§ Mr. AUBREY HERBERT
The last two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken are not very easy Members to follow in this House, and much as their quarrel attracts me, I think the hon. Gentleman who spoke last will forgive me if I do not go into it now. If I gathered correctly what he said, there was a good deal in the first part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which I was in agreement. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the question of Albania. I wish to make my statement as general as possible for this reason, that during the last five months the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has never ceased to labour with unexampled patience to bring about peace, and it would be most unpatriotic and most ungrateful for any man now to add to his task. The House of Commons ought to feel very proud to have a Secretary of Foreign Affairs who, in circumstances of difficulty and complexity surpassing the history of any other generation, has not only had peace as his goal, but has never neglected when he had an oportunity to throw his influence into the scales of justice on behalf of small nationalities. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not agree with all I say, but let us agree upon certain things, if we can. We can agree that the war is over; that the Montenegrins and the Albanians are both gallant people; and that if Montenegro did not get what a number of Gentlemen on that side would have liked to see her have, Albania has lost a great deal more than she could afford to lose. I am not surprised that the Montenegrins wanted Scutari. When I was in Scutari I should have liked to have had it myself, and the Montenegrin is a much more rapacious being than I am, more rapacious than any Chancellor of the Exchequer, including the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, I know the Montenegrin people fairly well. I have friends amongst them. On one occasion I was arrested for murder in Montenegro, or to speak more accurately, I was arrested because of my supposed complicity with a whole series of murders, which I need not say, a 2299 prominent citizen had committed, and not myself. I bear the Montenegrins no grudge, because they treated me with at least the same courtesy as any murderer in this country would be treated. The Foreign Secretary the other day, speaking on the question of Albania, said that the same sympathy should be extended to the Albanians as had been extended to other people who were contending for their lives, for their language, for their liberty, and for their country. All of us who have been in that country very respectfully endorse his words. We who know the Albanians would like to see the same principle extended to Albania as has been extended to other countries of the Balkans. I should like to say a very few words upon the origin of all these evils and to draw the attention of the House to one fact, which to those who, like myself, have many friends among the Albanians and the Turks is a matter of the deepest regret. It is the quarrel between these two peoples which has led the way to the Balkan war, which has made the Balkan victories possible and almost easy, and which has destroyed Turkey and has halved Albania. The Albanians, who for the last four years have borne the heat and burden of the day, the Albanians who have taken the lion's part, not only are not going to have the lion's share but they are even themselves going to be despoiled. That people which since historic time have fought for its independence, that race that fought the Romans, that withstood Byzantium, that repelled the Slavs, and that in its eager desire for freedom pulled down, like Samson, the columns of the Turkish Empire in ruins on its own body, that race has not only lost hundreds of thousands of its people, not altogether as combatants, but has also lost the greater part of its country.
There is one reason which is very often given to show why this is not the injustice we believe it is. It is that the Albanians are a wild people and are centuries behind our time. If they are a wild people it is of their own choice that they are so, and a very fine choice I think it has been. Those mountaineers are not fools. They have been able to appreciate one solid fact, and that is that civilisation meant for them alien mastery and foreign lordship. The Albanian knew very well that with roads in came the foreigner, and with the telephone and telegraph and all the evidences of civilisation went 2300 his freedom. Therefore, until he had the opportunity for which he always waited of putting his own house in order, he preferred to keep to the savage fastnesses of his hills, constantly unchallenged and perpetually unchanged. If he is centuries behind us, he does keep some of the very splendid qualities that belong to the times that are long past. There are parts of Albania where, if you are protecting a woman or a child, you can ride unarmed when you could not pass with 500 armed men. You can rely upon him when an Albanian has given you his word; you can repose confidence in his honour as you would in the good faith of an English officer. It is because all those facts are so little known that the Albanian cause has been in the danger in which it has been. The reason for that is very simple, there have been more exciting events happening in the Balkans. You have seen the extraordinary phenomena of people waking from the sleep of ages, of kingdoms newborn, and of little nations who were asleep yesterday to-day stepping into the place that their forefathers had won for them.
All these amazing revelations of a long dormant nationality, and what seemed to be a corpse coming to life again, have struck the imagination of Europe, and Albania has passed forgotten, for the simple reason that there has never been any question whatsoever about Albanian nationality. You might as well discuss the existence of this House as Albanian nationality. While we have had the Bulgar unravelling his descent from that of the Greek, while we have had the Servian of the north groping back into history and disentangling his origin from the Serb, the Albanian has stood as the Albanian, as old as his hills and his origin certain since the beginning of historic time. These facts cannot be denied. It was Ismail Kemal who paid that the Albanians were the oldest race in Europe, though they were the youngest State. To that State, thanks to a great extent to England, Scutari has been given, but very little has been left. Where Albania had rocks and gorges and mountain torrents, they have been left her; but where rocks have been hewn into houses and cities, where gorges have been widened out into valleys, and the valleys become fertile plains, and where mountain torrents have been converted into rivers—those things have been stripped from her. Towns that are most Albanian and that 2301 she needs—like Ipek, like Dibra, which stands in the same relationship to Albania as Yorkshire does to England; or Prizrend, with its fertile plain and beautiful cypresses—have been taken from her. Not only have those lands which she needs been taken from Albania, and not only has the experiment of anew Albania been made mere difficult by taking them away, but they have been lost, not only to the country, but, I believe, to the inhabitants of those places. In spite of the passionate devotion the Albanian bears to his birthplace, I do not think that you can conceive the inhabitants of those places consenting to shelter under the same political roof with the people at whose hands their helpless women and children have suffered so terribly during the last five months. By reducing, by curtailing, and by mutilating Albania, you make that one thing that everybody most desires—that is, equilibrium and stability in the Balkans—very much harder to obtain.
Some decisions have been taken, but other decisions have yet to be taken. The present moment seems to me to be of the most supreme importance, because I believe that what is decided now is going to be the parent of great events, and the fruit of the decision will, I believe, be either definitely good or definitely bad. There are two immediate questions that have to be faced, one is the question of security and order, the other is the question of the Constitution. There is, further, the question of the frontiers, but I do not propose to deal with that this afternoon. With regard to order, all I will say is this: I believe at the present moment it is possible to make suggestions of a workable character which can be expanded or modified as may be necessary, and the suggestion I would make is to this: the immediate and the future dangers that I foresee are the incursions of bands from the countries which surround Albania. To prevent those incursions you want a gendarmerie with foreign officers, and you want foreign officers there, not only as a protection, but to bear witness and give testimony. With regard to Central Albania, the heart of what is left of the country, if it be possible, the best thing would be for the moment to leave that question alone. A certain system does exist there. Perhaps it is not entirely satisfactory, but at all events it holds good. For the moment it is workable, and the peace of Europe is not going to be endangered by minor troubles there. I have been lucky enough to see the work- 2302 ing of the gendarmerie under foreign officers in Macedonia, Crete, and various other places. They have worked very often with the most complete success. Sometimes that has not been the case, and I think there ought to be some machinery by which it would be easily possible to remove an officer who, for one reason or another, was incapable of getting on with the people.
The last question, and one on which I am only going to say a few words, is the question of the Constitution. It is a very difficult question, and it is also so delicate a question that I think the fewer references made to it the better it will be. All I should like to say about it is this: You here have a people, many of whom have fallen by the sword, and it will be very hard if you permit the remainder to fall into the hands of the usurer and the financier. Whatever the situation is, Albania under its Constitution should have the power of protecting the poor peasantry of the country. Old States and young States, free States, and protective States, usually come to one of these ends. As far as possible you should allow the new State of Albania to have economic liberty and freedom, and not become the football of Europe. If that is done, a good work will have been accomplished. If you really give that country a free, workable Constitution, and that Constitution is made without arrière pensée, then, perhaps, it will be possible to say that some apology has been made to civilisation for the horrors that have occurred in the last five months—an apology which will not come from the offender, but which, none the less, will be satisfactory. I thank the House very much for having listened to my remarks.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
I wish to say a few words in support of my hon. Friend's most eloquent appeal on behalf of Albania. I feel that Great Britain has a great and peculiar responsibility in this matter, as no one would suspect the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary of having any ulterior motive or of seeking anything but the nearest approach to justice for the Balkan peoples in any action which may be taken. The war now coming to an end has been a war in which Albania has lost terribly, not only in combatants, but also among the non-combatant population, and there is no doubt whatever that the inaction of the Western Powers has done much to allow that war to assume a barbarity which is 2303 exceptional even in the Balkans. I think it is a reproach to the civilisation of Western Europe that atrocities were hushed up which, if they had been fully disclosed, would have raised such a storm as the Allies could not possibly have ignored. The Allies, after all, are very sensitive to Western opinion, and such statements as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs made in this House, added to the fragmentary publication which appeared in the Press, led to belated steps being taken to check the outrages which were being perpetrated by the irregular forces. I regret that during the earlier stages of the war more was not done, but I gladly recognise that, during the conferences of the Ambassadors recently, under the Foreign Secretary's chairmanship, unwearying efforts have been made, especially by the Foreign Secretary himself, to find a peaceable solution, and that in that search they have not lost sight of the claims of persecuted minorities.
This settlement, if it is to be productive of lasting peace, must ensure sanctuaries, either religious or racial, for the outcasts. Some places where they can find the toleration which will not be obtained from the hostile majority. In connection with these new States, a new interpretation must be put on the phrase "Balkans for the Balkan people," and some place must be found for each people even if they have to move their homes, and make great sacrifices in order to lie under a now Government. The Turkish Moslems must gravitate to the shrunken Ottoman Empire. The ex-Archists must find their way to the New Bulgaria; the Patriarchists must find a home, either in Servia or in Greece. But this is not enough. There is an absolute necessity for a further sanctuary, which shall be racial rather than religious. It must be a place where the particular religion of the individual will not affect his liberties and rights. Albania is to be constituted this sanctuary. Some such security is absolutely necessary for the continued existence of those Albanian tribes, which are as different from the Slavs and Greeks as we are. They have no national test of religion by which you can single them out and say where their territory shall end, and, unless these sanctuaries for the minorities are of sufficient area and properly guaranteed, it would be better to have none at all, because then Europe would be compelled by common 2304 humanity to exact sufficient guarantees for those who will be condemned to live under a hostile Government. Unfortunately, public interest has been so much centred on the Scutari question that other important aspects of the Albanian problem are apt to be lost sight of.
It is not enough to create Albania. If the new State is not to be a curse to itself and to Europe at large, it must be self-supporting. The Northern parts of the Albanian Frontier have been so delimited as to leave about 1,000,000 Albanians in an area to the North-East of the new State, but excluded from it. The plains have been given to the allies, though they are inhabited by a majority of Albanians, and only the mountains and sterile rocks have been left to the new State. If the same policy is to be followed in the Southern part of Albania, I unhesitatingly say it would be better to have no Albania at all. Greece demands as a reward for her sacrifices in this war territory in Southern Albania, where the Albanian race is in an overwhelming majority. She claims territory which, if granted, would take the plains and leave the Albanians with the mountains and rocks of the same quality as they will have to inhabit in the North, and would leave the whole of Albania with a total population of only about 500,000 people. The Greek claim is supported by a misleading use of Turkish figures. The Turkish method of arriving at population has been to ignore nationality on the theory that all Turks are Turkish nationals. It has ignored nationality, and has classified the population merely according to their religions. The returns merely show that the people in Albania are Moslems, or that they are Christians, and the Greek claim assumes that every orthodox Christian you find in Southern Albania is Greek by nationality. Of course that is absurd and would involve the existence of no Albanian nationality. The Patriarchist Albanian is no more a Greek than the Moslem Albanian is a Turk, or than the British Roman Catholic is an Italian. By this method the Greeks have claimed a majority in Southern Albania, although in reality the population of Greek nationality is far out-numbered by the Albanians. The whole Albanian race only numbers 2,250,000, enough to form a strong and compact State, owing to their undying feeling of nationality; but if the Greek proposals are carried out, of these 2,250,000 only 500,000 will be found within the boundaries of the new State.
2305 4.0 P.M.
If these claims are allowed, the new Albania cannot possibly be self-supporting. The Greeks claim the important territory of Kortcha, which is inhabited almost entirely by those of Albanian stock. If the trade of this district, which is of great importance to Albania, is diverted to the Ægean ports instead of finding its natural and its present outlet on the Adriatic through Albania, the new State is condemned to economic disaster from its very birth. On the other hand, if Greece is content with that part of Southern Albania which stretches as far North as the Kalamas, including Janina and the fertile plains in the South, and, if South of the Great Lakes, the frontier of Albania is allowed to follow the line of Vistritza to the Greek frontier, the new State will have a population of about 900,000 Albanian inhabitants, and with careful government could attain to success and prosperity. No one grudges Greece the full reward for her victories, but this reward should be found rather in those parts of Macedonia which are inhabited by a majority of Greek race, than in that scanty remnant which is to be left as a nucleus of the Albanian race and which is largely inhabited by Albanians in no sense connected racially with the Greeks. To realise the importance of a sufficient Albania in area one must bear in mind that the present population of the mountains is only a fraction of what they will have to contain. After the cession of Nisch and Vranya to Servia, as a result of the Russo-Turkish war, 100,000 Albanians were dispossessed and driven over the frontier. The like process is certain to take place unless extraordinarily efficient guarantees are exacted. Balkan conquerors are not content with a mere political supremacy. They not only ask for State rights, but insist upon the expropriation of minorities as well. The private property and title deeds of the Albanians in the territory which is left outside this new frontier are likely to be no more respected under Servian-Montenegrin or Greek government than was the case with Nisch or Vranya; therefore, the mountains of Albania, in addition to their present inhabitants, will have to afford a refuge for a large proportion of those Albanian nationals who now inhabit a territory more than twice as large as the new State. It may be somewhat presumptuous for private Members, amid all the complications of the present European situation, to raise a question of this complexity. Our 2306 excuse must be that those of us who have seen with our own eyes the tangle of Balkan nationalities, must attach the most extreme importance to the carrying out of that automatic sorting arrangement for racial minorities which, if successful, will owe so much to the action of the Foreign Secretary. The whole future of the Balkans depends upon whether this solution, so simple in its outline and theory, can be worked out in all its immensely difficult details. I think we have fair grounds for hope. We know that Europe will do all in her power to find a solution. The Conference over which the right hon. Gentleman is presiding, which I believe is just beginning to meet, perhaps to discuss this very question, has shown that although Europe is an armed camp, pretexts for war are not being sought, but are being removed painfully and carefully by the most tireless and patient diplomacy. But it is possible for any organisation to withstand a great shock and yet to succumb to a running sore. A weak, uneconomic Albania, on the one hand driven to guerilla tactics against its Macedonian neighbours, and, on the other hand, by internal poverty and discontent and anarchy inviting continually the intervention of certain European Powers enormously concerned in the matter, would be a disastrous and fatal legacy of the Balkan War. I venture to ask the hon. Gentleman who is going to respond for the Foreign Office whether he can make some statement. I know that he cannot go into details, but I should like him to give us some hope that there is some prospect that this disaster of a weak Albania will be avoided in the settlement which is about to take place.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I am very glad this question has been raised. I find myself in very great agreement with a good deal that the hon. Member (Mr. A. Herbert) said. I have been associated perhaps more with the cause of Montenegro, but that does not by any means mean that I am not in hearty sympathy with an autonomous Albania. If I may add to his suggestion with regard to the future Constitution of Albania, it seems to me that a Protectorate, with a European Governor responsible to the Powers of Europe, would be the best solution of that problem. To leave Albania to be the football of European politics would be to invite possibly the aggression of two other adjacent neighbours. But a responsibility attaches to this country to see to it that a 2307 full guarantee is given to the Albanian nationality to work out its own salvation. I congratulate both hon Gentlemen, and particularly the hon. Member (Mr. W. Guinness), on his intimate knowledge, and the facts and figures which he gave with regard to that country. Many of us are very ignorant of the facts of Albania, and I should like again to assure hon. Members that, because some of us have more directly associated ourselves with the cause of Montenegro, that does not imply, as so many are apt to think, any injustice towards Albania. I propose to address my observations more particularly with regard to the present position of Montenegro and to Scutari. Scutari has been ceded for the moment to the Powers of Europe to decide as to its future, and this Parliament, as the Parliament of one of the Great Powers, is certainly entitled, as we are individually, to offer any observation and any opinion with regard to what we honestly and sincerely believe would be the best solution of that most complex problem.
I, of course, hold no brief for Montenegro. I do not know what the ultimate solution will be of that problem, whether Scutari is irrevocably lost to Montenegro or whether territorial compensation will be given her in the shape of some other port. I should rejoice if some solution—either of these alternatives—is come to. I believe that most people who are anxious to be fair and to do justly by Montenegro believe in their heart of hearts that some territorial compensation is due to her for her action in this matter. If we look at the map we see for ourselves that Montenegro might be described as somewhat like a balloon. There is a narrow strip of sea-board running down the Adriatic to the territory of Austria which might, I submit, be very justly offered as territorial compensation to Montenegro. It might possibly be a very good solution of their just aspirations and desires. But if that opens up some new problem, we are forced back again, even in this eleventh hour, to offer some opinion with regard to the future of Scutari itself. The hon. Member (Mr. A. Herbert) made some remarks about Montenegro. He told us he had very narrowly escaped being arrested for murder. We should all have been very sorry to lose his very interesting speeches in this House if that unhappy event had taken place. But I think a fair study of the history of that valiant and warlike people does not 2308 bear out the reflection, which possibly he did not intend to convey, that when we are thinking of Montenegro we are thinking of a savage community of brigands. They have, in fact, been so described, most unjustly, in some of the newspapers of this country.
I will quote just a little history from an article by the late Mr. Gladstone, whose name will always remain famous as the champion of that wonderful people. He points out that as far back as 1484, when Montenegro was being swept before the Ottoman scourge, they retired upon the Black Mountain, taking with them a printing press. That is a most striking fact, because I believe that was only three years after the first volume had actually been printed by a printing press. There was no printing press either in Oxford or in Cambridge, and when we have regard to the fact that these people over 400 years ago took with them to this mountain a printing press that is eloquent testimony that we are not dealing at this stage with primitive savages. Primitive savages, as a rule, do not carry printing presses about. These people retired to that mountain fastness for two reasons—they would not bow to the Turkish rule and they refused to give up their faith. Two things were more sacred to them than anything else in the world, their faith and their freedom. Mr. Gladstone well said that no Austrian or Russian eagle will ever make its nest upon these mountain fastnesses, and if we study the history of this most remarkable people we find that, against tremendous odds, they have been able to maintain their independence during these past centuries. The odds almost read like a fairy tale. When we hear of 10,000 Montenegrins pitted against 180,000 Turks and repelling them we get some conception of the wonderful bravery of this race. You can go to any part of that country without any fear of being molested. Women also may go to any part of it without any fear of being assaulted. Their chivalry is known throughout all Europe, and to reflect upon such people is not to do justly or fairly by Montenegro.
I come then to the question immediately before us, as to what should be the solution and what can we offer as a contribution to the solution of the future of Scutari. I fully appreciate the attitude of Austria in this matter, and I desire in no sense of the word to say anything offensive to that Power with which we are in friendly relations at present. But it has struck me that 2309 there is one possible solution which might be satisfactory both to Albania, to Montenegro, to Austria, and to the other Powers. It is not an altogether novel suggestion, I believe, because it has been carried out on former occasions with regard to the transfer of territory. I believe, in the first place, that the ceding of Scutari to Montenegro is in accordance with the heartfelt desire of the Montenegrins. If we are to have a solution of this tangled problem in the Balkan Peninsula, surely we must have some regard to the wishes and aspirations of the people there. If we wish to have permanent peace established, it is no use repeating the blunder which was carried out when the Treaty of Berlin took the place of the Treaty of San Stefano. We do not wish to have a repetition of that blunder now.
Let us aim at a permanent solution. I wish to endorse the very apt words expressed by the hon. Member for Somerset, in paying a tribute to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs as to his conduct, so far, of the deliberations at the Ambassadors' Conferences. On these benches here some of us have sometimes ventured to criticise the right hon. Gentleman, but we have never thrown any aspersion upon the high motives which animate his conduct. I wish to endorse what the hon. Gentleman said as to his lofty conception of public duty, patient industry, and unfaltering devotion to the cause of peace. But if we are to offer a solution, we should have this question in view—what is likely to bring about permanent peace in those regions, and what is likely to satisfy the contending parties? We all surely have noticed the photographs and pictures of the Montenegrins going into Scutari. We have seen that they were received more or less by acclamation. We are well aware that the Albanians who defended Scutari marched out with all the honours of war, and that the people of the town did not show any regret at the Montenegrins entering the place. I think that is a fact that should weigh with us. There is no question here of scourge or war of conquest on the part of Montenegro. They are content if this small section of Scutari and the surrounding lake can be ceded to her. I say, having regard to these facts, and also to the outstanding objection which animated Austria in the attitude she took up, the position is this: Austria is a Balkan Power, and she took up the position that, with a Slav 2310 population—it is well known to Members of this House that she has a large Slav population in her own Empire—her prestige was bound up in endeavouring to make her will prevail. I wish to say at this stage that I hope the rather Jingoistic utterances about holding up the mailed fist which we have recently had at Vienna are utterances which will not commend themselves to the people of this country. The people of this country are animated by a much higher motive than that. They have been willing, while sympathising with Montenegro, to give way a little to Austria to prevent a greater evil, but I say if that spirit is continued it may have an opposite effect on the people of this country. The people of this country are freedom loving.
We find that Austria has been animated by the desire to maintain her prestige and name as a Balkan Power. We find that the Albanians who have marched out of Scutari have not been particularly down-hearted, as it were, or discouraged by the loss of that town, and we find also that the inhabitants of the town have welcomed the entry of the Montenegrins. A simple solution would be to try to come to terms between Montenegro and Albania with regard to this town. Why should not Montenegro purchase it from Albania? Why not follow the example of Austria with regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It would be very simple to have an arrangement drawn up by which Montenegro would agree to pay Albania a sum for the town of Scutari—a sum which might be arrived at for the loss of the town by Albania. It seems to me that is a solution, and I offer it in all humility to the Foreign Office as one which would gratify the just aspirations of Montenegro, and surely would not in any way embarrass Austria, because it would be following the example of what she did with Turkey when she took over Bosnia and Herzegovina. I submit that this is a practical solution. It is one that might easily be arrived at, and I believe it is one which would bring a permanent peace in that part of the world. If Montenegro is disappointed, if she is thrown back again upon her black mountains, you will have an Albanian question, just as we had a Macedonian question, cropping up in the future. You will have a discontented people in Montenegro, by no means a primitive race of savages, but a people who, when they have recovered from their present losses, will be ready to break out again in another bloody war in 2311 conjunction perhaps with Servia, if she does not get a satisfactory solution now. I make an appeal on behalf of this solution.
Montenegro, following the example of other small races of people, looks to Great Britain which has justly earned a name throughout history as the friend of subject races, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in this matter will follow rather the policy of Canning than that of Castlereagh, and that he will hold the balance between the contending parties on the Continent of Europe. He has a great opportunity such as comes to few men. Castlereagh, who allowed himself to become entangled with alliances, was never out of trouble, whereas Canning in his foreign policy has never been equalled. It was well said by Mr. Gladstone that he was born under the shadow of the great name of Canning. What was the principle of Canning? It was the principle of freedom. He recognised the genius of British statesmanship, and I hope, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary will do as Canning did—hold the balance between the contending parties. We have a unique position, and immense power. It is absurd that we should allow ourselves to be browbeaten by Austria or any reactionary Power. In conclusion, I again emphasise the appeal which Montenegro has made to this country. I think all of us who read of the dramatic finale when the King agreed to leave the question of Scutari to the decision of the Powers must have recognised a tremendous struggle in the step he took. That must have appealed to everyone. It was a brave act which will redound to the credit of the brave people over which he reigns. I hope, therefore, that the House will give this appeal just consideration, and that a decision will be arrived at which can be carried out in the interest of justice, honour, and prosperity to all.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I listened with interest to the eloquent presentment of their case by the hon. Member for South Somerset (Mr. A. Herbert) and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. Guinness), but I regret greatly that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds once more gave expression in this Chamber to the stories of atrocities committed by the Allies. I should not refer to them if they had not been introduced by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds before this Debate, and if the hon. Member, by his 2312 frequent questions in this House, had not consistently tried to give as much publicity to the question as possible. I therefore think it incumbent upon us to go somewhat more deeply into the question than the hon. Member went and see whether there is any substantial basis for these accusations. A week or two ago every Member of this House received a copy of a publication issued by the Committee for the Publication of Atrocities, which has its headquarters in Constantinople. I believe that I am correct in saying that the information upon which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds bases his questions in this House is supplied by that Committee for the Publication of Atrocities. This publication contains a number of pictures which were represented as being photographs of the atrocities that were being committed by the Bulgarians and the other Allies. Not only were the statements of fact in that pamphlet untrue, but they were supported by faked photographs.
§ Mr. HERBERT
Some of the atrocities referred to in the pamphlet were witnessed by the Inspector-General of the gendarmerie, the French officer at, I think, Dedeagatch or Kavalla, and there you have witnesses whose testimony cannot be denied, and I would like the hon. Gentleman to tell me, if he can, what actually did occur at Kavalla?
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I shall certainly accept the challenge of the hon. Member. I am not replying to the hon. Member, because he is not guilty—I use the word in no offensive sense—of making these accusations. I am replying to the specific statements made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, but I will come to the point raised by the hon. Member opposite in a moment or two. I am dealing with the official statement by the Committee for the Publication of Atrocities in Constantinople, which was issued to every Member in this House. Not only were these statements of fact false, but they were supported by faked photographs of a most monstrous description. One of the most revolting photographs is much too revolting in character even to mention. My hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Noel Buxton) was in the Balkans two and a half years ago, and that same photograph was then shown to him, and was being used by each side in a controversy then proceeding. This is the photo- 2313 graph which is issued to-day as representing atrocities committed by the Allies during the course of the present war.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
My hon. Friend says that in the old days the Allies issued the same photograph. I am glad that we have nailed this lie to the camera. If it was issued years ago by the Allies, it is a foul thing to issue it now as a photograph of atrocities committed by the Allies in the present war. When we have a publication like this sent out with some show of authority, making statements supported by the hon. Member in his remarks, and supported by questions——
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very reluctant to do the hon. Member any injustice whatever, but I am referring to the questions which he put day after day with regard to alleged atrocities.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I accept the assurance of the hon. Member now that this pamphlet, which has proved to be of this scandalous description, that it is absolutely unreliable, should be generally repudiated.
§ Mr. HERBERT
The majority of the questions which I have asked in this House recently were the result of conversations which I have had with the Christian missionaries in different parts of Macedonia.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I have not the slightest doubt that that is so. I want to pursue the matter a little further. I do not gather that the hon. Member for South Somerset had an opportunity during the present war of visiting the Balkans. I believe that he was in Constantinople during the present war, but that he had no opportunity of visiting the Balkans. If there is one thing that emerges more clearly than another it is this: Neither the Governments nor the armies of the Allies have been guilty of atrocities. The atrocities that have been committed, not on one side only, have been the main work of those irregular bands, which are divorced from the army, and not under the control of the army.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Member will forgive me if I do not immediately give way, but I feel very strongly on this question, and I speak after having taken very laborious pains to verify my facts. These atrocities were in the main the work of those irregular bands whose existence and whose operations have long been a feature of the unhappy condition of affairs in the Balkans——
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am very glad to carry with me the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's in this. As the Turks were driven before the victorious army of the Allies it was the first concern of the Bulgarian and Servian Governments to set up proper conditions of life for the people in the occupied districts, and they were from the first engaged as rapidly as possible in disarming not only the whole of the population of the occupied districts, but also so far as they could reach them the members of the bands themselves. But if my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk, who has had large experience in connection with this question, were now addressing the House, he would be able to tell the House from the evidence of his own eyes of the atrocities that he saw, which were committed by the retreating Turks upon the Christian populations in the towns and villages of the occupied districts. Those are things which he saw himself. He saw the shooting and mutilation of little children, the blowing out of the cheeks of young girls, the dismemberment of unborn children. All these things are much too horrible to speak of in any detail, and I only refer to them now in order to show the House the horrible conditions there have existed and do exist under Turkish rule, and the horrible things that were done in this way by the Turks themselves. When you speak of atrocities you must not speak of atrocities as having been committed by the armies of the Allies. The full facts must be stated, and it is then clearly seen that the Government and armies of the Allies are not responsible. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's why he shows to-day this extraordinary anxiety in respect of these atrocities, which have been dealt with in so very incomplete a manner. The hon. Member has sat in the House now for seven years, or longer, and he must be well aware, if he has lived in the Balkans, 2315 of the hourly and daily danger to which the Christian population in Turkey in Europe has been subjected.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
All I said was that this country was more or less responsible to do its best for Turkey, having been involved in the silent policy which encouraged atrocities, and you have the evidence that after the very strong statement made in this House by the right hon. Gentleman these atrocities, as soon as the Allies heard of the speech, were largely checked.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
When this question of the atrocities is discussed it should be clearly established that steps were taken by the Government of the Allies and by the armies of the Allies to prevent their people from being in any way responsible for them. I pass from this inexpressibly painful subject in the hope that we have heard the last of these charges of atrocities made in a vague and general manner. I want to say a word upon some of the larger issues that were raised in the speech of the hon. Member for the Yeovil Division and in the speech of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmund's, concerning the future of Albania. I differ from the view of those two hon. Gentlemen, and I differ somewhat from the view of my hon. Friend behind me in regard to this matter. I do not think we are here to-day to pronounce panegyrics on Albania at the expense of Montenegro, or upon Montenegro at the expense of Albania. To my mind each country's history is equally glorious, and admiration for either nationality need not be at the expense of depreciating the other. But I do most respectfully submit to the House and to the representative of the Government who will reply, that our broad concern at the point that the whole question has reached, is surely to now use our influence in securing that the final settlement shall be such as to promote the entire unity and prosperity of the Balkan nations. We want to release both Servia and Montenegro from the economic imprisonment from which it is so essential she should be freed, and any settlement which kept them economic prisoners should be regarded as unsatisfactory and as one which would not prove to be lasting. We want to assure Greece that she shall have the Islands in the Ægean Sea, to which she is entitled both by race and history. We want to see 2316 Bulgaria on the Sea of Marmora, and we want a final settlement by which the Balkan nations shall not be crippled in the matter of finance, after having been denied their rights to adequate indemnity, and that they shall not be unfairly saddled with any undue burden in connection with the Ottoman debt upon the occupied portions of Turkish territory.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
I wish to direct the attention of the House to another aspect of the Eastern question, but before doing so I should like to say, in connection with the subject of Albania and Montenegro, that I am much more disposed, from my personal knowledge, to agree with the settlement which has been reached by the Foreign Ministers, in the praise of whom I wish to associate myself, not forgetting, at the same time, that the right hon. Gentleman has been supported by extraordinary consideration on the part of the Powers more immediately concerned—Russia and Austria—in connection with the terms of settlement. When we remember the traditions, the jealousy, the many thorny points which have arisen in connection with the discussion of this matter, I think we cannot fail to see that if it had not been for the consideration and moderation which were shown by those Powers, even the efforts and the unwearied patience of the Foreign Secretary would have failed to carry that settlement to a successful issue. My experience in the regions which have been under discussion has been that it would have been impossible, once the question of Albanian nationality was raised, to have conceded Scutari to Montenegro. Scutari is in no sense a Montenegrin town; it is entirely Albanian in population, and was, in the days I knew it, twenty-five years ago, entirely Albanian in sentiment. In those days, of course, the Montenegrins coveted it, and no wonder. It is the centre of a rich and fertile plain, looked down upon by their own bare and rocky slopes. It is the most natural thing in the world that they should desire to extend their frontier. For many generations they have been crowded up in the miserable region which they occupy, and they look to Scutari in the plain with a longing compared with which the longing for Naboth's vineyard must have been small. I always experienced the utmost courtesy from the Montenegrins, and I should be delighted if they could possibly find compensation in some of the country neighbouring their borders. It is said, I do not know with 2317 what truth, that they have been offered a fertile region, but I fear that access to it is not very easy from Montenegro. I do not know in what other direction compensation should be given, but the hon. Member suggested a slip of territory on the Adriatic. It is vain to suppose after having had possession for many years, and after enormous sums have been spent on fortifications, that the Austrians would give it up, and it is quite idle to entertain an idea of that kind.
I pass from that question to the question of Armenia. It is necessary, now that the question of Scutari has been settled, to bring this other question before the public. It is said that the troops from Thrace are to be transported to Asia Minor, and we know that there are troops encamped near Smyrna and other places, and the dangers from a large number of disbanded soldiery being thrown loose on a defenceless population are great, besides which there is a natural temptation to provide for those refugees by the oppression of Christian populations which are in a defenceless position. Since the opportunity of the Berlin Treaty was missed in 1878, there has never been so good an opportunity of settling the Armenian question once and for all as the present moment presents. In connection with the general settlement of the war it is absolutely necessary to take up this question. Why do I say so? There are two reasons why it should be taken up. One is that there is on the part of the Powers a universal desire to maintain the integrity of the Turkish dominions in Asia. It would be absolutely impossible to maintain that integrity unless the question of the life and security of the Christian populations in the Asiatic Dominions of Turkey is settled. It is perfectly clear, as has been the case in European Turkey, that want of security of life and property of Christian populations eventually brings dismemberment. We have seen the continual dismemberment, extending over fifty or sixty years, of the provinces of European Turkey. One by one they have been detached until now nothing is left of them at all. The same process will continue in Asia unless there is a guarantee, and a properly carried out guarantee, for the security of life and property for the inhabitants. There have been signs of a serious demand on the part of the Armenians for intervention by Russia. They do not, however, wish to be under Russia; they wish to maintain their nationality and the separate individuality 2318 of their church. They know that under Russia they could not expect to maintain either their nationality or their church. They wish to continue as a part of the Turkish Empire, feeling that in that way they are more likely to maintain their separate existence. But if from despair they find it impossible to maintain the security of their lives and property, then they will certainly demand assistance of Russia.
Russia has, ever since the days of the Treaty of San Stefano, shown that she is willing to listen to their cry, and we should then find Armenia in the course of time detached from the Turkish Empire. There is a second reason, and that is that in any general settlement of the affairs of the war Turkey will require an amount of financial assistance, and that financial assistance will be impossible to obtain unless there is security. How can that financial security be obtained if there are no administrative reforms which will guarantee life and property, and what chance is there of industrial or financial prosperity unless such reforms are introduced? There is a third reason why the question of Armenia furnishes a chance at the present time of being settled permanently on a secure basis, and that is the attitude of Germany. In the last twenty-five years, since the Berlin Treaty was signed, the interests of Germany in this question have completely changed. As Prince Bismarck said in those days, the question of Armenia was an inconvenient one, and one in which they were not in terested, but now it is a question of the greatest interest to Germany, which in the course of the last twenty years has planned and carried out a great scheme of railway between the Sea of Marmora and the Persian Gulf. The interests of Germany in connection with that railway demand that the regions through which it passes should possess security of life and property, because otherwise there is no chance at all of a local traffic or even general traffic being maintained. There is every reason to believe that the German Government is just as anxious as any other of the Great Powers to see the question of Armenia settled.
For ourselves, it is a matter of great importance to see it settled. We have a very large and heavy responsibility to the world, and under the Cyprus Convention we are bound to maintain the integrity of the Turkish dominions in Asia. If those conditions are to be fulfilled, we have the 2319 right to have reforms carried out. Suppose there arose a demand on the part of the Armenians for protection, are we prepared to set ourselves in opposition to what will be the demand of Russia, namely, that reforms should be carried out? Are we prepared to guarantee the integrity of Turkey in Asia without the existence of those reforms? It is therefore for us, more than any other nation, essentially important that provision should be at once made for the establishment of those reforms. It is said sometimes that there is no unity on the part of Armenia with regard to what reforms there should be. At the time of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano there was a scheme of reform, but Clause 16 of that treaty was modified in the Treaty of Berlin, but nothing was done. In 1895 the Ambassadors of Russia, England, and France drew up a scheme of reform which was accepted by the Turkish Government, but which was never carried out. Of late years there was a difference of opinion among various sections of Armenians as to what should be done. Some in despair wished for the intervention of Russia, but, happily, within the last few months, under the auspices of the head of the Armenian Church, with the support of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is second in office in that Church, and, with the assent of all parties of Armenians, revolutionary and moderate, every party has united as to a scheme of reform.
That scheme of reform is a very moderate one. It is not a scheme of autonomy. In essence it demands only the carrying out of the provisions of the proposed scheme of 1895. I will merely indicate the main points. The first is the institution in the six Armenian provinces of a European High Commissioner, nominated by the Porte, with the consent of the Powers. I believe that that goes beyond the scheme of 1895 only in asking that the High Commissioner should be a European. The second point is the institution of a permanent Commission of control and supervision, residing in the province, presided over by the High Commissioner, composed of three Mussulman members, three Christian members, and three civil agents delegated by the Powers. As administrative reforms, it is proposed by this scheme that there should be an elected Assembly, composed half of Moslems and half of Christians; that there should be a gendarmerie and a police; that 2320 there should be a revision of the Courts of Justice; that there should be a settlement of the compensation and various other small points, into the details of which I need not go. Generally speaking, it may be said that this scheme provides only for the same arrangements—with the changes shown to be necessary by the change of conditions—as those asked for by the memorandum of the three Ambassadors in 1895. I would ask that our Foreign Secretary, together with the representatives of the other Powers, should give a very favourable consideration to these demands of the Armenian delegation—demands which are of themselves extremely moderate, and which the Armenian committees of the various countries recognise to be the minimum that will provide for the security of life and property. It is the belief of all those who have studied the question that once these reforms are introduced into the Armenian provinces and Cilicia, where a large number of Armenians are resident, the example of the benefits derived from them will spread to the other provinces of Asiatic Turkey and will tend to confirm the continued existence of the Turkish power in Asia.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
This question has engaged the attention of many people in every country in Europe for several months past. There are, as a matter of fact, Armenian committees, not merely in London, but in Paris, Berlin, Russia, and, I believe, Switzerland and elsewhere. In Switzerland they feel very strongly on the subject; there is no country which by sending out nurses and in other ways has done so much to alleviate the sufferings of the Armenians at different times. I mention these committees to show that on this question the public conscience of Europe is aroused and is unanimous. In spite of the existence of these committees we have kept silence during the last few months. We have done so somewhat reluctantly, because of our sense of the absolute necessity of the European Powers taking up this question of Armenia in the final settlement after the Balkan war. We have been silent because we did not wish in any way whatever to excite the Turkish population in either European or Asiatic Turkey, and in that way bring about any deplorable events similar to those which have occurred at previous stages in the history of the question. Another reason was that when all the Powers of Europe were pre-occupied with the terrible question of whether there should be war or peace in Europe, 2321 owing to the questions which arose from time to time, we thought it would have been unfair, inconvenient, and perhaps prejudicial to introduce this question. We have raised the matter to-day because we think that the time has at last come when the silence of the friends of Armenia in this House would be misunderstood as meaning a disappearance of that keen sympathy and interest in Armenia for which this country has been historically celebrated. We have confidence in the Government. It is not with a view to bringing pressure to bear upon them that this Debate has been initiated. It is that we might demonstrate to the friends of Armenia in Europe that their friends in England are in sympathy with them and are acting on their behalf. It is only necessary for me to dot the is and cross the t's of some of the observations of my hon. Friend, as he has put the case very clearly. I wish to emphasise the fact that the proposals made by the Armenian community are as much in the interest of Turkey and of the Turks as of the Armenians themselves. We believe that it is only by the reform of the conditions in Asia Minor, especially with regard to the Armenians, that the integrity of the Turkish Empire in Asia Minor can be maintained. We believe also that a state of order instead of anarchy and chaos in Asia Minor will be as beneficial to the Turks as to the Armenians. It is impossible for Turks to prosper, even if they are not massacred, while there is a state of disorder and chaos. Therefore, I believe that those who are agitating these reforms primarily on behalf of the Armenians are advocating reforms which are as necessary for, and will be as beneficial to, the Turkish inhabitants of Asia Minor as to the Armenians. We believe that the proposals made are such as the assent of the Powers in Europe can be given to, and I hope that there is no Power whose assent will be more cordially given than that of Great Britain.
Finally, this is the opportunity, because undoubtedly the financial aid which Turkey will have to get from the Powers of Europe to set her up again will not, I believe, be given unless there is a guarantee given with that official aid that the Government will endeavour to restore the prosperity of the districts. That is all I need or wish to say at the moment, and I will conclude with one or two sentences on another subject. I hope, and I believe, 2322 that the Foreign Office is fully alive to the fact that public opinion in this country will not be outraged by seeing one of these islands which are overwhelmingly and entirely Greek by race, torn from the side of the Motherland to which they all belong. I do not think any of us, however strong our sympathies with Greece may be, would object were proposals which are dictated by military necessities, put forward for the destruction of fortifications and other similar measures in the islands adjacent. Subject to those conditions I believe it is the personal opinion of this House, and of the country, that the Greek islands should be restored to the Greek Motherland.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I would wish to say a few words which I think in fairness ought to be said in connection with the speech of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Whitehouse). My hon. Friend, in dealing with the question of Albania and the Balkans generally, studiously refrained from alluding to atrocities or endeavouring to put any blame on one side or the other so far as the Governments were concerned. I think anybody who has been out there must admit that in these circumstances by far the wisest thing is not to endeavour to go too deeply into these matters, because it would be impossible to write any finality. On the other hand, there seems to be certain people in this country who are under the impression that a Mussulman is much given to committing atrocities, and that a Christian is not. That is a most unfortunate belief. I am not going to dilate on these atrocities, but there is absolutely no doubt whatever that many things have occurred in the Balkans in the course of this war for which Christians are responsible which one would have much preferred not to have occurred. Having said that, I do not know that one can say very much more. I do not understand what the object of the hon. Member's speech was. He said that he desired to show the horrible conditions under Turkish rule. At the present time I am not certain that all the inhabitants of the conquered territories are fully persuaded that they have improved the conditions under which they live since coming under Christian rule. I do not say that with the desire of blaming them, because one must be alive to the fact that the scores of 500 years are now being wiped out, and that when you have racial, religious, and all other kinds of sentiments stirring people to their utmost depths, it is inevitable that things happen that had much better not 2323 happen. That is no reason for bringing up the matter in a one-sided manner in the House of Commons. I think it is exceedingly unfair to the Turks to let it be supposed that we in this country look upon them as the only people who commit atrocities, and that no atrocities have been committed on the other side.
As regards these atrocities, there is this to be said: that the Governments of the Allied States have done a great deal to prevent atrocities. I do not think it can be laid to the charge of the regular soldiers that they have done much more than that which happens in most wars. But there is this to be said: It is very difficult to distinguish between the regular soldier and the ordinary population, because the whole population is under arms. What happened then, as I understood, was when the Allies advanced they naturally were preceded by commitajis, who were men of their own nationality, and who had been organised for many years past by the Bulgarians, or Greeks, or Servians, as the case might be. The commitajis had probably a good many old scores to pay off, and they paid them off, both before the advance and after the regular troops had passed on. The best proof that it is so is that the Bulgarians found that the only possible way to prevent the commission of these things was by sending on the commitajis to Tchatalja. If they had been doing no harm in the villages where they had been living they would have been left there in peace. Out of a desire to secure peace for the Mussulmans left behind these men were all sent up to the front to Tchatalja and Adrianople. Therefore, the less said the better about these atrocities, for the reason that whatever we say we are not going to improve the conditions there. The fact is that the minority are having a pretty moderate time in those countries, and I think if the hon. Member had been out there himself, and had chosen to inform himself at first hand of the conditions which prevail in the country, he would have kept silent on the subject, and not raised it as a subject for debate to-day.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I only rise to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary that when he replies he may say one word in regard to the recognition of the Chinese Republic—and I hope an encouraging word. I will not develop any kind of argument, because the matter will be perfectly present to his own mind. I would only ask him to deal with this question in a 2324 broad, generous spirit, and not consider it in what our Scottish friends call a "pernickitty" manner: to recognise that the Chinese from henceforth will become one of the great nations of the world with whom it is to the interest of this country to live on terms of amity. Taking all these considerations into account I hope that he will promise that at an early date the Chinese Republic will be recognised.
§ The UNDERSECRETARY Of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Acland)
I must begin, as I am afraid I have had to begin on most occasions or on several occasions, when we have adjourned for holidays, by explaining that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is not able to be here. On more than one previous occasion that has happened that he has been engaged in conference with Ambassadors which I am sure everyone will agree must have the first call upon my right hon. Friend's attention. Therefore, once more I have to try inadequately to take his place. I was delighted, as I am sure everyone of us was who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Somersetshire. I think we all very much rejoice that he managed to escape from a Montenegrin prison, or to prove an alibi, and that he was not subject to further dangers. His speech was very interesting and, if I may say so, eloquent. I do not at all take exception to anything he said as to the character of the Albanian people. I am sure if he addressed himself to them when he was amongst them as pleasantly and as frankly as he addresses us they must have treated him charmingly, because they could not do anything else, particularly as I believe he is just as eloquent in all their languages as he is in his own. In regard to his general statement as to the position of the different Powers in the Balkans. I have only this to say: he used the word "equilibrium." He said he hoped an "equilibrium" would be maintained in future. Yes, but the word "equilibrium" is generally supposed to be a balance of opposing forces, and I hope that the future position of the Balkan Peninsula will be better than that. I hope it will not simply be a balance of hostility and a balance of force, but a balance of co-operation between friendly Powers built on mutual respect, and on a mutual desire to live and let live rather than on mutual hostility.
As to Albania I think this House and the whole of Europe can congratulate itself that a most critical question, which might 2325 have, I suppose, threatened the very existence of Albania as an independent State has been settled and we are all now, I think, only anxious to make it possible for Albania to live, as will be the case, with all the other Powers quite independent and as independently as the other Powers live and capable of enjoying a future development and future growth in civilisation in exactly the same way as we hope will be the case with the other Balkan States. The question which seemed most difficult to the Powers, as was stated, to settle, is now in course of friendly settlement, that is the question with regard to the frontier. As to that, Albania will of course lose towns to which she has a claim. On the other hand, she will retain towns to which other people have a claim. The difficulty is, as far as my knowledge and experience goes in these countries, to find any town anywhere to which at least three or four peoples have not got some claim or another based either upon race, or language, or history, or mutual agreement, or the present position, or something of that kind; and, as I say, the main thing is to try to set up an Albania capable of independent life and development for itself. It is no doubt a very difficult question and the political questions and economic questions which must arise in this connection have not been settled, but what one knows is that these questions can now be discussed and will be discussed more or less at leisure, and as I hope and believe with this desire to help Albania to independence and progress and without any chance of their being crossed by questions on which the Great Powers of Europe might have conflicting ideas.
As to Montenegro, my hon. Friends on this side of the House seemed to speak as if she was not going to gain a good deal as a result of the war. That, of course, is not so. She will gain in territory as her Allies have gained in territory, and that gain is likely to be considerable. As to the character of the Montenegrin people I will not follow my hon. Friend, except to say that we were all touched when he reminded us of the story about the printing press they took with them in 1484. They are, undoubtedly, a very gallant little people, and if there be any defect in their character it may perhaps be explained by the theory that they regard that printing press no doubt as a most sacred possession, and that they must have gone on using the same printing press from that up to the present time instead of adopting the more 2326 modern methods of spreading culture amongst their people.
As to the question of Scutari only two things are to be said which I can say. They are both absolutely commonplace, but I think they are both quite important. First of all, the fate of Scutari was part of the balanced settlement and balanced agreement between the Great Powers; and, secondly, that even the Great Powers, which had the greatest interests in backing up the small nationalities declared Scutari to be a wholly Albanian town. That is all I can say about it. My hon. Friend dances with such tremendous assurance in a basket of eggs that he made me tremble almost when I listened to him; but he will not get me to go further into the matter of Scutari than I have gone. The only expression of feeling I can give upon the matter of Scutari is a sigh of relief. Last Sunday was not a pleasant day even for one so indirectly concerned as an Under-Secretary, and we can at present only feel with regard to Scutari, as I say, enormous relief that the question of the town is no longer threatening division between the Great Powers of Europe. That is a matter that was settled the other day, upon which the responsible Montenegrin authority are very much to be congratulated in their own interests no less than that of Europe. If I may say so, they have climbed down the tree before the tree was blown up by an explosion which might have set all Europe on fire as well as being very uncomfortable for themselves. As to the outrages, I am rather sorry that that question was debated this afternoon. I did not understand the reference that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. W. Guinness) made to the matter. He either referred to or relied upon the publication which, he said, was referred to by my hon. Friend upon this side. As the hon. Gentleman stated, he said nothing about it or made any allusion to it, so far as I am aware, and I should have thought that if there was one thing about these atrocities which it is difficult to do it is to dogmatise upon the question as to who is responsible or exactly what occurred, and that being so that the best thing to do was to refer to them as little as possible. That is all my hon. Friend said. As to the publication of such reports and statements as we have received, they have been before the House and I will not repeat them. The only point, to my mind, is perhaps a small one. If I was right in thinking that the hon. 2327 Member for Bury St. Edmund's said that we had been guilty of delay in bringing these matters to the attention of the Governments concerned——
§ Mr. ACLAND
Then I misunderstood him. As a matter of fact, as soon as we had statements which seemed to be really reliable in reports which we received from our Consuls, we lost no time what-ever in bringing them seriously to the knowledge of the Governments concerned, and in expressing the hope that they would be inquired into and that matters would be put right.
A very important and interesting question relating to Armenia was raised by two hon. Members, and I should like to say a word or two about it. It is quite true, as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool says, he and his Friends in the House in general have been very kind in sparing us with regard to public mention of difficult subjects during the past few months, but although we have not heard these things publicly alluded to we have heard a great deal about Armenia from his friends and from Armenian committees and societies in private, and the fact that it has not been publicly referred to must not be taken as indicating at all that that question has not been very definitely present to the mind of my right hon. Friend, and, in fact, repeated representations have been made to the Turkish Government upon the question and as to our interest in the question; and we have received, as was reasonable to expect, assurances that everything would be done that could be done to see that when persons returned after the war, or when other persons were transferred from Europe into Asia, and set down, it may be in districts partly inhabited by Armenians, that there should not be again any risk of the terrible massacres which took place in the past. To some extent we have already evidence that these assurances are being carried out. A few days ago there was a rumour in some of the European papers that matters were not as they should be at Adana. We have a Consul at Adana who keeps us constantly informed, and I am glad to say he has been able to report that some hundreds of refugees and families who have come to that part of Asia Minor from Europe have been successfully set down, 2328 and work has been found for them, often among Armenian populations. The rumours as to difficulties have been very much exaggerated, and the Armenians up to the present have been absolutely safe, and no difficulty has been occurring. Of course it may be argued that with the best will in the world the Government in Turkey may not be strong enough to see that good order is kept in the Province. That is true; but after all I would emphasise the point that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) made, that it is quite clearly in the interests of Turkey just as much as it is in the interests of Armenia and the Armenians that there should be good order and good government established and preserved. After peace is made, as we hope it will soon be, between Turkey and the Allies, matters must come up between Turkey and the Great Powers, and I am able to say that when that happens every possible opportunity will be taken to see that this question is considered from the point of view which the two hon. Members have put in their speeches.
But one thing has to be borne in mind, and that is that the desire that Turkey should have a good chance of consolidating and developing the possessions that remain to her, is a desire felt by all the Powers in common, and therefore if we raise any matter we must see to it, as indeed the other Powers will see to it, that the matter is raised by the Powers together, and that isolated action is not taken only by one or other of the Powers. We do hope, and I am sure the hon. Member will agree, to be able, and we look forward to being able to raise this matter and obtain proper consideration for it in common with the other Powers, because we know that in doing that we shall be much more likely to achieve a good result than by isolated and individual action. As to the recognition of the Chinese Republic and of the new Government in China, I can give without any hesitation the assurance which has been asked for by hon. Gentlemen. We have no desire to delay it; there is no prospect of delay: there is no lack of unity among the Powers. Our simple desire is that before giving that recognition we should get confirmation of the treaty and customary rights which we with other nations enjoy in China, and after that has been received the recognition will follow immediately. We surely—and I think the Debate last night showed it—stand before the world as well-wishers of China. We 2329 have been very patient with regard to the demanding of the instalments of the indemnity. We have gone more than halfway in meeting her with regard to the question of opium. In the more difficult question of the loan, I believe that if there could be a discussion here it could be shown that we have acted in just the same way in the interests of China in that matter as we have done on the subject of opium, and it is the same in this matter of recognition. There is, I repeat, no desire to make any obstruction or to cause delay. There is every desire to recognise the Chinese Government along with the other nations as soon as confirmation is given of the treaty rights, and so on, which are now enjoyed. I hope the House will excuse me for not going more fully into some of the questions that have been raised. They are questions of difficulty, and I think I have said all that I am able to say upon them.
§ Colonel YATE
Can the hon. Gentleman give us some assurance that all questions connected with Tibet will be satisfactorily settled before recognition is given?
§ Mr. ACLAND
That, of course, is introducing exactly the other point of view, when we make the recognition of China depend upon other things which would take weeks—they would certainly take weeks—and may take months to satisfactorily settle up. There are, of course, questions with regard to Tibet, but we regard China as an absolutely friendly Government, and I do not think it would be in the best interests of getting a settlement of any difficult question—I will not say difficult—I will say, rather, of any out standing questions—to make recognition depend upon getting all these things fixed up before recognition is given to the new Government.