HC Deb 25 February 1908 vol 184 cc1663-708
* MR. G. A. HARDY (Suffolk, Stowmarket)

rose to move "That this House regrets the failure of the reforms which have been introduced for the amelioration of the condition of Macedonia, and urges the Government to press for the establishment of executive control by an authority responsible to the Powers." He said that in bringing this Resolution before the House, he fully realised the dangers and difficulties which surrounded it. He also realised how inadequate an advocate he was to introduce such an important Resolution, therefore he would briefly take up the time of the House in introducing it, leaving it to those who had carefully studied the subject, or who, like the hon. Member for West Ham, who had recently visited the region of Macedonia, more ably to state the ease. They were, however, thankful that in the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs they had a Minister who earnestly sympathised with these poor oppressed peoples, and they confidently looked for his whole-hearted support. The Macedonian question was one which appealed to all who sympathised with suffering humanity. But there was a higher court than that to which they appealed, and that was the national honour, and it was because we were so deeply pledged as a nation by our actions in the past and by treaties we had signed that he brought this Motion before the House. It was scaroely conceivable that those who deprecated any action on our part could be aware how deeply we were pledged as a nation to see justice done. Our direct interest in this court began some thirty years ago. Public feeling in Great Britain and Europe had been roused by the eloquence of Mr. Gladstone, who denounced the terrible atrocities in Bulgaria in 1876. A conference had been summoned and the action of the Porte in setting aside the recommendations of the conference brought about the war between Turkey and Russia. The Russian people were united as one man in their desire to free those of their own race. The defeat of Turkey brought about the Treaty of San Stefano, which liberated Macedonia. In an evil moment Lord Beaconsfield stepped in, and using the power of England refused to recognise the treaty and called the Congress of Berlin. The result was the handing back of Macedonia deliberately to Turkey under the promise of certain definite reforms. We as a nation were thus responsible to Macedonia and it was our duty to see that our pledges were carried out. In 1903, after twenty-five years of waiting and suffering, the Macedonian people rose in rebellion—a mad act which only the desperate necessity of their case could excuse. That rebellion was put down with terrible cruelty. Austria and Russia then stepped in, and an arrangement was made at Mürzsteg by the Emperor to try and bring better conditions to help the country. Turkey's assent was given to a very modified form of control. Lord Lansdowne was far from being satisfied and urged much stronger measures, but ultimately accepted the modified arrangement. The most important part of the Mürzsteg programme was in the reorganising of the gendarmerie, and placing them under the supervision, but not under the direct control, of the foreign officers. Practically their work had resolved itself into simply an attitude of watching and reporting to the Powers. The result had proved thoroughly unsatisfactory. In 1903, Lord Lansdowne again urged that stronger measures must be taken. He wanted a Commission to have real control of the finance and administration, and in urging it he said— The Commission would be given administrative and executive power and would in the first instance be instructed to frame without delay schemes for the effective control of the administration of finance and justice. He had also stated that— Nothing could be satisfactory which did not include: (a) An immediate reduction of the military forces in Macedonia and its neighbourhood to the forces strictly required for maintenance of internal order and security. It was in the midst of this last attempt of his that the change of Government occurred and the matter was dropped. In 1906 and 1907 Turkey desired to raise the import duties from. 8 to 11 per cent., which money she promised to use after satisfying a few commercial reforms for the Finance Commission in Macedonia. The conditions for allowing this increase were laid down by Austria and Russia, who made proposals for judicial reforms, all Powers agreeing as interested parties, especially Great Britain, who was interested in 60 per cent. of the trade. In 1908 the Minister for Foreign Affairs made further proposals to increase the gendarmerie and give it powers to hunt down the bands, most of whom were now Greek, but as Austria and Russia refused their support it was withdrawn. But now a new and startling development had occurred. Austria had sought the permission of the Porte to survey or build a railway through Novi Baza, and thus connect Bosnia with the Macedonian railways and ultimately with Salonica. Russia, evidently realising that this action had been done apart from the arrangement made between the two countries, replied by suggesting a railway from the Danube to the Adriatic. We could only now conclude that the entente between Russia and Austria was at an end, and that the opportunity had arisen for Great Britain again to press for reforms in Macedonia. Speaking for himself, he did not think they need object to the railways as long as the Macedonians were not taxed to make and sustain them. What had been the result of the four years following the reform scheme? However well it was intended, it had proved a direct incentive to murder on a vast scale. The Powers deliberately held out a prospect of an approaching modification of territorial boundaries with a view to the more regular grouping of the different nationalities, and the result of that had been to fan race hatred and bring the most disastrous consequences on the country, consequences more terrible than anything since the massacres of 1903. Since the introduction of the reform scheme, in a country of 1,500,000 people, 10,000 people had been murdered.


Nearly as bad as Ireland.


said that it was worse than Ireland, bad as Ireland was. When they thought that that was a third of the population of Ireland, barely the population of Wales, and practically the population of one of our big towns, they could see the terrible conditions to which the poor unfortunate people of Macedonia had been subjected. The monthly murders still showed no sign of diminution. He noticed in that day's Times a telegram from Sofia stating that— During the past few days a number of fresh atrocities had been reported in Macedonia. The continuance of outrages on a large scale at this season of the year was altogether an exception and was very ominous for the coming spring. The principal event last week, according to a report by gendarmerie officers was an attack on a settlement of Vlach shepherds, near Karaferia by a Greek band. Four shepherds were killed, three were wounded, and 3,280 sheep and goats and 150 horses and mules were slaughtered. Recent occurrences illustrate the statement in a memorandum by gendarmerie officers that the excesses of the Turkish troops in the villages show no diminution. The French adjoint. Colonel Verand, has protested against the misbehaviour of the troops in carrying out perquisitions in the kazas of Nevrokop and Djumaia. In the Zarovo districts of Seres the troops compelled a priest and several villagers to set fire to a house in which a band was concealed. In view of the British proposal to transfer the pursuit of the bands to the gendarmerie, the following official figures are interesting as indicating how the troops discharge this duty. Killed in 1907—Bulgarians, 236; Greeks, 89; Serbs, 88; Vlachs, 4. Captured—Bulgarians, 10; Greeks, 29; Serbs, 8. The small number of captured compared to the number of those killed told its own tale. He would give only one other illustration as to the terrible condition of that country, and that was an account of an outrage recently committed by Turkish troops at the village of Belitsa in the Vilayet of Monastir— In the afternoon two detachments composed of about 150 soldiers each reached Belitsa from Kirtchevo and Ochrida. The soldiers remained in the village more than forty-eight hours. During that time they assembled all the men of the village in one place, where they were kept under arrest by a party of soldiers, while the great majority of the troops broke into the houses, and, on the pretext of searching for supposed 'komitajis,' violated the unprotected women and young girls, and gave themselves up to every kind of vloience and plunder, carrying off and eating everything that could be taken away or consumed. Thirteen women were violated, and several young girls suffered the same fate. In the case of one of the peasant men unspeakable outrages were committed by the troops.

EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)

What documents are you quoting from?


said he was quoting from the Blue-book. What could be done? They pressed for executive control for the Finance Commissioners as desired by Lord Lansdowne, the Sultan to retain suzerainty, as in Bulgaria, but not direct rule. The Commissioners would thus control the Army, gendarmerie, and justice, as well as finance. Now was their opportunity. In Writing to Mr. Bryce at a public meeting which he could not attend, the present Foreign Secretary used words which it seemed to him were almost prophetic. He wrote— I am sorry to be out of reach of the meeting. I fear that separate action by the British Government alone would be useless or worse, but the leading Governments of Europe, including our own, or even two or three of them together, could certainly stop massacres and secure permanent reform in Macedonia. And it is shameful that they do not do it. I hope the meeting will help to stir the public conscience both in England and elsewhere till the Governments in question or some of them are forced to co-operate and act effectively. Our Government should encourage and support such action by every means in its power. The cry from Macedonia, heard and responded to by the Apostle Paul, was for spiritual help and knowledge, which he planted in fruitful ground and which grew and developed into a strong Christian Church 1800 years ago. For 500 years their fellow Christians had had to exist under the blighting cruelty of the Turk and still survived. The cry came again, and this time the appeal was to Christian England from a nation bleeding at every pore. The cry was, "Save us, or we perish." The cry came from widows of murdered husbands, husbands of violated wives, orphans bereft of their parents, from a beautiful but desolate country. In God's name might they respond and help!

* MR. GOOCH (Bath)

, in seconding the Motion said that the discussion came at a very opportune moment. A few days ago the Vienna correspondent of The Times telegraphed the following words— The future of Macedonia and the Balkan States and of the Eastern question is at stake. That was putting the case very high, but he did not think too high. All Europe, not only the large but the little Powers, were waiting anxiously for the speech which the Foreign Secretary would make, and they very much hoped that that speech would be of such a character as to contribute to a successful solution of the most difficult problem which confronted statesmanship within the limits of Europe. To understand the situation, he ventured to ask the House to recall the condition of affairs which existed before the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs took office. When he came to power a little over two years ago, he found the ground occupied by the Austro-Russian Programme known by the name of the Mürzsteg Programme. That programme had a large number of clauses, but only one of them, by common consent, had actually resulted in anything at all tangible and beneficial to the country interested, and that was the scheme by which the so-called gendarmerie were handed over, not for command, but for instruction and advice; to a very limited number of European officers. He did not believe people over here, when they read about the European officers of the gendarmerie, perhaps realised that those officers, unlike officers in any other part of the world, could not give an order, and if they did it would not be obeyed. All they could do was to give advice to the real commanding officers, and when massacres took place they could photograph corpses, which they had often done, and report to their own Government. Lord Lansdowne, as they knew very well, in giving his consent to that very imperfect programme, reserved to himself and to Great Britain the full right of intervening at a later stage with a more drastic and far-reaching programme of reform, should the Mürzsteg Programme, as he expected, fail to achieve the solution of the problem, and as his hon. friend below had just said, only a day or two before the late Government went out of power a Financial Commission was established. That Commission was the one and only piece of really useful machinery that had yet been set up in Macedonia, and although it had not done very much, it made possible a great deal more than had at the present been achieved. What they asked for that night, in all subsequent reform, and all subsequent changes which were likely or possible to be introduced, was that that foundation should be retained and that reform should be super-imposed upon it. Since the right hon. Gentleman came into office, he very much regretted to say that in the opinion of a large number of people in this country who followed Balkan affairs with close attention, of many statesmen, and of the population of the Balkan States themselves, there had been a distinct relaxation of interest and effort on the part of Great Britain. He did not say there had been that relaxation; but what he did say was that that was the impression which the right hon. Gentleman's policy had made in the minds of a very large number of people, both here and in the Near East. If he were to say that nothing had been accomplished since the present Foreign Secretary came into power except the attachment of certain conditions to the granting of the increase in the customs duties, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not contradict him. He wished that were not correct, but he feared it was. It was literally the only thing that had been actually done during the two years or more that the present Government had been in power, and that was done, as they knew very well, because the raising of duties was suggested not by England or any other great Power, but by Turkey herself in her own interests. Apart from that single thing, which was a very poor record for two years of diplomacy, they came to two things which had been attempted to be done. The first was the proposal for judicial reform. Austria and Russia undertook to elaborate a proposal of judicial reform some eighteen months ago. They took a very long time doing it, and after it was presented to the various Powers, it was presented to the Porte only a few months ago. From what they heard in the papers that programme of judicial reform was a very poor affair, but poor as it was it was too strong meat for the Sultan, and he had up to the present time refused to accept it. He would like the Foreign Secretary, when he spoke, to tell them exactly in what state the negotiations in relation to judicial reform stood at the present moment. The Foreign Secretary's chief objective in connection with Macedonia in the last few years had been to try to suppress the newest and gravest element of the existing disturbance, namely, the Christian bands, which dishonoured the name of Christian. He had tried to do that in three ways. The first way, which had been utterly inadequate, had been by repeated remonstrances at Athens, at Belgrade and at Sophia. That having failed, the Powers collectively last autumn informed the Balkan States concerned that the article of the Mürzsteg programme, which held out the prospect of the possibility of territorial re-adjustment on racial lines, would be cancelled. That no doubt was a very wise step to take, but unfortunately it had had no effect at all, and so only a few weeks ago the Foreign Secretary had taken the matter into his hands, and for the first time since he took office had made a really strong and comprehensive demand for the reform of Macedonia. That reform was that the gendarmerie should be so far increased as to be capable of dealing with the bands themselves, and that the money necessary for the increased number of gendarmerie should be obtained by a corresponding reduction of the Turkish Army in that province. That was rejected, first by Austria and then by Russia, and if they were to trust the public press the English proposal had been withdrawn. If that was so he trusted it was not given up altogether, and he hoped the Foreign Secretary would tell them exactly at what stage this proposal stood. It was so good, so reasonable and so necessary that if it was refused in that form it could only be that the Foreign Secretary might put it forward in another form and press it with all the power at his disposal. At the time they did not know why Austria and Russia had refused to accept this. They had guessed that their interest in Macedonian reform was not very deep, and now they knew it. The successful request of Austria for a favour for herself only three weeks ago had changed by a dramatic stroke the whole situation. In asking for a railway through Servia she was entirely within her rights; but when she said the railway was purely economic, those who knew anything about the place knew that that was not the case. She already had a direct route from Vienna to Salonica. The new railway was a strategic and military line. This demand on the part of Austria had had two effects already, one comparatively unimportant, but the other of enormous importance. The least important was that it had caused Russia to ask in her turn for a railway from the Danube to the Adriatic. It would pass through Servia, which would be only too delighted to have an outlet for her pigs and her other staple products for the West of Europe, instead of sending them through Austria or by way of Salonica and the Mediterranean. They knew very well that if the Russian railway was made it would be in the first place a strategic checkmate to the Austrian railway, and therefore anybody who was afraid of Austrian influence becoming predominant in the Balkans might take comfort from the fact that in all probability if the one railway was built the other would be built also. He was very strongly in favour of the opening up of the country by railways, though on the condition that it must not be at the cost of an enormous and crushing burden disguised under the name of a kilometric guarantee, which he regretted to say was the case with most of the railways in Asia Minor. A railway, necessarily, was itself an emissary of civilisation in nearly all parts of the world, but not in the Balkan Peninsula. In Macedonia it had been very little but an additional burden on the people, because the railways, instead of going from town to town and catering for local traffic and industry, carefully avoided the towns and lengthened the route even over the most level plains in order to increase the amount of kilometric guarantee to the investors, and, besides, imposed an additional burden on the population, owing to the fact that the line had to be very carefully watched by soldiers all along its course. Therefore, their approval of railways was subject to the very important proviso that no unfair burden was placed on the people. The more important result was that the Murzsteg programme was killed. It had very little life in it six weeks ago when this bomb was thrown into diplomatic areas, and now it had no life at all. The chess board was clear, and a new game was going to begin. What they were asking for was that Great Britain's policy should play a very much more leading part than it had done during the last few years. The fact that a new situation had arisen had been recognised in every capital in Europe, except Vienna. It had been recognised even by Baron d'Arenthal, when he said a little time ago, immediately after throwing this diplomatic bomb, that the exclusive mandate of Austria and Russia had come to an end, and that the question of Macedonian reform had become one for all the great Powers. The concession which Austria had asked for, though legal, was one which could not become operative until she had obtained the leave of the Porte, and it was obvious to anybody who knew Turkey or human nature that a Power could not press Turkey to give reform in Macedonia while at the same time she was asking for something for herself. He hoped they would hear nothing more about a mandate to the interested Powers. They had had an opportunity and had misused it. Now it was the turn of the disinterested Powers, and he hoped England would be leader of those disinterested Powers. A Concert could not be a very homogeneous body, and might be an incoherent and weakly organism, but the Concert would go on and the question was who was going to lead it. Austria and Russia had led it until now, and he asked that Great Britain should lead it in the near future. There were two things to be done in order to achieve that object. The first was that the Foreign Secretary should somehow or other manage to convince Europe and the Balkan States that he was in real earnest about this matter. He did not mean to say that people thought he was not in earnest, but there were degrees even of earnestness; and there was a very definite impression abroad, not merely in the Balkan States, but in more than one of the capitals of the great Powers, that the interest of the English Foreign Office in this matter had not been so deep as perhaps it was in earlier years. The first thing we had to do was to convince the other Powers that we cared very much about it, and that we were determined to obtain some effective reform. The second thing was, to find some alliance, some practical working arrangement within the limits of the Concert, which would enable England to carry out the policy which he was sure the Foreign Secretary desired. The Foreign Secretary's letter four years ago, which had been read, said truly that England could not act alone, but it went on to say with equal truth and with still more importance that it was not necessary for action to get unanimity with all the Powers. Therefore the practical question arose: To whom should they look? Austria, he did not say permanently, but for the time, had put herself out of court. If she asked for anything from Turkey for Macedonia the Sultan would have a perfect right to think, and would probably know, that the asking was a mere formality. Therefore the desire of many people, not only in England and in the Balkans, but in Russia itself, was that we should win over Russia to a more advanced policy in the Balkan Peninsula. The treaty that we concluded last summer would facilitate friendly discussions on all inter-European matters, and in addition to that they must never forget that Russia was Slavonian and that Vienna was German. Russia, thirty years ago, was not a tyrant or an autocrat, but a liberator, and the Balkans had never forgotten that, and there were large masses of Russian opinion that had never forgotten it. One of the most remarkable and interesting features of the discussion of the last two or three weeks had been the expression of opinion, not only in the English and Balkan, but in the Russian Press, that the time had now come for Russia to swing round to her French ally and her new English friend. Many people were of opinion that Russia would be willing to help. She could, of course, carry France with her, and then Italy would be only too ready to join. The question next arose whether Germany or Austria, possibly drawn nearer together by the general hostility which their recent Turkish policy had excited, would be able, if they desired, to block the advance. So anxious were he and his friends to put an end to this great European scandal, that they would be willing for this country to secure the assent of Germany by a bargain in connection with the Bagdad railway. He did not wish to discuss that large question that night, but it was well known that with the Germans, who took a realistic view of politics, appeals either to treaties or humanity were likely to have much less effect than a bargain in connection with the Bagdad railway, On which they had set their heart. He threw out that suggestion simply as a possible way of removing German hostility. Very briefly he would explain why they were asking the Foreign Secretary and the country to take an interest in this question, and why the Government should make a move. Lord Fitzmaurice said last night, speaking of the Congo, that they were bound by treaty and by humanity to act. That was equally true of Macedonia. In regard to the question of humanity, the sufferings of Macedonians, and so on, he would say but little, because his hon. friend the Member for West Ham had been there a few months ago, and he would no doubt give the House the benefit of his recent experience. Without any exaggeration of language he thought Macedonia could be described as the Congo of Europe. It was a tragedy in which the Macedonian peasant was the victim, and the Turkish soldiers, the Christian bands, and the Albanians were the villains of the piece. No man's life was safe there, and anyone who doubted that statement should read the Blue-book published last year, which was full of the most sickening and revolting cruelties from beginning to end, and then he would agree with him that no man's life was safe there and no woman's honour. The Times correspondent, who knew as much about Balkan politics as any living man, stated that the year 1906–7 was the worst year since the great rebellion of 1903. So much for the reason why this country should take action. And, finally, as to what to do. There were three proposals before the country. One proposal which found a great amount of support was that they should do nothing, and stand idly by watching the ebb and How of diplomatic force; and intrigue. He felt sure that the Foreign Secretary would have nothing to say to that. The second proposal was that we should treat Macedonia like Bosnia, and hand it over to Austria and Russia. He confessed that that suggestion filled him with amazement and indignation. There were three absolutely decisive reasons against it. In the first place, the Macedonians of all races would oppose it. In the second place, Russia's record in Georgia and other parts did not lead them to desire that Macedonia should be handed over to her tender mercies. The third reason was that, supposing the whole of Macedonia were handed over to Austria and Russia, then good-bye to liberty and to the freedom and unfettered development of the Balkan States. Having exhausted those two policies there remained a third and, in his opinion, the only possible programme, and that was to reassert the great principle laid down by Lord Lansdowne that the only real reform was control. That was the true Macedonian policy, and he was sure the right hon. Baronet would not contradict that. That programme, which was explained so fully in 1905, had been given to the House in general outline by the mover of this Resolution. The Financial Commission should be given executive power, and control of expenditure. The gendarmerie should be increased to hunt down the bands; and the officers should have power to command the force and not merely to report outrages. The army in Macedonia should be decreased and put under the orders of the Inspector-General assisted by the Financial Commission; and the system of farming taxes should be abolished. Some form of judicial reform should again be put forward, and all these reforms, or any one of them as they came, should apply not only to the existing vilayets, but also to the vilayet of Adrianople. Those were the proposals of Lord Lansdowne. They had been before Europe for three years, but until now there had been no really effective chance of getting them accomplished. He thought the Foreign Secretary had a better chance of getting some, if not all, of them accomplished than had hitherto existed, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman's speech would constitute a distinct advance on any utterance he had made since his accession to office, and form a rallying point for those who were interested in the liberation, development, and prosperity of Macedonia.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House regrets the failure of the reforms which have been introduced for the amelioration of the condition of Macedonia, and urges the Government to press for the establishment of executive control by an authority responsible to the Powers.—(Mr. George Hardy.)

* EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)

I can promise the House that I shall not take up much time, because we have already been reminded that there are several hon. Members who have recently visited Macedonia who are anxious to tell us their experiences. At the present moment we do not know whether the policy of His Majesty's Government has changed, or the precise reasons which have led to the rejection of their proposals. There is, however, one comment which I may be allowed to made on the Motion which has been moved. The Motion under discussion invites this House to urge the Government "to press for the establishment of executive control by an authority responsible to the Powers." I understand that the right hon. Gentleman recently put forward the proposal that executive control should be given to the European officers who are acting in command of the gendarmarie and that that policy has fallen through owing to the refusal of the Powers to support it. The hon. Member now suggests that the Government should continue to press this policy and so far as the merits of the proposal are concerned I agree with him, but at the same time I cannot help feeling that the situation when once a proposal has been rejected is somewhat changed, and that we ought not to press the Government to insist on measures to which the Powers object unless we very carefully consider the consequences to which such a course might lead, and the action which it would be necessary for this country to adopt under such circumstances. The hon. Member outlined three possible policies. I am not going to follow him in his analysis of schemes for the alienation of territories which belong to the Sultan, though I would observe in passuing that his advocacy of co-operation with Russia in opposition to the other Powers is hardly consistent with his statement that there is no Power whose intervention would be more distasteful to the population of Macedonia than that of Russia. I quite agree that there are three policies open to this country to adopt. One is that we should wash our hands altogether, to use a homely phrase, of reform in Macedonia, and that we should say henceforth that we have no responsibility whatever for anything that goes on there. The second is that we should continue to act as a member of the Concert as we have done hitherto, assisting the other Powers by suggestions of our own where we think we can do so usefully, and supporting their policy at Constantinople; but that we should recognise the fact that from the outset we have deliberately abandoned the initiative to Austria and Russia whose geographical proximity to the scene of action not only gives them the greatest interest in the maintenance of law and order, but the most effective means of securing it. The third policy is that we should put forward some ideal solution of our own, without regard to the susceptibilities of our colleagues in the Concert, and be prepared to insist on its adoption in the teeth of opposition, both by the Powers themselves and by the Turkish Government. The policy for which in my opinion there is nothing to be said—a policy into which it seems to me there is a danger of our drifting—is that we should remain nominally a member of the Concert, bound by its collective decisions, pledged to do nothing which will in any degree affect the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire, but at the same time that we should be perpetually putting forward, and advertising to the public from day to day the fact that we are putting forward suggestions of our own which are not accepted by the other Powers, the probability of the acceptance of which we have not taken the trouble to ascertain beforehand, and the rejection of which by them has very serious consequences. In the first place it cannot but weaken the effectiveness of the action of the Concert by revealing the fact that it is not united. In the second place it induces the Turks to resist every proposal we do put forward, not because it is unreasonable in itself, but because they know from bitter experience that it is only the prelude to others more extreme. And lastly, it encourages the revolutionary elements in Macedonia to continue the agitation in the belief that, sooner or later, this country will be compelled to intervene actively on their behalf. That is a consideration which I have frequently put forward in this House, and it is a consideration to which I attach the greatest importance. My experience is not so recent as that of the hon. Member, but I went through Macedonia in 1902 when the disturbances were just beginning, and certainly it was at that time the ineradicable belief of the Christians of every denomination that this country could be counted upon in the last resort to intervene, and that there was even a good chance that we would establish a Protectorate or annex the country ourselves. Nothing could disabuse their minds of that idea. Precisely the same experience has been related to me by travellers who have subsequently visited the country, and I cannot help feeling that the worst of debates like this in the House, of which no one would complain on other grounds, is that they infallibly result in bolstering up that belief. I believe myself that the more plainly we repudiate it, and the more those responsible for the Government make it clear that under no circumstances will this country intervene actively, and take isolated action in the case of Macedonia, the more humane will be our conduct from the point of view of the people concerned. As to the three policies I have mentioned, I regard the idea of separate action on our part as outside the range of practical politics. We have far too many commitments on hand already to justify us in embarking on a crusade in which we have no direct national interest, and there is the further consideration which I think is rather lost sight of in these debates, namely, that we cannot possibly adopt a policy of that kind without running the risk of widespread disturbance of peace in the East, the consequences of which will principally affect, not ourselves, but Austria and Russia. As for the policy of washing our hands altogether of all that goes on in Macedonia, if we merely consulted our selfish interest, I think there would be a good deal to be said in favour of that policy, but I should regret its adoption for two reasons. In the first place, we have undoubtedly a responsibility under the Berlin Treaty—a responsibility which I think has been greatly exaggerated. But it is a real one, and I should be loth to repudiate it. The second reason why I should regret the adoption of such a policy is that I am not prepared to admit that the Mürzsteg Programme has been a failure. As a matter of fact every item of that programme has been put into execution, and there is not, I think, a single material criticism which was directed against it, when it was first introduced, by friends of the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion which has not been met and remedied. I remember that one of the complaints made was that the tenure of the Inspector-General was limited to two years. The tenure of the Inspector-General has been since prolonged, and, practically as everyone knows, he is irremovable except with the consent of the Powers. "Oh," it was said, "the European control ought to be more sub - divided, instead of being vested exclusively in the hands of Austria and Russia, who are supposed to be animated by reactionary views." There is not a single great European Power which has not been admitted to a substantial share in that control. It was suggested that the control could not be effective so long as it did not extend to the sphere of finance. Now the whole of the finances of Macedonia are placed under the effective control of the Financial Commission. They have absolute control over both expenditure and the raising of revenue. [An HON. MEMBER: Not the amount.] My recollection is that every item in the Budget has to receive the preliminary approval of the Financial Commission. The real gist of the complaint that the Murzsteg scheme has been a failure arises from the solitary fact that it has not been successful in putting an end to crime and outrage in Macedonia. That was the main complaint of the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Motion. They related that there had been 10,000 murders in the course of the last four years. That is a horrible and shocking state of things that we should all like to see put an end to at the earliest moment, but I remember that five years ago when I was first called upon to take part in these debates in this House we were constantly assured that these murders and atrocities were the result of Turkish barbarity and—with a strange oblivion of events in Eastern Roumelia and Odessa—that such occurrences were impossible except under Moslem rule. We now have it not only stated in the Blue-books, but admitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself in reply to a deputation last year, that to a considerable extent, indeed so far as the majority of the outrages are concerned, they are not due to the action of the Turks, but to the action of the various Christian communities, and that they have their origin not in a common desire on the part of there communities to get rid of a common oppressor in the shape of the Turkish Government, but in the intense anxiety of each that, if ever Turkish rule disappears, not one of them shall be exposed to the tender mercies of the other. I know it is said that the Turkish Government do not object to these outrages, and that if they do not actively connive, they take no active steps to stop them. The hon. Member for Ripon has published his opinion that so far as the Inspector-General is concerned he is sincerely anxious to put down the operations of the bands—and in any case it hardly lies in the mouth of those who say that the Turkish Government cannot be trusted to put down disturbances with out cruelty, to complain that it does not act. For my own part, I deeply deplore this state of things. I deeply deplore the fact that the Turkish Government does not seem to recognise that it is to its own interest to act with the European gendarmerie with a view to putting a stop to it. So far as I under stand it, and I think I can speak on behalf of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit on these benches, I entirely approve of the policy with regard to the police put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. Well, if we are not to adopt isolated action, and if we are not to wash our hands of all responsibility, then it seems to me that there is only one practical alternative, and that is that we should remain in the Concert and accept the inevitable limitations if such a position; that we should recognise that progress, if progress there be, must be slow; and that our suggestions should be such as have a reasonable chance of being adopted. There is one suggestion I should like earnestly to press on the right hon. Gentleman, which if not apparently important, I believe is very important. It has already been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I observe that Baron Aehrenthal, in his speech the other day, pointed out that one cause of the continued disturbances in Macedonia was the hope held out to the various nationalities under the Murzsteg programme of an eventual rearrangement of the administrative areas according to the distribution of the various nationalities. I always thought that that particular provision in the Murzsteg programme was a very debatable one, and might lead to disastrous consequences, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will definitely press for its abandonment altogether. I cannot help thinking that when the time arrives to which the authors of the Murzsteg looked forward when they suggested that eventual redistribution of areas, a far better solution would be that which was adopted in its Lebanon, where instead of grouping the various nationalities in homogeneous areas we prevented the ascendancy of any by arranging for the equal representation of each on the local administrative councils. As regards the proposal for the reform of the Judiciary, we do not know its character, whether it is confined to the appointment of inspectors, or extends to the association of European assessors with the Turkish Judges. I do not think that the mere appointment of inspectors would be of very much use. The only other point is the proposal made in regard to the police. I understand that two suggestions were made by the right hon. Gentleman. The first was that executive authority should be given to the officers of the police, and that flying columns of gendarmerie should be organised in order to deal with the bands. I imagine that the effectiveness of such a policy will depend very largely on its details, and that it will lead to very little practical results if the gendarmerie are to act separately in water-tight compartments under their own officers in the various spheres allotted to the different Powers. I observe that the hon. Member for Ripon finds an analogy in the organisation of gendarmerie columns in Bosnia during the Austrian occupation; but I would point out that in Bosnia the control of the military and of the police were in the same hands, and that the circumstances of Macedonia present a much closer analogy to those which existed in the Lebanon where one of the Powers entered that country with the assent and mandate of all the other Powers with 6,000 troops for its pacification. I do not think that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman would stand much chance of success unless the gendarmerie acted in close touch with the Regular Army if not under the orders of the military authorities. The second suggestion is that the Turkish Government should reduce the number of regular forces in Macedonia while at the same time there should be a substantial increase in the numbers of the gendarmerie. I am not sure that it is reasonable to expect the Turks to reduce their regular forces until the additional gendarmerie at provided. It must be remembered that the Bulgarian Army against the possibility of invasion by which the Turkish troops are concentrated in Macedonia, amounts to three or four times, on mobilisation, the number of the Turkish garrison. When Lord Lansdowne suggested a reduction of the Turkish troops in order to set free money for reforms in Macedonia he insisted that Bulgaria should be asked to reduce its army in a corresponding degree, or that failing that, the Powers should give a collective guarantee that Bulgaria should not be permitted to invade Turkish territory during the period when the reforms were being carried out. As regards the substitution of gendarmerie for regulars it must be remembered that the gendarmerie and the army perform quite different functions, and that it will take some time to raise the additional force. What are the prospects of securing the necessary recruits for the gendarmerie? I observe that General Georgis is pessimistic on that point, and the 4,000 gendarmerie already enlisted might do much if they were relieved of civilian duties such as the collection of tithes and the supervision of monopolies. The criticisms which I have offered are largely criticisms of detail, but it is impossible until we know more to judge how far the non-success of the Government's policy is due to the apathy of the other Powers in the Concert or to a want of elaboration in the details of that policy itself. I have no fault to find with the policy advocated in the Resolution, but I should view with very considerable alarm the withdrawal, either temporary or permanent, of Great Britain from the Concert of Europe, because I believe that, however disappointing the results of that Concert have been, it is certainly the most effective instrument which has yet been devised for introducing any reform at all, and the consequences of disappointing the people of these Balkan States who have so long been invited to place their hopes on the united action of Europe may be serious indeed.

MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)

said that not for the first time he had listened with pleasure to the speech of the noble Lord, and to his eloquence, ability, and courtesy towards his interruptors. But on the present occasion he must express as profound disagreement with the noble Lord's main conclusions as one rational human being could entertain for another. He found in the noble Lord's speech a profound difference in tone and temper from the speech on a similar subject recently made by Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords. It seemed to him that in the noble Lord's utterances there was a definite and rather scornful repudiation of the whole system which Lord Lansdowne had carried out with success.


said he had expressly stated that he concurred in the views put forward by Lord Lansdowne.


said that the noble Lord had declared that the one policy that seemed incredible was the policy of putting forward large and somewhat vague propositions for reform by one of the Powers which might be repudiated by the other Powers, but which might excite some hopes in the revolutionists.


said that what he had stated was they should not be put forward before it was understood that they were likely to be accepted.


said that even with that qualification he could not help saying that Lord Lansdowne had given some encouragement to those who were desirous of seeing some reforms accomplished when his appeal was being made.


said that Lord Lansdowne's suggestions were almost all accepted.


said that Lord Lansdowne suggested to the Turkish Government in a public utterance that there should be a Christian Governor.


said that what Lord Lansdowne had put forward was one of two alternatives; the appointment of a Governor, or the appointment of a Commission with executive powers; but Lord Lansdowne had expressed no preference for the former.


said that in the short time at their disposal he did not want to enter into a controversy across the Table with the noble Lord as to what things had been done in the past. They had seen with pride that Lord Lansdowne was leading the Concert of Europe, and if Lord Lansdowne's programme put forward in public utterances, and not in the secret utterances of diplomacy, had now been in active operation in Macedonia, he and his friends would have been perfectly content, and this Resolution would never have been proposed. After all, what were his friends, whose speeches were characterised by moderation, fairness, and sanity, pressing for in this debate? They did not ask that the Turks should be driven bag and baggage out of Europe, but were simply attempting to realise what he honestly believed would have been realised at the present moment if Lord Lansdowne had retained the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The noble Lord had said that the Mürzsteg programme was a good programme, and that practically its best points had been carried out; but those who had taken an interest in this question were unable to endorse that opinion. He had only intervened in the debate because he thought that the House might be interested to hear as shortly as possible what had been the experience of one who had got behind the screen which at present sheltered Macedonia from Europe, and sheltered the knowledge of Eurpoe from Macedonia. There was great divergence between the statements made in high diplomatic circles regarding Macedonia, and the actual condition of that unfortunate country. In this connection he would like to pay a special tribute to the work of the correspondents of The Times in all the Balkans and especially in Macedonia. One of these correspondents had visited the heart of the disturbed district, and had given entirely reliable and trustworthy information. And yet the speeches of the noble Lord, who was no doubt sincere in this matter, showed that the true facts of the case were not really known. They were told by correspondents from every capital in Europe that not only had the Mürzsteg programme been deliberately torn up by the action of an interested Power, but that it had failed in the very work which it was intended to do. He believed he was right in saying that the Minister for Foreign Affairs acknowledged that, apart from the new situation created, it was time to realise that four years of reform under that programme had not been much better than years of insurrection. The Mürzsteg programme in effectual action had been confined to the introduction of the gendarmerie and the establishment of the International Commission. The gendarmerie had never in the least degree approached the proposals contained in the Mürzsteg programme. The object of the plan was a mixed gendarmerie, with European officers and European non-commissioned officers engaged in the work of maintaining public peace and order in Macedonia, but that had never been carried out. He had visited these districts through the kindly hospitality of the International soldiery, many of whom with numbers of officers were at the present time scattered over the disturbed district. One and all they were in a condition of disgust and despair. As to the condition of what was called reform, there was no alteration, and in the vilayets of Monestir and other places the Mürzsteg programme which the noble Lord thought had been carried out had not been put into effect. What was going on had been described as "the European comedy," but it was not a comedy it was a farce, and it more nearly approached a tragic farce than anything that he had any knowledge of. The officers were perpetually in the presence of murder, outrage, and injustice. The noble Lord seemed to suggest that the warfare of the rival Christian bands was responsible for what was going on, and in Austria the other day it was stated by an official that the killing of Turks had practically ceased; but the Minister who made that statement had been misinformed on the subject, and if he would take the trouble to inquire of his own Austrian officers he would hear a different description. It was perfectly true, and they had always deplored it, that some of the most unfortunate conditions prevailing in this unfortunate country were due to the rivalry, as they thought largely encouraged by the third article of the programme and connived at without a shadow of doubt by the central Turkish Government, of these bands who wished to convert their neighbouring Christian fellow citizens to various forms of religion. But when he asked the officers whether the elimination of these rival Christian bands by strong influence applied at Belgrade, Sofia, and Athens would render the I country entirely peaceable, they one and all denied it. They said that although the bands greatly aggravated the condition of misery of the unfortunate population, yet in some respects they had done good, and they ascribed to their existence the comparative immunity in some instances from cases of outrage and abduction of women because those who were Turkish subjects found that the bands knew how to take vengeance upon them. Therefore there was a general desire that the Foreign Secretary should tell them that some measures would be taken, because the elimination of the rival Christian bands would not be in the least degree satisfactory without the very definite establishment of order and good government and some elemental rights of justice as between Christian and Mahomedan The other point of the Mürzsteg programme, which it had been attempted to carry out, was the International Commission, and he could not believe and he should not believe it unless he heard it from his own mouth that Lord Lansdowne ever intended that International Commission to be established at Salonika, without determining to follow up what he had asked all Europe to join with him in pressing and without some executive control. The Commission had done more harm than good by its impotence. Up to a few years ago an Italian Officer told him that where there were European travellers or where European officers were established, the Turks could not commit outrages with impunity, but he said their presence there had made that state of things cease, because outrages were committed with perfect impunity in their very presence and at their very doors. While he was lunching with one officer there came the news of one murder and at dinner time there came the news of another. A British officer in Constantinople told him that the idea that Christians and Europeans could not command Mahomedans was perfectly absurd, and the suggestion of a flying column came from the very remarkable man who was leader of the English section in Monastir. Many of the officers I were in despair and disgusted with their impotence and intended either to give up the work at present or in the immediate future, and one of them said to him "I will be no longer an actor in the European comedy." Meanwhile, they were waiting for the scheme of judicial reforms of which the House had no information at the present time. The fundamental impression he had of the country was that the taxation was iniquitous, as also was the system of giving over a large subject population who were unarmed into the complete control of a small dominant population who were armed. That system remained quite independent of the work of the Commission, with most deplorable results. Referring to the new railway programme, the hon. Member said it was quite true that those whom they imperfectly represented in this House, the committees in England which contained men who had given their lives to the study of these questions, were entirely prepared to accept any development of railways in the Balkans, but when they were dealing with a promise of a survey of a railway of singular engineering difficulty, which would take five years in construction, followed by a railway of very much more difficulty, that to San Geovanni, which would take twelve years, they were outside the world of practical polities. In regard to the aid to be given by these means for the amelioration of the condition of the people of these districts, a new situation had been created, which was already being taken advantage of by the Turk, who had already asked that the gendarmerie should only continue on their taking service under the Turkish Government, which would mean their disbandment in twenty-four hours, and that the reform programme should be as far as possible curtailed. There was a strained interest in the whole of the Near East with regard to this question, and they were waiting with profoundest interest for the speech of his right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary. In connection with the Balkans, the Balkan Committee regarded the action of Lord Lansdowne with gratitude and satisfaction, but they looked upon the history of the past two years with profoundest disquietude, and that disquietude was reflected throughout the whole of the Near East. At Salonika, Sofia, and Constantinople, they could not understand the comparative cessation of action on the advent of a Liberal Government to power in England. During these last two years at least 5,000 of the population had been done to death, women had suffered indignities worse than death, and children had been burnt alive. Whole villages had been destroyed, and large sections of the land had passed out of cultivation. There had been an enormous exodus of the male population to America. And what was more serious than all these things, serious as they were, was that the people who were murdered and who were still being murdered, week by week were men who were not rebels, but chance casual representative members of the peasantry who happened to live in the villages which came under the influence of the devastation of one of the Christian bands, or the rival devastation of the Sultan's troops. There was no security for the civil rights of life and property. Everybody knew that where the elementary right of protection for life and property did not exist the people were seized with fury or despair; the fury which made them take to the hills and become rebels, or the despair which brooded like a black cloud over a great many of these villages to-day. If this would make for European peace, as the noble Lord would have them believe, they might be prepared to accept it—if it was a condition of stable equilibrium. But it was not a condition of stable equilibrium, and if it continued it could only terminate in one way. There had been repeated attempts to neglect a condition of things very similar to this under the idea that the re-opening of the question would lead to European war or insurrection, and in every case it had resulted in insurrection and European war. Even now he had no doubt, from the general information he had received that the men scattered abuot the western quarters of Servia and the back streets of Salonika were saying at the present time as they had said four years ago: "There is only the old inquiry. Is it not better to have an end with horrors than horrors without end?" They made no kind of impeachment of the Foreign Secretary. It was unnecessary, almost impertinent, to make such a statement in this House. They did not know his difficulties in connection with the methods of diplomacy, though they knew they were many and great. Nobody could know them. But what they feared was lest the slow and steady influence of the diplomatic world which thought it best that nothing should be done, and of the official world which thought nothing was worth doing, should check or stifle efforts at reform. A Foreign Minister of one of the countries concerned in this matter, and who wanted support, remarked with a covert sneer that England was now settling down to domestic problems. It sounded kind, but what was really meant by that Minister was that he was no longer being worried by the right hon. Gentleman as Lord Lansdowne had worried him. What he meant was that England was become interested in matters of domestic policy and was ceasing to engage in high politics. If they could restore, as Lord Lansdowne had said, the experiment in reform there would be much to be said for it. The Turks, as everybody knew, were an agreeable and kindly people in ordinary affairs, and if these people could have been left alone to make their own terms with the Turks their condition might have been better; but they were not. The House had often been told that things which seemed to them to be profoundly illiberal had to be done on the ground that continuity of foreign policy should be ensured. They now respectfully asked that when a Conservative Minister had set out on a Liberal foreign policy a Liberal Foreign Minister should pledge himself that continuity should follow. The policy started by the late Government could not now be truncated. The honour and prestige of the country were concerned. The people of Bulgaria thought that the people of England were not only in the Concert but had been leading it. And they regarded the present position as an insult—as a slap in the face for England. They asked for no more than a continuance of the Lansdowne policy, for an effective policing of the disturbed regions by a gendarmerie in which the European officers were no longer made the laughingstock of the world, but were given some effective control, with control of the financial and judicial arrangements given to the International Commission now sitting in Salonika. They did not believe the resources of the British Empire were so scanty as some Imperialists would have them believe. Lord Lansdowne had been quite willing to avail himself of what even now was still believed to be the strong co-operation in the way of a suggested appeal through Governments, who wished to do nothing but who had large Slav populations, to those Slav populations behind them who were profoundly interested in the Slavs of Macedonia. He believed we had an asset in that profound friendship, trust, and confidence in England which existed at the present time in some of the Balkan States, where, in strange and sometimes pathetic fashion, Englishmen were shown that the people were still ready to believe that the England of Gladstone was not yet dead. At the present time we had alliances and understandings which Lord Lansdowne had not when he first started this policy, and we had at our back the greatest instrument of destruction the world had ever seen. It was with these weapons that he asked that continuity should be observed.


My hon. friend who has just sat down has spoken with a force and feeling and with an impressive sincerity of manner of the misery he has seen during his recent visit to Macedonia. I will not for one moment detract from the sombre force with which he painted for the House the situation as he saw it. Nor will I detract for one moment from his suggestion that if that situation is continued worse consequences than we have yet known must come from it. But I do think that when he places upon the present Government, or rather upon me personally, the heavy load of the responsibility for the situation during the last two years he is unjust. We have pursued the policy of Lord Lansdowne. My hon. friend said that if Lord Lansdowne had been in office during the last two years he would have realised results which we have failed to secure. How can my hon. friend prove a statement, of that kind?


I said it was only an opinion. I did not make it as an assertion.


My hon. friend declared with emphasis that Lord Lansdowne was earnest and strenuous in the matter of Macedonian reform. Does it not occur to him that it is just possible that we, who succeeded Lord Lansdowne, might fail in obtaining those particular results which Lord Lansdowne himself was unable to achieve? The noble Lord did achieve the maximum which could be achieved with the consent of the other Powers, working through the Concert. What was the situation upon which we entered? It was this. The effort which had been made under Lord Lansdowne, working through the Concert, and obtaining the maximum results which, as I have said, had been obtained by his policy, was exhausted, and we took up the situation at that very moment. The naval demonstration which had been originated when Lord Lansdowne was in office was in progress for the purpose of securing the establishment of the Financial Commission, and when that demonstration came to an end it left the Concert, not stimulated to further efforts, but exhausted by the effort it had made. The naval demonstration was not a very whole-hearted affair. The utmost was obtained from it that could be obtained. But when that one result was obtained from it it would have been impossible for Lord Lansdowne, or any one else, to have strung the Concert up to the pitch of making another effort for a considerable period of time. That was the moment when we came into office. But that was not all. Not only was that the condition of the Concert, but before the Financial Commission had been obtained the hope had been held out by Lord Lansdowne that if the Commission were granted we should agree to a 3 per cent. increase in the Turkish Customs. My position for the first months, consequently, was this. The Turkish Government claimed as a right, having granted the Financial Commission, that we should carry out the engagement, as they alleged it to be, to concede the 3 per cent. increase in the duties, and some of the other Powers came to us pointing out that if we did not concede the increase the whole scheme of financing the reforms in Macedonia would be endangered. I was not prepared to accept the statement that Lord Lansdowne's engagement had been as absolute as it was said it was. But that was the plea advanced by the Turkish Government, and that was the pressure put upon me by some of the Powers in the Concert. It seemed to me that there were further conditions with regard to Macedonia to be stipulated for before we conceded that increase. That position I assumed and maintained for many months under considerable pressure both from the Turkish Government on the one side and from some of the Powers of the Concert on the other side. So long as that situation existed—so long as we did not give way on the 3 per cent. increase, it was absolutely futile to put forward any other proposal to the other Powers. Their answers would have been, had we asked them at any moment to press further proposals forward: "Concede the 3 per cent. increase first, or else, so far from getting any further proposals, the measure already agreed upon will be endangered." That was our position for many months It was not till the summer of last year that the 3 per. cent. on the Customs duties was arranged. During the whole of that time we had taken the initiative with regard to the conditions of Macedonian reform. During the whole of that time we had borne the burden and the heat of the day. Not until we could secure certain further conditions with regard to Macedonian reform, including, by the way, for the Financial Commission an effective control of the Civil Budget, was the 3 per cent. increase to be conceded. Directly that was arranged we began to show our interest in the question of judicial reforms; and, finding that Austria and Russia were willing to put forward a scheme of judicial reforms, we did one of the things Lord Lansdowne always said he was willing to do—we left the initiative to them provided they were prepared to propose something practical. That was always one branch of Lord Landowne's policy. In order to secure union in the Concert he was prepared to leave it to them to put forward reforms if they were willing, but reserving the right to make any other proposals he thought fit. We left the initiative to Austria and Russia with regard to judicial reforms, although we did take in the discussion of these reforms an active part in Constantinople to insure that the reforms should be proposed on a footing likely to be effective and satisfactory. We did not stop there. While the judicial reform proposals were being elaborated, crimes of violence and outrage in Macedonia were increasing. The greater proportion of them—not the whole—were committed by bands of rival nationalities upon each other. The British Ambassador at Constantinople last summer, about the time that I received a deputation at the Foriegn Office on the subject, pressed on the Sultan earnestly that he should concentrate his efforts upon the increased evil done by these bands in Macedonia, and that he should use the instrument which Europe had put ready to his hand—the gendarmerie with the European officers—to clear the country, of these bands. The proposal was received well enough, but nothing came of it and we then went on to take the initiative in putting the proposal that the gendarmerie should be increased, that mobile columns should be formed, and that the European officers should be given executive control. We have taken the initiative in making that proposal. The noble Lord warned me of the danger of putting forward proposals without having made sure that the other Powers were ready to accept them. I agree with what my noble friend has said, that Lord Lansdowne was not bound by any limitation of that kind. I have been constantly criticised by my noble friend's speech for not having secured what Lord Lansdowne had put forward but failed to secure. The situation in Macedonia in our opinion was so bad, and what is even more, the prospect of that situation was so bad, that it was absolutely necessary that some proposal likely to be effective in touching the real evil in Macedonia—the crimes of violence by bands—should be put forward without further delay, and so we put it forward. That is, in brief, the history of our action in the last two years. Can any one point to the action of any Power who has done more or any Power who has done so much? What opportunity have we missed for putting forward any proposal that the other Powers were likely to accept? Not one. If that be so, then I maintain that there is no ground for complaint that we have not been alive to the honourable obligations of this country. We have not only within the last two years, but before that, borne our share and more of the responsibility of the Treaty of Berlin, and borne it without counting the cost to ourselves either in political interest or commercial advantage. And when you ask the British Government to justify the action of the Concert, I will ask hon. Members to bear in mind that if you are a member of a Concert you do not recommend yourselves to your colleagues, you do not increase your influence with them, by boasting of your own action within the Concert. It seems to me that too often, when we are criticised for not being active enough, those who criticise us desire that we should demonstrate publicly that but for us and our action nothing would have been done at all. Even if that were true, it would diminish your influence if you made a boast of it. My hon. friend who seconded the Motion sketched out a policy of action within the Concert. I admit his sincerity in sketching out that policy; but I would ask anyone whether the policy he sketched out did not show how very difficult it is to adjust a policy within the Concert such as he described. Because the policy which he adumbrated was one of buying off one Power, ignoring another, and making special allowances to the third. How can you suppose that the Concert would remain a useful instrument if you adopt that plan? On one point I should like to be quite clear. It is constantly suggested in this place that we have to prove our earnestness to the Powers by giving them to understand that a disagreeable consequence will follow if what we consider necessary is not done. My hon. friend said that we had too great a reputation for being attached to peace. Ought we to go so far as to say that if we cannot get our way in the Concert we are prepared to precipitate a catastrophe? Does anybody suggest that we should give the other Powers to understand that if they will not do what we think necessary in the question we are prepared to take separate action ourselves? If so, no doubt you have a formidable lever, but are you prepared to accept the consequence? I should like to be quite clear on this point. I do not believe separate action by this country—isolated action, breaking away from the Concert—would be effective in settling the question of Macedonia, and I do believe that it would plunge us, to begin with, and others after us, into difficulties of which nobody can foresee the end. You may easily, by separate action, set loose forces the consequences of which would be entirely beyond your own control, because this is not as simple a problem as, for instance, the Bulgarian problem was years ago. It is not a question now of liberating a unit, setting it free to develop itself. Macedonia is not a unit—it is a geographical expression. The very statements made by those who have brought this Motion before the House, as to the mischiefs done by the bands against each other, are an admission that the problem you have to deal with is not one of liberation, but one of securing better government under exceedingly difficult circumstances. What you have to provide for in Macedonia is not a unit which is in a position to govern and develop itself, and become a homogeneous unit if it has liberty—what you have to do is to arrange some system under which the different sections of the population shall be saved from each other. That is an exceedingly complicated problem. Unless you are going to establish some kind of order under such exceedingly difficult conditions, it is not enough to take separate action—it will throw the whole thing into confusion. I am convinced of this—that if we were to take separate action in the Macedonian question, separate action, which means forcible action, resorting to force ourselves, we might begin with the Macedonian question, but nobody can say with what question such action as that might end. Therefore I rule separate action out of the question, both because of the consequences it might have and because it could not be effective. If that be so, what ought our policy to be inside the Concert? I should like it to be recognised a little more than it is—I only say this in passing for a reason I will explain—that the Financial Commission and the gendarmerie have done more good in the country than they are credited with. The good they have done is more than counterbalanced by the other evils which have arisen since they were first asked for—that I admit. I do not wish to qualify that in any way. But the Financial Commission has improved the collection of the finances, it has improved the drawing up of the Budget, and the gendarmerie has improved the detection and the suppression of ordinary crime. I should like that to be recognised, because when you have men like Mr. Graves on the Financial Commission, and Colonel Bonham in the gendarmerie, I think it is only fair that in their own country there should be recognition that the work they are doing is not entirely thrown away, and credit should be given to their work. And, of course, I trust that other foreign officers and representatives on the Financial Commission who belong to other countries find the same recognition of their good work amongst their own people. But I admit that all the good that can be done by the presence of those people is outweighed by the continuance of disorder and insecurity and the kind of violence of which we have heard. For the Bulgarian and Servian Governments to do all in their power to suppress the formation of bands outside Macedonia, that pressure which has been exercised by ourselves and other Powers, must, in my opinion, continue to be exercised whenever there is occasion. It is exceedingly difficult to drive that pressure home, because each Government in turn says that it is doing its best to prevent bands forming in its own territory and crossing into other countries, and points, each in turn, with some degree of truth, to the fact that the outrages credited to its own nationality in Macedonia are in retaliation for others committed on some previous occasion. All I can say is this, that our sympathy with the small nationalities remains undiminished, but the surest way for any of those nationalities to retain the sympathy of this country is to do its utmost within its own territory to restrain and prevent the formation of these bands which cross over into Macedonia. And, even if all these Governments did their best, if they did all in their power to discourage the formation of bands and the passage of bands from their own territory into Macedonia, even so the question would be far from solved, because what is absolutely necessary is that in Macedonia itself there should be vigorous, effective, and impartial action by the authorities in the country. Till you have that you cannot be successful. I have spoken hitherto largely of our own action within the Concert. I now come to what has been called the new situation, which has been developed in the Concert generally by recent events. The contemplation of that situation is perhaps the most important subject we have before us at the present moment. Everyone who has read the Press in the last fortnight will be aware that a new situation has arisen from the railway project which has lately received an Iradé from the Sultan. Our attitude towards these railway projects taken as railway projects by themselves is, and should be, one of benevolent neutrality. Some of them are rival schemes. I see no reason why we should be entangled in support of one rival railway scheme as against another rival railway scheme; nor do I see why we should take in hand to oppose one in order to favour another. We are favourable to any railway development which is likely to promote general trade and develop the country, and, therefore, so far as that particular point is concerned, taken by itself and on its merits, I do not see that we are very greatly concerned. But this latest railway project, launched as it was on its present stage at a very critical moment in the history of Macedonian reforms, has undoubtedly been the occasion of very marked comment, not only in this country, but wherever an interest is taken in Macedonian reforms. That this special moment should be chosen for promoting a large railway scheme which requires the Sultan's consent was sure to excite apprehension lest individual Powers within the Concert should be turning their attention to objects specially adapted to their interests, which they have a perfect right to do, but lest they should be doing it at the expense of Macedonian reform. Any impression of that kind must produce a most unfortunate effect on public opinion generally in the Balkans, at Constantinople, and on the Concert itself. I should regret exceedingly that any such impression should gain ground, because I wish to see the Concert maintained for Macedonian reforms. Besides that, it is a guarantee for peace. Surely the comments in the Press in the last fortnight have made it clear how very slight a thing may put the Macedonian question on one side, and raise other questions in its place. In discussing the Macedonian question you are never far from the Turkish question. The Turkish question has more than once led to a European war. As long as the Concert exists you have a certain guarantee that that question will not lead to war at the present time; but if the Concert disappears you can no longer feel the certainty you have to-day, that the different Powers interested in the Near East will long continue to keep in touch with each other. Once they lose touch with each other you cannot tell what misunderstandings may creep in between them nor to what extent those misunderstandings may go on. It would be most unfortunate if individual Powers in the Concert were to become more concerned with their relations to each other than they were with the problem of Macedonian reform. That would change the Concert from an instrument of Macedonian reform, which to a certain extent it has been, and which I trust and believe it still will be, into a diplomatic manœuvreing ground. So I would ask is the apprehension that the mere launching of this or another railway scheme has really affected the Concert adversely well-founded? I trust not, but I do feel that it is incumbent on the Powers in the Concert, after all that has passed, to make it clear that there is no ground for such an apprehension; and I welcome the signs which we have seen lately that the Powers are more impressed than ever with the bad state of things in Macedonia and the gravity of the situation. In Baron d'Aehrenthal's speech the other day, though there may not have been much light as to the remedies to be applied in Macedonia, there was no glossing over the seriousness of the situation. In fact, in the communications from the other Powers in the last fortnight there has been an emphasis laid by them on the serious state of things in Macedonia which has been more emphatic and more impressive than anything we have had from some of them before. There is ample reason for this. The outrages in Macedonia, compared with the corresponding period of last year, have increased, and if they have increased at this period of the year the prospect is bad indeed when the spring and summer comes. Though I welcome the fact that the Powers are disposed to emphasise the seriousness of the situation—to emphasise the danger is only to emphasise the need of a remedy. It does not take us any further that the Powers should be in agreement that the situation is very bad unless the admission that the situation is very bad is to be followed by practical suggestions for its improvement. Now judicial reforms are very desirable, but they will not pacify the country and they do not touch the immediate evil of the bands. I was asked in what condition they were at the present moment. For a long time we have been ready to sign the Note as to judicial reforms before the other Powers were agreed to sign it. But there has been a hesitation to sign the Note, arising, I believe, from the conviction that the increasing evils in Macedonia are not those which will be directly affected by judicial reforms even if carried out, and that therefore they are a reform which, while meeting with opposition at Constantinople, will not be effectual in pacifying the country. Therefore, although desirable, and an object to be pursued, they would not by themselves, unless accompanied by some different measures, effect the result which we desire. But then the Powers are pressing for a renewal of the mandates of the Financial Commission and the civil agents. Of course, that ought to go without saying. The renewal of the mandates is in effect a condition necessary to the carrying out of the conditions of the 3 per cent. increase of Customs. If these are to be refused, those conditions are ripped up, but even when mandates are renewed, you are only continuing the present state of things, and not making an advance. Then as to the gendarmerie proposal which we have made. The Powers have replied to the proposal, not all in the same terms, but some of them, at any rate, considering it to be impracticable or inopportune; and to others, of course, the proposal must be inopportune which does not commend itself to the whole of the Powers. I do not believe that the proposal will be impracticable provided that it has the goodwill of the Turkish authorities in Macedonia; and whether it has or not depends on the earnestness and union of the Concert in pressing it on the consideration of the Turkish Government. I believe that no proposal could be more in the interests of the Sultan himself. There is the instrument ready to his hand with which the country can be pacified; and I cannot conceive any derogation to his prestige, dignity, or authority in consenting to make use of a gendarmerie under European officers. I am asked whether the proposal has dropped. Of course, we are not going to press that, or any other proposal, against the opposition of other Powers in the Concert—we are not going to press it to the extent of separate action. But we are going to reply to the answers which we have had from the Powers; and when we have settled that reply, I should propose to lay before the House what our gendarmerie proposal actually was, what the reply from the Powers was, and what our answer to that reply has been. Meanwhile, the proposal remains, and can be taken up at any time. I should be delighted to see the proposal dropped on one condition—and that is that a better suggestion is made by any other Power. We have no amour propre in the matter ourselves. We are perfectly ready at any time to abandon any proposal of our own, if any of the Powers will come forward with any other proposal which will be likely to be more effective or as effective and which recommends itself more to the Concert as a whole, because I am convinced that the Macedonian problem can be settled if the Concert will only seriously take it in hand. Lord Lansdowne, as the noble Lord said, made more than one proposal, and, amongst others, he suggested a Turkish Governor. If a Turkish Governor were appointed for a fixed term of years—a man whose character and capacity were accepted and recognised by the Powers—and if he had a free hand and his position were secure, I believe that the whole Macedonian question might be solved. Under secure and effective administration such as that everything that has been done already—the Financial Commission and the gendarmerie—would have the fullest use made of it; the reforms that are already in existence would spring into full life and the country, I am convinced would be swept of bands and pacified.


Under what authority is that proposed? You say a Turkish governor in a position of independence or under some authority. Responsible to whom?


I said a Turkish Governor, whose character and capacity were recognised and accepted by the Powers—I mean a Governor appointed with the consent of the Powers, irremovable without their consent, and secure in his appointment for a term of years. I am not putting that forward as a definite proposal to which we ourselves are pledged. I am reviewing the general situation in Macedonia, and I say that our gendarmerie proposal is there for consideration, but that we keep an open mind for every suggestion or proposal which is likely, to commend itself to the Concert, and, among others, to this, which, if not entirely Lord Lansdowne's suggestion, at any rate, would be suggested to anyone who had read Lord Lansdowne's own suggestion with regard to the Governor. But if the administration is to be effective, there must be a large reduction of the Turkish troops at present kept in the country, throwing a tremendous financial strain upon it. Would a suggestion of that kind be so impossible as some people may suppose? I see no reason why a Turkish Governor appointed under satisfactory conditions should not be a Mussulman, provided his character and position and powers are satisfactory. I see no reason whatever, because this is no religious squabble. I see no reason why, under a satisfactory system of that kind, the foreign officers in Macedonia should not all be, as some of them are now, placed upon the Macedonian Budget, instead of being paid by the Powers direct. And, if there were to be a large reduction of the Turkish force, of course some security must be given that the reduction of the Turkish troops will not be taken advantage of by invasion from outside. It means that while any arrangement of that kind lasted, and as long as it was working satisfactorily, the Powers would have to give a collective guarantee that Turkish dominion should not be interfered with from outside—a guarantee of external security. The greatest weakness of Turkey itself is the continuance of the present Macedonian difficulty. Any settlement which would relieve the financial strain in Macedonia and which would pacify the country would bring Turkey political security and a guarantee of its integrity, neither of which can be too safe, either of which may be placed in danger if the Macedonian situation continues as it is. And under any satisfactory administration of that kind in Macedonia the provocation to rival bands to retaliate upon each other would cease. The risk of action by the bands would become so great under an effective use of troops or gendarmerie that they would not undertake it. And under any settlement of that sort, which was adopted for a term of years, the temptation to the different nationalities to press their own interests or to establish their own claims in Macedonia by violent action would be diminished, because they could no longer regard the Macedonian situation, as many of them do now, as incapable of solution. The danger to the European Concert at the present moment is not the danger from differences or quarrels between the Powers themselves. The danger to the Concert is not, I think, that the individual Powers who are in it are going to differ and fall out with each other, but I do think that the danger is that the Concert itself might perish for lack of vitality. The record of the last two years has been a record of comparative failure. Failure in itself is a most disintegrating force, and the Concert which has come into existence to secure Macedonian reform cannot, without peril to its existence, allow the years to go by and lie under the imputation of failure. Some degree, at any rate, of success is necessary to it in order to keep it together. The negotiations which must be consequent on our gendarmerie proposals will show what vitality the Concert has. It cannot prove its vitality by nagging and grinding away at small things which only irritate the Turks without doing any good. Small amendments of and tinkering at the Mürzsteg programme will not improve the situation. With things as they are in Macedonia anything which is less than a real remedy can be but little better than a farce. Both under Lord Lansdowne and for the last two years since the present Government has been in office Great Britain has been an active, loyal, earnest, and disinterested member of the Concert. But if good results are to follow from continuing that rôle, the work of the Concert must be directed to things which are not trivial or paper reforms, but which will be substantial and effective. We are rapidly ariving at that point when the Concert must either justify itself or stultify itself by its action. Macedonia, if it continues to be neglected, must sooner or later provoke a catastrophe. The situation can be remedied without precipitating a catastrophe, but it can only be by decided and united action on the part of the Powers themselves. Union in the Concert is not enough by itself. Union and determination must be combined, and neither should be sacrificed to the other; and we, for our part, shall continue in the Concert to do our utmost to secure that both union and determination are promoted.


I do not know whether, after the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, it is proposed to proceed to a division. ["No."] I should hope not. Under the circumstances, I can only say that if there had been a division I should have supported the right hon. Gentleman.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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