§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £34,887, be 92 granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the recent Royal visit to Paris, and President Loubet's visit to this country, as well as the speech made by the Prime Minister on the previous night to the French Senators and Deputies under that very roof, appeared to him to be strangely inconsistent with the policy which the Government had on the whole pursued towards Germany during the years that they had been in power. He wished to call the attention of the House, as an example of the extraordinary shiftiness and variety of their foreign policy to their relations with Germany which had brought out these startling changes in a most formidable form, in which they had been extremely damaging to this country. After they got their great majority in 1895—a majority which seemed to be entirely disappearing in another place—the Government's policy towards Germany was apparently one of seeking for a military alliance with that Power, and of constituting ourselves virtually members of the Triple Alliance. That was really a continuance of the policy of Lord Salisbury between 1886 and 1892. It was, although he believed the people of this country were opposed to it, and that it was contrary to the interests of the country, a perfectly intelligible policy. In the Zanzibar cession, the Heligoland cession, and in our conduct with regard to military attaches at foreign Courts, as well as in Lord Salisbury's language when he spoke of "good tidings of great joy," we showed that we showed that we considered ourselves members of a Triple Alliance. That policy was in itself a reversal of Disraeli's policy, who on two occasions refused proffers of a military alliance between Germany and this country. One very prominent member of the Cabinet made two great speeches in the country, in one of which he pointed to the possibility of an alliance with Germany being in our interest, and in the other of which, with- 93 out specifically naming Germany, he said it was in the essential interest of this country that we should have a definite alliance with a great military power. That policy was continued for a long time; but since then, upon various excuses, some prominent Members of the Government had used language of absolute ferocity towards Germany. There had been a change backwards and forwards so sharp and startling that he could only explain it on the hypothesis that there was no settled foreign policy on the part of the Government, and that they never really thought out those great considerations which lay at the base of all the foreign relations of Great Britain. Within a few months after the Government had encouraged the use of extraordinary language towards Germany, there came the startling examples of what he should call cringing to that Power in connection with the search for contraband on a German vessel, for which we not only apologised, but made a present of a service of plate, and in the case of Venezuela and the Baghdad Railway. In regard to Venezuela, the whole country, irrespective of Party, now recognised that the course pursued was contrary to what ought to he the keystone of our policy—good relations with the United States. Those examples came very shortly after we had had a warning to mind our own business and not to commit acts derogatory to the dignity of this country in the course that Germany took towards us with regard to the Anglo-German Agreement concluded at the time of the General Election of 1900. That agreement was paraded by the Government, incredible though it might seem, as being a sort of alliance with Germany against Russia in regard to China, as though Germany was ever likely to depart from what had always been her settled policy—an alliance with Russia winch would guarantee her possession of the territories wrested from France.
§ * THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord CRANBORNE, Rochester)
asked by whom that claim was made.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said No, not by the noble Lord, who was most careful in the language he used; but in all the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite it was claimed that the policy of the Government had triumphantly concluded this agreement with Germany, which placed our policy in China on a perfectly satisfactory footing. Immediately after that agreement was signed Count von Billow used language which was contemptuous to this country. Whatever might have been the real nature of that agreement—that meaningless agreement—the explanation was diametrically opposed to our interests, and it was put before the German Parliament as a triumph over our view. Immediately after that policy had been pursued we cringed to Germany in the eases of Venezuela and the Bagdad Railway. He would not go into depths of Chinese policy which the Committee, he thought, had very often been somewhat tired of in the past. He would only say that the present Government had constantly put before the country two alternative policies in China. One was the policy of the open door, and the other was to maintain our sphere of influence in the Yang-tzse Valley. The first-mentioned meant the open door in Manchuria, and in the territories where Germany mid Russia were trading, and when that did not succeed the Government fell back on the sphere-of-influence doctrine, and they put before the House the great things which were likely to he done in the Yang-tzse Valley. So far from helping us in the Yang-tzse sphere, Count von Billow had acted as if the meaning of that agreement was that we expressly renounced that we had any special interests in the Yang-tzse Valley. Count von Billow's view had undoubtedly prevailed in practice, and that was the real test, because the great lines of railway were being constructed at the present moment by those who in Chinese policy were hostile to ourselves. The great line cutting through China from North to South had gone into unfriendly hands. When he said unfriendly hands, that had two meanings. It meant that the whole of the material for the construction of the lines was brought from foreign and not from British sources, and it meant that we should he exposed 95 to difficulties in regard to our trade when these lines begin to work.
Sir Claude Macdonald gave the Government encouragement. The noble Lord read to the House triumphantly on two occasions Sir Claude Macdonald's despatch, stating that we did not come out second best with regard to the railways in Chine. On 16th June this year there was a debate in the Lords on this question, and on that occasion it was shown that the Pekin Syndicate, and the British and Chinese Corporation, which represented the largest British trading firms in China, were working in agreement with each other; and these bodies, representing all British interests concerned, had not succeeded in obtaining the very simple concession they asked as necessary to their trade. He meant, of course, the line coming down to a point opposite Nankin—a line essential to the coal and iron trade in the future. The noble Lord told the House that the Government were insisting on obtaining the concession. The Germans were setting up a claim not only to make all the railways in the province of Shantung, which was sometimes more than the sphere, but a claim over the railway construction in the Hinterland of Shantung, and to bring the coal and iron down the valley of the Yellow River to Kiao Chou, the seizure of which originally by Germany was the signal for all those terrible events which happened in China contrary to our interests. German influence at Pekin had been used steadily against our interests and had tended to bring the coal and iron trade of China down to their own port. The noble Lord haul told the House for years that the Government were insisting on obtaining a British line opposite Nankin, but no advance whatever had been made towards obtaining it. The great lines across the Yang-tzse Valley had been made against our interests, and Russian and German influence had been used against our views. It was stated that the Canton-Hankow portion of the road was to be made by an American syndicate. He thought it would have proved to our interest that it should be made by American hands, but this concession haul passed into the hands of Belgians, a result which again had been brought about by German influence being used at Pekin in a manner hostile to our views. The noble Lord had told the House on several occasions the circum- 96 stances attending the evacuation of Shanghai. There also German influence was used in a manner hostile to ours. The German Government addressed to the Chinese Government a note which, instead of conciliating us, was calculated to destroy the privileged position in Shanghai, which by reason of the over-whelming greater importance of our settlement there we had always enjoyed in that pat of China. There was a matter which the noble Lord regarded as one of the great triumphs of our policy, and he had again and again repeated it to the House. He told them repeatedly that the successor of Sir Robert Hart, would be a British nominee as long as British trade predominant in China. The Pekin correspondent of The Times, who was always contradicted but whose statements had the knack of coming true after a time, told them what had taken place.
He would now deal not with hypothesis or doubtful points, but with actual facts. It was a fact that at this moment in Manchuria and Mongolia German traders and German commercial travellers were able to travel, while our commercial travellers were not able to travel, and our traders were not able to settle and carry on trade. Through the good offices of their Consul in Vladivostock Germans were allowed that privilege, and they were setting up their houses. Our people were refused leave to reside there, and only persons supposed to be friendly to the Russian Government were allowed to travel there. The notion that we could get German help against Russia was a dream which had constantly disturbed our policy, led the Government to make agreements, and made members of the Government give triumphant and, as he thought, foolish speeches in the country about what they had secured. It was pretty generally recognised now that this notion of a German alliance against Russia was a dream, and it had almost disappeared, at all events, from the minds of sensible people, just as had happened in regard to the notion of another great alliance—namely, that of an Italian alliance against France, which was put forward especially by the Admiralty as almost a settled matter. What he complained of in these extraordinary shifts of Government policy—now abusing Germany and then cringing to her—was that, after their experience of German 97 policy in the Yang-tzse Valley, after what had happened in the underhand conduct of Germany to us in Shanghai, after cringing to Germany in the matters of Venezuela and the Baghdad Railway, in November last at the Lord Mayor's banquet the Prime Minister alluded to these statements as "fantastic inventions." There were no words to show whether the right lion. Gentleman meant the statements in regard to Venezuela or whether he meant the statements in regard to the Baghdad railway negotiations, but as a matter of fact neither the statements made at that time as to Venezuelan or those regarding the Baghdad railway were fantastic inventions. They were exactly accurate. There was a storm of ill-feeling aroused by those transactions. His case was that the storm of popular indignation under the circumstances was quite right and wise. It was a well founded storm of popular indignation. With regard to the bearing of the Venezuela case on the Monroe doctrine, which in his belief was a British interest, it was the storm of popular disapproval and not the policy of the Government which prevented the harm that would otherwise have been done. It was the fact that the country was unanimously against the Government with regard to its criminal folly in the Venezuelan affair which was the reason that we retained the friendship of the United States. The dates in the Venezuela case were put before the House in the debate on the Address and by Lord Rosebery in another place. He thought he was justified in saying—he was quite sure he could prove it if anyone should contest the statement—that the statements as to the Venezuela dates were not fantastic inventions, but only matters of fact which were before them at the time and which the history of the subject afterwards laid before them in the Blue-books conclusively proved. The Baghdad arrangements were of some moment. The Government denied that they were Government arrangements at all. They had said that they were arrangements made between Germany and great financiers in this country of which the Government approved. These arrangements were published in this country on Saturday, 8th November, 98 two days before the Government spoke of "fantastic inventions" at the Lord Mayor's banquet, and they proved to be exactly according to the statements made at that time, and what was asked by the German Emperor proved to be exactly that which the Government had agreed to, including the suggestion of the future mail contract, and all the conditions with regard to the representation of the financial interest on the governing board which were afterwards stated to this House. The Prime Minister told them that these were "imaginary negotiations," that they were "strange bargains," and that the whole story was one of "fantastic invention," although the Venezuela agreement was concluded within three days of that time and the Baghdad railway negotiations were as exposed by the hon. Member for King's Lynn.
Might he make a general observation as to the action of Germany up up to that date? Many of them had always been hostile to a permanent arrangement with Germany, because our objects and German objects were not the same. The objects of Germany were friendship with Russia and the maintenance of her conquests from France. Our greatest interest, as was said on an historical occasion by Lord Derby, was peace. He should have said, up to a few months ago, that the next greatest interest of Great Britain was free trade, in which we had no sympathy with Germany. Our objects and German objects were, therefore, not the same, and when an effort was made to set up common action where the objects were not the same, great risks were run of offending other Powers and of compromising our principles—if indeed it could be said that we had any principles at all left. These facts constituted a primâ facie case for the public distrust, which undoubtedly existed with regard to an arrangement with Germany. He, however, thought they did not in the least justify an unjust hue and cry being raised against Germany. What he complained of was that when they had cringed and allowed themselves to be hoodwinked, while they represented that they had secured a great triumph which was no triumph at all, and when public opinion had 99 been excited against Germany by their own speeches, proceedings, and unwise acts, they were obliged to take advantage of that cry which they had ignobly raised. The Government appeared suddenly to have remembered Canada. They had forgotten Canada for many years, but they suddenly discovered that Canada had a grievance against Germany, and they said: "Hullo! Let us take advantage of the hue and cry against Germany, and let us put forward the grievance of Canada." In 1897 we had ourselves, on behalf of Canada, said that Canada was a fiscal entity. We admitted that in the despatch in which we denounced our old commercial treaty with Germany with our eyes open, knowing from previous experience exactly what denunciation meant. In all the Continental commercial treaties there were two columns of the tariff—one showing more-favoured treatment and the other less. They put in the first column the nations which treated them well, and in the other column the nations which treated them ill. But that was not an invariable rule. We had been put in the less-favoured column by Spain, although we did not give a preference to other nations, simply because Spain was trying to use it as a screw to induce us to change our wine duties. But Spain found that it did not pay, and she withdrew from that position without any action on our part. We denounced the commercial treaty with Germany in 1897 on behalf of Canada and, after negotiations in 1898, Germany did what France did on another occasion—she gave us the most-favoured-nation treatment by law, but she omitted Canada, of course, from that most-favoured station treatment. He said "of course" because that was the usual course which we should have expected from the language we had used as to Canada being a fiscal entity. In 1899 the Government grumbled against that action, but accepted the situation, and in 1900 we expressed our satisfaction at having obtained the most-favoured-nation treatment for the Empire as a whole, less Canada.
They did grumble in 1900, but about quite another matter. They said they were sorry about the way that Germany was treating Barbados. Barbados was a very envious ease. It promised prefer- 100 ential treatment to the United States, but it had not come off. Germany put Barbados in the second column because Germany said that Barbados had promised preferential treatment to the United States. Lord-Salisbury, in a despatch, pointed out that the preference to the United States, to be granted by Barbados, depended on action by the United States which might not be taken. Now, from 1899 to 1903, nothing was said about Canada at all, and therefore he thought he was justified in saying that, after all these attempts to secure a military alliance with Germany, after all the cringing to Germany, after all that took place with regard to Venezuela, the Baghdad Railway, the Anglo-German agreement, and to China, the Government, when the howling in the country had been excited by these proceedings, suddenly discovered a tremendous grievance against Germany in regard to Canada which they had allowed to slumber for four years. We stirred up this matter. Lord Lansdowne on 2nd April, 1903, wrote—It would be an advantage if you could ascertain whether Germany intends to continue to deny the seine treatment to Canada.That would have been nothing in itself, but it was the first stirring up of the question after Germany had become unpopular in this country. Then came a long despatch from Lord Lansdowne on 20th June, in which the Germans were told that—After having patiently waited for five years in the hope of coming to an arrangement with Germany, the Canadian Government decided that they could no longer allow the matter to sleep.And that, therefore, they were going to put on a special surtax on German goods in addition to the preference to ourselves. He would ask the House for a moment to turn to one or two other passages in this Blue-book, which showed to some extent the surprise with which the German Government received this communication on our part. Our Ambassador in his despatch, quoted on page 29 of the Blue-book, said—Germany in her own colonies knows no difference between German and foreign goods.We had told Germany ourselves, what was the obvious fact, that we had no control over the Canadian tariff and that Canada was a separate fiscal entity, 101 as plainly as we could tell them anything, and the fact had never been previously denied. When they had a great and growing dominion such as Canada, which would become one of the greatest exporting countries in the world, they could not expect a great Power not to act on the powers which their law had given them to meet changes made by a separate fiscal unit of this kind. The German despatch at page 43 concluded—In our opinion the English view of what has passed is based in many respects upon incorrect assumptions; and the responsibility for the initiation and aggravation of the Conflict Cannot be properly laid on Germany.He thought the very fact, as came out at Question time the day before, that Canada picked and chose within the Empire, and herself gave a trade preference to some of our colonies and refused it to others, emphasised his argument.
He was by no means friendly disposed towards Germany policy. He thought we had great grievances against Germany, most of them produced by our Government; nevertheless the Government did in a somewhat unworthy way take advantage of the cry against Germany which their own action had brought into existence. It was said, and it was given as a main ground for action by the Government, that this was a very serious matter for Canada; but Canada said the exact opposite. At the Colonial Conference, Canada said that she knew the result would be unimportant; and the Colonial Conference itself resolved that the matter "was not serious," and that "the remedy was in their own hands." How after that we could seriously complain of the action of Germany he confessed he could not see. His argument was that our interest was peace towards all, and it was contrary to the interest of this country, either on the one hand to set up this doctrine of a military alliance with Germany, against Russia, and on the other hand, to make rather unworthy appeals to public opinion which, upon this point, had been deceived by the Government itself, by making inflamed appeals to the country and by asking if we "were going to take it lying down." He had taken this ease as typical of what 102 seemed to him to be the shiftiness of the policy of the Government and of their inability to put before the country a well though-out policy which would be consistent with the interests and dignity of the nation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said that the position of foreign affairs as they affected this country was very important. He confessed that as to definite matters of policy he agreed almost wholly with what had been said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, whose acquaintance with these matters was well known to the House. The right hon. Baronet had given what he called a typical example of the shiftiness of the policy of the Government. He would give others, though, as became a supporter of the Government, his language might not be as strong as that of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had truly pointed out that the people and the Press of this country had saved the Government from the worst consequences of the two stupendous blunders in Venezuela and the Baghdad Railway. That justified the Committee in assisting in discussing foreign affairs at least once a year. It was not easy always to discuss foreign affairs in this House—even the few specific matters to which he himself intended to refer. The Committee were at a great disadvantage, because the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was in the other House, and because questions had to be addressed to a conscientious, but still subordinate, official, who could not be expected to be acquainted with all the secrets of the Cabinet. The First Lord of the Treasury stated that the Foreign Secretary would never again sit in this House; and in part fulfilment of his prophecy the right hon. Gentleman scarcely ever sat in it himself. He could not but see on the part of some members of the Government a settled purpose to deprive this 103 House of its power of dealing with great questions; and to transfer that power to another quarter—although the questions agitated the people of this country and concerned its future. That was a matter to which the House of Commons would have to direct its attention. The Prime Minister shielded himself behind the new rules and personal absence; and the Committee could really get very little information on important subjects which were of interest to the House and the country. As he had said, it seemed the settled purpose of some members of the Government to transfer from this House to the other House, to the Cabinet, and to the Closet, the consideration of important questions. He did not, however, think that that would last beyond the next General Election; but, meanwhile, they were confronted with it, and they had to do the best they could, under the discouraging circumstances of an empty Treasury Bench, to discuss the important affairs of the people of this country in connection with foreign countries. He had really no complaint whatever to make of the noble Lord. He did the best he could under very difficult circumstances. The noble Lord was extremely frank; and he often admired the difficulty he felt in giving a Foreign Office answer when the facts were recalcitrant and refused to agree with the Answer. He was the more moved to sympathy, because the noble Lord had recently expressed his profound melancholy at the present situation of Hip Majesty's Government. He himself partook of that melancholy; and his was as pronounced as that of the noble Lord. He hoped, however, that the noble Lord would be able, in the course of the debate, to give an Answer to certain Questions which he proposed to address to him, and Which might, to some degree, dissipate that melancholy.
He had to call the attention of the Committee to a very serious new departure in constitutional practice which might have a serious effect on the foreign policy of the country. He read in that admirable work "The Law and Customs of the Constitution," written by one who 104 was Sir William Anson, but who was now an Under Secretary—It is the modern practice uniformly observed by George III., and only for a short time broken by George IV., that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should be present at every interview between the Sovereign and a foreign minister, and so far is the Crown from taking independent action in foreign affairs that all letters addressed to the Queen and the late Prince Consort by foreign princes, or received from them, were shown to the Foreign Secretary or Prime Minister, and the same rule applies in domestic affairs.The Committee would also remember the eloquent protest of Lord Chatham against the departure from this country of George II., when he said that a Sovereign going abroad should be attended by an English Minister, and that the contrary practice was one which Englishmen should "resist even with their bodies." Let it not be supposed for a moment that he desired to curtail the power of the Crown. On the contrary, he thought it should be constitutionally increased; he had always been the strongest advocate of the Sovereign taking his position, not merely as head of the Privy Council, but also as head of the Cabinet Council, and presiding at the latter as former Sovereigns had done. Let it not be supposed that he was in any way jealous of the power of the Crown; but Ministers were ill-advised when they advised the Sovereign to go abroad and interview foreign Sovereigns and foreign Ministers without providing that His Majesty should be accompanied, as was always the tradition and was the rule, by a Minister of the Crown, to give his colleagues information, to give the Sovereign the advice he might need, and, above all, to keep a record of the matters transacted. The recent disregard of that rule was, he thought a new and a very serious departure. If, indeed, he were told that these Royal visits were purely private, and that matters of State were not discussed, then he would be content. But he wished to ask if matters of State were discussed by His Majesty the King in the various interviews which he had with the King of Portugal, the King of Italy, and the President of the French Republic, and their Ministers. If so, were any records of such discussions kept, 105 and, above all, were any engagements made of which there were records. The Committee would feel that this was a most important, although a somewhat delicate, question, and that it behoved the Committee to consider an entirely new departure which appeared to have been made in the conduct of foreign affairs.
The right hon. Baronet truly said that there was a permanent understanding between Germany and Russia. It was so, it was always so; and must always be so. It was dictated by the geographical position of the two countries. There was always a tendency on the part of the North to work down on and to overwhelm the southern countries of Europe in common action. It was so from the days of Rome down to the present. The Vandals who sacked Rome were succeeded in the same latitudes by other Vandals who would sack other Romes. It seemed to him, however, that the restless greed of statesmanship for which diplomats were said to lie abroad, was now being diverted to further portions of the earth; and that for the moment Europe was comparatively tranquil. There was, no doubt, some disquiet in the Balkans; but his belief was that it was not serious. Serious questions had, however, arisen with regard to the Dardanelles, in which our Government apparently played a rather discreditable, poor and miserable part. But he would not dwell on that. For the moment he believed a: period of quiet had arrived for Europe, which he trusted would be of long duration. The permanently threatened countries of Europe—Turkey, Spain, and especially Holland—might, he hoped, for the present possess their souls in peace. Russia was quiescent. France, Austria and Italy were all engaged in their own affairs. The only country that was aggressive, and always agressive, was Germany. Germany now held, and always had held, the character of seeking to obtain the land of other nations, sometimes by alliance, sometimes by other and less defensible means. It seemed to him that this country was the victim of this policy which had always animated Germany from the time when she was covered with forests, and animated her 106 now when she was covered—well, with professors. The great settlement of Europe arrived at in 1815 was broken up by the aggressive action of Germany. There was the attack on Denmark in 1864, followed by the attack on Austria, and later the ransom of France in 1870. The German policy was expressed in the words:—."Demander, prendre, et recevoir." All the latter-day troubles of the world might be said to have arisen in Germany. Germany seized Kiao-Chau without a shred of excuse. That led to the seizure of Port Arthur by Russia: to the seizure of Wei-hai-Wei by England; and to all the subsequent trouble in China. It seemed to him that a country with such a character and such traditions required the most vigilant and suspicious attention on the part of a country like England, which was so greatly dependent in all its concerns on of successive British Ministers had been marked by a strange subserviency to Germany—entirelycontrary to the desires of the country. All who read the biography of the greatest Foreign Minister of modern times—Lord Palmerston— were aware that he owed his position to the conviction that he would resist Germany. He was discharged with ignominy from his office by his Sovereign; but because he was known to be anti-German the English people stood by him from the beginning of his career to the end of his life. Yet the modern Foreign Secretary learned nothing from that. He made himself subservient to Germany—always the concealed foe of England, of the interests of peace, and of the solidity of European settlement.
The noble Lord admitted, as far as an Under Secretary to the Foreign Office could admit, that there was a secret treaty between this country and Germany. In October, 1902, he asked the Under Secretary whether such a treaty existed; and the noble Lord replied that if it did he was precluded from communicating its terms. That was, he thought, an absolute admission as to the existence of the treaty. He did not know whether it existed now; but he presumed it did. He wished to ask the noble Lord now whether there was such a treaty. If the noble Lord could also inform 107 him whether it related to a partition between Germany and England of the territory of our ancient ally, Portugal, it would greatly add to the interest of his answer. The Venezuelan affair was one of the two instances this year in which, as on many occasions before, this country had been made the catspaw of Germany, apparently with the complacent self-admiration of the statesmen who composed the Cabinet. It was a matter prepared entirely in secret. It was a conspiracy from beginning to end between the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues and the German Government for the aggrandisement of Germany. A hostile act had been committed before this country knew anything about it. Then there was a debate on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, a debate which was utterly inadequate tinder the New Rules. The Fleet was sent to Venezuela to collect a sum not mentioned. The only claim named was the German claim. The whole thing was a secret arrangement between, as lie believed, His Majesty's Government and the German Emperor. It was undoubtedly one of the results of the visit of the Kaiser to this country. The Prime Minister, at the Mansion House on November 10, 1902, had characterised that suggestion as "the wildest and most fantastic invention." But what was wild and fantastic about the whole Venezuela business was this common adventure of England and Germany into the American Continent at the risk of this country losing the friendship of the people of the United States. If they had not actually seen it in operation, sane men would find it difficult to believe that any British Minister would face the risk of such an undertaking. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary, who could always find a word in season, had truly described the Venezuela affair as "a mess." Of course it was a mess, and he doubted whether it was yet arranged. A protocol was signed which professed to bring the whole thing to an end on 13th February, 1903, but he should like to hear from the noble Lord whether there were not questions still left over for settlement. But if this country were really out of the Venezuelan wood, he hoped the Government would take the whole adventure to heart as a warning not to enter into filibuster- 108 ing alliances with such a Power as Germany, or, at any rate, not to do it until they had first consulted Parliament. The Baghdad railway was another adventure which arose out of the visit of the Kaiser to England. Apparently it was the inspiration of the Colonial Secretary. In November, 1899, the Kaiser came to this country. On the 30th of the month the Colonial Secretary, speaking at Leicester, declared that England ought not to remain isolated on the Continent, and that it must be apparent to every one that a natural alliance was one between this country and Germany. Circumstances have changed since 1899, but on that change lie would not dwell. On December 3, 1899, the Cologne Gazette stated that the new attitude of England towards Germany, as shown in the speech of the Colonial Secretary, would enable Germany to carry out the Baghdad railway, and on December 23 the contract was signed by which the Anatolian Company got possession of the railway. The question had slumbered from 1900 to 1903. That business again was carried On in secrecy, and that was his complaint. If His Majesty's Government would only act on the advice of the Colonial Secretary and give up this secret diplomacy, which always failed, and accept the principle of open diplomacy, many of these blunders and many of these debates would be saved. There was one remarkable thing. On March 16 the Government had in their possession Consul Waugh's Report that the proposed railway was a German scheme, promoted in the interest of Germany against all others; yet on April 7, and on the Motion for the Adjournment, which, as the right hon. Baronet had truly said, was one of the last of our liberties which were left to the House, when he raised the question in the House, the First Lord of the Treasury declared that the railway had nothing German about it. When he protested, the Prime Minister stated he was perfectly correct, and yet, at that time, the Government had in their pockets—and had had since the 16th March— the Report of Consul Waugh, enclosing the copy of the contract, which showed that the whole thing was a German concern. He did not object to the railway, because all railways were good feeders of 109 ships. But this was not a railway; it was a financial fraud and a political conspiracy—a fraud whereby English trade would suffer, and a conspiracy whereby the political interests of England would be threatened. It amounted to a military and commercial occupation by Germany of the whole of Asia Minor. It was due to the English people and the English Press that this almost completed conspiracy with Germany was stopped. In the course of a fortnight the Government, on 23rd April, declared that what they first said was not a German railway was a German railway, and that they would have nothing to do with it. He was delighted to hear that statement, lint he did not think the danger was quite passed; for the Prime Minister on the 8th of April said that whether they made it an English railway or not, the railway would be made, and the noble Lord said if circumstances arose which might cause a modification in the views of the Government, the Government would consider what position they should take up. That was not sufficient for him. He asked the noble Lord, as the representative of the Government, to say that the Government, adhered, and intended to adhere, to their decision of the 23rd of April with regard to the railway. If the noble Lord would give a categorical answer to that question he would be very much relieved.
The next point to which lie desired to refer was the treatment of Canada by Germany. The Government seemed always to be in concert with Germany when Germany was in the wrong, and always opposed to her when she was in the right. Certainly it was impossible to conceive a stronger and more unassailable position than that of Germany in this instance. The foundation of our colonial system was the "completer tariff autonomy" of the self-governing colonies. So far as this country was concerned, self-governing colonies were, as regards their tariffs, in exactly the position of foreign nations. They were entirely separate from us. They were entirely separate from us. The Under-secretary shook his head. Did the noble Lord know any country of which a part imposed 24 per cent. Import duties on goods from the other part? If the colonies and the mother country were one for tariff and fiscal purposes, how on earth was it that they 110 were so separate that Canada imposed 24 per cent duties on the imports from this country, and Australia also put on duties, though not quite so high as Canada? If they were one, how did the noble Lord explain the fact that not one of the colonies was so similarly situated with as, much less one with us, that it would accept the blessed invention of dear sugar which was enshrined in that great triumph of modern diplomacy—the Sugar Convention? It was perfectly clear that the separation for fiscal and tariff purposes between the self governing colonies and this country was absolute and complete. They were independent of us; we were independent of them. They took one way—that of protection—which we had not yet taken; we took another way—that of free trade. The colonies and this country acted on different policies, which reposed on different principles Could anything be more separate? The, noble Lord, however, still held to the theory that the colonies and this country were one—a theory which was never advanced until its invention for the purpose of picking a quarrel with Germany. He would not dwell further on the matter. He had made his point out of the mouth of his Majesty's Ministers, who had themselves, through the noble Lord's own father, asserted the principle of the complete tariff autonomy of the self-governing colonies. When, therefore. Canada withdrew the most-favoured-nation treatment from Germany, Germany had an undoubted right, to withdraw it from Canada. Now it had long been recognised, and he believed it to be still true, that the fovoured-nation clause, which we now have with some twenty-five or thirty nations, was the most important foundation of British trade, and that which secured us in the foreign markets of the world.
What had we done with regard to Russia over this favoured-nation clause, in connection with which we now had so great a quarrel with Germany? Russia claimed the benefit of the clause as a protection against the imposition by this country of countervailing duties upon her sugar, and she claimed it upon the most absolute foundation. Our own law officers in the year 111 1880 gave it as their distinct and settled opinion that to impose countervailing duties of any sort on the produce of any one foreign country and not equally on all, was a violation of the favoured-nation clause. It was said that the present law officers differed from that opinion, but when the Prime Minister was challenged as to whether it was all three law officers or only the Lord Chancellor who differed he would give no answer. If it had been all three law officers the right hon. Gentleman would have had no difficulty in answering. It was very strange that one set of perfectly impeccable law officers should arrive at one conclusion on certain facts, while another set, equally impeccable, arrived at another conclusion on exactly the same facts. It was impossible for any candid person reading the correspondence with Russia in reference to this favoured-nation clause to deny that, as in the ease of Germany, we had acted most shabbily and meanly. The whole of the correspondence was discreditable to this country, and seemed to have been conducted in the spirit not of a statesman, but of a pettifogging attorney defending the case of a cheating tradesman. He hoped the noble Lord would be able to answer the Questions he had put—viz., were any negotiations with foreign potentates or statesmen conducted by His Majesty during his visit abroad; did they result in any engagements binding upon this country; what records, if any, had been kept of them; were there any questions under the Protocol of February 11th with Venezuela still unsettled; would the Government undertake not to depart without previously informing Parliament from the decision at which they had already arrived with regard to the Baghdad Railway; and what were the terms of the secret treaty with Germany.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I think that the Committee will agree that the speeches to which we have just listened have covered so much ground and dealt with so many subjects of interest in all parts of the world that unless I venture to trouble the Committee with a few remarks now I shall be so over-weighted with detail as to be almost over whelmed. I have no complaint to make of the speech of my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn with regard to myself. He has been good enough to compliment me on certain points, but he mingled with 112 those compliments a certain amount of criticism, the most important of which was that as I did not know all the diplomatic proceedings which have been going on. I was not able to communicate them to the House. It is not for me in this place to say how much I know or how much I do not know, but the reason I have not communicated information to the House is that it would be contrary to the interests of this country to do so. I am afraid that at any rate with regard to one of the Questions of the hon. Member that must be the Answer now. I am not going to discuss on the floor of the House whether or not there is a secret agreement between England and Germany in respect of Portugal, but I will say that there is nothing which His Majesty's Government have done which is in any way aggressive to our oldest ally, Portugal, and I am absolutely confident that if the Question were put to the Portuguese Government they would say the same thing. They know that our intentions in regard to them are entirely in their favour.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I did not rise to be cross-examined by my hon. friend. He must be satisfied with what I have told him. The right hon. Baronet has indulged in a great deal of very fabulous history, and he has been fond of allocating dates and drawing conclusions, most of which are entirely unfounded. It seems impossible, from listening to the right hon. Baronet, that any Minister, of whatever Party, speaking in this place, can say a civil word of any foreign country but that the conclusion must be at once drawn that we have an alliance with them.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I alluded specifically to speeches, one of which was afterwards quoted by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, in which the policy of a military alliance with Germany was advocated by leading Members of the Cabinet.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I am exceedingly doubtful whether, with the exception of Portugal, any European 113 alliance whatever would be to our advantage. But the statement does not exclude friendly co-operation with our European neighbours. On the contrary, it is, and it always has been, the policy of His Majesty's Government to be on good terms and to co-operate as far as possible with foreign Governments. But I was astonished that the hon. Member for King's Lynn thought it right to criticise His Majesty's visit a few months ago to various Powers in Europe. I thought it was universally admitted by all parties that the visit of courtesy had done nothing but good, in drawing still closer together those friendly feelings which exist between ourselves and the various countries which lie visited. The hon. Member made it a matter of complaint that His Majesty was not accompanied by one of his Ministers. I am afraid that if the Minister in whose Department it lies to accompany him—that is to say the Foreign Minister—had done so, it would have thrown out of gear all the other matters of great importance in foreign policy which depend upon Lord Lansdowne's own attention every day and every hour throughout the year. My hon. friend talked in a rather portentous way about precedents. He seems to forget that we have made certain changes since the time to which he referred, and that there is now such a thing as the electric telegraph by which His Majesty, or indeed anybody in a responsible position, can be in close communication with the Home Government at all times. That visit did minister to the good feeling between this country and foreign countries, and I think many Members of the House were witnesses last night of the fruits which His Majesty's visit has produced. But that leads me to remark that no one who was present at that dinner last night could have listened very closely to the proceedings without becoming aware that what was contended for was, not merely, or only, a good understanding between England and France, very valuable though that is, but that, so far as possible, there should be co-operation between the various European Powers, and that the reign of force should gradually be superseded by the reign of law. I do not think my hon. friend the Mem- 114 ber for King's Lynn was there, and I am afraid the proceedings would not have harmonised altogether with his own point of view.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
No one who desires us to be on friendly terms with the other European Powers would have used the language, which I must describe as language of great discourtesy towards Germany, which my hon. friend has just been guilty of.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
My hon. friend knows perfectly well that that has nothing to do with it. I suspect that he has been one of the first in the last few months to lecture and criticise Germans for observations of an uncivil and discourteous character which they have made with regard to his own country, and I feel bound to enter this protest. Nothing but harm arises from the use of language of the kind my hon. friend has used; and, if I may say so, it deprives my hon. friend of any claim to be a good authority on foreign politics if he cannot restrain himself from using language of that kind.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I am bound to say the right hon. Baronet used no such language. His criticism was really delivered against His Majesty's Government, and not against a foreign Government; and he seemed to think that the Foreign Office was very ignorant and headless; that they had no appreciation of the difficulties of the situation, and that a number of points which he put forward had evidently not been appreciated by the Foreign Office. I can assure him that is not the ease. Of course, we have paid very close attention to all the difficulties that have arisen from time to time between this country and Germany, and we knew perfectly well that we should be called upon to deal with them at a future time. But merely because we have nut announced them in the House of Commons, which would 115 have done nothing but harm, the right hon. Baronet assumes that we do not know them. The right hon. Baronet took us a very long way back and stated that the history of our relations with Germany was one succession of blunders. I do not agree with him. He instanced, for example—going back to very ancient history—the arrangement made with Germany with respect to Zanzibar and Heligoland. I do not think it would be becoming to boast of that arrangement; but I must say, looking at it as a whole, that I do not think we have any reason to complain of the part we played in that bargain. Not only did we secure a protectorate over the very important island of Zanzibar—important both from a strategical and from a commercial point of view—but we certainly added to our Empire a most fertile and profitable part of East Africa, for which payment was made in the shape of the Island of Heligoland, which never could have been of the least use to us. It seems to me to have been a first-rate bargain for this, country. I will not follow all the steps which the right hon. Baronet has taken. I am content to deal with relatively modern times, and to say a word or two about our policy in China and the negotiations which we have had with Germany in respect to that country. The right hon. Baronet has dwelt at some length upon the Anglo-German Agreement, and did me the justice to say that I had never set it before the House as a great matter. Indeed, I remember in the first speech that I made in this House, speaking from this place, I then said, though it was a step in the right direction, it was a very small step, and if hon. Gentlemen did not believe me—of course it was not unnatural that they should not give weight to the opinion of a newly-joined Under-Secretary—if they did not believe me it was their own fault. I have never imagined for a moment that the Anglo-German Agreement was a matter of vast importance; but I do not think it was a mistake. I think, so far as it went, it was a very good agreement. It was one more assertion on our part of the policy which we have always desired to pursue in China—namely, the policy of the integrity of China and the policy of the open door. And if it turned out that the German Government did not interpret 116 that instrument in the same way as we regarded it, that did not make the agreement, instead of being an advantage, a disadvantage to us. So far as it went it did good, and nothing but good. The right hon. Baronet seems to think that that agreement represented a policy of spheres of influence as opposed to the policy of the "open door." That shows a very strange forgetfulness on his part of what that instrument contains.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I did not say that instrument was a policy of spheres of influence. I said you had put two alternative policies before the House, and this policy gave up the alternative policy of spheres of influence.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
It certainly was not intended to be a policy of spheres of influence; it was a policy of the integrity of China, of the open door, and open ports and rivers. That has always been our policy, and we have always pursued it. I hardly like to go in great detail into the question of Chinese railways, to which the right hon. Gentleman devoted a great deal of time. He seemed to think that in that respect we are getting the worst of it in the competition with Germany. That is not the information which has reached the Foreign Office. I have no reason to boast of what has passed. On the contrary, it is a matter of business all through. But the two great syndicates which are developing railways in that part of China, the German syndicate and the British syndicate, seem to me to be on very good terms; and there is no feeling on one side or the other that either party has got the best of the coin, petition. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the evacuation of Shanghai, and seemed to think that there again we had got the worst of it in our competition with Germany. I have already had an opportunity of pointing out to the Committee of the House of Commons that that is by no means the case. Certainly the German Government had put forward certain claims which we could not accept. We refused to accept them, and the Chinese Government took our view and not Germany's view, and said in a most categorical way that nothing which had been stated interfered in the least with 117 the rights of Great Britain. The right hon. Baronet only said one word about Manchuria, and I will not deal with it at any length. There again our policy is perfectly well known. It is contained in the instruments to which we have affixed the signatures of His Majesty's Government, and of course the principal of those instruments is the Anglo-Japanese agreement. I think in that agreement we have recognised the special interests of Japan in Korea, and we are very glad to recognise them. On the other hand, we have asserted once more our own interest in the "open door" throughout the Chinese Empire. That does not mean, of course, that we do not know full well that Russia occupies rather a special position in Manchuria. On the contrary, we recognised that so far back as 1899, when we made a famous railway agreement with Russia, in which there was mutual recognition of the right, so far as we were concerned, of Russia to make railways in Manchuria without our competition, and of ourselves to make railways in the Yang-tsze Valley without Russia's competition. So there is nothing in this policy which is secret, as the hon. Member for King's Lynn seems to think; it is to be found on the face of public instruments to which we have affixed our seal. Then the right hon. Baronet dealt with the question of Venezuela, and put together a number of dates and drew conclusions to his own satisfaction with regard to the visit of the German Emperor. So far as I know, there is no word of truth in the view of the right hon. Gentleman. I was not present at Sandringham; but on the bench there are two of my right hon. friends who were there.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he had said nothing about the German Emperor. He had referred to the date of the despatch signed by Lord Lansdowne, who had stated that he saw Count von Biilow on that date.
* LORD CRANBOREN
It does not matter what the date was. The policy with regard to Venezuela had gradually grown up months before the visit of the German Emperor to this country. Nothing is more absurd than for hon. Members, because they do not see all the 118 secrets of the Foreign Office, to think themselves at liberty to support this particular idea which is rooted in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he asked why no despatch was laid by the Government except the one despatch of that date showing joint action. He was not speaking of British action, but of joint action.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said the despatch was no doubt written on that date, but the treatment of both England and Germany by Venezuela was a matter of many months growth, long before the visit of the German Emperor. I am authorised to say now that the German Emperor's visit had nothing whatever to do directly or indirectly—
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I made no remark whatever about the German Emperor. The Prime Minister did not hear my speech.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
If I have misrepresented the right hon. Baronet I withdraw. But I understood him, by calling attention to these dates, to convey the innuendo that it was part of the results of the German Emperor's visit that we became associated in Venezuela with Germany. And if he did not say so, the hon. Member for King's Lynn said so in categorical terms, and quoted some obscure German print in order to prove his point. That I absolutely deny.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Will the noble Lord repeat what he was saying when he was interrupted, perhaps naturaly interrupted, by the right hon. Baronet, who wished to correct him? The noble Lord was conveying a very important fact to the House, and I think we ought to have it in its full terms.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
What I am authorised to say is this—that the German Emperor had nothing whatever to do, either direct or indirect, with any communications to His Majesty's Ministers as to the co-operation between Great Britain and Germany in the 119 matter of Venezuela. That is merely an incident; but I protest in the warmest way against the criticism which has been delivered at the head of His Majesty's Government for our co-operation with Germany in Venezuela. Why should we net have co-operated with Germany? Is it really to be taken as an axiom of foreign politics that, because the policy of this country has not been in the past on all fours with the policy of another country, because, perhaps, certain rather discourteous observations have been passed in the German Reichstag, therefore, for all time, we are never to cooperate with Germany I There is, for example, the question of the slave trade. One of our principal assistants in suppressing the slave trade is the German Empire. Are we to be told that because—I frankly admit the fact—Germany did not treat us very well, indeed, treated us rather badly, in reference to our South African war, therefore we are not to co-operate with her in; suppressing the slave trade? The thing is absolute nonsense. What we have got to look after is British interests; and all this fussy sentimentality is really beside the point. I yield to no one in resenting the criticisms, the most unfair criticisms, the most false criticisms, that were made against our troops in South Africa by Germany; but His Majesty's Government would have been unfit for their place if they had not done their best to defend British interests in Venezuela, wholly irrespective of those unfortunate words which had been uttered a few months before. The criticism which was directed against us in respect of our Venezuelan policy, that it estranged the United States, has turned out to be absolutely untrue. I say that our relations with the United States were never more friendly than they are at the present moment. There was never greater cordiality and harmony than there is at the present moment. I know that the right hon. Baronet will say that that is because the people did it, and not the Government. But, at any rate, we are part of the people of this country, and we claim, and claim with some confidence, that we represent in these matters the opinion of our fellow countrymen; and I do not for a moment think so 120 badly of the public opinion of the United States as to believe that it resented our following what was evidently the most convenient course in asserting the rights of our fellow-subjects in Venezuela. The fact of the matter is that the American people are a very sensible people, and they recognise, I believe, as we do, that if both England and Germany have at the same time grievances of a similar character to complain of against a semi-civilised Power like Venezuela the natural course is to enforce reparation together and not separately.
I am sorry the hon. Member for King's Lynn has not thought it right to remain in his place while I was attempting to deliver something of a reply to his remarks. He was very sensitive about the absence of a certain very illustrious occupant of this Bench while he was speaking; but I really think it is going a long way when an hon. Gentleman delivers a very well-prepared philippic against His Majesty's Government, and immediately after he has finished quits the House I will content myself with saying that the whole account he gave of the Baghdad Railway affair was completely erroneous. The Government never agreed to anything. My right hon. friend indicated that, if certain terms turned out to be terms which could be agreed upon by certain syndicates, the Government would not withhold their support, and would even give certain facilities. But we were not satisfied, in the event, that the terms which we put for ward had been agreed to. On the contrary, we found that in several respects the terms which the two syndicates had arrived at did not harmonise with those which my right hon. friend put forward. The idea that His Majesty's Government were prepared to support a German railway in Asia Minor is untrue, simply definitely untrue. The object of the negotiations, so far as they lay in the hands of His Majesty's Government, was not to support a German railway but to turn a German railway into an international railway. That was the object, and if it had been possible to achieve it I believe the policy would have been a perfectly sound one. Are we to be strangers to the development of Asia Minor? Are we, who hold the 121 greater part of the trade, to have in nothing to say to railway development in Asia Minor if we can get the terms which we require for our co-operation? I do not deny that we were not able to get the terms, and I go further, and say that the outcry which was made in this matter—I think the very ill-informed outcry—made it exceedingly difficult for us to get the terms we required. After all, the getting of capital in this country is a very delicate matter. It is possible sometimes for a Government to harden its heart and to ride through the fence, however severe the prickles they have to encounter in the process may be. But capital is not like that, and if there is an outcry in this country private capital is at once estranged. So the whole process of the negotiations was immediately arrested, and it became impossible for us to secure the terms winch we wanted.
I pass from the Baghdad Railway to consider for a moment what the right hon. Baronet said with respect to the Canada Blue-book. I do not agree with the right hon. Baronet's history. He seemed to think that there were very few occasions on which the British Government had made representations to the German Government in respect of treatment of Canada. The Canada original representation, as the Committee is aware, took the very emphatic form of denouncing our treaty with Germany because the terms of that treaty did not permit of Canada and Great Britain making whatever fiscal conditions they pleased between themselves.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
Yes, the did prevent Canada and this country making whatever fiscal arrangements they pleased between themselves.
* LORD CRANBOREN
I am prepared to argue the question with the hon. Gentleman. Everybody knows that under the most-favoured-nation clause in that treaty it was impossible for Canada to give a preference to this country. The Government of that day announced 122 in the strongest terms that they were not going to allow such a disability to continue, and that, rather than permit a treaty to continue to exist which imposed this disability, they would denounce it, and they did denounce it. Then came the conversation which took place with a representative of the German Foreign Office in September, 1898, in which the British Ambassador pointed out the disappointing was the decision of the German Government to withhold the minimum tariff from Canada. There was another representation in 1899, and then there were the negotiations which the right hon. Baronet entirely forgot to mention—they are not contained in this Blue-book—which took place in Canada itself between representatives of the colony and the German Consul-General. And, lastly, there were the recent representations in 1903, in which we explained how important we thought it that the German Government should treat Canada better. Our position appears to me to be perfectly clear. We desire to be on good terms with every country, Germany included, but we put our colonies before everybody. And even if it could be shown, as my hon. Friend tried to show, that up to that moment Canada had been treated in all respects as a separate fiscal unit, all we have got to say is this—that, however long that had continued, it must be put an end to, and put an end to at once. We were not prepared to go on any longer, in the face of the modern development of cordial feeling between all parts of the Empire, with a disability of this kind in respect of fiscal relations. And once that is admitted by Germany, once she and other countries admit that the fiscal relations between England and her colonies are a domestic matter with which they have no concern, then I can assure the Committee that our attitude in negotiating a new treaty with Germany will be as conciliatory as the greatest friend of Germany could desire. I would point out to the Committee how very unfair it is to charge the Foreign Office with neglect of duty, with incompetence, with securing no results, as is the fashion sometimes with hon. Gentlemen opposite. Since I have been in office—that is to say, since I have had the honour 123 of serving under Lord Lansdowne—if I gave the list the Committee would be astonished at the mass of work we have turned out, the number of treaties of the first class that we have concluded, the number of negotiations we have brought to a successful termination, and the success which has attended our efforts to draw closer our friendly relations with Italy, with France, and with the United States. I think I may claim, and claim with some confidence, that if these facts are looked into impartially and fairly, whatever change may in the near future await this Government, one thing will be true, that the Foreign Office administration although it has not, of course, been perfect has, on the whole, been thoroughly successful—yes, I say so, and if the right hon. Baronet challenges me I shall be able to make good my words—worthy of the traditions of that Office, and worthy of the interests of the country for which that Office exists.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
said he wished to make one request to the noble Lord. Several allusions had been made to the negotiations between the Canadian Government and the Consul-General of Germany in Quebec. The existence of these negotiations was first brought to the attention of the House by the First Minister some time ago, and only the other day the Colonial Secretary, in answer to a Question, stated that he was not aware that any record of the negotiations existed, and referred to the circumstance that, except by arrangement, all such negotiations were more properly trans acted through the Home Government. He had this to say, on the authority of a Canadian gentleman who spoke with him the other day. That gentleman in formed him that these negotiations, at any rate the most important, part, were on paper, and that they had been communicated to the Canadian House of Commons some time in the month of April last, and he gave him an account of the statement in those written communications of the attitude of the Canadian Government communicated to the German Government through its Consul-General, with reference to the most-favourd-nation clauses in all treaties. It appeared to him that this was of the highest interest and importance, and that it ought to be brought to the attention of that House if any question of colonial felling was 124 brought in. He did not choose to communicate to the House the oral version of a document like that given by his interlocutor, although he had absolute confidence in him. But if it were true that these communications were in writing, and were communicated last spring to the Canadian House of Commons, it was full time that they were laid before that House.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I Propose to say something on the question of the Papers which have recently been laid about Germany and Canada; but they belong really so much more to a much larger question, than they do to a general question of foreign policy, that I should like to deal with the latter first. Of course I sympathise entirely with the demand of the hon. Member who has just sat down, that if there is more information throwing light on the Canadian point of view it ought to be laid before this House. The noble Lord at the end of his speech made, I think, one of the widest and most comprehensive claims for general success over an enormous sphere of policy that I ever heard made on behalf of a Department in the House. I am sorry that I cannot endorse it; and although he made that large claim, he passed by without an effective answer a very large part of the powerful criticism of the policy of the Government to which we have listened, especially in reference to China and Venezuela. With one thing I sympathise and entirely agree. I welcome, and am prepared to give the Government credit for, their part in encouraging a better understanding between ourselves and our neighbours on the other side of the Channel. I agree entirely with what he said about the beneficent results of His Majesty's journey abroad tending to bring about better relations. I think His Majesty's visit and the return visit of the President of the French Republic, was an international benefit to both countries. But although I endorse all that, and would say no word to depreciate the part which His Majesty's Government or the French Government either, have had in bringing about this better state of things, I think it is worth while to remember that been possible now it might have been possible two or three years ago. It is 125 very difficult to explain why it should be so; but I am sure every one who has followed foreign affairs will recognise that it is almost as if in the political.atmosphere sometimes there came a sort,of benign influence which so affected public opinion in different countries, that it made possible, better relations than are possible on ordinary occasions. If so, it was a happy thing that both Governments took advantage of the occasion. I agree with the noble Lord that it is not merely a better understanding, but that it is the fact that that better understanding is based on a more general hope of peace. It has been, even in this House, the fate of hon. Members to be a little chilled by the response which the British Government have given when they have been pressed to enter upon negotiations which would lead to general treaties of arbitration. I think the reason why those representations have not, perhaps, met with so much encouragement on previous occasions is that it is not in the power of one Government alone to promote peace, but that there must be a general feeling abroad in the direction of arbitration. Well, there is such a general feeling abroad, and it is, I think, because the better understanding between ourselves and France has not merely eased the relations between the two countries, but also is making for the peace of the world at large, that we ought to welcome it. I will say this—that really public opinion is the great factor in these matters, and if two peoples really convince each other, through the Press and other channels, that they wish each other well, it is worth more to those two nations than if a treaty of alliance were made.
I pass to a policy which has not been so successful, the policy of the Government in relation to certain affairs in different parts of the world in which they have had the co-operation of Germany. I accept entirely, of course, the noble Lords statement that the co-operation with regard to Venezuela was not instigated by the German Emperor. I never attached any importance to the question whether it was or was not so instigated; what I have attached importance to was the statement of the noble Lord that it was a mess. Whatever its origin was, it was none the less a mess.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I am afraid I cannot claim any copyright in that phrase; I think it first appeared in the Daily News.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I explained at some length that I did not look Unit as a mess. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet had not an opportunity of seeing a very full report of my observations.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
The phrase I had in my mind was: "Of course it is a mess." But I admit I did not see a very full report, and I accept any construction the noble Lord places upon it. I will try and explain why I think it was a mess. The danger of the Venezuelan co-operation was this, to my mind—we had certain claims against Venezuela which were the result of definite outrages on little vessels belonging to Trinidad, and those were claims which any nation would he bound to press and could not possibly allow to pass without peremptory demand for compensation. But the German claims were not on all fours with our claims; they were much more of a nature to be the subject of long negotiation than of peremptory demands. We tied up our case with the German case, although they did not really correspond in quality. That was one of the mischiefs of the Venezuelan difficulty. Another was this—that we did undoubtedly run the risk of impairing our relations with the United States. It ought to be an object of British policy, in any operations we are forced to undertake on the other side, as far as possible to make an understanding with the United States our first object, and, if possible, an understanding with the United States alone. It is not every nation that regards with favour the good understanding which happily exists between this Government and the United States; and if you allow yourselves to be engaged with third or fourth parties in matters on the other side of the Atlantic you will some day 127 be engaged in a co-operation out of which you will not get as happily as you did out of the Venezuelan affair, and out of which you will not get without finding that your relations with the United States are impaired. As it was, a great risk was run, and I agree with the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean that it was public opinion which prevented these matters from being worse than they were; it was public opinion which got the Government out of the mess. It was the overwhelming determination shown on the part of public opinion here that the matter must not go further, and that the Government must get out of it as quickly as possible which prevented an unfavourable development of public opinion in the United States. I will not go into the Baghdad question at length, as there are other questions to be raised. I am delighted that there the Government, if they did get into a mess at all, did not get very far into it. But I think it was greatly owing to public opinion again, to a most remarkable explosion of public opinion, very forcibly voiced by the hon. Member for King's Lynn in this House, which prevented the Government from going farther than they did. Then we come to China, and there again I do not see the success of the foreign policy which the noble Lord has claimed. The co-operation with Germany in China, as far as I can judge, has been an entire failure. The noble Lord defended what he now calls the Vang-tsze agreement with Germany.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
There is no intention so to call it here then, but it is in reference to its being called so in Berlin that I would refer. That agreement was one that sounds very well, and the noble Lord said it was good, as far as it goes. But does it go anywhere? The agreement was understood, when it 128 first appeared, as doing something which was tending to the co-operation of ourselves and Germany in two objects, the maintenance of the integrity of China and the maintenance of the open door. There has been great anxiety and apprehension about both these things in regard to Manchuria, as to whether the agreement between His Majesty's Government and Germany was of any use in the matter. I should like the noble Lord when he speaks again to tell us whether the Government have appealed to this agreement with Germany and asked for co-operation in maintaining the open door in Manchuria.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I can answer that Question at once, and I think I have already answered it. The German Government take the view that the Anglo-German Agreement does not, so far as they are concerned, apply to, Manchuria.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
Then I think that the Anglo-German Agreement is a most one-sided instrument. One of its conditions is that we are to keep for Germany the open door in the Yang-tsze region, which we never had any intention of closing, and it seems that it is not of the least use to hope for help from Germany in maintaining the open door in any other part of China. At the first test the agreement has broken down. The question has arisen in Manchuria, and the agreement has proved of no use. I hope we shall have no more of these one-sided agreements. After all that has passed in China I think the Government has been pursuing a wrong policy altogether with regard to co-operation with Germany. They have been relying on the one Power from whom they have got nothing in return. If that had led to good feeling between us and Germany I would not have looked too closely into the bargain; but what do I feel about this close co-operation with Germany in China and Asia is that your German policy is one of two alternatives. The alternative I should like to see pursued would be a policy of co-operation and agreement with Russia. But I am sure that, so long as the key of your policy is co-operation or agreement with Germany in the first instance, you will never have 129 a chance of co-operation and agreement with Russia. Our interests in Asia are interests which touch more closely and more often with Russia than with any other country. The noble Lord has said that Russia occupies a special position in Manchuria. It is a special position, so special that we ought really to have had some statement from the noble Lord as to what the view of His Majesty's Government is with regard to it. My view is that we ought to distinguish very clearly and distinctly between territorial and political questions in Manchuria and commercial questions—that the policy of His Majesty's Government should be limited to commercial questions, that we should not occupy ourselves with political questions, and that the Government should work for co-operation with other Powers in maintaining the open door in Manchuria. But, considering the railway interests of Russia in Manchuria, they ought not to mix themselves up with questions about territory or political questions in Manchuria—that is to say, the object of British diplomacy should be limited to securing the open door for British trade and to avoid getting into political controversies. The United States apparently take the same view, and I hope the Government will not be left alone if they adopt that policy.
The question whether it is possible to have agreement and co-operation with Russia in Asia is one which it is impossible for anybody but the Government to answer. But I have never seen that His Majesty's Government have made any real effort to get an understanding with Russia and to overcome the obstacles which tradition and past policy have naturally placed in the way of such an understanding. I think it is difficult because I am not sure that Russia pursues a settled policy. I think Russia lives much more from hand to mouth than we think. I think she moves like a large glacier, much more by pressure from behind than from any settled policy; but I am quite sure it should be our object to make up our own minds as to what the limits of our interests in Asia are, and to lose no opportunity of using every possible effort to come to a clear understanding with Russia as to what the boundaries of our interests are. We cannot go on as we have been going on. The Government talk about the status quo and integrity, but Russia goes 130 on continually absorbing more and more territory. We hear a great deal of the status quo and integrity with regard to China and with regard to Persia, and Russia is continually absorbing more territory and collecting more influence with the central authority. We have to make it our pokey to consolidate what we have got in Asia, and to consider what our proper functions are, bearing in mind that if you seek to extend your frontier you must extend it in such a way as not to weaken its defence. You must not advance because another Power is advancing and then find yourselves in occupation of a frontier more difficult to defend than that you had before. That is why I lay stress on consolidation. Having made up your minds what is necessary for consolidation, the sooner the Russian Government is made to understand it the better. Now I have dwelt on this because I do regard the situation in China as serious. I take this from the Shanghai correspondent of The Times—To any observer who observes the position in the far East, in its relation to what we call the civilised world, it is evident that the future maintenance of the integrity of China is, humanly speaking, impossible.I offer no comment on that statement, but it is about the gravest statement that could be made. The Government must have some clear idea of their policy in view of such a situation. The first point should be not to take territory, because we have as much as we can manage. The second point should be to consolidate our frontiers and to defend what we have got without extending those frontiers. The third point is that the open door should be maintained. That can only be done by co-operation with other Powers. And there ought to be in the minds, not only of His Majesty s Government, but of the Governments of other Powers, some clear agreement as to what would happen to their interests in Asia if these large countries, such as China and Persia, have their integrity impaired.
Now I would pass from that to the question of the Papers laid before the House with reference to the correspondence with Germany respecting the Canadian tariff. I asked a Question on this subject some little time ago, and I was given an answer by the Colonial Secretary. We accepted that answer as given, waiting with interest to see 131 how it is to be interpreted by results. The Colonial Secretary, in giving me that answer, reproached me with my ingenuous ignorance on the subject of the relations between Canada and Germany. I have learnt a good deal since then, partly owing to His Majesty's Government, partly owing to the Press; and I would say at once that the information I have since gained makes me of opinion that it is all the more natural that I should have asked the Question some time ago. We have now got these Papers laid as to what has passed between His Majesty's Government and the German Government in relation to the treatment of Canada. I asked a Question as to whether His Majesty's Government regarded that treatment as an act of hostile discrimination. That was my ingenuous ignorance. Now I find that His Majesty's Government, so far from regarding it as an act of host le discrimination, having asked the German Government for an explanation four years ago, lay down under that explanation without making any reply for about four years. They got their explanation in August, 1899. They made no reply to it, and the German Government were entitled to hold that the explanation was accepted. A few months afterwards the Colonial Secretary appealed for an alliance with Germany, and that, so far as we know, without a word as to her explanation of the treatment of Canada. That I had not realised before. That is a new fact in the situation. It certainly strikes me with some surprise. Another thing I have learnt is that last year, at the Colonial Conference, and this I might have known the other day, but did not, a discussion of this question of the most-favoured-nation treatment of the colonies took place, and an agreement was come to, apparently unanimously, that the matter was not of importance and need not be taken into account. That was a year ago. Now I further learn from the Papers presented that the German Government had a better case for their action than I thought they had. It appears they have been in the habit of making express treaty stipulations with regard to what are to be the relations between the mother country and the colonies, and that, in the case of France, the arrangement was 132 that France was to be free to make any arrangement she liked with her colonies. That is recognised as part of the treaty If you have special recognition of these facts in treaties, it at least leads to the supposition that they are open questions unless expressly mentioned. We had a treaty with Germany which expressly excluded the right of making any such arrangements. That treaty was discontinued. We gave notice that that treaty was to be discontinued, and I think the German Government were at least within their rights in demanding that this matter should be reserved as the subject of negotiation in a future treaty.
There are some points in the correspondence of the Foreign Office in this matter with which I have no fault to find. The last despatch of Lord Lansdowne ends by saying—I have thought it desirable to make these observations in reply to those contained in Baron von Richthofen's note. It seems to me, however, that if the question is to be further discussed, it would be to the advantage of both sides that it should, as suggested by Baron von Richthofen, take the form of an exchange of ideas in regard to the means of obviating the present difference, and His Majesty's Government would certainly be ready to approach such a discussion in a considerate spirit.I cordially reciprocate that. It is a matter for discussion and negotiation. I go further mid say I sympathise with the object of His Majesty's Government that there should be freedom between themselves and the self-governing colonies to make their own arrangements. All that is a proper subject for negotiation. But in view of the fact that it was stated to be of no importance, it is not justified by the speech we have heard to-day. The Government treated this question as a question of no importance for about four years. They then came to the decision last year with the colonies themselves that the thing really did not matter, and the colonies had their own remedy in their own hands. They have now decided that it is a question on which they have to negotiate with foreign Powers. I have no objection to the negotiations, but they are not now entitled, after all that has passed, after their own admission, after their own delay, to Cake up the line of indignation and surprise which we have heard of on, other occasions. There is, further, in 133 these Papers regarding the correspondence with the Government of Germany a significant passage which has not been referred to in the debate. Baron Rich thofen said it might be difficult to induce the Reichstag in Germany to continue the most-favoured-nation treatment, not to any British colony, but to the United Kingdom itself. My contention was that that was very little else than loose talk.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
But he also commented on it afterwards. My impression is that it was loose talk. It was an expression of opinion about the Reichstag, not an exposition of the policy of the German Government—an expression of opinion by Governments as what my happen in our Parliaments if not the same as a declaration of policy of their own Foreign Office. But, admitting that it was seriously intended to influence His Majesty's Government, I contend that His Majesty's Government in any such case have the remedy in their own hands. It is possible, and I have admitted It before, that there might be some act of hostile discrimination against this country on the part of a foreign Power. But if so, it would be the duty of the Government not to raise great questions of principle and fiscal policy at large, but to come to the House of Commons to make what proposal case. In this instance they have done perfectly right in answering the German contention, by pointing out that there was a complete diplomatic answer to it—namely, that Germany held Canada to be a separate fiscal unit. The fiscal policy of Canada was no reason whatever why the fiscal policy of this country should be affected. There was no evidence that that answer was not accepted by the Government of Germany. I regard hostile discrimination of this kind as exceptional and improper, and if it occurred I think it would be the duty of every party to consider any proposal the Government might any proposal the Government might put before them for meeting such a policy. At all events, do not let us have any loose talk about retaliation until we 134 have some idea of what we mean by it. There are cases in which retaliation would be the very worst way of meeting such a difficulty. Supposing such a difficulty arose in the United States, would you put a duty on raw cotton? It do not think commercial retaliation is necessarily the remedy at all. There are cases where it might be a perfectly safe and effective remedy, but there are other cases where it would be the most difficult and dangerous one we could use, and if I consider that the German Government have no right to indulge in what I believe was loose talk about the most-favoured-nation treatment, I also think that our Government ought not to indulge in loose talk about retaliation. Retaliation, or commercial retaliation, in nine cases out of ten, is like a weapon with a leaden point and a sharp handle, it does not, hurt those against whom it is directed, but only hurts those who use I think it was absurd to raise a question connected with the fiscal policy of this country until you had some exceptional question before you. The mere fact that a statement of this kind passed in negotiation is no foundation for leading the country to suppose that we are in an imminent crisis which requires further action. I have nothing more to say upon the case. I believe hon. friends behind me have other questions to raise. I w only say again that on the whole question I see nothing not capable of treatment by the ordinary methods of negotiation, no evidence whatever to show that the ordinary methods of negotiation have failed, and no reason why the country should be asked to take this new departure.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
I only intervene to say a few words with reference to that portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which referred particularly to the question of German discrimination against Canada, because the general attack upon Foreign Office management, made in the course of the previous speeches, has already been replied to by my noble friend in a manner which is satisfactory, at all events, to his own side the House, whatever view the Opposition may take of it. But the question 135 raised by the right hon. Baronet, who has just sat down, does affect, in a special way, the Department I represent. I hope I have not been guilty of any discourtesy in regard to the phrase be quoted.
§ SIR EDWA RD GREY
I referred to a phrase the right hon. Gentleman used, but I do not take it as any discourtesy.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I certainly did not mean it as such, but I dill not quite understand from his speech what was the point about which he had a disposition to question my language. Perhaps the best way to reply would to remind the right hon. Gentleman of what actually took place. As lie knows, after the preference was given by Canada to this country, the German Government withdrew their most-favoured-nation treatment to Canada. That withdrawal constituted a discrimination against Canada on the avowed ground that Canada had given a special preference to the mother country. When that took place discussion arose, in the first instance between the Dominion and His Majesty's Government, and the Dominion asked us what steps we were prepared to take in the matter. Thereupon communications were made with Germany, but without any result. We communicated the failure of our representations to the Dominion of Canada, and then the Dominion of Canada took the matter to a certain extent into its own hands. Technically, of course, no negotiations were going on between Canada and Germany, but what might be called an interchange of views between certain persons, who might be said to be representatives of Canada and the Consul-General of Germany. They were not in a proper and technical sense negotiations. We have not received any record of them, and as far as I know of no such record exists. In any case they would have no final authority, because any treaty would be made formally between this country on behalf of Canada and the German Government. But these private communications between certain members of the Canadian Government and the Consul-General of Germany had no further result than our communications with Germany. Up to this 136 time there has not been the slightest inclination On the part of Germany to meet us upon this subject, and that is how the question remains. The Canadian Government explained that they had constantly hoped for what they considered more reasonable treatment from the Government of Germany, and that therefore they hesitated to take the matter into their own hands, and retaliate in any way on German trade.
But when the last Conference was hell with the Colonial Premiers, the matter came up again for discussion; it was discussed at the Conference, and at much greater length between the Canadian Minister and myself; there was nothing, secret about it in any way. The Canadian Minister stated the reason why they strongly objected to this arrangement. They said it had been the subject of discussion more, perhaps, as a matter.of sentiment than as a matter of any particular importance, but that what was felt in Canada was that the mother country was not sufficiently protecting her children. It was agreed by the Canadian Minister that it was not a matter of large practical importance, first, because the trade between Canada and Germany was not large, and in the second place Canada takes more goods from Germany than Germany takes from Canada. Accordingly, Canada has always had it in her own hands to strike a considerable blow if she thought it desirable to do so. The result of this discussion was summarised in an account of the Conference to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. I would like to read a little more fully than he did. He said it was stated that the, matter was of no importance. That was not quite the case. It was of great sentimental importance for the reasons I have given, but in one sense it was also of great practical importance. The words of the reporter of the Conference are—As, however, the exports from the colonies to foreign countries are almost exclusively articles of food or raw materials for foreign industries, the possibility of discrimination against them in foreign markets was not regarded as serious, and as the exports from foreign countries to the colonies are mainly manufactured articles, it was recognised that if such discrimination did take place the. 137 colonies had an effective remedy in their own hands.That is true. The Colonial Ministers have returned to their several Governments, and in the last Budget of the Dominion of Canada the Government of Canada resolved to take the effective remedies which were in their own hands, and they accordingly put on a discriminating duty against German goods to the amount of 33 per cent. That was a very effective remedy. Then what happened? In the meantime, let me say, I had of course, pointed out to the Canadian Minister, and the Ministers of the arrangements were what they had been for a great many years past it was not possible for us to help them otherwise than by negotiation, and that I did not anticipate the negotiations would prove the slightest good until we are able to say, "unless we can get a good settlement we should be prepared to retaliate." That is an absolutely frank and fair statement of the position as it existed at the time the last Colonial Conference. That was the position at the time Canada resolved to take the remedy at her hand.
What has been the result of that action on the part of Canada? Germany at once announced its intention—I ought not perhaps to say that. It is sufficient for me to say that the newspapers of Germany were at once full of the intention of Germany to indulge in further retaliation. We were warned by the German Government themselves, in a formal note presented to Sir Frank Lascelles, that they thought that it appeared doubtful, especially having regard to the opposition to be expected in the Reichstag, whether the intention of giving most-favoured-nation treatment to Great Britain could be realised if Germany were differentiated against in important parts of the British Empire, and if, in particular, the report was confirmed that German goods would be less favourably treated than British goods, not only in Canada, but also in British South Africa. The Committee will see front this that the question assumed an infinitely greater importance; because we were informed by Germany not merely that she would continue and increase this policy against Canada, but that she was doing it with a special object—namely, that of preventing any other British Colony from following the example of Canada. As we know that 138 there was a clear indication at the Colonial Conference of the willingness of all the self-governing colonies, without exception, to give us a preference in the future, this action on the part of Germany was a threat, directed in the first place against the colonies, that they should be penalized if they carried out that and it was carried out that in tention; and it was a threat, in the second place, against this country, that if we did not intervene to prevent the colonies from giving us this preference we should be made to suffer by means of retaliatory treatment on the part of Germany. That is the state of things disclosed by the recent correspondence which has been laid on the Table of the House. The right hon. Baronet said something about the indignation and surprise which found expression in this House. I do not know to what he refers, but he will bear in mind that in my speech on the question I expressed no indignation on the question I expressed no indignation and certainly no perfectly natural that as long as Germany believed that our policy would be a policy of—I was going to say passive resistance—a policy of no resistance at all, it was probable that her statesmen, acting as they believed in the interest of her trade, would continue the policy to which, of course, we took the greatest exception. Without expressing any surprise or indignation, we have, I have, I think, made it perfectly clear that in the furture—so far, at any rate as our Government are concerned—we will not permit this discrimination to continue without taking all the steps in our power to bring it to a close; and I rejoice to think that these declarations, clearly made and, as I believe, supported by the vast mass of the people of this country, have already had their effect. We are now invited to negotiations upon the subject, which may very likely lead to more satisfactory results than those previous negotiations which failed completely because we were obliged to avow that we had no weapon in our hands in order to make a bargain.
§ * Mr. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I will refer before I sit down to the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which raised questions of policy, but before doing so I should like to refresh his memory as to the actual facts of the matter with which we are dealing. 139 I am not going to take up the cudgels on behalf of Germany, or to make any attack upon Canada. Nothing is farther from my desire or sympathies in the matter. But we must get at the historical facts; and when the right hon. Gentleman says it began by Germany making a hostile discrimination against Canada, he really is not stating accurately what took place. What happened was this. Canada proposed to give a preference to the goods of this country. There was at the time a treaty between us and Germany which treated the British Empire as a whole as a fiscal unity. The result was that if Canada carried out her intention there would be a breach of the treaty. It was therefore necessary for the Government of the day to denounce that treaty in order to clothe Canada with the fiscal autonomy which was necessary to enable her to carry out her intention. The result of the denunciation of the treaty was that not only Canada, but the whole British Empire came, or would have coarse, automatically under the German general tariff, which, of course, is the maximum tariff. Thereupon Germany said she had no objection to give the most-favoured-nation treatment
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
May I ask how does that differ in arty respect from what I have said? Practically the result of the action of Germany was to put Canada, and Canada alone, in a position of disfavour because she had differentiated, not against the rest of the world, but in favour of the mother country.
* MR. ASQULTH
Canada having refused to give Germany most-favoured-nation treatment, Germany said they could not give it to Canada. That is the sum and substance of the matter. The point which the right hon. gentleman has left unexplained is the action of the Government in the matter. The question having originated in the way I have described, Canada came under the operation 140 of the German general tariff at the end of July, 1898. For two years from that date, until May or June, 1900, the only thing that was done by His Majesty's Government was the sending of a despatch by Lord Salisbury inquiring whether Germany was not treating the French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies in a different manner, from our colonies. The explanation of Germany was that she was bound by special treaties to give that treatment to those colonies, and Lord Salisbury appears to have acquiesced in the explanation. At any rate, nothing further was done. That is the history of the first two years. Now I come to a very important and significant fact to which the Colonial Secretary has not referred—that is, to the declaration made on behalf of the German Government in May, 1900, by the. Prussian Minister of the Interior in proposing to the Reichstag a Bill for the extension of the existing arrangements. The Minister said:—When single British colonies deviate from the present arrangement, and refuse most-favoured-nation treatment, there are Only two courses open—either to apply the autonomous tariff to those single British colonies or to a considerable portion of the British Colonial Empire, which differentiate against Germany, or to utilise the power of applying the autonomous tariff against the whole of the British dominions throughout the world.In other words, this very same threat, as the right hon. Gentleman calls it, which assumed so serious an aspect when put in. la contingent and hypothetical form in April, 1903—just before the new fiscal campaign was inaugurated—this very same threat, expressed in very much more categorical language, was passed entirely unnoticed in May, 1900, by His Majesty's Government. They took it lying down. That was in May or June, 1900. But what becomes of the next two years? We have heard of these pour parlers—which apparently were not negotiations at Montreal, as to which, after the remarks of my right hon. friend, I hope we shall have placed before us the materials which have apparently been submitted to the Canadian House of Commons, as negotiations of that kind, by whatever diplomatic term they are described, form an important link in this chapter of history. With the exception of those negotiations which the 141 right hon. Gentleman told us were abortive, nothing took place until the Colonial Conference of last year. Then the whole thing was belittled to the utmost possible degree by the Coloniai Secretary himself. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] I will give chapter and verse. What I mean to say is that the right hon. Gentleman then treated the matter in what I venture to think is its true proportions: but lie belittled it as compared with his present attitude towards it. Speaking at the Colonial Conference the right hon. Gentleman, addressing the Premiers, spoke in the most disparaging language of this Canadian preference to this country. I will quote his words—Canada, therefore, has anticipated the general proposal of the Premiers, and the time which has elapsed has been sufficient to enable us to form a judgment of the effect of an arrangement, of this kind, and I have to say to you that, while I cannot but gratefully acknowledge the intention of this proposal and its sentimental value as a proof of goodwill and affection, yet that its substantial results have been altogether disappointing to us, and I think they must have been equally disappointing to its promoters.The right hon Gentleman then went on to point out that the increase of the foreign trade with Canada since the preferential tariff was brought into existence had been greater in proportion than the increase of the British trade with Canada.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman said he would give chapter and verse. He must remember that that was an argument to induce Canada to give us a greater preference, and that Canada did, through her Minister, agree to give us a greater preference, if we could give her some thing in return.
§ * MR. ASQUITH
At any rate, it was the right hon. Gentleman's description of the state of things which then existed, and I think I am justified in saying that whatever the other intentions of the right hon. Gentleman may have been, his main object was to get Canada to contribute more to the support of the British Navy. However, I am not going to quarrel about that, because it is not very material, Obviously in the view of the right hon. Gentleman at that time it was a matter 142 of very little moment at all. The passage already quoted from the Minutes completely bears out that view because it says, dealing with this question of retaliation—The possibility of discrimination against foreign markets was not regarded as serious, and as the exports of foreign countries to the colonies are mainly manufactured articles, it was recognised, if such discrimination did take place, the colonies had an effective remedy in their own hands.Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell us that he suggested that retaliation could or might take the form of action on the part of this country and not on the part of the colonies?
§ * MR ASQUITH
So I should have thought. What was pointed out to Canada was that if the effect of giving a preference to the goods of this country deprives you of most-favoured-nation treatment in Germany, you have a remedy in your own hands—the Canadians did use the remedy and put a surtax upon German goods—and those measures he sail would be effective for the purpose. I will now pass on to summarise the history of these transactions. Here we have a state of things brought into existence in July, 1898, to abate which no step is taken by His Majesty's Government for four years, and when at the end of these four years the matter comes to be discussed between the Government and the colonies, the colonies are told: "You have an adequate remedy in your own hands.' What is the additional weapon which the right hon. Gentleman has got? Only the language used by Baron Richthofen on the 23rd of April of the present year at a most opportune moment, something like three weeks before the inauguration of the new fiscal policy. It appears that Baron von Richthofen wrote a note in these terms—The Imperial Government think, however, that they should not conceal the fact that it appears doubtful, especially having regard to the opposition to he expected in the Reichstag, whether this intention can he realised if Germany is differentiated against in important parts of the British Empire, and if, in particular, the report is confirmed that German goods will in the future be less favourably treated than British, not only in Canada, but also in British South Africa.That note is explained on the following 143 page in a letter dated the 23rd of April, in which it is stated that Baron Von Richthofen said to Sir Frank Lascelles that—It would be very difficult to obtain the consent of the Reichstag to the prolongation of most-favoured-nation treatment to Great Britain herself.Whereupon our Ambassador seems to have replied—If any serious damage were done to British trade by the non-prolongation of must-favoured-nation treatment, the outcry in England would be so great that His Majesty's Government would be forced, however unwillingly, to take retaliatory measures.Here we have the Baron von Richthofen threatening what the Reichstag would not do, and then you have the British Ambassador on the other side threatening the German Government as to the state of public opinion in England. That is the whole foundation of this menace by Germany of retaliation. I quite agree with Lord Lansdowne's criticism, which I think is most just and neatly and accurately expressed as regards this threat; that it ought never to have been used, because it was totally inconsistent with the position the German Government had taken up. They say—"We will attack you, Great Britain, who have nothing whatever to do with the matter, and are free from all responsibility for it." That is a position which is wholly inconsistent with all they have done in previous years. So far I entirely agree with Lord Lansdowne's criticisms. When we are asked to treat this as though it amounted to an actual case which calls for retaliation on our part against Germany, a more flimsy material to base such a suggestion upon has never been heard of. The very same thing had been expressed, only in much stronger language, more than two years ago by a German Minister in the Reichstag, and no notice whatever was taken of it by His Majesty's Government.
I want, in order that we may have no misunderstanding about this, to say one word, not as to the facts but as to the questions of policy which they suggest. I hear a great deal in these days ahem what is called retaliation, and what does retaliation mean? It is used in current controversies in two entirely different senses, and with two entirely different applications. It may refer to the actual and existing state of things, or it may 144 refer to a hypothetical and possible state of things. The actual state of things is this—that the great majority of the countries of the world, including our own colonies, have surrounded themselves with protective tariffs which they employ impartially as against the whole world, except in so far as they have been relaxed by stipulations in commercial treaties. I suspect that a great many people when they talk of retaliation mean to attack that system, and mean that although we have no special grievance of our own but only share a common exclusion with the rest of the world from the markets of the protected country, yet there is some obligation on our part to take aggressive steps against that country. That is protection pure and simple. It is an attempt to fight protection abroad by protection at home, and there is no man, whether he calls himself a free trader or not, who has grasped the doctrine of free trade who would ever consent to accept it. There is another sense in which the term retaliation is used, and it is, so far as I know, a purely hypothetical case in which a foreign country does make a hostile discrimination against a particular State. It may do so either by imposing an extra import duty upon the produce of that State, or what comes to the same thing, by refusing to admit the produce of that State under the most-favoured-nation treatment, which it is willing to grant to its rivals. It may take either of these forms. When that is done, if it is done, and I assume it is done without provocation and justification, it is, in my opinion, what in diplomatic language is called "unfriendly action." The notion that you are bound to lie down, as the Colonial Secretary says, and allow yourselves to be kicked simply because the hostile action taken against you attacks not your own territory but your trade is a pure illusion, and a notion not entertained by any human being. It is certainly no part of the doctrine of free trade. You can repel hostile action in virtue of the elementary law of self-preservation and self-defence, but where we differ, and differ profoundly, from those who talk about retaliation is this—it is a question by what method, it is not a question of the right of defence but what is the most effectual and most expedient method of making your defence good. Very often 145 our best plan is to leave things entirely alone.[MINISTERIAL laugher] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but I strongly maintain that proposition. I will say that it is very often much better to leave things alone, because a foreign country which imposes this hostile duty will lie found in the long run to be doing more harm to its own trade than to that of any body else. It is restricting the market upon which it depends for the exchange of its goods. I do not commit myself to the proposition that yon must never take, in a case of this kind, action of any sort at all. The action you take must be governed by the facts of the particular ease when it arises, but no such case has arisen. I will venture to lay down two general rules. The first is, that in matters of this kind it is never wise to rely upon the policy of bluff, just as in the other sphere, that of diplomacy properly so called, a loud and blustering attitude is not always the best and does not always reference to this long period in which he avert the risk of war. I will suggest another equally important proposition and it is this—it can never be wise in such a case to resort to such a weapon because it does the nation which uses it more harm than the nation against which it is directed. It may do infinitely greater injury to your own trade by retaliation than the injury you inflict upon the country against whom that retaliation is directed. I repeat that it is obvious from this correspondence that we are not face to face with any such situation. I earnestly hope, as Baron von man seems to think that everything Richthofen says, and as Lord Lansdowne says, that this matter is going to be settled by friendly negotiation. I have risen for the purpose of pointing out that this notion that we must make some fundamental change in our fiscal system to have the power of dealing with a situation like this is, if I may so call it, a bogey, conjured up absolutely out of nothing, which has been magnified, as any rate, into unnatural and monstrous proportions in order to curdle the blood and muddle the brains of ignorant and nervous people.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester,E.)
I am not quite sure that I understand the object with which the right hon. Gentleman has given us his version of the history of the transaction in connection with 146 preferential duties between the colonies and the mother country. I fear I failed to appreciate rightly whether he thought that we delayed action too long, or whether he disapproved of the action which we did take. He appeared to hesitate between the two lines. Does he think that we have done in 1903 what we have done in 1903 what we ought to have done in 1899, or that what we have done in 1903 ought not to have been done at all?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. We made representations to Germany which changed the whole face of the negotiations. And let me tell him that is a good deal to have done. When the right hon. Gentlemen criticizes us in reference to this long period in which he says we have done noting, does he think we ought to have taken action sooner, or does he mean that we ought not to have take action at all? I am at a loss to understand. In his ambiguous and double-faced criticism of the Government in appears to me that the right hon. Gentlemen has not given strictly accurate account of the facts. When I say "double-faced" I do not mean to use the phrase in an offensive sense; I mean looking two ways, and having an opposite aspect. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that everything Baron von Richthofen said in 1903 was said to us by the German Government in 1899. That really is not the case. He will find the passage which he quotes is a passage not from representations made to our Ambassador, not from representations made to this Government at all, but from a speech by Baron von Richthofen in the Reichstag. He will find that that speech was not connected with Canadian tariffs—I think I am right in saying this—but with some action taken by Barbados, and what Barbados has done does not at all correspond with what Canada has done. Barbados did not propose differential duties simply for the exemption of the mother country. Barbados made an arrangement in which other countries besides the mother country were involved. I believe I have given an accurate account 147 of the transaction, but I admit I have only hastily glanced at it while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, and I may possibly have made a mistake, though I do not think I have.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Baron von Richthofen's speech was made on the question of the adoption of the Bill, which would have had general application.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The occasion of it was not Canada, but Barbados, and the action of Barbados was not parallel with the action of Canada. But I regard that aspect of the controversy as of secondary importance. After all, what does the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman amount to, if it is a complaint? An assertion that we have done nothing for two years. Those, Sir, were two years in which we were involved in a tremendous struggle in South Africa, not very convenient years, not a very suitable opportunity, for entering into a controversy, which I admit was not at that time a pressing controversy, with a Continental neighbour. The right hon. Gentleman has truly said that Canada was not suffering from this action of Germany. If she had been suffering from it, we should have been obliged then and there, at whatever cost, to have intervened in her favour. She was not suffering financially; and it seems to me that it was not only not imprudent, but it was most wise and most prudent not to press on in haste at that particular juncture of our history a diplomatic controversy which had no pressing or immediate financial importance to the colony concerned. There is a much more important question behind that on which the right lion. Gentleman, in spite of the sentence which fell from him at the end of his speech, has not given us a very clear lead. He talked about unfriendly action. I do not know whether I came under the condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman or not; but I am, at all events, not sufficiently clearheaded to have discovered exactly what the policy is which lie recommends. Is he, or is he not, when one of our colonies is discriminated against because it gives preferential treatment to the mother country—is he, or is he not, in favour of an absolutely passive attitude? That is 148 a perfectly clear and explicit question. I am ready to give it, for my own part, a perfectly clear and explicit answer. Is the right hon. Gentleman, or are his friends? I understand that they are not. The right hon. Gentleman told us a great deal of what free traders could do and could not do, what is consistent with free trade arid what is not consistent with free trade. And even there I did not quite follow him, because I understood it was inconsistent with free trade ever to attempt to modify a foreign tariff in a free trade direction by threatening any fiscal action on our part; but it was not inconsistent with free trade to go to war, as I understand it, supposing fiscal action is taken against us individually, and not against other nations. I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman's view. I presume that he will admit that a retaliatory tariff is less expensive and, on the whole, less objectionable than war.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Very well. He will admit that, therefore, if war is justified by an unfriendly act, à fortiori, retaliation is justified.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman talked of the rights of nations and what they regard as unfriendly acts. If that did not mean war I do not know what it did mean. At all events, he will admit that the milder, and less costly, and on the whole, more humane method of dealing with this unfriendly act is to deal with it by fiscal retaliation rather than by military retaliation. His view as a free trader is this—and he talked with an air of pontifical orthodoxy which, I must say, surprised me—that if a nation directs its tariffs against this country to a greater degree than it directs its tariff hostility against other countries, that is an unfriendly act and against that you may retaliate in order to produce a modification of the tariff; but if the modification affects other countries besides this country, then free trade conies in, and free trade orthodoxy absolutely forbids any such action. I am not quite sure whether that is logic. The right hon. Gentleman should reconsider the 149 theoretical basis of his policy. In the meanwhile, I should be grateful for an explicit answer to the question I have put. Am I wrong in understanding that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's view, Germany may do what it likes against one of our colonies and we must not retaliate? Is that his view or is it not? It is not our view. The views which we hold may or may not be inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's views of political economy and of free trade. Whether they are or are not inconsistent with his view, they are opinions to which we adhere; they appear to us to be the only opinions which, as members of the Empire, we can consistently hold, and I do not believe that the right hon Gentleman with all his ingenuity, will ever persuade the citizens of this country to take any other attitude upon this subject. I ant afraid I have travelled a little beyond the. Vote which my noble friend is defending, but it will be admitted that I have little choice after the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made. I can only hope that I have succeeded in making my position more clear and explicit than the right hon. Gentleman has been able to make his view to those of us who have listened to him attentively on this subject.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The only contribution that I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman has made towards the exposition of his views to the House and to the country is to demand in a peremptory fashion front my right hon. friend beside me what his views are. The whole country is waiting with the utmost impatience to know what the views of the right hon. Gentleman are—what the proposals of the Government are in general, but particularly what are the views of the right hon. Gentleman himself—whether his convictions are still in a perfectly unsettled state, or whether he has really at last been able to come to some conclusion or other on the subject. And it is in this condition in which he has set himself before the country that he thinks he triumphantly disposes of the arguments of my right hon. friend by asking him what he would do in certain circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues cannot get out, as it seems to me, of this dilemma with regard to the question of the colonies. Have 150 they fiscal independence, or have they not? You cannot have it both ways. Which is the way that the Government prefer and adopt? The right hon. Gentleman talked of being double-faced, and looking both ways. The Government have been looking both ways—first one way and then another—throughout these proceedings. Here is an interesting document. I am not going into the question of Baron von Richthofen and all the circumstances contained in the Blue-book, which, I think, have been sufficiently examined and criticised. But I have here a little document, which, I think, throws some light upon the subject. It is a treaty recently concluded with the Government of Persia—"Ratifications exchanged at Teheran on 27th May, 1903." What does Article 2 of this Treaty say? This Government, who want to know everybody else's views, have during the last four or five years said first one thing old then another. Article 2 of this treaty says—It is formally stipulated that British subjects and British imports into Persia, as well as Persian subjects and Persian imports into the British Empire, shall continue to enjoy under all conditions most-favoured-nation treatment. It is understood that a British colony having a special Customs tariff, and which may cease to grant most-favoured-nation treatment to Persian imports, will no longer have the right to claim the same treatment, for its own imports into Persia.I want to know what does this point to if it does not point to the case of preferential duties between the colonies and the mother country, and the mother country, forsooth, is to go to the rescue—
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to interrupt him, I would say that the negotiators on behalf of the Persian Government were not so unreasonable as the right hon. Gentleman supposes. We made specific inquiry whether they considered that the passage which the right hon. Gentleman has read would exclude the colonies in respect of Persian trade from making a special arrangement with the mother country, and we were informed that the Persian Government did not take that view at all, and that they looked upon what passed between us and the colonies as a purely domestic matter.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I would suggest that the noble Lord should procure the cancelling of this treaty with Persia, and substitution of a new treaty more exactly expressing what he says. When did they receive this assurance from the Government of Persia? I deal with the words of the treaty, and I say this can point to nothing else but the institution of preferential duties with the mother country, and this is the way the mother country goes to the rescue of her children. The next clause is not quite so explicit, but it is in the same sense—In the event of the United Kingdom establishing duties in its general tariff without previous agreement with Persia,and so on, then—Persia shall have the right to impose in its turn corresponding duties on articles of the same description coming from the United kingdom.I say the whole of this arrangement with Persia is inconsistent with the theories put forward now by the Government in respect of this matter. And although I said I would pass over Baron von Richthofen's little episode, yet I think there is this point in it which has not been noticed, but which is worth attending to. What he alleges is that the Reichstag may make difficulties in the event of preferential duties being granted in the case not only of Canada, but possibly in the case of South Africa. It appears to be the expectation or the fear of that course being taken in South Africa that is especially likely to affect the judgment of the Reichstag. We have had a convention within a short time at Bloemfontein. The representatives, the so-called representatives, of the different States in South Africa were present, and they have agreed to allow preferential duties to the mother country. But two of those States agreeing to take this course are Crown colonies, not self-governing colonies, so that surely in that case the mother country would be brought in. That may be one of the reasons why the Baron von Richthofen considers that action against the mother country would he justified. I think that is a fair conclusion to come to. It is not a case in South Africa of self-governing colonies alone, but there are other colonies which must be held by 152 foreign Powers to stand or fall with the interests of the mother country.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Does, the right hon. Gentleman suggest that, in the event of Germany retaliating against the mother country, because her Crown colonies give her preference, we should not interfere and retaliate again?
§ SIR H CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I think the Baron von Richthofen or any one else, would be very likely to say that if the Crown colonies, for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible, took a certain course, then he cannot, in another capacity, refuse the responsibility which he has so assumed.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is a very ingenious, but not very effective, method of getting out of the difficulty. We can deal with the case when it arises if we are called upon to deal with it. It is the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Prime Minister who are now advising the country as to the general policy they are to pursue. It is they who have to meet these questions when they arise, and not we who sit on this side of the House. As to the question of retaliation, the right hon. Gentleman asked triumphantly, as I have said, whether retaliation would be resorted to. My right hon. friend, in very clear and very strong language, showed how mischievous a policy of retaliation in most cases is—how it recoils upon those who use it much more than it injures those against whom it is employed. Beyond stating those general principles he was not called upon, and he is really not in a position, to answer the particular question put by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
On probably the last occasion on which the House will have the opportunity of discussing questions on the Foreign Office Vote I wish to call the attention of the Committee and the noble Lord to what I consider very little less than a public scandal, for which the Foreign Office is directly responsible. It has always been 153 the boast of the Government of this country that it has an arm long enough and strong enough to protect the liberty and property of British subjects throughout the world, and the question I desire to bring under the attention of the noble Lord is an instance where the Government of England has lamentably failed in the duty of protecting the property of British subjects resident in a foreign nation. I allude to the recent confiscation of the property of a number of British subjects belonging to a religious order in Douai. Now, I am quite aware of the fact that it is not competent for me on tins occasion to discuss the policy which the French Government has been pursuing with reference to these orders in France. Whatever our individual opinions upon that subject may be, and however strongly some of us may believe that that policy is a disgrace to Christendom; at the same time it would not be in order for me to enter upon a discussion of that policy at this moment. The question I desire to raise is a very narrow and a very simple one, and does not call in question the general policy of the French Government with reference to tire expulsion of these orders from France. The case of the Benedictine monks in Douai is a very remarkable and singular one. The history of their establishment in Douai is a most interesting one. The foundation dates back to the seventeenth century. It was established entirely by English money and by Englishmen, and it has devoted itself entirely, to the education of English youths; and, as I understand, it has not been possible for tins institution either to have French priests amongst them or to educate a French boy. Well, from the day of its establishment down to the very day when it ceased to exist that establishment was devoted, as I have said, entirely to English purposes and was carried on by Englishmen. The property of the institution was always recognised by the French Government as English property. It is very interesting to remember that in the time of the great Revolution when the National Assembly in Paris ordered the suppression of all similar religious institutions throughout the country, a special exemption was made in the case of Douai, on the distinct ground that it was British property, and when they were carrying out the decree of the Convention, and when the property of these religious 154 institutions in France was seized and sold, this particular establishment to which I allude was exempted on the ground that it was British property, and should not be touched. But shortly afterwards when war broke out between France and this country, the property was seized by the French Government because it was British property. The National Convention decreed the arrest of British subjects and the confiscation of their property, and under that order the monks of Douai Were arrested and sent to jail, and their property was confiscated. But after a while, when Napoleon came upon the scene, a better frame of mind sprang up in France, and almost immediately negotiations were set afoot for the purpose of considering whether the British property should not he restored, and, after years of investigation and negotiation, tiredly the Treaty of Paris in 1814 secured that this confiscated property belonging to English subjects might to be restored.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Well, if I am wrong the noble Lord can, I daresay, set me right. At any rate, at that time investigations whether this property should be given back were set on foot. What had occurred is most interesting. Some of it could not be returned because it was destroyed. Other parts of it were intact arid could be restored. What, happened was this: a sum of money amounting, I believe, to something like £300,000 was given by the French Government to the English Government in compensation for that portion of the property which had been ruined and destroyed, and the British Government, when it came to the distributing of the money to their subjects, held that because this property had been used for Catholic purposes that being before the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed—they could not restore it, and they did not restore it, and I believe that from that day to this it has remained in their hands. But I only mention that incidentally because that is not at all the property I am speaking of now. I put the question, whether they ought not to get a share of that £300,000, aside altogether. I am not dealing with the property which was not destroyed at the time of the Revolution, and which remained intact, and 155 which was given back to them, I think, in the year 1818. From that day to this, this institution remained there in the enjoyment of its property, and nobody suggested that it was anything else than British property, and the Government themselves do not deny that it is essentially British property. When the law was passed in France for the suppression of the collegiate institutions of this kind, everybody thought that by reason of the past history of the institution the new law would not apply to it at all, and the monks of Douai were informed by the British representatives in France that in their opinion they would be perfectly safe. But, notwithstanding that, to make assurance doubly sure, they sent in a petition for authorisation. Their petition for authorisation was never even examined. The examination was refused, and they were told that at the end of two or three months they should leave their college, and when the time was up to their intense surprise not only were they forced to leave, but an official of the Government walked in and seized their entire property. Their country-house and grounds, their college buildings, their chapels, their library of twenty thousand books, even their personal property, was seized, and they were tinned out with the clothes on their backs and their breviaries. Every penny of that property was British property invested by British subjects for British purposes, and every penny of it was confiscated. That seemed an extraordinary state of things, and one would have thought that the British Government was strong enough, and willing enough, to prevent it.
He believed during the last thirty years large sums of money had been spent upon this college. Every penny of it was English money, and an extraordinary thing occurred within the last few years. A well-known English gentleman, a Mr. Nall, well known probably to many Members of this House, a most benevolent and charitable man, built a new wing and spent £10,000 of his own money on it. He took up his residence there; and would it be believed that, although he never transferred this wing in any way to the Benedictines, and thought it was therefore his own property, he was turned out of it, and his property there which cost £10,000 was gone, and even as regarded his own 156 private property—his furniture, his books—he had the greatest possible difficulty in retaining it. It seemed inconceivable. The complaint which the Douai Benedictines male was not about their expulsion. They were there in a sense, he agreed, as guests of the French nation, enjoying French hospitality on French soil. If France wished to withdraw that hospitality, and put them out of the country, that was a matter for France. They had no right to complain of that, although they knew that such conduct is a reproach to the civilisation of the 20th century. What he complained of was the monstrous, barefaced, open robbery of the private property of these English gentlemen, who devoted their lives and all their English money to the education of the English students at their colleges. What he was asking of the Government was not any interference on the ground of expulsion. What he asked was the intervention of the Government to prevent this open and bare-faced robbery. Surely, it had always been the boast of the British Government that they could defend the property, as well as the lives of their fellow-subjects in all parts of the world. The Benedictines naturally appealed to the Government, and Abbot Gasquet, the head of the Order in England, entered into communication with Lord Lansdowne upon the subject. He would read some extracts of the correspondence to show the attitude taken up by the Foreign Office on this matter. Abbot Gasquet wrote on 19th of April from Douai:We had been repeatedly assured by the authorities of this town, including the Mayor and the Deputies to the Chamber, that the laws lately passed in regard to the French religious corporations would not be found to affect our position as a wholly English establishment. Beyond this the English Ambassador in Paris declared most positively that even if our College should be closed, by an application of the laws, there could be, in our case, nothing in the way of confiscation of goods, nor any taking possession of our movables, with a view to a compulsory sale of what was unquestionably the property of English subjects. I was astonished, therefore, to find on my arrival here yesterday that not only had a decree been received directing that this establishment should be closed within three months, but that a liquidator had been appointed and had commenced his work by sequestrating our goods and compiling an inventory with a view to their being sold.He enclosed with that letter to Lord Lansdowne a memorandum setting forth 157 the history of the College, and showing how the foundation was made from purely English money. Here was the answer Abbot Gasquet received from the Foreign Office:I am to inform you that the Benedictine College at Douai, being situate in France, is governed by the laws of that country and not by the law of England. His Majesty's Ambassador at Paris took every step which was possible in the interests of the English bodies in France during the consideration of the Association Bill in the Chamber of Deputies, but it is beyond the power of His Majesty's Government to interfere to protect the community at Douai from the operation of the law of the country in which their establishment is situate.Abbot Gasquet replied to that letter on the 5th of May, as follows:I made no appeal to you to use the influence and the authority of the British Government to enable us to stay in France in opposition to the law closing all similar establishments. My appeal was, as Englishmen, for the protection of our property, all of which is undoubtedly English, from the confiscation by the French Government which not only threatens it but which has already been begun. I shall be glad if your Lordship will award me an interview on this pressing subject at any line convenient to you. I can explain the matter verbally better than by letter, and could answer any questions about the status of our College and property. I cannot conceive that if the facts were known our Ambassador in Paris would sacrifice such large English interests without at least some attempt to save them. Meantime, I beg to enclose for your information a statement of facts in regard to our property in France which, I hope, will be sufficient to convince you that the French Government has always acknowledged the property in question as British.Lord Lansdowne replied to that letter as follows—His Majesty's Ambassador at Paris is fully aware of the circumstances of the case and has done what is possible to obtain considerate treatment for the English Benedictines, but H.M. Government have no locus standi for further intervention. The points raised in your letter will, however, lie carefully examined in consultation with Sir Edmund Monson and the law officers of the Crown.Had they no locus standi in Venezuela? It was always the boast of the English Government that they had a locus standi where robbery and oppression was meted out to their fellow-subjects. Then there was the final letter from Abbot Gasquet, in which he stated—The question I raised was a claim for compensation for the confiscation of British 158 property by the application of the new French laws. It is not a question of law, for, as I understand, no question of compensation for injury made by one civilised nation to another for injury done to property ever is. It is a question of diplomatic representation and international equity, and even after the great French Revolution compensation was made for similar property under tie treaty of Paris. It is true some did not receive the money from the English government of the time; but the French Government admitted the justice and the claim by paying it.It was clear from the correspondence that the Government did intervene at one stage when the Associations Law was passing through the French Chamber. Apparently the Government instructed their representative in Paris to use his good offices with the French Government; but what he wanted to know was, did the Government make any representations on the question of compensation? That was an entirely subsequent question. The English Orders had been made amenable under the general law, and had been expelled; but he wished to know whether any representations had been made on the subject of compensation. He hoped the noble Lord would be able to give an answer to the question. If representations had been made and had failed, then the British Government was in a most humiliating position. If no representations bad been made, he would beg Our Government to make them at once.
They had heard a great deal about the rapprochement between France and England—they all heard of it with the greatest interest for the sake of peace—and of the reception of the Ring in Paris, and the President of the French Republic in London, and even in this very building last evening expressions of goodwill were extended to representatives of the French nation. It was to the highest interests of France, as well as of England, that the two countries should remain good friends under existing conditions. Was it conceivable that in such circumstances a really determined demand on the part of the British Government to the French Government would be unsuccessful. They knew perfectly well it would not. If Sir Edmund Monson were in earnest in this matter, compensation would be given and justice done to those British subjects. He hoped the noble Lord would be able 159 to give him an assurance in the matter. Reading the papers on Venezuela, he found that the cause of the stern action taken by England towards that country was, forsooth, because British property had been seized; and on the strength of that the Government did not hesitate to send its fleet, in conjunction with Germany, into Venezuelan waters, and to threaten the extinction of Venezuela as a state. He was not suggesting that the Government should have recourse to similar means in regard to France; hut it was a humiliating and contemptible position for the Government to occupy, that while they took action like that against Venezuela, they would not even use their good offices with a great friendly nation like France to protect the interests of British subjects. This was a case of hardship quite apart from the Associations law. He had his own opinion about that Law; but the question he now raised was a question of confiscation of admittedly British property, held by British subjects. He hoped action would be taken which would secure justice to the Benedictines.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I cannot be surprised at the tone of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who speaks on this matter with some heat. I quite understand how warmly his sympathy must be enlisted on behalf of these ecclesiastics. I cannot profess not to agree with him in deploring what has taken place through the political act of the French Legislature. On no occasion has such a law ever been passed in this country, and we cannot but be surprised, if I may say so without offence to the French nation, that their Government should have introduced such a law. I am sorry that our intervention has not been successful, because, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has well said, we have always professed to do our utmost to protect British subjects in every part of the world, but especially, where the particular community whose interests are at stake belong to a small minority of England, do we feel bound in honour to do what we can to safeguard their interests. I think, for the reasons I have stated, the hon. and learned Gentleman has not been quite fair to the Government. We have done the very best we can.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
We intervened on the question of status and property. It is quite possible, as the hon. and learned Gentleman told us just now, that the local authorities at Douai had assured the Abbot that they thought the position of this establishment would not be included in the general law.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
That was, I think, the general view, because at the time it was supposed that the stringent provisions of this law would not be universally applied in France. I do not mean that it was thought that exceptions would be made on behalf of foreign establishments, but it was thought that the French Government themselves would have made distinctions. Various communities were invited to apply for authorisation, and it was generally conceded that in a large number of cases authorisation would be granted; but whatever the original intention was it was abandoned, and in deference to French public opinion the law was applied practically universally. The hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken of cruelties inflicted on British subjects in various parts of the world, whose rights had been vindicated. But our contention has always been that our subjects were entitled to be treated according to law and on an equality with the subjects of the foreign Power concerned. Unfortunately we were not able to apply the rule in this case. This Order was not one whit worse treated than any other French Order. We were met at once by the answer of the French Government: "We cannot make exceptions in the case of one community. If they live in France they live under the French law."
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman has realised that the French law not merely expels the religious Orders, but also sequestrates their property. I have a 161 word or two to say on the subject of sequestration before I sit down, but the French law went so far as to sequestrate the property of these Orders, and therefore it is impossible to make the appeal we generally do. We could not say they were treating Englishmen worse than anybody else, where everybody was being treated precisely alike. Then we put forward our treaty rights and we quoted the Treaty of Paris. We quoted the Treaty of Paris as guaranteeing the protection of property, but it was said that the property in this case was the property of communities and not of persons, and drat, therefore, it did not come within the purview of the Treaty of Paris. There is a further answer on behalf of the French Government. They said that this establishment had been so long in France, and so long living under French laws, that it must be considered a French establishment and not English. Therefore they declined to listen to our appeal for treaty rights. Hon. Members will admit therefore that we did intervene. We presented a reasonable Memorandum, going at length into a claim which we thought could be set up. We did appeal to our treaty rights, and the reply was that as these English gentlemen lived in France they must be subject to French law, and the French Government went so far as so say that they could not stand up before their own public opinion to the length of saying that they were going to treat foreigners better than they treated their own citizens.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I should In very glad if the noble Lord could say precisely whether the Memorandum was presented to the French Government in respect to compensation. I can quite understand the French Government resenting the Memorandum on the other point.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
The French Government claimed that the property this establishment occupied became sequestrated to the French Government, just in the same way as the property of the corresponding French Orders. Now let me consider a moment the property which has been sequestrated. We do not know precisely what it is they claim to have been deprived of. 162 There is no doubt that under the French law the property actually occupied by these Orders is sequestrated, but the whole of the property of the Benedictines of Douai does not come within this category. There is, for example, the personal property of the Order; then there is a certain endowment. Probably the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that there is an endowment to the Benedictines of Douai invested; that there is a sort of Government trustee who has paid the money arising out of the endowment to the Order. I am not at all sure that that is sequestrated under the law. When we speak of sequestration, let us not be too sure that the whole of the property is gone. I think the Abbot and the Order would be well advised to exhaust their legal remedy in the French Courts in order to ascertain how far the expelling law carries the power of sequestration. If they then found that, after all, the law did not involve the sequestration of the whole of their property, and came to the British Government and said: "Our property is in France; it is not ail sequestrated under the law; we ask your intervention in order to secure us our rights," I can assure the hon. and learned Member that wherever and to whatever extent it can be shown that these gentlemen have been deprived, contrary to the law, of what belongs to them, we shall be not only willing but anxious to do all and everything in our power to assist them. Beyond that it is very difficult for the British Government to go. We can protest, and we have protested. We can represent the hardships with which these gentlemen have been treated, but we can hardly ask the French Government to accord to English-men treatment different from what they accord to their own citizens. I thoroughly sympathise with the point of view of the hon. and learned Member, but I do not see, other than the steps I have suggested, that there is anything more in the power of the Government that we can do.
§ * MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)
congratulated the noble Lord on the change of tone he had adopted in this debate as compared with previous occasions. As a rule he had been too apt to take the criticisms of the Committee—to use a now historic phrase—"lying down," or at any rate, 163 with great mildness, but this afternoon he had turned on his critics with marked determination, and had administered a severe, but not altogether unmerited, castigation upon his redoubtable adversary, the hon. member for King's Lynn. The noble Lord, however, had made one or two statements which were to be regretted, as they hardly represented the facts. The real reason why Lord Lansdowne did not accompany the King on his visit abroad was not the fact that his absence would have brought the whole machinery of international politics in this country to a standstill, as the noble Lord had alleged, but the fact that the King went abroad, not for the purpose of securing or helping to secure that class of definite understanding to which the presence of the Foreign Minister was necessary, but to convey, as only His Majesty himself could, the feelings of the people rather than the desires of the Government. If the Foreign Minister had accompanied the King the European Press would at once have been filled with all sorts of suppositions and mysterious arguments which would have entirely prevented the results which His Majesty's tact and personal accomplishments had secured. As to Germany and Venezuela, the noble Lord had made a statement of the most remarkable character. The alliance with Germany was, without exception, the greatest mistake in foreign politics made by this country for many years. Everybody in close touch with American opinion, official and non-official, knew that it nearly had the result of destroying all the good that was accomplished in the relations between this country and the United States at the time of and after the Spanish War. The noble Lord said that objection to this alliance was due to the attitude of Germany towards this country during the South African War. It was nothing of the kind. The German attitude was not alleged by any serious critic as a reason against co-operation between Great Britain and Germany. The real reason was that Venezuela lay closely within the sphere of influence of the United States, that we were in such relations with the United States that any dispute of that kind could be settled in the most friendly manner, and that there was not the slightest reason for dragging any foreign 164 war as they became; still less was there any ground for allying ourselves with a Power whose objects in those territories were believed, rightly or wrongly, by the people of the United States to he antagonistic to their interests. As to the Baghdad Railway, the noble Lord had said he did not think public opinion in this country had exercised much influence on the result.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said that, on the contrary, what he stated was that, having regard to the delicacy of the financial operations involved, public opinion had great weight, and made it impossible for the Government to secure the terms which they considered essential before they could give their consent to the scheme.
§ * MR. NORMAN
said the point he was about to make was that the convention or proposed arrangement between this mysterious group of financiers, their colleagues in Germany and the British Government, was in the possession of the British Government for a fortnight, and that during that fortnight the attitude of the Government towards the proposal was friendly. The terms were then published in The Times newspaper, and such was the effect on public opinion that the Government dropped the scheme like a hot potato.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said the hon. Member had fallen into the same error as almost every other critic. The terms published in The Times were not those which the Government were considering. No reasonable body would ever have dreamt of submitting such terms to the British Government; they would not have been looked at for a moment.
§ * MR. NORMAN
said the whole battle was fought out on the floor of the House and in the country on the basis of those terms.
§ * MR. NORMAN
said his point was that only when the approximate terms were finally known did the Government so promptly relinquish the scheme. As to the other matters which had been discussed, nobody who had studied the correspondence and listened to the debate could come to any other conclusion than that this matter of retaliation against Germany had been dragged to light to serve the convenience of those who desired to raise the question of our fiscal policy. On that point he had only one question to ask—viz., whether or not Italy had taken a similar step towards Canada, and, if so, whether the Government had taken any steps in the matter.
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
said he had not had his attention directed to the matter, but he thought he might safely deny anything of the sort.
§ * Mr. NORMAN
then reminded the Committee that in the course of the debate on the Address he called attention to the question of the Chinese indemnity, contending that the British Government were acting in a somewhat harsh manner towards the Chinese Government. Since then the Government had relaxed its attitude, and was now prepared to accept payment in silver up to a certain date, the deficit which accumulated in the meantime to be dealt with as might afterwards be arranged. That was a rather curious arrangement, because if it was not right that the Chinese should pay the whole in gold, there was no reason why they should pay in gold at all. The matter was of some importance, because France and Russia were taking somewhat active steps in the matter of the payment, even going so far as to 166 threaten the re-occupation of portions of Chinese territory. Already the Commission of Bankers sitting in Shanghai had fixed an arbitrary rate of exchange for the tael, which would impose a loss of something like £40,000 on the Chinese. Under these circumstances he desired to know what kind of protest, if any, the Government had made, and in what way they proposed to follow up the protest. The matter was a somewhat serious one, and they desired to know exactly what was the attitude of His Majesty's Government. During the debate on the Address, he had raised the question of the pending commercial treaty with China, and had ventured to assert that it would not come into operation. The noble Lord was not then able to agree with what lie then said. On the contrary, the noble Lord anticipated its immediate success, and proudly accepted the congratulations of the hon. Member for the Epsom division. Considerable time had now elapsed, the treaty was no nearer acceptance, and perhaps the noble Lord would be able to tell them what stage precisely they had got to as regarded this treaty and the American treaty. There was also the question of Manchuria, which was most serious of all. The facts were simple. Russia agreed to evacuate by a certain date, but she did not do so; on the contrary, all the time she made new demands, whilst some of her representatives actually denied that those demands were being made. Russia was still detaining the revenues of one of the treaty ports which, by the very treaty she bad signed, ought to belong equally to the Powers as part of the guarantee for the indemnity. All sorts of preferential arrangements on behalf of Russia were being made, or attempted to be made, with the Chinese Government. He was all for an understanding with the Russian Government, but the only way to have an understanding with Russia was to meet her perfectly frankly and plainly face to face upon these questions as they arose. Russia had behaved in a way which could not command the approval of anyone. The method of her diplomacy could only be met by a firm attitude on the part of the British Government, and by that attitude alone could they arrive at a satisfactory understanding. The question was far more serious in regard to Japan, and the occupation of Manchuria by Russia. 167 They had seen a great many alarming statements on this question in the newspapers. They had heard that Japan had been preparing for war, and that an ultimatum was about to be launched. The situation was most serious, as under the Japanese Treaty this country might be dragged into the field of conflict in the Far East. This was a danger arising out of the Japanese Treaty, which some of them pointed out in the debate on the adjournment of the House when the Agreement was first signed. If the noble Lord could say anything to allay their natural anxiety on this question, he was sure it would be a very great relief, not only to themselves, but to other nations.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)
said he simply wished to state his hearty concurrence in every word which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member opposite, in regard to the treatment of the Benedictine monks, and he also recognised fully the sympathetic tone of the noble Lord upon this question. He took the noble Lord's reply Majesty's mean that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, this question was not yet settled, and they were willing to carry on negotiations and assist these people in obtaining compensation for the property they had lost. He wished to know whether the correspondence upon this subject between the British Government and the French Government would be laid upon the Table of the House.
§ * Mr. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
said he had listened with much disappointment to the reply of the noble Lord in regard to the British subjects in France who had suffered the confiscation of their property by the French Government. He had had conveyed to him certain information in regard to this matter, which he believed to be perfectly reliable, and he only regretted that in this case they had had such an example of the impotence of His Majesty's Government to protect the interests and rights of property of British subjects. He trusted His Majesty's Government would get a little more backbone put into the conduct of all negotiations in regard to foreign policy. He felt that there had been a lamentable want of backbone in the whole foreign policy of this country for years past, and he regard the statement made by the noble Lord as an 168 indication of the extreme feebleness and weakness of the action taken by the Foreign Office. He welcomed the cordial relations which had been recently developed between England and France, but he would venture to suggest that the question of the confiscation of the property of the Benedictine monks in France should be referred to the Hague tribunal for arbitration and settlement. It seemed to him to be eminently a case which might suitably be referred to this particular tribunal, and it would be a most encouraging thing in the interests of humanity and civilisation and the peace of the world if disputes of this kind could oftener be referred to that tribunal for settlement. With regard to foreign affairs, ever since he had the honour of becoming a Mender of the House of Commons he hail given his attention mainly to the question of promoting British commercial interests, and personally he welcomed the awakened interest on the part of the whole nation which had recently taken place in the most important questions of the trade and commerce of the Empire. They had had an interesting discussion that day upon the question of preferential tariffs and the question of retaliation on the part of foreign nations. Reference had been made to the last commercial treaty concluded by the Foreign Office with Persia. This treaty was finally concluded on the 3rd of February last, but if the treaty was being negotiated at the present time he was pretty certain His Majesty's Government would have taken care not only to have some verbal assurance from the Government of Persia, but they would insist upon a clause being actually inserted in the treaty setting forth that this country should be at liberty if it thought fit to adopt a system of preferential tariffs within the British Empire without violating the most-favoured-nation clause. He observed that amongst those who negotiated the treaty on the part of his Majesty the Shah were the Persian Prime Minister as well as the Administrator General of Customs. Were His Majesty's Government absolutely certain that the latter had full authority as the plenipotentiary of the Persian Government to sign this treaty?
§ * LORD CRANBORNE
The hon. Member is in error. It was only by a mistake that the treaty was issued to the 169 House in that form. The Persian plenipotentiary signed the Persian text. This ought to have been mentioned in the Paper, but as a matter of fact both plenipotentiaries signed the treaty.
§ * Mr. JOSEPH WALTON
said he was glad to hear that statement, because it confirmed that he was drawing attention to a point which appeared on the face of it incorrect, and which might have rendered the treaty invalid, or they might have claimed at some future time that it was not binding. This commercial treaty was better than none at all,but it was bad at the best. This treaty was gladly entered into by Russia, but it was highly unsatisfactory to us as a great commercial nation that the terms and tariffs embodied hi this treaty should not have been a tariff arrangement between this Government and the Shah of Persia.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again tins evening