THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
My Lords, I rise to call your Lordships' attention to the Motion of which I have given notice. And in doing so I feel it necessary, in consequence of some observations which fell from the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) on a former occasion, to assure your Lordships that no person is more anxious than I am at all times to preserve peace, if that object can be attained consistently with the interests, and still more if with the honour of this country; and that any ground of quarrel which I may have with Her Majesty's Government is not that they have not earlier engaged us in war, but that they have 546 adopted—I doubt not with the sincere be lief in the soundness and the peaceful ten dency of their policy—measures which necessarily involved us in hostilities, and which are the cause of our being, if not actually, certainly on the brink of being, engaged in a great war. I cannot avoid saying that I do not see in their conduct of diplomatic negotiations those signs of vigour and that determination of purpose, by the display of which, in the first instance, they might, I think, have avoided the predicament in which we are at present placed; and by which alone they may be able yet to preserve peace or to bring war to a satisfactory and early conclusion. I can assure your Lordships that I am not going into a minute and detailed review of the papers which have been laid before you. Let me, however, say that they are full of matter of the deepest interest, and that they appear to me to be for the most part written with great ability. I shall only shortly refer to some passages in them in support of the view which I have from the first taken of these transactions; but, as I have already said, I will not detain your Lordships with any detailed examination of their contents.
My Lords, I have said, on a former occasion, and having examined the blue books before us, I say again, that the great error committed by Her Majesty's Government was the course they took when, having had a full report made to them of the warlike preparations of Russia, and of the menacing attitude which she had assumed, and having received information of the important mission of Prince Menchikoff—and of intentions which were suspected throughout Europe—they were invited by the French Government to consider the whole aspect of affairs in the East, and to come to a common understanding as to what should be the course of the two Powers on the occurrence of the contingencies to be anticipated. My Lords, I entirely concur with the course taken by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the origin of this unhappy affair—I think that we had nothing to do with the question of the Holy Places, as it is called. I think that the instructions contained in Lord John Russell's despatches upon that subject on the 28th of January are excellent. They simply instruct our agents that with that question, we have, and will have, nothing to do. But on the same 28th of January, the communication from the French Govern- 547 ment, to which I have just referred, was received by Her Majesty's Government; and on the 29th of January (as your Lordships will see by the papers), Lord John Russell answered that Her Majesty's Government agreed in the view taken by the French Government of the gravity of the circumstances, which they had brought to their notice, that they thought it desirable that a common understanding between the great Powers should be arrived at, and that "he will immediately take into consideration what steps will be necessary for that purpose." Now having thus, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, stated and promised that steps should be immediately considered, in order that a common understanding might be arrived at, it appears almost incredible that up to this moment no such understanding, so far as we are informed, has been come to with respect to any eventuality that has arisen or which might arise. I think that that has been the great and fundamental mistake; and it seems to me that, as far as we are informed, we are in a similar position now to that in which we have been placed since January, 1853.
Soon after that date came all those events which are connected with Prince Menchikoff's mission. I will not enter upon them in detail;—I have only to remind the House that, immediately on his arrival at Constantinople, he demanded the concession of a secret convention which was inconsistent with the independence of the Sultan and his Government. And I say that then, again, as is shown by these papers, a great mistake was made by our Government, both in the conduct they adopted in the East, and much more in the language they used at home upon that occasion. My Lords, you cannot have failed to observe that Colonel Rose did not demand that the fleet should enter the Dardanelles, that it should come to Constantinople, that it should commit any infraction of any treaty, or assume a menacing attitude; but merely that the Admiral should bring the fleet to the Bay of Vourla, situated near the harbour of Smyrna, a little earlier than he had intended. This Bay of Vourla, I need hardly tell your Lordships, is a frequent station for ships of war, and in anchoring there our fleet could not be supposed to lave any intention either of menacing Russia or of supporting Turkey. All that would have been done would be that the fleet would have been there a little nearer to the scene of 548 operations, had its presence been required by the Sultan. I think that this was a very wise suggestion which Colonel Rose made to Her Majesty's Ministers; but they chose to disregard his advice, and they justified the Admiral for not making any approach towards Constantinople. Now that has been justified by the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government on two grounds. I understand his reasons to be that, in the first place, we had received such assurances from the Russian Government as we could rely upon implicitly, and that, on that account, we apprehended no danger. My Lords, the second reason given by the noble Earl is, I venture to say, about the most extraordinary and imaginative that ever was uttered by a Prime Minister in a British senate—that, forsooth, if we had assumed anything approaching to an attitude of menace, that, if we had shown a determination to defend the Turkish Government, the Emperor of Russia would at once have seized Constantinople. My Lords, I have never heard such a preposterous notion. How, let me ask, was the Emperor of Russia to perform this great feat? By his ships, when the English and French fleets were there to support the Turks? No; but I understand it was his armies which were to march upon Constantinople. Why, if that statement was really intended by the noble Earl to be serious, I venture to say that the state of ignorance in which Her Majesty's Government are with regard—to use a French phrase—with regard to the "mobilisation" of the Russian army, is truly deplorable. It is notorious that of all the armies in Europe, the Russian is the army which, however well organised it may be in some respects—however powerful it may be in defence—however formidable at times in the field of battle—and, however well disciplined, in some respects, is the worst organised army belonging to any civilised nation for moving, and with regard to the commissariat and other arrangements which the movement of a great army requires. That is a notorious fact. But the other reason given by the noble Earl was the assurances which had been received from Russia. And here I cannot help avowing, that until I read these papers I could not bring myself to believe that if a straightforward question had been put to the Russian Government, on the object of Prince Menchikoff's mission, it would not have been answered—if answered at all—in 549 a manner which might be implicitly relied on. But I am bound to say that I was in error. It does appear that Sir George Seymour did upon one occasion put a question to the Chancellor of the Russian Empire, as to whether Prince Menchikoff had or had not any ulterior instructions or demands to make beyond that question of the Holy Places which had been before under discussion; and the answer he received was such as would satisfy any man of honour—any gentleman—that the Russian Government did not entertain any such intentions. But, in the first place, if the Government rely upon that despatch alone to which I have alluded, I must observe that that did not reach this country till the 4th of April; whereas it was about ten days previously, on the 23rd of March, that the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office had written to Colonel Rose, informing him that they did not think it was necessary to send the fleets eastward. But I do not lay any stress upon what may appear a little inconsistency, because there are in these papers references made to personal interviews and conversations which are very properly not given in detail. And therefore I doubt not that the assurances which were previously received were such as very naturally to justify our Government in thinking that there was no danger from Russian intrigue, and that they were fully warranted in believing the assurances that they received. Assurances, however, will go a certain way, but only a certain way; and against these assurances were circumstances calculated to have led to a different conclusion; and most admirably does Colonel Rose put it in his despatch, when he says that Prince Menchikoff's promises and assurances are very fair, but that the facts contradict him, and upon those facts he justifies the demand he made for bringing up the fleet. Now see what was the consequence, not only of their conduct—for I am ready to admit that on that point a difference of opinion might prevail, and that it might be justified—but of the language used by the British Ministry at that time. Not content with withholding our fleet from our oppressed ally on the demand of our Minister, Her Majesty's Government expressed openly the greatest alarm at and reprehension of the conduct of the French Government in sending their fleet. Not content with that language in London and Paris, they wrote a despatch to St. Petersburg, to be communi- 550 cated to the Russian Government, which evidently filled that Court and Cabinet with joy and delight. It is notorious to every man who has attended for any time to the march of events, in what is termed the Eastern questions, and to the policy of Russia, that for the last twenty-four years it has been the object of that Cabinet to excite differences between France and England, and more especially to excite differences between those two Powers on questions relating to Turkey. This has been its constant aim; and, of course, great was the joy of Russian Ministers when they perceived that Her Majesty's Government had done for them voluntarily what they had been in vain striving for a long time to do for themselves. I have mentioned this to demonstrate the soundness of the opinion which I have expressed upon the policy of our Government; and I will now trouble your Lordships with a few extracts from the papers in order to show the justice of the view I take of the conduct of our Government. I cannot refrain from reading a despatch, dated St. Petersburg, April 7, addressed by Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunnow, and by him subsequently read to Her Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs. It certainly shows in a striking manner the march of the Russian mind in the whole of this transaction. In this despatch Count Nesselrode says—The Emperor desires you, M. le Baron, to thank Lord Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon very particularly, in his name for the salutary impulse which they have recently given to the decisions of the British Cabinet. The former as on this occasion shown us a new proof of confidence of which our august master is highly sensible." [No. 138.]How happy must the noble Earl have been to receive these assurances, who told us the other night that of all the men who had ever shown acrimony, and severity, and bitterness, in opposing the Russian Government, or who had written and spoken with the utmost force against the Russian Emperor and his policy, that he was that man. The noble Earl then reverted to the treaty of Adrianople, and reviewed the circumstances which attended the then success of Russia against Turkey. My Lords, every sane man knows that if we, or any other European Power, had held up our finger at that time to support Turkey, or that if the Sultan had known the condition of the Russian army at that time, that that army must have been totally annihi- 551 lated—we know, in fact, that that conquest was attained as much by the influence of Russian gold as of Russian arms. But the noble Earl told us that he animadverted severely on the treaty of Adrianople; and yet it appears that the Emperor of Russia has so entirely forgotten the past conduct of the noble Earl as to state that he receives this as a new proof of that confidence which he felt that the noble Earl had always reposed in him. The Count Nesselrode pays a much milder compliment to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; for he only said—The latter with whom our relations have hardly yet commenced, thus enters upon them under auspices which justify us in hoping that they will be of the most satisfactory nature.Now, to turn to the more serious part of this despatch—not but that these personal matters are important when dealing with such a subject—the Russian Chancellor proceeds:—Nothing would be more to be regretted than to see the two great maritime Powers combining together, were it but for a moment, and in appearance rather than in fact, upon the Eastern question as it now stands" [that is, while Prince Menchikoff's demands were under consideration.] "Although their views in this respect differ in reality toto cœlo, nevertheless, as the European public is by no means competent to draw the distinction, their ostensible identity could not fail to represent them under the aspect of an intimate alliance.Exactly what I say, I repeat that this, which Count Nesselrode deprecates is the attitude that you should have assumed, and indeed adopted in reality. Now let me pray your Lordships' attention to another passage in the despatch:—The attitude of England will suffice to neutralise what, on the part of the French or the Turks, if the latter should feel encouraged by the presence of the French fleet, might embarrass, or retard too long, the favourable solution of the question in dispute.A favourable solution, indeed! In favour of whom? What was the question in dispute? It was whether the Emperor of Russia should acquire a joint sovereignty over a great part of the Turkish empire. The favourable solution would have been a giving in to these claims. That was the solution which your Minister at Constantinople, although he was not specially instructed on the question, yet, knowing naturally what must be the policy of this country and of this Government, of course resisted to the utmost of his power, when he found that it was pursued by Prince Menchikoff. I 552 say that this despatch of Count Nesselrode shows you as clearly as possible, if you wanted proof, that it was the separation of France and England at that moment—proclaimed as it was by the language our Ambassador was instructed to address to the Russian Government at St. Petersburg—that gave Prince Menchikoff the courage—I may say the audacity—to proceed in those demands which have led to this unfortunate state of affairs. When the fleets were sent for, Prince Menchikoff immediately abated his pretensions; and the Turkish Minister tells Colonel Rose that they did not know what the Prince Menchikoff wanted. "We do not know," said they, "what he is about; one day he endeavours to cajole us by promises of the aid and support that Russia can give us in any event, and another day he endeavours to terrify us with menaces of his Imperial master's vengeance. But some design he certainly appears to have against the independence and honour of the country." Prince Menchikoff thus obtained time to have recourse to his own Government for fresh instructions, and to state the impediments that he met with. In the meanwhile the attitude assumed by England and praised by Count Nesselrode had told at St. Petersburg; the instructions issued were in conformity with the impression thus formed; and it was when Prince Menchikoff received those further instructions (as expressly stated in the blue book) that he made these totally inadmissible demands. I am, therefore, justified in saying that those demands would not have been made had it not been for the course which our Government took in withholding the British fleet and in separating from the French Government. Now, see in what a position you put your Minister at the Court of Constantinople. When Lord Stratford de Redcliffe went there he found that his instructions were entirely founded in error. He found himself without any support whatever when these monstrous propositions were made by Prince Menchikoff. Now, having mentioned that noble Lord, I am sure that I shall not be accused of any partiality to him, either from the relationship in which I have the honour to stand towards him or, from the friendship existing between us, if I express my great admiration of the ability which he has displayed throughout these transactions. It is wonderful how he has succeeded as he has done. He had against him, of course, the Russian Mi- 553 nister and the whole Russian party in the Divan, assisted by Russian gold, as the Russian party and Minister always is. He had to keep up the courage of the Turks on the one hand, while he was unable to promise them any support on the other. Further than that, as matters advanced he had still further to impress upon them the necessity of fortitude and at the same time of patience; for he could not call into activity what is called the Turkish party at Constantinople, because they were for immediate war, and Lord Clarendon's instructions were to repress all hasty and warlike demonstrations at that particular time. I do not think that you can imagine any Ambassador placed in more embarrassing and difficult circumstances, and it is greatly to the honour of Lord Stratford do Redcliffe that he has come out of them with increased reputation for himself, if not with increased credit for the country. At length Prince Menchikoff retired from Constantinople. That, again, was a time when it would well have become the noble Earl to have called his Cabinet together, and to have reminded them of the promises given by Lord John Russell on the 29th of January, and to have arrived at a common understanding with France; at least as to the eventuality immediately impending—I mean the occupation of the Principalities. I will not detain your Lordships by going into details of negotiations, but I must refer to the despatch of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, dated July 4th [No. 353], in which he gives a most clear and most admirable exposition of the whole state of the case, and in which he calls upon his Government to come to a decision one way or another. I think there never was framed a more admirable state paper than that. It shows you not only the predicament in which, partly by your advice, the Turkish Government has been placed, but the risks which you must incur, and of the mischiefs which in one way or the other are sure to ensue from the state into which affairs have fallen; he says that it is not for him, but for the Government, to judge what line is to be adopted; and he recommends that a firm decision should be come to with the least possible delay. He warns the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) that evils that are only evaded for a time are most likely to recur again with exaggerated power and force; and he tells you that that is not the way to surmount a grave difficulty, but that it is your duty to view it in all its proportions, to measure it 554 well, that you may be able to combat it, and then to make finally and as early as possible your decision as to the course you will adopt. Referring to the consequences of leaving the Turkish Government to its fate or interfering to assist it, he says—If the ultimate exclusion of Russia, as well from the Greek Protectorate as from the Principalities, be really the important object, which has been hitherto presumed, success, I humbly conceive, will never be attained, according to any reasonable calculation, without a previous understanding on the part of England and France to stop at no sacrifice necessary to secure it.Now, my Lords, I am happy to say that at last we have acted in conformity with that opinion so far as it relates to some understanding with France; but up to this moment no understanding has been arrived at respecting the sacrifices we are prepared to make, and for what object they are to be made. I shall not take up your Lordships' time with the proceedings at the Conference at Vienna, or the Vienna note, and the events which have subsequently taken place. It is said to have been a great thing to have secured the alliance of Austria and the German Powers, and no person is more aware of the importance of that alliance being secured than I am; but I do not see, and those papers do not tell us, how far we are in alliance with that Power, or whether that Power approves of the course we have taken in the Black Sea, or how far the position in which we stand is in entire accordance with the views of the Austrian Government. But this I say, you will perceive from these papers, that while you were hesitating and vacillating, and holding aloof from France, and depending entirely upon Russia, that Austria did not come to your assistance—it was not then that you got any assurance from the German Powers; but when you told them boldly and distinctly that stronger steps would be taken by France and England, that was the time that Austria seemed to become alive to her true interest—for her interest it is; and it was by your determined attitude, and not by your vacillation, that you obtained whatever influence you possess in the Austrian Court.
There then took place a melancholy event, to which I will not advert; but I must turn to the instructions that were given to our Minister at the Court of St. Petersburg respecting the last communication which he was required to make. My Lords, I must say that the communication 555 that was made by Sir George Seymour to Count Nesselrode, of the entry of the fleet into the Black Sea, was read by me with sincere pain. It appears that in the first place he informs the Russian Minister that it was with no hostile intention to Russia that our fleet was going into the Black Sea, and he then says, moreover, that the Turkish fleet is not to be allowed to commit any aggression against Russian territory. To which Count Nesselrode not unnaturally replies, "Are you quite sure that this intention is expressed in your instructions?" And it was no wonder that he should be doubtful and astonished. Sir George Seymour then proceeded to deliver a short but significant homily on the value of truth—one that I think was very well applied in the quarter to which it was addressed, but at the same time was administered at a most unhappy moment—for according to the narrative contained in those papers it was not a correct description of our intentions that Sir George was instructed to give. It was not a correct intimation of our acts to say that we entered into the Black Sea with no hostile intentions. I say, my Lords, that we did enter the Black Sea with a hostile intent, and immediately committed acts of hostility. The Russian ships were ordered to return to their ports, and if they did not return to their ports force would have been used against them, that is, that they would be taken or sunk. What right had we to do that, if we were not prepared to commit acts of hostility? The Russian fleet was superior to the Turkish, Russia and Turkey had declared war against each other, and of course it was an act of hostility to prevent Russia from having the advantage of her superiority in the Black Sea. But more than that, you know the Russians have forces, possessions, and territories along a great portion of the shores of the Black Sea; and to prevent their ships from reinforcing their forces there, and strengthening their forts, and having recourse there for the protection of their territories, was an act of hostility, and no man can deny it. What was the very first step that was taken by the fleet when it entered the Black Sea? The very first step was to convoy a Turkish fleet with munitions of war towards the seat of war in Asia. I do not merely ask an assembly of gentlemen or of statesmen, but I would put it to the most sophistical or casuistical tribunal that ever got together, and I defy the noble Earl at the head of 556 Her Majesty's Government to show me any jurist, casuist, or sophist, who would not say, that so to aid one of the belligerents and so to take part in the warfare, is undoubtedly an indication of having hostile intentions towards the other party. The thing is undeniable. We said we would not allow the Turkish Government to commit any act of aggression on Russian territory, yet still our ships are convoying munitions of war, which will be used to attack Russian territory. Did we say that in a sense such as British statesmen would wish the truth of their language to be held? Are we to say that is a fair and correct statement, when we convoyed troops and munitions of war to make war upon Russian territory within a few miles of the place where we landed them. My Lords, I do not know why we should say this at all. I do not know why we were at that moment to tell Russia we had no hostile intentions towards her. We ought not to have been ashamed to say we would support the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire, and that that integrity and independence had been violated. It was declared by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his place in Parliament that the restoration of the Principalities was to be a sine quâ non of any settlement, and yet the military occupation of the Danubian Provinces had become a complete incorporation of those provinces into part of the Russian Empire. We were told that explanations were to be demanded on the subject. Explanations demanded! When we are told that in Parliament we are accustomed to think that something will result from that proceeding; but in this instance nothing resulted from it.
I am sorry to be brought back to a period I have passed over, or to trouble your Lordships with any more reference to it, but I cannot refrain from it. I must refer your Lordships to Sir George Seymour's despatch of the 12th of August, where he gives an account of the explanations he demanded, and where you will see the answer he received. Why, he was treated as you would treat a whining school-boy. It was disgraceful to be so treated, and to submit to that treatment. When he asks when the Russian troops are to leave the Principalities, it is said, "Oh, don't mention it; all these things will come of course; I have no explanation to give, and you had better not speak to me on the subject:" and the fact is, that the 557 real answer of Count Nesselrode is a threat that if you ask any explanation, the possession of the Principalities will be continued indefinitely. You have undergone the indignity of receiving false representations and promises from the Russian Minister, and you made a very feeble remonstrance; you now ask for the explanation of the violation of a treaty to which you are a party, and you are told you had better not mention it. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs very ably in his desoatch referred to the affair at Sinope, when he instructed Sir George Seymour to notify the entrance of the ships into the Black Sea. There is a paragraph in the despatch to this effect—that the Russian Admiral knew perfectly well the instructions that had been given to our Admiral—that he knew very well the communication that had been made by the British Government to the Russian Government respecting our intended protection of the Turkish territory; and, therefore, my noble Friend very wisely and properly observed, that when the Russian Admiral went into the Bay of Sinope and destroyed those ships, he did not alone attack the Turkish territory and the Turkish flag, but, at the same time, committed an insult and aggression against the British and French flags. These things having occurred, what necessity was there to tell Count Nesselrode that we went into the Black Sea with no hostile intention? It was not accurate in point of fact, and was unbecoming under the circumstances in which we were placed. We are not to wonder, when such language was held, into the Black Sea had no effect. You are defined in thee Black Sea, and treated with contumely in your negotiations. You submit to all this, and you boast you are at peace.
My Lords, this is our present position, and it is one which I much regret; moreover, I am free to say that the relative position of Parliament and the Ministers is an unprecedented one. I venture to say that the noble Earl at the head of the Government can show me no case at all analogous to it—any case in which events such as those that have lately occurred have taken place, and in which the Ministers of the Crown have failed to come to Parliament with a clear exposition of the case, and to demand, if not the advice of Parliament, at least the assent of Parliament, to the course they intend to pursue. Let me not be referred to the Speech we have heard from 558 the Throne on the opening day of the Session. Things are now very different from what they were when Her Majesty delivered Her most gracious Speech. In that Speech we were informed by Her Majesty that She regretted that the differences between Russia and Turkey had not been settled, and that a state of warfare had ensued; but it was then stated in that Speech that Her Majesty's endeavours, in concert with Her Allies, to put an end to that state of things were unremitting, and we were informed that they would be continued. It was added, that in order to give weight to Her Majesty's representations an augmentation of the Army and Navy would be proposed. But that is not the case now; the negotiations then referred to are at an end. The noble Earl at the head of the Government himself told us on Friday that we have no negotiation going on now for the restoration of peace, and we have broken up our diplomatic relations with Russia—a great fact in itself, seldom to be passed over without a communication from the Crown to Parliament—we have our fleet in the Black Sea, and they have been ordered to sweep the Russian ships from that sea into their ports; it is rumoured in the papers, and I believe truly, that we are preparing a great fleet, and certainly if it be as described, it is the greatest fleet that has ever been formed, to sail to the Baltic. We have at this moment under orders for foreign service—well understood to mean for active warfare—a considerable body, I hope it will be a very considerable body, of Her Majesty's troops. My Lords, at no previous period have such preparations been made for war, at no time has such an important event as the cessation of our relations with so great a Power as Russia taken place, without the Minister of the Crown making a communication to Parliament; and I regret that we are not now discussing this matter on a Motion originated by the Minister, instead of an unimportant question moved by so humble an individual as myself. We may be told that this matter will be brought before the other House of Parliament, when the Navy and Army Estimates come on; but that is not the proper way to take the sense of Parliament upon so grave and important a question; and in regard to this House, if it is to continue part of the Parliament of the country, it is not proper to leave the discussion upon this question to depend on a debate brought on in supply in the House of Commons.
559 But, more than that, my Lords, we have contracted new engagements—I know not of what character—but we have contracted new engagements undoubtedly, respecting which I think we ought to have some information. I know not if those engagements be such as ought immediately to be embodied in an official document—I know not whether there have been conventions or protocols—but we have embarked in a great undertaking, in concert with other Powers, and those undertakings ought not to have been embarked in without a definite object, and some explanation of that object in Parliament. I want to know what your objects are, and to have an explanation of them from Her Majesty's Government. On the first night we were told that we ought to wait until the blue book was put upon the table; upon taking it up I see it is a book on the Rights and Privileges of the Greek and Latin Churches. I hope it is not for the privileges of the Greek and Latin Churches we are going to war. I, for one, will not consent to enter into a conflict for such an object. The object for which this country contracts an alliance for war ought to be worthy of its greatness. I say that when we risk our fleets and send forth our armies, we ought to know for what, and receive a proper explanation of it. We may indeed gather from the blue books, and I hope you will be able to show tonight that the object of the war on the part of this country is to defend the Turkish territory against aggression. But do you think you can defend the Turkish territory, and limit your operations to that, by making a partial, limited, qualified, movement in the Black Sea, and by sending 10,000 men to encamp in the neighbourhood of Constantinople? Either you are engaging in a war with Russia to prevent Russian aggrandisement, or you are not embarking in an object that is worthy of your efforts. No statesman, no writer upon international law, will deny that when a large Power commits an act of aggression, and wages war for the sake of aggrandisement on a weaker Power, that a third Power, though not directly affected by the conflict, yet, if it be indirectly interested in it, by reason of the changes which might take place if the larger Power should succeed in its object of aggrandisement, and thus disturb the balance of power that previously existed, or by other circumstances affecting its welfare, is fairly entitled to interfere in that war. This is one great principle that can justify our inter- 560 ference in this case with the war between Turkey and Russia. There is another principle upon which this country might engage in a war with Russia—I mean the principle of self-defence. The question, then, is, according to that principle—will you or will you not allow Russia to wage war against Turkey for her own aggrandisement to the endangering of the peace of Europe and the security of your own commerce and your own power? I trust on either of those principles we are prepared to resist Russia in concurrence with our ally—France. And here I cannot but speak in the highest commendation of the loyalty, good faith, and honour of the Emperor of the French. The French Government has behaved towards England throughout the whole of these negotiations in a manner which has, I am sure, won not only the respect, but even the gratitude, as well as the good feeling, of every man in this kingdom. My Lords, with respect to the Turkish Government, it must be admitted that its conduct during the present war has been wonderful. Considering the circumstances under which that country was placed when it was first attacked by Russia, it has shown its ability and capability in a wonderful manner, and it will, I am certain, meet with the fullest respect and attention from the Government of England and the country at large. But at the same time, I, for one, am not willing to enter into a war, led on by Turkey, without knowing to what limit I am to go, for what object I am embarking in that war, and where it is I am to stop. Nor, looking at all the chances of human affairs, am I to side with France—notwithstanding all the reciprocated good feeling which I know this country entertains towards France and its Government—and embark with her in a great war, without knowing how far we are to go and what is to be the contingent efforts of each country. These are matters upon which we ought to have some information from our Ministers; up to this moment we have not the slightest explanation. Whether from the Speech from the Throne, or from any communication whatever that has been made on the part of Ministers, we have on all these subjects not been able to derive any information. These are very grave and serious matters for consideration. It is my opinion that this war has been brought on by infirmity of purpose and vacillating conduct. The events that await us, if unfortunate, will be wholly attributable to 561 that infirmity of purpose and internal want of vigour which have pervaded our councils, and which will be the real source of all the evils that England may experience. It was an often-quoted saying of a great man, that England could not afford to engage in a little war. Unfortunately, I think, England has engaged, of late years, in several little wars. But of this I am sure—and I will again borrow the words of the illustrious man to whom I have alluded, because I consider them to be peculiarly applicable at the present moment—I say that England cannot engage in a little war with Russia;—for if you intend to bring that war to a permanently successful issue, you must make efforts that are worthy of England. My Lords, it is a great struggle in which you are about to engage, and, unless you are prepared to give way on every point, and to submit to indignity and humiliation, and incur the discredit of defeat, the Government must look the conflict boldly in the face, and act as other Governments have acted, by means of their great military and naval power. My Lords, I have talked undoubtedly as if we were already, as I consider we are, at war; our fleet is at this moment engaged in hostilities in the Black Sea. We are engaged at this moment in considering what has been the conduct of the Ministry in respect to this great and important question. I cannot say anything in compliment of the mode in which those hostilities have been carried on. Were the instructions which were conveyed to our Admiral written in the same tone as those under which Sir G. Seymour acted when he communicated the intelligence of the entry of the fleet into the Black Sea? Whether they were or not, it cannot be denied that what has happened has been most unfortunate. It seems that the combined fleet has returned to the Bosphorus. It is also a matter of public notoriety—for these are matters which all letters from those parts speak of without the slightest reserve—that the re-entry of the fleet into the Bosphorus was not by the advice or at the desire of our Ambassador. We understand there were professional reasons for it, with which it is not for me to find fault; but this I cannot help saying—what every professional and non-professional man will say—that the result is most unfortunate. We are told that during the dark nights the storms and dangers of the coasts render it unsafe for our ships to stay at sea. But what is the conclusion 562 drawn from the cause assigned for this step by the Admirals? The conclusion is this, that our ships cannot keep the sea, while the Russian fleet can go forth and perform active operations. You declared your indignation when your flag was insulted by the massacre at Sinope, and since then you have declared more emphatically that the Turkish territory was under your protection; but, notwithstanding that declaration, it appears that the Russian ships have attacked and bombarded a fort on the Asiatic side of the Black Sea, at a time when unfortunately the British Admiral thought it unsafe for his fleet to continue at sea. This is most calamitous—it lowers the character of the country. It does not, I trust, lower the character of the naval service; but I will tell the noble Lords on the Treasury benches what it does affect; it affects the honour of the country and of the Goverment, for it is a current belief at Constantinople that the Admiral commanding the fleet had a private communication, desiring hint to avoid any collision with the Russian fleet under any circumstances whatever. I don't believe a word of this, for I don't think any Minister would be capable of sending such instructions; but those things pass through the minds of people like the Asiatics with inconceivable force—a force which in this country it is difficult to comprehend. The very speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, the other night, when he spoke respecting the hope of peace with Russia, if circulated through Asia, would be better than 10,000 or 20,000 men to the Russian Government. What can they say but that we are afraid to go to war with Russia, and that if we sneak into a war we are afraid at the last moment to say it. If we are at peace, I want to know what is the peace, or if at war, what is the peace that is the object of the war? I hope we shall have a satisfactory peace. I want to know what is the peace which the noble Earl keeps in view. Not, I trust, the sort of peace that we could have had if we sent our fleet when Colonel Rose sent for it, or if we had acted with France when the French fleet sailed for Salamis. That is not the peace we now wish to attain. If that be the peace which the noble Earl thinks to maintain—if he conceives that he can now maintain those treaties which have kept Europe in constant dread, and that no indemnity is to be paid by Russia for the aggression that has been committed, and that we are to treat her now as we would 563 have done ten or twelve months ago—I tell him that Europe will not stand it, and that we will not stand it. I know the Parliament of this country will not submit to such degradation. The question is not with regard to notes or conventions, or whether a word shall be this way or the other, or whether certain privileges are to be granted ab antiquo, or some new sort of guarantee is to be given by Turkey to Russia—that is not the matter now at all for consideration. What the country and what Europe requires is, not a pitiful and contemptible adjournment of war, but a settlement that will give ample security for the future peace of Europe. That is the purpose for which we have armed. Let not the Government be afraid—let not Her Majesty's Ministers be afraid to say, that is their object, and that they are prepared to make vigorous efforts throughout the world to maintain it. I know that Parliament and the country will support them throughout such a cause, and as to the issue of the contest, I cannot for one moment entertain a doubt. The noble Marquess concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that further information respecting the cessation of diplomatic relations with the Court of St. Petersburg, and the war which appears imminent, be laid before this House.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, although I certainly do not anticipate all the benefit from this discussion that my noble Friend promised to us last week, when he gave notice of his Motion, yet I, for one, do not regret that he has called the attention of your Lordships to the question in a more deliberate manner than has been possible since the meeting of Parliament; for, involving as this question undoubtedly does the most momentous consequences—affecting, it may be, British interests in every quarter of the world—I think your Lordships and the country are entitled not only to the fullest information upon the subject, but to have that subject sifted and analysed in a manner that will show whether the Government have done their duty, and thereby entitled themselves to the confidence of Parliament and the country.
My Lords, I think no one who has listened to my noble Friend's speech can deny either the industry or ingenuity with which he has analysed the information which has been furnished to your Lord- 564 ships. I think nobody will deny that there has not entered into his analysis one grain of partiality—I might almost say one grain of fairness—towards Her Majesty's Government. He has had the advantage by means of that information—of which he has largely availed himself—of testing the latest negotiations; but he has not given to us the benefit of placing himself in our position at any of the intermediate times, nor has he stated what would have been the position to which he himself would have come in any of the intermediate stages of these negotiations; but he has decided upon the question according to his judgment, arrived at after all the negotiations have been closed. And what is the result of my noble Friend's opinion after all? My noble Friend considers that if things had been done differently, a different result might have occurred. His charge against the Government is a matter of his own opinion merely, and although I certainly shall not hope to satisfy my noble Friend that we have done our duty, or that we have been guided by a true sense of what was due to the dignity of this country, or even that we did know how to carry out our own policy, yet I venture to hope and trust that such is not the verdict of the people of this country—that they do not think that we have tarnished the honour of England by labouring to maintain and preserve the peace of Europe. I certainly am the last person individually to regret anything that has fallen from my noble Friend, for certainly I will say with all sincerity that nobody has more regretted than myself that the conduct of the negotiations should not have fallen into abler hands than mine. They were difficult in themselves, but were rendered far more difficult by attendant circumstances. The great distance between the seats of negotiation, the time unavoidably lost in intercommunication, and the rapidity of events, which have often completely frustrated the best founded hopes of success—all those things have rendered these negotiations peculiarly difficult. I can truly say that I have deeply regretted that they should not have been confided to more able hands; but upon public grounds I must regret the tone in which my noble Friend has brought this question before your Lordships. I think his object has been throughout to disparage the Government, and to create disunion at a time when certainly we may at any moment require all the strength which union can give to our coun- 565 sels. On the first night of the Session the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) said, that when he possessed the papers, he should be able to form a judgment of the manner in which the negotiations had been conducted by Her Majesty's Government, and that, if war there was to be in a just and righteous cause, we should lay aside all considerations of party, and endeavour to support the Government to enforce the war with effect, because war should not be undertaken at all, except it were maintained by the universal feeling and united force of the country. And I must say, my Lords, that I think that course would have been the best course under the circumstances in which we are now placed, and one which I believe would have been more in harmony with the feelings of the people of this country than the course which my noble Friend has pursued on this occasion.
I think your Lordships will not deem it necessary for me to follow my noble Friend through all that he has said, and all that he has quoted, and not quite correctly quoted, from the blue book. My noble Friend seems to think that Prince Menchikoff did sufficient in the earlier parts of his mission to Constantinople to have created alarm on our part, and to have justified stronger measures than were then taken by Her Majesty's Government. My Lords, we were told that as soon as the information could reach us from Constantinople, of what the proceedings of Prince Menchikoff were, we should have demanded explanations. Your Lordships will fine by the blue book, that that was the course we took. We asked in very distinct term what were the real objects of his mission; and we received an assurance in the most distinct terms that Prince Menchikon mission related solely to the Holy Places, My noble Friend is perfectly right in saying that there occurred communications in conversations which could not be properly placed in the blue books. I can assure my noble Friend that he is perfectly right it his assumption; and that these communications were far stronger, although they were confidential, than anything that will be found in the printed papers; and they all concurred in giving us the strongest assurances that Prince Menchikoff's mission had reference solely to the question of the Holy Places; and it was on that ground we felt it was impossible to doubt the representations of the Russian Government My Lords, I should as soon have thought 566 of doubting what any noble Lord in this House stated on his honour, as I would have thought of doubting or of taking any measures in distrust of the assurances which Russia so distinctly and so repeatedly expressed to us. I say, my Lords, that with the assurances which we received, it was impossible not to believe in the sincerity of Russia. I said also, the other night, that these assurances were for some time borne out; for, although Prince Menchikoff did in the first instance propose a treaty that would have involved the nomination to the patriarchate and various other things, all of which were matters which no doubt would have been highly pleasing to the orthodox party in Russia, of which he was at the head, yet we found afterwards to some extent the truth of what we were told at St. Petersburg, namely, that the Prince had great latitude in his instructions—that they referred only to the Holy Places—and that, in fact, he was able to settle that question in whatever way appeared to him fit. I say again, therefore, that it was impossible not to believe these assurances.
But, my Lords, my noble Friend has greatly complained of our not having approved of Colonel Rose's conduct in calling up the British fleet, and has complained of a disagreement which he says had arisen between us and the French Government; and said that that measure, on our part, had produced great apprehension on the part of the Turkish Government. And my noble Friend also said, that the Government ought to be ashamed of the approbation which, he says, we received from Russia on that occasion. Now I beg your Lordships just to remember what were the circumstances. Colonel Rose, on Prince Menchikoff's arrival, and when there was great excitement at Constantinople, and when the Turkish Minister resigned, not at his command, but simply because he declined to transact business with him, requested that the fleet should be moved up from Malta. Upon the French Government learning that, and without any previous consultation with us, but simply believing that the presence of their fleet would be necessary, they ordered their fleet to proceed from Marseilles towards the Greek waters, with the view that if joint action should be necessary, they might, being in the Greek waters, be more on a level—more on a par—with the English fleet which was at Malta; but there never was the slightest disagreement between Her Majesty's Go- 567 vernment and that of the Emperor of the French in this respect, as your Lordships will find from the despatches; and as to the mischief which it is said this occasioned to the cause, if your Lordships will turn to the despatches which my noble Friend only quoted a portion of, you will there find that the Grand Vizier told Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and the latter agreed with him, that the cause of the Sultan was much better served by the determination to keep the fleet at Malta, than by its being brought to Constantinople. And, my Lords, when this simple fact was communicated to the Russian Government, they said that the presence of the fleets at Constantinople would cause the greatest embarrassment, and would be likely to prevent the settlement of the question, which was not a question of aggression, not a question of the Principalities, and not one of the questions which my noble Friend said occupied the attention of Europe, but a question which was solely confined to the subject of the Holy Places, with which we had nothing to do; and I think that the Russian Government would have been borne out in what they said. They said, "Here we give you assurances that we only have a view to the Holy Places—we tell you all that we want to do, and all that we have to dispute; and if the French and English fleets come up to Constantinople, and assume an attitude of hostility on that question, we greatly think it will interfere with a peaceful solution of the difference." And I must say that upon this occasion we received no praise from Russia, because there had been no interference on our part, with the French Government;—we simply stated that our fleet was at Malta—that we did not think it was immediately wanted at Constantinople—that we were glad that the French fleet had gone where it would be on a level with ours; but that we did not think (and the French Government agreed with us) that at that moment it was necessary to send up our fleet. And I think—considering that the only question then in view was one in which no British interest was concirned—that the presence of the combined fleets would certainly have altered the character of the proceedings. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) has said that Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople—with respect to whom I beg to say that I entirely concur in all that fell from my noble Friend as to the great talent, ability, and zeal which have been 568 displayed by that noble Lord—my noble Friend says that he went away under erroneous instructions—that nothing which afterwards happened was contemplated in them—and that the Sultan had no support from our Minister at Constantinople, because he had nothing to offer or promise to Turkey. Now the instructions which were given to our Ambassador, as will be found in the blue book, were, that if events which we did not foresee should occur, and emergencies which we should lament should arise, Lord Stratford was to give notice to the British Admiral, and to call up the fleet from Malta; and in the first despatch which our Ambassador writes, giving an account of his first audience with the Sultan, he states that he informed the Sultan, that so far from having nothing to offer, if he is in any difficulty or danger, the support of Her Majesty's Government will be given, and that he has the power to call up the fleet.
I come now to the more important part of the speech of my noble Friend, and which will be considered by your Lordships and the country as of far more interest, perhaps, than the contents of the blue books—I mean the question of whether we are at peace or whether we are at war. My Lords, that is a most important question; but your Lordships must be aware that a distinct answer cannot be given to it at the present moment. We are not at war, because war is not declared—we are not strictly at peace with Russia. [A laugh.] My noble Friend may laugh; but he must know perfectly well that I am correct in saying that we are not at war with Russia, although diplomatic relations with that country are suspended. And you must remember, my Lords, that these relations have not been interrupted in consequence of our act, but that the initiative of the interruption of diplomatic relations was taken by Russia, and that those relations are declared by Russia to be simply suspended. Therefore I consider that we are in the intermediate state; that our desire for peace is just as sincere as ever; but then I must say that our hopes of maintaining it are gradually dwindling away, and that we are drifting towards war. But as my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) said the other night, so long as war is not declared, the maintenance of peace is not utterly to be despaired of. It has been stated in this House, that certain propositions have been made by Russia by way of reply to those contained in the collective 569 Note of the Ambassadors at Vienna; but it seems to me as easy to make two parallel lines meet as those two sets of propositions. I, therefore, my Lords, consider that the negotiations are now at an end. But it does not follow that a state of war is instantly to ensue. I am sure your Lordships will not expect me, in the exercise of my discretion or responsibility, to state to your Lordships the exact steps which Her Majesty's Government think it necessary to take in the present aspect of affairs;—because your Lordships must remember that we are not acting alone; we are acting in conjunction with our allies; and I think it will be sufficient at the present moment to say, in answer to the doubts thrown upon our proceedings by my noble Friend, that every preparation is being made, and with all the rapidity which the existing state of things demands. More than that, my Lords, I do not think your Lordships will expect me to say; I will, however, add one other explanation to my noble Friend, who seems to imagine that we have no understanding with France, either as to the objects of our conjoint action, or as to the manner in which they are to be carried out. My noble Friend in this is entirely mistaken; but your Lordships will not expect that I should lay upon the table any agreement between the two Powers either as to our naval operations.
My Lords, throughout my noble Friend's speech he treated our position as one that was anomalous—anomalous with reference to Russia, and anomalous with reference to Turkey. But he must remember that the whole question, from beginning to end—from the earliest period of the negotiations down to the present day—has presented one continued series of anomalies, to be dealt with one after another. My Lords, what could be more anomalous than that Russia should have perpetually proclaimed that the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire was an European necessity, and that the independence of the Sultan must be upheld—and yet that she should, without the shadow of a pretext, have demanded a power and a right to interfere in that country which would have virtually transferred the allegiance of 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 of the Sultan's subjects to the Emperor of Russia, and which was truly declared by the Turkish Minister as a system that would have killed the Ottoman Empire by slow poison; and if the other great Powers of Europe are equally bound 570 by the same engagements with Russia, not to allow the open and direct invasion of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, they are not less bound to resist the same result being aimed at by a more slow, subtle, and indirect policy; and they unanimously recommended the Sultan to refuse to concede the final demands made by Russia. I know there are persons in Parliament, and out of it, who consider that it would be far better not to interfere at all between Russia and Turkey; and that it would be preferable to allow things quietly to take their own course. [Earl GREY: Hear!] My noble Friend cheers that remark; but I think he does not very distinctly nor very correctly weigh what would be the result of such a policy. We might certainly have avoided the state of things which now excites and agitates men's minds; but to do so would be to purchase a temporary repose at too perilous a risk. A protectorate over 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 of the Sultan's subjects would have placed the Throne and Empire of the Sultan completely at the mercy of Russia at any moment. Do what you might to prevent it, Russia might thus become the mistress of Constantinople; and then, applying all her energies and all her resources to increase her naval strength—nothing could have prevented her—she would become a great Mediterranean Power, being also a great Baltic Power; and, my Lords, in that case nothing would prevent the Emperor of Russia from giving the law to Europe, except a constant and ruinous drain upon the resources of other nations who wished to maintain an amount of naval force to counterbalance the power of Russia. The question of the defence is, then, not a mere geographical question; it is not a mere question of right and humanity; it is a question, under these circumstances, which involves the independence of Europe. And not France and England alone have so regarded it, but Austria and Prussia likewise. No one can doubt that, in the month of May last, Austria and Prussia could have had no wish to quarrel or be at difference with Russia unnecessarily; and yet, my Lords, the representatives of those two Powers at Constatinople, being consulted by the Porte, and receiving instructions from their own Governments, cordially united with the Ambassadors of England and France in recommending the Porte to resist the demands of Prince Menchikoff, clearly foreseeing the perilous results that must ensue from compliance with them. 571 And, my Lords, if that was the case, simply with reference to the demand contained in the note which Russia proposed, that the Porte should accept, how much more bound are these Powers to support their own principles when they see the violation of those principles attended by so dangerous a measure as the occupation of the Danubian Principalities? The occupation of these Principalities, my Lords, gave to the question a greater importance and interest, and imposed on the four Powers the necessity and the duty of resisting the policy of that fifth Power which had always proclaimed the same principles, and was bound by the same engagements—principles and engagements which up to this time it had solemnly declared its intention of maintaining. My Lords, the occupation of the Principalities constituting a casus belli, and yet there being no declaration of war, and then again the declaration of Russia that nothing new was demanded, and yet its absolute refusal to accept the status quo, form two other instances in that series of anomalies for which Russia, and certainly not this country, is responsible. My noble Friend, in speaking of the occupation of the Principalities—an act which he designates, I must say, in not too strong terms—appears to think that we ought to have held firmer language to the Emperor of Russia on this subject. Now, I believe that a reference to the blue book will relieve us from this charge, even in the minds of those who are not slow in finding fault with the Government, because it will show that from the moment that we discovered that the objects contemplated by Russia were other than those which we were led to expect, and that other demands than those which had been all along stated to us were made upon the Turkish Government, there has been no backwardness in our remonstrances, no wavering or indistinctness in the expression of our opinions, no failure in our attempts to convince the Emperor of the injustice of his demands, and of the enormous danger with which he threatened the peace of Europe by deviating from that peaceful policy which had characterised his whole reign, and by acting in violation of those principles regarding the maintenance of the Ottoman empire which he had so often proclaimed. My Lords, that, I think, was the proper course for us to pursue, and the language which was becoming in us to use. But my noble Friend seems to think that we should have gone at first still further, and have me- 572 naced Russia, and stated what we should be prepared to do. My Lords, I have previously stated the reason why Her Majesty's Government, though fully admitting that the casus belli was clear and complete, yet did not recommend the Sultan to stand upon his strict right and declare war. In that advice we were forestalled by our Ambassador at Constantinople, who certainly was no bad judge of what was the interest of Turkey, and whose advice, moreover, had already been adopted by the Sultan before our advice reached Constantinople. I say, my Lords, that we could not recommend the Sultan to act on his right, and declare war, so long as there was a hope of the peaceful settlement of the question, and while the Sultan was in a state in which he was incapable of resistance. My noble Friend, I think, will not say that at the time we desired and recommended the Sultan to remain at peace he should have advised England and France to declare war. But supposing that we had induced the Sultan to do that, he believing it to be contrary to his interest, and that in July last we had done that which my noble Friend says he regrets was not done—and I am sure my noble Friend would not have recommended us to do this if he had himself been a responsible Minister—but supposing that in July last Her Majesty's Government had come down to Parliament with a menace to Russia, and she had defied us, and we had declared war with her, sure I am that my noble Friend would have been the very first—and I think your Lordships would have agreed with him in doing so—in accusing us of having acted with haste and precipitation, and of having plunged the country into war unnecessarily and would have said there was no wonder that we had given Austria and Prussia into a close alliance with Russia—since we hail treated with contempt their wishes, and made no real effort to preserve peace, and that there was no wonder that they would not support us, because we had asked and received distinct and categorical assurances that they entertained the same views as ourselves, but we had not relied upon them or waited for their co-operation. My noble Friend has said there were no debates on this question in the last Session of Parliament, but I find that certainly there was no lack of discussions, generally promoted by himself; and I will refer to one last year, in which my noble Friend took the initiative, and in which he said that any promise given by the Emperor of Russia, 573 and any engagements into which he entered, he was satisfied that he would faithfully and punctually fulfil; and at that time I expressed my concurrence in my noble Friend's confidence in the honour and integrity of the Emperor; and the manner in which this statement was received on both sides of this House showed that your Lordships did not think the confidence of Her Majesty's Government in the Emperor's declarations would be misplaced. That discussion took place on the 29th of April; and that day month it was my duty to recapitulate these assurances of confidence in a despatch now in your Lordships' hands, and your Lordships are the judges whether or not these assurances were not of an explicit kind, such as those on which my noble Friend said he could always rely; and whether, at the time they were made, we had not reason to rely that Russia had no idea of aggrandisement or of encroachment, and whether we should have been justified, under these circumstances, in plunging this country into a war.
But the next point to which my noble Friend alluded was our communications with Russia. I will shortly refer to what these communications were. When the Turkish Government found that further negotiations were hopeless, and thought it advisable to commence hostilities, the allied fleets were ordered up to the Bosphorus; and in October last a communication was made to the Russian Government, stating that the fleets were not there for the purpose of attacking Russia, but that we were determined to defend the Turkish territory. My Lords, no aggression did take place on the Turkish territory; and in the meantime we received assurances (and they were distinctly given to the Austrian Government as well) that Russia would still retain a defensive position, and would not in any way act on the offensive. Under such circumstances, and after this assurance, we had no reason, my Lords, to expect any aggression on the part of Russia on the Turkish territory, and for upwards of a month there was no aggression committed on the Turkish territory, then the horrible affair at Sinope occurred, when the Turkish fleet, peacefully anchored in a Turkish harbour, was completely destroyed, and where, if the combined fleets had been present, they would have repelled the aggression and chastised the aggressor. After that occurrence, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government felt, 574 in conjunction with that of the Emperor of the French, that the time was come, not only to prevent the recurrence of a similar disaster, but at once to protect the Ottoman flag and Ottoman territory; and no time was lost in making such a communication both to the Russian Government and the Russian Admiral. But we did not think—whatever may be my noble Friend's opinion—in the situation in which matters then stood, that to permit an aggression on the part of Turkey:—we having undertaken to defend the Turkish territory, at the same time did not think that to permit an act of aggression on the part of the Sultan would have been proper and lawful. We did not injure Turkey in doing that, because she is too weak to attempt any aggression upon the Russians, and she could only have done so under the protection of the French and British flags. We thought that for us to permit that, and to become accessories, and more than accessories, in acts of overt hostility towards Russia, would have been to become aggressors ourselves, and, more than that, justly to expose ourselves to the accusation of having committed acts of hostility without having the manliness or the courage to declare war. We considered that that would have been a dastardly course, and wholly unworthy of England. We did not declare war at the time these instructions were sent, because, in the beginning of December, we did not see that war was necessary. We had reason to expect that our objects in protecting the Turkish territory and flag might be carried out without war; but to commit acts of hostility under the mask of peace we thought—and I am sure your Lordships will agree with us—would have been unjust and unbecoming the dignity and character of this country. Our communication to St. Petersburg was not regarded in the friendly light which my noble Friend seems to think it was. On the contrary, the Russian Government, so far from being satisfied, required its Ambassadors at Paris and London to obtain written explanations of the course which the French and English Governments meant to pursue—if they meant that a system of reciprocity and armistice was to be established in the Black Sea, and if we intended to remain neutral. The English and French fleets, my Lords, certainly did not go into the Black Sea with any intention of remaining neutral. The British and French fleets were there for the protection of the Turkish territory 575 and flag, and to insist that a weak Power should not depend upon the will of a powerful nation, and to maintain the principle on which the balance of power in Europe is established. This being the case, to have replied to the question of the Russian Cabinet, that it was our intention to remain neutral, would have been to stultify ourselves, and to tie our hands for the future, and injure the very cause we were prepared to support. But my noble Friend seems to complain that Russia was not allowed to transport her forces from one Russian port to another in the Black Sea. Why, if we had permitted that, we should have had to remain passive spectators whilst large forces were being conveyed from Russian ports to Trebizond, and the most distant parts of the Black Sea, or to have passively witnessed the spectacle of the Turkish fleet interfering with such an expedition and insulting it. That, my Lords, would have been an anomaly; but certainly I do not think it so great an anomaly as the occupation of the Danubian Principalities without a declaration of war, in order to enforce compliance with a demand which could not be rightly demanded or conceded without the sacrifice of the independence and sovereignty of the Sultan. And although my noble Friend takes the part of the Emperor of Russia, and says he has been very ill used, I think what has taken place cannot be very new to the Emperor of Russia; for I will call your Lordships' attention to a case analogous to it, which occurred in the year 1850, and of which my noble Friend must be more cognisant than myself, for he was a Member of the Government at the time. In 1850, a dispute had arisen between the Governments of Austria and Prussia, which seemed likely to lead to a collision between these Powers. At that time, the Emperor of Russia declared that he constituted himself a pacificator between Austria and Prussia—that he was about to propose certain terms of arrangement, and that he had established a large basis, upon which peace might be negotiated. The terms he proposed were rejected by Prussia, and then the Emperor of Russia declared that, although it would give him much pain to be opposed to his ally Prussia, yet, that if she persisted in her rejection of the terms proposed, he (the Emperor) should consider it a casus belli; and, further than that, he requested that the British squadron should be sent to cruise in the Baltic with the Russian fleet, in order to show that the 576 great Powers were determined that the dispute should be settled, and all further resistance put down. Therefore, I do not think that the Emperor of Rusisa can complain of this as a very new proceeding.
The next point to which my noble Friend has alluded—I must apologise to your Lordships for taking up so much of your time, but I wished to notice the points to which my noble Friend has adverted—was that of the alliance of Austria and Prussia with England and France. My noble Friend has rather treated with levity, or, at least, has viewed as insignificant, the attempts which we have made to secure and cement the alliance between this country and France with Austria and Prussia; but, my Lords, I must say that even since the last occasion when I had the honour of addressing you, we have had fresh reason to be satisfied with the conduct of these two countries. My noble Friend the other night complained of the deference which we have shown to them. My noble Friend even complained of Vienna being selected as the place for holding the Conference, although it was the mediation of the Austrian Government that had been asked for by the Russian Government; and one of the first grounds on which he objected to the choice of Vienna was, because of the extraordinary astuteness of the Russian Minister at that Court. Now, my Lords, I can only say that I wish that the same astuteness—or, as I should rather say, wisdom—had been displayed by the Russian Government itself; for this Minister approved of the Turkish modifications of the Vienna note as agreed to by the Conference, and recommended his Government to adopt them; and if his advice had been followed I do not think that Russia would have stood in the isolated and unenviable position which she now occupies. But, my Lords, remember that the Conference at Vienna have come to three determinations, which are recorded in separate acts—first, that the war, prolonged to whatever extent it may be, shall not be suffered to alter the geographical limits previously settled between the belligerent Powers; next, they have recommended the terms of an honourable peace, which they say ought to be accepted by Russia, to which the Ottoman Porte has expressed its readiness to accede; and, thirdly, they have recorded their conviction that the counter propositions of Russia are so unacceptable as not to be even worthy of being sent to Constantinople. Therefore, through the 577 joint action of England and France, as well as Austria and Prussia, the means of assenting to an honourable peace have been placed in the hands of Russia. And, whilst I do not wish on the present occasion to pronounce any unjust or harsh judgment, I must still say that there can now be no doubt what will be the universal opinion of mankind with respect to that Power which appears determined to plunge Europe into the incalculable horrors of war, when, with honour to herself, she might have averted it. Certainly, the Governments of Austria and Prussia—as I took the opportunity of saying before, a few days ago—have met the proposals of Russia in a manner becoming the dignity of independent Powers. Whilst England and France are preparing to go to war with Russia, and are determined to do so if necessary, with Austria and Prussia it rests to avert war, or, at least, to render it of short duration; and, undoubtedly, never were obligations of duty more in harmony with the general interests of those Powers. A noble and generous course will bring them safety abroad as well as at home, for they will have with them the universal opinion of Germany; and revolution, my Lords, will not rear its head, nor will England refuse its sympathy, to countries which are faithfully endeavouring to perform their duties and obligations. My Lords, the answer of Austria to the last mission from Russia was, that so long as Russia maintained a defensive attitude, so long Austria would retain an expecting one; but now that Russia appears determined to go further, and to push her intentions beyond that which she had led Austria to expect, Austria would be governed by a sense of her own interest and dignity, and she had sent a large portion of troops to the frontier—first taking care to give satisfactory assurances to Turkey with regard to the object of this measure, and declaring that if armed intervention should become necessary to maintain the strictly legal and territorial status quo, she would not refuse to join in it. I must add, my Lords, that the answer of Prussia was quite as dignified and decided; and on account of this intention of Prussia being known, I believe Count Orloff did not extend his mission to Berlin. And, therefore, I must say, my Lords, and I think that your Lordships will be of opinion, that our endeavours to secure the alliance of Austria and Prussia, and our deference to the wishes and interests of those Powers, have not proved in vain or been 578 misplaced. I believe that the people of this country, who, I must say in passing, have displayed the most admirable discretion during several months of great excitement and continuous misrepresentation, in not entering into discussion on this subject, still less have they passed a judgment upon the Government under imperfect information. And, I say, I cannot help believing that the people of this country, now that the facts are fully before them, and they are possessed of proper information, will not regret the labour which the Government has spent in the cause of peace; but that, on the contrary, they would even now, at the eleventh hour, be desirous of preventing war, could it possibly be prevented consistently with the honour and dignity of this country. And if it should be our duty to inform them that peace on those terms cannot be maintained, sure I am they will come forward in a manner worthy of Englishmen, worthy of the cause described by my noble Friend, and worthy of the ally by whose side they will then for the first time find themselves ranged; that they will stop short at no sacrifice, and neglect no effort to obtain such a peace as was glanced at by my noble Friend—such a peace as will be consistent with the national honour, and will establish those principles which we are determined at any risk to maintain.
§ THE EARL OF ELLESMERE
said, he rose merely to call the attention of the House to a point of some importance, and which arose out of some observations which had fallen from his noble Friend near him (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and which might bear a construction that he was sure his noble Friend did not mean should be put upon them. It appeared that in consequence of the return of the fleets to Constantinople, and some occurrences thereupon, an impression seemed to have arisen that some censure had been implied on the conduct of the Admirals in command. This was, perhaps, a more important matter at the present moment than at the first glance it might appear to be. England had long since embarked a noble fleet in the cause which she considered herself bound to support; she was about to send from her ports another sample of those forces which had never been sent out in vain, particularly when sent for the protection of a weak State against a strong; and he trusted that those forces would not be sent out upon any principle which would allow of civil of diplomatic agents on the 579 spot interfering unduly with the professional judgment of their commanders. Instances of the sort were known in English history, and the result had been most disastrous. We had known a gallant English general (Sir John Moore) who had died in the service of his country, thwarted at every step by such a system; and we knew that if that system was not practised with the great man who succeeded, it was owing to the simple reason that he never would submit to it. He (the Earl of Ellesmere) was one of those who entirely concurred in the eulogies which had been passed, so far as the evidence appeared in the blue books, upon the diplomatic skill and sagacity of our Minister at Constantinople, Lord Stratford; but he did not think a worse favour could be conferred upon that noble Lord than to extend to him a discretion and a responsibility in directing the naval forces of England in the Black Sea. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) talked of the reports current at Constantinople relative to the conduct of the British Admiral. But, whilst le (the Earl of Ellesmere) confessed he was unable to pass a judgment with regard to the conduct of that gallant officer, he must say he gave no credence to such reports. There were other reports, however, and amongst these that it was the wish of the diplomatic agents at Constantinople that the combined fleets should remain at Sinope. Now it seemed to him that they could net have remained at any place more adapted for favouring the views of Russia than Sinope, and it was advisable to pause before taking any step which might enlist in the service of Russia the fogs, the lee-shores and the currents of the Black Sea.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), whose conduct of foreign affairs was then under consideration, would do him the justice of admitting that neither during the last Session nor since the commencement of this had he pressed Her Majesty's Government against their declared wishes to produce any papers, the production of which they declared would be prejudicial to the public service. At the end of last Session he stated to their Lordships his reasons for believing that Her Majesty's Government had not taken the best course that might have been adopted for preventing the evils which were the cause of the present debate. And when he did so he pressed his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to produce at least one document 580 which was not of the same nature as the rest of the correspondence, but which would have enabled him, without breaking through the rule which the Foreign Office very properly followed, to give the country some idea or notion of the animus which guided the policy of Her Majesty's Government. His noble Friend thought proper, however, to refuse even that document, which was the answer to the circular of Count Nesselrode. It therefore appeared as though his noble Friend had not answered the first circular at all, although the French Minister had done so; and after reading the papers now before their Lordships, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) must say he could find no good reason for his noble Friend having refused to Parliament the reply which he made to the second circular of Count Nesselrode, because that reply did the greatest honour to the noble Earl. Still less reason did he see for his noble Friend's silence with regard to the first circular; inasmuch as a great deal was said by the Russian Minister which ought to have been answered by the British Government as openly before the face of all Europe as it was by the French Government. The books upon the table were necessarily imperfect, because some events had occurred since they were printed; but he could not help regretting that correspondence relating to transactions which were most intimately connected with what followed, had not been given to the House at the same time. He alluded to the correspondence which he conceived must have taking taken place at the time Count Leiningen was sent by the Austrian Government to Constantinople—a mission which he had always felt was one of the principal causes of much of the complication that had followed. He could not conceive such a mission taking place, and the Emperor of Russia observing its course and conclusion, without His Majesty feeling in some degree a jealousy of the Austrian Court, and a strong desire to put himself on a par with that Court as regarded any claims or pretended claims he might have upon the Turkish Government. It would have been advantageous to their Lordships, therefore, in considering the question, if that correspondence had appeared by way of preface to the correspondence which alluded immediately to the transactions between Turkey and Russia.
In perusing, as he had pretty carefully done, the blue books before their Lordships, he must say that he considered himself 581 justified in having stated, as he had done in that House more than once, that he thought the Government of Russia had, in the first place, been deceived some how or other with regard to the feelings and intentions of the Government of Great Britain; secondly, that they had been confirmed in their delusion by the evident and positive want of identity of action between the two allies, the English and French Governments; and, thirdly, that that want of identity had been continued up to within a very few weeks of the present time. His assertion with respect to the impression on the Russian Government as to the feelings and intentions of the English Government was justified partly by the despatch of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe written at the time Prince Menchikoff made his first demand. It appeared that when Prince Menchikoff was feeling his way at the Ottoman Court, he had some conversation with Lord Stratford, and that afterwards Lord Stratford had reason to believe, as he himself stated, that Prince Menchikoff was labouring under the delusion that he (Lord Stratford, English Ambassador) was not only representing a Government that was well inclined to Russian demands, but that it was actually prepared to assist in securing them. He would quote Lord Stratford's own words:—When the Turkish Ministers, immediately upon the arrangement of the first question, were compelled by a peremptory requisition from the Prince to enter seriously into the remaining questions, they manifested a settled determination not to comply with that part of them which related to a guarantee in the shape of an engagement binding upon both parties with the force of a treaty. From this resolution of theirs I was not prepared to dissent, for the reasons which are stated in a confidential letter subsequently addressed by me to the Russian Ambassador, less with any hope of inducing him to alter his views, than for the purpose of undeceiving him as to the reliance which I was privately told that he persisted, however strangely, in placing on my co-operation.Surely, then, we might inquire what could have been the reasons which induced Prince Menchikoff to believe that the English Government would not only remain neutral in the matter, but positively assist in obtaining the satisfaction of his demands. That which he had just read was the first symptom in the books on their Lordships' table as to the existence of this impression on the part of Russia; and although his noble Friend the Earl of Clarendon said that that impression was unfounded, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) must continue to think that some language 582 must have been held somewhere by somebody that induced the Russian Government to adopt these opinions, and inoculated Prince Menchikoff with these views.
The next charge which he had formally to make against Her Majesty's Government was with reference to Colonel Rose's sending for the fleet, when it appeared that he had every reason to demand its presence in Turkish waters, and was quite justified in making that demand. He had been warned by all the British consuls in the southern part of the Russian dominions, and in the northern parts of Turkey, that Russia was arming both by sea and land. He was warned, and he (the Earl of Malmesbury) should have thought that such a warning would have opened his noble Friend's eyes at once, that Prince Menchikoff had actually threatened the Ministers of the Porte that Russia would consider it an act of hostility if any communication of his demands or negotiations was made to the French and English Ambassadors at Constantinople. That surely looked suspicious enough. It was natural, therefore, that Colonel Rose, upon hearing this, and that Prince Menchikoff was, as it were, ashamed of his own propositions, and wished to keep them secret, it was most natural that he should have asked for the advance of the English fleet. But so far from demanding that it should enter the Dardanelles, Colonel Rose merely requested that Admiral Dundas, who, he had been informed, was about to take a cruise in the East, should go to Vourla Bay, a port, he believed; open to any one, and to which our fleet went every summer—and this was a course which Russia could not have objected to. But Her Majesty's Government, differing from Colonel Rose, and also from the opinion of the Emperor of the French, commanded Admiral Dundas to remain at Malta; and a consequence of that command, as he (the Earl of Malmesbury) still maintained, and he thought the blue books fully proved, was to confirm Russia in the delusion under which she laboured, namely, that England and France were not in the same line. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had read to their Lordships the thanks which the Prime Minister had received on that occasion from Count Nesselrode; and similar thanks were also given in the same letter to his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), who was looked upon as a novus homo, in whom Count Nesselrode had great hopes for the future, and in whom he 583 thought he might put great confidence. Count Nesselrode not only did that, but actually congratulated the Government on the want of unity in the two allies. Nothing, he thought, could confirm more than did all these transactions—especially this letter of Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunnow—the justice of the reproaches he (the Earl of Malmesbury) had directed to Her Majesty's Government on a former occasion on this point. Still, although the Consuls had declared from all parts that extensive military preparations were going on in Russia—although Prince Menchikoff was convicted of attempting to conceal from the English and French Ambassadors the negotiations which be had been commanded to open at Constantinople—all this failed to open the eyes of his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. Why, after his noble Friend's lengthened experience of office in Spain, and after his experience in the Government of Ireland, one would have thought that the credulity of the most generous minded man would have been shaken by what he heard from these various sources. But no; nothing of the sort. Long after these events had taken place, two or three months after the alarm of Colonel Rose and the representations of Sir George Seymour and the Consuls relative to Russian armaments—namely, on the 18th of April, his noble Friend, writing to Lord Cowley, said—Count Walewski has read to me a despatch from M. de Benedetti, which appears to have given some uneasiness to the French Government, and particularly as regards a secret treaty, similar to that of the 8th July, 1833, which is said to have been pressed upon the acceptance of the Porte by Prince Menchikeff.I told Count Walewski that the same information had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government by Colonel Rose, but I had reason to believe that the treaty in question would be a written agreement with respect to the Holy Places, and the mode of conducting Divine worship and religious ceremonies there by the Greek and Latin communities.''—[No. 145.]Now, if this were all—if it were merely a written agreement respecting the Holy Places—a subject in which Her Majesty's Government had declared months before England had no interest—if that were all, why should Prince Menchikoff have attempted to conceal his proposals to the Turkish Government? It would have been just to suppose that, had the Holy Places alone been the subject of his mission, he could have had no object in concealment, when it had been declared by the English Government that they had no interest in 584 the matter. It appeared that the subject of calling up the fleets to the Dardanelles by the Ambassadors, was the cause of much discussion in the Cabinet. He concluded that the question was, whether the authority should rest in the Government at home, or be deputed to the Minister at Constantinople; and it was at last given, and he (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought, very properly given—to Lord Stratford. But it was given only on the 2nd of June, and it did not appear that Her Majesty's Government were aware that the French Ambassador had received authority to call up the French fleet so long before as the 22nd of March. Now that the French Ambassador had the power to call up the fleet on the 22nd of March, and that Lord Stratford had no such power during all the month of April and the month of May, must have been as well known to the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople and to the Turkish Government, and to everybody else concerned, as it was to the French and English Ambassadors themselves. And was it not probable that this want of unity in action must have made a strong impression on the Russian Government, and have contributed to maintain the delusions and ambitious dreams of an obstinate man, who sought for every excuse to justify and support him in the course be had entered upon. But there were other matters which ought to have made his noble Friend suspicious of the real objects of Russia. The Russian misrepresentations were not confined to stating what was certainly not the fact with respect to the mission of Prince Menchikoff—there were all sorts of gross misrepresentations and accusations made against Lord Stratford, and which were to be found in the first volume of the papers on their Lordships' table. He was accused by Count Nesselrode of being the first cause and adviser of Reshid Pacha in resisting the Menchikoff demands. The charge was wholly unfounded, and Count Nesselrode, probably not believing his informant, refused the only remedy he could honourably have given—namely, an investigation into the source of this gross and undeserved accusation against an Ambassador. And this was not all. There were also strange misrepresentations made as to the conduct, words, and actions of Lord Westmoreland at Vienna, and afterwards of our Ambassador at Paris. All these things, he should have thought, might have been sufficient to convince Her Majesty's Government 585 that the object of Russia was such a one as would not bear the light. But instead of their taking a firm tone with Russia, they appeared to have entered upon a course of negotiation; and if he (the Earl of Malmesbury) were an older diplomatist, he should say that that negotiation resulted in an accident in diplomacy which could never be forgotten. The Conference which prepared the first Vienna note assembled. It was composed of men of undoubted talent and experience, who wished well to Turkey, and desired to protect her against the unjust claims and aggressions of Russia, and they framed such a note as they thought would ensure peace. That note was forwarded officially to both parties; it was at once accepted by Russia; and Count Nesselrode, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought, very suspiciously, said that Turkey ought to take it aux mains jointes. But Turkey refused to accept it in its original shape, and proposed certain modifications. When his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary sent that note to Lord Stratford, this was what he said about it:—Her Majesty's Government have, in preference to all other plans, adhered to this project of Note as the means best calculated to effect a speedy and satisfactory solution of the differences. They consider that it fully guards the principle for which throughout we have been contending, and that it may therefore with perfect safety be signed by the Porte; and they further hope that your Excellency, before the receipt of this despatch, will have found no difficulty in procuring the assent of the Turkish Government to a project which the allies of the Sultan unanimously concur in recommending for his adoption." [No. 32.]That was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government; but what was the view entertained by our Ambassador? Lord Stratford wrote—Though I scrupulously abstained from expressing any private opinion on the merits of Count Buol's Note while it was under consideration at the Porte, I think it incumbent on me to state frankly to your Lordships that the decision of the Council has in no degree surprised me. In making this avowal, I have exclusively in view those passages of the Note to which the Porte objects. It really appears to me, with all deference to your Lordship's superior judgment, that the first two of the objectionable passages could hardly stand as they are without exposing the Porte to inferences not borne out by facts, and eventually to pretensions that it would be equally inconvenient, if not dangerous, to admit or to resist." [No. 73.]Such was Lord Stratford's opinion in contradistinction to that of the Ministry, who had said it could be accepted with perfect 586 safety. Then the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office wrote:—Her Majesty's Government are far from denying that these modifications are in themselves unobjectionable; but they do not consider them of that vital importance, nor that they offer such additional security to Turkey, as to counterbalance the risks to which the Ottoman empire is exposed by further postponing the settlement of this unfortunate question." [No. 88.]So the noble Earl stuck to his opinion, notwithstanding the representations of Lord Stratford, and, of course, he (Lard Malmesbury) concluded that the other diplomatists who chew up the Note remained of the same opinion as the noble Earl. Who, however, turned out to be right? The question must have remained a matter of opinion to this moment but for a startling despatch from Count Nesselrode himself, interpreting the original Note which his Government had accepted, not as the noble Earl, not as the French Minister, not as the Ministers of Austria and Prussia had done, but in the same sense as the Turkish Government had done before, thereby justifying the Porte in the eyes of its would be friends in refusing to accede to it. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) could imagine the extraordinary confusion that would be caused in the body of diplomatists at Vienna at finding that they had been composing a Note in express contradiction to what they had meant to say. Then, as events went on, there was another disunity of action between the two allies, England and France—a disunity which was no doubt at once laid before the Russian Prime Minister, and naturally remarked upon by him—he meant with respect to the object of the fleets being sent to the Black Sea. It appeared that when orders were given for the fleets to advance into the Black Sea, it became the duty of the French and English Ambassadors at St. Petersburg to acquaint Count Nesselrode with the fact. But it also appeared that whilst General Castelbajac was instructed to read the despatch of his Government to Count Nesselrude, Sir George Seymour was instructed to communicate only the substance of the despatch from his Government. Both despatches were substantially the same. Both Governments stated that the fleets were going into the Black Sea to defend the territory of Turkey; but the English Government added that they would use their utmost means to prevent the Turkish fleet from making an attack on the Russians. This passage, however, was omitted from the French 587 despatch. As to the object of the fleets going into the Black Sea, in a communication from the noble Earl to Baron Brunnow (Oct. 1), the noble Earl said:—It is true that on entering the Principalities war was not declared by Russia; but a country whose territory is forcibly invaded and retained in contravention of a special treaty engagement, for the purpose of compelling it to submit to conditions which it considers incompatible with its political independence, whose functionaries are forbidden to hold intercourse with its Government, and whose tribute is suspended—that country cannot consistently with international law or usage, or with common sense, be considered at peace with the Power that so acts towards it; and I repeat, therefore, that from the day on which the Principalities were occupied, the treaty in accordance with its own provisions, has been suspended, and it rested with the Sultan and with Her Majesty's Government to determine at what time, and for what purpose, the British squadron should enter the Dardanelles.It is not necessary to pursue this subject further, as Her Majesty's Ambassador has called up a portion of that squadron to Constantinople, not, as you appear to suppose, to favour an object on the part of the Divan of opposing fresh obstacles to the work of conciliation, but exclusively from apprehension of local dangers to British life and property. His proceedings have been entirely approved by Her Majesty's Government, who, with the same object in view, have instructed him to send for the whole of the squadron." [No. 118.]Five days after, the noble Earl, writing to our Ambassador at Paris on the subject, speaking of the same fleets and the same object, said—It, therefore, appears advisable to Her Majesty's Government that general instructions should be given to the Ambassadors and Admirals to employ the combined fleets in whatever manner and at whatever place they may think necessary for defending the Turkish territory against direct aggression. If the Russian fleet were to come out of Sabastopot, the fleets would, as a matter of course, pass through the Bosphorus." [No. 130.]Therefore, the object stated to Lord Cowley is not that which was stated to Baron Brunnow—not the defence of the lives and property of Her Majesty's subjects—but positively (and he was very glad to say so) the defence of the Turkish territory. In the name of all that was straightforward and honest, however, why not have told Baron Brunnow that? He ought to have been told that at first; his mind ought to have been strongly impressed with what was the object of sending the fleets there—that they went there to maintain, if necessary, the rights and the independence of Turkey and her territory. What was the use of being chary of the truth with him? Such an omission on the part of the Government only reacted on themselves—because Baron Brunnow must have trans- 588 mitted to his Government the statement which had been made to him, and of course it tended further to deceive the Russian Government as to the vigorous measure which, at last, Her Majesty's Ministers were determined to follow in the prosecution of their policy. The same infirmity of purpose, the same want of courage, pervaded the whole of their policy during those transactions. How did the noble Earl treat that event, which must be regarded as one of the most important in the whole series?—he referred to the occupation of the Principalities. With the same timid politeness, the same extreme tenderness, the same—really he could not find a word sufficiently strong to express what he felt as to the manner in which that question was treated—but he would read to the House the noble Earl's own account of this matter in his letter to Sir George Seymour, dated the 22nd July, announcing the communication he had had with Baron Brunnow. How could their Lordships suppose that the English Minister, who had protested against such an attack as being a breach of treaty, of humanity, and of justice, the invasion of the Principalities, would treat such a question in his communication with the representative in London of that invading Power? Here were the noble Earl's own words:—I have communicated to Baron Brunnow the substance of my despatch of the 19th instant to you, and informed him that I had not alluded in it to the evacuation of the Principalities as a necessary and immediate consequence of an arrangement of differences between Russia and the Porte, because I thought it would be little less than an insult to the Russian Government to suppose, after the public assurances that had been given on the subject, that any portion of the Turkish territory would be occupied by Russian forces for a day longer than was necessary for their evacuation when the question at issue between the two Governments was amicably settled." [No. 363.]Little less than an insult to the Russian Government! Why this conduct on the part of the noble Earl reminded him of an anecdote told of a very timid master of the ceremonies in a town near where he (the Earl of Malmesbury) lived, who was surprised by the appearance of a ferocious-looking person walking uninvited into the ball-room, and remaining there amongst his guests with his hat on. Some of the company having urged the propriety of his being turned out, the master of the ceremonies replied, "Pray have a little patience, I have no doubt the gentleman will take his hat off by-and-by." Now the noble Earl had declared that in the negotia- 589 tions which Her Majesty's Government were carrying on in respect to these transactions, the evacuation of the Principalities should be a sine quâ non. This then was the way in which the noble Earl made it a sine quâ non, namely, that no allusion was made to it in the despatch of the noble Earl to Sir George Seymour, as a necessary and immediate consequence of an arrangement of differences between Russia and the Porte, because, forsooth, he thought it would be little less than an insult to the Russian Government. Nor did the noble Earl mention it in any other place. In the famous Vienna note no mention was made of the Principalities—a most extraordinary omission! The subject was avoided in that document, no doubt from the same motive, namely, the fear of offering an insult to Russia, after the assurances that had been made by that Power. He hoped that none of their Lordships would suppose that he was blaming the Government for not having taken hostile measures sooner. He did not complain of their efforts to maintain peace, the value of which he felt as highly as any man; but what he conceived was that Her Majesty's Government had mistaken the method of obtaining that object. They ought to have borne in mind that they had to deal with a man of absolute power—of strong feelings and passions—a man who had an hereditary and fixed idea in his own mind—for this fact could not be denied—that it was decreed that either he or his descendants should occupy Constantinople. We need not go back to the story of the gate erected for Catherine on her way to the Crimea. Her Majesty's Government should have recollected that they had to deal with a man who had great prejudices, who was most absolute in his opinions, and obstinately determined in his character, and who, could not be turned from his purpose, by having it distinctly manifested to him, in the most emphatic language and manner, that dangers greater than any glory or advantage he could hope to gain from his object, would inevitably befall him, as the result of his attempting it. They should have made him from the very first distinctly understand that the existence of an independent Sovereign at Constantinople was a political necessity to England and to France, fully equal to that which he might deem Russian possession of Constantinople to be, and that England and France were resolute, at all cost, to vindicate that necessity. It bud been lightly asserted, and by a man 590 of eminent ability too, that it was matter of little consequence to whom Constantinople belonged; and that there was no sort of political objection to its being in the hands of Russia. It might be thought that he was exaggerating in what he was about to say; but he believed that, as far as regarded our supremacy as a maritime Power—as far as regarded the safety of our great empire—the possession of Constantinople by Russia: would be more fatal to both than would: be the loss of Ireland, if we could conceive the possession of Ireland in the hands of an independent sovereign. Under such circumstances, Ireland could not be as formidable an enemy to this country as the monarch of so vast a territory as Russia in full possession of Constantinople. We know that at this moment Russia has twenty-seven sail of the line in the Baltic, and fifteen sail of the line in the Black Sea. If she had possession of Constantinople, without the expenditure of a farthing more than at present upon her Navy, she might with the greatest ease, if she chose, transport her fleet from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. With little difficulty she could then collect thirty sail of the line in one spot. And how would those ships of the line be guarded? How would they be drilled and exercised? Why, there would be ports upon ports—arsenals upon arsenals—impregnable to any other Power, if Russia were once in possession of the Dardanelles. And how could this great force be kept from being available against us, if the Autocrat so desired? Once in possession of the Bosphorus, thus rendered impregnable, this fleet, so unassailable from without, might rush, at any moment, into the Mediterranean, and then in what a position would Malta or Corfu be, with such garrisons as we had there now? In what a position would English power in the Mediterranean be, maintained by the five or six sail of the line we had kept up for some years past? Nor would the relative position of France, in such a contingency, be better than that of England, for it was quite fallacious to say that France had a less interest than we in the possession of Constantinople by the Russians. France was equally interested in opposing the encroachments of Russia upon Constantinople; with respect to the Mediterranean, she would stand in the same position as that he had just described. With Constantinople in the possession of Russia, France would very soon have to meet a 591 hostile fleet acting against her between Toulon and her Algerian conquests. Unquestionably, then, it was pre-eminently worth while for these two great nations to apply their utmost efforts, how great soever the calamities and the cost of war, to avert such a catastrophe as the occupation of Constantinople by Russia. He submitted that Her Majesty's Government ought to have placed before the Emperor of Russia the plain and comprehensive fact, that England and France were resolute to defend the independence of Turkey with their last soldier and their last shilling. The Emperor of Russia would not then have been led into any mistake or misapprehension as to those transactions; but he would have comprehended the gravity of the undertaking he had entered upon, when, without any justification or provocation whatever, he urged a series of demands upon Turkey which no independent Sovereign in the world could with dignity accept, and which no independent nation like us could hear without utter and avowed indignation.
§ LORD GLENELG
, who was indistinctly heard, was understood to say, that he, for one, was prepared to consider the negotiations on this most grave subject rather with reference to their general character and effect, than with reference to minor details; and, so considering them, he was equally prepared to express the opinion that the Government had, in the volumes now under consideration, made out what was popularly termed a very good case. He was aware of the existence of no negotiations, of no diplomacy, at any period, or between any Powers, to which minor objections might not be, and had not been started, and these might be discovered by those who sought minor points of doubt and objection in the negotiations under consideration; but he would boldly say, looking broadly at these negotiations, upon so important an occasion, extending over so long a period, conducted with so many parties, and in so many quarters, that the Government, in his judgment, came before Parliament, and before the country, and before the world, in the position of men who had acted well and justly in a good and just cause. They felt that war was to be deprecated as full of grievous evils, but they felt also that there were evils to which war itself was preferable, when war became an exigency in which were involved great national interests—the cause of humanity, the cause of human progress; and 592 what they sought should be judged was, not minor particularities, but the general scope of their intentions, their actions, and their language. Feeling with deep earnestness how great are the evils of war, the Government were to be commended instead of blamed, that so long and so anxiously they had sought to avert those evils, while yet prepared to encounter them, if, by them alone, the greater evils, inevitable from the longer avoidance of war, were to be averted in the name of humanity and of the world's progress. That was the position in which the Government stood before the world at the present moment. The objections of the noble Earl who had just sat down, resolved themselves into these two particulars. The noble Earl had charged it upon the noble Minister for Foreign Affairs as heavy faults that he had exhibited too much credulity and confidence in the assurances of Russia, and that he had, in his intercourse with her Ministers, been over-tender in language. He (Lord Glenelg) would appeal to any assembly of gentlemen, to any men of honour, whether it was, in reality, blameable in the noble Secretary to have placed confidence in the assurances of a man whose conduct had hitherto been marked by moderation and wisdom, who in his past life had given no cause for mistrust in his assurances, and whose assurances had been given under circumstances which commanded the belief, not only of the Government of this country, but of every Government in Europe; or whether it was really a crime in the noble Earl that his communications on this most delicate and important subject had been conveyed in language exempt from violence and insult? It appeared to him (Lord Glenelg) that, while the conduct of the British Government throughout these negotiations had been perfectly straightforward, direct, and honourable, impressed with the highest tone of moral feeling, their language had been precisely that which the case required, conveying in courteous, but in perfectly unequivocal terms, the facts of the matter and their opinions and views upon them, and as to their results. The frank and honest understanding between England and France, perfectly harmonious in their sentiments, however occasionally differing in opinion, had been declared throughout in despatches correspondingly frank and honest, open and manly, breathing not only a full sense of the responsibility of the Government to the material interests so largely involved, but of responsibility of a still higher kind, of 593 responsibility attaching to them as lovers of peace, of advancement, and as men and Christians. There was a notion abroad that diplomatic correspondence was of necessity and invariably a course full of equivocation, of mutual attempts to deceive, of prevarication, of falsehood. There were, doubtless, records of negotiations extant to which this discreditable attribute applied, and he feared that even of the blue books now before their Lordships there were some portions not wholly exempt from such characteristics; but he would venture most distinctly to assert, that on no part of the conduct of our Government and our allies could the reproach be cast. As to Turkey, the noble Earl himself (the Earl of Malmesbury) had declared the absolute necessity of our resisting by every means the pretensions of Russia. If there was anything that had made Europe great and glorious, that had advanced morality, science, and political improvement—if there was anything that could touch the feelings of men, that could raise generous indignation against the oppressor, and cause feelings of sympathy on behalf of the oppressed—it was for the sake of these things that this war was undertaken. The war would be undertaken to prevent the destruction of those great privileges which Europe had so long enjoyed, and to save from dislocation and ruin all that was great and good and glorious which during the last thousand years had been gathering round the institutions of Europe. He did not think any State papers that had been issued on any occasion had been more creditable to the writers than some of those which had emanated from the Turkish Government in the course of the recent diplomatic correspondence. It was true that at the commencement of Prince Menchikoff's mission, when Turkey was in a state of pressure between two powerful countries, and felt her feebleness, she did manifest some symptoms of vacillation; but he thought, after that mission was closed, that there was nothing to complain of in her conduct. He would particularly allude to the manifestoes of the Sultan, which did him the highest credit; he would also allude to the letter of Reshid Pasha when war was announced by Russia, and to the remarks of Reshid Pasha upon what was called the Note of Vienna, which were contained in a paper singular for the talent it displayed. He referred to Lord Stratford, who had, through all these transactions, exhibited abilities and qualities of the highest order. He knew that there 594 were some persons even in that House who conceived that his conduct had been marked by an anti-Russian tendency. He must say he could not discover any evidence of such tendency. He thought his conduct had been such as would be pursued by honest and just-minded men in the strict discharge of an important duty; and so far from observing any anti-Russian tendency, he had remarked only a tendency towards that line of conduct which could alone protect Turkey, and rescue her from her present position. In his opinion, his conduct displayed noble qualities, and his correspondence a courage that never flinched, a sagacity that had never faltered, powers and resources adequate to meet every new emergency that might arise. He greatly regretted that, during the conversation that took place the other night, and again that evening, expressions or intimations had fallen from noble Lords—unintentionally, he had no doubt—even while justifying the union that had taken place between France and this country, which might out of doors be regarded as throwing doubt upon the continuance of that alliance. He was persuaded, as far as he was able to judge, that no such variation of feeling had taken place between the two countries, and it was highly satisfactory to find that at last these two great Powers, to whom all Europe must look, were bound together by the closest alliance. Well has the Emperor of the French avenged himself for the hard words that at some periods we applied to him in this country; and for these calumnious attempts which were made to lead the people of England to believe that he was a man whose desire it would be to subvert the ancient order of Europe, and to overthrow existing thrones. Instead of this, he was the very first person to whom this country had now looked, and who joined with them in cordial sympathy, not to destroy but to support the ancient monarchies and great political principles; and well had he been supported by that accomplished and eloquent statesman, M. Drouin de Lhuys. He (Lord Glenelg) trusted that in what remained of these mighty transactions the relations of the two countries might be yet more firmly cemented, and that, having concurred in negotiation, and having been exposed to the same hazards, they might enjoy the same successes and achieve a common triumph. It had been said that if the fleets had been called out when they were 595 first summoned, the war might have been avoided. But he must say that he could see nothing in the conduct of Russia, either previously to these transactions or subsequently, which gave him any notion of her flexibility; he could not believe that the course taken by Russia had been the result of a sudden burst of fanaticism—he believed that it was based upon a settled system. It would have been a risk, at all events. And supposing war had not been avoided, what would have been the result? What would have been said of the Government? Who would have told them, you have plunged us into war? The very men who now taunted the noble Earl at the head of the Government and the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. They would have said, you have plunged us into a voluntary war against Russia, for which there was no necessity; and the Government would have lost their self-confidence, and the consciousness of having done their duty. Many a great warrior, and many a great statesman, who had plunged his country into war, would afterwards have given worlds to have retraced his course. What was the chief merit of Sir Robert Walpole, with all his faults and delinquencies? That he was a Minister of peace, that he resisted popular clamour, and the advice of those who would have urged him on to war. His noble Friends on the Ministerial bench had, however, been more fortunate than Sir Robert Walpole, for he was condemned by the country, though it had since done him ample justice; but they had been fortunate enough, or wise enough, so to conduct their negotiations that they entered on this great war with the majority of the people of this country on their side; they entered upon it after having satisfied the people of this country, and gained the concurrence of Europe, and they entered upon it after having done all to avert it that their prudence could dictate, or their consciences require. If a war had been brought on prematurely, how easy would it have been to persuade other nations of Europe that France and England, for purposes of thir own, had contributed to such a dreadful result! If more premature measures had been taken, it would have been proclaimed that at a moment when Russia was believed by all Europe to be sincere, and when Europe was trembling at the prospect of war, this country, regardless of feelings of humanity, had, for objects of its own, plunged the world into a terrible war. That, he believed, would 596 have been the verdict of history, and of the present time, unless before proceeding to extremities we had exhausted every means of preserving peace; whereas now we had Europe heart and soul on our side, and the voice of Europe would be heard and felt, not merely through Europe itself, but even in the recesses of the Russian empire itself. He trusted that as Her Majesty's Government had conducted their negotiations, as he believed, with the general approbation of the country, they would now be prepared to display the spirit for which he gave them credit in carrying on the war. He believed this nation had learnt a lesson from past wars. It was true, as had been said by a noble Friend of his, that it might be questionable whether the axiom of the Duke of Wellington, that a great nation should not carry on a little war, was applicable on all occasions; but he (Lord Glenelg) trusted that in this instance no petty warfare would be carried on, that there was to be no byplay at war, that there were to be no spasmodic efforts, no nibbling at extremities, but that with a strong and overpowering force the Government would aim at and accomplish great and vital objects. They had the means of effecting such objects. This was a great nation; it possessed great genius, great courage, great science, great improvements in all arts of peace and war. Let them employ all these great qualities, and he, for one, would not be afraid of the result.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, if I do not take the same view of this question as my noble Friend who has just sat down, I can assure him I most cordially concur in what he has said in praise of the conduct of France throughout these transactions, and also as to its being the duty of the country to make the preservation of peace the great object of its policy. Indeed, I differ from him principally because I think that we ought to have carried that policy still further; and my chief objection to the course taken by the Government is, that they have not abstained as carefully as they ought from proceedings calculated to involve us in war. I concur, also, in the opinion expressed a few evenings ago by another noble Friend of mine, who is also sitting on the cross benches, that, upon this subject, to look back to the past is of little importance, except in so far as it bears upon the future. I have no wish to criticise the policy of Her Majesty's Government in a hostile spirit; and, there- 597 fore, though I cannot say I think that the very difficult and very embarrassing question on which they have had to decide have always been decided by them in the wisest and soundest way, I certainly shall not point out the errors into which I may think they have in some cases fallen, except when those errors have a decided bearing upon our present position and our future policy. But, my Lords, I do feel that the main and original fault committed by Her Majesty's Government in this matter was in having allowed themselves to be drawn into the quarrel between Russia and the Porte at all; and, believing that the considerations which have led me to that conclusion have a most direct bearing upon the great question of how peace is now to be restored, I think it my duty to lay those considerations before your Lordships. I do so with the less hesitation, because I know that they can have no tendency to increase the difficulties of Her Majesty's Government, which I would upon no account aggravate, at this moment of national danger. On the contrary, knowing as I do how strongly public opinion is now running in favour of war—that the general and prevailing censure of Her Majesty's Government is not for having gone into war tot early, but for having done so too tardily—I think that there may be even some advantage to them if I should attempt to show that there are not wanting reason in favour of a still more pacific course than that which they have pursued. I have said that I think the great fault of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government was in allowing us to be drawn at all into this quarrel. I do not hold that opinion because I differ from those who have preceded me as to the conduct of Russia. I agree in all that, has been said in condemnation of the conduct of Russia towards Turkey in this case. But it does not follow, because Russia has done wrong, that it was expedient or proper for us to undertake the defence of Turkey. It is no part of our duty, as a nation, to undertake—like knights errants of old—the general redress of wrongs, and to protect every weak State which may be oppressed by a more powerful neighbour. We have no business to interfere in the disputes of other nations, unless we are called upon to do so either by some engagement which we have contracted, or by some great interests of our own which are involved. In this case I think it is universally admitted that we are bound by 598 no engagements. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us a few evenings ago that there was no treaty which gave Turkey any right to call upon us to undertake her protection. It will be my endeavour to show you that an enlightened regard for our own interests equally counselled us to abstain from interference. My Lords, when we inquire upon what grounds our interference was called for, we are told, as the chief reason for it, that it is a great object of our national policy to maintain what is called the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire. I have been used to hear those words employed for the last twenty years. This is one of the set phrases of professional diplomacy. But, though among diplomatists it passes as an axiom, I may venture to say that, when you look into what is really meant by these words, they are not entitled to so much weight as is usually given to them. You talk of the independence of the Ottoman empire. Allow me to ask you—what independence, what real and substantial independence, has Turkey enjoyed since that day when she was saved from destruction at the hands of a rebellious vassal by calling the armies of Russia to the shores of the Bosphorus? From that day what real independence has Turkey enjoyed? She has been in a state of avowed and lamentable weakness—not able to refuse any demands, however unreasonable, put forward by any European Power, unless some other Power should come forward to undertake her defence, and to extricate her from the difficulty. I must say, I think those who have read the blue books, who have seen the manner in which, upon what is called the question of the Holy Places, the unfortunate Sultan was treated by France and Russia in turn—driven first one way and then the other by a force he was totally unable to resist—those who have read the details of the humiliation he was forced to submit to—must, indeed, be of opinion with me that, to talk of the independence of the Ottoman empire is nothing else but a bitter mockery. What definite meaning do you attach to those words? Do you mean that it is to be a great object of our national policy to maintain the authority of the Turkish Sultan over all those vast provinces which are now under his real or nominal sway? Is that what you mean? If so, my Lords, I venture to say that you have rather hastily adopted the conclusion that that ought to be an object of our national 599 policy, and without having duly considered what is the nature and character of that Power whose authority you require us to maintain. My Lords, what are the Turks, and what is the Turkish power? We know what the origin of that power was. We know that a horde of fierce barbarians, endeavouring to spread by the sword a false religion, conquered one of the finest regions of the earth. We know that under their despotic oppression for four centuries the population have been ground down, and civilisation and industry have been withered as by some blight under their rule. This is what every man knows in times past has been the character of the Turks and of the Turkish power. We are told that now a great improvement has taken place—that the character of the Turks and of their Government is altogether altered, and is no longer that which we formerly knew it to be. I cannot see any evidence of such alteration. For my own part, I believe that any real change for the better in the character of the Turks is utterly impossible while they continue to be Mahomedans. I believe that the spirit of the false and bloody religion which they profess is so essentially adverse to moral improvement and civilisation, that you can never hope to see either in a people which still adheres to it. But, my Lords, I ask again, what is the evidence of that improvement which is talked of? For myself, I see no symptoms of any changes in the character of the Turkish rule, except those which are due to the diminution of Turkish power. It is quite true that Turkey, since her power has passed away, instead of threatening and insulting the European nations, crouches first to one, then to the other, and continues to owe her existence as a nation to their mutual jealousy. It is quite true that in many Turkish provinces the oppression of the Christian races is no longer so easy and so safe as it was; and, therefore, in those cases the weight of the Turkish yoke is alleviated. But where the Turks have the power, it seems to me that their character is much what it has always been. We still hear, according to the most trustworthy accounts that can be given us, of the universal corruption in the Government, of the tyranny which is exercised over the population, and of the absolute want of security which exists for person and property. As the necessary and natural consequence, we find the finest region of the earth still struck with sterility, and maintaining with 600 difficulty a scanty and distressed population. We have still the conquering race little improved from their barbarian ancestors, and having gained little from civilisation but its vices; and we have still the conquered race groaning under a cruel and a grinding oppression. That is the account which we have from the best travellers of the actual state of things at the present moment; and I venture to call your Lordships' attention to a much higher authority than my own upon the state of the Turkish empire and the character of the Turkish power. I find my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his instruction to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe on his return to Constantinople in February last year, speaking of the increasing tendency to disorder and weakness in the Turkish empire, and using these words in a subsequent despatch of the 24th June, 1853:—It is impossible to suppose that any true sympathy for their rulers will be felt by the Christians so long as they are made to experience, in all their daily transactions, the inferiority of their position as compared with that of their Mussulman fellow-subjects—so long as they are aware that they will seek in vain for justice for wrongs done either to their persons or their properties, because they are deemed a degraded race, unworthy to be put into comparison with the followers of Mahomet. Your Excellency will plainly and authoritatively state to the Porte that this state of things cannot be longer tolerated by Christian Powers."—[No.282.]That is my noble Friend's estimate of the condition in which the Christians still find themselves in the provinces of Turkey, with no security for their persons or their property, because they are not considered worthy to be put in comparison with their Mussulman fellow-subjects. What is Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's own opinion upon this subject? His opinion is even more strongly expressed than that of my noble Friend. I find it stated by Mr. Cobden—I have no doubt upon good authority—that some two years ago, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, at a public dinner given to him by the British residents in Constantinople, who were the best judges of the truth of what he said, in referring to the Turkish Government, spoke of "the corruption which eats into the very foundation of society, and a combination of force, fraud, and intrigue, which obstruct the march of progress, and poison the very atmosphere in which they prevail." He alluded also, he said, with the profoundest grief, "to the signs of weakness and error which surrounded him, to the financial embarrass- 601 ments of the Government, and to the great charter issued by the present Sultan being discredited by the non-performance of its promises." These are the expressions of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in a speech at a public dinner; but his words are hardly less strong in well-considered diplomatic despatches. You will find enclosed in one of the noble Lord's despatches, two instructions which he addressed to Mr. Pisani, which he was directed to read to the Turkish Secretary of State, and to give him a copy of. Both those instructions are in very strong terms. The first is dated June 22; but I will only trouble your Lordships with the last, which is dated July 4, 1853, when the aggression of Russia was actually beginning, and when Turkey knew that she was depending upon the support of France and England for her very existence, and had every motive, therefore, for listening to our remonstrances with respect to the treatment of her Christian subjects. Lord Stratford at that time said—I have frequently had occasion of late, and indeed for some years back, to bring to the knowledge of the Porte such atrocious instances of cruelty, rapine, and murder as I have found, with extreme concern, in the consular reports, exhibiting generally the disturbed and misgoverned condition of many parts of Roumelia, and calling loudly for redress from the Imperial Government. The character of these disorderly and brutal outrages may be said with truth to be in general that of Mussulman fanaticism excited by cupidity and hatred against the Sultan's Christian subjects. I will not say that my friendly and earnest representations have been entirely disregarded; on the contrary, I have sometimes had the satisfaction of being instrumental towards the repression of crime, the alleviation of individual suffering, and the recall of incapable magistrates. But the evil, nevertheless, has not been permanently removed, and the effect of every partial check has been of short duration."—[No. 355, Inclosure 2.]Such are the testimonies of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and of the noble Lord who is now the British Ambassador at Constantinople, as to the character of the Turkish rule so far as regards its Christian subjects. But it is not its Christian subjects only to which it is oppressive and cruel. I can quote evidence, not, I think, less valuable than that of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe or my noble Friend near me, with regard to the Porte's treatment of its Mussulman subjects. I dare say most of your Lordships have read a most interesting volume which was published not a year ago by Mr. Layard, giving an account of his latest researches at Nineveh. If you have done so, I think 602 you must have been struck, as I was, by his account of that once splendid country, the nursery of human civilisation, which formerly supported an almost countless population, of whose wealth and prosperity evidences are still being brought to light, in which he describes the misery and wretchedness of the inhabitants of those fertile regions. They are now inhabited possibly by hundreds where formerly there were millions, and those hundreds are in the lowest state of barbarism and want. And, my Lords, Mr. Layard shows us why that is the case. By his clear and simple narrative of transactions which passed under his own eyes, he has well explained how it is that, though the tribes that wander over those fertile plains are not wanting either in a disposition to industry or in many other good qualities, yet that every attempt at improvement is checked by the utter corruption, extreme tyranny, and total want of faith with which they are treated by the Turkish authorities. In this case they have not their fanaticism to plead as an excuse, for the sufferers are as good Mussulmans as the Turks themselves—they are not the victims of any religious prejudices;—it is nothing but the inherent corruption of the system of government and society which works these results. If, then, that be the character of the Turkish Government, and if that be the effect of the Turkish rule, I ask will your Lordships, will this Christian country, adopt the conclusion that to maintain the integrity of the Turkish empire, and to uphold the sway of that Sultan who rules in the manner which I have described over those extensive regions are a worthy object of the policy of this great Christian country and a worthy end to be attained, by the heavy sacrifices to be imposed by war on the British people? I think that no man can contend that it is so. But I know what is the answer. I know that we shall be told that we are to maintain the integrity of the Turkish empire, not out of regard for Turkey, but out of apprehension of Russia. There are many who think that the power of Russia is so great and formidable, that upon the most ordinary principle of self-preservation it is our business to take care that she does not increase or extend that power. My Lords, I confess that for very many years I have been persuaded that that apprehension of Russia is a delusion. I am quite aware that the Emperor of Russia has under his sway an enormous portion of the surface 603 of the earth; I know that his commands are obeyed by many millions of men; and I know that he has under his orders an immense army and a considerable fleet; but still, knowing all that, I do not believe, judging from experience, that the power of Russia in aggression, for I say nothing of defence, is that which you might suppose it to be from a mere careless examination of the facts which I have mentioned. What does experience tell us? What has Russia done in those aggressive wars which she has carried on, unaided by our subsidies and by our advice? Let me ask you what she did in the first Turkish war in 1828 and 1829. There never was a war carried on under circumstances of such great advantages upon one side, and disadvantages upon the other. Russia had still in the ranks of her army many officers who had been trained to war in the great European contest which had concluded only thirteen or fourteen years before, and her army was, or ought to have been, in the highest state of efficiency. On the other hand, the Sultan had not very long before destroyed his Janissaries, who had previously constituted the main military strength of the empire; and there had not been time to organise another military force in its plane. Besides that, the whole navy of Turkey had very recently been annihilated by what has justly and appropriately been called "the untoward event" of Navarino. Yet, with all these great advantages, was the success of Russia against so weak an enemy as Turkey in that moment of her greatest weakness such as might have been anticipated? We know that it was far otherwise. We know that two protracted campaigns were fought, and that the losses of Russia were something almost exceeding belief. I have been told that in an account of those wars which was written by an officer who took part in them, and who was not unfavourable to Russia, the losses of the Russian forces by the sword and disease were recorded at not less than 200,000 men. My noble Friend who introduced this subject to-night with so much ability has told you truly that the ultimate success of Russia in that war was due, not to the superiority of her arms, but to the ignorance of the Turks at a critical moment of the real situation of the Russian army, which had reached Adrianople, and which, from their want of supplies, was virtually in their power, had they only known their advantage. I will not trouble you with more than a mere 604 reference to the Polish war of 1831 and 1832, the Hungarian war of 1849, or to that which has been raging for more than twenty years in the Caucasus, where a mere band of mountaineers, unskilled in military warfare, have set at defiance the whole power of the Russian empire, and have inflicted on them year after year losses of a very serious description. Looking at these things, I cannot estimate the real power of Russia in aggression so highly as many do. Nor do I believe that it can ever be formidable to such Powers as ourselves and France. The reasons of that difference between the real and apparent power of Russia, are, I think, not difficult to understand. It is easily accounted for by the fact that a nation of slaves never can have the energy, intelligence, or wealth of a nation of freemen; and in modern war it is not the mere brute strength of so many millions of men which is really effective. Intelligence, energy, and wealth enter into the conflict more effectually than mere numbers; and that is becoming every day more strikingly true. Let me remind the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) who seemed to fear, that Russia might become formidable to us even in naval warfare, what a revolution in naval warfare must be produced by the successful application of steam power to ships of the largest size by means of the screw, and how entirely this great change must be to our advantage. When I consider how great is the power of these ships, the cost of their construction, and the skill and science required, both for building them and for using them with effect, and that it is precisely in the resources derived from a wealthy and intelligent population that Russia is most deficient, I for one, can never believe, that she can be formidable in naval warfare to any really civilised nation. But there is also another cause of Russian weakness, which is inherent in their very form of government—I mean that inveterate corruption and peculation which pervade the Russian service, both civil and military, from the very highest to the very lowest grades. Unless we had undeniable evidence of the fact, it would be utterly impossible to believe the extent to which those vices are carried. I saw it stated in a work which has lately been published, with respect to Russia, that the Emperor Alexander, in complaining of the habits of peculation of the public servants, said that he believed 605 they would steal even the ships of war if they only knew where to put them. It is that corruption and that peculation which even at the present moment are crippling the warlike efforts of Russia, and which are the reasons why disease and death are now decimating the ranks of their army in Moldavia. My Lords, I say that to fear a Power like this is unworthy of us. We are told (and I cannot help alluding to it for one moment, though I do not think it important here, but because undue importance has been attached to it in foreign countries) that we ought to be afraid of Russia on account of our Indian empire. I do believe if ever there were a chimera, it is that notion of a Russian invasion of India. I believe, to begin with, that, it is at the very least a twelvemonth's march for any army, with stores and artillery, from any portion of the Russian territory to the Indian frontier. From the losses which we know the Russian armies have invariably met with in far shorter marches, we may form some estimate of what their losses would be in such a march as this. In order to bring to the Indian frontier 100,000 men and 100 pieces of artillery, after allowing for these losses, and for the posts they must establish to keep up their communications, they certainly must start from their own frontier, with a force of not less than three times that amount. I will leave your Lordships to consider, what the expense and difficulty would be of conducting so gigantic an army, and finding supplies for it, on its march through a country like Asia, where roads for wheel carriages hardly exist, and in many parts of which few resources are to be found. I do not believe that Russia would be equal to such an enterprise, even though she were left free to devote her whole strength to it, without having to resist our attacks elsewhere, or to encounter any hostility from the population on the way. But suppose that all these difficulties were overcome, and at the end of I don't know how many months, 100,000 men and 100 pieces of artillery were brought to our Indian frontier; I believe that the noble Viscount who now holds the post of Commander in Chief, and who lately held with great distinction the high post of Governor General of India, would tell us, that there would be no difficulty on the part of the Indian Government, in opposing that force, as it came out of the difficult passes from which it must emerge, with at least double the number of men, and with an artillery 606 double in number, and far more than double in power and efficiency to that of Russia. I have stated this, because I know that in foreign countries it is sometimes supposed that we have some special and selfish interest in resisting Russian aggrandisement, and that it is fear for our Indian empire which drives us to do so. I am quite certain that that consideration never, for one moment, entered the minds of my noble Friends behind me, and, though I think that they have been wrong in entertaining so much apprehension of Russian power, still I contend that that apprehension relates only to dangers affecting the general welfare of mankind, and of the civilised world at huge. But I was arguing, my Lords, that on no ground of claim by Turkey on our sympathies, nor from any fear of Russia, ought our Government to have entered on a course likely to lead to the calamities of war, and impose on the people of this country the necessity of making the sacrifices attendant on a state of war. I do not, indeed, differ from those who think the further extension of Russian influence would be a great evil. I found my opinion, however, not on any fear of Russian power, or on the belief that the extension of her dominions would really add to that power, but because I think that, next to Turkey, Russia is the Power which governs the countries subject to her in the manner least calculated to promote the general welfare of mankind. I deprecate as much as my noble Friend—on that ground and on no other—the extension of Russian influence and Russian territory. But I am prepared to argue that the course which our Government have taken, in allowing Turkey to engage in a quarrel with Russia, in expectation of aid from us was the course most calculated to promote in the end the extension of Russian power in that part of the world. I think sufficient attention has not been paid to the condition of these countries about a year ago, when this dispute first broke out. At that time, if any man had asked what was the real interest of England and the civilised world in the matter, the answer from every person of ordinary discernment would have been, that it was for the interest of the world that the existing state of things should not be disturbed—that a great change was obviously impending—that the present condition of the Turkish provinces was one which in the nature of things could not last very long—that it must be transitory; but 607 that it was an object of great importance that all violent convulsion and disturbance of that state of things should be, if not finally prevented, at all events deferred as long as possible. A great change has been going on for many years in these provinces. The extension of their intercourse with the more civilised nations of Europe by means of steam navigation, the increase of their commerce, especially since the great reform in our own commercial system, were working a silent but real revolution in those countries. The Christian population was augmenting its wealth, prospering in its trade, increasing in numbers—in short, its position was rapidly altering in every respect, and at no very distant period it would have been capable of taking care of its own interests, and defending itself both against the oppression of Turkey and the not less—perhaps, even more—oppressive, though more interested, protection of Russia. Whatever, therefore, was to be the change, which must eventually take place in the political condition of Turkey in Europe, to defer as long as possible any violent disturbance of that which existed was the obvious interest of the civilised world, because every year that peace could be maintained rendered it more probable that it would be ultimately possible to effect, without the horrors of war, some settlement of these provinces, favourable both to their own welfare and to the general advantage of the world. This was a strong reason for postponing, if not for averting, all hostilities; and I believe that they might have been averted, if not for ever, at all events for a considerable time, if Turkey had accepted Prince Menchikoff's ultimatum, and I also think it must be perfectly clear to those who may read the papers before the House that Turkey would have accepted it had she not been taught to expect aid from her allies. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) claimed great credit for Lord Stratford de Redcliffe for having encouraged the Turks to resist the exorbitant demands preferred by Russia. If it were right that the Turks should be supported in their resistance to Russia, credit is certainly clue to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and the Government for the course which was taken; but my opinion is, that the Turks ought not to have been encouraged to resist the Menchikoff ultimatum. Before we decide whether it was right to encourage the rejection of the ultimatum, let us 608 compare what have been the consequences of its rejection with those which might have been expected to flow from its acceptance. From its acceptance we should, at all events, have gained the incalculable advantage of deferring the disturbance of the existing state of things—peace would have been maintained, and that peaceful progress in improvement which was so great a hope and security would have gone on unchecked. What, on the other hand, would have been lost? We are told that Turkey would have submitted to a great indignity, and have forfeited her independence by giving Russia a right to the divided allegiance of a large portion of her subjects. If Turkey had previously enjoyed substantial independence, if she had been in a position in which it was a great object to preserve her honour and dignity, I would at once admit the force of that argument; but, in the course of the last few months Turkey has been made to drink very deeply of the cup of humiliation from the hands of both Russia and France; and, as to independence, you have shown that she does not possess more than the shadow; and, as to any new rights which would have been given to Russia, I confess I cannot see that any importance can be attached to that argument. Russia had already avowed her claim to the protectorate of the Greek Church. We find by the blue book that as far back as the 5th of December, 1852, Colonel nose reports that the Russian Chargé d' Affaires had—to use the gallant Colonel's expression—damaged his position by alleging that Russia claimed the general protectorate of the Greek Church in Turkey, under the treaty of Kainardji. It is evident, therefore, that by signing the ultimatum, Turkey would have given Russia nothing more than, in her own opinion, she already possessed; nor is there any doubt whatever that whenever Russia chose to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, she had the power of doing so; and her recent conduct shows that she is not very particular as to the pretences on which she does so. The treaty of Kainardji would have answered every purpose she wished to attain, as well as the ultimatum she wished to have signed; and therefore I am persuaded that by signing that Note the position of Turkey would not have been materially altered for the worse. Thus, then, I have shown the advantages and disadvantages which might have resulted from Turkey adopting the Russian ultimatum, Now, I beg your 609 Lordships to compare them with the results of the opposite course which has been pursued. In the first place, I ask your Lordships what has Turkey, what have her allies, and what has the world gained by it? For my own part, I am utterly unable to discover that anything has been gained, except that Turkey has the barren honour of having rejected an unreasonable demand. I am sorry to say it is by no means so difficult to discover what has been lost. On this side of the account the items are, unfortunately, very numerous. In the first place, the commerce and industry of Europe have for many months been deranged and impeded by the apprehension of war, and war has at length actually broken out, accompanied with a frightful loss of life, between Russia and Turkey. In that war it is now probable we are about to be ourselves involved. Already we are incurring some of the inconveniences of warfare in the shape of pecuniary burdens, while thousands of useful hands and arms are withdrawn from productive labour to increase our naval and military forces. This state of things cannot long continue without being followed by a diminution of the comforts and enjoyments of every family in the realm from the highest to the lowest. More than that, the fair prospect arising from the improvement of the Turkish provinces, has been overcast; the Danubian Principalities have been devastated by the march and conflicts of contending armies. Moldavia, Wallachia, and Bulgaria, which were so rapidly rising in wealth, and in which, as is always the case, civilisation followed increasing wealth and increasing commerce, have been delivered up to all the horrors of war. Thousands of the unhappy inhabitants have perished by famine and disease, the property of those who remain has been wasted and destroyed, and a whole generation must pass away before the losses of the last few months can be repaired, even if peace should be restored immediately. Then, what is the case as regards Turkey? In Turkey the slumbering fanaticism of the Mussulman population has been roused into fierce excitement; the warlike efforts she is making must put the final blow to the financial embarrassments under which she has long been labouring—and I think there is no man, however sanguine he may be, who reflects upon the previous condition of weakness—especially financial weakness—in which the Turks were placed, and the 610 rapid diminution of the Mussulman population which was going on, and the extent to which her resources have been drawn upon for the last few months, but must arrive at the conclusion that the last remaining sands of the hourglass of Turkish existence will run out more rapidly from the shock which the vessel has sustained. Even, therefore, if the storm which has gathered over our heads were now to be dispersed and peace were to be restored, incalculable evil will have followed from the policy of resistance which the Turks, acting under our advice, have adopted. I say "acting under our advice," because it is impossible to read these papers without seeing that, substantially, the Ambassadors, of England and France are responsible for the decision which the Turks came to. I have shown you the evils which have already resulted from the course we have taken; and if the gathering storm were even now to be dispersed, and peace were to be restored to-morrow, a fearful amount of harm has been done; but worse dangers remain behind. What if the Greek population should be induced to revolt? What if they should avail themselves of their present situation to throw off the yoke of Turkey? Should such an event occur, is there any person who does not perceive that the whole character of the war would be immediately altered? Russia, from being a principal, would become an auxiliary. The Turks would then find that their chief and most dangerous enemies were not the Russians, but those whom they call "Christian dogs," and whom they are accustomed to regard as slaves. They would endeavour to reduce them again to obedience; and, if it were possible for them to succeed in the attempt and again reduce them under her authority, let the House remember that that authority will not be exercised even with as much mildness as has of late years been infused into Turkish rule; the spirit of fanaticism would be awakened, and vengeance would claim its due. The reforms at present in progress would be stopped, and the subject population would in future be governed by the strong hand and in the relentless spirit with which fanaticism revenges and suspicion tries to avert revolt. Could, then, France and England aid Turkey in a war of which this was to be the object? If a Christian insurrection should take place, are you prepared, while Russia is the ally of the Mahomedans and assist in subduing Christians? 611 Will the people of England and France allow their great power to be used, and the blood of their soldiers and sailors to be shed, in order to bring under the yoke of Mahomedan oppression their fellow Christians in Greece and Turkey? We all know the thing is impossible. If, therefore, such an insurrection should break out, we should have no resource but to abandon, in her greatest need, the Power whom by our encouragement we have induced to enter into a war, and which, if she were deserted by us, could only end in her destruction. This would be the inevitable result of a Christian insurrection. Will any man say that a Christian insurrection is an impossible event? In one of the despatches in the blue-book, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe pointed out in the strongest language how in every quarter, in Roumelia, Bulgaria, and Servia, the danger of insurrection threatens the Turkish Empire. This was a danger which might have been anticipated from the very origin of the dispute, and it is one which, in my mind, constituted the strongest ground for abstaining from all interference. Russia has chosen her ground of quarrel with Turkey with singular skill, in order to make it dangerous for the Turks to resist, or for their allies to aid them. It has obviously been the intention of the Emperor of Russia to create difficulties between Turkey and her Christian subjects while the latter have still many grievances to complain of, and before they have learned that by a few years' more of patience and of steady industry they would have been sure to achieve for themselves a better political position, and better securities of good government, than they are at all likely to obtain by force with the dangerous and interested aid of the Czar. This is evident in the face of the papers before the House, and it is notorious that, from the very beginning of the dispute, Russian gold and Russian intrigues have been employed to arouse the Christian subjects of the Porte to insurrection. The very latest accounts in the public papers show the probability of these efforts being sooner or later attended with success. It is stated that an extensive and dangerous conspiracy has been detected, the object of which was a general insurrection of the Christian population throughout all the provinces of European Turkey, in conjunction with which the Russians were invited to cross the Danube as speedily as possible, with the assurance that they would meet with the support of the Bulgarians. 612 It is further stated, that this conspiracy has extended even into the kingdom of Greece, and that the French Government has found it necessary to address a strong remonstrance to the Greek Government to induce it to abstain from entering into the conspiracy. Knowing what I do of the Greek opinion and Greek feelings which have naturally been produced by centuries of oppression and misery, and by the conflict which wrested a portion of Greece from the dominion of Turkey—I think nothing is more probable than that a conspiracy of this kind should extend to the kingdom of Greece, and I believe that the strongest remonstrances of the French Government, even if they were supported by us, would fail to check it. I doubt whether the Greek Government could prevent its subjects from taking part in the conspiracy, if it had the will to do so, and I doubt still more that it has the inclination to prevent them; and I am quite certain that even if it had the inclination, the Greek Government would have the power of doing mischief without committing any overt act which would give us the right to interfere. If, then, a Greek insurrection should take place, the insurgents should be aided by Russia, and could not be resisted by us, there can be no doubt that the Christian population must triumph; and then, I ask those who approve the advice given to Turkey to resist the demands of Prince Menchikoff, from their desire to prevent the extension of Russian influence, what will have been gained by the course we have taken? It seems to me, that so far as we have at present the means of judging of the future, the struggle will probably end in the overthrow of the Ottoman Power, the expulsion of the Turks from Europe, and the formation of a number of petty Christian Principalities, in what are now the Turkish provinces. And with what spirit will the inhabitants of these petty States be animated? They would look on Russia as their ally, and on France and England as the allies of Turkey. They would see that they owed the expulsion of the Turks to Russia, and that it was only a want of power, not any want of will, on the part of the other two Powers, that had prevented them from groaning, perhaps, for another century, under the iron rod of Turkish oppression. But I am willing to suppose that an insurrection does not take place, and that by our aid Turkey is enabled successfully to resist the power of Russia. Then let me ask your Lordships 613 what is to be the ultimate settlement of the present state of affairs—because I trust Her Majesty's Government will not embark in all the dangers of a foreign war without duly considering what is to be the ultimate result. I say, then, what is to follow, supposing you carry the point of enabling Turkey successfully to resist the aggressions upon her? What is the position in which this country stands? The settlement of the disputes which is looked forward to is one, which is, in my opinion, full of the greatest danger to this country. Turkey is too weak to stand by herself. I have lately read a most remarkable book, the Travels of Marshal Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, in which there is a passage which really seems as if it had been written in reference to the present day. The Marshal there discusses the prospects of Turkey, and he points out, in a manner which seems to me quite conclusive, that Turkey never can stand by herself, but that she must rest for support upon one or other of the great Powers—either Russia on the one side, or France and England on the other. If that were true when Marshal Marmont wrote this remarkable chapter, in 1836 or 1837, is it not much more true now that Turkey has been exhausted and weakened by subsequent events, anti by the efforts she has made during the last few months? Do you believe it is possible that she can stand by herself? What then do Her Majesty's Government expect to happen when the war is finished? Are you to take her under the joint protectorate of England and France, or are you to let her fall again under the influence of Russia, as she must inevitably do, if you withdraw your assistance? To undertake, in conjunction with Fance, a protectorate, a permanent protectorate of Turkey, would involve this country in responsibilities and difficulties most dangerous and formidable. If you protect her, you must, of course, more or less direct her affairs for her. Can you take upon yourselves that obligation without taking care that the internal Government of Turkey is not so administered as to add to the difficulties of the task? To show the difficulties this country would be placed in undertaking, in conjunction with France, the task of directing the internal affairs of Turkey, I need but refer your Lordships to the geographical position of that country, its extent, the many races of men inhabiting it, and the conflicting interests which would have to be 614 attended to. Is it possible that you could safely undertake to direct its measures, in the arduous work of reforming its innumerable and inveterate abuses, and of reorganising the whole state of society, which must be done, if the Ottoman Power is to be maintained? This is a task which must prove beyond your strength, and only disgrace and failure can result from attempting it. Yet I fear from passages I find in these papers, that this is what you contemplate, and it has been my principal object in addressing to your Lordships the observations I have made, to point out to you, that the same views, erroneous as I think them, which have led you to interfere in these transactions, are likely to lead you into this most dangerous course. In the despatch of the 4th of July last, which has already been so often adverted to, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe says—Henceforward that extensive empire of which Constantinople is the capital, must in all likelihood either take colour with Russia, or be assimilated to Europe. In the latter case, British influence and interests may be expected to find a widening field for their development; in the former they may be tolerated for a time, but they will probably decline by degrees, and be finally excluded." [No. 353.]I hope your Lordships will mark those significant words "British influence." You know what "British influence" means in the mouth of a diplomatist—it means virtually assuming the direction of the internal government of a country. I do hope and trust that Her Majesty's Government will not allow themselves to be drawn by their diplomatic servants into an enterprise so hopeless and so dangerous as to influence Turkey in the conduct of her internal Government. I am confirmed in my belief that this is what is meant, when I compare this despatch, with more than one from my noble Friend the Secretary of State, in which he points out the necessity of reforms in the laws and government of Turkey, and expresses his expectation, that the Sultan will listen to the advice of our Ambassador on these subjects. We know something in India of what it is to undertake to protect a Native state, and, at the same time, in return for that protection, to claim the right of advising the authorities, or rather the incapable rulers left in the ostensible possession of power; and no one who knows anything of the affairs of India will fail to agree with me that the result of those experiments do not encourage us to try a similar experiment under much greater difficulties in Turkey, Let your 615 Lordships remember, too, that in India we tried the experiment single-handed. Mark how greatly its difficulties would be increased when we have an ally entitled to an equal participation in it. I have seen too much of the consequences of the great Powers of Europe undertaking, from the best motives, to advise the rulers of ill-governed States, with respect to their internal administration; I have seen too much of the consequences of that sort of interference and that sort of advice, not to entertain the greatest alarm at the most distant prospect of the same thing being entered into with regard to Turkey. The diplomatists of these Powers usually begin to offer their advice upon matters of internal administration, from a sincere desire to correct the evils and gross abuses they see arising in the countries where they are employed, from the folly and incapacity of their native rulers. But though, at first, the welfare of these countries is the only object the Consuls or Ministers have in view, and they act very amicably together, it naturally happens that they do not always agree as to the means by which that object is to be sought; differences of opinion arise, as to the measures which ought to be adopted, and still more as to the persons to be employed, and each man endeavours to recommend his own views to the Government to which he is accredited, and to point out the objections to those of his opponents. But, my Lords, diplomatists, after all, are like other men in their love of power and of having things their own way. It naturally happens that while they all wish for the welfare of the country in which they are stationed, differences of opinion arise as to the means by which that welfare may be best promoted. Each endeavours to recommend his own opinions to the rulers of these States, each endeavours to point out objections to the views of his Colleague, and in process of time, instead of appealing to the rulers of the State, recourse is had to other means. Parties are formed—an English party and a French party, and sometimes a United States party and a Russian party, are led into the matter, each faction being led by the representative of the Government the name of which it bears, each urging forward with party violence its own object and the employment of its own means, and soon involving in these first struggles the country with which each is connected; and in these party strifes, the unfortunate country in 616 relation to which they take place is torn in pieces. All who know anything of the diplomatic history of the past few years know that I have now given no imaginary picture, but a correct description of what has repeatedly taken place. Let me point to Greece and South America, and I think your Lordships will find that what I have now anticipated with regard to Turkey has been fulfilled to the very letter. If we begin, in conjunction with France, to advise Turkey as to her internal administration, considering what the enormous difficulties are of the questions Turkey has to deal with, that social questions of the first magnitude are involved, that a society will have to be reorganised, if possible, and a new order of things created, I am afraid that our advice to the Turkish Government, however well meant, will not always be acceptable, and that some of those reforms which we might be pleased to dictate, would be utterly unsuited for the state of society in the country in which they are sought to be introduced. Embarrassments of all kinds will then arise, and, knowing what is the nature of diplomatists, and, above all, of English and French diplomatists, I am persuaded that, if we have the good fortune to get over this war, and then attempt to influence Turkey in the manner that seems to be hinted at in the despatch of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—if this is to be our line of policy—many months will not pass by before that good understanding between this country and France which all have dwelt upon with so much satisfaction will be sensibly impaired. We know what has happened in other instances; we know that the countries which have deputed these diplomatists have always ended by siding more or less with their own representative, and we have seen how easily jealousies and animosities have been engendered. Such are the dangers with which I believe we are threatened by a perseverance in our present policy; and of these dangers the most serious appears to me to be that our present happy relations with France may be interrupted. I will not trouble your Lordships with any further observations. I only wish to direct your attention to this fact, that the very same erroneous views, as I consider them, which first led us to encourage Turkey to enter into the present quarrel with Russia, are too likely, if we do not take care, to carry us into the fatal course to which I have adverted, of undertaking to advise Turkey in her internal administration. It 617 is that consideration which has induced me to advert, as I have done, to what I conceive to be our original error. I should not have done so else, because I know it is now too late to retrace our steps, so far as regards our original error, and I have no wish to cast censure upon Her Majesty's Government. Though I think they have done wrong in the policy they have adopted, I make all allowance for the difficulties they have to encounter, and for the state of public opinion having led them on perhaps further than they might otherwise have gone. I will here conclude what I have to address to your Lordships. I fear I have taken up far too much of your time; but I trust your Lordships will give me credit for having been induced to do so by no lower motive than a solemn and a painful sense of duty, in circumstances, as I think, of great national peril. I believe that the course we have entered upon, and the course we are about to pursue, is pregnant with future difficulty. I believe that public opinion, that men's minds and feelings, have been too much excited on this Eastern question, and that their better judgment will be a work of time. I have felt it necessary to state the considerations to which I have adverted, and which, in my mind, would make a more pacific policy better for us, better for Turkey, and better for the world. I felt it necessary that those considerations should be fairly stated, and I have ventured to lay them before you at the risk of wearying your Lordships, at the risk of bringing much obloquy upon myself, and of incurring that which I value much more—namely, the disapprobation of many whose opinion I respect. But no consideration of any kind could induce me to withhold from your Lordships the expression of my honest opinion—an opinion I have not, I assure your Lordships, formed without much careful study and deliberation, which I have now only to submit to your Lordships' indulgent consideration.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl that there is no Member of this House who entertains a higher respect than I do for the ability with which he uniformly treats any subject he takes in hand; and I may add that there is no one who admires more than myself the courage and fortitude with which, on all occasions when his public duty calls upon him to do so, he undertakes the defence of opinions which he knows to be unpopular not only in this House, but in the country. But, my Lords, 618 differing, as I venture to do, with all respect to the noble Earl, from the conclusions at which he has arrived, I heartily rejoice that his speech has been delivered in this House, because, although I differ from the conclusions to which he has come, I think it must be admitted, upon all sides of the House, that he has stated a great many facts, and has adduced a great many considerations which must have influenced the deliberations of the Government in the course which it has been their duty to pursue; and I may add, that from those facts and from those considerations I conceive it is possible to deduce the strongest argument in favour of the policy which the Government have pursued from the commencement of this dispute. The noble Earl has given us his opinion as to what we ought to have done in the dispute between Russia and Turkey:—but he has not stated that it was our duty to have allowed Turkey quietly to be swallowed up by Russia. If I understood the noble Earl aright, he confined his opinion to this more limited proposition, that, as regards the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff, it would have been a lesser evil for Turkey to have allowed herself to be forced into the acceptance of that note, than to have incurred the risk of war; and he seemed to impute blame to Her Majesty's Government for having supported Turkey in the rejection of that particular arrangement. Now, in the first place, I must remind the noble Earl that, although he may have inferred from the papers that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, or the French Ambassador, or any other Ambassador, had influenced the judgment of the Porte in that important transaction, he is not justified in holding any such idea, because it is not strictly the fact. We gave no counsel whatever to the Porte on that occasion; nay, so far is it from being true, that the noble Earl, if he looks carefully into the papers, will find it there stated, that the four Ambassadors in Constantinople were called together—probably by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—with the special view of determining what advice they would give to the Porte; and that they came to the conclusion that the question was one so nearly affecting the dignity and independence of the Porte, that the Porte itself, and the Porte alone, should decide upon it. Therefore, my Lords, I beg to remind the noble Earl, this House, and the country, that for the rejection of the ultimatum of Prince Menchikoff, we are not officially responsible. But really the merits of this 619 question do not depend upon the reading of that note, or upon the balance of advantage between its acceptance and its rejection. The noble Earl commenced his speech by observing that he concurred with all previous speakers as to the conduct of Russia in this dispute. The noble Earl will not deny that Russia had no right to exact the Menchikoff ultimatum from an independent Power; and the real question, therefore, comes to be this—whether you, as one of the great family of European nations, are to allow a weaker nation to be trodden under foot by a stronger, even though the result be not in itself injurious to your interests. I concur in the opinion expressed by the noble Earl, that the great object of the Government ought to have been to maintain the status quo in Turkey. I agree with him in thinking that every means ought to have been used to avert the calamity of war; though I must say, in passing, that the noble Earl is hardly justified in concluding that the progress of the Greek or Christian population in European Turkey would not have been seriously retarded by the new and more entangled diplomatic relations which were sought to be established between Russia and Turkey. I believe that the great promoter of internal improvement in Turkey has been the distinguished individual so often mentioned in the course of the debate—Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; and I am afraid we may safely say that the influence of the Russian mission at Constantinople has not been directed to secure the advancement of the Christian population, but that, on the contrary, Russia has been long pursuing that course of policy which is betrayed in her celebrated despatch known to all your Lordships—a policy of jealousy lest the Christian population of Turkey should rise and erect themselves into an independent State. My Lords, I contend that if Russia had succeeded in fixing upon the Porte new and more entangled diplomatic engagements, she would then have secured the power of perpetual interference with the internal affairs of Turkey, and would have proved a perpetual check to the natural progress of the Christian population. But, my Lords, it is perfectly true that the dangerous internal condition of the Turkish Empire was a consideration which we were bound to have in view; and I may state that it was that consideration, in addition to those of general duty and of Christian principle, which have been so eloquently referred to this evening, which induced us to endea- 620 vour by every means in our power to avert the necessity of war. I have no doubt that even the noble Earl himself will admit—whatever may be his opinion as regards the policy of this country not interfering, in any event, between Russia and Turkey—that, practically, that was not a policy which came within our power to adopt. I believe that public opinion—and in this, I confess, I think public opinion was right—would not have tolerated such a policy. It was not a policy, therefore, which we had it in our power to follow; and really, I think the issue before the House is this, whether we would have better secured the continuance of peace by what some noble Lords have called more energetic action. And here, my Lords, I must be permitted to say that I do think there has been a singular want of consideration for some of the obvious facts of the case. The noble Marquess who began the debate and the noble Lord the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs have totally omitted to draw a distinction between the period of time when the Holy Places question was not yet settled, and that period of time when that question was no longer the subject of dispute, but had given place to other and more serious demands; and not having drawn that distinction, they seemed inclined to impute it as a fault to the Government that their policy at the commencement of this dispute was not exactly identical with that of France. Now surely the House will recollect that in the Holy Places question it was not our duty or our policy to identify ourselves wholly with France. The cordial union that now exists between the two Governments, not only with regard to our present, but also with respect to our past policy, does not make this a delicate question at all. I have no doubt that if any noble Lord chooses to ask the French Government, it will readily acknowledge—I have reason to believe, indeed, that it has already acknowledged—that in the earlier stages of this discussion—when the policy, the interests, and the honour of France, as they conceived, were implicated in the question of the Holy Places—it was no part of our duty, as one of the great family of European nations, to identify ourselves with France; it was rather our duty to stand between the two rival Powers, acting solely and alone in the interest of peace. My Lords, I am the more surprised that the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should have objected to this portion of our policy, because I find in 621 one of the earlier papers submitted to your Lordships a despatch from the noble Earl himself, in which he lays down most distinctly the principle we have adopted. He addresses the Ambassador at Constantinople, and says, "With regard to the question of the Holy Places, we have nothing to do with it." But, my Lords, what is the inference we draw from this fact? It is, that it was impossible, so long as that question remained unsettled, to assume the same identity of policy with France in regard to affairs in the East which we were subsequently enabled to do. I beg to call the attention of the House to another most important fact. The internal weakness of Turkey, arising from the disorders which all will admit exist in the Government, was seriously aggravated by the movement around the Empire of great hostile fleets and armies, which were put in motion, on the one hand by Russia, and on the other by France, with reference to the question of the Holy Places; and I am quite certain that if your Lordships will look back and place yourselves in the position in which we were placed at the beginning of these complicated and, I am afraid, most dangerous questions, you will heartily agree in the policy and wisdom of the instructions addressed by Lord John Russell to our Minister at Constantinople—which you will find in an early page of the first volume of the blue-book—directing him to deprecate the movement of hostile fleets and armies, which produced the most imminent danger to the Turkish Empire. Now, I contend that those two considerations of policy—first, our separation to a certain extent from France so long as the question of the Holy Places remained unsettled; and, secondly, our declared opinion that it was imprudent in the highest degree to move hostile fleets and armies before it was necessary—explain our policy for refusing to send our fleet immediately to the Dardanelles. There is another point which, I think, has not been fairly dealt with in the course of this debate. The noble Marquess who began the discussion referred with great triumph to the message which had been sent by Colonel Rose to Admiral Dundas, to induce him to move the fleet. It is true that Colonel Rose sent for the fleet; but if the noble Marquess wished to state with accuracy the whole of the transaction, why did he not mention a fact which he would have found in the blue-books—namely, that within six days after Colonel Rose sent for the fleet he despatched another 622 message to the effect that he did not require it? I want to know why neither the noble Marquess nor the noble Earl (the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) ventured to mention that circumstance—surely an important one in the history of these transactions? My Lords, I now proceed to another step in this dispute. Supposing that Colonel Rose's request had been complied with—supposing it had been consistent with the policy of the Government at that time to move the fleet—what is the argument which is intended to be founded upon this? Do noble Lords really mean to contend that the movement of the fleet from Malta would have prevented the occupation of the Principalities by Russia? Let us look a little more closely at the dates of this question. The question of the Holy Places was not finally settled until the 25th of April. I think Lord Stratford de Redcliffe wrote to the Government on the 24th or the 25th of April, that the Holy Places question had been finally settled. There was, therefore, a clear field for a junction between England and France in resisting the ulterior project which was after that time disclosed by Prince Menchikoff. That despatch did not reach England till the 9th or 10th of May. During the interval which elapsed between the 9th and the 22nd of May, on which day Prince Menchikoff took his departure from Constantinople, the Government received repeated despatches from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, declaring that the question was still a moral question—that there was no danger of immediate violence on the part of Russia—and that under these circumstances he thought diplomatic intrigues ought to be met by diplomatic means, the more especially as it would be imprudent for the Government of Turkey to bring down upon the Turkish Empire the immediate resentment of the Emperor of Russia. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe also stated that it would be imprudent for us to take an hostile or an offensive attitude towards Russia at that time. But on the morning of the 28th of May, my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs heard by telegraph of the departure of Prince Menchikoff from Constantinople. Almost immediately after the receipt of that news, before we knew even the circumstances connected with Prince Menchikoff's departure—before we knew whether those circumstances had been of a threatening nature or not—a decision of the Cabinet was come to, and the fleet was placed 623 at once at the disposal of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. On the 31st of May, the despatch placing the fleet at the disposal of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe left London; and it is a remarkable circumstance, my Lords, that on the very same day—the 31st of May—the Emperor of Russia was finally committed to the proposals of Prince Menchikoff by the occupation of the Principalities. Noble Lords seem to argue that if the fleet had been moved before that date, the occupation of the Principalities would have been prevented. Why, if the fleet had been moved, you would have enabled Russia to say justly—if that term can be applied in such a case—that the movement of her armies into the Principalities had been in consequence of our movement of the fleet. Even as it is, Russia makes that assertion; but by the course we adopted, her conduct is entirely without vindication. But, my Lords, there is no reason to believe that the movement of the fleet would have had any other effect than that of hastening the military operations of the Emperor of Russia, of increasing his jealousy of the Western Powers, and of giving him just reason to suppose that our own interest, and not that of Turkey, was the object we had at heart. Some people talk as if the Pruth were a navigable river, and as if a fleet could be sent there to prevent the Russians entering the Principalities. I need not say to your Lordships that nothing could be more absurd than such a notion. The object of moving the fleet never could have been to prevent the occupation of the Principalities; but the presence of the fleet in the neighbourhood of Constantinople was, first of all, a general intimation to the Emperor of Russia that the Western Powers were watching his policy, and were determined to maintain the territorial integrity of the Ottoman empire; and in the next place, it was an actual defence as regarded any certain attack upon Constantinople. I contend, therefore, looking hack and viewing these transactions in the light of history, that the course pursued by the Government was sound policy.
My Lords, I pass now to another branch of the subject—to the diplomatic division. The noble Marquess who began the debate referred to the opinion which he said was generally held, that we have mismanaged the diplomatic part of the business in this important respect: that an offer has been made to Russia, after she has been guilty of the most flagrant violation of the law 624 of nations, of the renewal of those treaties which have been the moving cause and occasion of her interference with Turkey. Now, let us look a little more closely into this matter than I believe has been commonly done, either in this House or the country. What is meant by a renewal of the treaties between Russia and Turkey? The objection, I apprehend, lies chiefly to the religious protectorate which those treaties are supposed to give to the Emperor of Russia. Now, no one contemplates even as a result of war the recovery on the part of Turkey of any of the great provinces which in the course of centuries have been wrested from her; but it is contemplated by many that Turkey will free herself from all existing engagements with regard to the management of her own internal affairs. Those who contend for the absolute independence of Turkey maintain that it is inconsistent with such independence to engage in any treaty with regard to her conduct towards her own subjects. I entreat the House to bear in mind where such an argument will lead us. It is true that there may be a very serious danger of a rising of the Christian population in Turkey. Do you think you will diminish that danger—do you not think you will aggravate it in a tenfold degree—if you hold out to this Christian population no hope that you will extract from that Government which has so long oppressed their rights and privileges, not only as regards their spiritual condition, but also as regards their lives and property—do you think you offer them any inducement to take part with you in resistance to Russian aggression if you hold out to them no hope of being secured, by the intervention, if necessary, of the other European Powers, in all those privileges which Russia affects to be anxious to secure to them? I conceive that the most suicidal policy which this country could pursue in the present dispute would be to enter into a war with Russia, in favour of Turkey, without securing from Turkey some promise or engagement in reference to this most important question, the future treatment of the Christian subjects of Turkey by the Porte. The noble Marquess who commenced this debate, and several other noble Lords, have passed eulogiums on the noble Lord our Ambassador at Constantinople. I agree in every opinion that has been expressed as to the very great ability and knowledge of the subject with which he has conducted the whole of those very difficult negotiations, 625 and I entreat the country and the House to give weight to the words which he uses in one of the very last despatches that have been laid upon the table of the House. I entreat the attention of your Lordships to those words. In the last reply given by the Turkish Government to the last proposal of the Western Powers, you will find that Reshid Pacha concluded his note by formally asking that Turkey should be admitted into the community of European nations, and its rights guarded by international contracts and the general law of nations; and I beg to call your Lordships' attention to the answer that was given by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in this passage. He says—I am further of opinion that with a view of the condition of the non-Mussulman communities in this Empire, and the development of those resources on which the Porte's independence must ever mainly rest, it would not be safe to hedge round the Ottoman Empire with European guarantees unless the Porte engages, at the same time, to realise and extend their system of improved administration in good earnest."—[No 396.]This is the formal opinion of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, that it would not be safe to give any guarantee to Turkey on the part of the Western Powers, unless Turkey entered into an engagement with reference to what is pointed out; and who can doubt that what are aimed at by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe are the privileges and immunities of the Christian subjects of the Porte? Is it true, as a matter of historical fact, that it is inconsistent with the independence of the Government of Turkey to require any such pledge? It is a remarkable fact that by the very treaty which is supposed to contain the seeds of the greatest dangers to Turkey—the treaty of Carlowitz, concluded in 1669—gives a similar promise to Austria. That was not the period of the decay of the Turkish Empire; it was in the plenitude of her power that Turkey voluntarily agreed to give a solemn promise, and to enter into a diplomatic contract with the German Powers on the subject of the rights and privileges of the Christian subjects of the Porte. And I think we were fully justified, and not only fully justified, but bound by every consideration of duty and policy, to include amongst the stipulations on which it was reasonable and proper for Turkey to conclude a peace—a stipulation on behalf of the religious privileges of those of her subjects who are of the Christian faith. I shall not enter into a consid- 626 eration of the means by which effect should be sought to be given to those privileges. The noble Earl having entered at length into the history of the Vienna Conference, I will say that we are not ashamed of that note. I agree with my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) that there is nothing in the terms of the note which affect the Government with respect to the policy they have pursued, and there is nothing in the circumstances attending the giving up of the note of which the Government had reason to he ashamed. The object of the Vienna note did not depend upon the wording of it. The entire question, with regard to the terms of that note, have reference to one particular omission. In the original Menchikoff note the words "ab antiquo" were included. In the Vienna note "ab antiquo" was erased, and "spiritual" was inserted, and we therefore preferred to stand on the terms of the Vienna note. As regards the mere words of the note, I maintain that every one of them is perfectly defensible, and if it were consistent with the time of your Lordships, I should go into them at length, for the purpose of proving it; but now I shall only say that I agree with every word of my noble Friend behind in which he defends the original text of that note. I am anxious before I sit down to say a single word. I have observed with some regret, on the part of some of those who have taken part in the debate, a tendency to join in a cry, most unjust and unfair, which has been directed by a portion of the public press against my noble Friend at the head of the Government in particular. I think those attacks unjust and unfair, because my noble Friend at the head of the Government is not singly or solely responsible for the policy that has been adopted. But I believe those attacks my noble Friend can well afford to pass by wholly unnoticed; and if, after a long public life spent—and not unsuccessfully spent—in endeavouring to preserve the peace of the world, as that of my noble Friend has been, and to prevent the sparks of national jealousy from extending and breaking into the flames of war—if, after such a course, he finds himself at the head of a Government charged with the conduct of a contest that may be a very great one—if, after such a course, my noble Friend cannot escape such attacks, he has at least the satisfaction of knowing that his Government has done everything in its power to avert war, and when he has at 627 length found himself compelled to enter into war, it is a war into which this country has been urged by no selfish interest and no evil passion.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I promise your Lordships I shall not detain you long, and I do so the more readily because I think, after the discussion that has taken place, that little of a practical nature remains for discussion, or any question admitting of decision by the House. But I feel that some observations have fallen from the noble Duke which call for some reply from those who do not altogether share in his views—very natural as they are—of the policy and of the skill with which those diplomatic relations have been conducted, and the question brought to its present issue. I think it must be gratifying to the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen), whose defence the noble Duke undertook at the close of his speech, and it must be a somewhat agreeable surprise to that noble Earl to hear himself charged with not being sufficiently pacific. The noble Earl was charged by a noble Lord on the lower bench with having indulged too much in the spirit of war, and with not being sufficiently pacific, and I see the noble Earl accepts the compliment, and is somewhat penitent that he has not done more to preserve the peace of Europe. The noble Earl might have done more, I admit, than he has done to preserve the peace of Europe, but he should have done it in a very different manner from that which has been adopted. My noble Friend on the cross benches (Earl Grey) has made an eloquent statement and delivered a very eloquent declamation on the horrors of war, and the blessings of peace, which no person is contesting, and he compared the noble Earl and Her Majesty's Ministers to Walpole, without his little peccadilloes, or his parliamentary corruption, from which they are all free. My noble Friend, said the noble Earl, was another Walpole under a Ministry of peace—not the warlike Minister which another noble Lord considered him to be, and which the noble Earl seemed disposed to consider himself to be—my noble Friend said the noble Earl was another Walpole; but more successful and happy in the issue. And then, said my noble FriNld on the cross-benches, if a different course had been pursued—if you had prematurely gone to war, and used violent language and taken violent measures—the country would have been plunged into the hor- 628 rors of war, from which the successful diplomacy of the noble Earl and his Government have preserved it. But if they have not preserved the country from the horrors of war, where is the truth of the eulogium which the noble Lord has passed on the noble Earl opposite? He says, had not the noble Earl been successful in his diplomacy, we should have been plunged into war. But where are we now? Are we plunged into war or are we not? If we are not at war, I confess it looks something very like it. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is too cautious in his language in this respect to tell us whether we are at war or at peace. He says it is a very natural question we ask, and he informs us, most truly, that it is not very easy to give a distinct answer to it. He says, we certainly are not at war—we certainly cannot be said to be at peace, says my noble Friend; and he says also that, when we consider the course of the negotiations, and what has taken place in the Black Sea, and the passage of our fleet there, we cannot be supposed to be entirely neutral. I want to know what is the state of the country, when we are neither at peace nor at war, nor neutral? My noble Friend has given us a new phrase in Parliamentary or diplomatic language; we are not at war, nor at peace, and we are not neutral, but we are drifting towards war. My Lords, I think we are drifting towards war, and drifting very fast towards it. When we are sending out the most powerful fleet that England ever equipped to the Baltic—when we have another fleet in the Black Sea—when a considerable detachment of troops are to land some way or other in a foreign country, I suppose not for very pacific purposes, I think the symptoms are very strong that we are drifting somewhat rapidly towards war. No information having been given to us of the grounds on which the noble Earl—the warlike Minister of this country—founds his hopes of maintaining peace, I must come to the conclusion that a fortunate result to the Walpolean policy has not been arrived at, and that they have landed this country into a war. The question really is not whether peace in the abstract is desirable, or whether Government is to be charged for having used every effort to maintain peace. As long as they endeavoured with honour, and a due regard to the interests of the country, to maintain peace, every man must commend them for 629 using every exertion for the preservation of peace; but they must tell us whether the course they pursued was likely to effect that object. On that subject I concur in the opinion which was expressed in the month of July last by one in whose praise the House has been unanimous—to whose praise I can add nothing, except my cordial concurrence in every word that has been said in laudation of his discretion, firmness, and judgment, and whose opinion, I suppose, will be received with respect by Her Majesty's Ministers. I concur with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe in thinking that—Our intense anxiety to maintain peace, notwithstanding the progress of circumstances prejudicial to its continuance, though derived from our best feelings, may eventually go far towards frustrating the object, without preventing the occurrence of a war.In the month of July last, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe used this language:—In no direction is the prospect a cheering one. Negotiation, if not in despair, appears to be at fault; and, should a resort to force be unavoidable, the struggle must necessarily be sharp and the issue uncertain. In any case, nothing can be worse than a hesitating, uncalculated course. It is, no doubt, a misfortune for Europe to be dragged, when least expecting it, to the verge of an arena from which it is difficult to recoil, and upon which it is almost impossible to enter with any limitation of consequences. But let it be remembered that an evil which is postponed or evaded is liable to recur with more inconvenience and danger at no remote period, and that, by venturing at once to look it in the face, we afford ourselves the best chance of viewing it in its true proportions, and employing the most judicious means for its correction." [No. 353.]My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs expressed great satisfaction that this subject should have been brought on for discussion; but at the same time he regretted that my noble Friend the noble Marquess, who has entered into a most able and eloquent analysis of those papers, should have felt it necessary at this moment to disparage the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. No doubt it would be a very agreeable mode if the discussion of public papers involving two large volumes and the whole of the conduct of the Government, were to take place, subject to this provision, that no person who takes part in the discussion should say a word to disparage Her Majesty's Government; but if the noble Earl thinks that such a doctrine should be held, I cannot join with him in the opinion that he expressed, that it would be necessary to 630 bring the subject before Parliament at all. The noble Earl the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in another part of his speech, says it is easy to have an ex post facto wisdom and to judge of events after their occurrence; but, he says, put yourselves in the position we were in at the particular time, and then say whether we were to blame or not. Now, my Lords, I will follow that course. I will call the attention of the House to the intimation which we received on the 25th of April last, at which period the noble Earl assured the House that there never was the slightest apprehension of any disturbance on the side of Russia, and that the peace of Europe was subject to no risk from that quarter. On what did the noble Earl found the assurance then given to the House, that there was no apprehension of a disturbance of the peace of Europe on the side of Russia? The assurance was given by the Russian Government so repeatedly and constantly that it was impossible for him to admit into his mind a moment's hesitation of their complete veracity. But the question is not whether the Government received those assurances from Russia, but whether the facts of the case, detailed in the reports of their various Ministers, coincided with those pacific assurances and declarations. I shall bring very shortly under the notice of the House the information of which the Government was in possession on the 25th April, when the noble Earl assured us there was no apprehension of any disturbance of the peace of Europe on the side of Russia. I will not go back to an earlier period further than to say, that from the very moment of the change of Administration, by which the noble Earl's colleagues took office—from that moment, and I believe in one instance before that time, intimations were given to the Government, that, for the promotion of its objects, military forces were preparing on the part of Russia. That information was given so early as the 6th of January, and again on the 7th and 8th of January. On the 6th of January, Sir George Seymour says:—"I believe that measures have been taken by the Russian Government to ensure that the 5th corps d'armée shall be placed in a state of actual service."—[THE EARL OF CLARENDON: That arrived hero on the 19th.]—On the 7th of January there came an account of the amount of the force that was preparing to move, and again on the 8th of January Sir George Seymour writes that that was all that 631 Count Nesselrode could tell him—of the extent of those armaments Count Nesselrode was not prepared to speak with certainty—that orders were given to the 5th corps to advance to the frontier of the Danubian provinces without waiting for their reserves; and that directions had been issued to the 4th corps to hold itself in readiness; and his Excellency Count Nesselrode expressed his belief that affairs would be brought to a satisfactory conclusion if efforts were used in Paris and Constantinople to advocate the rights which his Government claimed, and to discountenance the pretensions of the French Cabinet. Again, on the 7th of April, there was a similar notice as to the preparations made for war and the movement of troops; and though Count Nesselrode did not then feel at liberty to give to Sir George Seymour any assurance respecting the military preparations, he did not hesitate to declare that the negotiations at Constantinople would be brought speedily to a happy conclusion. From January, then, to April the Government had this information, accompanied by the declaration of Sir G. Seymour, on more than one occasion, that the answers of Count Nesselrode on the subject were evasive to the last degree. You had, also, from Colonel Rose, and from your consuls in the neighbourhood, notifications that the Russians were concentrating upon the frontier, or were evidently to be moved upon the frontier, and ready to cross the frontier at a moment's notice. At pages 60 and 61 you will find one of those warnings. On the 13th of January, Sir G. Seymour writes:—Just as the messenger Ball is about to start for Berlin, I have learnt upon good authority that the head-quarters of the 9th corps d'armée had been moved, before the late disputes with the Porte had reached their actual stage, from Kieff to Kamenetz, situated close to the southernmost point of Gallicia. The 4th corps likewise is, I should observe, already in a state fitted for efficient service (sur pied de guerre). As to the 5th corps, of which I have spoken in various despatches, although its head-quarters are Odessa, several regiments forming the right wing of the army are scattered throughout Bessarabia; so that, as your Lordship will at once perceive upon looking at the map, a very slight advance either of the 4th or 5th corps would bring the Russian forces within the Moldavian frontier." [No. 71.]To this Her Majesty's Secretary of State (Lord J. Russell) replied, that he felt a sanguine hope that the wisdom of the Emperor would induce him to refrain from his warlike steps; and, notwithstanding all 632 the information he received, the noble Lord still expressed his belief that that hope was well founded. Not only had the Government notifications of the preparations for war, but the language of Russia was constantly couched in a corresponding tone. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) succeeded to office in December, 1852, and Sir G. Seymour wrote to say that a remarkable change had taken place in the tone and manner of the Russian Ministers. On the 13th of January Sir G. Seymour wrote:—That since the question of the Holy Places had been noticed by the Russian Minister to the Earl of Malmesbury, it had assumed a new character; that the acts of injustice towards the Greek Church, which it had been desired to prevent, had been perpetuated, and consequently that now the object must be to find a remedy for those wrongs; that the success of the French negotiations at Constantinople was to be ascribed solely to intrigue and violence—violence which had been supposed to be the ultima ratio of kings, being, it had been seen, the means which the present ruler of France was in the habit of employing in the first instance.And Sir Hamilton Seymour further stated that Count Nesselrode said that—When His Majesty's resolution is finally taken it will be made known to Baron Brunnow, who is desired to communicate with your Lordship, and to obtain the approbation of Her Majesty's Government to the steps about to be taken by the Emperor for securing his acknowledged rights."[No. 69.]What I wish to show is, that the language of Russia was over and over again the same, and it showed that it was determined to carry out the objects it had in view, and the only difficulty which it saw in its way was, as has already been stated, the union, which it hoped would not long exist, between the English and French Governments; that in these notes their hostile intentions towards Turkey—or, rather, its violent intentions—constantly coupled with assurances of confidence in the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, and with repeated attempts to sow dissensions between the English and French Governments, as the union of the two Governments would, it was felt, render success uncertain. The noble Duke opposite had reminded the House that their Lordships ought to draw a distinction between the course of proceedings as between England and France in the earlier period of the transactions and that pursued at a later period. I admit the propriety of the distinction drawn by the noble Duke, as far as relates to the time at which the question, was confined merely to that of the Holy 633 Places; because not only the present but the preceding Government had declared their opinion, that so long as the question was confined to a dispute as to the Holy Places, so long as there was no object requiring the interference of England, so long Her Majesty's Government was determined to hold themselves aloof from the dispute, except so far as the dispute might in any way affect the interests of this country. But then that question assumed a very different aspect when the subject of the dispute of the Holy Places was to be settled, not by diplomacy, but by the collection of troops upon the Turkish frontier. And under these circumstances it was that so early as the 28th of January M. Drouyn de Lhuys, through the French Ambassador, had called the attention of the British Government to the necessity of there being a perfectly correct understanding of the respective positions of the two Governments, the necessity of a good understanding between England and France, and for concerting measures, not for the purpose of settling the question of the Holy Places, but for the purpose of opposing a successful remonstrance to that threatened measure of war on the part of Russia, indicated by the constant collection of troops near the Turkish frontier. And that I am not misrepresenting the views which were taken of the question at the time will be found from a declaration already quoted of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to the effect that, at that time—the 29th of January—he saw cause for thinking that it was absolutely necessary that the two great Powers should understand each other, and that he would take into his immediate consideration the measures in consequence. What, then, becomes of the argument of the noble Duke, that until after the mission of Prince Menchikoff the English and French Governments had acted separately and alone, and that the question of the Holy Places only was in discussion, when his own Colleague acquiesced in the view of M. Drouyn de Lhuys of the 29th of January, that it was absolutely necessary that England and France should act in accordance with each other, not, undoubtedly, for promoting the views of France with respect to the Holy Places, but for the purpose of providing against a contingency which they expected might arise from the course pursued by Russia? Now, I am told that there was no end of assurances from Russia—such assurances, indeed, as it was impossible to 634 doubt—that there was but one object, and one alone, which Russia had in view. Now, I do not wish to defend the course taken by Russia. I cannot defend the course of proceeding or conduct of that Power; but this I must say, that from the first to the last of Count Nesselrode's despatches, it was distinctly stated that the question of the Holy Places, in the view of Russia, always involved the protectorate of the Greek subjects of the Porte. The two points were never kept separate a single moment in the view of Russia. The Emperor of Russia contended that under the treaty of Kainardji, he was entitled to the protectorate over the Greek subjects of the Porte; and he contended that it would not be a violation of the independence or integrity of the Ottoman empire that such a protectorate should exist in the hands of Russia. I do not mean to say that both these positions on the part of Russia were not utterly untenable, and if she obtained such a right as she assumed they would be fatal to the integrity and independence of the Porte; but, from first to last, that question, upon which we have finally come to issue—the protectorate to be exercised by Russia—was never dissociated from the question of the Holy Places. No man in his senses could suppose that it was the mere possession of this key of a grotto in Jerusalem that was alone influencing the conduct of Russia. The object of Russia was, that the protectorate—which she said, but falsely said, had been set aside—should, in point of fact, be exercised over the whole of her co-religionist subjects of the Turkish empire. Russia asserted over and over again that she had no desire to overthrow the Turkish empire. Certainly not; because nothing would suit the purposes of Russia better than that Turkey should remain as she now is—that she should not be divided into a number of independent Principalities which would exist on the frontiers of Russia—that there should not be established in its place a principal Byzantine empire—and that the kingdom of Turkey should not be split up into a number of free republics; so far as the control of Russia was concerned, it was much better for her that she should have the opportunity and plausible right of interfering with her power over ten or eleven millions of the subjects of the Sultan, and most of all that that right should appear to be confirmed to her by new and extended constructions given to the treaty of Kainardji. Upon 635 that it was that Russia founded her pretensions, and that she wished throughout the whole of the negotiations to have confirmed. Russia never concealed this, but at all times invariably claimed it in her demands with respect to the Holy Places. It was not in connection with Prince Menchikoff's mission that this question of the Holy Places, in connection with the protectorate over the Greek Christians, was raised for the first time. You had been told over and over again before the 25th of April, that the question of the Holy Places was a secondary object only, and the information had reached the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs before he made that speech to which I have alluded. Before that speech of the 25th of April was made, you had information to this effect from Colonel Rose and from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Colonel Rose distinctly told you that whatever Russia might tell you, she was endeavouring secretly to negotiate a treaty at Constantinople, which was to be kept secret from the Courts of England and France, and that she was seeking to enter into an alliance offensive and defensive with Turkey, and that, in return for the protectorate to be established in her favour, Russia was ready to give a fleet and 400,000 men to Turkey if she ever needed aid against any Western Power whatever. Now, that intelligence had reached the noble Earl at a time when he assured us that he placed implicit reliance and confidence in the assurances and statements of Russia, and that not the slightest danger threatened the independence of Turkey. Whatever might have been the assurances of Russia, and although she might seek to reconcile these assurances with the present state of things by the declaration to which I have referred—that she does not now desire the dismemberment of the Turkish empire, that she founds her claim upon the treaty of Kainardji, and contends that under that treaty she has the right to the protectorate, and that all these questions are included in the settlement of that regarding the Holy Places—whatever might have been the assurances of Russia, you received the intelligence on one and the same day of the disclaimer on the part of Russia of any hostile attempts on the independence of Turkey, and a notification from Colonel Rose of the attempts to establish a secret treaty, to which you were to be no party, and from which you were to be sedulously excluded; and you re- 636 ceived also at the same time statements from two of your consuls of formidable Russian forces being collected upon the frontiers of Turkey. You received on one and the same day these three notices, and you tell us on the 25th of April that you have a perfect, absolute, and unhesitating reliance in the friendly assurances of Russia, I have, according to the wish of the noble Duke, thus placed Her Majesty's Government in the position in which they desired to be placed—not as we view events now, but as the Government might and ought to have seen them on the 25th of April. Well, subsequent to that period was there any reason to believe that the Emperor of Russia could be led to abandon the determination to which he had come? On the 2nd of June Lord Cowley wrote to the noble Earl to say—M. Drouyn de Lhuys informs me that he forwarded to Count Walewski, for communication to your Lordship, two important telegraphic despatches received yesterday by the French Government from Berlin, the one stating that Count Nesselrode had declared to the English and French Ministers at St. Petersburg that he had never given any assurances that the question of the Holy Places was the only one which Prince Menchikoff had to settle with the Porte, and that Russia intended to have the protectorate of the Greek religion in Turkey—and, moreover, would have it; the other, giving intelligence that orders had been received at Warsaw to put the 4th corps d'armée in movement towards the Moldavian frontier, where it was to be assembled on the 10th of June,"—[No. 201.]Sir G. H. Seymour had previously written to tell the noble Earl that he had had a long discussion, though by no means a satisfactory one, with Count Nesselrode, on the subject of a previous despatch of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; in this communication Count Nesselrode had said—That from the substance of his demands His Imperial Majesty would not recede, and a dreadful responsibility would be assumed by any Government which, by counselling the rejection of the demands, might bring about the downfall of the Ottoman empire."—[No. 202.]This was subsequent to the mission of Prince Menchikoff, and when seeking to establish openly that protectorate over the Turkish empire which it had been all along the object of Russia to obtain. Writing to Sir Hamilton Seymour, on the 7th of June, the noble Earl states, "Your despatch of the 27th of May"—this is the despatch which intimates the intention of the Emperor not to recede from his demands— 637has been the cause of great surprise and regret to Her Majesty's Government. It is a source of deep regret to Her Majesty's Government that upon questions of such a nature any misunderstanding should have arisen with the Government of His Imperial Majesty; but my despatch of the 31st ultimo will have placed you in possession of the views of Her Majesty's Government upon this subject, and further comments are unlikely to lead to any useful result, while they might produce feelings of irritation, which it is the anxious desire of Her Majesty's Government to avoid."—[No. 228.]On the 30th of May, just previous to the occupation of the Principalities, Sir G. H. Seymour, writing to Lord Clarendon, says—At the close of our conversation Count Nesselrode observed that it could not be denied that the state of affairs was very alarming—that the position of the Emperor was one from which it was impossible for His Majesty to recede—and that he would not conceal from me that a continued rejection of the terms offered to the Porte would be followed by the issue of orders for the entrance of the Russian armies into the Principalities. His Excellency was desirous of remarking to me that war could hardly be undertaken by the Sultan under more disadvantageous circumstances than when it was brought about by a refusal of those conditions the acceptance of which was so warmly desired by the whole Greek population of Turkey, and which carried with them the sympathy of the co-religionists of that country."—[No. 229.]That is a distinct statement, not only that the Emperor of Russia will not recede, but that he will enforce his demands by marching his troops into the Principalities. It is utterly inconsistent with the friendly feeling professed by the Emperor of Russia. But when was the first notification made which produced any effect on Her Majesty's Government? What was the language in which you met that threat and announcement? Remember it was not then a fait accompli. It was announced that in the course of a certain time—six weeks—these instructions would be carried out; that in the event of the rejection by Turkey of the treaty which your Minister, in concert with all his colleagues in Constantinople, had declared to be degrading, derogatory, and fatal to the independence of Turkey—that in that case the troops would march forward and occupy the Principalities as "a material guarantee" for the fulfilment of those demands against Turkey. Now, what is the language used by Her Majesty's Government in reply to this threat? Is there no remonstrance made?—no attempt made to point out the gross nature of these proceedings?—no attempt to throw upon the 638 Emperor the responsibility, if such a step were taken, of drawing the whole of Europe into a collision?—or no attempt to tell hint that, if he was the first to draw the sword, he would be responsible for the fatal consequences which might ensue? Not a bit of it. On the 8th of June, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs writes to the British Minister at St. Petersburg, in the following language:—The Emperor cannot doubt the warm feelings of friendship towards himself entertained by our gracious Sovereign, and His Imperial Majesty must be also aware that it is alike the duty and the desire of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the most cordial relations with Russia, feeling how essential such relations are to the peace of Europe, and viewing, as they do, with alarm and abhorrence whatever may tend to the interruption of that peace. Her Majesty's Government, I repeat, do not believe that Europe can be in danger of the terrible calamity of war from a question such as that which is now pending at Constantinople; they do not believe that the door will be finally closed against an arrangement which to them appears to be still practicable; and they venture, therefore, to hope that the demands of Russia may be confined to the recapitulation of existing treaties, and their due fulfilment, but without seeking to extend that influence over the Greek subjects of the Porte that Russia must always and necessarily exercise."—[No. 230.]It was upon language such as this that the Emperor of Russia must have founded the conviction he expressed, that Great Britain would never go to war upon a question like the present. And this, my Lords, as far as these papers are concerned, was the sole remonstrance—the sole representation—made by a British Minister against the flagitious occupation, in time of peace, of the Wallachian and Moldavian Principalities, without a particle of excuse, except that of obtaining a material guarantee for the fulfilment of conditions which Turkey had announced she was prepared to resist, and should never be able to concede—nay, more, which your Minister, acting under your authority, had encouraged Turkey to resist and to refuse, and had promised by material assistance to sustain her in refusing. That was the tone and that the language by which you hoped to be able to act on Russia, and to turn the Emperor from his purpose. My Lords, the language of the Emperor had been consistent throughout, and that which he asked had been put in a position from which he could not recede. In one of Count Nesselrode's conversations with Sir Hamilton Seymour, he stated that—Warmly attached as he was to peace, and 639 anxious as he was, upon personal grounds, that peace should be preserved, the condition which was now proposed, that the Emperor should recede from the position which he had taken, was a condition which it was impossible to entertain, and to which he could not advise him to assent.No; not after he had crossed the Pruth—not after he had advanced his troops—not after he had committed himself to war; but if you had addressed him, not "with bated breath," and in the language of this despatch—not with violent or threatening language, which I should be the last to advocate, but in firm, and temperate, and proper terms—if you had pointed out to him that the course which he proposed to take was one which it was impossible that England and France, acting cordially together upon this question, could ever view with indifference, and which they would feel it their duty to resist—if you had done this before he had committed himself to such a step as the occupation of the Principalities with his troops, I believe that such language, firmly and temperately put, would have had the effect of checking this unparalleled invasion of a neutral country in violation of the law of nations. That would have been the language for the British Cabinet to have used to the Emperor of Russia at that time—appealing to his sense of justice, appealing to his sense of right, yet not concealing from him the fact that such an attempt as that which he had then in contemplation would bring down upon him the united resistance of this country and of France. I believe that if that language had been used, the peace which you say you are so anxious to maintain would have been preserved. I believe that the Emperor would have abandoned his intention, and that a pacific solution of the difficulty would have been secured, if he had not already gone so far that it was in fact impossible for him to recede; and if he had not, on the other hand, believed, whether rightly or wrongly, that you and France were not acting cordially together, and above all, if he had not entertained the opinion, which he has here expressed, that England would never upon such a question be drawn into a war.
My Lords, I will not enter into the argument brought forward by the noble Earl who sits on the cross-benches (Earl Grey), that we ought not to have interfered at all. It is possible that, if the course which the noble Earl suggests had been pursued, peace might have been preserved. It might certainly have been preserved by these means, but it would only have been 640 for a time. By pursuing that course, we should have given the assent of Europe to the monstrous interpretation which Russia was prepared to put on her existing rights; and we should have given to that Power such a hold on Turkey as would have prevented our ever interfering hereafter effectually in her defence, and would have led from the protectorate of the Christian subjects of the Porte to the ultimate incorporation of the whole of Turkey into the Russian empire. I cannot look upon such a possible, or probable contingency, with the same complacency as the noble Earl. I think it would be fraught with great danger, that Russia should have such preponderating power, both in the north and south of Europe, as to be the absolute master of its destinies. The noble Duke who spoke last vindicated the policy of the Government in separating from that of France on the question of the Holy Places. [The Duke of ARGYLL: Not entirely.] Perhaps the noble Duke does not vindicate our expressions of regret to the Emperor of Russia—perhaps he does not vindicate our expressions of regret at the hasty step which France had taken, at sending her fleet, not into Turkish waters, but to occupy an advanced position, in order that it might be ready to act, if the necessity for action should arise. If you were not taking an altogether different line from France, it was a most extraordinary proceeding that, while you were acting together—and while your Foreign Secretary was giving out that there was a perfect understanding between you and France as to the course to be pursued—his successor should have written a letter to the Emperor of Russia, regretting and apologising for this movement of the French fleet as a "hasty step." If I, remember rightly there is a despatch in which the noble Earl, or his predecessor, announces to the Emperor of Russia that, in point of fact, the only question which raised any embarrassment in Europe was the position which France had taken, thus throwing the whole blame of any possible occurrences, not on the Emperor of Russia, but on the premature movement which had been made by the Emperor of France, with whom it was said we were acting cordially. But the noble Duke, having vindicated the separation from the policy of France on that occasion, and the adoption of a different line of conduct, proceeds still further to vindicate the Vienna note. He tells you that that note is not open to the objections which had been made to it— 641 that it does not bear the interpretation which Turkey and Russia put upon it—that he stands by its whole phraseology, and was prepared to advise its acceptance; but that Turkey declined to accept it, and we backed up Turkey, and, in consequence of having backed up Turkey, we were now opposed to Russia. Did ever any human being hear such a reason as that assigned for a great war? The abandonment of a note to which you see no objection—by every word of which you are prepared to stand—the abandonment of that note to be the cause of a great war—and the foundation on which you rest the whole of these warlike preparations which the country is called upon to make. I am not about to enter on a vindication of the Vienna note. When these two volumes reached me, I was so bewildered with notes and projects, and counter-projects—with proposals by Austria, and France, and England, and Turkey—with one set of diplomatists sitting at Vienna, and another set of diplomatists sitting at Constantinople, the diplomatists at Vienna disagreeing with the diplomatists at Constantinople—that I give up the attempt to wade through that labyrinth of notes and projects and counter-projects, proposals and counter-proposals; but I thought I saw in the whole this legitimate cause of quarrel—the assertion by Russia of rights which were inconsistent with the independence and integrity of Turkey, and dangerous to the peace of Europe—put forward, I must say, in a most violent and arbitrary manner. I thought I saw in the course pursued by Russia a necessity now, if at any time, for cordial co-operation and active union among the other great Powers of Europe, to prevent the dangerous consequences which might ensue from the unchecked, unceasing ambition of Russia. Having said so much of the past, I will only say a few words with reference to the future. I cannot look with the slightest hope to the realisation of the wishes—I mean the hopes—of the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) that war may yet be averted. When negotiations are closed—when military preparations of great magnitude have been commenced—when diplomatic intercourse has been broken off—I am at a loss to understand on what he founds the slightest hope that there can be even possibility of peace being still presence. The noble Earl is not going, I presume, at this moment, after all the negotiation that has taken place, and when matters have been 642 carried so far, to abandon the cause of Turkey, and to counsel the Sultan to submit to the conditions imposed on her by Russia. What, then, does he expect? Can he have the slightest hope that, in consequence of the determined attitude and warlike preparations going on in this country and France, the Emperor of Russia will suddenly recede, and abandon the position he has taken? Why, my Lords, if that should be the case, if the noble Earl believes that, it would be the strongest possible condemnation of the policy pursued throughout. If the Emperor of Russia, from fear of the attitude assumed by England and France and of the preparations for war, would be willing, after having advanced so far, to recede from his present position, surely that would be an argument almost conclusive that if this attitude lied been assumed before, and these preparations made before, he would never have advanced at all, and that this country would have been spared the apprehension of a formidable war. But are there in reality any grounds at all for the hope expressed by the noble Earl? My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has stated that the propositions of the Emperor of Russia and those acceded to by Her Majesty's Government are as incompatible as the meeting of two parallel lines. I am aware that my noble Friend has expressed no very strong hope that peace will be maintained; he has, in fact, as nearly as he possibly could, contradicted his noble Colleague and leader. What are the existing circumstances? No man can say whether the country is at war or whether it is at peace. It is not at war; it is not at peace. The noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government has stated that war is not inevitable; his noble Colleague says that there is no hope that it can be avoided. It has been stated that there was as much unanimity of opinion between the French and English Cabinets as between the members of the present Cabinet themselves. Even allowing the present Cabinet to be the most harmonious that can be conceived, such unanimity cannot alone maintain the independence of Turkey.
One word more as to what has been asserted by the noble Duke opposite, that it would not have been for the tranquillity of Turkey or for the well-being of the subject of Turkey if, to a certain extent, a foreign right as regarded protection of the Christian subjects were not admitted; but the noble Duke appears to me to have 643 forgotten that the Sultan has spontaneously expressed his willingness to extend to the utmost possible degree, the privileges a the Christian inhabitants of Turkey. He has even gone further, and has confirmed by firmans the rights and privileges of all his Christian subjects; and it is no doubt intended by the Powers of Europe collectively to maintain those privileges. The noble Duke appears to me to have forgotten that we ought to insist upon a general protectorate of these Christian subjects as a condition of our alliance. I will not enter into that; but I say that such a general protectorate, granted as a condition of admitting Turkey into our alliance, and exercised collectively over the Christian subjects of the Porte, would be a very different thing from the renewal of treaties, giving to Russia an absolute protectorate over giving 10,000,000 to 11,000,000 of Turkish subjects. The present Sultan of Turkey has gone to a greater length in granting and confirming these privileges than any former Sovereign has done, and I see no reason to doubt that he will continue in the same course. There is a great, a vital difference between granting a protectorate to any single Power, and granting one to be exercised by the great Powers of Europe collectively, as a price for admission into the community of European nations. Any proposal for the renewal of treaties giving to one Power the right of exercising exclusive control over the subjects of another is in the last degree objectionable.
I differ from the noble Earl (Earl Grey) in thinking that this country could have avoided the position in which it now is placed—I differ from Her Majesty's Government that the course which they have adopted has been the wisest course. I do not in this matter doubt the intentions of the Government; but I disagree with them as to their mode of action, and I call their judgment into question. I do not blame them in the least for endeavouring to the last to preserve peace; but I cannot help saying that I censure and disapprove the course which they have adopted for the attainment of their end. Believing now, as I do, that war is inevitable, and that everything depends upon the vigour and energy with which the efforts of this country and of France—and I hope I may also say of Austria and Prussia—are conducted towards bringing this quarrel to a satisfactory termination, I shall from this moment discard all consi- 644 deration of the past—I shall discard all party feeling and all questions;—and if the Government are in earnest, and are about to embark in a war just, right, and necessary—as I consider the approaching war to be—with the determination of carrying it on in a manner worthy of the cause at issue, and worthy of the dignity of this country, and of the importance of the end to be attained—I say if that is the case it will be my anxious and earnest desire—sacrificing all other considerations and waiving all other questions—to give them the best support in my power.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
My Lords, I think, from the character of some of the speeches we have heard to-night, there can be but little doubt as to the character and degree of censure which would have been cast upon Her Majesty's Government, no matter what might have been the course pursued by them. If the negotiations which have been entered into had been sooner brought to an abrupt close, war would have been owing to our rashness, or our timidity, or our blundering conduct; and had they ended in peace, of course, in bringing them to that issue we should have equally sacrificed the honour and interest of this country. But after all the asperity with which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) has described our conduct, followed up, as it has been by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), I am a little surprised at the nature of the Motion which the noble Marquess has thought proper to lay before the House. With such opinions, with such convictions, as the noble Marquess entertains, I should have thought it would have been a Motion of nothing less than a censure upon the conduct we have pursued. But what is the Motion? The noble Marquess moves for a few additional papers, without describing what they are, and without knowing what it is he moves for; but desiring to have some papers on the subject of the cessation of diplomatic relations with Russia. Now, as these papers have been already laid upon the table of your Lordships' House, the noble Marquess has made a Motion without the slightest knowledge whether anything exists of the kind for which he moves, and without knowing what information he will receive. Now this, I take it, is a very lame and impotent conclusion to a speech which stigmatised every step in the conduct of Her Majesty's Government both at home 645 and abroad throughout the whole of these transactions. My Lords, instead of the crude motion now brought forward, the least that I should have expected would have been a direct vote of censure upon the conduct of the Government. Indeed, a higher tone has been taken by those who entertain the same opinions as the noble Marquess and the noble Earl who has just spoken, and we have heard loud threats of impeachment even, against Her Majesty's Government, for the course which they have pursued. I do not deny, my Lords, that in the course of these transactions I have spent many anxious hours, and some sleepless nights, in consequence of the difficulties with which we have been surrounded; but I must say this—that the apprehension of impeachment has never disturbed me for a moment. Now, my Lords, what has had a considerable effect on the noble Marquess, and on those who, like him, are prepared to pronounce sentence on Her Majesty's Government, has been, as they allege, the production of the papers now upon your Lordships' table. To my certain knowledge, many of those who were much disposed to censure Her Majesty's Government have had the candour to admit that the production of those papers has considerably changed their views. Therefore, I think, the noble Marquess has done wisely in modifying a vote either of impeachment or censure into the Motion with which he has concluded. My Lords, I understand the spirit of the objections made by the noble Earl, but I do not exactly know what precise course he would have recommended Her Majesty's Government to pursue. He has thought proper to refer to some words of mine as to the possibility of peace being still maintained. In consequence of a declaration made by a noble Friend of mine, not now in the House, that he considered war as inevitable, I certainly did say, and I repeat it, that I do not consider, and cannot consider, so long as war is not declared and actually existing—I cannot consider war as inevitable, believing, as I do, that all the Powers concerned in this dispute, including the Emperor of Russia himself, whose conduct for many years has been a proof of the fact, know and fully estimate the serious consequence war must be to Europe in general; and looking, also, to the exertions he has made in former years to preserve peace, it makes me think it not at all impossible that even he, on whom depends the decision in a great 646 measure of this question, may entertain such views as may end in peace. But in the consideration of this question, whether it be for peace or for war, it is no small advantage that the other great Powers of Europe may be considered to have acted in unison on this question. This is no small advantage; and, whether the issue of the question be peace or war, it is, I repeat, matter for congratulation that the union of the great Powers of Europe should have been accomplished, so far as it has been accomplished. My Lords, I feel—as has been also observed by my noble Friend opposite, who has left the House (the Earl of Ellenborough)—that the people of this country are not sufficiently impressed with the importance and the magnitude of the war in which they may be engaged, and this, I think, must be apparent to all your Lordships. In fact, we have been so long without having experienced the horrors and the miseries of war, that it is but too common to look upon it now as a source of pleasurable excitement; and I verily believe that if, by the blessing of God and our endeavours, we should still be enabled to preserve peace, a very great disappointment will ensue in many quarters. I do not say in this House or among enlightened men, but I do say among certain classes who now thoughtlessly, but very numerously, look forward, as merely a degree of excitement, to such an event, which we must all deprecate. I agree in thinking that the public feeling in this matter is a generous feeling; and although the people generally do not look to the consequences which must inevitably ensue should war take place, yet still the feeling to resist aggression and injustice is a generous one. But, my Lords, it is not for us to encourage that feeling. It is, on the contrary, the duty of the Government as much as possible to resist such feelings, however natural and however generous they may be—to direct them in the course of prudence and of policy. In adopting this course, I know very well that we must submit to the epithets which have already, without measure, been bestowed upon our exertions to maintain peace—such as cowardice, vacillation, and treachery. All this we must submit to, but at the same time I do not see in what a more courageous policy consists. It seems to me that Her Majesty's Government will exhibit more moral courage in resisting strong popular impressions, because we 647 think them irrational and carried to a mischievous extent, than in yielding to those common-place taunts which I am ashamed to hear applied by the noble Earl. Every one who seeks war professes a love of peace. Even the greatest conquerors who have ever inflicted misery on mankind have always professed to love peace, and only to make war in order to arrive at peace. This is language which is used upon all occasions; but when war ensues we must look to the language rather than to the declarations of persons who profess not to object to war for its own sake. Now, when I say that the popular feelings to which I have alluded are irrational, and carried to a greater extent than is wise and prudent, I must also include a certain number in this country, who are really bent upon war, but who think and who maintain, and who in this town have at meetings declared, that war is to regenerate Europe—that that is the mode by which Europe is to be regenerated. To be sure such declarations are usually coupled with an allusion to the guillotine, and I do not see how the guillotine is to assist in the regeneration of Europe, except, perhaps, inasmuch as it will cause additional desolation, misery, and ruin beyond that which ordinary warfare will necessarily induce. But, my Lords, the real question is, practically, what the noble Earl would have us to have done? He speaks, and he has repeatedly spoken before, of what the noble Marquess also calls our infirmity of purpose and our lack of vigour. I think the noble Marquess told us, if we had had more vigour and less infirmity of purpose, that we might have brought matters to a more satisfactory footing; and the noble Earl also in effect makes the same accusation. Just to show your Lordships how this is: The only step taken by the Emperor of Russia—the only act which we could deal with—was the invasion of the Principalities. What would the noble Earl have had us to do on that attack? He would have had us threaten the Emperor with, what in plain English must mean, war, Now I will put it to the House whether, if we had held such language, and it had failed in its effects, how, under the circumstances under which that occupation of the Principalities took place, could we have hoped to meet with the assent of Parliament or of the country? The Emperor invaded the Principalities, occupied the Principalities, he said, as a material guarantee for claims which he 648 maintained to be just. He said that the occupation was to be but temporary. He said that he did not declare war, and that he did not intend to make war. Turkey, at the same time, though a very sufficient cause of war, determined not to make it a cause of war, and abstained therefore from declaring war, being in truth utterly unprepared to make war. Under those circumstances, if we had conveyed such opinions to the Emperor of Russia as would have produced war, I ask whether we should not have heard from the noble Lords opposite the most inexhaustible fund of censure and attack that it is possible to conceive? I am quite sure that we should have deserved it, whether we met with it or not. Early in these negotiations, look at the opinion of Lord Stratford on this very point of the invasion of the Principalities. In an interview which he had with the Sultan himself, he relates, in his despatch, having said—I conceived that, under such circumstances, the true position to be maintained by the Porte was one of moral resistance to such demands as were really inadmissible on just and essential grounds, and that the principle should even be applied, under protest, to the occupation of the Principalities, not in weakness or despair, but in reliance in a good cause and on the sympathy of friendly and independent Governments."—[No. 203.]Therefore, he would have nothing done more than protest against the occupation of the Principalities. He had no intention of recommending the Porte to treat it as a cause of war. My Lords, after an event, it is very easy, in looking at a transaction, to find points which might admit of a different course having been pursued. It is very possible that such might be the case in this instance; but I can only say that, in looking over these negotiations as they have been carried on from the commencement, I cannot see any reason to lament any step which has been taken in the whole course of these transactions. The noble Earl has been pleased to say that I have been more of a war Minister than I intended or fancied that I should be. In saying so, he has perhaps spoken more truth than he intended; for I can assure him in good truth that if I have any misgivings at all about the course which has been pursued, it is certainly not that we have been too pacific. We have done the best we could to maintain peace, and such is the desire which I have entertained to arrive at that result, that I had almost said that I enter- 649 tain some misgivings that we have not used the utmost endeavours to attain it. At the same time I can say that I believe the course we have pursued has been that which is not only justified, but is that which, upon full consideration, I should feel disposed to repeat were the occasion to recur. So far from thinking that our exertions to maintain peace have been continued too long, I entertain a very different opinion. I think that every additional day that peace has been maintained has been an advantage. I do not the least regret the time which has passed in following out these endeavours to effect peace, whether they shall ultimately be successful or unsuccessful. My Lords, the noble Earl has also found fault with us for not having at an earlier period established an entire concert with France in the conduct of these transactions. Now my noble Friend the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll) has shown that, so far as the question of the Holy Places was concerned we could not act with France, not only because we were indifferent to the whole subject, so far as English interests were concerned, but because in truth we thought that Russia had some ground of complaint on that subject. Therefore it was impossible for us at that time, and on that subject, at least, to establish a concert with France; but so anxious were we that nothing should prevent our uniting in strict accordance with that Power, that your Lordships will see that, in the instructions which Lord Stratford carried with him when he left England, and which were drawn up by my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), my noble Friend, referring to his passing through Paris, directs him thus:—You will inform the French Minister for Foreign Affairs that Her Majesty's Government have great satisfaction in believing that the interests of France and England in the East are identical, and that nothing therefore may prevent their cordial co-operation in maintaining the integrity and independence of the Turkish empire.Now this was written before Lord Stratford left England; and yet the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has the courage to find fault with us for not early enough cultivating a concert with France. Now, my Lords, let me say that, in the whole of these transactions there is no one thing—let it end how it may—there is nothing which has given me more satisfaction than that very concert which the noble Earl finds fault with us for not having earlier entered into with France. I say further, 650 that from the first, when Lord Stratford took his instructions with him to Paris, up to this hour, we have maintained the most entire and cordial concert with France, and have had every reason to be satisfied to the utmost with the perfect loyalty, honour, good faith, and good feeling with which we have been met by the French Government. Let these negotiations terminate as they may, it will always be a source of the utmost satisfaction to us, that we have established that concert and that mutual alliance and goodwill between the two Governments. My Lords, that concert and that mutual kindness and goodwill will, I trust, continue; and no efforts will be wanting on our parts to ensure, and, if it be possible, to increase, those frank and friendly relations. My Lords, the great object which we have had in view, the great object for which we first entered into these negotiations, has been the protection of the Turkish empire against the aggression of Russia—an object we have deemed of an importance paramount to any other consideration connected with the question. It is not that we are not sensible—at least I am very sensible—of that which has been urged by the noble Earl (Earl Grey); and certainly if its object were to support much of that which he has described, war would be quite unjustifiable; but the aggression of Russia, and the possession of those Principalities which are of so much importance to the rest of Europe, manifestly call upon us to the utmost of our power to defend the Turks. I do not look without apprehension to the consequences of war—let it end how it may—to the Turkish empire. I find that the feeling of disaffection in the Turkish dominions is so strong, and the condition of the Government is such, that a war—even a successful war—would be attended with great danger to the future condition of that empire;—and therefore it is that, wishing to preserve the existence of that empire as a European necessity, I am doubly anxious to preserve it, if possible, from the continuance of war. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has made very merry with the answer given by my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) to the question whether we were at peace or at war; and has said that, being neither at peace nor at war, he does not very well know what we can be. At all events let that position be what it may, it is very far from being unprecedented. We have been in it before, and very likely may often be in it again. Look at what hap- 651 pened in the year 1827. Our Ambassador was then withdrawn from Constantinople—we blockaded the Turkish ports—we had our Sinope—we destroyed the Turkish fleet in harbour at an immense loss of life, and were not at war. There was no war. We continued for a year and a half in that state without being at war, and no more at peace than was shown by those demonstrations, such as have not yet taken place between us and the Russian empire; for as yet we have not struck a blow or fired a shot at the Russian forces, and therefore cannot be said to have been so much in a state of war with Russia as we were at that time with Turkey, with whom we professed then to be at peace. Therefore, difficult as it may be to describe our position, at least the noble Earl will see that it is not unprecedented. There are other instances of a similar kind. A French army besieged Antwerp, and we blockaded the Scheldt; but we were not at war with Holland. Nevertheless, these demonstrations took place, which were more energetic than anything which has yet taken place between us and the Russians. I could very much wish that we had seen the worst of this state, be it war or be it peace; but although I have ventured to say that I did not think war inevitable, I have never said that it would not take place—although I not only hope, but most ardently pray, that it may not take place. All that I said was, that it was not inevitable—that I did not abandon that hope; and, slender as it is, I will not abandon it even now. It is a matter of very little importance what I may hope, or expect, or think; but what is important is, that Her Majesty's Government are making every possible preparations as if war were inevitable. That is all the country can desire, and they may leave me and others to indulge our hopes and our prayers as we may think proper. I can repeat that every effort will be made, and is making at this moment, to carry on the war, if war there must be, in such a manner as becomes the character, the dignity, and the power of this country. My Lords, at this hour I will not fatigue your Lordships by saying more; but I am so far glad that this Motion has been brought forward, because I do think, that in addition to the papers which are upon the table, the clear justification of my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), who has had the principal 652 management of these negotiations, must have been such as to satisfy your Lordships that there has been no want of prudence, foresight, or skill in the management of these most difficult and complicated negotiations; and I have not the least fear in appealing, not only to this House, but to the country, not merely for an acquittal of Her Majesty's Government from blame, but I would almost venture to trust that we may have their approbation of our conduct.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
explained, that in the observations which he had made, he had not intended to intimate that there was at any time any divergence between the policy of England and that of France in regard to the independence of Turkey. All that he meant to say was, that until the question concerning the Holy Places was settled, the policy of the two countries could not attain to that perfect coincidence by which it was afterwards characterised.
§ THE EARL OF ALBEMARLE
said, their Lordships had now been engaged for seven hours and a half in discussing what he thought one of the most unprofitable questions ever brought before the House—the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government; and not one word had their Lordships heard of the future conduct of the Government. He would be most happy to support the Government in their future conduct, if it should be suitable to the dignity of the country, but he thought some information should be afforded to the House as to the definite objects of the war on which they were about to enter. A battalion of the Guards had left London, and he wished to know whether this country was going to war upon the status quo, or because Russia had violated the law of nations by breaking treaties, which were now merely so much waste paper. He trusted that under any future arrangement the Euxine and the Azof, the common property of mankind, would no longer be closed by the hands of a despot against the free and profitable intercourse of nations.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
, in reply, said, that his object in making that Motion had been to obtain information which not he only, but the country, was very desirous of obtaining. No attempt had been made in the course of that discussion to answer what he conceived to be an important part of his remarks, namely, that relating to the attitude assumed by the Government towards Parliament, which he considered to be entirely novel. He 653 had been asked why he did not propose a vote of censure upon the Government. He had had no wish to do anything of the kind; and there was very good reason why; if his opinion were even much stronger than it was, he should abstain from taking such a course. He rejoiced to find that in that House, and he believed in the country also, but one determination prevailed—namely, to support the Government through the struggle in which we were unfortunately about to be engaged, without any reference to what might have passed. The noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) had said, that he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) should have moved a distinct vote of censure, because he had remarked upon the conduct of these transactions with asperity. He certainly had not intended to introduce any asperity into his address; but as this was perhaps the gravest question that he had had the honour to bring forward since he had had a seat in Parliament, and as he felt very strongly upon it, he had felt himself justified in expressing his opinions strongly. A noble Earl on the cross-benches had asked what right he had to assume—for, after all, it was but an assumption—that if Her Majesty's Government had acted with more vigour and determination, and, he would add, candour and frankness, at an early period of the negotiations, they would have produced that effect upon the mind of the Emperor of Russia and his Cabinet which the present state of affairs had failed to produce. He would answer this question by appealing to the experience of the last twenty-three years. It was well known that the designs of Russia upon Turkey had been constantly entertained in the Russian Cabinet; but Russia had never dared to make an attempt in pursuance of these designs so long as she felt that the Western Powers would unite against her. When Prince Menchikoff found that the Turkish Minister had communicated the project of convention which he had desired should not be communicated to the representatives of England and France, and that the English and French Ministers had written for their respective fleets, what course did Prince Menchikoff then pursue? He immediately altered his tone. [The Duke of ARGYLL signified dissent.] The noble Duke shook his head; but he asserted positively—although he would not read the blue book at that time of night, that there was an evident alteration in the tone of Prince Menchikoff at the period to which he referred, and the Prince 654 did not renew his demands upon the Porte until he received fresh instructions from Russia. But the Emperor of Russia, having advanced his pretensions before Europe and the world, and repeatedly persisted in them, of course his position was greatly changed in the matter, and it could not be argued that because he could not at a later period withdraw the claim that he had put forward and adhered to so firmly, therefore he would not have abstained from persisting in that claim if he had been distinctly forewarned in time that it would not be conceded. Every one conversant with the transactions of 1841, knew that in that year, when information was received that the French Government of that day was not dealing in a very straightforward manner with us on the Egyptian question, and, the influence of Mehemet Ali appeared to be great in Paris, the Emperor of Russia consented to the entrance of the Dardanelles by the British fleet in order to guard Constantinople; and why? Because by gaining our signature to a treaty he thought he had separated England and France on the Turkish question. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) believed if the English and French Governments had acted well together in the spring of last year, that these claims would never have been advanced, although no doubt they were always held in petto by the Russian Government awaiting a favourable opportunity. He must express his regret at the analogy cited by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, for the conduct which he was now pursuing, and in which he hoped he would not long persevere. The noble Earl said that our present position was not unprecedented, and pointed to what occurred at the time of the battle of Navarino. If the noble Earl thought that this country could deal with Russia in the way that England, France, and Russia could deal with the Turks in the days of Navarino, he might lead this country into a very serious dilemma. If he thought that we could deal with Russia as France and England dealt with Holland in the case of the siege of Antwerp, he was following a very dangerous precedent and a very false analogy. The noble Earl seemed to take joy to himself because we were not at war. At this he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) felt alarmed; because, if there was really a chance of an honourable peace, let it be followed up; but if we continued as we were in the present state of affairs, we would be ruining Turkey and serving Rus- 655 sia. What could be better for Russia than for our fleet to content itself with compelling her ships to keep within their ports, and for our land forces to disembark on the shores of the Sea of Marmora, and there remain whilst the unfortunate Turkish army was bearing the brunt of the war on the banks of the Danube? It was impossible to go on with such a state of things as now existed, otherwise the war would not only be disastrous, but must lead to consequences which it was impossible for any man to foresee. They must expect the excitement of opinions and of nationalities to arise, and other commotions which must lead to a general conflagration throughout Europe; and at the end of it all, God only knew who might be found at our side, and who against us. He trusted that the Government would soon define the objects and the limits of the war, and the engagements we had made. No man could deny that we had placed ourselves under a moral obligation to support Turkey. The noble Earl had told us that we must defend Turkey; but they must have something more than a mere idle inert defence. We were not to be at the beck and call of Turkey, and we also must not be without definite engagements with our allies. He did not approve of the decision to which the Cabinet had come; but, looking at that decision as it stood, he felt bound to say that he did not think the negotiations could be conducted by any Minister as the organ of the Cabinet better than they had been done by the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon). The agents of the Government appeared to have been well supplied with the best instructions that the nature of the subject admitted of; but at the same time he must repeat that if we had frankly, and fairly, and firmly given the Emperor of Russia notice that if he persisted in his course he must expect the resolute find active resistance of England and France, he believed in his conscience that war would have been averted. So far, however, was that conviction from making him desire to propose a vote of censure on Her Majesty's Government, that it would not diminish by one jot his desire to support them in carrying on the war in the most vigorous manner in order to bring it to a successful issue.
§ Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned to Thursday-next.