§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Main Question [14th February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Mount.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said he rose for the purpose of moving the Amendment to the Address standing in his name on the Paper, and, as within the last few days there had been some modification in its terms, he would read out the actual wording, which was as follows—But humbly represent to Your Majesty that, in view of the prevalent insecurity of life and property in many provinces of the Ottoman Empire, the inadequacy of the measures hitherto adopted, and the incontrovertible obligations incurred by this country and the other signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, the time has arrived when further steps should be taken for the purpose of placing the execution of reforms in those provinces in the hands of a governor or governors, or other officers, responsible to the Powers.The place and space devoted to the subject of the Near East in the King's Speech bore testimony, he said, to its importance at the present time, and he did not think enough had yet been said, either in debate in that House or in another place, with regard to the actual steps which were being taken by Great Britain and the other Signatory Powers respecting the condition of affairs in that part of the world. It must be borne in mind, in dealing with these disturbed 1348 provinces of the Ottoman Empire, that they were referring to what was purely and specifically a foreign country, but one in regard to which they and other Powers were bound by most solemn treaty obligations. He would refer to two parts of the Ottoman Empire, the European part and the Asiatic part. In the European part he had more especially to deal with the vilayets which were grouped under Macedonia, while as to Asiatic Turkey he would draw their attention to certain provinces in which the records showed that a deplorable condition of things still continued to exist. They had, during the last year, had a certain amount of information given to them in the shape of Blue-books and White-books with regard to the condition of affairs in European Turkey. But that information only brought them down to August last year, and they knew very little as to what had occurred since that time. He did not think that the official publications which they had received threw very much light on the progress which had been achieved, and he might be allowed, perhaps, briefly to recall to the House the successive stages by which the present condition of affairs had been brought about.
It would be remembered that a certain scheme of reforms was put forward in the year 1902 by Austro-Hungary and Russia, with the concurrence of certain other Powers, but without any particular sanction attached. In the year 1903, a conference took place between the Emperor-King of Austro-Hungary and the Emperor of Russia, and in consequence of that conference more drastic proposals were brought forward, including the introduction of a mixed gendarmerie The greater part of the official publications of last year was concerned with the manner in which attempts were made to carry that recommendation into force, and it was remarkable how at every stage the proposals put forward by the Powers were baulked and blocked by the diplomacy of the Porte and by the action of the Sultan. One of the first and most important steps was the appointment of the officers who were to constitute the gendarmerie. The Porte refused to allow more than twenty-five foreign officers in all to serve, and imposed restrictions regarding their work which practically confined it to the reorganisation of that 1349 body, and made a very considerable difference in the way in which the duties of the gendarmerie were to be carried out. It was obvious that their presence in the country without power could be of little service, and various diplomatic representations were consequently made in the course of the year for the purpose of securing that the number of foreign officers should be increased, and their powers augmented. It was very difficult to ascertain what the result had been. They were told at a period subsequent to the publication of the last White-book that an increase had been permitted by the Turkish Government in the number of foreign officers from twenty-five to forty-eight. But then that increase was accompanied by a, condition that the officers should merely be employed for the purpose of reorganisation, and should not have the power of commanding. What he repeated, could be the value of their presence under such circumstances? He had a question to put to the Undersecretary. In the Austro-Hungarian Memorandum of August it was mentioned that thirty-eight foreign officers were to command at that time, whereas in other despatches twenty-five was the number given. At that time only five British officers were employed in a particular district, and the proportion of British officers was not what it ought to have been. He would be glad to know whether any increase had been made in the number since, and also whether the negotiations which had taken place gave any reasonable hope that the powers of the foreign officers would be augmented simultaneously with the increase in their number. They found that the officers met at Salonika and decided to apportion the district among themselves. The British officers, apparently at the request of the other Powers, were selected for the district of Drama, which was the quietest of all and where their presence was least needed. It was absolutely incomprehensible why these arrangements were made, and it appeared to him it was a question of putting round men into square holes. Could the Under-Secretary explain the reason for this apportionment?
Again, they found that on March 19th, the Powers made a distinct complaint that General de Giorgis and the officers connected with him had inadequate powers. 1350 but the Porte insisted on all effective command being retained in Turkish hands, and the negotiations culminated in nothing except a small increase in the number of officers. Matters were no doubt facilitated, for in the month of April an arrangement was arrived at between Turkey and Bulgaria—without the knowledge of the Powers, though they were advised of it immediately afterwards—which had a reassuring and quieting effect. But, again, they came across the same monotonous record of outrage and misgovernment, the same monotonous record of complaint by one nationality against another. The scheme was one under which protection was to be given against the raids of the Albanians. What, however, was the exact scope of that arrangement? Again, in Turkey Paper No. 1, 1904, page 11, it was explained that it was the intention of the Powers to apply these reforms not only to three particular vilayets comprised in Macedonia, but also to others. He could, however, not trace the exact authority for that statement. But undoubtedly complaints had come that very important districts in the, Monastir territory by Thessaly had been left out of the gendarmerie arrangement. It was further complained that the vilayet of Adrianople also had received no benefit from it whatever. It would be remembered that at the close of last session Lord Lansdowne mentioned that vilayet as one to which the reforms should apply, and they had other authorities in support of it, notably that of the Grand Vizier. In point of principle no objection was made to the application of the scheme of reform to the vilayet of Adrianople, and surely there could be no objection to the establishment of the reorganised gendarmerie there, for it would undoubtedly have the effect of securing greater quietness and peace. The greater part of the official publications were filled with unfortunate records of murderous outrages committed by one portion of the population against another. It was not necessary for him to go into them in detail. It was sufficient to say that they pointed to the incapacity and ineptitude of the Turkish Government to deal with the condition of affairs, and they showed that Hilmi Pasha, the Turkish Inspector-General, appeared to be trying to take 1351 advantage of the unfortunate differences prevailing among the Christian populations in order to make a settlement more difficult. He should think that in no part of the world, probably, were there such great differences of opinion between the various nationalities as in Macedonia. In one part the Greek element preponderated and in another the Bulgarian element, while the central part was the meeting and fighting ground of all the nationalities. Those described as Turks in Macedonia were not Ottoman Turks, but were of Greek or Albanian origin. They had proof that the Bulgarians themselves had been subjected at the hands of Turkish officials and of Turkish troops—sometimes Regular and sometimes Irregular—to most severe sufferings, and further south the Greeks who constituted the professional and trading classes had suffered from both the Turkish and the Bulgarian side. It was not always correct to attribute to the Bulgarians the sufferings undergone by the Greeks, for in some cases Turks had gone about disguised as Bulgarian revolutionists.
Great Britain was bound by certain bonds of obligation to the people there, whatever their nationality or creed, and it was not for us to abandon that right, which was conferred by treaty, nor to abdicate it in favour of two only out of the six signatory Powers. What was desired was that there should be a restoration of peace and security in that country, that lives and property should be safe, whether from the Turks or other people, and it was their duty to take a more resolute attitude in order to bring about a better condition of affairs. Lord Lansdowne had from the first refused to commit himself absolutely to the scheme. He only accepted it conditionally, for if they turned to Turkey No. 2, 1903, page 1, they found that he made use of the following words—His Majesty's Government desire in particular to have it understood that their provisional acceptance of the scheme will not, in the event of its disappointing the expectations of its framers and proving inadequate as a remedy, be regarded by His Majesty's Government as precluding them from putting forward or supporting, either during the tenure of office of the Inspector-General or at any future time, alternative proposals with the same object.At a later stage, on September 29th, Lord Lansdowne wrote in the follow- 1352 ing terms to Sir F. Plunkett, our Ambassador—In our view no scheme is likely to produce satisfactory results which depends for its execution upon a Mussulman Governor entirely subservient to the Turkish Government and completely independent of foreign control. We suggest for consideration two alternatives: (a) Appointment of a Christian Governor unconnected with the Balkan Peninsula or with the Powers signatory of the Treaty of Berlin, or (b) Retention of a Mussulman Governor assisted by European Assessors.It might be said that the second clause was the one in force. But the scheme had to be judged by its results, and any impartial person was compelled to come to the conclusion that the present scheme had proved abortive, and that resort should be had to the alternative suggested by Lord Lansdowne. The great difficulty was that although an official not directly responsible to the Sultan might be appointed, and although the Grand Vizier at the Porte might give assurances to the European Powers that such and such a mode of administration should be carried out, there might come from the Palace secret injunctions setting aside the orders from the Porte, with the result that the governor would in reality be amenable to all those Palace influences which had worked so much harm in the past. It was therefore essential that the governor should not be an Ottoman subject, and that he should be responsible to the Powers themselves, although there would be no objection to the nominal sovereignty of the Sultan being recognised, provided such recognition did not enable the Sultan to interfere with the effective administration of the law. The British Government ought to take the initiative in bringing Lord Lansdowne's alternative again before the Powers. It was not known whether a proposal had been actually made, but Lord Lansdowne had hinted in another place that the British Government were prepared with an alternative proposal. Soon afterwards it was stated that Austria-Hungary and Russia had a proposal of their own to make, which from the short summaries in the Press appeared to deal merely with the question of finance. The matter was now further complicated by the fact that the Turkish Government had put forward a proposal also dealing with finance. In these circumstances he desired to ask 1353 whether the proposal of the Turkish Government was identical with that of Austria-Hungary and Russia, and whether the latter was an alternative to the proposal of the British Government. If the British Government were not making any proposal of their own, it was surely time they did so. Finance was doubtless a very important element, but, after all, it was one that had to be thought of after the establishment of effective and definite European control. The first essentials were to secure adequate control over the gendarmerie, adequate powers to the gendarmerie, and adequate judicial control. He hoped the Under-Secretary of State would be able to indicate the nature of the proposal, if any, now being made by the British Government.
It was not desirable on either public or moral grounds that the settlement of this question should be left exclusively to the two Eastern Empires. While recognising the fitness of Austria-Hungary owing to her experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina, people interested in Macedonia would be more reassured if they knew that Austria-Hungary had not merely the passive, but the active co-operation of the Western Powers. They desired to see Great Britain, Italy, and France, taking a more active part in the pacification of Macedonia, both because of their interest in the question and for the sake of the suffering and persecuted population. Lord Lansdowne's alternative proposal commended itself not merely as a corollary, but as a necessary preliminary to any effective introduction of European supervision. On this point there was little difference of opinion in principle among either the Powers or the population chiefly affected. The Greek Government had stated that they had no objection to the appointment of several governors, chosen according to the nationalities in the various districts. There was no important difference in principle between the appointment of one governor and the appointment of several governors; in fact, with several governors there would be greater power of supervision in the localities to which they were appointed. Various precedents—Samos, Crete, Thessaly, and others—might be invoked in favor of such a course. There were districts bordering on Greece and Bulgaria which also required attention, and especially the vilayet of 1354 Adrianople, in regard to which there should be no difficulty in introducing further schemes of gendarmerie, seeing that the Sultan and Grand Vizier had pronounced themselves in favour of such scheme.
The knowledge of the House concerning Asiatic Turkey had been brought down to the middle of August last. In the early part of 1904 there had arisen in some of the highland districts of Armenia a very unfortunate condition of affairs, all the more ominous because in the same locality as the disturbances of 1894. The series of massacres extending over 1894–5–6 originated on a comparatively small scale in Sassun, and there was a serious apprehension lest ' the disturbances there last year should spread to other districts. Fortunately, matters were now somewhat quieter, but the misgovernment and oppression were continuing, and unless they were removed would afford an excuse for further disorders, and then, the fanaticism of the Turks being once aroused, there would be no limit to the ensuing cruelties. He earnestly hoped that the Foreign Office would keep a watchful eye on that part of Armenia, and, not resting content with the reports they received, valuable though they were, would make every possible effort to introduce the system of mixed gendarmerie, which had been introduced in embryo in Macedonia. It might be said that the disturbances originated in the action of certain revolutionists. No doubt revolutionists were at work, but their number was very small and their action insignificant in comparison with the unrest induced by the actual condition of affairs in the districts. Captain Tyrrel had written that the root of the evil was the misgovernment, and Sir Nicholas O'Conor, in an interview with the Vizier, expressed the view that there would be no great improvement in the condition of affairs as long as the present radical vice of gross misgovernment continued to render the life of every Armenian unendurable. Not only did Sir Nicholas O'Conor use those words, but he also approached the Sultan himself, and this was greatly to the credit of our Ambassador. On June 25th, 1904, Sir Nicholas O'Conor said that the Sultan had given the most positive 1355 orders to prevent outrages and massacres. But this would be useless unless it was followed up by endeavouring to enforce some scheme of reforms, and securing the application of those reforms by means of some authority which was able to carry them into effect. The introduction of the mixed gendarmerie had not had the effect which was anticipated, but that was no reason why something of a similar character should not be attempted in Armenia, where the problem was simpler, and where there was not such a divergence of race and creed as in Macedonia. It was difficult to see why something effective could not be done to introduce a more peaceful state of things in that part of the Turkish Empire. He hoped the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs would give them some assurance that effective steps were being initiated by this country with a view to the introduction of practical reforms in Macedonia under the guidance of some governor or governors independent of the Sultan and responsible to the Powers. He trusted that a watchful eye would be kept on Armenian occurrences, and an early opportunity be taken of endeavouring to improve the existing state of things by introducing the mixed gendarmerie under some officer directly responsible to the Powers.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
said that after the exhaustive explanation given by his hon. friend opposite, who had made this subject so peculiarly his own, he did not feel that it would be necessary for him to go into the details of the negotiations and proposals which had been going on in reference to Macedonia. He wished, however, to claim on behalf of hon. Members on the Ministerial side an equal interest with hon. Members opposite to secure reforms; and an equal determination to see that our statesmen recognised the great obligations of England and the other Powers in this matter, and the strong sense of the international danger that was caused by these disturbances. They were not there, however, to censure the Government, but to support and encourage them in the course they had adopted. He gave full credit for, the desire which was expressed by his noble friend last year 1356 that the Government were anxious to obtain a real and permanent amelioration of the European provinces of Turkey, and that it would be their constant endeavour to bring about this state of things. No doubt his noble friend at that time thought this object would be best attained by placing these reforms in the hands of Austria and Russia, as they were what were called the interested Powers. But how were they interested? Simply in keeping things as they were, and taking care that their own special material interests were preserved and not endangered. But could they say that those two countries were really interested in the welfare of those populations which they were discussing? They were told in the King's Speech that there had been some amelioration of the disturbed districts, but he noticed in The Times of February 11th an article in which the reform scheme was described as a dead letter, and pointing out the danger of an uprising before long unless some further steps were taken. He was glad that up to the present that apprehension had not proved to be well founded, but how long the danger would be averted under the present state of things he did not know. From the reports which had recently been published it would appear that life and property were less secure in those provinces than they were before the troubles of 1900. If those reports were true, it was clear that the time had come to carry out what Lord Lansdowne had declared to be necessary, namely, to secure the application of reforms of a more thorough-going character than any which had hitherto been attempted.
It had been said that the British Government had pressed for a reform which would have the desired effect, namely, the appointment of a Governor responsible to the Powers, but they had not yet received any official corroboration of the statement. Then there was the Austro-Russian scheme, which was largely of a financial character, but which had not been approved generally by the Powers. Then there was the proposal of the Porte in regard to the Customs duty, and perhaps that was the most hopeful sign of the 1357 times. If the Porto was really anxious in this direction, it would be more ready to listen to the demand of the Powers to obtain that security. It was encouraging to hear from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs that there was practically unanimity amongst the Powers as to the necessity of adopting thorough-going reforms. From what they had heard up to the present this did not appear to amount to much more than a pious opinion which, when translated into practice, was found to be impossible. The Powers had their own interests to promote, and, much as they desired these reforms to be brought about, unless they took advantage of the present opportunity they would find the task very difficult. They were satisfied that Lord Lansdowne had this matter most thoroughly at heart, and they were very thankful for what he had done in regard to foreign affairs generally. He thought the interests of this country were quite safe in his hands, and they wished to assure him that he would have from the people of England hearty appreciation and support in going forward with his policy. He earnestly hoped that they might look forward to satisfactory changes in that region.
Amendment proposed—At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'but humbly represent to Your Majesty that, in view of the prevalent insecurity of life and property in many provinces of the Ottoman Empire, the inadequacy of the measures hitherto adopted, and the incontrovertible obligations incurred by this country and the other signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, the time has arrived when further steps should be taken for the purpose of placing the execution of reforms in those provinces in the hands of a governor or governors, or other officers, responsible to the Powers.'''—(Mr. Stevenson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
said he desired to cordially re-echo the statement of the previous speaker that they were not there that afternoon to find fault with or to criticise the Government so much as to encourage them to go on in the course which, on the whole, the Papers presented to the House last year and more recently, pointed to, namely, that so far as the action of the Powers of Europe made it 1358 possible, they were desirous of advancing in the direction of bringing pressure to bear on the Government of the Sultan to introduce better administration throughout his dominions, but more particularly in those provinces to which his hon. friend the Member for Eye had alluded in his able and interesting speech. Undoubtedly it did not require to be a member of His Majesty's Government to realise in their fullest extent the extreme difficulties of this question. Those who now sat on the Opposition side of the House had in former years to deal with it. They had been told quite truly that they had tried their hand at it, and the fact that after an interval of twenty-five years they were again discussing much the same facts and adducing much the same evidence was in itself a proof that they were not successful in carrying out a remedy. Just as hon. Members on the Opposition side were anxious to concede that they recognised the difficulties of His Majesty's Government so he felt equally, convinced that the members of the Government would feel that it was not owing to any laches on the part of those who had to deal with the question twenty-five years ago that the position with regard to this question was still unsatisfactory. At the same time those who under all circumstances had adhered to the good cause which was taken up a great number of years ago could not help occasionally feeling some disappointment.
How had that feeling arisen? In the first place they must acknowledge that the skill and perseverance of the Turkish Government in resisting every project of reform had most undoubtedly filled even some of those who had been most prominent in former days with a certain feeling of disappointment, at times amounting almost to despair. In addition to that there was another, and he was inclined to think less justifiable, reason for the want of public interest in this question now as compared with what it was twenty-five years ago, just before the Turkish War. A most unfortunate and he, thought, a most unjustifiable feeling occasionally made itself felt, even in the public Press, that after all there was not much choice in these regions between the Turkish and the Christian populations. It was asked by those who fully admitted the bad administration of the Turkish Government 1359 whether, after all, the Christians would do any better. ["Hear, hear!"] He heard a "Hear, hear" from an hon. Member on the other side of the House, There was a very simple answer to that question. He was convinced that nobody who knew what the regions which were now independent States in the Balkan Peninsula were when they were under the direct government of the Porte could possibly hesitate for a moment to say that the improvement in those countries was not only remarkable but phenomenal. He asked any hon. Member who thought that the Government was throwing away, as it were, diplomatic powder and shot in attempting to reform Macedonia, to read what a distinguished French traveller who had recently been travelling in those regions had published in an article recently. He had given a picture of the country as it was when under the direct government of the Porte fifty years ago and as it was now. That article gave the very strongest and most convincing evidence that the first step to secure good government in those regions was to diminish the power of the Porte to interfere in the direct administration. He had himself at an interval of about ten years, visited Bulgaria. He saw it in 1871 when, before the last war, it was under the direct government of the Porte. It had been under the administration for several years of Midhat Pasha, who undoubtedly suffered for his virtues, because there was not the smallest doubt that he was foully done to death in a dungeon in Asia as a punishment for the independent line he had taken. He revisited the country in 1880, from which time they might date the practical independence of Bulgaria. The country, from having been a quasi-Oriental country, had become a rising and flourishing little State. It had done that in the face of intrigues and opposition such as might have broken the heart of any European statesman, and might have been enough to have made those men—who were called without previous experience, many of them from being village schoolmasters and the holders of such humble posts to be administrators of the country—throw up the sponge. That had 1360 not been so at all, and the country, directly it was saved from the incubus of Turkish government, had taken its place in the ranks of practically independent European nations. Those who sneered at the idea of our Government exerting itself to secure reforms in Macedonia were not able to substantiate the justice of their position because the facts were against them. There was no reason whatever to suppose that in the vilayets enumerated by his hon. friend, which for want of a better name he called Macedonia, there were men less able, less patriotic, and less competent than those who had come forward and taken their places in the administration which was introduced in Eastern Roumania after the war.
As to the atrocities, he thought the speech of the noble Lord a year ago dwelt rather too much on the horrors that were going on in Macedonia. He said with perfect truth that these atrocities, which they all agreed were terrible, were carried on by all parties, and that they to a certain extent put the advocates of reform out of Court. Did not the occurrence of the atrocities indicate that there was a subtle cause behind them? Were they to suppose that the atrocities caused bad government? Was it not far more reasonable to say that bad government caused the atrocities? The fact that the Government of the Sultan, even acting with a high hand, was unable to put down the atrocities was in itself an argument which put the Sultan out of Court. A country might either be governed by representative institutions, which implied trust in the people, or by a strong despotism which put down disorder no matter by whom committed. The Sultan did not give representative institutions, nor did he put down disorder with a strong hand. Therefore, we were in a state of things where it might fairly be said that the only limitation to the rights of His Majesty's Government to proceed against the Sultan as being a defaulter in the matter of good government was the condition of Europe. And here, at once, he wished to say, what he was sure everyone on both sides of the House recognised, that however bad the government of the Sultan, it was no use for His Majesty's Government to 1361 plunge headlong into action—to attempt to act alone unless they were perfectly sure that they were acting as the mandatories of the Powers of Europe. There was one occasion in 1881 when the Government of the time decided to take exceedingly strong action against the, Porte. That was at the time when the question of the Montenegrin and Greek frontiers and those questions of reform in Macedonia had all come to a head. His Majesty's Government decided, under certain circumstances, to send a British Fleet to a Turkish port and take possession of the port and the Customs. As soon as the Porte heard of this intended pressure the Sultan climbed down. That was why the Macedonian and Greek frontiers were settled without a breach of the peace. Thus, although His Majesty's Government were prepared to act alone, they were in a position to send a British Fleet to Smyrna because they had the support of the European Concert. He was not for one moment suggesting that the Government ought to take any strong steps at all unless they were sure that those steps would be taken as the mandatories of Europe. Whether that could be, depended upon facts which they, on that side of the House, could not know, and on which they therefore could not express an opinion. Whether the Government could secure in any strong step the support, goodwill, and consent of such Powers as France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Russia, which latter were at present in the background, depended upon what could only be known within the Foreign Office, and as to which he was not pressing his noble friend to make any premature statement to the House. But whenever that moment came—and come sooner or later it would—there was at least this consolation, that whenever strong action had been taken in the past the result had been good, and where failure had followed it had invariably been where the greatest anxiety had been shown to spare the feelings of the Sultan.
Reforms in European Turkey, or attempted reforms, fell into two classes—first, those which Europe had at different times imposed on the Sultan; and second, those which they had accompanied by some declara- 1362 tion like that in the famous Treaty of Paris which ended the Crimean War, that although those reforms were imposed upon the Sultan by United Europe they had no intention of interfering with the sovereign rights of the Sultan over the inhabitants of his own dominions. The invariable result of such declarations had been to reduce to an absolute nullity the execution of the reforms which the Sultan had accepted. There was the famous Article in the Treaty of Berlin under which a European Commission was to assemble. He had the honour to be the English member of that Commission, and he wrote from Vienna a despatch to Lord Granville, more or less as a protection to himself and his colleagues, in which he showed that the essentially weak point in the Commission was that under Article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin the Commission was only called in to advise. It had no power to order or dictate, much less to enforce. They were also, by the terms of the 23rd Article of the Treaty of Berlin, especially when read with the history of the whole of that Treaty, debarred from even proposing the one thing which they were all agreed was the thing most worth proposing, viz., that there should be in the appointment of the Governor of these provinces not only that element of permanence of tenure, without which these appointments would be absolutely at the, mercy of the Palace clique, but that there should be some element of supervision by the Powers of Europe, either through the Ambassadors or by some special means of control, in order to carry out the reforms which the Sultan had promised to make. Therefore, all the Commission were able to do was to draw up a scheme, which he was glad to think, though for the time it proved abortive, remained to this day, a scheme which was accepted by the people of those regions, and remained their title deed to the right which they ought to possess to better government, to reforms, and to good administration. Article 23 might have slumbered and slept, but he would remind the House that it existed, and that until it was superseded by some better and stronger provision—and he was the first to wish that that might be so—it should be taken for all that it was worth. He thought that no one of them 1363 ought to let that Article go or to underrate the importance of its provisions, still more when he urged that supervision by the Powers was of the very essence of the matter. He was glad to be able to feel that he had behind him the weight of the greatest authority who ever spoke to an English audience or to European diplomacy—he meant the late Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. There was a delusion which he was glad to have the opportunity, in justice to the memory of that illustrious man, to be able to strike a blow at. It had become apparently an idea that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was a thick-and-thin defender of the Turkish Empire and of the abuses which exist there. Nothing could be more unjust to the memory of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Living, as that nobleman did for the greater part of his career, in the early part of last century in Constantinople, he believed—and why not?—that it was possible to reform the Turkish Empire. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was judging from the facts as known to him and According to the lights of that time. But although Lord Stratford de Redcliffe did all he could to save the Turkish Empire from ruin, he never ceased to urge on Lord Clarendon, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Russell, and on the Goverments of Europe, to whom he spoke with such authority—the necessity for those ordinary reforms in the Turkish Empire which he was ceaselessly advocating. But he urged that it would be useless to promulgate all these reforms and embody them in the most elaborate provisions in the organic statutes of the Turkish realm unless the Powers undertook to set up some supervisory authority in order to see that the Sultan carried out the reforms. In Dean Stanley's Life of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe it was stated that when Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was leaving Constantinople, under great discouragement, he embodied in a letter to Lord Clarendon a protessagainst the Treaty of 1856 for not having provided, as he wanted it to do, an adequate means of forcing the Sultan to carry out She reform of European Turkey which he had undertaken to do. This was what Lord Stratford de Redcliffe said in that letter of March 19th, 1856—and it was as 1364 true to-day as when he wrote it; indeed, it was truer—It is believed that the porte will never of its own accord carry the provisions of the firman seriously into effect. Might not this hazard be avoided by a separate agreement among the Christian parties to the negotiation, regulating the work and occasions of interference, so that any such eventual act on their part should be concerted previously in common, and strictly limited to the necessities of the case.He believed it had been largely owing to the lack of European pressure and to a change in the policy of the French Emperor, who wanted an early termination of the Crimean War, that that great idea of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was not carried into effect. Well, they had seen his prophecy fulfilled, and the practical failure of Article 23 of the Treaty of Berlin. On the other hand, they had seen that in those provinces which had been entirely taken away from Turkey, or left only under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, exactly the opposite—prosperity, tranquility, progress, and reform. Then they had seen Crete emerging from confusion, and although still under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, gradually improving. Eastern Roumelia was also rapidly arriving at a considerable pitch of prosperity. Why therefore, should there be any doubt that if these same principles were applied to Macedonia tranquility would be restored also in that country, and law and order maintained. Then, in time, a Constitution would come and popular principles could be embodied in it.
He admitted that the difficulties in Macedonia, to which his hon. friend alluded, were very great. He himself had to face those difficulties in 1880. They had not grown less since. His hon. friend the Member for Exeter rendered him most valuable assistance at the time he was in office. One of the difficulties was the position of Salonika. It was necessarily the centre and capital of the country. Around it there was a large population of that peculiar class of Turk which originally migrated into Europe. He believed they were the firs Turks who invaded Europe. But more remote from the town was the great mass of the Macedonian population, and among them the most terrible jealousies existed. That 1365 pointed to the necessity of a governor with a strong hand, and with an adequate force which should be able to prevent those people from cutting one another's throats. The efforts of Europe were being thwarted as regarded every scheme of reform or improvement. The Sultan would consent to any number of proposed Constitutions. He would accept any scheme, and propose to carry it out next day; but the position would remain exactly where it was before. At present they were told that the Sultan was willing to agree to gendarmeri and financial control. He rather trembled the other day when he read some of the statements about financial control; because he was afraid that the Sultan might borrow a trick from debates in that House and propose co-ordination. Then they would be told that this policy would be pursued in the neighbouring countries. That would be a very characteristic scheme on the part of the Sultan. The sort of man required to keep this class of people in order was a strong administrator—Sir Antony MacDonnell, for instance, of whom they had recently heard so much. If Sir Antony MacDonnell were sent to Macedonia, the Irish and the Macedonian questions would be settled at one stroke. An agreement had been arrived at in October of the year before last, but it was only at the end of May that a general of gendarmerie arrived at Salonika; and he was immediately met with all the trouble, difficulty, and delay that the Sultan could invent. He was not inclined to think that the general had said the last word on the government of Macedonia. Macedonia would hive to be detached from the practical government of Constantinople; arid eventually would probably be united to some of the other neighbouring States, or become a small principality of its own. He could assure his noble friend that he quite realised the difficulty of the position of the Government. The very fact that at this moment Russia was passing through a great crisis, and that Austro-Hungary was passing through a greater constitutional crisis than, usual, were not reasons which facilitated the position of the Government, as it might appear almost an unfriendly act that at such a moment British diplomacy should appear to desire to take advantage of the diffi- 1366 culties of those countries. On the other hand, the weakness of some of those Powers imposed greater responsibility on the British Government than otherwise would be the case. He could assure the Government, that there was no desire on tint side to minimise the difficulties under which they suffered. The Motion, if adopted, would not cause the resignation of the Government; and he only desired to show that they were all united in endeavouring to force good government, administration, and reform on the Sultan of Turkey.
§ MR. BOND (Nottingham, E.)
said he would ask the House to bear with him while he recounted some of the reasons which produced in Macedonia that inflammable condition at present existing. The reasons were not far to seek. It was a deplorable fact that Macedonia was under the sway of the Turk, and that her population was mixed—the majority being Christian. When those two circumstances came together the Christians invariably found themselves degraded, humiliated, overtaxed, and oppressed. There were besides that, unhappy animosities, racial and religious which found expression between the different constituent elements of Macedonia, and there were also the ambitions of Macedonia's neighbours with regard to the part, they were to play in the consummation, which must sooner or later be arrived at, when Macedonia would either become an independent State or be absorbed by one, or parcelled out among several, of the States by which she was surrounded. Under these conditions one did not wonder that the State of Macedonia was so unhappy. Where was redress to be looked for? The Greeks on one side, the Bulgarians on the other, the Servians, and the Roumanians were all pushing their claims of aggrandisement in the different districts of Macedonia. Of the great Powers, two at least might be counted absolutely disinterested—ourselves and France. Italy was also a disinterested Power, though she might have some aspirations towards Albania. Albania was, however, out of the question at present, because she was not affected by the consideration before the House. There remained two Powers directly interested—Austria and Russia. Austria was interested because the house 1367 of her next-door neighbour was on fire, and Russia was interested as the patron of greater Bulgaria. That country had never ceased to secure advantages and push them in the region where a large body of the people belonged to the Greek Church. It would be thought that Germany had no distinct interest in the settlement of the question, but there were not wanting those who suggested that among the dreams of the German Chancellory was one that the port of Salonika might some day become of considerable use to Germany and her ambitions in the East. The only Powers claiming to be absolutely disinterested were England, France, and Italy, and he could not help thinking there might be a disposition on the part of these Powers to co-operate closely for the purpose of producing a better state of things than now prevailed. They all recognised that Lord Lansdowne was bound to walk warily in this maze of conflict, this medley of conflicting ambitions, interests, and jealousies between races, religious sects, and nationalities. He did not complain if the wheels of his Lordship's chariot moved slowly. He wanted to assure Lord Lansdowne that among those who took an interest in this matter there was great sympathy with the efforts that were being made, and that he might rely upon it that in the course he was taking he had the encouragement which came from knowledge. He only rose for the purpose of stating that from the Government side of the House a real interest was taken in the question, and that they were disposed to lend all the aid they could to the projects and plans of the Government.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
said that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated in the House of Lords that he deplored as much as Lord Spencer the condition of things that prevailed in many parts of Macedonia, and that he was as deeply convinced as Lord Spencer could be that the condition of things would not be improved unless they could secure the application of reforms of a much more thorough-going character than any which had yet been attempted. Therefore, the condition of affairs in Macedonia was not satisfactory to Lord Lansdowne. He would not ask the 1368 House to follow him into the details of the whittling away of the Mürzsteg scheme. It was stated in the Russian Note of August 3rd that thirty-eight officers were travelling through the country, watching events with expert eyes and exercising influence and control. But the rest of the Blue-book gave the lie direct to that statement, because in all the reports from Consuls and from visitors to the country facts were recorded which were in absolute contradiction to the roseate picture which was painted of life in Macedonia under the Austro-Russian regime. He was also informed that even the Turkish beys in the country districts, who had no means of making their views heard officially, would welcome with open arms any real European control, because they were weary of the long continued uncertainty and unrest and because they believed that that control could only be just and effective if it were disinterested. Unfortunately a new factor had been introduced during the last few weeks, as the Porte had once again commenced quartering small bodies of troops in the villages of Macedonia. The Turkish Government could not be blamed for taking whatever military steps seemed necessary against external invasion or internal revolt, but one could not help asking what had always been the result of such quartering of troops. It was not contended that the Turks were irredeemable scoundrels, they were doubtless very much like everybody else, but the history of other countries showed that small bodies of troops could not be quartered in villages, among a subject population for whom they were taught to feel supreme contempt, without many untoward events. The same kind of thing in Ireland a hundred years ago produced the same kind of outrages as were now occurring in Macedonia. No Englishmen would now wish to justify the methods of dragooning practised in Wex-ford in 1798, but by their inaction they were making themselves responsible for their recurrence in Macedonia today, where, according to The Times correspondent, the same old troubles were again cropping up. The telegrams in The Times revealed a condition of affairs which reflected small credit upon the dealings of the great Powers with Macedonia. Nobody 1369 dreamt of denying the difficulties of the problem, but it was the province of statesmen to deal with difficult and complicated questions. If, as there was reason to fear, there was much inflammable material in Macedonia which lit any moment, might be set in a blaze, the conflagration would not be put out by sermons on the duty of Christian charity, and the wickedness of different sects in carrying on internecine war.
With regard to the Austro-Russian scheme, would the noble Lord say whether the vilayet of Adrianople was included, whether any provision was made for the appointment of European judicial inspector as recommended by Colonel Fairholme, and whether the scheme was identical with, or went beyond, the proposals of a financial character connected with the Ottoman Bank, which had not so far been very favourably received. A long continuance of tranquility could not be counted on in these countries; at any moment an accident might precipitate troubles during which the application of any real reform would be impossible. It was becoming fashionable to sneer at the idea that Great Britain had any real responsibility for the administration of the dominions of the Porte, but he submitted that every village burnt in the troubles of 1903 would have been saved had the Treaty of San Stefano remained in force. The ruined hearths and charred root-trees in Macedonia, the hundreds of homeless wanderers, the women who had been driven mad by their treatment at the hands of Turkish soldiers—all these miseries lay at the door of Great Britain. It was utterly impossible to shake off the responsibility for what had happened; the only course consonant with the national honour was to face that responsibility and frankly discharge it.
§ MR. MOON (St. Pancras. N.),
after deprecating the introduction of any Party element into the debate, said he desired to refer to the insecurity of life and property which normally existed under the Turkish system of government and was aggravated in consequence of the internecine strifes of Christians. He would support his contention by one or two references to the Blue-book. 1370 In June, in the French section, there was an attack made by a Bulgarian band who horribly mutilated an Orthodox Notable and burned his house in which his, children and wife were sleeping. This was confirmed by Colonel Verand, head of the French gendarmerie. After quoting instances of other atrocities the hon. Member said that in pamphlets circulated probably to other hon. Members as well as to himself it was shown that between 1897 and February, 1903, the outrages committed by Bulgarian bands on Greeks in Macedonia numbered 202 murders and twenty-seven attempted murders. The crimes against Macedonian Greeks instigated by the Bulgarian Committees from February, 1903, to November, 1904, showed that no fewer than 290 outrages, resulting in 259 deaths, had occurred in that brief period. He wished to mention that the documents from which he quoted these figures were anonymous, but he thought it was just as well to bring them before the House so that hon. Members might have a chance of denying them. The pamphlet went on to state that—The particulars in each case have been verified, and no outrage is included which has not been directly and unquestionably traced to Bulgarian insurrectionists.That was the state of affairs showing how a new form of insecurity of life and property was added to that, already due to the oppression of the Turks. He wished to cite the authority of the able and impartial correspondent of The Times as Sofia, who said in a telegram dated January 6th—it is true that in the Austrian section Albanian ferocity shows no diminution, and assassination is rife, while Servian and Bulgarian bands pursue their internecine warfare unconscious of the amenities exchanged between King Peter and Prince Ferdinand. But the state of the affairs in the Uskub section finds a parallel throughout all Macedonia, except in the Drama district, whore different conditions prevail.Whether this state of things was due to a misconstruction of the Mürzsteg programme it was impossible to decide, but he might cite "Odysseus" for the view that the inhabitants of that part of Europe had been constantly engaged in internecine contests and murders of every kind. Clause 3 of that programme contained the following provision—"As soon as some pacification of the country is seen to have been effected, to demand 1371 of the Ottoman Government a modification of the territorial boundaries of the administrative units, with a view to a more regular grouping of the different nationalities.There was some ground for believing that these rival sects were seeking to establish themselves over as wide an area as possible with a view to future eventualities.
And now as to the inadequacy of the reforms alleged in the Amendment. They had indeed such crumbs of comfort as were mentioned by the Secretary of State in his speech in another place on the occasion of the opening of Parliament. Further, when he was in Macedonia in the autumn it appeared to him that, the experiment which had been introduced into some thirty villages of permitting them to collect their own tithe was one which promised exceedingly well. He wished to take his opportunity of asking the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs if he could throw any light upon this point. No mention was made of it in the Speech from the Throne, and therefore he felt a little apprehensive as to the final success of the experiment. As to the gendarmerie the satisfactory working of that system was clearly shown in the last Blue-book by Colonel Fairholme, who stated that there was no doubt that the presence of British officers had produced good results. There had been many complaints of delay in the practical application of this useful system in other "secteurs" of Macedonia, though there had been nothing but praise in regard to the conduct of Colonel Fairholme and the other British officers in the, Drama sphere. The careful consideration which General de Giorgis was devoting to the question of the gendarmerie would be acknowledged by those who had seen the statement dated May 11th, which was printed in the last Blue-book. The would recognise his admirable idea in potting rid in the gendarmerie of men of worthless character and physique, and putting in their place men who were better qualified for the service. It was his aim also to get rid of illiterate officers, of whom there were a great number. Two schools had been established—one for officers, and one for the gendarmerie. He (the hon. Member) had visited the school for the privates, and 1372 he was able to state that those in attendance had made wonderful progress, not only in book learning so that they could make reports to their superior officers bat in smartness of appearances. He thought the true view with regard to the gendarmerie, however successful it might, be, was indicated in the speech of Lord Lansdowne in another place on the opening day of the session. The noble Lord said—But, after all, the reorganisation of the gendarmerie is a measure which is ancillary to other reforms rather than itself a reform of an administrative character.Many of the reforms might be very good in themselves, but unless there was a strong Executive at their back satisfactory results could not be expected. That was why he thought the position conferred on Hilmi Pasha was almost impossible for a Turkish subject satisfactorily to occupy. No one would quarrel with the powers conferred on him during the period of his office, but what was to happen to a man like Hilmi Pasha, however able and conscientious, at the close of his term of office. He was a Turkish official who wanted to continue his career after the expiration of his term, and if he took a line, which tended to put his fellow-religionists in an inferior position and which prevented the Christians from ruining each other by internecine quarrels, could he be sure that his action would commend itself to the Sultan? The alternative suggested by Lord Lansdowne that a Turkish official should be appointed Inspector-General with two European Assessors was a priori unlikely to succeed, and had in fact broken down. The Turkish system had really never produced a satisfactory governing class. He would quote in favour of his contention what was said by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in February last year—It has always been the opinion of the Government that what is required in the Turkish provinces is not political change so much, as thorough administrative re-organisation. Turkey does not possess the class of men who have the requisite expert knowledge and experience to carry out such a task as that, and for her to come to Europe for trained assistance involves no more derogation of her sovereign, rights than is already involved in the admission of European management in the case of the Ottoman Bank and the control of the Ottoman Debt, or in the re-organisation by Europeans of the Turkish Army.1373 In supporting the Amendment in so far as it asked for a European governor not responsible to the Porte, he did not think they should be taking a step which would necessarily and immediately be prejudicial to the Sultan. That governor should not be a member of one of the Balkan States, nor should he be a member of one of the great Powers. No doubt the Turks themselves felt the unsatisfactory conditions under which they lived. English travellers in Turkey constantly heard how desirous many of them were to have an English protectorate. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for the Cricklade Division of Wiltshire that one of the great Indian officials would be an ideal governor for that part of the world, but he would be content to place the work in the hands of men from the smaller European States like Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, which, he thought, might produce a sufficient number of men able, not only to keep the Turks from oppressing the Christians, but the Christians from mutilating and killing each other in the way they had been doing.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Earl PERCY,) Keasington, S.
said the debate had bee interesting by reason of the very intimate acquaintance many of the speakers had with the problems and actual conditions of the country under discussion. Technically speaking, they were discussing a vote of censure on the Government, but he had not caught any nose of censure or even of criticism. Most of the speeches seemed rather a judicious mixture of congratulation and condolence. Apart from that technical aspect of the matter, and the somewhat ambiguous wording, particularly of the last paragraph of the Amendment, he had no desire to take exception to us general character. The hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk expressed a legitimate curiosity as to any recent developments in the Near Hast. A Blue-book was published last autumn which brought up the narrative of events to a very recent period, and he did not think it was possible for him to add very much to the information therein contained. There were two respects only in which things might be said to have moved. 1374 One was in regard to the repatriation of the refugees. As early as last November, the great majority of the refugees, 20,000 out of 25,000 had been already repatriated, and as this country had no Consul in the Adrianople vilayet our Military Attachéat Constantinople was deputed to go to the frontier and watch the proceedings. Those who had studied the report of the Consul would admit that the local officials were animated by good intentions, and that the Turkish Government had spent a certain amount of money in the rebuilding of houses. There did not seem to have been any general occupation, in their absence, of the villages and homes of the refugees by the Mohammedan population. The Turkish Government objected to the repatriation of the full number of refugees, he understood, mainly on the ground that no lists had been furnished to them with the names of the applicants, and they had reason to believe that some of them were not concerned in the recent disturbances and did not, therefore, come within the category of the persons who were intended to profit by the amnesty, but emigrated from Maces donia at least five years ago. His Majesty'-Government supported the representations made by the Bulgarian Government, although, of course, they expressed their recognition of the right of the Turkish Government to take all reasonable precautions for the good behaviour of those who might be repatriated. He was glad to say that the objections of the Turkish Government had now been withdrawn in consequence of the Bulgarian Government having furnished the lists for which they asked. The Government had decided that the time had come for re-establishing the Consulate at Adrianople, which was temporarily closed by Lord Rosebery at the time when time Consulate at Konia, was first established.
The only other new fact he need refer to was that the Turkish Government had at last consented to the increase in the number of European gendarmerie officers asked for by the Powers. The Turkish Government objected to it in the first instance partly on the ground that they did not 1375 think any increase in the number of European officers in the country was at that moment necessary, and partly because of the additional cost it would entail on the Turkish Exchequer. Neither of these pleas could be entertained by the Powers. They understood that the£250,000 which had been allotted to the expenses of the organisation of the gendarmerie by the Turkish Government last year were intended, and were in fact amply sufficient, to cover all the expenses incidental to the organisation of the force. As to the question of necessity: the Powers could not admit the competence of anyone to judge whether the number of officers was adequate or not except General Georgis and the Adjoints who acted under him. The consent of the Turkish Government to the addition of twenty-three officers brought up the total number of officers to forty-eight, or within twelve of the figure originally contemplated by the framers of the Mürzsteg programme.
He came to the Amendment itself. He conceived that it was an invitation to the Government to say whether they were satisfied with the progress which had already been made, or whether, on the contrary, they were prepared to condemn the scheme as a failure, and put forward propositions of their own. Well, the Government were not prepared to take either of these two courses. The Government were certainly not satisfied with the progress hitherto made. It had neither been so rapid nor so far-reaching as they had hoped. The only substantial progress hitherto made had been in connection with the gendarmerie scheme. The larger problems of administrative, judicial, and financial reform had as yet hardly been touched. It was true that a beginning had been made with the reformed system of collecting the tithes, which did away with one of the gravest abuses of the old system under which tithes were farmed out to the highest bidder. The Government believed that, on the whole, the experiment, which had been tried in a few villages, had been a complete success, and its further extension had been, he thought, only impeded by the technical difficulty that many of the tithes of the vilayet were already mortgaged to the Council of the Ottoman 1376 Debt, and any change in the system of collection might interfere with the value of the security. The more important question of financial administration, the control of the annual budgets, the supervision of expenditure and the insistence on the payment of regular salaries to officials and droops had for the present remained practically in abeyance. But he did not think that it was fair to say that they had been overlooked. They had, on the contrary, formed the subject of careful and minute investigation by the civil Agents, and the Austrian and Russian Governments had already drawn up and submitted to the Porte a scheme of financial reform about which it would be-premature for him to express an opinion now because that scheme still awaited examination by the Powers, and the advice and criticism of His Majesty's Government had been welcomed by the two Governments which put the scheme forward. He thought that it would be evident to anyone acquainted with the internal condition of Turkey that; no scheme would be satisfactory which aimed merely at re-organising the existing financial administration, and did not take into account the heavy burden of military expenditure which now depleted the resources otherwise available for administrative reform. On the other hand, it was equally obvious that the present internal condition of Macedonia, and the considerable military preparations made by the neighbouring Powers would not render the task of persuading the Turkish Government that the army now maintained in Macedonia was excessive an easy one. The Government were not satisfied with the progress which had been made, but that was a very different thing from saying that the scheme was a failure, and separating ourselves from the other Powers in their attempt to put it into complete execution. The Mürzsteg scheme of reforms had been only one year in operation. It took at least three years to reorganise the gendarmerie in Crete, and hon. Members opposite, who were so fond of describing Turkish administration as an Augean stable of corruption, should be the last persons to complain if the process of cleansing was not completed in a single day.
1377 He also wished to enter a caveat against the idea that the Mürzsteg scheme should be considered a failure because it did nor do something which it was not intended to do. Some hon. Members thought that no improvement was possible unless the, provinces were severed From Turkish rule. That was not the view of the authors of the Mürzsteg programme. The object of the Mürzsteg programme was to maintain the status quo and to give the Turkish Administration that amount of European assistance and control necessary if the reforms promised by the Sultan beforehand were to be of any real and permanent value. It was true that the Turkish Government had not welcomed the assistance and advice of the European Powers. He did not know that any one ever expected that they would. The task of changing long established and familiar traditions was never an easy one, even with Western nations. It was certainly no easier in the case of Oriental nations when the change was pressed upon them by foreign advice or dictation; and, little as he desired to excuse the attitude of the Turkish Government, he thought that people in this country sometimes ascribed to sheer malevolence on the part of an Oriental Government what was due. In fact, to an obstinate and no doubt very irritating conservatism. Although the Turks had, undoubtedly, obstructed the progress of the reform scheme, that obstruction must be admitted to have been mainly passive in its character. In spite of the grave depletion of the revenue, they had spent a considerable amount of money in rebuilding the houses in the destitute villages. They had brought back 25,000 men who had been in active revolt against their Government in a province not so far removed from the capital itself. They had accepted the whole machinery and personnel in connection with the civil administration and gendarmerie which was pressed upon them as necessary by the European Powers and since they had accepted these officers it could not be said that they had actively interfered with the performance of their duties. He did not admit that the reform scheme was a failure; and he observed that, the mover of the Amendment had not brought forward any argument to show that it was a failure 1378 except the strange argument that the Armenians were, eager to obtain the benefits of that, scheme for themselves. There was a tendency to ascribe the responsibility for the tardy execution of the reform scheme not merely to the Turks themselves, but to the two Powers, Austria and Russia, who had accepted the chief responsibility for carrying out this programme, and the Civil Agents of those Powers had been selected as the special objects of animadversion. He did not think it was fair, having pledged ourselves to support the work which Austria and Russia had taken in hand—the two Powers who were themselves bearing the burden and heat of the day—to criticise the work of their agents without taking into consideration the difficulties which they had had to encounter and the character of their mandate. What, after all, was the definition of their duties laid down in the Mürzsteg programme? They were to bring any cast of outrage to the notice of Hilmi Pasha and to communicate to him the recommendations of the Ambassadors. Nobody would say they had not fulfilled that part of their task at any rate. What was the report of out Consul on the subject?The programme set before themselves by the Civil Audits on their arrival at Monastir, was firstly to ascertain the material needs of the population with a view to the repatriation of the refugees and reconstruction of the villages destroyed in last year's events: secondly, to effect an improvement in the method of collecting the tithes; and thirdly, and most important of all, to reorganise the financial system as an indispensable preliminary to reform in any other direction. The execution of the first part of the above programme has entailed upon the Civil Agents the necessity of visiting and personally inspecting some fifty ruined villages, in districts lying as far apart as Malissia in the vicinity of Dibra to the north and Castoria to the south of the vilayet and as many of these journeys, owing to the impossibility of the roads, presented more than ordinary difficulty, it can hardly be laid to the charge of the former that this part of their task was carried out in a perfunctory manner. Moreover, the direct nature of the contact entered into with the population by the, Civil Agents is further shown by the fact that no less than 1,000 petitions were received by the latter from the villagers, all of which met with due attention, while 500 were given practical effect to Most of the disputes between the peasants and the beys were satisfactorily arranged by the Civil Agents, with the aid of Hilmi Pashi, without the necessity of recourse to the tribunals, and this, I may remark, was 1379 regarded as a particularly encouraging symptom for the future pacification of the country.It could not be said that they had placed too narrow an interpretation on the responsibilities which were assigned to them under the Mürzsteg programme, seeing that they had interpreted those responsibilities as justifying them in drawing up a scheme for the financial reorganisation of their districts. Hon. Members seemed to be surprised because the Civil Agents had not thrown on the table a cut-and-dried scheme of reform long ago. He thought that in the history both of the Balkan Peninsula and of Armenia there had been too much of paper reform schemes. They knew exactly what they led to, and he was not inclined to blame the Civil Agents because they had thought it desirable first of all to try and acquaint themselves by personal travel and investigation with the circumstances of the country and the needs of the people, and had left the framing of academic solutions to armchair politicians at home.
In the case of the gendarmerie he thought, at all events, they might claim that they had obtained a very conspicuous measure of success. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for the Eye Division we had appointed another officer to the Drama district, but as regards the latitude of the powers which belonged to the officers there had been no change, nor did be think that any was required. Colonel Fairholme reported long ago that he had not had any complaint to make of obstruction on the part of the Turkish authorities in his district, nor did he complain in any way of the powers conceded to him by the Turkish Government. On the contrary, he said that his authority was as great as if he had been in actual command, and that in point of fact his utility was greater, because his attention was not necessarily monopolised with small and trifling details. He had also since reported that the local authorities had offered no objection to British officers attending trials or carrying out a periodical inspection of the local prisons. Coming to the training of the gendarmerie in the reorganisation schools at Salonika and elsewhere, everybody was agreed in praising the appearance and discipline of the recruits recently 1380 turned out; and if he was told that he results of the reorganisation, though satisfactory in the British sphere, had been far less so in the areas assigned to She other Powers, he would ask the House to remember certain facts which supplied at all events a partial explanation. Apart from the lack of funds, which of course affected equally all the provinces of Macedonia, the area assigned to Great Britain was far smaller than those assigned to the other Powers, and, therefore, naturally the means at our disposal were more commensurate with the work we had to do. The only remedy for this was an increase of officers, and he ought to mention that in addition to the officers representing the Powers there were a certain number of other European officers, Belgians, Norwegians, and Swedes, who had been employed by the Turkish Government in various parts of the country, which were not included in the purview of the Mürzsteg scheme. There was another reason which explained the want of success in the other spheres, and that was that, those spheres contained what the British sphere did not, a very large element of the disaffected Bulgarian population. He did not think it possible for anybody who approached this question with an impartial mind to come to any of her conclusion than that the main responsibility for the slow progress of the reform scheme had been, and was at this moment, the action of the revolutionary committees. It was they who necessitated the upkeep of this vast army in Macedonia, which was draining away funds which they should like to see applied to administrative reforms, and it was they also who were delaying the pacification of the country, which the Mürzsteg scheme declared to be the necessary preliminary to the introduction of administrative and judicial reform. The noble Lord had charged him with having said that because the Christian peoples committed atrocities, that absolved the Turkish Government from the charge of maladministration.
§ LORD EDMUND FITZMAURICE
said he did not put it quite so strongly as that. He thought the noble Lord had 1381 dwelt with undue emphasis on the fact that there were faults on both sides, and that there was more to be said in favour of the Turkish Government than was admitted.
§ EARL PERCY
did not really think the question of atrocities committed by the Christian population had anything to do with the responsibility of the Turkish Government. The Turkish Government, of course was responsible for the government of their country, and so long as there was not good government so long was the Turkish Government to blame. But he did not think that it was true to say that the atrocities committed by the Christian population were caused by the misgovernment of the Turks. It was a remarkable fact that while there were a great number of Christian races in Turkey, both European and Asiatic, the number of disaffected Christian races was comparatively small. He denied the right of the revolutionary committees to be regarded in this country as the representatives and advocates of the Christian population in Turkey. What was the state of affairs in Armenia? Stories were told lost year of atrocities committed by the Kurds, and the usual charges were made, without the slightest investigation, against the Turkish Government. Two of our Consuls were instructed to enquire into the truth of these charges. They reported that there was a definite policy on the part of the revolutionary committees to provoke massacres by the Turks in order Io arouse the attention of Europe, and that with regard to the villages which had been burned there was good reason to believe that they had been burned by the villagers themselves. They said that the charge of massacre could not be substantiated, that there was no evidence of participation by the Kurds, and that the orders of the authorities were undoubtedly against it. One of the Consuls, Captain Tyrrell, made a personal investigation on the spot. His Majesty's Government had been pressing the Turkish Government to afford relief in money to the distressed villages.There is no doubt," said Captain Tyrrell, "that the villagers were told by the revolutionary committees in the summer to accept nothing from the Turkish Government, and not 1382 to admit that anything had been done for them, to deceive the Consuls, and, in short, to make the worst of everything.The result was that one village refused the money. In another village the villagers complained to him that they could not eat the wheat which had been given to them; that they did not think wheat was fit for human sustenance, and they wanted millet. Then when he suggested to the Turkish authorities that millet should be given to them, as it was cheaper than wheat, the people made a great outcry and demanded wheat. In another of these villages the people begged Captain Tyrrell to give them money instead of grain or any other form of relief, as they could buy food from the neighbouring Kurdish villages much cheaper. Finally, Captain Tyrrell reported that he found among the people a tendency to regard it as a duty on the part of foreign Governments to provide for them. The same state of things existed in Macedonia, where there had been a succession of sickening outrages perpetrated by the bands, not on the Turks only, but on one another and on the population which refused to join the agitation. And these were the people who were referred to in speeches on the platforms of this country as deserving creatures, whose faults were the result of Turkish rule and whose only aspiration was to be relieved from Turkish misgovernment and corruption. Ever since the European Powers had taken the reform scheme in hand the Christians had been occupied in cutting each other's throats, and their one idea seemed to be to prove to Europe that however much they disliked the Turks they disliked each other infinitely more. There was no Christian race in Macedonia who, if they were offered relief from Turkish government in exchange for that, say, of Austria or Russia, would not reject the proposal with scorn. He did not adduce these facts in order to absolve the Turkish Government from their responsibility. Undoubtedly a great responsibility rested upon the Government of Turkey for the condition of their country. But he did say that it was not fair to the Turkish Government to ascribe the conduct of those quarrelling Christian races within their territory to their misgovernment.
1383 It was necessary for the House to realise what was the aim of these revolutionary committees. The great bulk of the Christian people of Turkey did not sympathise with those whose object was to force the unhappy peasants into insurrection in the belief that Europe might be relied upon to come to their assistance. The only way to defeat this policy of the revolutionary committees was to show quite clearly that we did not intend to have our hands forced by such measures; that the Powers were determined to continue to act in concert, and to carry out, the scheme of reform to which they had pledged themselves in their own time and in their own way. But it was difficult to convey that impression so long as speeches were made in this country—the only speeches quoted in the journals of the Near East—which denounced the reform scheme from its inception as a sham, which made groundless insinuations of jealousies between the Powers and put forward proposals, such as that for a Christian governor, which, good or bad, were not at the moment within the bounds of practical politics.
Hon. Members opposite were entitled to hold that the proper solution of the Macedonian question was to be found in the appointment of a Christian governor. But he doubted whether it would be very easy to find a gentleman unconnected with the Balkan States willing to undertake the government of these quarrelling races, or to persuade Sir Antony MacDonnell to accept the position, as had been suggested by the noble Lord the Member for the Cricklade Division. But, even if the appointment of a Christian governor were practicable, that solution had never been adopted in any case remotely analogous to that of Macedonia without necessitating beforehand military occupation by a European Power. In any case no one was entitled to say that the appointment of a Christian governor was the ideal solution, or the only solution in the minds of His Majesty's Government. They had never said anything of the kind. What His Majesty's Government had done, before the Mürzsteg scheme was proposed, was to point out that it was idle to insist on the mere acceptance of paper reforms without providing some machinery of 1384 control, and Lord Lansdowne suggested it might be found in the appointment either of a Christian governor or of agents of the two mandatory Powers. It was the second alternative that had been accepted by Austria and Russia; but His Majesty's Government had never expressed a preference for one solution more than the other.
In conclusion, he would only add that whatever our views might be as to what was the proper remedy to be applied to Turkish misgovernment, it was most important that we should concentrate our efforts on remedies that were practicable. This was not a Party question. But what would happen if speakers in this country—whether inside or outside the House—were to give the impression to the people out there that if there were an insurrection to-morrow, supposing another Party to be in power, they would be prepared to give their countenance and support to the movement? Either they would have to embark this country on a crusade in which she had no interest of her own to serve, or else they would have to leave to their fate people whom, by their speeches, they had encouraged to desperate courses. It was for that reason that he thought it vital that we should disillusionise the leaders of the revolutionary movement abroad of the idea, that any Government in this country, no matter from what side it was drawn, would lend them any encouragement or support if they precipitated matters and deliberately and intentionally made impossible the execution of the reform scheme which the European Powers had undertaken to carry out. At all events, as far as His Majesty's Government was concerned, he did not think it could be too clearly understood that we had never pledged ourselves to embark on an isolated policy in a matter in which this country had no primary interest—and surely we had enough on our hands already—and a matter, moreover, in which we acknowledged no special responsibility. ["Oh!"] That we had responsibilities and obligations with regard to the government of the peoples of the Balkan States we did not deny; but they were obligations and responsibilities incurred by all the signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, they did not devolve upon us any more 1385 urgently than on any of the other signatories, they were obligations to collective and not to isolated action, and anybody who pressed us to take isolated action appealed to us, not on the grounds of that treaty, but on something else. What was the something else? It might be said that it was on the ground of simple humanity. He did not know, if considerations of humanity stood alone, that there was any particular reason why we should interfere with the internal government of Turkey in Europe any more than in that of Persia, Afghanistan, or any other of the Governments of the East, whose integrity or independence we had thought it right to assert, and maintain because it suited the interest of this country to do so, and because we believed it conduced to the maintenance of the peace of the world. We did not accept any special responsibility apart from the other Powers, in this matter; and, although we were willing and anxious to do all that we could m the way of giving our consistent support to the efforts of Austria and Russia, Powers which in virtue of their proximity, racial connection, and knowledge of the circumstances, were better fitted to advise on details of administration there than we were, and although we were ready to suggest amendments and improvements in their scheme of reforms where we thought it was capable of amendment or improvement, we were certainly not willing to insist on an ideal policy, which we had no means of pressing to a successful conclusion, and which might involve us in liabilities the extent and magnitude of which we could not foresee.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
expressed his regret at the tone of the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, which, he said, surprised him the more when he contrasted it with the entirely different tone in which these questions were discussed in another place by the noble Lord's official superior. From he very beginning of this melancholy question, both in his speeches in the Upper House and in his despatches, Lord Lansdowne had expressed a cordial and hearty sympathy with the sufferings of the Christian population, severely censured the conduct of the Turkish 1386 Government, and stated his earnest desire that the whole power and influence of this country should be exerted in the endeavour to bring the Turkish Government to a sense of its duty, to spur the other Powers into doing their duty, and to secure a better condition of affairs for these unhappy people. There had been nothing of that kind in the speech just delivered. He had never listened to the noble Lord with more disappointment, and he could not understand how, with the knowledge he possessed, both from his official position and from the journeys he had made in many provinces of Turkey, the noble Lord could use the language he had just used about the Turkish Government.
§ EARL PERCY
said he was not aware that he had used a single word in extenuation of the Turkish Government.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he would endeavour to explain the impression the speech had made upon him. The noble Lord began by stating some facts which they were very glad to hear. The first was that an improvement had been effected in the vilayet of Adrianople by repatriation. The noble Lord's account did not tally with the accounts he had received, according to which not one half of the people had been repatriated, but possibly the noble Lord was more correctly informed. He had also stated that he was not satisfied with the progress of the Mürzsteg programme. As far as he (the speaker) could gather, the progress of the Mürzsteg programme had been little or nothing; the powers were not sufficient to enable much to be done. The noble Lord also said he was not entirely satisfied with the gendarmerie, though he endeavoured to give certain explanations, and seemed disposed to say that the condition of things was better in consequence of the gendarmerie. But what he (the speaker) had heard, was that the condition of things was not better. The test of the success of the scheme was to be found in the condition of the country, Was the country any quieter? Were life and property any safer? Were the raids made by the different populations one upon another repressed by the Turkish Government? Was there any prospect of content? Was there reason to believe that 1387 the revolutionary party were expecting something better? Were they hoping with some confidence for an improvement in the condition of affairs? The noble Lord had not ventured to suggest that any one of these things had happened; in fact, he could not deny that all those questions must be answered in the negative. The noble Lord would not deny that all the schools were closed, that the churches were practically closed, that the Turkish soldiery were quartered upon the people, that they were eating up everything the people possessed, and that, the people were flying to the mountains because they might as well live there as endeavour to inhabit the ruined villages. The noble Lord did not deny that that was so.
§ EARL PERCY
I did not deny it, because I have not the facts before me. But I have no reason to think it is true.
§ MR. BRYCE
said it had been stated by previous speakers in the debate, but the noble Lord did not say anything to show that the condition of things was better than hon. Members had made it out to be. The reason the revolutionary bands continued was that they had no ground to expect that things were going to be any better. He would not venture to? say when the new outbreak would come; it might be in the spring, or in the autumn, or a year hence; but every impartial account received from Macedonia indicated that the revolutionary movement was stayed only by want of money. As soon as they got more money and more rifles, and as soon as the Bulgarian Government was supposed to be more ready for the action it was believed it contemplated, a renewal of the rising and of all the terrors which existed in that country a few years ago might be looked for.
§ MR. BRYCE
said the words of the noble Lord were that it was intended to protract the status quo. But the status quo was the very thing of which complaint was made, for what did the status quo mean? The noble Lord said that the Turks did not welcome these reforms. Conservatism might be good or bad, and the noble Lord might think they were showing an obstinate conservatism in their adherence to certain fiscal principles, but the value of conservatism depended upon what they were going to conserve. Conservatism of the Turk took the form of brigandage, extortion and massacre, and this was why they believed there would be no permanent improvement while they tried those petty or insignificant remedies of putting in a Civil Agent here and gendarmerie there without any real authority to deal with the evils existing. These gendarmerie were merely confined to drilling and instructing recruits. They had no power to arrest a single criminal or to receive complaints or organise expeditions to seize bands of brigands.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he was told that the gendarmerie officers had no power to receive petitions with regard to the grievances from which the people were suffering; and he believed there was 1389 foundation for that statement. Proceeding, the hon. Member declared that it was perfectly clear that the British area of gendarmerie was a small and quiet are, where there was no considerable difficulty. He asked why this was so, whether it was not possible for the British officers to do more useful work, suggesting that, if there was to be an increase, officers might be sent to the vilayet of Adrianople, where they would have ample scope for endeavouring to restore order and secure proper administration. The noble Lord dwelt very much upon the outrages perpetrated by the Christians. That was no doubt a lamentable fact, but he did not mention that the Turks took no steps to stop it. They had allowed raids of Bulgarians upon Greeks and Greeks upon Bulgarians, and had actually fomented and encouraged these attacks of two Christian races upon one another, because they acted upon the maxim, ''Divide your enemy."
The noble Lord referred to Armenia. He (Mr. Bryce) did not deny that disturbances there had resulted from the action of revolutionary bands and that the action was taken in the hope of drawing the attention of European Powers, but he was not aware that anyone in England had ever given the slightest encouragement to the revolutionists. He, personally, had never lost an opportunity of pointing out that they were committing a great offence and doing themselves a bad service, bringing nothing but suffering and misery to their people. But these revolutionary movements sprang from the intolerable sufferings these people had to endure. Challenged by the noble Lord, the hon. Member said he did venture to say that the case of Armenia was worse, because there they had been baulked of certain reforms promised by the Treaty of Berlin. An Article in the Treaty held out the hope of reform and gave reason to believe that the Powers would secure some improvement. It was because of that tint they thought the revolutionary movement would have the effect of attracting the attention of the Powers, and it was for that reason that they had embarked upon this movement. The noble Lord had cast some scorn on the idea of appointing a European governor. He spoke as if it 1390 was an impossible suggestion. He was surprised that the noble Lord should hold the language he did with reference to the appointment of a European Governor, because it was a proposal which emanated from his own chief, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It was not the passing idea of some whimsical humanitarian or crank on either side of the House. It was the suggestion of Lord Lansdowne, and made because he knew that no on her solution would be sufficient, It was clear to any one Who read Lord Lansdowne's despatch of September 29th, 1903, that the Secretary of State's preference was for the scheme of a European Governor. He confessed he wished that Lord Lansdowne had confined himself to that scheme; but the Secréary of State could never have contemplated that his other alternative would have been so much weakened and whittled away as it was by the Mürzsteg programme, which had turned out to be entirely ineffective, because it had given very little power to the Assessors, and very little power to the gendarmerie. The noble Lord had asked whether they were in favour of the gendarmerie system being applied to Armenia. He himself would ra her have it applied to Armenia than nothing. Hon. Members on the other side of the House were not in favour of it. [An HON. MEMBER: Yes, certainly.] He understood that the noble Lord had poured some little contempt on the proposal that the gendarmerie scheme should be applied to Armenia. If it was impossible, as he presumed it was from the language of the noble Lord and from the language held by His Majesty's Government, to have a European Governor for the Armenian provinces because Russia would not help them, then a gendarmerie, even with limited powers, would be better than nothing. He had always pleaded for more Consuls. Let them have some people inside Armenia who could see what was going on and who could do something, however little it might be, to remove the evils the people were suffering from.
He confessed he left this subject that day with a great sense of disappointment and regret. They were always ready to allow for a certain amount of official optimism, and, of course, they did not expect 1391 the noble Lord to indulge in such strong condemnation of the Turkish Government as private Members did. But he would ask any one in that House whether the Turkish Government, when they read the speech of the noble Lord, would not see in it a palliation of their sins, would not find in it an encouragement for their obstinacy, and would not recongnise a very marked difference between the language which he had held and the language of menace which they were accustomed to hear from the Secretary of State? He deeply regretted that the noble Lord should go so far to nullify the effect of Lord Lansdowne's despatches as he did in the language which he held in that House. They were quite aware of the great political difficulties with which the question was surrounded. They had never pressed the Government for any positive declaration of the course they would take in eventualities which were not yet disclosed. They had pressed them not to allow what appeared to be the almost exclusive action of Russia and Austria, because they considered that England, France, and Italy were no less entitled to deal with this matter. They regretted that the two Powers which had shown so little earnestness and zeal in the matter should have been allowed to have it practically at their own disposal. But they knew how many difficulties there were and how easy it was to make a mistake it was hard to retrieve. They knew that the difficulties we now suffered from were the results of the fatal mistake which Britain made at the time of the Crimean War, and repeated, with less excuse, when she substituted the Treaty of Berlin for the Treaty of San Stefano. They did not agree that, there was no special responsibility on the British Government. They thought there was a very heavy responsibility upon those who put back Macedonia under the dominion of the Turks; and they earnestly hoped that, in spite of what the noble Lord had said, the sentiments which Lord Lansdowne had repeatedly declared would continue to animate him, that he would endeavour to carry at any rate the other two great Western Powers who were perfectly disinterested along with him in representing to all the Powers the necessity 1392 for far more vigorous and strenuous action than any yet taken, that he would not acquiesce in the Mürzsteg programme, that he would see that the question was urgent and that the delay of a few months might mean a recrudescence of massacre in these provinces, and that he would do all he possibly could to exert all the influence this country was entitled to exert in order to secure that there should be some settlement of these provinces not dependent on the good will of the Sultan, but under the control of European Powers.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD of THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I have listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who has criticised my noble friend, and criticised him very unjustly, as I think; but I am at a loss even now to discover in what substantial and important respect the policy which the right hon. Gentleman advocates differs from the policy which His Majesty's Government are pursuing. The right hon. Gentleman thinks many mistakes have been made in the past. He thinks that the Crimean War was a mistake, and he thinks that the Treaty of Berlin was a mistake.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman's brief historical survey that he appeared to think that, the proper reforming authority in the Balkan Peninsula was the Russian Empire. I cannot agree with that proposition. I have always dissented from it, and I dissent from it now,
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am quite unable to agree with the right hon. Gentleman's view of the action of the British Government of the time of the Crimean War, and of the action of the Conservative Government in 1878. Then I ask myself, What is it that the right hon. Gentleman desires the Government to do which they are not doing?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I admit I got up under a misapprehension. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was supporting an Amendment directed against the policy of His Majesty's Government; but I find he is ardently supporting His Majesty's Government. Therefore I presume that the right hon. Gentleman agrees wholly with the policy of Lord Lansdowne.
§ MR. BRYCE
I did not say I agreed wholly with it. The right hon. Gentleman has not heard the whole of this debate, and does not understand that the debate has not been directed at all against Lord Lansdowne's policy. We do not agree with it on all points, but we think on the whole it is a policy which we can heartily support.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am glad of that. The right hon. Gentleman simply has a quarrel with my noble friend near me, who, he thinks, does not represent Lord Lansdowne. He is quite mistaken in that particular. My noble friend never for one instant suggested that the policy of a Christian governor in Macedonia would be a bad policy. On the contrary, he considers that it would be a very excellent policy. What he did suggest was that it was a policy very difficult to carry out. Anybody who knows anything of the question, and especially the right hon. Gentleman, who has made a continuous and ardent study of it, knows that the difficulties of carrying out the reforms you would like to carry out are enormous. They are enormous for three separate reasons. There is first the difficulty of dealing with the Turks, with their well-known unwillingness to do what I think it is their plain duty and manifest advantage to do. Then there is the difficulty of dealing with the Christian populations, who, even before the Turks came to Europe at all, back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were torn by mutual 1394 divisions, stained by mutual crimes, and whose division was responsible for the Turk ever being in Europe at all, and has been responsible for his staying over since. The third difficulty, I will not say is greater, but it is almost as great. It is the difficulty of working through so cumbrous a machine as the European Concert. Nobody doubts that the European Concert is a cumbrous machine, that it is excessively difficult to get the Great Powers to work earnestly and harmoniously for any common end, and that when some of them have divergent interests, or conceive that they have divergent interests, the task becomes almost impossible. Are we, then, to sever ourselves from the European Concert? Are we, because we think a particular reform might be better, that if we were left to ourselves we might devise some scheme more appropriate to the situation and more thoroughgoing—are we, therefore, to separate ourselves from the European Concert? Is that what any responsible statesman on either side of the House or on that side of the House would suggest? I am sure my right hon. friend would not suggest it. He may criticise the imperfections of the machinery of the European Concert as if we were responsible for it but when directly questioned I am confident that he, like every other rational man, would admit that, cumbrous as it is, unsatisfactory as are its results, slow as is its working, everything would be worse, the results would be poorer,incomparable misfortunes might overwhelm the Eastern world, and might involve even the Western Powers, supposing we were to separate ourselves from the European Concert and take separate action in these provinces. Is it conceivable that against the will of Russia, and against the will of Austria, when the other Powers at the best are luke warm, we could either morally or materially carry on any great scheme of reform? The thing is not possible as far as I am concerned—I would never consent to such action on the part of this country. I heard a laugh when my noble friend said we had sufficient responsibilities on our shoulders without taking that new responsibility. It is no laughing matter. The burdens which this country has already to bear are sufficiently great; and this Government, at all events, is not going 1395 to add to them by an insane policy of philanthropic adventure in the Near East. And I venture to say their successors, when they come nearer the fence and contemplate the perils that he on the other side of it, will swerve aside with a greater rapidity than perhaps at this moment they are aware of. Therefore let it not go forth to any part of the world that, because we think that in certain particulars the schemes of the Powers are imperfect, we are going to separate ourselves from them and advance our own scheme by the strength of our own right hand. That would be no service to the Christian populations; it would be the greatest disservice we could do to the cause of European peace and all that is bound up with the cause of European peace. Therefore I venture to think that speeches like that which the right hon. Gentleman has delivered, though they be, as I have just learned, in the interests of the Government, if they raise any hopes in any part of the world that a change of Administration would produce a change of policy in relation to these unfortunate I populations—speeches like that, though not intended to be mischievous, will be mischievous indeed. I do not think I need pursue that theme. The particular ground and policy on which we base our action are not shaken, and cannot be shaken, by any mere detailed accounts of the harrowing horrors which undoubtedly take place both in Eastern Europe and in Armenia; you cannot, base a policy upon considerations like these taken alone. If your policy is to endure, and if it is to be fruitful of good, you must consider not merely what it is you would desire to do, but what means you have of doing it, and how those means can be adjusted to the desired end. The right hon. Gentleman tried in vain to make the House believe there is any difference of opinion between my noble friend on this bench and my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. They have dealt with the same subject in the same spirit and in the same manner, and they have recommended an identical policy. That policy is so solidly based on ascertained facts that no Party mutations in this country will directly change the course that we have determined to pursue.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said it was now practically three years since the Government had committed this country to the Sugar Convention, and sufficient time had elapsed to enable the House to appreciate the advantages or otherwise arising from the step the Government then took. In the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper he had expressed in no uncertain terms the evil confluence's that had arisen from the agreement to which His Majesty's Government had been accessory. In putting their cast-before the House three years ago the Government had said they were not actuated in taking this step by cosmopolitan benevolence, but by their concern for British interests and the national welfare generally; that if British interests were not involved they would not have lifted a hand to assist continental sugar-growing and bounty-giving countries in relieving themselves from a burden which they had already found intolerable. The Government declared too, that in fact the abolition of bounties would be such a notable advance in the direction of free trade that British trade would benefit through channels the course of which it was not possible to trace out exactly beforehand. The House heard once more of the hard case of the British refiners and the West Indian planters and it was said that only through the abolition of the bounties could those industries survive, It was, perhaps, a little unfortunate for the Government that Messrs. Tate about this time turned their business into a limited company, and issued a prospectus in which they boasted of an unbroken record of increasing prosperity for forty-five years during which they ''had competed successfully with both British and Foreign sugar, notwithstanding the advantage possessed by the latter in the bounties given," a statement luminously illustrated by the fact that in that year, when sugar fell lower than ever before—in 1891, supposed to be a deadly year for sugar refiners—they realised a handsome profit of £200,000. There was some inconsistency in the declaration made by the Government of having British interests 1397 at heart, because in the same breath they declared that even if the interests of the consumers and users of sugar suffered, they would still be justified in continuing to work for the object they had in view, but that their fears were groundless; that in the long run neither the sugar consumers or other sugar interests would suffer by abolition, but that they would be protected from the danger of a still greater rise in prices which was likely to fall upon them if the abolition of the sugar bounties did not take place.
The Government had said the abolition of the bounties would bring to an end all violent fluctuations; that the violent fluctuations in the previous twenty years were quite unnatural; that they had been caused by the bounties, which encouraged over production, and that unless bounties were abolished sugar would be much higher in the future. With the bounties gone everything was to fall into a will ordered groove, sugar-making and selling were, to become humdrum vocations, that to the cost price of production, which the Government knew all about and had worked out with nice, precision, was to be added a mere working profit, and that that was to constitute the normal and natural price of sugar in the future. The House was assured that in the next ten years the average price of sugar would not exceed 10s. a cwt., and the probability was that it would be considerably less. That was the case of the Government. In contrast to that the Opposition contended that, however great the evil of bounties might be, especially to those countries which gave them, we ought to consider the question in its entirety as to how it affected British interests, that we objected to the smaller interests of special industries being promoted at the expense of the whole community. It was urged that if the Government pursued this policy the consumers would have to submit to a tax of some millions sterling a year in order to put money into the pockets of the West Indian planters and a few sugar refiners in the United Kingdom. That to deliberately raise the price of a commodity in order to benefit a particular interest was rank protection. We also said that the Convention would destroy the independence of our commerce, which up to that point had 1398 enjoyed open ports, unrestricted markets, and the privileges of buying in the cheapest and selling in the dearest—and that in joining this Convention we should not only be injuring our commerce but should be handing over the control and direction of a great trade to a foreign syndicate in which our voice would only count as one to ten. That had been one of the most serious developments of this Convention. Every step the Convention had taken had been in the direction of shutting out, sugar from all parts of the world from this country, and it was becoming abundantly clear that the object of the Convention was to make sugar at home dearer, and that was the object of the Government also, so as to benefit that select, coterie of planters and refiners who had manipulated in their own interests the successful agitation.
In addition to making sugar dearer to the consumer, the Convention had brought about a great advance in the price of a raw material, and strangely enough, whilst doing all this injury to the sugar-using industries and consumers at home, it had actually relieved the foreigners and given them cheap sugar. Whereas the Continental consumer had had the price of his sugar reduced by 50 per cent., we, in this country, had had the price of ours increased by 100 per cent. Finally, the Opposition said that this was at best but a bad transaction; that it taxed us to the extent of some millions in order to give relief to the West Indies, especially as there was evidence to shew that cane sugar could be grown at £6 a ton and sold at a profit at very little over that price. Those were the two sides of the argument put forward at the time this Convention was under discussion, and every argument of the Opposition had come true. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite now contender that the rise in the price of sugar had been brought about by the drought which had occurred on the Continent this last year. That argument had been used by every hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite, and with the exception of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade very little, if any, attempt had been made to prove it. That hon. Gentleman made a speech to his constituents in Glasgow, argued his case 1399 very fairly and made several good points which it was only fair should be answered if it were possible to answer them. The first point the hon. Gentleman made was, if the Convention was responsible for the rise in the price of sugar, the rise would naturally take place the moment it became certain that the Convention would come into operation, and then by a series of carefully manipulated figures dealing with the average price of sugar three years before and after the Convention, he demonstrated to his own satisfaction that nothing of the kind had happened, but, that sugar had been actually cheaper by 1s. per cwt. since the Convention.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.