* in rising, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the position of Prussia with reference to the approaching negotiations at Vienna, said—
My Lords, I have been for some time desirous to call your attention, in the terms of the notice, to the position of Prussia with respect to the negotiations that are now pending at Vienna. I shall do this with the more freedom, because, not being connected with the Government, nothing that falls from me as an individual can cause embarrassment or inconvenience to Her Majesty's Ministers.
I need scarcely remind your Lordships that the Prussian Government has urged in the strongest way its claim to attend at these negotiations, and not merely to attend the negotiations, but to take an active part in them. This claim has been most strenuously opposed, and properly opposed, by the Allied Powers. It is a question of deep interest; but this and other matters connected with it have been thrown into so much obscurity by the diplomatic mystification of the Court of Prussia, that I think I shall perform an acceptible service to your Lordships if I endeavour to disentangle them from the complications in which they are involved, and state them plainly and simply to your Lordships. 859 Two circumstances have occurred within a recent period which have added to the interest of this question. One of these is the message sent by the late Emperor in the last stage of his illness to the Prussian Court, exhorting the King of Prussia to remain the same for Russia, or, in other words, to continue the same line of policy that he has hitherto pursued with respect to that Court; and, further, recommending strongly to the King of Prussia to remember the counsels of his late father, who was, we all know, warmly and zealously attached to Russia. The other circumstance to which I allude is the manifesto of the new Emperor, in which he has declared his intention to uphold, at the highest pitch, the glory and honour of his kingdom. And for what purpose? For the purpose of enabling him to accomplish the views and desires of his illustrious predecessors—Peter, Catherine, Alexander, and his immediate predecessor, the late Emperor. Now, my Lords, we know that the prominent and never-ceasing wish and desire of these respective sovereigns was to overthrow the Ottoman Empire, and to establish the Russian Government in Constantinople, or, in the words of the Czar Peter, to obtain the key of his dominions.
I confess, my Lords, that I, for one, never anticipated any active or cordial support to the Allies from the Court of Prussia, and I think that I could state to your Lordships reasons, satisfactory and convincing, in support of that opinion. But this would lead me too much into detail, and too far from the immediate object I have in view. I cannot, however, forbear reading to your Lordships part of a diplomatic despatch from an eminent diplomatist of Russia, addressed to Count Nesselrode immediately before the last war between Russia and Turkey. I read this because it not only describes the view taken by that diplomatist, at the period to which I refer, of the policy of the Court of Prussia, but because I consider it to be descriptive, and almost prophetic, of the course which Prussia has recently pursued. I have stated that the despatch was written when Russia was preparing to make war against Turkey on the last occasion. The diplomatist. after alluding to the good disposition of the Court of Prussia, proceeds in these terms, which I think are well worth the attention of your Lordships—Suppose, then, that Russia should undertake alone to put in execution those coercive means, 860 there is every reason to believe that the Court of Berlin would not in any manner oppose it.Not only does the diplomatist say that the Court of Prussia would not in any way oppose them, but he proceeds thus—On the contrary, her attitude, at once unfettered and friendly, would operate as a powerful check on other States, and bring them to submit to results suited to the dignity and interests of Russia.How descriptive, my Lords, of what we have observed with respect to the conduct of Prussia for the last twelve months, during which she has been acting constantly as a check upon Austria, opposing her measures, and preventing her from joining in active co-operation with the Allies for attaining the great objects of the war. He concludes thus—It will be necessary to let the Cabinet of Berlin, to a certain extent, into our confidence, and to convince it that the part we assign to Prussia will contribute to increase the happy intimacy between the two Sovereigns and the two Courts.Is it possible, my Lords, to conceive anything more anticipatory—more prophetic of the course that has for the last twelve months been pursued by the Court of Prussia?
It was supposed by many persons that Prussia, having become a party to the protocols of the 5th of December, the 13th of January, and the 9th of April, would actively co-operate with the Allies. But a little consideration would, 1 think, have led those who entertained that opinion to see that such an inference was wholly fallacious. In a contest between Russia and the other great Powers of Europe, it was impossible that Prussia should not take a part; she must have been content otherwise to have been placed in a position of absolute isolation, derogatory to her character, destructive to her influence, and reducing her, in fact, for a time, to the state of a second-rate Power. On the other hand, considering the conduct of Russia, the violent course she had pursued, the indignation felt throughout the dominions of Prussia, throughout Germany, and throughout Europe in general, at her conduct, it was impossible, as my noble Friend opposite has repeatedly stated, that she could openly espouse the cause of Russia. She had no alternative, therefore, but to attend the Conferences; and, attending the Conferences, to sign the protocols to which I have referred.
What, then, was the object of those 861 protocols? It was to declare that the parties to them would procure the evacuation of the Principalities, and would obtain guarantees for the protection of the independence of the Sultan and the integrity of the Turkish Empire. These were the declared objects of the protocols. In what manner has this intention been followed up by the Court of Prussia? In pointing this out, I cannot do better than refer to the language of Baron Manteuffel, the Prime Minister of Prussia, upon the occasion of proposing the loan of 30,000,000l. for military purposes.
Upon that occasion he stated in distinct terms that Prussia, by expressing her sentiments upon the conduct of Russia—referring to the protocols—had done all that was necessary; he did not think she was called upon to go further, or to take any active measures. He further stated—and I would press this upon your Lordships' attention—that he did not conceive the independence of Germany or German interests to be involved in the contest, and that Prussia was therefore not called upon to make any sacrifices. That statement was made in the Lower Chamber, and there can be no misapprehension upon the subject; it cannot be said that this is an incorrect representation of what passed, for it was repeated in substance upon two other occasions, namely, in the Committee upon the loan, and afterwards in the Upper Chamber.
I beg, then, to draw your Lordships' attention to the situation of Prussia and her obligations at that time, and to her conduct in pursuance of those obligations. She had been a party to the treaty of 1840 and to the treaty of 1841. By the preambles of those treaties she was engaged in the strongest manner; not, indeed, in specific terms, but by the strongest implied engagements, in point bath of interest and of honour, to maintain the independence of the Sultan and the integrity of his dominions. The Principalities had been invaded without any pretence of right, but in the most flagrant violation of all principle, by the armies of Russia. The revenues of the Principalities had been seized, private property sequestered, and the inhabitants compelled to join the Russian armies for the purpose of making war upon their own Sovereign. Such was the actual state of things. In addition to the obligations I have stated, arising out of the treaties to which I have referred, 862 was the additional engagement entered into by the signature of the protocols.
In this state of things the Prime Minister of Prussia was not ashamed to declare that, although a great wrong had been committed, his Government having expressed their sentiments upon the subject, they did not think it necessary to go further, or to take any active measures. Is it possible, my Lords, to conceive a greater neglect of duty, an act more derogatory to a great Power—more degrading, than, after having admitted such a wrong, which she was bound by treaty and by repeated engagements to redress, to satisfy herself with admitting and lamenting that wrong, without taking any means whatever for the purpose of redressing it?
But this is only part of the case. German independence and German interests, the Minister adds, are not involved in this question, and therefore we are not called upon to make sacrifices. German independence not involved in this question! Why, my Lords, I said on a former occasion, and I now repeat, that the interests and independence of Germany are much more closely involved in this question than those of the Western Powers, either of England or France, who have made, and are still making, such large sacrifices for the purpose of promoting German interests, establishing German independence, and defending the cause of civilisation throughout the European world. Let the Czar once be established at Constantinople, and it would be worse than idle to talk of German independence. It was a well-known saying of Frederick, the most sagacious of the Prussian monarchs, that "in that event the Russian would be at Konigsberg."
If, in saying that German interests are not involved in this contest, the Minister means commercial and material interests, how is it possible that even, in this restricted sense, such an assertion can for a moment be maintained? Is not the freedom of the navigation of the Danube a question essentially connected with the material and commercial interests of Germany? It is true that, as far as Prussia is concerned, her commercial interests are not connected with the Danube, for her rivers flow northwards, and that is the direction of her commerce; but with respect to Central and Southern Germany, the great channel of communication outward and homeward is by the Danube. How, 863 then, can it be said, even in this limited sense, that her interests are not affected by the encroachments of Russia, and involved in the present contest? If it were necessary to refer to authorities on this subject, I might refer to that of Baron Manteuffel himself, expressed in a document to which I alluded on a former occasion, and part of which I will now read to your Lordships. It states—The interests for which we are labouring, amid impending complications, are, from their very essence, the interests of entire Germany.Referring to the navigation of the Danube, it then goes on to state—That a well-regulated state of affairs in the countries on the Lower Danube is of essential importance to the material interests of Germany.How are we to reconcile these inconsistencies? How explain this extraordinary conduct on the part of a great Power like Prussia? I can only understand it upon the supposition of the existence of some secret and overpowering influence which Prussia has either not the wish or not the power to resist—the influence, perhaps, of a strong, of a powerful and determined mind, over one of a weak, fluctuating, and irresolute character.
There are, my Lords, some circumstances connected with this part of the question, which, though of a more personal character, I must bring before your Lordships. At the Committee on the Prussian Loan Bill, the late Minister of War (General Bonin) ventured to say, what my noble Friend opposite has often stated—That it was impossible that Prussia could co-operate with Russia on a question of this kind; that it would be an act of parricide towards the States of Germany.What were the consequences of the expression of this honest opinion—what followed? He was desired to attend the King; he was received in the usual kind manner by his Sovereign, almost embraced by him; he was complimented for his able and active services, for his talents, for his devotion to his duty. The conversation for some time proceeded in the same strain; but towards the close it was intimated to him that it would be inconvenient to the Government that he should continue to hold the office of Minister of War. What was the result? In a few days afterwards he sent in his resignation.
Need I remind your Lordships that the representative of Prussia at our own Court, a man of great learning, great talents, and 864 attainments—a profound statesman, well conversant with the interests of his country and of Europe—finding the course pursued by Prussia to be inconsistent with the opinions he had expressed as to the policy which it ought to pursue, and not choosing to be an agent to carry into effect that which he disapproved, or to defend that which he had condemned—resigned his office, and is now pursuing his valuable literary labours at the University of Heidelberg. This is in the same character with the other instance to which I have referred.
At a more recent period, towards the close of last year, the King of Prussia, in a Speech from the Throne, with his usual eloquence—for which, I am told, he is remarkable—enlarged on matters of family and domestic interest and other affairs. As a matter of course, according to the usual courtesy, it was expected that an Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne would be presented; but, as it was supposed that the Address might contain observations which might not be quite agreeable to the Royal ear, it was stated by the Ministers that the Address should be dispensed with—that it was wholly unnecessary—that it was not required. Leaving your Lordships, then, without further comment of mine, to draw your own conclusions, and to form your own opinions from the facts which I have stated, I will close the first act of this political drama.
I will now pass to the next step in these proceedings. It was considered by Austria, after a certain interval, that it would be proper to call on Russia to evacuate the Principalities. The demand was drawn up and sent to the Court of Berlin for the Prussian signature. This was considered to be rather a strong measure, and she did not choose to put her signature to such a document; but in more gentle terms proposed, either through the resident Minister at Berlin, or by a special envoy, to support the demand. In what terms this support was conveyed, with what earnestness and zeal, will probably never be known, but must be left to your Lordships to conjecture. The result was, that the demand was rejected by Russia—but though rejected, it was not rejected in terms, but by certain counter-propositions being sent for the adoption of Austria. These counter-propositions applied only to a part of the case—only to some of the questions that were in controversy between the Allies and 865 Russia, and were clearly inadmissible. But it being considered proper that the Allies should be consulted, it would, of course, require some time to return au answer; and Prussia pressed Austria in the strongest manner to stop the march of its troops collected on the borders of the Principalities, and not to cross the border until this question should be finally decided. To this proposition Austria acceded. Russia then gave notice that she should evacuate the Principalities, and withdrew beyond the Pruth, and stated that she would act only on the defensive.
Now, my Lords, mark what, upon this, was the conduct of Prussia. Although the propositions related to only a part of the subjects in controversy, and were evidently insufficient, still it was contended that they contained all that could reasonably be required; and that, as Russia had evacuated the Principalities, and said that she would only act on the defensive, the result was satisfactory; and Prussia availed herself of these circumstances to excuse herself in withdrawing from the Confederacy. Having thus detached herself from the Confederacy, what was her next step? She immediately set herself in opposition to the policy of Austria. Austria was endeavouring to induce the minor States of Germany to co-operate actively with the Allies, for the purpose of restraining the aggression of Russia, and securing the tranquillity and independence of Europe. She exerted herself to the utmost for this object; while Prussia, having taken the course which I have pointed out, made use of every artifice and intrigue to frustrate these measures, making propositions not only to the Diet, but separately to individual States, with the view of persuading them to refuse their assent to the proposals of Austria; and in this, I regret to say, she was, to a great extent, successful. Now, I do not ask your Lordships to come to the conclusion, that Prussia was acting in concert with Russia; I do not ask you to say that she was acting as the servile agent and instrument of that Power; but this I may venture to assert, that if she really filled that character—if she were so acting in concert with, and as the instrument of Russia, she could not have served that power more effectually, than by the course which she has thus pursued. And further, my Lords, at the very time when Prussia was thus acting, and calling upon the minor States of Germany to withhold their active co-operation 866 from Austria, Russia was engaged, as if in unison with Prussia, in thanking publicly and ostentatiously two of the German States for refusing to take part in the war.
I have said that I had concluded the first act of this political drama; I may now observe that I have reached the close of the second; and I will now call your Lordships' attention to the third and last. Austria found it necessary to take a further very important step in this business in conjunction with the Western Powers. The Allies appointed a meeting to be held on the 8th of August, at Vienna, for the purpose of deciding on what should be required of Russia as the basis of any preliminary negotiation. Notice of this appointment was at first given in the usual way to the Court of Prussia, and was repeated on a second occasion. Prussia, however, did not think proper to attend the meeting. She did indeed, expressly state that she would not be present, but she did not, in fact, attend; and in consequence of her absence, instead of drawing up a protocol, a note was signed by the three Allied Powers, laying down as the basis for future negotiation, the "four points," respecting which so much discussion has arisen. These four points, thus settled, were sent to Russia for her acceptance, and were at once rejected, What course did Prussia then adopt? She published and circulated a document, objecting, on her own part, to the four points; objecting in particular to the joint protectorate; and taking various other exceptions to these proposals; and not only so, but continued to carry on, in the Diet at Frankfort and throughout the States of Germany, the most active opposition to all the attempts made by Austria to induce those States to co-operate actively with the Allies, She thus separated herself from the Allies still more widely than before; for not only did she refuse to attend their meeting, but she objected to the result of that meeting, and to the decision to which they came, and further endeavoured in every way to thwart and defeat their policy.
The next step, and the final one, in this history, is the treaty of the 2nd of December. The Allied Powers met and negotiated that treaty, the object of which was to call upon Russia, within a month from its date, to make such proposals for peace as they could accept; and stipulating that n the event of failure they would concert 867 as to the future measures to be adopted; obviously meaning coercive measures. When that document was signed, notice was given to Prussia that room had been left for her to give it her adhesion. She refused, however, to join in the treaty. Some formal objections were raised; and in the result she stated that she would not object to conclude separate treaties with this country and with France to the same effect as the joint treaty. An answer was returned that if she would accede to a separate treaty, having the same effect, with France, and also to another with England, no objection would be made to that course; yet from that day to this she has never done so. She has, indeed, carried on various negotiations, and made various proposals of a different character, with numberless qualifications, and with exceptions such as she must have known the Allies could not by any possibility accede to.
This, my Lords, then, is the position in which Prussia stands at the present moment. Now the observations that I have made must be understood as applying solely to the Court and the Government of Prussia. I have reason to believe—indeed I have reason to know—that the national feeling of Prussia is not at all in accordance with that of the Court. I gather this, my Lords, from various sources which are open to us all. But this very day I have seen a copy of an address drawn up by the Committee of the Lower Chambers of Prussia, to which the subject of the army estimates was referred, which expresses in the strongest terms what I believe, and always have believed, to be the national feeling of that country on the matters to which I am alluding. A part of this document I shall take the liberty of reading to your Lordships. It is couched in strong language, and is in conformity with the view that I take of this subject. It runs thus:—We cannot refrain from expressing the anxiety with which your Majesty's faithful people have followed, during the last ten months, the policy of the Royal Government in the great European question. It has seen with sorrow Prussia leave the community of the great Powers represented last year at the Vienna Conferences, and thereby renounce the most efficacious means of assisting by a firm attitude the speedy attainment of the object so ardently desired by the whole country—namely, a peace which shall offer durable guarantees against the renewal of the disturbance of established order in Europe, and in a manner conformable alike to the dignity, the interests, and the position of Prussia as a Power, and to the de- 868 clarations made by the Government of your Majesty at the commencement of the year, concerning its future line of policy.Such, my Lords, are the sentiments and opinions of the Prussian nation, as reflected by the Committee in this address, with regard to the conduct and the policy of their Government. I have one more fact to mention, which brings the matter to a close. Russia, in the first instance, rejected the proposal as to the "four points." She afterwards required a fuller statement and explanation of their meaning by the Allies. Such an explanation was accordingly returned to her, upon receipt of which she declared herself ready to accede to the proposal, and it was agreed that negotiations should be opened upon this basis at Vienna.
Prussia appears to have been taken by surprise in this consent on the part of Russia. She soon, however, recovered her self-possession; and claimed to be admitted as a party to the negotiations. Your Lordships will naturally ask, upon what ground? Principally, because she had been a party to the protocols. But how could this give her a right to what she claimed? True, she had subscribed the protocols, and, up to a certain point, had concurred in the acts of the other Powers; but then she afterwards abandoned and deserted them in all the subsequent stages of these transactions, as I have already detailed. She separated herself from the Allies, in the first instance, on the question of the answer to the demand for the evacuation of the Principalities: again, she refused to attend the meetings for the purpose of settling the basis of the negotiations; she publicly objected to the basis so settled; and continued to conduct active operations against the policy of Austria at the Diet. She refused to be a party to the treaty of the 2nd of December. The object of that treaty was, that if Russia would not propose or accept reasonable terms of peace, the Allies would pledge themselves to concert measures—coercive measures—to enforce such terms upon her. She not only refused to accede to that treaty, but has declined to enter into any corresponding separate treaty after having intimated her readiness to do so. On what pretence, then, since the pending negotiations have arisen out of the basis, as settled at the meeting of the 8th of August, which she declined to attend, and to which basis she publicly objected, and out of the treaty of 869 the 2nd of December, to which she refused to accede, can she claim a right to be admitted as a party to these negotiations? There are other grounds still less tenable upon which she relies, but I refrain from adverting to them, because they are answered with such admirable effect in the despatch of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, and, I have no doubt, in the corresponding despatch of my noble Friend.
I earnestly hope and entreat, therefore, that the Allied Powers will adhere to the decision to which they have come, and not upon any pretence allow the Prussian diplomatists to become parties to these negotiations. I feel confident that if Prussia were admitted she would act in concert with Russia, as her ally, her instrument—nay, I might almost say, as her slave; and that she would contrive so to complicate the questions to be discussed as to render utterly hopeless the prospect of any satisfactory or beneficial result.
It is a singular circumstance in the history of nations—but not the less real—that their diplomatic character and their foreign policy have frequently a permanent form, surviving successive monarchs and successive administrations. The diplomatic character and the foreign policy of Russia may be traced back to the time of Peter, confirmed and strengthened by the Empress Catherine II. retaining the same form and the same character, and carried on upon the same principles down to the present day. In like manner, the diplomatic character and the foreign policy of Prussia may be traced back as far as Frederick, whom the flattery of the French philosophers, in exchange for patronage (capriciously accorded and withheld) gratified with the title of "Great." It must never be forgotten that he was the contriver, the instigator, and the active instrument of the partition of Poland—the most flagitious political transaction of modern times—prepared by intrigue, founded in falsehood, and executed with atrocious violence. In tracing the foreign policy of Prussia from the reign of that monarch clown to the present time, it will be found ever to exhibit the same features of unblushing fraud and unscrupulous selfishness. But I will confine myself to instances in which we ourselves have been concerned.
As far back as the year 1794, it was considered to be of the utmost importance that we should be able to employ a large military force to act in the Low Countries 870 against France. Application was made to Prussia. She complained of her poverty, of the emptiness of her treasury. The ancestor of the noble Earl who sits below me (the Earl of Malmesbury) conducted the negotiation. He stated in answer that England was ready to furnish the means upon one condition, and one condition only—that the army should act in the Low Countries upon such points as the English Government should point out. This was the very essence of the treaty. It was consented to by the Prussian Government, and the money was paid into the Prussian treasury. The troops wore marched to the Rhine, and there they were detained for purposes peculiarly and solely Prussian. Notwithstanding the repeated remonstrances of the noble Earl to whom I have referred, addressed to the King personally, to the Prime Minister, and to the commander of the forces, they refused to allow the troops to stir from that position and the object of the treaty was entirely defeated. The correspondence of the noble Earl, in which these transactions are detailed, will amply repay the trouble of the perusal. The noble Earl gives vent to the bitterness of his feelings on the conduct of Prussia in a short note addressed to the Duke of Portland, which, though published, I should scarcely venture, from the strong terms in which it is expressed, to read to your Lordships.
The next transaction to which I shall refer is the conduct of Prussia antecedently to the battle of Austerlitz. Nothing could be more degrading than the vacillation which she exhibited during this anxious period; entering at one moment into engagements with the Emperor Alexander, and at another into opposite engagements with Napoleon. In the correspondence between Napoleon and his brother, King Joseph, your Lordships will find this conduct of Prussia described in the most contemptuous terms.
At length she decided upon adopting a course of policy similar to that which she has attempted in the present instance. She put herself forward as mediator between the contending parties, and Count Haugwitz was sent to the French headquarters to negotiate in that character; but the victory of Austerlitz having taken place, the whole scene was changed. And what, then, was the conduct of Prussia? She immediately abandoned her character of mediator; entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the French Em- 871 peror; and accepted as a bribe for so doing the cession of Hanover—a territory belonging to her friend and ally, England. I well remember the stream of indignant eloquence poured forth on that occasion by Mr. Fox, so characteristic of his generous and noble spirit. The utter selfishness and vacillation of Prussia at that period, professing one thing and doing another, playing the game of fast and loose, corresponds in principle—is in accordance with the conduct—which she has pursued throughout the whole of these negotiations. My Lords, I have no faith in the Prussian Government, and if my noble Friend should be tempted to enter into any engagement with that Power, I should be disposed to address him with words of caution, "Hunctu, Romane, caveto."
I have drawn the facts which I have presented to your Lordships in this statement from public documents in circulation in this country and on the continent of Europe. If there are others, of which I have no knowledge, in the possession of my noble Friend, the foreign secretary, which may have the effect of placing the conduct of Prussia in a less unfavourable light, I shall listen to them with the utmost attention and candour, and receive any explanation which my noble Friend may have to offer, with the respect which his position and his high character demand.
It is a great satisfaction to me that these negotiations are to be conducted by the noble Lord the late President of the Council, but who, since he left this country, has, if I may venture upon the allusion, started up, by a touch of the spear of Ithuriel, in his former shape of Secretary for the Colonies. It requires but little of a prophetic spirit to foresee that he is destined, at no distant period, to occupy a still more elevated and commanding position in Her Majesty's councils. These things fill me with wonder, and when I contrast the noble Lord's present situation and future brilliant prospects, with his modest, retired, and anxious appearance, a few weeks since, on the fourth row behind the Treasury bench, I almost insensibly murmur to myself a well known poetical description—Parva metu primò, mox sese attollit in auras, Ingrediturque solo, et Caput inter nubila condit.I rely on the sagacity of the noble Lord, on his firmness, his vigour, his decision, and upon the strong language which he held not long since in the other House of 872 Parliament, as a sure pledge that he will not consent to any terms of peace short of those which shall fully secure the great objects for which the war was undertaken. To accept anything short of this, "would," to quote the words of my noble Friend opposite, "only be to patch up a hollow truce, and lead to new wars and new sacrifices." We must have a peace corresponding with the more than once repeated description of my noble Friend— "solid, lasting, and every way honourable." Above all, I trust that our recent disasters will not induce the Government to recede one iota from our just demands. Rome was never more unyielding than in the season of adversity. I have the utmost confidence in the vigour, the energy, and unfailing resources of this great nation, and I feel satisfied that at no distant period they will place us in a position even higher than that from which we have declined in consequence of the mismanagement of the war under the direction and auspices of the late Government. There may be those who, envious of our prosperity, regard our reverses with complacency and even with satisfaction. Let us teach them to respect the fortitude with which we bear our disasters, and admire the vigour with which we repair them.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, though my noble and learned Friend said he could cause no embarrassment to the Government by the observations he would address to the House, I think that your Lordships will understand the difficulty under which I rise, not to answer the speech of my noble and learned Friend, but to speak on the subject which he has brought under your Lordships' consideration; and if I do not follow my noble and learned Friend through his lucid narrative of Prussia's shortcomings, I trust he will not attribute that to any want of respect to himself, or to any want of recognition of the importance of the subject, and still less to any intention on my part to become the apologist of the Prussian Government. I think, however, my noble and learned Friend will admit that between the position he occupies and the one I have the honour to fill some difference exists, and that less responsibility attaches to what falls from my noble and learned Friend than to the words which I may have occasion to utter. Not that I agree, on the other hand, with my noble and learned Friend, who seems to think that no responsibility attaches to what he says; 873 on the contrary, I think that there is not one of your Lordships, on whatever side of the House he may sit, who is entitled to consider himself irresponsible for the language he may hold, or the opinions he may express, particularly with respect to foreign countries. Since I have had the honour of holding the seals of the Foreign Office I have had various opportunities of observing what great importance is attached abroad to speeches made in both Houses of Parliament, and this always in proportion to the political eminence and personal character of the speaker, the weight his opinions have in his own country, and the respect which those opinions are considered to carry with them. Therefore, we must admit, that under these circumstances the speech of my noble and learned Friend will produce a great sensation in foreign countries throughout the Continent; and that more particularly the Prussian Court cannot fail to be, I will not say gratified, but struck by the industry, with which my noble and learned Friend has mastered, and the dexterity with which he has laid bare their proceedings of the last year. My noble and learned Friend has, at the conclusion of his speech, made an appeal to me in reference to any documents which I might have in mitigation of the opinions he has expressed. He may possibly think that I am allowing judgment to go by default when I say that I have no such documents to produce; and I do not believe that my noble and learned Friend has misstated—certainly, he would not do so intentionally—any matter he has brought before your Lordships. But I think I shall best discharge my duty on the present occasion with the due reserve imposed on me, if, instead of following my noble and learned Friend through the various matters he has treated on, I venture to supply certain deficiencies with respect to the communications which have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Court of Prussia; for, after all, that is the point to which your Lordships must attach more interest than to the precedents of Prussian policy. I shall endeavour to explain precisely to your Lordships the result of these communications. They are certainly far from satisfactory. Nevertheless, I do not despair of still establishing better relations with Prussia, for I cannot regard the Prussian alliance with the indifference which my noble and learned Friend seems to think it merits; and I should be happy 874 if that alliance were established on the same footing as that on which it stood at the early part of last year, when Prussia joined with us in declaring that the war against Russia was politic and just, when she denounced quite as strongly as Austria the aggressive policy of Russia, and when she joined with Austria in summoning, in terms much more positive and energetic than my noble and learned Friend seems to be aware of, Russia to adopt a more moderate course. Whether Prussia calculated that this united appeal would be irresistible and its success complete I am unable to say, but the positive refusal of Russia to comply with it appeared to stagger the resolution of Prussia, which never since that time has shown any signs of recovery. When the answer of the Russian Cabinet was received at Vienna, Count Buol, in accordance with a previous promise, was prepared to communicate it to the English and French Governments. A conference was summoned to receive the communications, and the English and French representatives obeyed the summons; but the conference could not be held, because the representative of the Prussian Government would not attend. Various telegraphic messages and special missions followed in rapid succession, but there was no result, and at last the Austrian Government, tired of waiting, sent the answer to London and Paris. The English and French Governments lost no time in pronouncing on it in the most decisive manner. It is true that the Prussian Minister at this Court afterwards told me that the representative of Prussia would be allowed to attend the conference, but the answer I gave was the only one I could give, that "It was too late." That the English and French Governments had been invited to give, and had given their opinions some weeks before on the despatch of Count Nesselrode, that the assembling of the Conference for the purpose of making a communication on the same despatch would be simply ridiculous, and to such a course we did not intend to consent. The notes of August the 8th were then interchanged between the three Governments, and the assent of Prussia was invited to them, but declined. Then came the series of correspondence to which my noble and learned Friend has alluded, of great length and uncommon complexity, between the Courts of Austria and Prussia. That correspondence has been most justly characterised by him; but the Court of 875 Austria steadfastly adhered to the policy and engagements it had undertaken, while Prussia gradually diverged, and the result was German disunion, as my noble and learned Friend has stated, which served the cause of Russia. Communications in the meanwhile took place between England, France, and Austria, which led to the treaty of December 2nd. Before that treaty was signed, Prussia was asked to give her concurrence, but she declined. After it was signed her assent was again sought for, and again it was refused; but she afterwards informed the English and French Governments that her honour and dignity had not been consulted in that treaty, that there was in it a clause with which she had no concern, and another which was offensive to her dignity, and that she had generally great cause of complaint against Austria. She added, that, though prepared to enter into an analogous engagement, she demanded unconditionally to be admitted to the Conference, which was a continuation of the former Conference which had not expired, and from which it was an error to suppose she had withdrawn. Our answer was, that there was no error with respect to her withdrawing from the Conference, because on a former occasion the Conference had not taken place at all because she would not join in it, though entreated to remain, and that it was a mistake to suppose that the Conference about to be held was a continuation of the former Conference; for, so far was that from being the case, that when the Austrian Government invited the French and English Governments in October and November last to continue that Conference, our answer was, that the time for conferences and protocols had gone by, but that if Austria joined us in an engagement for war, we would undertake to see if peace were practicable by negotiation. This led to the treaty of the 2nd of December. But we further said to Prussia that, so anxious were we to obtain an analogous treaty with her, that if there was anything in the treaty to which she objected we would be ready to correct it; that if she had any complaint against Austria the treaty should be made with England and France; that we would give her the same explanations of our views, and sign with her the same protocols; and that, having placed herself in the same position as Austria with the Western Powers, she might then enter into the Conference in a position of independence. But to 876 admit Prussia to claim all the privileges without incurring any of the risks of a great European Power—to admit her unconditionally to a Conference that might end in peace, but which might lead to war on a more extended sphere—without her telling us what were her intentions or her policy—without entering into any engagement with us, either immediate or prospective—without knowing whether she entered on the Conference as a neutral, as a foe, or as a friend—was utterly impossible. That is the footing on which matters stand now, and that is my answer to my noble and learned Friend as to Prussia being admitted unconditionally to the Conference. Subsequently special missions have been sent to this country and to France, and I need not tell your Lordships that the most friendly reception was given to the honourable and excellent gentleman who came to this country from Prussia. The same course was pursued in Paris; and I am certain that if the settlement of this question had been in the hands of these negotiators, or if they had been empowered to admit the proposals made to them, the treaty would have been by this time arranged. But, unfortunately, that was not the case. I do not consider, however, that the negotiations with Prussia are come to an end. Further arrangements may yet be proposed, and, indeed, fresh proposals were made only two or three days ago. But, in the meanwhile, these important negotiations—important, whatever be their issue—have commenced, while Prussia, by her own act, continues excluded. I know, my Lords, that great satisfaction has been expressed here and elsewhere at the position which Prussia now occupies, but we can have no such feeling. We can have no object or interest but to be on terms of friendly relation with Prussia, and to see her properly occupying the high position which she is entitled to hold. Her great territorial extent, the amount of her population, and her vast military organisation, entitle Prussia to be considered as one of the great Powers of Europe. For nearly a century she has taken part in all the great questions of Europe; she has aided in maintaining the equilibrium of power in Europe; and it has really been a melancholy spectacle to see Prussia abdicating the high position she has hitherto held, and endeavouring to reduce the greatest question of modern times—for it is a question, as my noble and learned Friend says, 877 whether Europe shall be independent or shall succumb to the aggressive policy and sinister influence of Russia—endeavouring, I say, to reduce and restrict this great question within the narrowest limits of German exclusiveness. Remonstrances have not been wanting, but the uniform answer of Prussia is, that her policy is peace. My Lords, I do not doubt the sincerity of that answer. Perhaps there is no country in Europe where war should be more justly dreaded than in Prussia. It is one of the great advantages of our insular position that we have never realised among ourselves the horrors of war; but there is no country in Europe that has more reason to remember and dread the recurrence of these calamities than Prussia. That feeling must not, however, be carried too far, for a mere policy of sentiment will never fulfil the obligations incumbent on a great European Power, or maintain the honour and independence of a nation. Prussia has always said that peace was her policy. I have already said that I do not doubt her sincerity; but, my Lords, France and England are equally sincere in their desire for peace, and Prussia knows they will not continue this war one single day longer than is necessary to secure a safe and honourable peace. But the best way of arriving at such a peace is to prosecute the war vigorously, whereas the course pursued by Prussia can have no other tendency than to enlarge the theatre and protract the duration of the war. I am not questioning the right of Prussia to pursue any policy she may think best for her own interest, but I may express my own inability to understand the drift of that policy, for it appears to me to be neither European, nor German, nor Prussian—a policy neither of war, of peace, nor of neutrality. It seems to me more calculated to thwart Austria than to keep Russia in check. But, however eccentric her course may be, Prussia is still a great European Power, and cannot long remain insulated when great European interests are involved: she cannot side with Russia. She cannot trample on the feelings of her own people, or run counter to the views held with so much unanimity by 20,000,000 of Germans, with respect to their powerful neighbour. She cannot side with Russia against Austria, because she knows well that at the close of such an unnatural and fratricidal war she would be at the mercy of Russia, and become a dependency of 878 that Power. On the other hand, she will not side with Austria; on the contrary, she has herself assumed, and has induced other Powers to assume, an unfriendly attitude towards Austria; and the general result hitherto of Prussian policy has, I fear, been to frustrate the union, and to prevent the vigorous tone and the uniform language on the part of Germany, which would have gone far to secure for us that peace which we are so anxious to obtain, and would have secured for Germany those guarantees of which she stands so much in need. I say, then, that Prussia is in an insulated, and therefore in a false and powerless position. This may be satisfactory to her enemies, but it is deeply regretted by her Allies, and must be felt, keenly felt, by the enlightened, the brave, and the patriotic people of Prussia. It is from this position, from which neither honour nor dignity can be derived, that the Governments of France and England are most anxious she should be relieved; and it is to this object all our efforts have hitherto tended. I assure your Lordships that no exertion shall be spared to secure the co-operation of Prussia, and that these will always be made in a friendly spirit, and with every regard to the honour and dignity of a great and independent Power.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.