows what great bargains they may turn out to be to either myself or my children? "But we know what the result is; he never gets any offer for what he has acquired, and when he has passed away the whole absurd museum is bundled out neck and crop by the people to whom it has been left, to the marine store dealer or to the pawnbroker, and is disposed of at a very small song indeed. That seems to me to be a parallel of the extravagant territorial acquisition in all its aspects, and I am glad, therefore, that there should be a man with Lord Salisbury's convictions in these matters, who may prove a check to some extent to the policy of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Colonies. I believe Lord Salisbury is at heart a very great free trader. If he was not, I am perfectly sure he would have jumped at the suggestion of British State railways to be set up in China, as against foreign State railways, constructed by foreign Powers at very great expense to themselves, and which will be of as great advantage to all those connected with trade as those who constructed them, because they must get back their capital, and they cannot shut out the class that brings it back. There is also the advantage that was so clearly put and dwelt upon by the honourable and gallant Member. I think, from his action—Lord Salisbury's action—he must be a believer in what I may call the self-assertive and penetrating powers of the free trade principle, to advance the trade of the country 866 —the doctrine which Peel summed up by saying that free exports could always be made to fight hostile tariffs, the doctrine which I am sorry to see had so plentiful a douche of cold water thrown upon it a night or two ago. I wish in this connection to state a few facts connected with the matter. I shall only mention four. Take the case of the U.S.A., which is a high tariff country. Our trade there has increased in 10 years from £117,000,000 to £130,000,000. In France it has increased from £58,000,000 to £67,000,000. In Germany from £50,000,000 to £59,000,000, "and in Russia itself from £23,000,000 to £35,000,000. It is no use after that to tell me that hostile tariffs can spoil our trade. That is a fact which speaks for itself, and it ought not to be left out of sight in connection with the Chinese complications and difficulties. And the foreign trade would have been still better if the people of this country had thought more, and attended to their own interests—if the fruit of their labours and industries and technical education had received the share of attention to which it is entitled, and which even now is not attended to as it ought to be. I should not be surprised to find that Lord Salisbury is not desirous of making a war to the death in favour of the "open door" At all events, I have not seen that he has extended the suggestion re Melbourne. I am content to wait before I pass any condemnation, or do anything to weaken the hand of Lord Salisbury at the present juncture. Up to now I have not seen any substantial ground of complaint made against him. I know the attack this afternoon was very smart and clever in its own way, and it pointed to details which no doubt they would have been glad to reverse; but I have been looking at the leading points and tendencies of Lord Salisbury in this matter, and I for one, until he makes some gigantic and disastrous contradiction of the principles by which I believe him to be animated, will not pass upon him an indiscriminate condemnation. I will hope that the best obtainable results will come out of the difficulties in, which not only he but the whole country is at present involved, and until that comes about I shall regard him as advocating and standing up for and championing 867 the policy that is really for the true benefit of this country. And I will do all I can, all in my power, in my humble way to encourage him to make the stand he has hitherto made, greatly to his credit, against those of his own Party who are seeking to lead him into what I believe to be disastrous courses. If he has shown a want of firmness in one respect, he has not shown it in resisting those who endeavour to influence him to the peril of this country.
§ MR. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
I have risen to draw attention to a matter of considerable importance. My object is to ask the Solicitor General, in the absence of the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General, and the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary, a few questions with regard to an election which recently took place in the town of Grimsby. It is unfortunately well known all over the country—it is notorious—that allegations have been made that corrupt practices have prevailed in Grimsby at the election upon the most extensive and open scale. I need hardly say I am not making any attack upon the sitting Member.
§ MR. R, G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an honourable Member to refer to an election at a time when the period during which a petition may be lodged has not yet expired?
§ SIR J. MACLURE (Lancashire, Stretford)
I think if I may be allowed to say so, that it is disgraceful.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! It is a most unusual course, and I think it is out of order. The honourable Member is now about to go into the allegations that there was bribery and corruption at the Great Grimsby election. That, I understand, is his object?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Such allegations may be true or they may nor. 868 but it appears to me to be quite irregular to discuss that question in this House. Supposing an election petition had been lodged, very clearly it would be out of order to ask this House to discuss or pass judgment upon a matter which is under consideration in an election court. The same reasoning must apply if the 21 days, which is the period within which a petition may be presented, have not elapsed. I think it would be quite out of order for the honourable Gentleman to enter into a discussion as to whether corruption took place at an election when the 21 days have not expired within which a petition may be lodged.
§ MR. LEWIS
Perhaps you will allow me, upon the question of order, Sir, to draw attention, apart from any question that may arise upon the petition to section 45 of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act of 1883 and to section 2 of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1879, and the Criminal Law Prosecution of Offences Act, 1884. What I wish to submit is that this is a question which properly arises on the Vote for the Attorney General and the Home Office.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I understand that the honourable Gentleman was alleging bribery and corruption at the Great Grimsby election. That is a matter which cannot be discussed now. If the honourable Member tells me that he is in a position to state to the House that some specific misdemeanor, upon which a prosecution might be undertaken, has been brought to the notice of the Attorney General personally or of the Public Prosecutor, and that they have declined to take action upon it, I would not prevent him from commenting upon their action, but he must go as far as that to entitle him to go into the matter at all.
§ MR. LEWIS
I will submit it to you, Sir, in this form—I am speaking upon the point of order. The House is about to separate for six months. A petition may or may not be lodged, and, having regard to the special and peculiar circumstances of the case, it is improbable that it will be lodged. I am bringing forward this question—
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not a case of discussing the policy of the Attorney General. It is asking the House to enter into a general discussion as to whether bribery and corruption existed at the Grimsby election, and that I certainly cannot allow. It would not be in order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the honourable Member is going to address himself to the point of order which has been taken by the other honourable Member, I cannot allow him to proceed. I cannot allow any further discussion. I have already given my decision twice.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Quite so. I understand your ruling to be this: If there were specific cases which would constitute a misdemeanor or a felony within the words of the Act, and which would make the persons liable for prosecution, then it would be within the competence of this House to discuss that question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I did not say that. What I said was, that if the honourable Member was prepared to assert that a specific case had been brought to the knowledge of the Attorney General or the Public Prosecutor and those officers had refused to take any action upon such knowledge, then he might invite the House to consider their conduct.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
There is one matter upon which I had given notice to move a reduction on the 870 Report of the Public Education (Scotland) Vote, but as that Report fell under the Automatic Closure, I am compelled to bring the subject up on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill. I refer to the inadequacy of the provision in Scotland for training teachers in training colleges. No promise has been given that more adequate provision will be made, and even no admission that additional provision is required. The most important factor in education is the personnel and the professional qualifications of the teachers. There are two classes of certificated teachers—those who have had a two years' education and training at a training college and those who have not had that training, but who obtained their certificates through being acting teachers and passing the examination for admission of teachers. Training colleges stand to the teaching profession in the same relation as university training and education stand to the legal or medical profession. A man might, no doubt, be skilled as a lawyer or as a physician who has never studied within the walls of a university, but, all the same, he would have been the better for such education and training; whilst the policy of the country has always been, wherever possible, to encourage such higher education and training. The examination for the teacher's certificate is the same for both the trained and the untrained teacher, but the results of the examination show the immense superiority of the trained over the untrained teacher. All inspectors are agreed as to the superiority of the trained teacher, and some of the reports make repeated complaints of the increasing number and inefficiency of untrained teachers. It is obvious, therefore, that it ought to be the policy of the Education Department to encourage and cultivate in every way the supply of trained teachers. In Scotland there are, in round numbers, 10,000 certificated teachers. The Department calculate the annual waste at 6 per cent., thus requiring an annual addition of 600 teachers to the ranks of certificated teachers, in order to meet the annual waste. The accommodation in the training college1— 871 has been practically stationary for many years, whilst the school attendance has been steadily and annually increasing, the average attendance having increased last year by 2.1 per cent. Even with an addition to the accommodation recently provided, the accommodation in the training colleges is capable of producing an annual output of only 550 students, and that upon the assumption that every inch of room is occupied in every training college. In addition, there are the university graduates, who last year numbered 40, and received certificates as teachers. Even if we include these, the provision in training colleges is barely sufficient to meet the annual waste. But, as I have already stated, the average school attendance is annually increasing, the increase last year being 2.1 per cent., thus requiring an addition of 210 certificated teachers annually to meet the increasing average attendance, and for which no provision whatever is made in training colleges. But, further, within the past few years large sums of money have been given to encourage the teaching of higher or secondary education in State-aided schools, which has created an extra demand for highly-trained teachers. The Local Taxation (Scotland) Bill, which has just passed this House, gives a still further sum of £49,000 per annum to be applied for the purposes of secondary education in Scotland, in the benefits of which, no doubt, State-aided schools will participate, and which will still further increase the demand for highly trained teachers. But, as I have already pointed out, the accommodation in the training colleges is only sufficient to provide for the annual waste without any provision whatever for the annual increasing school attendance, or this increasing demand for certificated trained teachers. Even the Superannuation of Teachers Bill which has passed this House may be expected to increase the demand for certificated trained teachers. The pension being provided out of Imperial funds instead of 872 out of the local rates, school managers will be more willing to encourage resignations of superannuated teachers, whilst the vacancies will have to be filled up by certificated trained teachers. The district having suffered through the incompetency by age of the teacher, it will be necessary, in order to compensate for the neglect of the past, to make all the better provision for the future. School boards and school managers all over Scotland are feeling the dearth of certificated trained teachers, and as a natural consequence of the restriction of the supply, the salaries of these teachers are being artificially raised, with the result that the poorer localities, who probably most need education to lift them out of their poverty, are compelled to employ inferior teachers. Dr. Ross, rector of the Church of Scotland Training College in Glasgow, and a member of the Glasgow school board, stated recently that the demand for trained teachers was such that every student who had completed his course in that college received an appointment within a few weeks of receiving his certificate, and that there were no certificated trained teachers on hand to meet the increasing demands made throughout the rest of the year. Whilst there is this demand for trained teachers, there are hundreds who have served their time and passed their examination as pupil teachers, and who have successfully passed the examination qualifying for admission to the training college, who cannot get admissions imply because there is not room. Passes at the examination, either in the first class or in the second class, qualify for admission to the training college. A girl from Lanarkshire had served as a pupil teacher, and passed all her examinations as pupil teacher, and had passed in the first class at the examination for admission to the Free Church Training College, Glasgow. Yet she was refused admission, simply because there was not room. The matter having been brought under the notice of the Scotch Education Department, the 873 following was the cold sympathetic reply—I am directed to state that an addition has recently been made to the number of students admitted to training colleges, but my Lords are unable to say that there is present prospect of this number being further increased.It is no doubt true that the girl may eventually obtain a certificate as an acting teacher on passing the requisite examination. But, then, she loses for herself the benefit of two years study and training in a training college. She loses the pecuniary benefit which the possession of a certificate of a trained teacher gives over that of one not so trained, whilst the education of the country loses through having an untrained, instead of a trained, teacher. It would be grossly unfair even if one individual should so suffer, but the case is not an isolated one, but a typical one, and has been the case of hundreds in the past. The training colleges were denominational in name. The whole cost of the annual maintenance was borne on the Imperial Estimates, so that the Government fully recognised their responsibility. The Report of the Scotch Education Department for the past year was extremely satisfactory, so far as attendance at school was concerned. Whilst the population had increased by only 8per cent., the school registers had increased by 1.05 per cent., and the average attendance by 2.1per cent. During the last 10 years the average attendance had increased 21.34 per cent., or an annual average of 2.1 per cent., which was being steadily maintained. The average attendance now stands as high as 87.56 percent, for infants; 83.65forolderscholars,with anaveragepercentageof84.45of the total scholars on the registers. Whilst the children are going to school at as early an age as formerly, they are remaining longer at school. Thus, whilst the total school register has increased during the past year by 1.05 percent., the number of children on the school register over 13 years of age was 1,329,or an increase of 2.1 per cent, of these older 874 scholars as compared with the preceding year. The number of children over 13 years of age in 1893 was only 47,617. The number last year has risen to 60,043,an increase of 26per cent, in four years, showing a considerable and steady increase in the number of the older scholars on the school register. Whilst the average attendance and the attendance of older scholars were greatly increasing the education results were much to be deplored. The statistics given in the Report do not show separately for comparison the number of children between the ages of 11 and 13, but give only the gross total of those between 7 and 13.But, even if we take the increased number of children over 13 years of age (1,329), all of whom are qualified by age to be in Standards V., VI., or ex-VI., we find that, instead of there being an increase in these standards, there has actually been a decrease of 66 children as compared with the preceding year. It has been said that these older children are most probably the children of the well-to-do or better class of the community; but, if so, that surely is all the greater reason why we should expect to find them in these upper standards. Take another test. In the year 1894 the average attendance in the upper standards above Standard III. formed 33.4 per cent, of the total average attendance, and the increased attendance of that year was in the same proportion. The percentage in the higher standards is gradually falling, till last year it has fallen to 32.9 per cent. But what is more remarkable still is, that of the total increase of 12,724 of average attendance, only 1,910, or only about one-seventh instead of one-third, were in the upper standards. The decline in one year may not be such as to create much attention, but it indicates a decline in educational results, which is bound to make itself felt in course of time, and is a decline which, even if a remedy were now applied, would take years to remedy. This decline is the natural result of the 875 change which has taken place in the examination of schools, and of the want of an adequate supply of trained teachers. It may be said that statistics may be made to prove anything, but, if so, that may be a good argument for discarding statistics altogether, and for saving the expense of compiling and printing the mass of the educational statistics. But so long as the Department compile and publish the statistics, so long are we entitled to draw the natural conclusion derivable from a comparison and consideration of these statistics. As regards the standards, they are such that children of 11 years of age may, and do, easily pass the Fifth Standard. The Scotch Education Department thus say of the standards—The standard has been fixed with reference to the capacity not of the bright, nor even of the average child, but of the scholar of only moderate ability, with respect to whom it is, of course, assumed that he has been properly classed, that he has passed the standard of the previous year, and that he has been under tolerable regular instruction since.The school attendance originally required was 250 half-day or 125 full-day attendances, and the standard was fixed with reference to the capacity of a child who might receive that minimum of instruction. Some years ago, the Scotch Education Reports could point to a steady and annually increasing number in the higher standards. This past year, notwithstanding a large increase in the number of older scholars, the numbers in the higher standards actually show a decrease. A declaration ought to be brought before the notice of the Government, that if we were able to give £49,000 towards secondary education, it is utterly unfair that we should not have a proper supply of teachers to provide the necessary teaching for the scholars.
§ MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
It is my duty to bring to the notice of the House, and also of the Government, the practices which have taken place in my constituency. I have already brought to 876 the notice of the House the evictions of Michael McMahon, of Carrigaholt, and Matt Fennell, of Kilballyowen, and I also wish to bring to your notice the cruel and heartless eviction of William Kileen, of Doonbeg, with his wife and 10 children, deprecate, and I feel sure that this House will do the same, that the forces of the Crown should be used for these heartless evictions. But now I would call the attention of the House and the Government to an extraordinary point in this matter. One of the people who are chiefly responsible for these evictions was present as a member of a deputation last January to the Chief Secretary, which I presented, to ask the Government relief, and to state the terrible famine and want to which these unfortunate people who have been evicted were exposed. It would be almost a comedy that people should so enact a double part, were it not for the circumstances of the horrible cruelty that has been enacted in these evictions, and I call upon the Government to stop the forces of the Crown being used against my constituents in such a heartless manner.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON, Londonderry, N.)
In reply to the honourable Gentleman, I may say that he must be aware that the sheriff in the execution of his duty has power to call in the forces of the Crown, and they are bound to assist him. The question was decided by the superior courts during the last administration. The police and military have no option but to obey orders.
§ The Bill was then read a second time.