HL Deb 26 June 1855 vol 139 cc123-54

I rise, my Lords, to call the attention of your Lordships to the Treaty of the 2nd of December, 1854, and the recent Conferences at Vienna, with reference to the Position of Austria in her Relation to the Allied Powers; and to endeavour to obtain from my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) some explanation and some satisfaction with regard to this subject. I know that I may be told that this is a very delicate subject—that it is a subject of great importance and one which must be treated with very great caution; but, my Lords, as I intend to confine myself to a mere statement of facts, I do not consider that any inconvenience can arise from this discussion. Every person conversant with the state of affairs in the East must be aware that both Prussia and Austria, and more particularly Austria, have a deeper and more immediate interest in the results of the aggression of Russia than either of the Western Powers; and, my Lords, there can be little doubt that, had those two Powers acted in concurrence with the Western Powers with activity, energy, and decision, in the early period of these disputes, the effect would have been to restrain the proceedings of Russia, and this country would not have been involved in this unhappy war. I confess, my Lords, that, as far as relates to Prussia, I have no confidence that any act of co-operation with us will take place on her part. I know well the history of the last war between Turkey and Russia, and I observed the conduct of Prussia at that period, and I observed her subserviency to Russia; so great, indeed, was it that she could scarcely be considered in the light of an independent Power. But with respect to Austria I entertained different expectations. The fact that there was a great military Power, presided over by a young and spirited monarch, deeply impressed with the injustice of the proceedings of Russia, and fully convinced of the great interests he has at stake in this contest, led me to hope that some active assistance and co-operation might have been displayed in that quarter. However, it appears that cautious and timid counsels have prevailed, and I regret to say that I consider the inactive position of Austria in these proceedings as partaking in some degree of a state of humiliation. I have asked myself several times, to what are we to attribute this inaction on the part of Austria? I ascribe it, as I believe every man must do who looks at the state of Europe, to her peculiar position, and I trace that position to one of the most lamentable events—one of the greatest political crimes of modern times—I refer to the partition of Poland—to the successive partitions of Poland, I should say—in which Austria was unfortunately an accessory, and in the spoils of which she participated. What, my Lords, has been the result of that transaction? Three-fourths of the extensive territory of Poland, with its numerous population, has been incorporated in the Russian empire; and her last acquisition—viz., that of the Duchy of Warsaw, has pushed her forward in an advanced position in Europe, pressing upon Central Germany, and dividing the dominions of Prussia from those of Austria. She has pursued her ordinary course of policy with regard to this territory,—namely, by constructing in this advanced position a series of the most formidable fortresses along the banks of the Vistula and also a second line of fortresses on other points, not for the object of defence only, but with the view of availing herself of the first favourable opportunity of continuing her aggressions in that direction. Any one who looks at the map of Europe, and takes into consideration the facts I have stated, will agree in what was said, I believe, in another place by a noble Lord—viz., that the position of Russia which I have now described is a standing menace to Germany, and particularly to Austria, corresponding with her menacing attitude in the fortress of Sebastopol with respect to the Turkish Empire. My Lords, I admit that Austria could not have taken an active part in military operations against Russia without incurring considerable risk to herself in consequence; but, then, risk must be encountered where great interests are at stake, and great objects are to be attained; and I do not believe that by her policy of delay and postponement Austria has at all improved her position. On the contrary, it has struck me from the beginning that Austria never can have a better opportunity of vindicating her own rights and encountering the dangers to which I have referred than by entering into an offensive and defensive alliance with the Western Powers—a course which has been open to her ever since the commencement of this contest. I do not mean, my Lords, to imply that we have derived no advantage whatever from the position assumed by Austria. On the contrary, the large army which she placed in Galicia and along her other frontier has occupied and detained a proportionate force belonging to Russia, and this is an advantage which we have felt during the whole of the war; but I am sorry to see at this moment symptoms and appearances which lead mo to believe that this advantage will not be continued, and that at no distant period we shall find a great diminution of the forces of Austria on her own frontier, and a corresponding opportunity thereby afforded to Russia to liberate her troops, and employ them in any operation she may undertake against the allies. My lords, although we have obtained no active assistance from the policy adopted by Prussia or Austria, we have nevertheless had their moral support, which is certainly a great advantage. As far as relates to Prussia, I believe that the moral support we have received from that Power, we owe not to the disposition of the Government, but entirely to the strong feeling of the people of that country, who are no supporters of the humiliating course which their rulers have pursued, in favour of our cause. The moral support of the Government of Austria, on the other hand, I am persuaded, has been sincere, earnest, straightforward, and consistent, and has arisen from a deep sense of the injustice of the conduct of Russia, and from a firm conviction of the interest Austria has in restraining the ambition and checking the aggressions of that Power. My lords, it is to the protocols that I refer when I speak of the moral support that we have received from these two States, those protocols beginning as far back as the month of December, 1853, and extending down to the month of May last year. They are four or five in number, and they characterize in the strongest terms the injustice of the proceedings of Russia. They at the same time declare, in very forcible language, that the object of the alliance of the Four Powers is to procure, in the first place, the evacuation of the Principalities, and, in the next, to secure the independence of the Sultan and the integrity of his dominions. Such are the objects to which the protocols are directed. I have said that these documents go down to the month of May last. About that time it would appear as though Austria had a feeling that she was not acting a bold and decided part, and that she was determined, therefore, to take a step in advance. Towards the close of that month, or early in June, she resolved on making a demand upon Russia to evacuate the Principalities. That demand was made in very strong terms, with something like an intimation that if it were not complied with, Austria would resort to forcible means to secure this object. Now, your Lordships are not to suppose that this demand was altogether a departure from the cautious course which Austria had before pursued. Indeed, the circumstances in which this demand was made, show that it was still a continuation of her previous policy. At this time, the Russian army in the Principalities had suffered greatly from disease—they had been defeated in several encounters by the Turks—they were pressing, not very successfully, the siege of Silistria—the allied troops had advanced to Varna—there was then a large French force at Adrianople—and it was in this state of affairs that Austria for the first time made the demand to which I have referred. That cannot, therefore, be considered as any departure from the abstemious and cautious policy she had before adopted. But, my Lords, what followed? Austria having made this demand, Russia refused to accede to it, not in distinct terms, but by conduct amounting to a refusal. Well, what course did Austria then pursue? Did she immediately carry into effect any attack upon the Russian forces? Did she attempt to enter the Principalities? Far from it. She abstained from doing anything for a period of several weeks; and it was only when the siege of Silistria had been raised and the Russian army was in retreat, and when Russia herself had served a notice that she would within a certain time leave the Principalities and retire behind the Pruth, and there act only on the defensive, that Austria ventured to cross her boundaries, and, without opposition or the firing of a shot, took possession of the Principalities, for which purpose she had previously made a treaty with the Porte. Now, mark what afterwards happened. Russia, with great skill and great political address, had said that she would act on the defensive, a declaration which can only be interpreted as equivalent to a proposition to the Austrian Government to act the part of a neutral at that point; and that proposition was practically acceded to and accepted by Austria. And what was the consequence of Russia's retiring beyond the Pruth? Why, that the whole of the Russian army—the army of Bessarabia, which had retreated from the Principalities—were set free to act against the allies in the Crimea, and have acted against them with effect, their motions being so rapid that, according to the statement of a noble Duke made in this House, they marched at the rate of forty miles a-day, availing themselves of all the facilities afforded by Odessa; and the Russian armies in the Crimea were thereby increased to such a degree that our position became extremely dangerous there. It is not my intention to make any statement of what happened after Austria had taken possession of the Principalities, because I am not sufficiently conversant with the facts to be able to state every public act of hers there. I may observe, however, that when the armies of a friendly Power enter into a country for the purpose of protecting it, the first duty of that Power is to take care that the strictest discipline is maintained in her armies, and to prohibit all violence either to property or to person. Now, my Lords, there have been surmises—whether they are correct or not I will not undertake to say—that this principle has not been strictly adhered to during the time that Austria has occupied the Principalities. By the treaty between Austria and Turkey it was provided that all the privileges of the inhabitants of Wallachia and Moldavia should be scrupulously respected, but I understand—and my noble Friend opposite will be able to correct me if I am wrong—that, so far from that stipulation having been adhered to, martial law has been proclaimed throughout the Principalities by the Austrian generals. I pass this over, however, because it forms no part of my argument, and because, as I said before, I am not sure whether the information which I have received upon these points is perfectly correct. It was about the middle of the month of August that Austria took possession of the Principalities; she remained there perfectly undisturbed by Russia, and while we were struggling in the Crimea in support of the common cause—while we were shedding our blood and spending our treasure for the attainment of an object in which, as I have stated before, Austria was much more deeply interested than ourselves—Austria was quietly establishing herself in the Principalities, spinning, as I may say, innumerable notes, memorials, and letters addressed to Prussia and the different German Powers, and weaving a complication of negotiations, compared with which all the entanglements of our Court of Chancery, even in its worst state, would be models of simplicity and straight forwardness. In this state affairs continued until the 2nd of December, when the treaty to which I am about to call your Lordships' attention was signed by Austria and the Western Powers. That treaty appears to me to be a most singular document. So far as relates to the obligations imposed on the Western Powers it is distinct and perfectly intelligible; but when we come to consider the obligations which it imposes upon Austria it is vague, indefinite, and almost unintelligible. The stipulation which is binding upon the Western Powers is, that in case Austria should be attacked by Russia we should immediately engage with her in an offensive and defensive alliance. Nothing can be more distinct and precise than that engagement; but, on the other hand, it is stipulated that, in the event of peace not being concluded before the end of the year upon the basis of the Four Points it so often referred to, then that Austria will—what? Take up arms and join the allies? No; but deliberate without delay with the allies upon effectual means of attaining the objects of the alliance. Now, my Lords, what the precise meaning of those words may be I will not undertake to say; but this I will say, that, according to my interpretation of them, they must mean that Austria will concert with the allies upon active measures to give effect to the alliance, and that she will take an active part in the application of those measures. Any interpretation short of this would be manifestly absurd, and that I am supported in this interpretation by France and by Her Majesty's Government I think I can Undertake to show. In The Moniteur of the 16th of April I find a passage to this effect, with respect to the treaty of the 2nd of December— In fact, if these negotiations should fail, Austria, whose alliance would become an offensive one, would enter into armed action, and the weight of her sword would soon obtain by war what her influence could not effect in the conference. The allied Powers know that if Austria does not succeed in this noble effort of her European patriotism, she will fight resolutely with them. The adhesion of the Western Powers to an honourable and possible peace—having, as a consequence, the support of Austria in a necessary and legitimate war—is an act counselled by wisdom, and will be approved by public opinion. Nothing can be more marked and distinct than this language, nothing can show more clearly the interpretation put by the French Government on this clause of the treaty. It amounts to this, "If peace is not concluded upon terms based upon the Four Points, Austria will immediately co-operate with the allies." I have also the authority of the Secretary of the Colonies for my interpretation. In a speech delivered at the commencement of the Session, he thus expressed himself— I understand the meaning of that article—certainly as not containing anything very precise in itself—I understand, however, the meaning of that article to be that, if England and France shall propose conditions of peace which are in conformity with the four bases, and which seem to Austria to come within the terms of those bases, and if Russia shall refuse her assent to such treaty of peace, then Austria will no longer hesitate, but take part in the alliance against Russia."—[3 Hansard, cxxxvi. 220.] I think, therefore, that the Governments of France and England have put on this vague clause the interpretation which I put upon it, and which I maintain is the only sensible explanation which can be given of the terms in which that clause is framed. This brings me to consider what has since taken place, and what are the consequences of the position and conduct of Austria. Russia consented, after some explanation, to enter into a negotiation on the basis of the Four Points; it would follow, therefore, that if, as the result of that negotiation, peace were not concluded with Russia from any disinclination on her part to accede to terms founded on those Four Points, Austria would be obliged to take an active part in the war in conjunction with the allies. The negotiation commenced, and I must say—and I am happy to be able to say it—that Count Buol, the Austrian Plenipotentiary, acted throughout the discussion of the Four Points with the utmost fairness and candour. He discussed those points along with the allies with great force, with great candour, and with great judgment. I am not going to enter into any discussion of those points; it is not necessary for me to do more than to refer to the results. It was proposed on the part of the allies to limit the forces of Russia and Turkey in the Black Sea. What was the answer of Russia? She peremptorily refused to entertain any such proposition. "We will not," said her Plenipotentiaries, "consent to limit the strength of the navy of Russia in the Black Sea by treaty, or in any way whatsoever." Count Buol expostulated—he argued the case—but the Russian Plenipotentiaries adhered to their decision. They then made counter-propositions, which were stated by Count Buol to be wholly unsatisfactory, and not at all calculated to lead to any fair terms of peace on the basis of the Four Points. You have, therefore, the decision of Count Buol as to the satisfactory nature of the proposition which was made by the allies, and refused by the Russian Plenipotentiaries, and you have him, on the other hand, declaring that the Russian counterproposal, which was objected to by the allies, was insufficient, and did not carry into effect the basis of the Four Points. In the very last clause of the papers laid upon the table—I mean those which terminate on the 26th of April—Count Buol declares, in precise terms, his opinion that the proposition made on the part of the allies was a reasonable and proper mode of settling peace upon the basis of the Four Points, and that the proposal of Russia was wholly insufficient. Nothing could, then, appear to be more clear or precise. Russia had refused, according to Count Buol, that which was reasonable and proper; and Austria, therefore, according to the interpretation which I put on the clause I have referred to, was bound to take active measures in unison and concert with England and France. But those who come to this conclusion are not aware of the resources of German diplomacy and German negotiation. After the lapse of some time another meeting of the conference was held, and a proposal was made by Austria, which she said she considered would be satisfactory both to Russia and to the allies. Now, I am aware that there are persons who say that Count Buol must have known that the allies never could accede to that proposition, though I do not say So. Again, I am aware that there are persons who say that Austria, knowing that that proposition could not be acceded to by the allies, must have made it with the view of sliding out of the obligations of the treaty of December 2. I make no such charge. I am bound to think Count Buol an honourable man, but such a course of proceeding would be disgraceful. Yet the position of things is very extraordinary. Let me direct attention to the proposition, and compare it with the propositions decided upon in the previous conferences. The proposal was, that Russia and the Porte should agree together as to what should be the amount of the naval forces reciprocally to be maintained by them in future in the Black Sea, and that that amount should not in any event exceed the number of vessels then afloat. But Russia had already, during the course of the negotiation, said in most distinct terms that she would not submit to any limitation of her naval strength in the Black Sea by treaty, or in any other manner whatever. The French negotiator, M. Drouyn de Lhuys, was very anxious to conciliate, as far as possible, the Russian negotiators, and he said that the proper way then would be to pursue this course:—Let the Russian and Turkish Plenipotentiaries settle before the conference the amount of naval force to be reciprocally maintained in the Black Sea; let them draw up a paper on the subject, sign it, and affix it to the treaty, and let that paper be considered part of the treaty. Russia refused to accede to that suggestion; but then Russia made this proposal—that she would negotiate with Turkey out of the congress, and without the allies. That proposition was replied to by the Ottoman Plenipotentiary with a direct refusal; he said Turkey could not do so, having entered into a treaty with the Allied Powers, by Which she bound herself not to negotiate with Russia except in concert with them. How was it possible, then, after these propositions had been considered, discussed, and determined, and after the conferences had been entirely closed on the 26th of April, and the negotiators had said that all their powers were exhausted, and Were taking their leave—how was it possible for Austria to imagine, under such circumstances, that the Allied Powers Would consent to renew the conferences? Such a course would have been so idle and so perfectly fruitless that I think the Western Powers were justified in rejecting it, and that they could not have adopted any other step. Therefore, there is some plausible ground for believing—though I do not believe it—that Austria, with all her skilfulness in negotiation, framed this last proposal, knowing that it could not be acceded to, in order that its rejection might serve as a decent pretext for sliding out of the obligations of the treaty of December 2. In what position, then, do we stand in respect to Austria? Is the treaty of December 2 binding on her or not? We have for two years been going on hand-in-hand with Austria, consulting her on all occasions, yielding to her advice, and deferring to her counsels, and hoping that the time would arrive when she would take active measures in co-operation with the allies. We have from time to time been disappointed, and now, in this last stage, we appear to be deserted, and left by her to our own energies and our own resources. There is a popular story among sailors of a mariner who saw what he considered a friendly flag in the distance; he altered his course and steered towards it, when all at once the strange ship disappeared and showed herself in another quarter of the horizon; the mariner then shifted his course and pursued the vessel, until she finally disappeared, leaving the mariner in an unknown sea, surrounded with rocks and quicksands, to his own energies and resources. I will not mention the name given to this strange vessel, as it might be considered personally offensive, but such has been the way in which Austria appears to have acted towards the allies. I believe that Austria has now entered into a silent Understanding with Russia; that in pursuance of it she has withdrawn her forces from the frontiers of Galicia and other places, and that those two Powers have come substantially to a neutrality treaty.

I now Wish to say a few words with respect to the manner in Which the negotiations at Vienna have been conducted. A noble Viscount in the other House is said to have complimented the Plenipotentiary who represented this country, upon the great talent he had displayed in those conferences. Now, no person entertains a higher opinion of the talent of the noble Lord, our Plenipotentiary, than myself. I never knew a man, involved in difficulties and perplexities, extricate himself from them with more address and dexterity than that noble Lord, and I do believe that the noble Lord would voluntarily place himself in situations of difficulty in order to exhibit his skill in escaping from them. However, whatever talent the noble Lord displayed on the occasion, I am bound to say that the only Power that has obtained any advantage from the negotiations is Russia. Prince Gortchakoff said that the first two points out of the four were German points, and the only points on which Germany ought to be called on to make sacrifices. These two points were discussed at the beginning of the conferences, when everything went on with the utmost smoothness and calmess between the negotiators, and those two points were settled and agreed on to the satisfaction of all parties. What happened afterwards? The third point then came on the tapis, when Lord John Russell, with great suavity of manner, proposed that Russia should take the initiative. Prince Gortchakoff saw his advantage, and said he had no power to make proposals, and must refer to his Court for instructions. That was an operation which consumed considerable time, and eighteen days elapsed before an answer was obtained. How were those eighteen days employed? Through the medium of Prussia and other channels, communications were made to the lesser Powers of Germany, representing that Russia had conceded everything in which they were interested—including the protection of the Provinces, and the free navigation of the Danube—and that there was no reason why troops should be levied, why they should enter the field, or that expense should be incurred for these purposes. And this was followed up by distinct communications from Russia, in which she said in effect, "If you will remain quiet, and not take any part in this controversy, whatever may be the result of the conferences, I will adhere to all the engagements which I have already made." Then, was I not correct in saying that Russia had gained in these controversies advantages beyond all price? For we well know that the lesser Powers had ceased to make any preparations to assist Austria, and we know that Austria has never considered herself safe in taking up arms unless she were hacked and supported by the lesser Powers. I am authorized, therefore, in making the statement which I have made. It is to be remembered that at the conferences the Plenipotentiaries on the part of the allies were as four to one against Russia. There was, in the first place, the slow and cautious Austrian, the more lively and active Gaul, the cool Englishman, and the sly and silent Turk on the one side, and on the other the wily Russian; and yet the Russian won the race from the field. After eighteen days had elapsed the conferences recommenced. I have stated that the utmost courtesy had marked the proceedings of the conferences, hut although they were apparently conducted as before with the utmost courtesy and smoothness—although the same outward show of courtesy and politeness was maintained, it was evident that there was a change, and there was an undercurrent of sneers and sarcasm. Allusions not very flattering were made to the English, as to the seizure of Aden, observations as to a supposed desire of France to make a descent upon Tunis, and of backwardness to undertake operations on the part of Austria—all these oozed out from time to time—and there was an air of triumph visible throughout the subsequent negotiations on the part of Russia.

I shall now draw the attention of your Lordships to a consideration of the propositions that were discussed by the negotiating Powers, and I will say this—that, according to the best of my judgment and opinion, none of the propositions made by the allied Plenipotentiaries at the conferences were worth the paper on which they were written. I think the proposition on the part of the allies to reduce the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea, with a corresponding reduction on the part of Turkey, was one that never could be substantially carried out. There would have been temptations at all times to evade it; it would have produced continual quarrels, which ultimately would have terminated in war. When the noble Lord who represented England at the conference referred, as I think unfortunately, to the Treaty of Utrecht and the destruction of the fortifications of Dunkirk—when he alluded to that, I think he might have received from that treaty a little hint as to what was likely to be the result of the accession of Russia to the proposition made by the allies. That treaty was always meant to be evaded; it was evaded, in the most marked manner: it gave rise to continual disputes, and nothing was eventually gained by it. I think the example urged by the noble Lord at the conference must have satisfied them that no great reliance could be placed on the execution of that article. As to the counter-propositions of Russia, they were quite wide of the mark, and I think the Russian diplomatists must have laughed in their sleeves when they laid them before the Conference. After those conferences had terminated every one was in darkness as to what was going on at Vienna. That possibly might have arisen from some offer made after the noble Lord left Vienna: as when "some great actor leaves the stage," all eyes were turned on what would follow, but nothing definite could be learnt.

I shall now say a word or two on our present position and future prospects. Let us understand in what position we are now placed. The objects of the war are clear and distinct. It has been stated over and over again that it was to secure the independence of Turkey and the integrity of her dominions; and we have been told over and over again by all the leading Members, both of the late and of the present Administration that no peace will be satisfactory, nor shall we conclude any peace, except in a case of extreme necessity, unless these objects are attained. I do not wish, upon this point, that there should be any doubt upon your Lordships' minds, and I will refer, in the first place, to what was stated on this subject by the noble Earl who was at the head of the late Government. Your Lordships will recollect that some dissatisfaction was expressed at an explanation given by the noble Earl, and that, in consequence, he came down to the House two or three days afterwards to give a fuller explanation. He then expressed himself in these terms— This we can say, that the independence and integrity of the Turkish empire must be secured—effectually secured; that security must be taken for the permanent independence and integrity of Turkey, so far as we can, from Russia. That is the real object from which we must not depart: we must by some mode obtain this object, and without it peace will be impossible." [See 3 Hansard, cxxxiv. 647.] Such are the precise, specific, and strong words used by the noble Earl. My noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) repeated them on more than one or two occasions, and stated that if peace were obtained without being based on the independence of Turkey and the integrity of her dominions it would be only a hollow truce, leading to new complications and to a new war. The noble Lord who was the leader of the other House of Parliament (Lord J. Russell), stated the same thing over and over again in very distinct terms, and made use of those remarkable expressions when alluding to the army before Sebastopol. I have not found that any Member of the late Government dissented from these opinions. I consider, therefore, that they are all, according to the principle of the constitution, not having dissented, bound by them. I confess, therefore, the surprise, nay, almost the astonishment, with which I have observed the course pursued by the four respected Gentlemen who have left the Cabinet of the noble Viscount. No man can admire more than I do the extraordinary eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, the great administrative talents of the right hon. Baronet lately at the head of the Admiralty, and the respectable talents of the other two Gentlemen who retired with them. But I must say that I do not regret—on the contrary, I rejoice—that they have retired from the Cabinet. With all their talents, they do not appear to me to possess that manly character, that vigour of mind, and that fixity of purpose which are essential to a Cabinet Minister at a period like the present; though in a time of calm and peace nothing could be more ornamental or useful than their services.

Now, my Lords, what is the policy which I recommend? Persevere. If you do not persevere, you will not only fail to obtain the objects for which the war was undertaken, but you will disgrace yourselves in the eyes of the world. Character is power. If the terms proposed at Vienna had been accepted, we should have been lowered in the light of other nations, while our rival Russia would have ascended in the scale of power. She would have been regarded by eastern nations as irresistible. No one would have dared to oppose her will. If you turn to the west, the influence she would have acquired in Germany would have increased a thousand fold. The chains of the lesser German States would have been riveted yet more firmly, and a severe blow would have been struck at the progress of civilisation. I rejoice, therefore, my Lords, that the terms proposed were not acceded to. Now, to what do I look forward? I am fully aware of the arduous nature of the struggle in which we are engaged, but I feel confident of the result. At the seat of war, where we have the command of the sea, we can maintain and support a much larger army than can be brought against us, and even with equal forces I have no doubt of the result. But, my Lords, what are we to do in the event of success? I venture to say—if I may give an opinion at the risk of exciting the sarcasm of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) that we must destroy Sebastopol. That fortress has been constructed for the subjugation of Turkey. During twenty years past the Russian Government has been expending enormous sums of money upon that fortress, and for the safety of Turkey we should raze it to the ground. That would be an act of retributive justice. My Lords, I must not be supposed to entertain, in this respect, an extravagant idea. I have very high authority for my opinion. I will quote to your Lordships the opinion of the late Prime Minister. That noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) said— Now, I humbly beg to remind the noble Earl that if there be one point more than another more vital to the safety and independence of the Turkish empire, and more clearly injurious to the power of Russia, it is the destruction of the fortress of Sebastopol. Therefore, having driven the Russians out of the Principalities, the next distinct object of the war, which everybody must have had in view from its very commencement, and from which we could only have been restrained by a doubt of its practicability, was an attack upon and destruction of Sebastopol."—[3 Hansard, cxxxvi. 90.] If any one supposes that I have expressed an extravagant opinion, I have only to say that that opinion is sanctioned by the cool-headed Lord to whose declaration I have alluded. I do not wish to multiply these confirmations, but I may observe that the Duke of Newcastle, in his evidence before the late Committee, expressed himself in the same terms; and your Lordships will well recollect that the noble Lord who conducted the negotiations, after giving, in the other House, an elaborate description of the fortress of Sebastopol, and stating that it was as impregnable as the combination of art and science could render it, said that no peace could be safe so long as Sebastopol remained a standing menace to Turkey. I may be warned of the danger attending an eager pursuit of vengeance, but I cannot forget that the same doctrine applies to inordinate an unmeasured ambition. My Lords, I am not disheartened by the misfortunes which befell us during the last campaign, because I ascribe them all to the misconduct of the war on the part of the late Government. We had before Sebastopol, according to the description of the army given by Lord Raglan, 50,000 men, enfeebled by disease, among whom the cholera was raging, with a scanty supply of cavalry, with very insufficient material for operations in the field, and who, at an advanced period of the year, were required to attack perhaps the greatest military Power in the world, and to lay siege to one of the strongest fortresses of that Power. I must regard this as a most injudicious proceeding. It was well known to every man that as far as regarded siege defences nothing could be stronger than the defences of Sebastopol on the north side; but there was some vague surmise that on the south side the fortifications were incomplete. The least reflection must have satisfied any man that there could be no foundation for such an idea. The fortification of Sebastopol was a favourite project of the Emperor Nicholas, who had for twenty years expended enormous sums upon the defences of that fortress. The design of the Government has been supposed to be to surprise the place; but it must be remembered, my Lords, that the Emperor was not taken by surprise. He had sufficient notice of what was intended from the noble Lord who then led the other House of Parliament. It has been supposed also that Her Majesty's Government were ignorant of the military force of Russia in the Crimea; hut we have it in evidence that the right hon. Gentleman then at the head of the Admiralty (Sir James Graham) that he had been informed by a person thoroughly acquainted with the Crimea and with Sebastopol, that the Russian army at Sebastopol consisted of 70,000 men, 40,000 of I whom formed the garrison of the fortress, and 30,000 were in the field. I may venture to make this observation—that if we seriously intended to invest Sebastopol, besides having a covering army in the field, our besieging force ought to have amounted to three times the number of the troops by whom the fortifications were defended. I think, then, we may be satisfied of the injudiciousness—nay, of the absolute rashness—of our proceedings. I know that, as a civilian, I subject myself to the charge of presumption in venturing to give an opinion upon military matters, and on a former occasion I suffered from the sarcasm of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) because I did express such an opinion; but there are blunders so apparent that even a civilian may discover and expose them, and those to which I have referred were, I think, of that description. Allow me to say that I have not heard a single military man allude to our operations who has not expressed the same opinion. I know Sir Howard Douglas stated, not as an ex post facto opinion, but while the proceedings were in progress, that the undertaking was hopeless, and could never succeed. If any one wishes to be acquainted with the foundation of that opinion let him look at the excellent publication of that gallant and distinguished officer, and consider the unanswerable arguments by which it is supported. What, then, was the result? Our army, with unparalleled bravery, stormed the intrenchments of the Russians at Alma, but it was found vain to attempt to besiege the northern side of Sebastopol with an army inferior to the besieged force, and the flank movement to the southern side became absolutely necessary. It was successfully accomplished; operations were commenced, the bombardment opened, and at the expiration of the very first day it was seen that a protracted siege must be looked for; and then commenced that continuous series of painful, horrible, heartrending sufferings which no art could exaggerate and which no tongue could accurately describe, but which were borne with wonderful endurance and with unexampled fortitude by the victims of rash counsels and of a short-sighted policy. I must say I think that, under these circumstances, the conduct of the noble Earl who was then at the head of the Government was extraordinary, for in his address to the people of Aberdeen he stated that the rumour of the fall of Sebastopol was incorrect, but that in all probability at the moment when he was speaking the fortress was in our possession. In a period of such emergency—in a question of war or peace—involving the character of the Government and the safety of our army, the public had a right to expect that every man would have remained at his post to watch over an enterprise in which the result of the war depended. But, instead of that, with two or three exceptions, they found the Members of the Government spreading themselves in every direction as though it were a time of peace—some going to the Highlands, others to their country seats, while the noble Lord to whom I have more than once alluded, was lecturing upon history to an agricultural audience at Bedford, and amusing with philosophical speculations the industrious inhabitants of Bristol. I am not surprised at the indignation felt by the public at such conduct. The noble Earl at the head of the Government himself with remarkable candour admitted that he was not surprised at the general feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction which prevailed. At length the people looked round for some individual in whom they could have more confidence. As in the time of the Romans, when dictators were called into existence to sway the destinies of the country in a period of emergency, the people looked round for some man of great intellect and vigour to restore the lustre of the national character. In the case of this country a similar course was taken, and the voice of the country was in favour of the noble Viscount at present at the head of the Government. How far the noble Lord may have realised the anticipations of the people it is not for me to say, but I must remind the noble Lord that he who rests upon popular favour rests upon unstable and often dangerous ground. The people, like children, after a certain interval delight in breaking the toy which formerly amused them. In ancient times Pagan people have been known in a moment of indignation to destroy the idols on which in moments of danger and emergency they relied for support and protection, and the hierophants who engaged to perform a miracle were greeted when it failed with hoots and groans by the indignant worshippers. I should think that such facts as these ought to serve as a warning to the noble Lord, and ought to show him that nothing but the greatest vigour, extraordinary decision, and the most unceasing activity can maintain him in the position in which he has been placed.


My Lords, my noble and learned Friend has placed upon the Paper a notice of his intention "to call the attention of the House to the Treaty of the 2nd of December, 1854, and the recent Conferences at Vienna, with reference to the position of Austria in her relation to the allied Powers." Now, my Lords, I think that my noble and learned Friend, particularly in the latter part of his eloquent speech, has greatly deviated from the intention which he expressed in his notice, and I think that your Lordships will pardon me if I adopt a different course, and do that which the noble Lord seems to have intended—namely, call your attention to this particular subject. In the early part of his speech my noble and learned Friend made, as he was sure to make, a moat able and lucid statement; but I am certainly not aware that any practical utility can result from the course which he has pursued; neither has he offered any suggestions or made any particular inquiries; neither shall I remark upon the judicial sentence which he has passed on the conduct and proceedings of Austria. I must say, however, that the tone of my noble and learned Friend's statement is very different from that of which we have had too much in the last two years. Let me observe that on various occasions, with reference to speeches and writings in and out of Parliament, it has been my duty to watch the effects produced by that tone in foreign countries, and I am sorry to say that it has made us many enemies, more particularly in Germany. When this war began, we had the warm sympathies and good wishes of four-fifths of the German people. They were disgusted with the bonds in which their Governments were held by Russia; they well knew that the efforts of Russia were directed to the creating disunion in Germany, and the arresting progress and freedom in that part of the world. We, therefore, had their warm sympathies, and there was a feeling almost of shame that England and France should engage, almost atone, in a cause which was more immediately and essentially German than it was French and English. But, my Lords, I am sorry to say that these feelings have been greatly changed in consequence of the tone which has been adopted in this country towards foreign countries, and towards Germany in particular. There has been so little courtesy or consideration—there has been so little desire to distinguish between our friends and our enemies—so great an aptness to consider that all those who were not entirely with us were against us—that a feeling of resentment has been generated against us; and I am sorry to say I have observed, especially since the termination of the Vienna Conferences, great industry in spreading whatever is calculated to be injurious to this country. I am glad that the difficulties and embarrassments arising from this source have not been increased on this occasion by my noble and learned Friend. I do not intend to follow him through the various topics to which he has alluded. I feel that I speak under the responsibility of my position; and in the position which I have the honour to fill, I am determined that I will not go beyond the strict line of my duty. I would rather, my Lords, expose myself to the censure of your Lordships for undue reserve than for any indiscretion. In the few observations which I have to address to your Lordships this evening, I will not be the apologist of Austria. I appeal to my noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) whether I have not said on various occasions, when speaking on behalf of the Government in this House, that in our opinion Austria would have better consulted her dignity and her interests in reference both to Russia and to Germany if she had from the first adopted a firmer tone, and pursued a more dignified course; I believe, with my noble Friend, that she would, in that way, have greatly promoted, nay, have secured, the restoration of peace. But, my Lords, Austria is a great and an independent Power; and although we may wish that her views and policy were identical with our own, we have no right to attempt to coerce her. She is guided by what she considers her own interest; and we have really no means of inducing her to do what she feels is not for her own interest. But, my Lords, being engaged in war with the Sovereign of a vast territory, the extreme points of which are alone accessible to us, it was of the utmost importance to us to secure the alliance of a Power whose interests were identical with our own, whose territory was contiguous to that of our enemy by his land frontier, and who had the means, and had announced his intention, of placing 350,000 men in the field. Under such circumstances, I think it would have been an unpardonable want of foresight—I think it would have been a blunder for which we should have been justly reproached—if we had neglected by every means in our power to endeavour to secure the alliance of Austria; or if, by menace or by undue pressure, we had driven Austria into the opposite scale, or forced her to do what would have served the interest of Russia equally well—to assert that neutrality which has been adopted by Prussia, and which would at once have relieved Russia from all apprehension of her. I think, therefore, my Lords, we were bound to show great deference for Austria, and to be mindful of the peculiar difficulties of her situation, and in reviewing all to which my noble and learned Friend has alluded to this evening, I really see nothing to repent of or to regret in our proceedings with respect to Austria. At the same time I must say, that in no way, and at no time, have our communications with Austria in any way influenced or interfered with our military operations. Even in the last negotiations at Vienna, though we certainly looked for the result of those negotiations either in the restoration of peace, or in the securing the active cooperation of Austria with us, yet we never for one moment relied upon this; we looked upon the co-operation of Austria as an advantageous contingency, but as nothing on which we could count, or for which we ought to wait; and so determined were Her Majesty's Government that there should be no misconception on this subject, that the Duke of Newcastle, long before the negotiations had begun, having ascertained that the French Government would take the same course, wrote a long letter to Lord Raglan—I believe in the first week of January—to say that he was not to relax his efforts upon the probability of any alliance with Austria, but that, on the contrary, Her Majesty's Government believed that negotiations would be accelerated rather than retarded by a vigorous prosecution of the war, and that they believed nothing would more tend than great military successes on the part of the allies to the conclusion of an honourable peace. And, my Lords, I believe that, if while these negotiations were pending Sebastopol had fallen, we should have either secured peace with Russia or obtained the immediate and active co-operation of Austria. My noble and learned Friend has described the course taken by the Government as one of confusion—as one in which they have been led away by a phantom ship—and as one in which they have been deceived by Austria. Now, if we have been deceived, Austria must have been insincere, and I believe that, whether as respects Governments or individuals, there is nothing more difficult than to test insincerity. If your friend, whose interests are identical with your own, whose opinions coincide with your own, and who is prepared to make great sacrifices in order to carry out these opinions—if he all at once becomes what my noble and learned Friend calls cautious, stops short, and for reasons which you cannot admit as valid, refuses to go with you any further, you may be apt to doubt his sincerity from the first. But that conclusion may be erroneous, and I think it would be the case as respects Austria. All I can say is, that from the first Austria identified her interests with those of France and England on what is called the Eastern Question. She took precisely the same view as they did of the aggressive acts and intentions of Russia; she agreed entirely with them in the necessity of putting a check upon her aggressive acts; and although just before the commencement of the war she had, from urgent motives of economy, reduced her army by 90,000 men, she has. since the war commenced, expended 16,000,000l. sterling in recruiting and strengthening that army, in placing it on a war footing, and in erecting great barriers against the apprehended invasion by Russia on the Polish frontiers. Those 16,000,OOOl. furnish, perhaps, the best argument I could use if I were intending to prove the sincerity of Austria, because if it had been the object of that Power to deceive us, she might have made the experiment at a much less cost. I may also state that Austria never required any impulse from France or England in her proceedings and in the engagements into which she entered; on the contrary, it was she who volunteered to enter into binding engagements, saying that she wished to contract a closer alliance with England and France; it was she also who proposed the treaty of the 2nd December, which my noble and learned Friend has criticised in terms, the justice of which I cannot quite admit, because the position of Austria was essentially different at that time from that of England and France. England and France were then active belligerents, while Austria was only a contingent belligerent; but she contemplated being at war with Russia, and it was stipulated accordingly—France and England agreeing—that if she did go to war with Russia there should then be an offensive and defensive alliance between the three Powers. She also stipulated that if peace were not to be established on certain bases by a certain day, then the treaty and her engagements with the Western Powers should come into force. The 1st of January was actually fixed by Austria herself, and when the conferences began Count Buol did make that very unequivocal declaration to which my noble and learned Friend alluded—namely, that, having entered into certain engagements with her allies, Austria was determined, whatever might be the consequences, to carry out those engagements. Therefore, my Lords, if Austria was all this time intending to deceive us, I must say she was attempting to do so in a very clumsy and ill-advised manner, because the only result of what she did would he to bring into view her own bad faith with England and France. The only object which she could thus have proposed to herself would be to retard or cripple our military operations. That, however, she did not do, and never attempted to do—on the contrary, any military successes we gained were received with expressions of the liveliest satisfaction at Vienna; and your Lordships will well remember the telegraphic despatch from the Emperor of Austria to the Emperor of the French and the Queen of England, congratulating them on a great event in our military operations in the Crimea—the supposed fall of Sebastopol—and desiring to associate herself with them in the consequences that might result from that great event. My noble and learned Friend justly says that Austria, at the conferences, brought forward the same proposals, expressed the same opinions, and supported them in exactly the same language as the Plenipotentiaries of England and France; and it was only when these proposals were rejected, when the Plenipotentiaries of England and France declared that they could go no further, that Austria then said there were other means by which the third point might be carried into effect, and that those other means ought to be tried. The conferences were adjourned sine die; and so they would have remained, but Count Buol said that their continuing in that state was the cause of embarrassment to all parties, that it gave rise to suspicion, and he wished that the conferences should be closed, and that he might redeem the pledge he had given at the former conference to make one last attempt to bring the belligerents together. The answer to this was, that we must see the proposal before we could give any opinion upon it. That proposal was sent to us; we declined it, and said that the Plenipotentiaries of England and France could only attend the conference for the purpose of its being closed. Count Buol knew beforehand that his proposal was to be refused, and I apprehend he simply brought it forward at that conference because he had pledged himself at the previous one that he would bring forward something. The conferences being thus at an end, as your Lordships are aware, we did say to Austria that we thought the time was now come for her to fulfil the engagements she had entered into. Her answer to this in substance was, that, although Russia had not agreed to the proposal made to her with regard to the third basis, there were other means of giving effect to that basis—that, for example, there was the system of counterpoise; that there was the opening of the Straits when the Sultan thought himself in danger; that there was a tripartite treaty to secure the independence of Turkey by which arrangement the preponderance of Russia would be put an end to, and all anxiety for the maintenance of the Ottoman empire would cease; and that consequently, as these terms had been rejected by the Western Powers, Austria did not think herself bound to join them in taking an active part in the war. My Lords, I need hardly say that that is not our view of the engagements which were entered into by Austria, or of the fulfilment of the treaty. But, as it is particularly on this point that my noble and learned Friend dwelt, and directed your Lordship's attention to the course which Austria has pursued, I think we ought, perhaps, in justice to consider what might be the motives for the decision of which we not unnaturally complain. My Lords, I think that when Austria entered into these successive engagements with England and France, and when she made those extensive and costly preparations for war—when, moreover, she urgently proposed that military commissioners should be sent by France and England to the head-quarters of General Hess, I have no doubt she intended and expected war. But I do not think she intended to go to war single handed. She expected that long before the season for military operations began the allied armies would have obtained such decisive advantages in the Crimea that they would be free, and would be able to undertake other operations in concert with her own forces. That, unfortunately was not the case; and if Austria had at our invitation at the close of the conferences declared war, she would in all probability have had to wage that war single-handed. The allies could not, up to this time, have lent her any assistance—at all events they could have undertaken no important diversion in her favour; and if we could not do this, could she expect assistance from Prussia? Could she even count upon the neutrality of Prussia? Could she reckon upon the goodwill of Germany, and feel sure that she might not have had to deal with enemies in her flank and rear as well as in her front? She might have been exposed to disasters in her own territories which France and England would have been unable to divert. It is, moreover, to be considered that the finances of Austria are not in that state in which they perhaps wight he, which may perhaps be attributed to her restricted system of commerce rendering her revenue unequal to defray the expenses of her vast empire; and consequently her military expenditure not being confined to her financial means, tend to prevent her occupying that situation to which she is entitled as a first-rate Power. My noble and learned Friend has asked me what is our real position with reference to Austria, and I will proceed to answer that inquiry. Austria has announced to us that she will continue to occupy the Principalities, by virtue of the treaty with Turkey, until peace shall be concluded. To that announcement I can offer no objection, because the occupation of the Principalities by Austrian troops under the terms of that treaty prevents Austria from assuming a position of neutrality. The occupation by a State of the territory of one belligerent against the aggression of another is not an act of neutrality; but on the contrary, Austria, by her occupation of the Principalities, has committed an act of hostility against Russia which would justify Russia in declaring war against her. I repeat, my Lords, that as long as Austria occupies the Principalities in virtue of her treaty with Turkey, she cannot be considered a neutral Power. We must also bear in mind that if Austria were not to observe the treaty into which she has entered with Turkey, but were to evacuate the Principalities, there would be no security against the return of the Russians, and the renewal of operations along the whole line of the Danube, and it would therefore be impossible to obtain the aid of the army of Omar Pacha in the campaign in the Crimea. On the other hand, we have announced—I am still answering the inquiry of my noble and learned Friend—that as the four bases were to be maintained in their entirety, and that as the third basis, which is of the utmost importance, has been rejected, and the responsibility of breaking up the negotiations at Vienna does not rest upon us, but upon Russia, we consider ourselves entirely disengaged from those bases of negotiation. At any future negotiation there is not the least doubt that the principles on which those four bases were founded must be discussed, but England and France have reserved to themselves the right of entering into any such negotiations perfectly free and unfettered, and of insisting upon such conditions as they may consider most advantageous, to themselves, and which the events of the war may justify them in demanding. My Lords, as I have said, I am compelled to abstain from following my noble and learned Friend through the whole of his speech, but I have endeavoured to answer the inquiries which he has addressed to me. We can have no object in censuring or causing misunderstanding with Austria, and I hope I have said nothing, in any way calculated to disturb that good understanding which, in the event of our obtaining military successes, I do not despair of seeing drawn still closer. I have stated why I think that our position in regard to Austria is such as to justify censure or to excite alarm. I repeat, that at no time has that position influenced our military operations; and I also say that our position as regards the future, so far from being worse, has improved by the result of these proceedings, for England and France are left unfettered and free to insist on such terms of peace as may appear to them most advantageous; but this I can say, that, while they have in no way affected our military operations, the result of those proceedings has been advantageous with regard to our future position, because they have left France and England unfettered and free to make such terms of peace as may appear most advantageous.


I do not wish, my Lords, to detain your Lordships at any length, but some few words I am desirous of saying with respect to the important question which has been brought forward by the noble and learned Lord. I am not about to censure the Government for having used their best endeavours to conciliate Austria and to obtain her concurrence in those measures which the allies have thought fit to adopt with respect to Russia in order to protect the Turkish Empire; for it was of the greatest possible importance to obtain that concurrence. I am not about to censure Austria for the cautious policy which she has pursued, for I think that caution on her park was perfectly justified by the peculiar position in which she stood; nor am I about to complain of the termination of the negotiations at Vienna, or of the course which Austria has since then pursued. I admit, my Lords, that Austria has performed great service to the allies and to Europe. She found herself at the commencement of these transactions with an army reduced in strength, with finances in a state of depression; and, nevertheless, she has exerted herself to the utmost, and has used every effort to place her army on a war establishment; she has placed an army in a position threatening to Russia, and has, to a great extent, by that diversion, prevented large Russian forces from acting in the Crimea. Austria not only has effected this object, but she has to consider her own position in Italy, in Hungary, and in Poland, and there can be no doubt that her position of armed inactivity has preserved tranquility in all those countries. My Lords, as long as Austria has remained armed, although she has not engaged in action, she has not only preserved tranquility in those countries, but she has checked the unscrupulous ambition of Prussia, and has induced other German States to look rather to German interests than to be subservient to Russian influence. By the treaty of June, concluded with Turkey, Austria moved her forces into the Principalities and thus practically effected the evacuation of those territories by the Russians; and by a subsequent engagement she hag bound herself to prevent the return of the Russian troops. This Austria has accomplished by arming herself and by placing a military force in a position threatening to Russia. But she offered to do still more. Before the expedition to the Crimea was despatched, Austria proposed to communicate with the allied Powers on the subject of future military operations. Acting, however, upon preconceived opinions, the allies determined to send that expedition, and then Austria at once said that she could not meet the Russians single-handed, and that the expedition to the Crimea rendered it necessary for her to adopt a different course of action. At a subsequent period, just at the commencement of the Conferences at Vienna, when it was of the greatest possible importance that Austria should act with us—at that time, still looking to nothing but the success of your operations in the Crimea—you withdrew from the immediate vicinity of Austria 50,000 good Turkish troops, thus depriving Austria of the only assistance on which she could rely in the event of military operations being directed against her on the part of Russia. It is clear, therefore, my Lords, and also from the statements of the noble Earl, that it is our ill-advised expedition to the Crimea which has paralysed the policy of Austria, and which has reduced her to a position of such difficulty as to prevent her at once adopting a course which is essential for her honour, her dignity, and her interest. Before that expedition sailed to the Crimea I ventured to counsel the Government as to what the necessary consequences of it would be. I counselled them as to the effect which that expedition would produce upon the policy of Austria. Her Majesty's Government, however, disregarding—I will not say my counsel—but disregarding the obvious policy which they ought to have pursued, adhered to their original plan, and their adherence to that plan has deprived us of the co-operation which they ought to have secured. It has been, I admit, of the greatest importance that Austria has, although she hat remained tranquil, held an armed position on the frontiers of Russia. By that armed position Austria has afforded a security for the tranquility of some of the central States of Europe, and has thus enabled France to detach such large masses of her troops upon actual service to the Crimea; whereas, if those countries had not been kept tranquil, the difficulties of the allies would have been increased, and great doubt might have been created in the mind of the Government of France as to the safety of despatching such large bodies of troops to the seat of war. It would, no doubt, be a great advantage to us if Austria and Prussia were to act with us in the war, and, obtaining great success, were to move upon Warsaw; but what, on the other hand, would be the effect if Russia, in a career of military success, were to advance to Olmutz? Recollect that all war hag its chances, and the chances of success on the part of Russia are at least equal to those on the part of Austria. Faithful as I am to the principles on which this war was entered upon, I confess that I do not desire to see its extension to the central parts of Europe if that dreadful calamity can by possibility be avoided; and if I could have my choice as to the position of Austria, I would say,—"Be armed—be strong—be always ready to strike; but withhold your hand until that extremity occurs which may justify your action, and also ensure to you almost certain success." Bat, my Lords, while I so far approve the conduct of Austria, commend her caution, and admit that she has acted in conformity with her interests and with the dictates of political prudence up to the present instant, what excuse can I offer, what apprehensions must I not entertain, if I am to credit those reports which are daily circulated of the intended reduction of the Austrian forces? My Lords, I care little about her diplomacy, but I attach great importance to her military position. If Austria should have really determined to make a large diminution in her army, that is indeed an event of the greatest possible significance. It indicates an entire change in her purposes and in her policy. I see that already 24,000 of the Russian Grenadiers, who were but lately retained on the frontiers of Gallicia by the menacing presence of the Austrian troops, have marched towards—if they have not by this time entered—the Crimea. It is not merely because of its effect upon us in our war with Russia; it is because of its effect upon her own position among the great States of Europe, that I deprecate and deplore this measure, if it has actually been adopted by Austria. She is placing herself upon a level with Prussia—she is reducing herself from the rank and influence which she ought to possess as the first German Power—she is depriving herself of the means of protecting Turkey by the instrumentality of negotiation; for be assured, my Lords, it is not the extent of territory possessed by any nation, nor the amount of its population, neither is it even the greatness of its financial resources—which gives a State its real influence in negotiations; it is, rather, the extent and the real value of its disposable military force, carefully scanned as they are by all who negotiate with it, which give it its true weight and effect in the scale of nations. My Lords, looking at what I fear are our own changed prospects in consequence of this reduction of the forces of Austria, I confess it is impossible for me not to regard with great apprehension the position in which we ourselves stand. I regret that the noble Lord at the head of the army has left the House, because I am unwilling in his absence to speak upon a matter altogether connected with our means of maintaining our forces in a state of efficiency; but I do most earnestly press on the attentive consideration of Her Majesty's Government the new circumstances of difficulty in which we are placed. To be allied with France, Turkey, and Sardinia, and to have the hopes of moving into the field at some favourable moment 350,000 of the disciplined troops of Austria, was undoubtedly a state of things to which we might look with some degree of confidence in the future issue of the war; but if we are suddenly, by the diminution of the Austrian army, to be compelled to dismiss from our minds the hope of receiving at any time any such assistance, and to look around us and discover that we must rely henceforward upon our own resources alone, I say it is the bounden duty of the Government to consider most earnestly and seriously in what our military means may at once be largely increased; and without loss of time to propose to Parliament measures which, under present circumstances, are absolutely essential to secure such a conclusion of the war as shall be consistent with our own honour and with the security of the ally whose interests we have at heart. It has been said that this is a statesman's war, and certainly it deserves that appellation, although it has been adopted temporarily by the people; but be assured, my Lords, that if statesmen do not take care what they are about, the people, disgusted with failure, will at no distant period, leave them to fight out the contest by themselves.


believed that if, in order to secure the co-operation of Austria, we had sent our army beyond the Danube, that Power might possibly have aided us in advancing to the frontiers of the Principalities; but there was nothing to lead us to suppose that she would have continued to render us her active support in any offensive operations across those frontiers; and her mere expulsion from the Principalities would have been insufficient to bring Russia to those terms which were indispensable for the satisfactory termination of the war. It had been asserted that the recent negotiations at Vienna were ill conducted on our behalf, and that nobody gained from them but Russia, because, it was alleged, Austria learned for the first time, through those negotiations, that Russia was willing to concede to her the two points out of the four in which she was most interested. But to this it might be answered, that this intimation to Austria might, and probably would, have been given by Russia if England and France had refused to enter into any conferences at all; and it should be remembered that we did not volunteer to enter into those conferences, but consented to join in them in consequence of an intimation from Russia, through Austria, after the battle of Inkerman, that she accepted not two of the points, but the whole four as the basis of a settlement. It was, therefore, with the view of endeavouring to discover a mode of giving effect to the terms that had been accepted by Russia that the negotiations were resumed at Vienna; and, if we had altogether declined to enter into the conferences, we should not have been a step nearer ensuring the active co-operation of Austria in the war.


thought that so many people in so many places had censured, discussed, and condemned

  • "Bellique causas, et vitia, et modes,
  • Ludumque Fortunæ, gravesque
  • Principum amicitias, et arma
  • Nondum expiatis tincta cruoribus—
  • Periculosæ plenum opus aless,"
that great mischief had been done. He considered it of importance that rulers of great kingdoms, on whose conduct the happiness of so many millions depended, should be treated with respect. He recollected well the circumstance of the Duke of Wellington's describing to his (Lord Denman's) father the feelings of indignation that were excited in the breasts of potentates by unfounded assertions respecting their designs and conduct. He would not truckle to any Power, however unlimited; but unnecessary vituperation did appear to him to oppose such obstacles to a safe and honourable peace, as must be regretted by every thinking man. How much better was the feeling produced between us and Prussia by declarations like those of Mr. Huskisson, which he would read, although they referred to a time of peace. He (Mr. Huskisson) knew that the King of Prussia intended to abate his retaliation when England relaxed her regulations. Indeed, he had the best authority, that of the Prussian Minister in this country, for knowing that such was the intention. That Minister had stated, in his note, the principle of his Prussian Majesty to be an admission that reciprocal commercial restrictions were reciprocal nuisances prejudicial to all nations having reciprocal interests, and particularly to those engaged in extensive commerce; and that the policy of Prussia was to substitute, in the place of reciprocal prohibitions, reciprocal facilities. It was grievous to hear noble Lords, whose blood must be as cool as that of St. Januarius before liquefaction, pointing out all the faults of past and present rulers, and designating their kingdoms as less than first-rate, by which the jealousy of kings and peoples must inevitably be aroused. With regard to Austria, she has disbanded her troops because the war demands upon the finances of her empire—not yet increased by commerce on the Danube with all Europe—have curtailed her resources. The noble Lord continued, that, instead of coercing the people to serve in the army, as suggested by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), he would in this guarded way try to remove some of the obstacles (which should never have arisen) to the attainment of a secure and honourable peace.

House adjourned to Thursday next.