§ EARL GREY
* My Lords, I must solicit from your Lordships this evening a more than usual share of your indulgence, for I can very unaffectedly assure you that I feel oppressed, not only by the magnitude, but also by the painful nature of the task I have undertaken, in giving notice of the Motion I am about to make. It is a painful task, because I am aware that I can look for the support and sympathy of very few of your Lordships in submitting to you this Motion, and that I shall incur the condemnation of many both within and without these walls, for whose judgment I have great respect, and whose good opinion 1094 I highly value; and it is painful to me also to ask this House to concur in a vote, which involves censure upon a Government, among the Members of which there are many for whom I entertain a sincere regard, and more than one of my best and oldest friends. From these considerations I would gladly have abstained from bringing this question before you, but motives still more powerful impel me to proceed.
I cannot, my Lords, look upon the calamities of the war in which Europe is now involved without a feeling of horror it is impossible for me to describe. My noble Friend on the bench above (Lord Lansdowne) informed the House only a few evenings ago, that it appeared from information which had reached the Government, and in the accuracy of which they had reason to trust, that nearly 250,000 Russian soldiers had perished by the sword, or by disease, since the war began. I lately saw in the newspapers a calculation which seemed to be founded on sufficient data, that the loss of the Turkish armies, from the same causes, had not been less than 120,000men. We know that the losses of our own and of the French armies have also been very heavy, and if to the losses of all these armies we add the number of inhabitants of the provinces which have been the seat of war, who have fallen victims to want, disease, or violence, in consequence of the war, we can hardly reckon the total number of lives it has already cost at less than 500,000, though we are but in its second year. 500,000 human beings in that short space of time already sacrificed to the grim idol of war! Think of the amount of suffering which these figures represent. Not the sufferings of the victims only—though it is frightful to contemplate, what they have too often had to endure from wounds and sickness before they found rest in death—but the pain and misery of the multitudes of sick and wounded who still survive, and the grief and anxiety of the friends and relations of the fallen. Recollect that of the 500,000 who have perished, whether our fellow-subjects or those of other nations, there are few who have not left some near and dear to them to deplore their loss.
Nor is this all, in estimating the baneful effects of the war upon the happiness of mankind, I doubt whether the waste of life is what is worst. You have to consider the provinces which have been devastated and thrown back for years in civilisation and improvement—the progress of 1095 industry and commerce throughout the world arrested or retarded (since there is not a nation, however distant, that does not feel more or less the effects of this calamitous struggle) above all, you must remember the moral evils occasioned by war, which proverbially rouses into activity all the worst passions of human nature. How many in all the contending armies must have been demoralised and unfitted for the pursuits of peace, by the fierce contest in which they are engaged, and what a fruitful source of misery to themselves and to the world will this become when peace shall be restored. Nor can even the mere expenditure of money in the war be regarded as a slight evil. Our own share of that expenditure before the close of the second year of the war, will certainly not fall short of 50,000,000l. How enormous is this sum, and how many objects of the highest importance to the welfare of the people have been postponed for years and years for one-tenth or one-twentieth part of the amount! Consider what good might have been done with this sum, if, instead of being applied to purposes of destruction, it had been used for the permanent advantage of the country. This great city might have been relieved from the disgrace and danger of its present sanitary condition, and the crying evil of the want of means of education for the poorer classes might have been remedied by a splendid permanent endowment, and a large sum would still have remained for other purposes of the same kind. When I reflected, my Lords, on the magnitude of the evils which have been brought upon our own country, upon Europe, and upon the world, by the war in which we are involved, and when I satisfied myself on carefully studying the papers relating to the recent Conferences at Vienna, which Her Majesty has ordered to be laid before us, that an opportunity has been thrown away, which, if judiciously improved, would have afforded a fair prospect of averting these calamities, I could not reconcile it to my conscience, to abstain from raising my voice, feeble as it may be, in protest against the course which has been followed by Her Majesty's Government, and which has deprived us of the hope of terminating the war.
I have by no means, my Lords, changed the opinion which I have more than once expressed to your Lordships against the policy of the war—on the contrary, the progress of events, and the additional information 1096 I have obtained, have only tended to confirm that opinion; but for the present I waive this question, and I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the policy which has been followed was right; that we were called upon to support Turkey in her quarrel with Russia, and I am prepared to contend, that even on this assumption, Her Majesty's Government were wrong in rejecting, or rather, I ought to say, in refusing to entertain, the proposals made by Russia in the recent negotiations. I do not contend—it is quite unnecessary for me to do so—that these proposals ought to have been accepted precisely in the form in which they were made, I only maintain, with the Austrian Plenipotentiaries, that they afforded fair ground for discussion, a sketch—this was the expression made use of—which might have been worked out into a satisfactory settlement of the questions at issue. This is the opinion I ask you to express to Her Majesty by an humble Adress, and I apprehend, that if I could convince you that the opinion itself is sound, it would clearly be not only the right, but the bounden duty of your Lordships, to inform the Crown of the conclusion to which you had come, and respectfully to submit to Her Majesty, that, in your judgment, she was ill-advised by her confidential servants, when it was resolved to reject the overtures made by Russia, in so peremptory a manner. I do not propose to go further in the Address that I shall move, than to express the opinion of the House, that an error has been committed in breaking off the negotiations on the grounds set forth by the British Plenipotentiaries. I do not presume to suggest what steps ought now to be taken to repair the effects of that mistake. I know that, after the conferences have been closed, or, what is much the same, adjourned sine die, to reopen the negotiation is a matter of much delicacy. I am aware that we have allies whom we must consult, and with whom we are bound to act; but if anything so improbable should happen, as that Her Majesty's Government should be induced by your Lordships' advice, to adopt the conclusion that it is desirable to renew the negotiations on the basis of the Russian offers, I cannot doubt that they would know well in what manner to proceed with that view, nor do I think that they would encounter any great difficulties on the part of our allies. Unless the public are greatly misinformed, and unless the appearances 1097 from which we may form a judgment on this point are very deceptive, it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government against entertaining the Russian proposals, which mainly contributed to turn the counsels of France in the same direction, and if the views of Her Majesty's Ministers were to become more pacific, it is in the highest degree improbable that their efforts to recommend a corresponding policy to the French Government would fail.
Having thus explained the object of my Motion, it is fit that before I go further, I should add a few words to the reply which I gave on Tuesday to the question put to me by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Lyndhurst), as to whether I should postpone my Motion in consequence of what had taken place the previous evening in the House of Commons. I said, in answer to this question, that I saw no grounds for my altering the course I had determined to take, but that if any reason for my doing so could be adduced, I was ready to consider it. I meant by this, as your Lordships must, doubtless, have understood, that if Her Majesty's Ministers were prepared to state, on their responsibility, that they apprehended injury to the public service from the discussion which I meant to bring on, I was ready to listen to such a suggestion, and I should certainly at once have postponed my Motion had they asked me to do so on that ground. But, as they have not taken this step—as my own opinion is that it is most desirable that a discussion should take place without delay—and as I can see no possible injury that it can do, when we gather from the replies of Her Majesty's Ministers to the questions that have been addressed to them, that there are no negotiations now in progress which afford any rational ground for hoping that they may lead to peace, I have thought it right to persevere in the course which I had previously determined to take. I am the; more encouraged to believe that no injury; can arise from my proceeding with this Motion, because I intend, in submitting it to you, carefully to abstain from giving any opinion or making any remarks on the future; I shall confine myself to the past, and I hope other noble Lords will observe the same reserve. The views of Her Majesty's Government, as to the offers made by Russia, in the late negotiations are fully explained in the papers on our table, I cannot therefore see what inconvenience 1098 can arise from their being called upon to defend the decision they have already adopted; if, however, there are any points on which I may touch, on which my noble Friend the Secretary of State may think that he cannot follow me without inconvenience, I can only say that, so far as I am concerned, I shall be perfectly satisfied with his simple statement to that effect.
But to return from this digression: I am sure your Lordships must all remember that, when we were entering upon the war, all views of selfish advantage and of aggrandizement on the part of the allies were most earnestly disclaimed. We were assured that it was a strictly defensive war; we were told that Russia, in requiring from the Sultan a formal promise to protect his subjects of the Greek Church, made a demand inconsistent with the independence of Turkey, and that in attempting to enforce this demand by the occupation of the Principalities, she committed an act of aggression which it was our duty and interest to assist the Turks in repelling. This was the language held by Her Majesty's Government at the beginning of the war in both Houses of Parliament, and the same views were still more formally recorded almost immediately afterwards in the protocol of the conference, held at Vienna on the 9th of April, 1854 [Eastern Papers, Part viii., p. 2], which referred to the evacuation of the Danubian Principalities, and the abandonment of her claim to the exclusive protection of the Greek Christians in the Turkish Empire, as the objects to be obtained from Russia, without mentioning any other concessions to be required from her. Such having been the avowed objects of the war, I would ask your Lordships whether they have not long since been obtained, and far more than obtained. Russia has, many months ago, been compelled to evacuate the Danubian Principalities, she has long since withdrawn her demand that the Porte should recognise her right to protect the Greek Christians in the Turkish dominions, and is willing that the civil and religious rights of the Christian subjects of Turkey should be left to the safeguard of the European powers. All offensive military operations of Russia against Turkey have also been long discontinued, and the war is, on her part, become purely defensive, and she is now engaged in a manful and resolute defence of an important 1099 part of her own territories from invasion by the combined armies of England, France, Sardinia, and Turkey.
The original dispute which led to the war, has therefore been decided entirely in your favour, but you declared, as you were entitled to do, that having been compelled to engage in war, you would no longer be satisfied with the terms which you would have been content to accept before the commencement of hostilities, and would endeavour to obtain security for the future by requiring additional concessions. Accordingly the Powers deliberated together, and agreed upon certain arrangements to be proposed to Russia as the groundwork of negotiations for peace. In the first instance, Russia rejected the proposal thus made to her, but ultimately agreed to accept it, and the recent Conferences at Vienna were held for the purpose of ascertaining whether Russia and the allied Powers could agree on the means of carrying into effect the four heads of an arrangement—known as the "Four Points"—which had been communicated to the former on the 28th of December last. When the conferences opened, the first two heads of the Proposed arrangement were easily settled. Russia consented to abandon the claim she had under former treaties to protect the Danubian Principalities, and that they should in future continue subject to the Porte, but enjoy an independent and national administration under the guarantee of the European Powers. This was a concession of no trifling importance on the part of Russia, which you did not think of asking at the beginning of the war, but which I willingly admit to have been now very properly demanded, as tending materially to diminish the danger of future wars. Russia, upon this point, seems to have met the allies as fairly as possible, and to have agreed to an arrangement with which no fault can be found. The same may be said of the second point by which the freedom of the navigation of the Danube was satisfactorily provided for.
The third head of the proposal was that which it was always felt would lead to the greatest difficulty. The memorandum delivered to Prince Gortchakoff on the 28th of Dec. 1854, stated, as the third point insisted upon by the allies, that—The revision of the treaty of July 13, 1841, must have for its object to connect the existence of the Ottoman Empire more completely with the 1100 European equilibrium, and to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea."— [Eastern Papers, Part xiii. p. 2.]This was a demand of which nothing was heard until some months after the declaration of war. The first allusion I can trace to the necessity of obtaining anything of the kind, is in certain speeches delivered in the House of Commons on the occasion of a vote of credit being asked for the war, on the 24th of July last. Upon the first part of this point no serious difficulty arose, and an article was agreed upon declaring that the high contracting parties—Engage themselves severally to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, guarantee together the strict observance of this engagement, and will in consequence consider every act or event which should be of a nature to infringe on it as a question of European interest." [Eastern Papers, Part xiii. p. 64.To which a second article was added, providing—That if a misunderstanding should arise between the Porte and one of the contracting parties, these two States before having recourse to the employment of force, should place the other Powers in a position to anticipate this extreme course by pacific means.On these two articles which were intended to carry into effect the first part of the third point, no difficulty whatever arose, except with regard to a reservation made by the Russian Plenipotentiaries, that they were not to be considered, by agreeing to them, as engaging their Government to take up arms for Turkey, whenever she might be attacked in any part of her dominions. The other Powers recorded their regret at this reserve, but I must say I think without sufficient reason.
Russia did not object to bind herself in the strictest manner to respect the independence and territorial integrity of Turkey, and also to abstain from using force in any misunderstanding she may hereafter have with the Porte, without giving to the other Powers of Europe a previous opportunity of endeavouring to settle the dispute by pacific means; nor did she object to the other parties, binding themselves to defend Turkey by arms from any attack, if they thought proper to do so; she only declined to contract a similar engagement herself, saying with unanswerable force, that the blood of Russia belongs to Russia, and ought to be shed only for 1101 Russian interests. The Russian Plenipotentiaries, in my opinion, exercised in this a wise discretion, which I wish that our own had imitated. Unlimited engagements to defend other countries by arms in all cases that may arise, and, therefore in circumstances which cannot be foreseen, are, in my opinion, always imprudent and dangerous. But it is more especially so to enter into such an engagement, in behalf of the Turkish Empire, composed as it is of such ill-joined materials, and menaced by such dangers from without and from within, that its ultimate dissolution is a matter of certainty, and a question only of time. Hence I consider the qualification attached by the Russian plenipotentiaries to their guarantee of the Ottoman Empire to have been, not only reasonable, but called for by the most ordinary prudence; it is, I hope, most improbable, but it is certainly possible, that at some future time the English Government may direct an attack from India on the remote eastern extremity of the Ottoman Empire, and it is quite as possible, that France may invade Tunis from Algeria—Russia most justly objected to being bound in such a case to make war with either of these powerful nations; and I own, it gives me far more confidence in the sincerity of her Plenipotentiaries, to find them thus guarding their assent to what was proposed to them, than if they had agreed, with what would have been a suspicious readiness to all that was suggested.
Still the assent of Russia to what was proposed on the first part of the third point was accepted in the form in which it was offered, though the other Powers recorded their regret that it should have been thus qualified. Unfortunately the attempts to come to an understanding on the second part of this head of the arrangement, relating to what is called the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, were not equally successful. I will not trouble your Lordships by following the discussion upon this point through its various stages, it is sufficient to mention that it was brought at last to the following result. England and France, on the one side, would be content with nothing but a limitation of the naval; force, which Russia should be allowed to keep up in the Black Sea, while Russia, on the other hand, though she refused to agree to this limitation, was ready to listen to any other proposal which might be made, and in the mean time suggested that the object in view would be gained 1102 if, in addition to the articles already agreed to, the treaty of 1841 were altered, by providing that, while the general rule established by that treaty of closing the Straits leading to the Black Sea against the ships of war of all nations, should be adhered to, the Sultan should, in future, be at liberty to admit the ships of any of his allies to these waters, whenever he may consider himself to be menaced, instead of being required as formerly to wait until an actual declaration had taken place —Austria was of opinion that this proposal of Russia offered fair grounds for discussion, and might have led to some settlement of the question.
I believe, my Lords, I have stated correctly the manner in which, as we learn from the papers laid upon our table, the attempt to negotiate a peace has failed. I have now to call your attention to the reasons on which I found my opinion, that the Austrian view of the Russian proposals was correct, and that Her Majesty's Government have grievously erred in giving up the prospect of putting an end to the war, which their adopting that view would have afforded. When, in the language of diplomacy—unfortunately little like the language of common life, and common sense—it was required that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea should be put an end to, I presume what was meant was, that some arrangement should be made to prevent the Russian naval force from affording just grounds of apprehension to Turkey. So understood the demand was a fair one, which in any other sense it certainly would not have been. We have therefore to consider whether, on a fair comparison of the two plans for effecting this object, that suggested by the allies was so superior to what was proposed by Russia, and at the same time so free from just objection, that it was right inflexibly to adhere to it, and to treat its rejection as a sufficient ground for shutting the door against any further negotiation.
I have no hesitation in declaring that I think no sufficient answer was brought forward to the arguments urged by Prince Gortchakoff. When Russia consented to bind herself by a solemn engagement, to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire, and not to use force in any quarrel she might have with the Porte, without first allowing the other Powers an opportunity of endeavouring to arrange the difference, so that the 1103 breach of this engagement would have given these Powers a just cause of war against her; and when she would further have agreed that the Straits being closed as a rule, the Sultan would have the power of calling in the fleets of his allies, whenever he might think himself threatened, it seems to me that even without anything more, (and Russia declared her willingness to consider any further precautions that could be suggested) much would thus have been done to prevent the Russian fleet from becoming the source of any real danger to Turkey. The importance of the alteration proposed in the treaty of 1841, when taken in connection with the two articles previously agreed upon, does not seem to me to have been duly appreciated. It is quite true as Prince Gortchakoff remarked, that the transport by sea of an army, capable of striking a sudden and fatal blow at the seat of Turkish power, would be no such easy affair. Considering the facilities that exist for fortifying the narrow passage of the Bosphorus, and defending the points where a landing could be effected to threaten Constantinople, considering the extent and population of the Ottoman Empire, and the great resources it possesses if properly made use of, yon must have very little faith in all that has been so confidently asserted as to the improvement going on in the Turkish Government, and you must regard it as in a state of even more hopeless weakness than even I believe it to be, if you suppose that the Turks could not easily provide such means of defence as to make it impossible for Russia to venture an attack upon their capital without being obliged to employ in the enterprise a powerful fleet of transports capable of carrying a land army of not less than from 40,000 to 50,000 men, with an adequate proportion of artillery. But our recent experience sufficiently proves, that even with all the advantages of our large commercial marine, and our magnificent steamers, to collect the means of transport for such an army would be a work of much time and labour, a work which it would be utterly impossible to carry on in secret, and which would afford more than ample time for the allies of Turkey to come to her assistance. If you reflect upon the difficulties and dangers of such an enterprise, you can hardly doubt that it is one which Russia will never attempt, so long as she believes that the other Powers will abide by the treaty by which it is proposed that Turkey should 1104 be placed under the general guarantee of Europe. If, indeed, this treaty should ail, if from quarrels with each other, or from any other cause, the great Powers of Europe should decline to interfere in defence of the Ottoman Empire, or if one of them should join with Russia in any iniquitous scheme of spoliation, then, indeed, I grant that Turkey might well view the Russian fleet with alarm. But in that case do your Lordships consider that the limitation you proposed to place upon the amount of the Russian fleet in the Euxine would be of much service in preserving the Turkish Empire from danger? Can you really believe that if it should ever happen that Russia should be seriously bent on attempting the destruction of that Empire, at a moment when the state of Europe may be such as to prevent the Western Powers from coming to the rescue, the proposed limitation of the Russian naval force would have the slightest effect in preventing the subjugation of the Turks?
But there is another consideration not to be lost sight of, in judging of the value of that stipulation on the part of Russia, which you insisted upon, and for the sake of which alone we are now, as it appears, to continue to endure and to inflict upon our enemy all the calamities of war. Having obtained from Russia a promise not to appeal to arms in any future quarrel with the Porte, without a previous reference to the other Powers, having also obtained from her a solemn engagement to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire, it is obvious that the Russian fleet in the Black Sea can be a source of danger to Turkey, and that a limitation of that fleet can be required, only on the supposition that Russia is so regardless of the obligation of treaties, that it is necessary to take some security against aggression on her part, which does not depend upon the good faith with which she observes her engagements. But if this is the ground upon which Her Majesty's Ministers have thought it right to insist upon obtaining this stipulation, if they have demanded it as a security against the dishonesty of Russia, and her disposition to break her engagements, I wonder that it should not have occurred to them that with this view, what they asked would have been utterly worthless. Suppose that a treaty had been concluded in the very words proposed by the Allies, binding Russia only to keep up in the Black Sea four line of battle ships and four frigates, 1105 with a proportionate number of lighter vessels and transports, is it possible to conceive any treaty which a dishonest Power would have less difficulty in evading? Of course, if Russia were to be at liberty to have four line of battle ships in the Euxine, this must be understood as meaning four ships fit to go to sea, those no longer seaworthy, and those building to replace the ships afloat as they were worn out, should not be reckoned. Would it then be difficult for a Power you assume to be dishonest, to have ships nominally dismantled as no longer fit for service, and ostensibly converted into hulks for convicts or stores, but really in a state of perfect efficiency, with all their rigging and equipments in a complete state of preparation and ready to be put on board at a moment's notice? Would it be difficult to have other ships in an equal state; of readiness, but unlaunched, professing to be destined to replace the vessels afloat! and might not two or three crews be attached to each ship in commission, to be practised in succession, and to be placed on board the ships ready to receive them, whenever occasion for it should arise? The treaty, therefore, would have been very ineffective even as regards ships of the line. I would ask my noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hard-wicke), whether it is not true that, since the invention of steam, and the great improvement of naval gunnery, perhaps the most formidable of all descriptions of naval force (especially for the purpose you attribute to Russia of being in constant readiness to make a sudden descent on Constantinople), would consist of fast steam gunboats, each capable of carrying one or two heavy guns, and of embarking for a voyage of a couple of days 200 or 300 soldiers. A numerous flotilla of vessels of this description, which could take sailing transports in tow, and approach close to the shore to land their troops under the protection of their guns, would be by far the most dangerous force to Turkey that the Russians could possibly possess. But if the article drawn up by M. Drouyn de Lhuys, and insisted upon by the allies, had been assented to by Russia, it would not have presented the slightest obstacle to her multiplying vessels of this sort, to the utmost extent that her resources would permit. You cannot, of course, object to any possible extension of the Russian commercial marine; but, under the name of vessels for commercial purposes—as 1106 tugs, passage boats, or coasters, nominally the property of private merchants, but really belonging to the Russian Government—any number of steamers of this sort might have been built at Odessa, Taganrog, and the various other ports of the Black Sea and Sea of Azoff, to be brought whenever they were wanted to Sebastopol, and their guns and crews put on board. The facilities for evading such a treaty are obvious, and, from the nature of the Government, would be far greater for Russia than any other Power, since she possesses peculiar facilities for concealing her measures. It is true you proposed to stipulate also for the power of appointing consuls at the Russian ports in the Black Sea, but might not these consuls have been so surrounded by police as to be completely cut off from all means of obtaining information of what was going on in the very ports whore they were stationed? Even if you succeeded in obtaining information convincing to your own mind, that Russia was violating the stipulations you had imposed upon her, how could you obtain proof of the fact which would enable you to obtain redress? Treaties, you must remember, can only be enforced by arms; and you can hardly doubt that Russia might violate such a promise as this, and that you might have the clearest moral certainty that she was doing so, without your being able to establish the fact in such a manner, as to enable you to make out a casus belli which would satisfy the world. My Lords, it appears to me that the precedent, not very happily quoted by the British Plenipotentiary, of the article of the Treaty of Utrecht, by which France was obliged to destroy the port and fortifications of Dunkirk, is a remarkable example of the inutility of imposing obligations of this kind upon a powerful nation. I am indebted to the historical knowledge of my noble Friend on the cross bench (Earl Stanhope) for the fact of which he has reminded me, that, in spite of the agreement that it should be destroyed, Dunkirk was in a state which allowed an expedition against this country to be fitted out there in the year 1744, and, in the appendix to the last volume of his History, he has published a curious letter, showing that this article of the treaty of Utrecht, and the presence of a British commissary at Dunkirk to watch over its fulfilment, was a constant source of irritation to France. Nor was it fulfilled in spite of the presence of a commissary. 1107 When objections were made in this House in the year 1783, to the peace then concluded, for not renewing this article of the peace of Utrecht, Lord Shelburne replied, that if he had been wrong in giving up this article, all preceding ministers had been wrong in neglecting to enforce it. My Lords, had the stipulation asked for by the allies been agreed to, would have proved, like that relating to Dunkirk, a source of irritation to the State on which it was imposed, and useless to those that insisted upon it.
But while it would have been useless to the allies, it was open to just objection on the part of Russia. In the first place, she said that it was an insult to an independent nation, to be required thus to bind her hands with respect to the measures she might think fit to take in her own dominions. It appears to me that this is reasonable objection, and I can call your Lordships' attention to high authority in favour of this opinion. In the year 1813, when the Emperor Napoleon was driven almost to extremity, (after his disastrous retreat from Moscow and loss of the battle of Leipsic, nearly the whole of Europe being united against him in arms,) and was treating for peace, the negotiation was conducted on the part of this country by my noble Friend (Lord Aberdeen), whose absence, as well as the indisposition by which it is occasioned, I greatly regret. At this time, though the difficulties of the French Emperor were so great, it was still proposed that he should retain what were called the natural limits of his empire. This raised the question, whether Antwerp should be included in his dominions; and upon this question, there is a remarkable letter to my noble Friend in the correspondence of Lord Castlereagh which has been lately published. In this letter, which is dated November 13, 1813, Lord Castlereagh, speaking of Antwerp, says, that—To leave it in the hands of France is little short of imposing upon Great Britain the charge of a perpetual war establishment.And returning to the subject in a postcript to the same letter, he adds—The line of the Waal would reduce Holland to nothing, strip it of all its best defences, and leave Antwerp in the enemy's hands. You must, my dear Aberdeen, use all your influence with Metternich, to deliver us from this annoyance. We do not wish to impose any dishonourable condition upon France, which, limiting the number of her ships would be, but she must not be left in possession of this point.1108 Thus, your Lordships will perceive that Lord Castlereagh (no mean judge) was of opinion, that to ask a Sovereign State to limit by treaty the amount of naval force she should be at liberty to keep up, would be to require from her what was so dishonourable, that it it was easier to demand from France the surrender of Antwerp, after all the vast sums that had been expended on its dockyards and arsenal, than to call upon her to limit the number of her ships of war. I think that the fact of such an opinion having been expressed by so high an authority as Lord Castlereagh, forty years before the present question arose, is a clear proof that it is not unnatural for Russia to regard the stipulation required from her, as one to which it would be a degradation to submit; and the more so, because it is obvious, as I have already shown, that there can be no reason whatever for demanding it, except your belief, that Russia's good faith is not to be relied upon, and that she will not observe the solemn engagements she has agreed to make. Therefore, in asking Russia to consent to a treaty containing this provision, you asked her to direct her Ambassador to sign an acknowledgment of her own want of faith.
Russia also said, and I think, with truth, that her naval force may, at some future period, be required for defence, and even for the defence of Turkey against one of her present allies. When this is treated as an idle pretence, I cannot forget that the differences which led to this unhappy war began with threats of the employment of a French fleet to coerce Turkey into making concessions which could not justly be required of her; and that to encourage Turkey to resist these threats was the first object of the warlike preparations of Russia. Nor ought it to be forgotten, that while the demand made upon Russia professed to follow the precedent of the treaty between this country and the United States, respecting the maintenance of a naval force on the great American lakes, and to impose a similar limitation of force on Turkey to that to which Russia was called upon to agree, the proposed arrangement was in reality altogether unlike the precedent quoted for it, and would have been very unequal in its operation on the two empires. The arrangement between this country and the United States, for limiting the amount of naval force which either nation should be at liberty to maintain on the great American lakes, was not imposed 1109 by one of these nations on the other as a condition of peace. It did not even form part of the treaty of peace, but was adopted for mutual convenience, by a separate treaty in April, 1817, more than two years after peace had been concluded. It contained also a provision, that either party should at any time be at liberty to put an end to the agreement on giving six months notice to the other, and, above all, it bore equally on both parties, since it was impossible for this country to bring up ships of war through the St. Lawrence into the lakes, and it could only increase its naval force there by building them on the spot. In all these respects, the arrangement you sought to impose upon Russia was as unlike as possible to the precedent quoted for it, and especially so as regards the inequality of its operation. Turkey, it is true, was to be nominally bound to keep her naval force in the Black Sea within the same limits as Russia, but I cannot find that any restriction whatever was to be placed on her force in the Archipelago, or even in the Sea of Marmora, so that she might have as many ships as she pleased in a place from whence they might at any time be brought in a few hours into the Black Sea, which, with the assent of Turkey, would have been equally accessible to the fleets of the allies. There was, therefore, no real reciprocity in the proposal, but a demand was made upon Russia, without any corresponding concession being offered to her.
There would be no difficulty in pointing out other objections to the stipulations required from Russia; but I abstain from taking up your Lordships' time by doing so, it is sufficient to have shown that she had grounds which were by no means unreasonable for her refusal, while there would have been no real advantage to the allies in obtaining what they asked. This I would submit to your Lordships that I have established, and if so, it surely follows that Her Majesty's Ministers have grievously erred, in throwing away the prospect of putting an end to the calamities of war, for the sake of a demand of such a character; they are, I think, the more to blame for having obstinately insisted upon it, and for having thereby, as it appears, closed the door for the present, to any further negotiations, because, unless the public are greatly misinformed, still larger concessions might have been obtained from Russia than those which are described as having been offered by her in the papers laid before us. Though 1110 these papers contain no account of any proceedings subsequent to the conferences of the 20th of April, it has been stated by Her Majesty's Ministers, that some further proposals have been made (verbally at least, if not formally and in writing) by Austria, to which there is reason to believe that the assent of Russia would not have been refused, if that of the allies had been given. Now, my Lords, with regard to this plan of accommodation, whatever it may have been, some remarkable facts have been made known, by two articles which have appeared in the Independence Belge. From these articles we learn that this plan of accommodation was considered so reasonable by M. Drouyn de Lhuys, that rather than be a party to rejecting it he resigned the high office of Minister for Foreign Affairs, which he held under the Emperor of the French. When I remember that M. Drouyn de Lhuys was not satisfied with what the Russian Plenipotentiaries offered in the conferences, and how little real difference there was in the terms proposed by the two parties even then, it appears to me quite impossible that a new offer going further than Russia had previously done in concession—which so distinguished a statesman as M. Drouyn de Lhuys thought ought to have been accepted—I cannot, I say, believe that an offer of this sort ought to have been peremptorily refused at the cost of continuing all the horrors of war. But there is something still more important; in the newspaper I have already mentioned, the Independence Belge, there is a letter from Paris in which the writer, after stating that the Emperor of the French had differed from M, Drouyn de Lhuys as to the proposal in question, proceeds to say—I have not yet received any information to make me sufficiently acquainted with the conditions and terms of the Austrian proposition; but it is certain the English Government decided on rejecting it. The Emperor therefore had the same motives for refusing it—that is to say that it did not offer such a peace as would give sufficient guarantees to the Powers which had made so many sacrifices to defend and secure European right. His Majesty had, moreover, a desire to maintain in all its integrity and force the alliance with England, and the feeling of that Government on the question being already known had beyond any doubt a certain weight with him.My Lords, this is a remarkable statement, but it derives its chief importance from the fact, that the letter containing it, was copied without comment or contradiction into the Moniteur. The insertion of 1111 such an article without contradiction in the Moniteur, though only in the non-official part of it—is to me a proof, only less conclusive than an official declaration to the same effect, that the Emperor of the French would not unwillingly have consented to the proposal, whatever it may have been, had the views of the British Government been equally pacific, so that the real responsibility for the continuance of the war rests upon Her Majesty's Ministers.
My Lords, I have endeavoured to show you that the point they insisted upon was one of too little real value to the allies, and that the difference between their demands and the concessions offered by Russia was much too slight to justify the course taken by the Government in breaking off the negotiations; but I am aware that it may be the opinion of some of your Lordships, that even if I should have succeeded in establishing this conclusion, it would not follow that I had made out the principal part of the proposition I intended to submit to you. There are, I fear, some who think that it is true, indeed, that the proposed limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea would have been worth little or nothing, but that it is not thence to be inferred that peace might have been made, because Her Majesty's Government had already gone much too far in offering such terms as they did, to the acceptance of Russia. These terms have been condemned in unmeasured language, as humiliating and disgraceful to the country, and it has been loudly asserted, that we ought not to lay down oar arms without having obtained complete security for the future, and without having effectually guarded against the resumption of Russian schemes of aggression against Turkey. This language has been held by many persons out of doors, but I should hope it will not be adopted by any of your Lordships, though I confess I have been a little alarmed by some things I have heard even within these walls. My Lords, it seems to me that those who entertain such views ought to descend from the region of vague generalties, and explain what they really mean. What is it we are to contend for, and what is the security we are to obtain from Russia, before we consent to relieve the world from all the evils of war? I have in vain endeavoured to obtain any clear answer to these questions. The only approach I can find to an explanation of what is meant by the language I have adverted to, is the 1112 declaration, that since it is unsafe to rely upon England and France being always able to act as cordially together as they do now in defence of Turkey, some means ought to be found for guarding her against the danger to which she would be exposed if deprived of such powerful protection. But if this is the security that is desired, I would ask how it is to be obtained by continuing the war? You have already rescued Turkey from all external dangers; those by which she is now threatened, and which no doubt will prove fatal to her before very many years pass away, arise only from her false religion, the barbarism of her people, and the inveterate corruption of her government. To prolong the war, far from diminishing these her real dangers, will only tend to aggravate them; already it has greatly hastened that rapid decline with which she is afflicted, and consumed no small part of her remaining resources.
Are we then, because Turkey is hopelessly weak, to continue the war until we have reduced Russia to a similar state of weakness? Are we to make the breaking up of the Russian empire the object of our efforts, and are we to endeavour to accomplish it, by undertaking the cause of what are called, in the jargon of the day, "the oppressed nationalities?" If this is to be the future object of the war, with what allies is it to be carried on? From Austria, the mistress of Italy (I might, I believe, add Hungary and more than one of her other provinces) over which her dominion certainly does not rest upon the affections of her subjects, you certainly cannot look for assistance—nay, you can hardly, in such a contest, expect even neutrality, either from her, or from Prussia, and I know not where in Europe you are to expect to find allies, except in the revolutionists of 1848. I Will you, with that party for allies, enter upon a war in favour of the "oppressed nationalities," and at the same time on behalf of Turkey? Turkey, the ruthless oppressor of a large Christian population; Turkey, under whose barbarous and ignorant despotism, commerce and industry languish, and poverty and wretchedness cover the most fruitful region of the East. Turkey, under whose grinding tyranny millions of our fellow-Christians are groaning and writhing, with such impatience that even the sight of the overwhelming power of England and of France arrayed in support of their oppressors, has not been able to restrain them since this war began, from 1113 frantic and convulsive efforts to throw off the yoke, and can at this moment scarcely prevent the renewal of their struggle for freedom? Can any man seriously wish that in a war undertaken in defence of Turkey, you should appeal to the "oppressed nationalities," and take the revolutionists of Europe for your allies? My Lords, I entertain the most perfect confidence that there is no one of your Lordships who would be prepared to enter into a war, so insane in its character, and of which the consequences must be so frightful. Such a war, once begun, would kindle a flame, that would in all probability extend from end to end of Europe, and like the war of the French revolution, might again, for a quarter of a century, cover the continent with blood and ashes.
But I am aware, my Lords, that there are some persons, and I greatly fear some of your Lordships, who, though they would shrink from such a war as I have attempted to describe, yet contend that we ought not to lay down our arms till we have effected a great reduction of the power of Russia. But how is this to be accomplished? I do not know of any other mode by which you can reduce the power of a great empire, except by imposing upon her a considerable sacrifice of territory. But if this is to be our object, the character of the war will be entirely altered; we were assured at its commencement that it was strictly defensive; it will become one of simple aggression, the moment you determine that it is to be continued, until you can wrest from Russia such a portion of her present dominions, as seriously to diminish her power. I say, it will become a war of simple aggression, for though you may attempt to throw over it the thin disguise of being intended to protect you from future danger, this will not alter its real nature. To justify war, the dangers which it is meant to avert must be immediate and apparent, not re-remote and doubtful; but it is idle to talk of our being threatened by any immediate and apparent danger, unless we can reduce the power of Russia; and to represent a war for the diminution of her territories as a defensive war, would be merely to use one of those flimsy pretences, for which ambition and the love of war are never at a loss to cover the iniquitous acts they suggest.
Remember also, that if the war is to be carried on with this object, its termination must be almost indefinitely remote, neither 1114 the Government nor the people of Russia would submit till the last extremity, to a peace imposing such conditions, as we are told by some persons that we ought to insist upon. Even if we should ultimately succeed in compelling her to accept a peace of that sort, we may find ourselves greatly mistaken, as to the advantage that will result from it. You could hardly expect it to be durable, since Russia would be little likely to submit to conditions she felt to be unjust and degrading to her, any longer than till she found a fitting opportunity of getting rid of them. It is also not a little doubtful whether the balance of power would be improved by reducing Russia to a state of weakness, and whether it would be for the real interest of either France or England, that she should cease to be one of the great Powers of the world. My Lords, if we are to continue the war, when we have actually gained all the points in dispute when it broke out, and when we have, within our reach, those farther objects which, in August and December last, we agreed with France and Austria that we ought to obtain—we are bound, at least, to come to a clear understanding as to the ends to which our efforts are now to be directed. But, instead of endeavouring to arrive at such an understanding—instead of laying before us a calm and reasoned explanation of the objects for which we are now to contend, and of the grounds upon which our seeking to obtain these objects by arms is justified, the partisans of the war content themselves with vague declamations, addressed to the passions of the people, and inflammatory appeals to their feelings.
I fear, my Lords, that these appeals have been too successful in rousing in the country an eager desire to persevere in the war, not from a sober conviction that it is necessary for the true interests of the nation, and that it may still be carried on without transgressing the limits of justice, but from a spirit of passionate and unreasoning animosity against Russia. The unmeasured imputations, and the virulent attacks on the conduct and character of the Russian Government and people, and on the late Emperor, which have been poured forth by the press day after day, and week after week, have roused this spirit among our countrymen, and I have observed with deep concern that it has been encouraged by what I am compelled to call the unjustifiable language which has been used by Members of Her Majesty's 1115 Government, and especially by two noble Lords in the other House of Parliament, one of whom is now at the head of the Administration. Lord Palmerston declared that—The Russian Government, by its various agents and by itself, exhausted every modification of untruth, beginning with concealment and equivocation, and ending with assertions of positive falsehood."—[3 Hansard, cxxx. 1033.]Lord John Russell, in speaking of the Government, said—That to its unprincipled and unjust aggression it added what he could not designate as otherwise than fraudulent in the manner in which it pursued its policy.—[3 Hansard, cxxx. 177.]["Hear, hear!" from the Treasury bench.] I regret to perceive that the language I have quoted of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, is endorsed by Members of Her Majesty's Government in this House also. Believing, as I do, that these statements as to the conduct of Russia are coloured and exaggerated, and that they have mainly contributed to raise that feeling in the minds of the people which is at this moment, I am convinced, the principal obstacle to the conclusion of peace, I think it my duty to endeavour to prove to your Lordships that the language I have referred to is not justified by the facts of the case.
I apprehend, my Lords, that when "unprincipled and unjust aggression" is attributed to Russia, this is meant to apply to her demand that Turkey should enter into an engagement to respect the religious rights of those of its subjects who belong to the Greek Church, and should recognise the right of the Emperor of Russia, under the treaty of Kainardji, to watch over the manner in which this engagement was performed. It has been represented that in making this demand Russia endeavoured to usurp an authority over some millions of the subjects of the Sultan, which would virtually supersede his legitimate authority, and be fatal to the independence of the Ottoman Empire. The charge of fraud which is urged against Russia is founded on her supposed concealment of the extent of this claim, till a late period of the negotiations which preceded her rupture with Turkey. Such are the charges against Russia, which I trust my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, will acknowledge that I have stated correctly; it seems to me that nothing is required to prove their injustice 1116 except a reference to a few acknowledged facts in the history of the quarrel. In making this reference I will endeavour to save your Lordships' time by touching only on the most important points, and by abstaining as much as possible from quotations from the voluminous papers on the table; but I hold in my hand extracts from those papers by which I shall be prepared to support, if necessary, every statement I shall make.
Your Lordships are aware that the disputes of the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches, with respect to what are called the Holy Places at Jerusalem, furnished the original cause of the quarrel between the Governments of Turkey and of Russia, which, at last, ended in the war in which we are involved. It is fortunately unnecessary that I should trouble your Lordships with any account of the miserable and paltry subjects of these disputes, which have led to such calamitous results; nothing can be more lamentable than to think that these wretched questions about a silver star, and the key of a church door should have been allowed to become the means of arraying Christian nations against each other for mutual slaughter. But it is most important to remember, that the opinion of Her Majesty's Government has been distinctly recorded, that in these disputes, wretched as they were, Russia and the Greek Church were clearly in the right, since the Sultan, through fear of France, and under the coercion of the French Ambassador, had infringed upon the just claims of the Greek Church, and in doing so, had violated his engagements to the Emperor of Russia, in a manner to which the latter could not be expected to submit, since he could not, as was acknowledged by my noble Friend, the Secretary of State—Without a loss of moral influence throughout his own dominions, yield any of the privileges of the Greek Church to that of the Roman Catholics, of which the Emperor of the French claimed to be the protector."—[Eastern Papers, Part V. p. 23.]It is also acknowledged by Her Majesty's Government, in all the earlier part of the correspondence, that, for a long time, the Emperor of Russia acted with great moderation and forbearance in the dispute thus forced upon him. But having failed to obtain the redress to which he considered himself entitled, he, at length, in the beginning of March, 1853, sent Prince Menchikoff as extraordinary Ambassador 1117 to Constantinople to demand it, in a manner which would make it unlikely that it should be refused. This embassy was supported by the assembling of troops on the Turkish frontier, which was announced to the British Government, with a distinct declaration that this display of force was intended to encourage the Turks not to allow themselves to be overawed by France on the question of the Holy Places, and to show them that the Emperor was determined to enforce a compliance with his just demands. We find this fact recorded in Sir Hamilton Seymour's despatches of the 8th and 13th of January, 1853, and in one from Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunow communicated to Lord John Russell on the 24th of the same month.
Sir Hamilton Seymour to Lord John Russell.
St. Petersburgh, January 8, 1853.
As regards the present crisis, his Excellency expressed the hope and the belief that it would be brought to a conclusion by negotiation, but observed that it was necessary that the diplomacy of Russia should be supported (appuyé) by a demonstration of force. It would be required that the Porte should strictly fulfil its engagements towards the Greek Church and the Emperor; it would further be exacted that a corresponding compensation should be made to the Greek for any new concession made (I believe his Excellency said at the expense of the Emperor's coreligionists) to the Latin Church."—Eastern Papers, Part i. p. 57.
Sir G. Hamilton Seymour to Lord John Russell.
St. Petersburgh, January 13, 1853.
Nevertheless that His Imperial Majesty's rights, secured to him and to the Greek Church, could not be withheld with impunity; but that he was prepared to seek satisfaction through diplomatic means."—P. 59.
Count Nesselrode to Baron Brunow.
St. Petersburgh, January 14, 1853.
The match is too unequal between us and the French Government, if, while the latter moves its squadrons about without opposition in all parts of the Mediterranean, and presents its least demand at the cannon's mouth, we allow the notion of our inability to defend them, and likewise to protect our own interests, indefinitely to take root in the minds of the Turks. The Emperor has, therefore, considered it necessary to adopt in the outset some precautionary measures, in order to support our negotiations, to neutralise the effect of M. Lava-lette's threats, and to guard himself in any contingency which may arise against the attempts of a Government accustomed to act by surprises."— P. 63.
§ Later, on the 20th of April, 1853, we find it stated, that the Emperor himself informed Sir Hamilton Seymour that "he had no intention of being trifled with, and that if the Turks did not yield to reason, they 1118 would have to give way to the approach of danger."
Sir Hamilton Seymour to the Earl of Clarendon.
St. Petersburgh, April 20, 1853.
His Majesty, after observing that according to the accounts just received (those of the 29th ultimo) little or no progress had been made towards an adjustment of difficulties at Constantinople, said, that as yet he had not moved a ship or a battalion; that he had not done so from motives of consideration for the Sultan, and from economical motives; but that he would repeat that he had no intention of being trifled with, and that if the Turks did not yield to reason, they would have to give way to an approach of danger."—Eastern Papers, Part v. p. 24.
§ In this conversation the Emperor referred to general ill-treatment of Christians in all parts of Turkey, as requiring his interference, and this is also very distinctly implied in a memorandum of Count Nes-selrode's enclosed in it.
§ From the first, it was announced [see the despatches already quoted of Sir H. Seymour, of January 8th and 13th, 1853, and of Count Nesselrode of January, 24rth] that Prince Menchikoff's mission had two objects in view—first, to require the Sultan strictly to fulfil his engagements to the Greek Church and to the Emperor; and, secondly, to obtain preparation for the offence of which the Porte had been guilty, together with security for the future.
§ The immediate question of the Holy Places was amicably arranged, as the French Government, in a spirit of moderation and fairness for which it is entitled to great praise, retreated from the ground unadvisedly taken by its diplomatic agents in the first instance, and consented to an equitable adjustment of the claims of the two churches. But, unhappily, this did not avert the mischief which arose from the original error. The Emperor of Russia's claim for reparation for the flagrant offence he had received, in a form to give security for the future against the repetition of any similar offence, still remained to be settled. In order to meet this object, Prince Menchikoff, in the first instance, proposed that the Porte should enter into a treaty with the Emperor, but, finding that this was resisted, after modifying his original demand more than once in order to obviate the objections that were raised, he at length, on the 20th of May, 1853, required, as the least concession he would accept, that the Turkish Minister should sign a note, of which a draft was transmitted to him, and by which he would have 1119 promised to the Greek Church and clergy, in the name of the Sultan, protection and the full enjoyment of all the rights and privileges to which they were entitled ab antiquo, together with an equal participation in the privileges granted to other Christians. The note further contained a promise that no change should be made in the arrangements relating to the Holy Places.
§ The Porte, acting under the advice and influence of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, refused to sign this note. I say, my Lords, acting under the advice and influence of Lord Stratford, for this is a point of great importance, to which I shall have occasion hereafter to return. Upon the refusal of the Porte to comply with his final demand, Prince Menchikoff quitted Constantinople, which led, by a short and easy succession of events, to the occupation of the Principalities and ultimately to the war. My Lords, I am the last man to defend the occupation of the Principalities by Russia. I consider it to have been an act of unjustifiable aggression, by which she put herself in the wrong, having been up to that time, if not entirely in the right in the dispute which had arisen, yet, at all events, very much more so than her adversary.
§ It is the conduct of Russia, up to the time of Prince Menchikoff's withdrawing from Constantinople, which has been so greatly misrepresented; it is painted in colours as inaccurate as they are odious, when Prince Menchikoff's demand is represented as one put forward without any reasonable grounds, and supported only by an overbearing display of force and by fraud. My Lords, it could only have been regarded in this light from losing sight of some of the most important facts in these transactions. In the first place, it is most material to bear in mind, that the question of the Holy Places derived its whole importance from its connection with that rivalry between the Greek and Roman Catholic churches which has existed for a long series of years. No man can suppose that the French Emperor or the Emperor of Russia, would either of them have taken the slightest interest in the questions of the star, and the key, and the right of performing service at certain altars, except from their exciting so strongly the feelings of the members of these churches both in Turkey and elsewhere, in consequence of their ancient and bitter rivalry. France, and the other Catholic powers, supported the claims of the Roman Catholics, 1120 because their own subjects took an interest on this ground in the questions in dispute, and in like manner my noble Friend has acknowledged, in his despatch to which I have already referred, that the Emperor of Russia would have lost moral influence in his own dominions, had he failed to support the Greek Church. From the very first we find it stated, by the Emperor of Russia, that his motive for interfering was to protect the Greek Christians from the encroachments of the Roman Catholics. In Count Nesselrode's despatch of January 14th, [Eastern Papers, Part I. p. 63] he gives as the reason of the indignation of the Greek population at the making over the key of the church at Bethlehem, to the Latins, that this demonstrated their religious supremacy in the East; the very first note presented by Prince Menchikoff to the Porte, [Eastern Papers, Part I. p. 149] also stated in the clearest manner that the object of the Emperor was to protect the members of his own Church from the aggression which the Roman Catholics were constantly making, with the support of the European powers of their own com. munion. The same thing is mentioned in Lord Stratford's [p. 150] despatch of the 16th of April, 1853, as having been again repeated to him by the Russian Ambassador. An equally distinct explanation of the Emperor's intentions was conveyed by his letter [p. 191] sent to the Sultan by Prince Menchikoff which was communicated to the British Government.
As it thus clearly appears that the Emperor of Russia claimed the right of protecting the Greek Church, for the purpose of guarding its members from injustice committed by the Latins, under the protection of the Catholic Powers, and especially of France, it becomes necessary in order to judge how far he meant to push this claim, and what reason he had for doing so, to ascertain what was the extent of protection which France claimed in behalf of the Roman Catholics in Turkey and in what manner this claim affected the Greeks. Now, my Lords, although since these differences have led to such serious results, France has partially withdrawn her former claims, there can be no doubt that up to a very recent period, France insisted upon being recognised as the official protector of the Sultan's Roman Catholic subjects, and what is more, her right to do so, has been admitted by other Powers in a formal diplomatic document. Your Lordships will find in the Russian
memorandum transmitted to Sir H. Seymour, in his despatch of the 17th of June, 1853, a quotation from the protocol of a conference on the affairs of Greece, held on the 3rd of February, 1830, in which it is recorded that the French Plenipotentiary represented to the conference that—
France has for many years been entitled to exercise in favour of the Catholics subject to the Sultan an especial protection.
He is then represented as having proceeded to say, that France will give up this claim, so far as relates to those of the Sultan's former subjects, who were now to become subjects of the new Christian State, in consideration of certain guarantees which Greece should be required to give, and the protocol upon this records, that—
The Plenipotentiaries of Great Britain and Russia appreciated the justice of this demand, and it was decided that the Catholic religion shall enjoy in the new State the free and public exercise of its worship." [P. 296.]
The claim thus formally asserted and recognized has been moreover continually exercised, and exercised, it is most material to remark, to the prejudice of the Greek Church. This has happened repeatedly, but I will quote only a single example, which I select both because it rests on very high authority, and because it illustrates in a striking manner, how it is, that the necessity for Russian interference has arisen out of that of France. My Lords, I hold in my hand a pamphlet which I wish that all your Lordships had read, from its great importance upon this subject. Its title is The war, its Origin and its Consequences. It is written by the Right Rev. Dr. Southgate, a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, who for fourteen years resided in the Turkish dominions as a missionary. In this pamphlet I find Dr. Southgate states that in the year 1841, he was the guest for a few weeks of the Syrian Patriarch in his monastery on the confines of Mesopotamia. The Patriarch informed Dr. Southgate that a large amount of valuable church property had been seized j by certain seceders from his own church, who had joined the Romish communion. The property was an endowment of the Syrian Church, and the titles by which it was held were as clear and strong as any titles to property can be imagined to be. Dr. Southgate undertook upon his return to Constantinople to assist the Syrian bishop, who represented the Patriarch, in urging the claims of the Syrian Church
before the Porte, and what occurred is thus related by Dr. Southgate:—
The documents laid before it (the Porte) were too clear to admit a reasonable doubt, but still it hesitated to accord justice. We were convinced that some hostile influence was in operation. Upon inquiry, it wag found that the French Ambassador was opposed to a settlement, and was using his influence at the Porte to prevent it. I advised the Bishop to protest against this interference of a foreign power in a question which concerned only two parties of the Sultan's subjects. He did so, and the reply was, that France was the acknowledged protector of the Eastern Christians, who owned spiritual allegiance to the Pope, or as the French Ambassador was pleased to express it, 'The Hereditary Protector of the Oriental Catholics.' In this character he had interfered in behalf of the Papal seceders from the Syrian Church. In this character, he was acknowledged by the Porte, through the whole of a controversy which lasted nearly two years: and in this character he finally succeeded, against the plainest dictates of justice and equity, in intimidating the Porte, so far as to prevent it from restoring the property.
§ It was then the encroachments of the Roman Catholics, which led to the claim put forward by Russia to protect the Greek Christians, and among all the extraordinary circumstances of this lamentable war, there is none to my mind more astonishing than that this country, which, only four years ago, was driven almost to frenzy by a very trumpery "Papal aggression," should be now carrying on a bloody war against a nation whose quarrel with Turkey arose from her resistance to a Papal aggression far more serious in its character than that of which we ourselves complained, so that it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that at this moment we are fighting in the cause of his holiness the Pope.
§ Under these circumstances, my Lords, I own I cannot see anything unreasonable in the conduct of Russia, when she asked —not to be placed on an equality with France—not to be recognised as the official protector of the Greek Christians, but simply that the Sultan should promise the Emperor of Russia to treat this class of his subjects with justice, and to respect their rights, so that if this promise were violated, the Emperor would be entitled to remonstrate. It appears to me, that it is contrary to every notion of what is just and reasonable to contend, that while France shall be at liberty to claim a right of protecting the Sultan's subjects of her own religion, and to exercise this right in a manner to work great injustice to the Greek Christians, the Russian Emperor shall not be permitted to claim, in a less 1123 objectionable form, and in a minor degree, a similar right in favour of the latter, who are of the same communion with himself, and with the bulk of his own subjects, who take a deep interest in their welfare. The only difference which has been alleged to exist between the two cases is, that France only interferes in behalf of thousands, while Russia would do so in favour of millions. Surely this is a circumstance that can make no difference in the principle, on which the right of protection is claimed, or in the justice of the demand.
§ The great argument that is relied upon in opposition to the Russian demand, is that the exercise by a foreign power of such a right of interfering between the Sultan and his subjects would be inconsistent with the due maintenance of his authority in his own dominions, and dangerous to his independence. I have no wish to deny that there is considerable force in this argument; I readily admit that no European Government would, for a moment, submit to such an interference between itself and its subjects, as that which Russia wished to exercise in Turkey. But while I make this admission, allow me, at the same time, to remind you, that the Government of Turkey is so detestable, especially to its Christian subjects, that without the interference of the Christian nations to check its tyranny, it would become too great a nuisance to be endured by the civilised world. For this reason, the various European powers—and not the Europeans only, but even so distant a nation as the United States of America— have been compelled, from time to time, to interfere in Turkey, in matters which in any civilised country would be considered questions of purely internal administration, in which no foreign nation would be permitted to meddle.
§ By no country has this interference with the internal administration of Turkey, been carried to the same extent has by England, and I must entreat you to consider what has been your own conduct, before you raise this cry of unprincipled and unprovoked aggression against Russia, because she claimed a right to interfere in favour of the Sultan's subjects of her own religion. My Lords, the British Government has interfered in the internal administration of Turkey, not merely in behalf of those of the Sultan's subjects for whom we might be supposed to have a feeling of sympathy on the score of community of religion, but in matters affecting both Mahometans and 1124 Christians. Your interference has been the chief means (I am not sure France did not assist you) of extorting from the Sultan the promulgation of the famous Tanzimat—a law, which I may observe in passing, I believe to have been most injudiciously forced upon the Turkish Government, as being utterly unsuitable to the state of society prevailing in that empire, so that it has naturally become a dead letter, except in those places where the Turkish authorities are under the immediate eye of some European diplomatist or consul. But this is by no means all; you have actually compelled the Sultan to promulgate laws in direct opposition to the laws of the religion of which he is the chief, and on which his power mainly rests. He has been compelled to enact that Christian evidence shall be received on a footing of equality with that of Moslems; but I believe where there is a considerable Mahomedan population, he has been utterly unable to enforce this law, and I am told that recently at Damascus the attempt to carry it into execution has entirely failed, the Cadi having declared, after great discontent and excitement had been shown by the population, that although he had the Sultan's firman before him, directing him to receive the evidence of Christians and of true believers on the same terms, he had the Koran before him also, which was of still higher authority, and from this he learnt, that in criminal cases the evidence of a Christian could not be received against a Mahomedan at all, and that in civil cases two Christian witnesses were only to be regarded as of equal authority with a single Moslem. The Sultan has also been compelled to repeal the law (which is also a law of his religion) that a Mahomedan convert to Christianity is to be punished with death, though in spite of this repeal, I believe the life of a man brought up as a Mahomedan, who avowed his conversion, when out of the reach of European protection, would be a very short one.
But, my Lords, what is most remarkable of all, is the mode which has been adopted of endeavouring to enforce obedience to those firmans for the alteration of the ancient laws of the Ottoman Empire, which have been extorted from the Turkish Government, by what is called (I suppose in irony) the "moral influence" of the European Powers. My Lords, I hold in my hand a circular, addressed by the British Ambassador, on the 20th of
November last, to Her Majesty's Consuls in Turkey, which has lately been laid upon your table, in answer to an Address moved by myself. I hope your Lordships have read this most remarkable document. It contains instructions to the British Consuls, more utterly inconsistent with the maintenance of the independent authority of the Sultan over his own subjects, than I could have believed it possible could have been issued by any Ambassador. After describing the various laws of what is called internal reform, which have within the last few months "emanated from the Turkish Government," the Ambassador informs the Consuls that—
As Her Majesty's Government have taken a deep interest in the adoption of these measures, they cannot but feel an earnest desire to have them carried seriously and permanently into effect.
The Ambassador then tells the Consuls that to this end their "watchful attention," and "the exercise of their unbiassed influence may be essentially conducive;" and in order that they may fully understand the extent of the interference expected from them, he proceeds to explain that—
The Turkish provincial authorities, on whom, in the first instance, devolves the faithful enforcement of the measures in question, have some traditional prejudices to overcome"—
Such, for instance, I suppose, as a respect for the authority of the Koran—
And many adverse interests to withstand in the execution of their duty. At a distance from the seat of Government, they naturally stand in need of support, admonition, and encouragement; nor in the present most intimate and cordial state of our relations with Turkey, can aids of this kind descend to them from a better source than from you and your colleagues elsewhere, animated, as no doubt you are, by the spirit of that alliance, which holds the two countries together in close co-operative union. I ought, however, to remind you that the most friendly interference in those matters which immediately concern the internal affairs of the empire"—
So your Lordships perceive that there is no disguise as to the Consuls being directed to interfere in the whole internal administration of the Turkish provinces—
Requires to be conducted with prudence, and a just respect for rights of sovereign or of local jurisdiction. Your vigilance may be exercised, your advice may be given, the language of remonstrance even may be used, without transgressing the limits of propriety, and in case of failure your representations to the Government at home, and also to the Embassy here, will afford that prospect of redress which, though more distant, may not on that account be of less certain effect.
§ Now, my Lords, I would ask you to consider what will be the situation of the Turkish Pachas if these instructions to the Consuls are carried into effect, and what real authority or moral influence will be left to them? Every Turkish subject who has a grievance against the local authorities, every man who may be punished for his crimes, however deservedly, but who can make out some plausible tale to prove himself to be the victim of oppression, will appeal to the British Consuls, and these functionaries—not invariably men of the best judgment, and thoroughly conversant with the laws, the character, and the language of the people over whom they are to exercise so much authority—will then proceed to review all the acts of the Sultan's officers in the administration of the provinces committed to their charge, and woe to the Pacha who fails to receive with becoming deference the decisions of the Consul. He will soon find that despatches, describing him as unfit for his office, to the all-powerful Ambassador have led to his recal. Under such a system the respect and obedience of the people will not long be yielded to the servant of their own sovereign, but it will be discovered that real power— unaccompanied by proper responsibility—belongs to the foreign Consul and to the Ambassador under whose authority he acts.
§ My Lords, I am persuaded that it is so impossible that any country should be well governed in this manner, and by such conflicting authorities, that I say deliberately, if you came to the conclusion that the oppression and corruption of the Turkish Government, if unchecked by European interference, would be so intolerable that you could not let the evil take its course, but were obliged to endeavour to arrest it, even by such means as I have described, then it would have been much better that you should have gone a little further, and should have avowedly deposed that Government you could no longer trust with; the internal administration of its own dominions, and should have shared these dominions among the Christian Powers, or made such other provision as might have been found most advisable for their future government.
§ I say this would have been a better and a more honest course than that which you have taken; but, at all events, you must admit that your own measures involve a complete recognition of what I believe to 1127 be the indisputable fact, of the intolerable character of the internal administration of the Turkish provinces, and the oppression of the Christian subjects of the Porte, where they are left without the protection of some foreign power. And, in the face of this recognition, with what decency can you complain of Russia as guilty of a gross abuse of power towards a weaker neighbour, because she insists upon being allowed to exercise in favour of a class of the Sultan's subjects, in whom she takes a legitimate interest, an interference infinitely less violent, infinitely less inconsistent with the independent authority of the Porte, than that which you have yourselves assumed.
My Lords, I maintain, on these grounds, that the conduct of Russia, in making her original demand upon Turkey, does not deserve to be described as "an unprincipled and unjust aggression," still less can it be said that in doing so she was guilty of fraud. It is alleged that in announcing the mission of Prince Menchikoff, the Russian Government repeatedly assured the British Minister at St. Petersburg that it related only to the Holy Places, and that the intention of claiming a general right to protect the Sultan's subjects of the Greek Church was concealed. My Lords, I have already endeavoured to show you, that the question of the Holy Places itself was only considered of importance by Russia, as forming part of a more general question respecting the rights of the Greek Church, and the encroachments of the Roman Catholics; and that from the very first, the Russian Government used language which clearly showed, that in dealing with the minor question that of which it was a part was not to be lost sight of. I will not trouble you by again referring to despatches I have already quoted, but if your Lordships will examine them, you will perceive that the language of the Russian Government was such as I describe, and that not one word was ever used by it which can fairly be understood as limiting to Jerusalem the interference in behalf of the Greek Christians which it announced. But more than this; so far is it from being true that Russia concealed, in the first instance, the claim she put forward under the Treaty of Kainardji, to protect the Greek Church, that I find that so long ago as the 5th of December, 1852, Colonel Rose, then Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople, reported to the noble Earl
opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury), who at that time held the office of Secretary of State, that the Russian Minister in Turkey had formally made this very claim. Very soon afterwards Sir Hamilton Seymour, in his secret despatch of the 22nd of January, gave an account to Lord John Russell of an important conversation he had had with the Emperor himself, whom he describes as having, in the course of it, used this remarkable language—
Well, in that Empire (Turkey), there are several millions of Christians, whose interests I am called upon to watch over, while the right of doing so is secured to me by treaty.
Your Lordships will perceive that the Emperor speaks of several millions of Christians, obviously including all the Sultan's subjects of his own religion. But bow did Lord J. Russell answer this despatch, having at the time before him Colonel Rose's despatch, received only a few weeks before, which reports the formal assertion of the very claim of Russia to exercise this protection of the Greek Church by virtue of the Treaty of Kainardji, which became afterwards the subject of the dispute that led to the war? My Lords, in his answer to Sir H. Seymour, Lord J. Russell, after saying that Her Majesty's Government thought it essential that the Sultan should be advised to treat his Christian subjects with equity, adds these most remarkable words—
The more the Turkish Government adopts the rule of impartial law and equal administration, the less will the Emperor of Russia find it necessary to apply that exceptional protection which His Imperial Majesty has found so burthen-some and inconvenient, though, no doubt, prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty.
The despatch containing this passage Sir H. Seymour was instructed to place in the Emperor's hands; and how, after this, it is possible to contend that Russia fraudulently concealed the extent of the claim, I am unable to conjecture. Surely she might, with far more reason, assert that we not only knew, but recognised the validity of that claim, which we afterwards supported Turkey in resisting, even at the cost of war. There was, I believe, no intentional deception on either side, but a misunderstanding between the two Governments as to their mutual intentions, for which the blame, as it seems to me, rests at least as much with this country as with Russia.
§ But the chief ground on which the charge of fraud against the Russian Government 1129 has been supported, is the alleged endeavour of Prince Menchikoff to conceal the nature of the demands he was pressing upon the Turkish Government from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople. It has been asserted that while Prince Menchikoff was pressing these demands in the most urgent manner upon the Turkish Ministers, he at the same time required from them strict secrecy upon the subject (more especially from the British Embassy), and enforced this injunction by menaces. Reports to this effect were no doubt transmitted to my noble Friend the Secretary of State from the British Embassy at Constantinople, but upon a careful examination of these papers, I think your Lordships will be satisfied that the story is to be traced entirely to that unfortunate spirit of credulity and suspicion, which seems to be infectious among the diplomatists of all nations in Pera, and to make them ever ready to swallow the absurd tales which are continually current in that focus of political gossip and intrigue.
My Lords, at first my noble Friend the Secretary of State justly appreciated the value of the alarming reports transmitted to him from Constantinople; in an admirable despatch which he addressed to Lord Cowley on the 22nd of March, 1853, he gives an account of a conversation he had had with the French Ambassador, on the subject of the panic produced in the French and English embassies at Constantinople, by the arrival of Prince Menchikoff, and the demand which, under the influence of that panic, had been made for the support of the fleets of the two countries. In that conversation my noble Friend says—
I told his Excellency (Count Walewski) that when the intelligence from Constantinople was analysed, and divested of the colouring imparted to it by local excitement, there was but one fact to deal with, namely, that General Menchikoff, in pursuance of the orders of the Emperor of Russia, announced nearly two months ago, had declined to hold official intercourse with Fuad Effendi, because that Minister, in the opinion of His Imperial Majesty, had acted with bad faith to Russia. Fuad Effendi had accordingly resigned; but Prince Menchikoff had not required this, and he had declared that no disrespect was intended to the Sultan by the omission of the customary visit to his Minister."……
…"I ventured to remark to his Excellency, that a policy of suspicion was neither wise nor safe, and often led to hasty determinations.
My Lords, if my noble Friend had continued to discriminate with the same sound judgment between what was ally true in
the accounts transmitted to him from Constantinople, and what was due to "the colouring imparted by local excitement;" —had he scrutinised the despatches of the Ambassador, with the same acumen he applied to those of the Chargé d'Affaires—and had he continued to be on his guard against being led into "a policy of suspicion," which he truly said, is "neither wise nor safe," we should have had no war with Russia, and we never should have been told that Prince Menchikoff had endeavoured to conceal the object of his mission, by threats directed against the Turkish Ministers if they revealed his demands. The only authority for this story is to be found in the untrustworthy, because utterly inconsistent and improbable statements, made by the Turkish ministers to the British diplomatists, and the manner in which it has been allowed to gain credit is so instructive with respect to the spirit in which our diplomacy at Constantinople, has been conducted, that I must venture to trouble your Lordships with some details regarding it. In doing so, let me acknowledge the obligation I owe to a very elaborate analysis of the contents of the voluminous papers on this subject, which has been published by Mr. Macqueen. I take shame to myself, for having failed to detect last year some of the remarkable, facts to be deduced from the despatches to which my attention has been directed by the book of Mr. Macqueen.
§ The first despatch bearing upon the subject which I find, is one from Colonel Rose (who was still acting as the representative of this country in the absence of Lord Stratford), dated the 24th of March, 1853. In this despatch Colonel Rose gives an account of an interview he had with Rifaat Pacha, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he had learned that the Turkish Minister had received his first visit from Prince Menchikoff on the 17th, when the Prince was described as having "confined himself to stating, in general terms, that his object was to settle not to embarrass matters." Rifaat Pacha is reported to have denied, on this occasion, that any "note verbale" had been delivered to him by the Russian Ambassador. In this despatch there is enclosed a report from M. Pisani of conversations with the Grand Vizier and Rifaat Pacha, in which they seem to have made much mystery as to the Russian proposals, speaking of them in vague, but, at the same time, alarming language. M. Pisani informs Colonel 1131 Rose, that "His Highness [the Grand Vizier] requested me to say that so long as he continues to be at the head of the Ministry, you can reckon upon the non-accomplishment of the wishes of Russia; but, if he is dismissed from office, of course he does not know what line of policy might be adopted by his successor." In these words, my Lords, we have a clue to the whole affair. At that moment it suited the Turkish Ministers, in order to maintain their position amidst the intrigues of the Seraglio, to make the British Minister believe that the interests of his country were menaced by some dark designs of Russia, which could only be defeated by their own continuance in office. My Lords, I fear it is not quite peculiar to Turkey, that a Ministry, threatened by formidable rivals, should endeavour to create a belief in the representatives of foreign Powers, that their own retirement from office would be attended with danger.
On the 25th of March (the day after that on which his previous despatch was dated), Colonel Rose writes again, and encloses a memorandum from M. Pisani, giving an account of further conversations which Colonel Rose had held in his presence with the Turkish Ministers. In this memorandum, M. Pisani states that both Rifaat Pacha and the Grand Vizier had now informed Colonel Rose, that Prince Menchikoff had, on the 17th, delivered in a "note verbale," of which they gave the British Minister what purported to be a full summary, though being now in possession of the document itself, we can see that their account of its contents was very far from accurate, but was coloured in a manner to create the alarm which it was successful in exciting. Why the document itself was not shown, or even, as it appears, asked for by the British Minister is not explained, Colonel Rose, indeed, says in his despatch transmitting the above memorandum—
Your Lordship will see that, in spite of Prince Menchikoff's denunciations against the Turkish authorities, should they reveal his secret demands, they, in consideration of the danger which would ensue from a compliance with them, determined to make them known to Her Majesty's Government.
But, my Lords, notwithstanding this statement, it is perfectly clear that the Russian ambassador had no motive whatever for this concealment, since when the "note verbale" reached St. Petersburg, it was shown by Count Nesselrode to Sir H. Seymour, who said, no exception could be
taken to the language of the document, and he only remarked on some ambiguity in one of the concluding paragraphs. It was subsequently communicated to my noble Friend himself, by Baron Brunow. My Lords, when you couple the fact that it thus clearly appears, that Prince Menchikoff could have no motive whatever for concealing this note, while the Turkish Ministers, in abstaining from showing the; document itself, and stating that threats had been used to prevent their disclosing it, gave a coloured and distorted version of its contents, you can hardly doubt, that in this story about threats they were playing on the credulity of the British Minister, and that their true motive for not showing the paper itself was, that they were aware that had they done so, the alarm they were labouring so successfully to create with respect to it, would have been at once; dispelled, and Colonel Rose would have perceived, like Sir H. Seymour, that this "note verbale," of which they made such a bugbear, was a very innocent document.
But something much more remarkable remains to be mentioned with respect to this "note verbale." After it had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government, and I suppose when it was felt that something like ridicule attached to the British Embassy at Constantinople, for having raised such an edifice of alarming reports on so slight a foundation Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in a despatch, dated the 27th of May, from which only a very short extract is given in the papers, says—
I think it my duty to record, that the 'note verbale,' presented to the Porte by Prince Menchikoff on the 4/16 of March, and enclosed with Count Nesselrode's despatch to Baron Brunow on the 9/21 ultimo, was never communicated to this embassy. I have questioned M. Pisani on the subject, and he assures me, that Rifaat Pacha would never be brought to admit its existence. That Minister was probably restrained from disclosing it by the Russian ambassador's threatening language.
Observe, my Lords, M. Pisani is here said by Lord Stratford, on the 27th of May, to have assured him, that Rifaat Pacha could never be brought to admit the existence of the note in question, yet just two months before, on the 25th of March, Colonel Rose had transmitted a memorandum, bearing the signature of M. Pisani himself, in which it is stated that Rifaat Pacha had not only admitted the existence of that note, but had given a full summary of its contents, which M. Pisani reports from the lips of the Turkish Minister.
§ My Lords, you must at once perceive that, if M. Pisani gave the assurance which Lord Stratford reports, and which, of course, I do not for a moment doubt that he did, it involves a contradiction of his previous written statement, which most seriously affects the character of an important member of the British legation at Constantinople. It is not a case which can possibly be explained by a fault of memory; the circumstance was one of too much importance to have been forgotten, nor would forgetfulness be any excuse for a mistake of so grave a kind. But the blame goes far higher than M. Pisani. How can Lord Stratford be justified for having made a deliberate statement to Her Majesty's Government, that Rifaat Pacha had concealed the existence of an important state paper, drawing there from the inference, that he had probably been deterred from disclosing it by the threats of the Russian ambassador, not merely without one tittle of evidence to show that any threats had been used, but without having taken the slightest pains to ascertain that; the Turkish had ever made any secret at all (at least for more than a single day) of his having received the note in question?
§ I should have thought, my Lords, that when Lord Stratford resumed his post as Ambassador at Constantinople in the beginning of April 1853, considering the extreme gravity of the circumstances which he found there, his very first duty would, have been to make himself thoroughly; acquainted with what had taken place in his absence, by carefully reading the correspondence of the gentleman, who during that time had acted as Chargé d' Affaires. Had he done so, he would not have failed to remember the important despatch of (Colonel Rose, enclosing the memorandum of M. Pisani, giving an account of the note delivered by the Russian Ambassador to the Turkish Government. But even if Lord Stratford had neglected this essential part of his duty, and was not aware of the existence of that despatch, still I say that he was not entitled to throw out so grave a charge against a Power at that time friendly to us, and with which it was of the highest importance that we should remain on friendly terms, without having first satisfied himself that the concealment he sought to account for by a supposition so injurious to Russia, had really taken place. Had he attempted to do this, and had he looked for five minutes into the archives of his office to see what had 1134 occurred with reference to this well known note of the 16th of March, he would have found M. Pisani's own report to Colonel Rose of Rifaat Pacha's conversation, giving an account of the delivery of this note and of its contents.
§ My Lords, when I find that in one instance a person filling the high and responsible situation of Lord Stratford, has brought forward a grave charge against a friendly power, so lightly (to use the mildest word), I am entitled to receive with the greatest caution, every other statement of the same kind which he makes;—I am entitled to consider him as one of those persons whose reports of the events passing before him are peculiarly liable to be tinged by that "colouring imparted to them by local excitement," against which my noble Friend the Secretary of State was in one instance (but unhappily not in this) so judiciously on his guard. But far from there being any corroborative evidence to support the statement, that threats were used to induce the Turkish Ministers to conceal the demands addressed to them by Prince Menchikoff, we find on the contrary that every circumstance combines to disprove it. The story rests entirely on accounts given by these Ministers of what had passed between themselves and the Ambassador, which, as I have already remarked, are obviously untrustworthy, and it is also utterly irreconcilable with facts as we learn from Lord Stratford's own despatches. From these it appears that immediately after his arrival at Constantinople, he was in possession of the details of the Russian demands, that within a fortnight he was in confidential communication with respect to them with Prince Menchikoff himself, and that the Prince actually read over to him the amended draft of the convention he was then proposing to Turkey.
With these facts before us it is impossible to give credit to the alleged attempt to conceal the proceedings of the Russian Ambassador by threats addressed to the Turkish Ministers; and, therefore, my Lords, I feel myself compelled, with great regret, to say that I think a heavy responsibility rests upon her Majesty's Ministers, for the statement to that effect which they introduced into a document of such solemn and awful importance as Her Majesty's declaration of war against Russia. I say a statement to this effect was introduced into the declaration of war; but as I should be sorry to run the slightest risk of
being guilty of any misrepresentation, I had better read the very words to which I allude. The following, my Lords, is the passage I mean from the declaration of war, which the servants of the Grown advised Her Majesty to make, and which was published in the Gazette:—
But while the Russian Government repeatedly assured the Government of Her Majesty, that the mission of Prince Menchjkoff to Constantinople was exclusively directed to the settlement of the question of the Holy Places at Jerusalem, Prince Menchikoff himself pressed upon the Porte other demands of a far more serious and important character, the nature of which he, in the first instance, endeavoured, as far as possible, to conceal from Her Majesty's Ambassador. And these demands, thus studiously concealed, affected not the privileges of the Greek Church at Jerusalem, but the position of many millions of Turkish subjects in their relations to their Sovereign the Sultan.
§ My Lords, I cannot find that what is here asserted is supported by one particle of trustworthy evidence; and I therefore deeply regret that such a statement should have been put forth to the country on such high authority; I cannot doubt that nothing has more contributed to excite that feeling against Russia, which is now the great obstacle to the conclusion of peace, than that the people should have thus been taught to believe that Russia, in these transactions, had acted with deep and premeditated falsehood. I utterly deny that there is any sufficient ground for this imputation. I am persuaded that the war has been produced, not by a want of good faith on the part of Russia, but, as I have already endeavoured to show you, by a misunderstanding between the two Governments, for which that of England was certainly not the least to blame, and still more, perhaps, by the manner in which the diplomacy of this country has been conducted at Constantinople. I do not see how any man can carefully read the papers, which have been laid before us, without coming to the conclusion, that if at any time between Lord Stratford's arrival at Constantinople and the departure of Prince Menchikoff—a period of four or five weeks—Lord Stratford had, either on his own responsibility, or in consequence of instructions which there was ample time for him to have received from England, stated plainly what was to be the conduct of the British Government on this subject; if there had only been a plain, an unambiguous declaration of the real intentions of Her Majesty's Government to the Russian Ambassador on the one side, and to the 1136 Porte on the other, all danger of war would have been averted.
§ Whether it had been determined to support Turkey in resisting the demands of Russia, or the reverse, mattered comparatively little, provided only you had decided in time on the one course or on the other, and had made your decision known to those whom it concerned. Had you determined not to support Turkey, and had you told her in plain language, that if she thought fit to reject the demands of Russia, she must do so at her own risk, and must not look to you for aid, it is clear that she would have given way at once, and the dispute would have been settled by her concession. If, on the other hand, you had resolved upon the opposite policy, and had made this known to Russia in proper time, that course would equally have prevented a rupture. It is certain that Russia was no less anxious to keep out of a war with England, than Turkey was to avoid entering into one single-handed with Russia. Nothing could more vitally affect the interests of Russia than a war with England, and it is impossible to read the papers with ordinary attention, and resist the conviction that the late Emperor entertained a most sincere and earnest desire to remain on good terms with us, and that he never would have pressed his demands on Turkey (by which in truth he would have gained very little that he did not already in fact possess, if be had had the least suspicion that by doing so he would become involved in a quarrel with this country. If, therefore, you had come to the conclusion that Russia asked more than Turkey could safely grant, and that it would be your duty to support the latter in her resistance, Lord Stratford should in the very beginning have informed Prince Menchikoff, in language which need not have been the less firm for being perfectly friendly in its tone, "Do not press those general claims of the protectorate of Russia over the Greek subjects of the Porte, because if you do, we shall be compelled to support the Sultan in his resistance, and we shall thus become involved in a quarrel with you, which we are most anxious to avoid."
My Lords, if this line had been taken, I am persuaded that Prince Menchikoff would not have pressed his demands in the manner he did. But instead of following this plain and straightforward course, Lord Stratford's whole language and conduct were such as to encourage Prince
Menchikoff in the belief that the British Government would not take up the cause of Turkey if she refused what was required from her. In one despatch we find Lord Stratford saying that in a conversation he had with Prince Menchikoff on his demands, they "both avoided entering into a discussion that might be irritating;" in another he says—
I did not conceal from him (Prince Menchikoff) my knowledge of his ulterior propositions, and my conviction that they would meet with serious opposition from the Porte, and be regarded with little favour by Powers even the most friendly to Russia.
And to the very eve of the Prince's departure from Constantinople not one word seems to have been said by the British Ambassador, which could be construed into a warning of any probability of England's seriously supporting Turkey in her resistance. I must say that this language and conduct on the part of the British Ambassador, coupled with the fact, which must have been known to Prince Menchikoff, that the Secretary of State in a despatch which he had himself ordered to be communicated to the Emperor, had distinctly recognised the Emperor's possession of a right, secured to him by treaty, to protect the Sultan's subjects belonging to the Greek Church, might well create a strong conviction, both on the part of Prince Menchikoff and of his master, that England had no intention of coining forward to support Turkey by arms, in refusing a formal acknowledgment of that right, which the British Government had distinctly admitted Russia to possess. This was the conclusion the Russian Ambassador as well as his Government could hardly avoid being led to by the course which was pursued, and the unhappy consequence; was, that he committed himself more and more deeply to insist upon the claim he had made, till at last he found himself in a position, from which it appeared both to him and to his Imperial master, that he could not recede without sacrificing the dignity of Russia.
But while Russia was thus encouraged to persevere in her demands, by being led to believe that we should not aid Turkey if she refused to comply with them, Turkey was at the very same time encouraged and advised to persist in her denial. My Lords, I say Turkey was encouraged and advised to withhold what was asked from her, for though a formal memorandum, declining to advise the Sultan, was agreed to by the
representatives of the Four Powers, and though there was a pretence of leaving the Porte to act upon its own unbiassed judgment, it was a pretence too shallow to impose upon a child. How was it possible that Turkey could decide according to her own judgment, when Lord Stratford himself has informed us that if Turkey were to be left to herself she would have no choice but to submit? Turkey being thus incapable of resistance, and fully conscious of her weakness, the whole responsibility for her decision rests with those who held out to her the prospect of support if she refused what was asked—that is, mainly with Lord Stratford, for the French Ambassador throughout played only a subordinate part. Lord Stratford's own despatches afford the most conclusive evidence how entirely the decision of the Turkish Government was prompted and encouraged by himself. On the 9th of May he reported that he had had an interview—it does not clearly appear on what day, but as far as I can gather it must have been on the 7th—with three of the Turkish Ministers, on which occasion we learn that Lord Stratford could not "in conscience" advise the acceptance of the Russian demands; that, as he was coming away, the Grand Vizier asked, "whether any reliance could be placed on the eventual approach of Her Majesty's squadron in the Mediterranean, to which a somewhat vague answer was returned, and probably, in consequence of this answer, Lord Stratford adds, that—
On comparing notes the next day with M. de la Cour, I found him under an impression that the Turkish Ministers were disposed to shrink from encountering the consequences of Prince Menchikoff's retirement in displeasure.
It appears, my Lords, that the manifestation of such a feeling alarmed Lord Stratford, for he immediately took the most effectual steps to counteract it. If my calculation is right it must have been on the 8th of May that he became acquainted with this opinion of M. de la Cour, as to the "disposition to shrink" of the Turkish Ministers, and we learn from his despatch of the 10th, that he had a private interview with the Sultan on the 9th, of which a most remarkable account is given. Lord Stratford tells us, he "endeavoured to give the Sultan a just idea of the degree of danger to which his empire was exposed," which from the context of the despatch clearly means the danger of acceding to the demands of Russia. Having
thus succeeded in producing a proper effect on the mind of the poor Sultan, so far as alarming him with respect to the consequences of concession, it was necessary to encourage him not to yield to the more immediate terrors of Russian resentment—accordingly this encouragement was given in the manner thus described by the Ambassador—
I concluded," he says, "by apprising His Majesty of what I had reserved for his private ear, in order that his Ministers might take their decision without any bias from without—namely, that in the event of imminent danger, I was instructed to request the commander of Her Majesty's forces in the Mediterranean to hold his squadron in readiness.
Now, my Lords, is it not rather too great an experiment on the gravity of those whom he addressed—would it not be inexpressibly ludicrous, if it had not led to such tragical results, for Lord Stratford after this to talk of leaving the Turkish Ministers to "take their decision without any bias from without?" What does such language mean when he has himself told us of the utter helplessness of Turkey if left to herself, and of the "disposition of the Ministers to shrink" from encountering the consequences of Prince Menchikoff's displeasure, which no mere hints that the British fleet would come to their assistance could remove, so that he was at last obliged, in order to screw the courage of the Turks to the sticking place, to tell the Sultan in plain language that he had authority to summon the squadron for his protection, while he explained to him the dangers of the Russian proposals?
§ But, my Lords, I ask you, if the decision of the Turks was to be really prompted and encouraged by the British Ambassador, would it not have been more fitting the character of a great nation like this, to have openly assumed that responsibility which could not in fact be declined? If we had avowedly taken the responsibility for the Turkish decision, we should have been entitled to exercise an authority as to what that decision was to be, which would in all human probability have averted the war. We should have had a right to say to the Turks—"We know you cannot resist Russia by yourselves, but we will only give you our aid on condition that you will abide by our advice as to the concessions to which you will agree in order to avert a rupture." We should also have been enabled to go to Russia, and in the same spirit of straightforward and open 1140 dealing to have said to her—"You ask for more than we think Turkey can grant, and if you press these demands we shall find it necessary to support her in resisting them; but we are ready to enter fairly with you into an examination of how far Turkey ought to go in meeting your wishes, and if we can come to an understanding with you on the subject, we will then tell her plainly, that she must accept the terms so arranged, or resist them at her own peril." I am very far, my Lords, from imputing to Lord Stratford a desire to bring about the war; it would be difficult for me to believe any man capable of such wickedness; I have not the slightest doubt of the very earnest desire of Her Majesty's then Government to avert this great calamity, and yet I say that if the object in view had been to render war inevitable, it would have been impossible for human ingenuity to have devised a line of conduct better fitted to accomplish this purpose than that which was actually pursued. The adoption of so mistaken and so fatal a course may, I think, be accounted for, partly by that fear of responsibility which too often exercises a prejudicial influence on public affairs, and which seems in this case to have prevented Her Majesty's Ministers from adopting and steadily pursuing a sufficiently decided policy either of one kind or another; partly to that "local excitement" which appears to have blinded our Ambassador at Constantinople. Unfortunately, the Government at home either failed to detect this in his case, with the same wise discrimination they had shown in that of the gentleman who discharged his duties during his temporary absence, or if they did detect it, they wanted firmness to apply the proper remedy to the evil, by recalling him from his post.
§ My Lords, I have trespassed on your time far longer than I could have wished, but I have thought it necessary to enter into an examination of the transactions to which I have referred, and into details which I am aware must have been tedious, because although it is too late to correct the fatal error committed in the early stages of these proceedings, it is not too late, for your Lordships, and for the nation, seriously to consider the circumstances in which the war originated, in order to remove the undue prejudice which has been created against our enemy, and to moderate the passions which have been improperly excited against him by misrepresentation. 1141 I wish the country to see that it is by no means true that we have been so clearly and entirely in the right in this unhappy quarrel, or Russia so completely in the wrong as we have been in the habit of confidently (may I not say presumptuously?) assuming.
§ My Lords, it becomes nations not less than individuals, to show a spirit of fairness and moderation in the controversies in which they may be engaged, to be ready to believe that their adversaries are not always necessarily to blame, but that it is possible they may themselves sometimes be mistaken. In private life, wise men distrust their own judgment in quarrels in which they are themselves concerned—they know how difficult it is to prevent it from being warped by passion, and they endeavour to correct that tendency, by inquiring what is the opinion formed by judicious and impartial men on their own conduct, and that of their opponents. My Lords, it is not less the wisdom and the duty of nations to pursue a similar course; and I would earnestly entreat my countrymen, who have allowed themselves to be worked up into such a heat of passion against Russia, to inquire in what light this unhappy war, and the disputes which led to it, are viewed by disinterested spectators! If they will do so, they will not find that we are so uniformly considered to have been in the right as they suppose. I have already, my Lords, quoted a pamphlet on the origin of the war by Bishop Southgate, a prelate, whose judgment is entitled to the greatest weight, as well from his high character, and the position he occupies in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, as from his intimate knowledge of Turkey, and of the religious questions which brought on the quarrel, in consequence of his long experience as a missionary. My Lords, Bishop Southgate, writing just before the war began, and while there was still a possibility that it might be averted, gives it as his deliberate opinion, that this country had been greatly misled, and that the demands of Russia upon Turkey were reasonable and just. This opinion ought to make the more impression upon us, because, far from being delivered in a spirit of hostility to this country, it is written in a tone of even affectionate anxiety, that we should not put ourselves in the wrong, and that the banner of England should not be displayed in support of an unjust cause.1142
§ Bishop Southgate thinks that Russia was in the right in the whole controversy, even to the breaking out of the war. In this opinion, though I receive it with the most respectful attention, I cannot agree—perhaps I may be biassed by my desire to think my own country in the right, (for though, perhaps, your Lordships may not believe it, this is a desire I very strongly feel)—but I so far concur with him, as to think, that up to the time of Prince Menchikoff's departure from Constantinople, Russia was in the right, and England greatly to blame for the course she pursued; from that time I think Russia put herself in the wrong, and that the occupation of the Principalities was an act of violence and injustice. But admitting Russia to have been then in the wrong, surely the fact that such a man as Bishop Southgate is of a different opinion, must be taken as proving, that she may not have been so wilfully and palpably in the wrong, as we have been in the habit of assuming, and that some allowance ought to be made for her conduct. There have been too many gross faults in our own conduct to give us a right to be very severe in criticising that of Russia. Was it unnatural that errors, and very serious errors, should be committed in the circumstances in which he was placed by such a man as the late Emperor Nicholas, and does he deserve for these errors the unmeasured vituperation of which he has been the object?
§ For my own part, I will not shrink from saying of him, that, with all his faults (and they were many), he was still a great man in whose character there was much to admire. I am persuaded that he was sincere and earnest in his devotion to the welfare of his people. No doubt he was often mistaken as to the means of promoting it, I but he acted to the best of his judgment; the good of his subjects as he understood it, not his selfish gratification, nor any low or mean interest of his own, was the end to which all his exertions were directed, and for which he displayed such untiring energy, and underwent such unremitting labour, in governing the vast empire which Providence had placed under his rule. When I read the touching accounts which have been published of the last illness of the Emperor Nicholas—when I contemplate the spirit of Christian resignation with which he met approaching death, the calm and unaffected fortitude he displayed in that awful season, his thoughtfulness for his people, his family, and his attached 1143 followers, I cannot, I say, consider these things, without utterly disbelieving that a man, capable of so passing through the great and final trial of human nature, could be one whose character deserved to be described in the odious terms which have been applied to the Emperor Nicholas. Whatever were his faults, fraud and falsehood were not among them. He was, I think, overbearing, arbitrary, violent when his will was resisted; and is it wonderful that the man should have become so, who for near thirty years had ruled with unlimited power and almost unchecked success the vast dominions of Russia? Would he not have been something more than human if he had remained entirely proof against the trials and temptations of such a position? But I repeat, that his faults were those of a high and noble, not of a low and mean nature, like falsehood and fraud.
My Lords, I have thought it my duty to submit to you these views, as to the origin of the war and the conduct and character of our enemy, because, if they could gain acceptance with your Lordships and with the public, they could not fail to have some influence in mitigating that bitter spirit of hostility against Russia which has been manifested by our countrymen, and which, as I have already said, now forms, in my opinion, the chief obstacle to the conclusion of peace. Would, my Lords, that my feeble efforts could contribute, even in the slightest degree, to remove that obstacle and to promote the restoration of peace. To wage an unnecessary war, or to continue a war that may have been just because necessary at the outset, for one hour after it has ceased to be so, is the greatest sin which a nation can commit, and every individual member of the community, from the highest to the lowest, shares in that sin and partakes its fearful responsibility, if he fails to exert whatever influence he may possess in order to check, so far as in him lies, the violation of the laws of God, which, to persevere in such a war, involves. It is this feeling which induces me, my Lords, now to move—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty,
To thank Her Majesty for having ordered the Protocols of the recent Negotiations at Vienna, to be laid before us:
To inform Her Majesty that this House deeply deplores the Failure of the Attempt to put an End by these Negotiations to the Calamities of the War in which the Country is now engaged: And,
To express our Opinion that the Proposals of Russia were such as to afford a fair Prospect of concluding a Peace by which all the original Objects of the War might have been gained, and by which Her Majesty and Her Allies might have obtained all the Advantages which can reasonably be demanded from Russia:
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
My Lords, I have listened to my noble Friend with all the respect and attention which his knowledge and ability on this subject demand. His very long and able speech this evening has been characterised with his usual skill and earnestness of manner, and if my noble Friend should have failed in convincing your Lordships of the correctness of his views and the soundness of his reasoning, it will certainly not be on account of any want of conviction on his own part. I think, my Lords, that my noble Friend had no reason, because there was no necessity, to account for his motives for having addressed your Lordships on this subject. None of your Lordships will, I am sure, be disposed to dispute that they were honest and straightforward. I have no doubt that my noble Friend thought that he had a public service to perform; and he has accordingly this night performed that service. But, on the other hand, I may be permitted to say that his motion appears to me to be one the proposal of which cannot be viewed but as a matter of deep regret, and that it is my firm conviction that, neither in its form nor its substance, is it one that ought to be adopted, and that if agreed to by your Lordships, it will be productive of most serious mischiefs. My noble Friend has not succeeded in proving that which he has all along been endeavouring to prove—namely, that the present war is neither a just nor a necessary war. True it is, he has condemned the policy of the war, he has condemned the manner in which the war has been conducted, and he has condemned the negotiations and the manner in which they have been carried on. He has thrown great blame on the Plenipotentiaries of the allied Powers, he has applauded the moderation of the Russian Plenipotentiaries, and has affirmed that the offer which was made by them ought to have been accepted. For three hours and a half my noble Friend proceeded in one unbroken strain of admiration of the spotless policy and the admirable course which had been pursued by the Emperor of Russia; but not a word did he say in favour of Her Majesty's Government. But it should be remembered 1145 that all that the noble Earl has said in regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government applied with equal force to the policy of the Government of France. Nothing has been done or undertaken, I may almost say, nor said nor written, since the commencement of the war, or even before its commencement, by the English Government which has not been in entire concurrence with the Government of France. The speech of my noble Friend, with all the authority of the name which he bears and with all the weight of his own character and position in this country, will be read with delight by all the partisans of Russia throughout Europe; and at the same time, not without regret by those who are allied with us in opposing that Power. I say that my noble Friend has, as far as in him lies, this night rendered signal service to the Emperor of Russia in aiding him in his war with the allies. He has done his utmost to encourage the Emperor of Russia to resist a compliance with those demands which England, France, and Austria consider just, and which it would have been honourable for him to accept; and, as far as in him lies, he would represent us to the world as being in a state of division and of weakness. But, I think, my noble Friend will be disappointed, and all those possible mischiefs which his speech might otherwise have done will be avoided by the result of this night's debate; for I trust your Lordships will this evening show by a large majority that you agree with me in that negative with which I propose to meet the Motion of my noble Friend, and that you will thereby prove to Russia that the opinions you have so often expressed in this House on the justice of the war have undergone no change and are not now wavering.
I will not cavil with my noble Friend as to the somewhat inopportune moment at which he has thought proper to bring on his motion. Not that I object to discussion on the subject of the war. On the contrary, I think it most safe and right that your Lordships should have the earliest opportunity, consistent with the public convenience, of expressing your opinions upon what has taken place. It is not that I expect any particular advantage to arise from those proposals that are at this moment under consideration, and which I have not considered of sufficient importance to ask my noble Friend to postpone his Motion; but it is for those objects 1146 which Her Majesty's Government have quite as much at heart as my noble Friend himself; it is for the interest of peace itself that I deprecate entering into a premature discussion. If we are to be called upon to enter into all the details of negotiations that are pending, to defend all our proceedings as we advance step by step, and to be required to state what are the grounds upon which alone we think peace should be made, I say that your Lordships may find yourselves, and the country may become pledged in a manner which may render all future negotiations still more difficult to be conducted to a satisfactory conclusion; and, as negotiations must necessarily precede peace, you may ultimately find that even peace itself may be rendered more difficult of attainment from such discussions. I think, therefore, it will be satisfactory to your Lordships if I now state that I intend to avail myself of the privilege which the noble Earl in the beginning of his speech conceded to me, and which was not to answer any part of my noble Friend's speech having reference to the Blue-book of last year. My noble Friend has, from all appearance, been studying that Blue-book. He has that advantage over me; for I am not sufficiently accurate in my recollection of its contents even to speak to some of the passages which were brought forward by my noble Friend, although they at the time appeared to me to admit of some explanation. But what I will enter into, and what I think of much more importance to the country, are the deductions which my noble Friend has made from that Blue-book, and by which he has attempted to prove that we are engaged in an unjust and an unnecessary war. To a question of war, as to all questions, there are two sides. The noble Earl has left us to infer that, as we in this war are entirely wrong, so Russia is entirely right. He has defended the demands of Prince Menchikoff, and has even defended Russia in her occupation of the Principalities, although he thought she acted rightly when she left them. Well, my Lords, my noble Friend drew a very affecting picture of the calamities of war, and he subsequently said that war was only to be justified in the very last extremity. I think it may be satisfactory to my noble Friend, and not altogether uninteresting to your Lordships, if I quote an authority, with a view to show that the war in which we are engaged is in strict conformity with the law of 1147 nations. I will quote a passage from one of the clearest writers and ablest expounders of the law of nations—Vattel:—By the law of nations it is laid down as a principle that war is just and lawful which is to avenge or prevent injury."—"When once a State has given proofs of injustice, rapacity, pride, ambition, or any imperious thirst of rule, she becomes an object of suspicion to her neighbours, whose duty it is to stand on their guard against her. They may come upon her when she is at the moment of acquiring a formidable accession of power—may demand securities, and if she hesitates to give them, may prevent her designs by force of arms. Must we delay to avert our ruin until it becomes inevitable? If the appearances are so easily credited, it is the fault of that neighbour who has betrayed his ambition by several indications. Should that formidable Power betray an unjust and ambitious disposition by doing the least injustice to another, all nations may avail themselves of the occasion, and, by joining the injured party, thus form a coalition of strength, in order to humble that ambitious potentate, and disable him from so easily oppressing his neighbours, or keeping them in continual awe and fear—for an injury gives us a right to provide for our future safety by depriving the unjust oppressor of the means of injuring us; and it is lawful, and even praiseworthy, to assist those who are oppressed or unjustly attacked. When a neighbour in midst of a profound peace erects fortresses on our frontiers, equips a fleet, augments his troops, assembles a powerful army, fills his magazines—in a word, when he makes preparations for war, are we allowed to attack him with a view to prevent the danger with which we think ourselves threatened? The answer greatly depends on the manner and character of that neighbour. We must inquire into the reasons of those preparations, and bring him to an explanation. Such is the mode of proceeding in Europe, and if his sincerity be justly suspected, securities may be demanded of him; his refusal in that case would furnish ample indication of sinister designs, and a sufficient reason to justify us in anticipating them.My Lords, I think that those words of Vattel are as applicable to the war we are now waging against Russia as if they had been written last week. But my noble Friend, in his eulogies upon Russia, and upon the forbearance which Russia has shown towards Turkey, has entirely omitted to refer to what has been the constant course of aggressive policy pursued by Russia towards Turkey. I will ask your Lordships' attention to a statement of the acquisitions of territory which Russia has wrung from Turkey since 1774:—In 1774 the fortresses of Kertch and Yenicale, with their districts in the Crimea, Kinburn and its district, the desert between the Bug and the Dnieper, the town and district of Azoff, and the two Kabadins in Circassia, were ceded by Turkey to Russia by treaty. In 1783, the Crimea, the Island of Taman, and Cuban Tartary were annexed to the Russian Empire by a manifesto of the Empress 1148 Catherine. In 1784 Turkey acknowledged, by treaty, the River Cuban as the boundary of Russia. In 1792 the Fortress of Oczakow and the country between the Bug and the Dniester were ceded by Turkey to Russia by treaty. In 1812 a part of Moldavia; the fortresses of Chotchim and Benber, Bessarabia, with Ismail and Kilia; and the left bank of the Pruth, from its entrance into Moldavia, were ceded by Turkey to Russia by treaty. In 1829 a part of the pashalic of Akhalt-zick, and all the littoral of the Black Sea, from the month of the Cuban to Port St. Nicholas, and the islands at the mouths of the Danube, were ceded by Turkey to Russia by treaty. In 1834 the Russian territories, from the port of St. Nicholas to the province of Georgia, were extended by treaty with Turkey.This, then, is the Power which my noble Friend represents as having acted with so much forbearance towards Turkey. We all know, from the papers which have been laid before Paliament, what was the opinion of the late Emperor Nicholas with respect to the state of Turkey. We know that he considered nothing could save the "sick man;" and we also know that Prince Menchikoff's mission was to give the coup de grace to the "sick man," not by violence, as my noble Friend seems to suppose, but by slow poison. There can be no doubt the object of that mission was, by a misinterpretation of the Treaty of Kainardji, to secure another treaty, or an instrument of equally binding force, by which a right of interference between the Sultan and his Christian subjects would be secured to Russia; whereby the Emperor of Russia would obtain virtual sovereignty over 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 of the most enterprising, active, and industrious inhabitants of the Turkish dominions. Then came the seizure of the Principalities, the only step on the part of Russia to which my noble Friend saw reason to object; but since that time we have learnt a great deal of the intentions of Russia, and the means she possessed of giving effect to those intentions. We now know what were the vast military resources of Russia, how stealthily they had been accumulated, and how readily they could be made available. We now know something of the almost incredible amount of warlike stores which had been accumulated in Sebastopol, where Russia had no commerce to protect, and we are also aware of the gigantic fortifications which were contemplated at Bomar-sund. Why, Europe was really standing upon a mine without being aware of it, while the influence of Russia was so skilfully exercised as to paralyze both Governments and people, to render them unconscious 1149 of the danger to which they were exposed, and to diminish their ability to meet that danger. For this state of things every Government in Europe has been partly to blame; for, during the last thirty-five years, an amount of deference has been paid to Russia to which she has no claim, and she has been allowed to interfere, to meddle, and to bribe, in different countries, without check. The encroachments of Russia were unheeded, although her designs had been suspected and denounced; but it was nobody's business to interfere effectually, and no one wished to disturb the general peace until the mine which had been silently and slowly prepared was exploded by the rashness of Prince Menchi koff. Long before this war began, the Russian Government ordered a large increase of their steam fleet, to the number of sixteen or seventeen ships of the largest size. Orders had been given for converting all the Russian men-of-war and ships of the line into screw steamers, and the Russian Government were also actively employed, and had been for a considerablee time before the commencement of the war, in completing a system of railways. It is, I think, no exaggeration to say that the army of Russia—be it 800,000 men or upwards—would thus have been doubled in respect of efficiency by the rapidity with which it could have been removed to any point within or without the Russian territory, and with Constantinople and the Bosphorus in the hands of Russia, what would have been the fate of Europe—to say nothing of the countries bordering on the Black Sea, whether in Asia Minor or Europe, which, with the European provinces of Turkey, must have become as much dependencies of Russia as the Crimea itself? What, I say, would have been the fate of Europe when the Russian fleet was no longer locked up in the Black Sea—when Russia was in full possession of the Sound, and her northern fleets were no longer icebound for six months of the year? Why, all Europe would have fallen into the arms of this colossus. I may remind your Lordships that the very first act of the present Emperor of Russia was to declare his determination to raise Russia to the highest pinnacle of glory and power, and fully to carry out all the plans of Paul, of Catharine, and of Nicholas; and it is no very agreeable reflection that we were nearly on the point of seeing this scheme of universal dominion realised. The policy of Russia has undergone no change. It is now precisely 1150 what it was twenty-five years ago, when it was most eloquently described by a noble Member of your Lordships' House, the father of the noble Earl who has brought forward this Motion, in these words:—Let it be remembered, that the Emperor of Russia only the other day proposed to place him-himself at the head of 800,000 men to give peace to Europe. Peace! What peace? The peace of the grave—the silence of death.That was the language of the late Earl Grey; and I think, if he could this night have heard the speech of my noble Friend, it would have caused him deep and sincere pain. Looking, then, at what were the projects of Russia, I think, if ever there was a war which was just and necessary and unavoidable, it is that in which England and France have now deliberately engaged, and it is all the more just and necessary, because every effort has been made by negotiation to preserve peace and to avoid having recourse to hostilities. Your Lordships will remember that my noble Friend at the head of the late Government, with the full concurrence of his colleagues, was determined to exhaust every effort to secure pence; and I believe it is because such efforts were made that, on the declaration of war Her Majesty's Government received the unanimous support of the country. The country knew that every facility had been afforded to Russia for retracing her steps, and that every means had been adopted to induce her to abandon a policy which was fatal to Turkey and dangerous to Europe. The declared intention of Russia to occupy the Principalities until every demand she had made upon Turkey was satisfied, and the fact was humbly announced by a special ambassador from Constantinople to St. Petersburg, was not merely the only reply England and France could obtain, but was the only answer given to the entreaties and remonstrances of Austria and Prussia. I say, then, that the unbending pride of Russia was the real cause of the war. It was that which made war inevitable, and I say that the people of this country have not repented the course they took. I believe the people of England are as fully sensible of the inestimable blessings of peace, and as anxious to be restored to the enjoyment of those blessings, as my noble Friend who brought forward this subject. I believe there is no man in this country who would advocate war for mere aggrandisement or for military glory for 1151 its own sake; but if there is one thing which more than another characterises the English people, it is a keen sense of national honour, and a stern determination not to submit to anything that can be regarded in the light of national disgrace. I say that the people of England do not repent of this war, and would not tolerate a hollow peace. Nor do I think that there is among the people of this country that want of information with reference to the war which my noble Friend supposes to exist. The papers laid upon the tables of both Houses of Parliament, the debates that have frequently taken place in both Houses, the documents that have been published by foreign Governments, and the very able and persevering manner in which the subject, in all its phases, has been treated by the press, really leave no excuse to any reflecting man not to have formed an opinion upon the causes and objects of the war. To those objects we have steadily adhered. To those objects we mean to adhere. We entertain no intention of reviving extinct nationalities, or of resorting to the measures my noble Friend has shadowed forth. The object of the war was to maintain the independence and integrity of Turkey, and that not alone for the protection of Turkey, but in order to guard Europe against the dangers by which she was threatened by the ambitious designs of Russia. We thought, and we continue to think, that these objects would be secured by annulling all those treaties which have been so often the pretext for new encroachments on the part of Russia; by causing the protectorate of Russia over the Principalities to cease; by removing all the impediments and obstacles which have obstructed the free navigation of the Danube; by connecting Turkey with the system of European equilibrium; by causing the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea to cease; and by preventing Russia from possessing an exclusive right of interference between the Turkish Government and its subjects. I believe, if these bases of negotiation had been honestly accepted and acted upon, they would, as far as possible, have secured the objects we had in view in entering upon this great struggle. My noble Friend dwelt upon their being humiliating to Russia; but, my Lords, Russia accepted them in principle, and they were recommended by the Austrian Plenipotentiary as well as by those of England and France. To my mind, there was 1152 nothing in the principle contrary to the honour of Russia, and nothing in the application of that principle contrary to the dignity of Russia. My noble Friend says, and says truly, that the attainment of all this would offer no security to Turkey. The value of a treaty must always depend upon the spirit in which it is agreed to and the good faith with which it is entered into. No treaty can make a weak Power like Turkey perfectly safe against a powerful neighbour immediately in contact with her, if that neighbour is determined to act the aggressive towards her. That, however, is no reason why you should not make the securities you accept as effectual as possible. My Lords, I will take the defence of Sebastopol, which, I am willing to admit, reflects high honour on the arms of Russia. The stores accumulated there could only have been accumulated for purposes of aggression; and the manner in which Russia, without being enabled to bring a single man or a single gun by sea, has relied solely on the defences of the place to defend Sebastopol for many months, shows the danger to which Turkey was exposed, and the menacing position which Russia had taken up. Everywhere throughout Russia, from Archangel to Sebastopol, from Bomarsund to Petropaulovski, in Kamtschatka, there were the same means of defence, the same proof that Russia was aware that by the line of policy she was pursuing, she would sooner or later excite the arms and the united efforts of all Europe against her. Therefore, my Lords, we were justified in seeking to limit the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. All we desired was to make such a limitation of the forces of Russia as would be consistent with the safety of Turkey, and afford no danger to the liberties of Europe. We meant nothing more; and I must say, when my noble Friend criticises the comparison made by my noble Friend Lord John Russell with respect to Dunkirk, and admires the answer given by Prince Gort-chakoff, that that was at the end of a disastrous campaign, which is not the case in the present instance—that my noble Friend ought to bear in mind that the preponderance which we wish to limit effectually does not really exist in the Black Sea at the present moment. In that sea, where, two years ago, Russia told us it would be a casus belli if a French or English ship entered it, the flag of Russia has entirely disappeared, and has been swept from those waters. Surely, then, before England 1153 and France consent to withdraw their fleets from the Black Sea they ought to require some guarantee from Russia, not humiliating or degrading, but simply to secure the independence of Turkey. But, my Lords, Russia says she will not submit to this; that she will not permit any interference between what she considers her own Sovereignty and her own dominions; and she defends her right to accumulate, and even to develope, every means of aggression. Now, that is a principle quite untenable, because it would be no degradation to a Power to reduce her armaments if she were desirous of restoring confidence and not of justifying suspicion. My noble Friend alludes to the difficulties that the Russian fleet would have—adopting Prince Gortchakoff's words—in taking Constantinople. Prince Gortchakoff says it would take a fortnight to transport 16,000 men from Sebastopol to Constantinople; but if these 16,000 men, or a larger number, were embarked on board the Russian fleet secretly within the walls of Sebastopol in comparatively a few hours, they might be conveyed to Constantinople, and a fatal blow might be given to the existence of the Ottoman Empire. The arrival suddenly of such a force without any declaration of war would produce disastrous effects, even upon a well-organised community—but, in Turkey, by appealing at the same time to the religious sympathies of the most disaffected portion of her subjects, a blow would be inflicted upon the Ottoman Empire from which it never could recover. It is said that Russia requires her fleet in the Black Sea for her own protection. Now, Russia can never seriously pretend that any danger can threaten her in a sea which the maritime Powers would have no object in entering, from which they would be excluded by; treaty, and where, if they had any motive in entering it, events have shown that the Russian fleet would be powerless to protect the commerce of those waters. But Russia proposes that the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus should be opened indiscriminately to all Powers, and that her fleet should have the means of entering the Mediterranean and of disturbing the Greek inhabitants of the Turkish islands. She further proposes—and this is what my noble Friend considers an ample safeguard for Turkey—that the Porte should relieve itself from the obligation of the treaty of 1841, and be enabled to call the Allies into the Black Sea whenever 1154 her security may be in danger. But, my Lords, the security of Turkey would always be in danger from such a fleet as Russia proposes to keep up in the Black Sea, and the Allies would never be able to say that the apprehensions of the Porte, when they were called upon, were groundless, or that the call for assistance should be listened to: and the result would be that, in return for all the costly sacrifices which they have made in the war, England and France would indirectly bind themselves by treaty to maintain a large force in the Mediterranean, to be always ready at the call of the Sultan; and they would thus enter themselves into securities for Russia keeping the peace, while Russia would enter into no corresponding securities. England and France would, in fact, constitute themselves the watchmen of Europe, and be required perpetually to keep their fleets upon a war footing. But, supposing it did not suit the Western Powers to have a large fleet in the Mediterranean, in four or five years our fleet would be placed upon a peace establishment, and would not be able to go to the assistance of Turkey; besides which, Russia would be mistress of her own policy, as she would be of her own time, and probably she would not undertake any attack upon Constantinople until she had largely increased her Baltic fleet, and then we should find the necessity of retaining our fleet at home, in order not to expose our own shores to insult. We should never be able, at any rate, to arrive in time to protect Constantinople from a well-organised and preconceived attack. All we should have done by adopting the course so strongly recommended by my noble Friend would have been to impose upon ourselves, at a great cost, the duty and obligation of watching Russia, and we should have entered into a hollow armistice that would not be effectual for any purpose we had in view, instead of having secured peace between the two countries. But Russia still claims her right to be a standing menace to the Porte; she has refused to join the other Powers in guaranteeing the independent existence of Turkey; she will not relieve the apprehensions of Europe with regard to the existence of the Ottoman Empire; and she has no right to say that she has made great and important concessions, when the concessions which she has made have been merely to conciliate Austria and Germany with respect to the Danubian provinces, 1155 and have in no respect fulfilled those duties in regard to European interests which have led to the just and necessary war in which we are now engaged. Russia knows very well that her fleet is useless to her in the Black Sea, except as a menace to Turkey, though to gain her own ends upon the Ottoman Empire that fleet is invaluable. Upon that account it is to the interest of England and France to limit the power of Russia; and if Russia does not intend to act in good faith, she has no right to complain that the maritime Powers have refused to enter into terms for the cessation of hostilities. I have not entered into any pledges, but I have endeavoured to state what are the views of Her Majesty's Government, and to point out what are the objects which they desired to accomplish throughout the negotiations which have taken place. I can only add, that if it be our good fortune to restore to this country the blessings of peace, I trust it will be only such a peace as will meet with the approbation of your Lordships and of the country at large.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, that although he need not tell their Lordships that it was not his mission to appear before them as a defender of the acts and policy of Her Majesty's Government, he considered this question as one so far removed from the region of party politics that he should have come at almost any inconvenience, and from almost any distance, to record his vote against the Address moved by the noble Earl. The noble Earl declared in this Address that the proposals of Russia afforded a fair prospect of concluding a peace "by which all the original objects of the war might have been gained." Now he (the Earl of Malmesbury) did not at all agree with that proposition, for he was of opinion that the original objects of the war were not sufficiently touched upon in the course of the negotiations which had taken place at Vienna. He was sorry to be obliged to oppose the noble Earl, because no man doubted that noble Earl's complete sincerity, and because he (the Earl of Malmesbury) respected the noble Earl's great consistency on this question, inasmuch as for the last year the noble Earl had been earnestly endeavouring to persuade the House not to be alarmed, and not to enter into a war with Russia. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) therefore respected the noble Earl's opinions; but, on the other hand, he was also bound to say that he felt glad 1156 that those opinions were shared by so few of their Lordships, and he hoped that no attempt would be made to force the Motion to a division. The speech of the noble Earl, however, was none the less mischievous because of the sincerity of the noble Earl's convictions; in fact all those qualities for which the noble Earl was justly entitled to credit rendered it but the more dangerous. But it was not the speeches and sentiments of the noble Earl only that were replete with danger to the country, but also the speeches and sentiments of other persons. It was not, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) was aware, decorous to allude to the proceedings of the other House; but he was bound to take notice that he heard no later than the night preceding the same sentiments expressed in another place by a man who was equally looked up to as the noble Earl for his talents—he (the Earl of Malmesbury) would not say equally for his consistency and the sincerity of his convictions—but equally looked up to, and, indeed far surpassing the noble Earl in the accomplishments of eloquence and oratory. If he (the Earl of Malmesbury) might be permitted to speak of the right hon. Gentleman as an abstraction, he would say that no longer ago than the preceding night he dreamt he heard a man, whom all his admirers said was the greatest orator of the day, address an august assembly in a tone and manner, with a force of words, with a colouring of expression, and he might add, with a distortion of facts which were worthy of any Russian Minister, and which would have gained such Minister every cross of St. Andrew that the Russian Government had to bestow. When he (the Earl of Malmesbury) awoke in the morning after this dream, he felt so humiliated, as an Englishman, that he would not believe what he had heard, until he read it in print in the morning newspapers. There he saw word for word the same things he had dreamed—the same distortion of facts—the same anti-English and entirely Russian sentiments; and he thought within himself, as he read those sentiments, which emanated from the breast of a man who, not three months since, had sat in the same Cabinet with his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), that they were well calculated to leave an impression on the mind of any one that the secession of this gentleman from the Cabinet was a great escape for this country. His noble Friend who had just sat down had spoken of Europe 1157 being at this moment, as it were, on a mine. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) certainly thought that England was on a mine not three months ago, when the Government included three such men who now sat in the House of Commons as ex-Ministers, and who represented such sentiments as those which had been expressed by the right hon. Member for the University (Mr. Gladstone) last night. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought it most important that the sentiments entertained by these men, who had been all their lives in office, should be known; and he would call the attention of the House to these sentiments, especially those of the right hon. Gentleman in question. What did that right hon. Gentleman say, when he alluded to what he supposed—erroneously supposed—was the feeling of a large proportion of the people of this country. He said that they desired the war to continue merely for the sake of military honour. The right hon. Gentleman pretended to believe that this was the feeling of the people of England, and speaking on that assumption—an assumption which his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) had justly stated to be entirely erroneous—he affected to speak with deep indignation. He said, don't dismember Russia; don't involve yourselves in territorial enterprise; don't attempt to pick that great empire to pieces, because you can't do it. Don't, on the other hand, trust it—don't rely on treaty stipulations—but do what? Insult her. Offer her indignities; strike her in the face; and having done so, then leave her with all her strength unimpaired to meditate and to watch for an opportunity of revenge. That is the policy of those who say, We don't want to rely upon a question of the terms given and refused; for the difference between them is scarcely perceptible; but what we do want is a military success. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) retorted on the right hon. Gentleman that in that sense Englishmen did not want military success; and he was certain that there was no man in the country so barbarous, so uncivilised, and so unchristian as to require war for such a purpose. Military success was unquestionably wanted by the nation; and military success it should have to teach that barbarous Power its duties to humanity, and her proper place in the European family, before negotiations could be entered on with one of the most obstinate Sovereigns in the world; but he (the Earl of Malmesbury) protested 1158 with all his might against the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the only object of the war was military success, and he believed that there was not a single individual in England who wished war solely for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman afterwards proceeded to defend—who did their Lordships think, and what?—the first steps taken by the late Emperor of Russia, when that potentate made the Treaty of Kainardji an excuse for the invasion of Turkey by the occupation of the Principalities; and though that right hon. Gentleman was a Minister at the time of this transaction, and sat in the same Cabinet with the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), this was his language not quite three months after he had ceased to form part of that Cabinet—It appears to me that he has been very unjustly blamed on that score. It is not to be denied, in my opinion—if plain words can convey a plain meaning—that, however justly you may say that the Treaty of Kainardji is dangerous, there can be no doubt that it really imports what my noble Friend admitted. When two Powers enter into engagements together, and one of them promises by treaty to protect the Christian religion and Christian Churches within its boundaries, it is liable to the other Power for the fulfilment of the engagement.The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say—and he (the Earl of Malmesbury) begged the attention of their Lordships to the fact—It is quite clear that the Treaty of Kainardji is a most dangerous treaty in this particular; for the Emperor of Russia was placed by it in a condition, with some colour, and, perhaps, more than colour, of right, to build on it a claim to intervention in the internal concerns of the Turkish empire."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 1047.]What, however, was the state of the facts with respect to the Treaty of Kainardji? The Treaty of Kainardji was signed in 1774, and all the Empress of Russia obtained from it was the right of intercession for the Greek Christians under Turkish rule. In 1796, twenty-two years after, the Treaty of Akermann gave the Emperor a right of representation under the same circumstances; and by a subsequent treaty the Emperor of Russia asked for a protectorate. The right hon. Gentleman, like the noble Earl (Earl Grey), objected to the negotiation of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), especially as to the demand of that noble Earl for the limitation of Russian naval power in the Euxine. The right hon. Gentleman was a Member of Her Majesty's Government during the 1159 first year of the war; and he (the Earl of Malmesbury) would, therefore, ask permission to refer to the interpretation which his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) put on the third point on the 22nd of July, 1854. These were his words—Her Majesty's Government have no hesitation in stating the guarantees which, in their opinion, and in that of the French Government, are essential to secure the tranquillity of Europe from future disturbances. These guarantees are naturally suggested by the dangers to guard against which they are required. Thus, Russia has taken advantage of the exclusive right which she had acquired, by treaty, to watch over the relations of Wallachia and Moldavia with the suzerain Power, to enter those provinces as if they were part of her own territory. Again, the privileged frontier of Russia in the Black Sea has enabled her to establish in those waters a naval power which, in the absence of any counterbalancing force, is a standing menace to the Ottoman Empire. The uncontrolled possession by Russia of the principal mouth of the Danube has created obstacles to the navigation of that great river which seriously affect the general commerce of Europe. Finally, the stipulations of the treaty of Koutchouk-Kainardji relative to the protection of the Christians have become, by a wrongful interpretation, the principal cause of the present struggle. Upon all these points the status quo ante bellum must undergo important modifications."—[Eastern Papers.]Was the right hon. Gentleman absent from London like so many of his colleagues, in the month of September, when the siege of Sebastopol was undertaken? Was he ignorant of the views of the Cabinet? and if he knew them, entertaining as he did, the opinions he expressed, how came it that he continued to retain his seat in the Cabinet? The right hon. Gentleman subsequently said—The more I have considered the plan of limitation, the more I feel the enormous difficulties of carrying it into anything like real or full effect, the more I despair of the ends at which limitation aims being gained by forcing it upon Russia, and the more I feel the extreme indignity which, if so forced, it inflicts upon her; and there is no policy, I think, which is so false and dangerous as to inflict upon Russia indignity without taking away strength. Let us suppose, for argument's sake, that we had obtained limitation, although at this time appearances here and elsewhere are such as to make it very questionable whether it will be attained; but, if it were, what, what good or what evil should we have accomplished? We should, in the first place, have recorded against the Russian Government, in the face of the Russian people, a standing insult to that Government—a standing deprivation of its own natural powers of defence—the first and most essential powers which belong to a Government as such."—[3 Hansard,cxxxviii. 1060.]
§ LORD LYTTELTON
objected to the noble Earl's referring to a speech made in 1160 the other House of Parliament as contrary to the usage of their Lordships' House.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, he was entirely in the hands of the House, and put his trust in their Lordships' indulgence. He had wished to show, with respect to the limitation, what difference existed between the right hon. Gentleman's opinions now and his acts when in office, and to show how, as Ministers and as statesmen, what an escape the country had had in the secession of the right hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues from power. With respect to the limitation being a humiliation of Russia, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) who began the debate repeated it. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) did not, however, agree with him. The noble Earl seemed to have forgotten that the limitation was proposed to be reciprocal, and that Turkey, as well as the other Powers, agreed to it. If he read the proposition aright it was, that Turkey and Russia should be limited each to four ships of the line and four frigates in the Euxine; and that the other Powers, parties to the treaties, should be limited to two ships of the line and two frigates each in these waters. In reading that proposition the only objection made by Russia was, that the other Powers would pass the quantity of ships assigned to them. Turkey could not be placed in the same category, however, with Russia; though it was true that the present allies of Turkey, in combination with that Power, would, under such an arrangement, have twenty ships of war in the Black Sea, and in making such a proposal it might, perhaps, have been expected that the Government would have given it a semblance of fairness in order to induce Russia to accept it. The Russian Plenipotentiary, however, said he had not sufficient power to accept that treaty. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) did not for a moment regret the non-acceptance of that proposition, and the speech of his noble Friend confirmed him in his views; for, however convinced he was of Russian ambition and of her determination to extend her territory as far as possible, it required the official knowledge and the assurance of his noble Friend, to be able to state, and to prove, that she had a matured plan to enslave a great part of the civilised globe. The noble Earl read a quotation from Vattel, but that quotation went against himself, or, rather, against the course of negotiation that had been adopted; for it said securities should be demanded, and none had 1161 been asked from Russia. It appeared to him (the Earl of Malmesbury), however, that the only plan which would afford security for the future was to make the Black Sea analogous to the American lakes. It was no use closing the Straits, and the only way of coining to a satisfactory solution of the question was by being enabled by a military success to draw the teeth of the combatants, and, either by force or by persuasion, to induce Russia and Turkey to give up all ships of war except a few small ones which might be necessary for purposes of police, while we bound ourselves by treaty not to send any ships of war into the Black Sea, except on conditions to be defined in the treaty. From adopting such a course there would be no humiliation to Russia—no more, indeed, than there would be to France and England if they, being allies, agreed, for political or economical purposes between themselves, to reduce their naval establishments in the Mediterranean. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) could not agree with the noble Earl in his eulogy upon the late Emperor of Russia. That he was a great roan he (the Earl of Malmesbury) did not deny; but that he was also ready to sacrifice any number of human beings to his ambition there could be no doubt. As to the sincerity of the Russian Government, so much eulogised by the noble Earl, it did not appear to him to be a proof of its existence that the Russian representatives at Vienna had no proposal to make with regard to the settlement of the third point. They asked for eighteen days to ascertain what answer they should give. Did that look like sincerity or a desire to bring negotiations to a speedy termination? When a question was put to his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) upon the subject of these negotiations, he understood his noble Friend to reply that he might as well at once avow that they were broken off; whilst, in the other House, on the very next day, the Prime Minister stated that negotiations were still going on. It was, therefore, scarcely possible to ascertain whether negotiations for peace were still going on or not. However that might be, certain it was, that the main propositions of the allies were refused by the Russian Plenipotentiary, and Lord John Russell withdrew from Vienna. He did not think that much interest was felt on that (the Opposition) side of the House as to whether the noble Lord remained or not. Indeed, he thought that it would 1162 I have been a graceful end to that noble Lord's eminent but rather fitful career, if he had spent the last days of his political existence as Her Majesty's Ambassador at Vienna. In that case both the noble Lord himself and Her Majesty's Government would have been infinitely more comfortable than they were likely to be in England, and the Cabinet would, no doubt, not have greatly regretted his absence. If he (the Earl of Malmesbury) were a party man, he did not know that he should regret the noble Lord's return home, because he had always looked upon him as one of those elements which occasioned the spontaneous combustion that ended in the destruction of Governments. It was not for him, therefore, to regret the noble Lord's return and his renouncement of a diplomatic career; but certainly his return was, in the eyes of the whole world, a matter of decided and significant character, and he trusted that the Government were determined to make no propositions that were not at least fully as strong as, if not stronger than, those which the noble Lord proposed, and which were rejected by Russia. No one could feel more than he (the Earl of Malmesbury) did the losses which the army had sustained in the Crimea; but he thought the horrors that had been suffered had been greatly exaggerated by the noble Earl. Now, it was not necessary to represent war as more horrible than it really was; it was stated that 240,000 Russians had been slain in the course of the present conflict. What did that imply with regard to the strength of the Russian army? If 240,000 were dead, there must at least be an equal number hors de combat. In that case there were 500,000 Russians hors de combat; so that the army which was still able to keep the field could not have amounted originally to less than 700,000 or 800,000 men ! For his part, he deprecated all such exaggerated statements. We had entered upon the war after much deliberation, convinced that we were I engaged in a just cause; and it was useless, worse than useless, either to magnify the losses we had sustained, or to represent the enemy as in a worse position than he really was. He was satisfied that we could trust the spirit of the people of this country, which was unchanged, and which was represented most faithfully by their Lordships House. He was satisfied, too, that we could trust our officers and soldiers, whose bravery had never been surpassed since England was England. We 1163 only wanted determination, unity, and vigour on the part of the Government. We wanted men in the Government the very reverse of those who were banished from its ranks three months ago. We wanted men who could answer such speeches as those which had been delivered in the House of Commons last night. [The Marquess of LANSDOWNE made a remark.] He was glad to hear the noble Marquess say that those speeches had been answered to-night, because the country looked with the greatest anxiety to the language which was held by Ministers upon this question, But would Ministers act up to the language; they held to-night for the next six months? He for one had never despaired of the cause in which the country had engaged, whatever he might think of the strategical movements of the campaign. He did not say that mistakes might or might not have been committed. He was not a soldier; but he was an Englishman, and he felt certain that the spirit of our officers and soldiers would be given with unabated ardour to the service of the Crown. He hoped and intreated that their Lordships, if they did divide on this question, would do so with all their strength, because they might depend upon it that if they thus showed their opinion of that party of which, the noble Earl might be the ornament, but which he could never render a strong party, the effect upon Europe would be most important. The manner in which the question had been brought before the House of Commons was so puzzling to persons who were not acquainted with the technicalities and jargon of Parliament that it would be almost impossible, owing to the complicated nature of the divisions, to comprehend what the sense of the House really was; but, he trusted, that it would be understood that if the noble Earl did not divide the House, he refrained from doing so only because he knew that he would stand almost a solitary individual against the whole of their Lordships' House. That was the fact, and he trusted that it would be so understood both by this country and by foreigners. If England were to follow the noble Earl's, advice, and could believe it possible that Russia were right and England wrong, what a position would be ours at this moment ! Why, if we could credit what the noble Earl said, and were now to make a peace upon such terms as Russia had offered, it would give us no security for the future, and in contradiction to that noble Spanish proverb engraved upon Toledo 1164 blades—we should have drawn the sword of England without a cause, and have sheathed it without honour.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, the argument of his noble Friend (Earl Grey) appeared to be intended to convince this country and Europe that after the war was commenced they had been adding constantly to their demands; that while Russia had been exhibiting a conciliatory and candid spirit, they had been exhibiting an arrogant and exacting one. He could conceive no argument more erroneous or more unjust. He did not know whether his noble Friend really meant to convey that impression? [Earl GREY: Certainly not.] He was glad to have elicited that answer; but his noble Friend's speech would convey that impression, and wherever that speech was translated for circulation that impression would be urged by Russia. With regard to the disposition Russia had shown to accept reasonable terms from the allies, he exceedingly regretted the tone of his noble Friend's speech, which was an out-and-out defence of Russian moderation, and as such would have an exceedingly bad effect. Now, he wished to correct some errors of fact into which his noble Friend had fallen. The first document to which the noble Earl referred was the first Vienna protocol, dated the 9th of April. The noble Earl said that the original protocol did not contain any reference to the revision of the treaties of 1841. It was true that there was no specific mention made of the point; but the expressions used respecting the maintenance of the Turkish empire in its integrity and making it a part of the general European balance of power directly pointed to the revision of the treaties. The protocol of the 9th of April contained the foundation of the future proceedings, and the note agreed to on the 8th of August, at Vienna, laid down in distinct terms what were afterwards termed "the Four Points," which, with the interpretation placed upon them, formed the subject of the papers placed upon the table. He much regretted the tone of the noble Earl's speech in reference to the disposition of Russia, and her good faith, in reference to her readiness to accept reasonable propositions. He did not think such a speech would serve the cause of peace; it would only serve the cause of war. Such an out-and-out defence of Russia must produce a bad effect. After war had been declared terms were again offered by Turkey, 1165 through the intervention of the Western Powers, which, if accepted by Russia, would have put an end to the war. Looking back to the transactions the only doubt on his mind was whether, considering the great interests at stake, the allies were justified in advising Turkey to offer such terms. She demanded the evacuation of the Principalities, but she offered to renew the former treaties, and, by a formal declaration to which all the Powers would be parties, to regulate the condition of her Christian subjects. Such an offer was most generous and liberal, and he was surprised that, while the noble Earl could dwell so much upon the mistakes of the English and French Governments, he had not a word of reprehension for the insolent conduct of Russia in reference to this proposal, which placed upon her the whole responsibility of the calamities of war. No written answer was vochsafed, but Count Orloff was sent to Vienna. He declared that the quarrel between Russia and Turkey was one which must be settled between themselves, and that Russia would not submit to any interference of the Western Powers; if Turkey sent a diplomatist to the head-quarters of their army, or to St. Petersburg, they would give her what terms they pleased; and it was generously added that if the Plenipotentiary went to the capital, the representatives of the Western Powers might give him what advice they thought fit. The principle laid down in the imperious message of Count Orloff was one they were bound to resist if they thought they were entitled to interfere at all in the quarrel between Russia and Turkey, and prevent Russia from taking advantage of her superior power. The answer of the Powers was that Count Orloff's proposition was inadmissible, and could not be listened to. Russia took no notice of the protocol of the 9th of April till after the failure of the siege of Silistria. She then sent a message to the effect that she was ready to assent to the protocol—not from any conciliatory spirit, but because of a great military disaster; but even then her agreement was not bonâ fide; she omitted all mention of the most essential article—the revision of the treaties of 1841, with a view to the attaching Turkey more closely to the system of European equilibrium. At the moment Austria was about to join more closely with the Western Powers to compel the evacuation of the Principalities, Russia immediately informed her that she was about to do so, but solely from strategic reasons; 1166 and it was only just to Austria to say that she did not allow that event to influence her conduct towards the allies. After the note of the 8th of August, Count Nessel-rode wrote a scolding note to her for having signed it. It was only after the battle of Inkerman that Russia intimated her acceptance not alone of the protocol of the 9th of April, but of the "Four Points" contained in the note of the 8th of August. In every step Russia had been driven by hard necessity. She made every concession, not from any conciliatory spirit, but from the pressure arising from the hard necessity of war. He reminded the House of these facts, because it was most important to remove the impression that England had advanced her terms. Long before the declaration of war the allies were in possession of the Black Sea, and they, therefore, had a right to lay down conditions in reference to those waters. Since then they had not advanced one step in the conditions they had originally thought necessary for the peace of Europe. It was important that the country should know that by the force of their arms and the effects of their combination, they had extorted very great concessions. The question, however, was whether the concessions made up to the present moment were sufficient, and it should be clearly understood that these concessions were not the result of any conciliatory spirit. A great deal had been said of the principle of limitation; that principle was opposed by three parties; first, Her Majesty's Opposition, who of course opposed anything proposed by Government; next, by the extreme war party, who looked for great changes and a war of nationalities; and, lastly, by the small party that considered any such limitation unjust to Russia. The noble Earl told them that it was an insult to Russia; but they did not propose to limit the whole naval power of Russia. They saw the Euxine was a sea of such a peculiar character that Russia might fairly be asked to give up a fleet which could be of no use for the purposes of defence, and the very existence of which implied purposes of aggression against Turkey. He thought that the practical effects of limitation had been somewhat underrated. Although a large body of troops could be moved by merchant ships and thrown upon the coast of Turkey, an armed force was necessary for their protection, and the knowledge that a strong naval force would speedily be at hand to oppose them would be a great impediment to any such movement. 1167 It had been argued that the limitation which was required implied a distrust in the good faith of Russia; but the advantage of limiting her power in the Black Sea was that in case of future aggressive designs on her part she would have to start from a lower point of preparation, and consequently would give a longer intimation of her intentions. He was himself an earnest supporter of the cause of peace when peace could be obtained not only with honour, but when we had gained the objects for which war was commenced; but he could not agree with the noble Earl that the present offers of Russia held out to France and England those sufficient guarantees which we had a right to expect.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
entertained opinions generally in accordance with those of the noble Earl (Earl Grey), but he felt they were the opinions of a minority in that House, and were unpopular out of doors. Those circumstances, however, rendered it incumbent on those who did agree with the terms of the noble Earl's Motion to give him their support. He did agree with the terms of the Motion, but it was not necessary to agree in all the views expressed by the noble Earl that evening. He did not think it quite fair in the noble Earl the Secretary of State to blame his noble Friend for bringing forward this Motion while the war was pending; for, if that objection were to prevail, it would prevent the discussion of all questions relating to the war so long as it lasted. Those who thought the invasion of the Principalities was a gross infraction of the public law of Europe, and as such justified the commencement of the war, had no such pretext now, as Russia had retired to her own territories, and he thought the present war, besides securing the great objects for which we had commenced it, had given a most valuable lesson to other nations, that the power of a nation for defence was infinitely greater than its power for aggression. After the campain on the Danube he could not imagine any danger to Constantinople. With respect to the chief point in dispute, he considered that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea had been given up by that Power. He could not say that the propositions of Russia were wholly satisfactory, because he thought it utterly impossible to expect satisfactory relations between Turkey and Russia. It was the old story of the iron pot and the earthen one—the weaker vessel must be crushed by the stronger; the 1168 energetic and powerful nation must assert an ascendancy over one that was feeble, decayed, and corrupt. We had here a strong nation by the side of a weak one, between whom perfectly satisfactory relations could not be expected to exist. But the question was the most practicable solution to be found for the difficulty. Agreeing, as he did, with the terms of the Resolution, he should vote with the noble Earl if he divided the House, which, however, he trusted the noble Earl would not do, considering the position in which the tellers would probably be placed.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
said, he held it to be the duty of every man, in whatever station he might be placed, to use all the talents and opportunities God had given him to promote peace upon earth, and more especially were the Members of their Lordships' House bound to use the power given to them in that direction. He felt, also, that the appeal which had been made by the noble Earl ought to meet with some answer from those benches to which he himself belonged before their Lordships proceeded to a division. He could not, for one, vote for the Address which the noble Earl proposed. He could not vote for it, because he did not believe that the adoption of the Address by that House would tend to the promotion of that object which he knew to be so dear to the heart of the noble Earl. If the Address had been of a different character—if, while expressing his regret at the apparently unfavourable termination of the recent conferences, the noble Earl had expressed to Her Majesty his belief that from those conferences there might even yet be drawn that great blessing, peace to the world—he would have felt it his duty to support it. But the Address proposed went much beyond that, and the speech of the noble Earl, in which he appeared to throw the whole blame on England and her ally, and not upon Russia, went still further than the Address. He believed, as doubtless all their Lordships believed, that war was, under certain circumstances, not only absolutely justifiable, but a duty on the part of a nation; or, as it had been expressed by an eminent authority, war was an appeal to the tribunal of God in those cases where there was no superior power on earth which could give a decision thereon. But when a nation was about to enter into a war, it should stop and carefully examine whether the war into which it was entering was for a cause which could be made the subject of an appeal to the tribunal 1169 of God for that decision which no other tribunal could give. He believed that for a war to be justifiable in its origin and in its conduct it must be capable of being resolved into a war of self-defence. It might be that a nation seeing an attack coming upon it forestalled that attack, in order to prevent the evil that otherwise might come. But when a war which had been rightly begun was long continued, another point arose which every Christian nation should carefully examine. They should ask themselves whether they had been led on by the progress of the war to change their views on any essential point which concerned its original justification? Believing that this war in its origin had been just—that it had been undertaken to defend the liberties of Europe against the tyranny of a domineering potentate—believing that it had been undertaken by our Government with a righteous purpose, and most reluctantly, and that the Government had even, through their unwillingness to plunge the nation into the horrors of war, encountered much obloquy, he thought the practical question was, whether we had now reached such a point in the war that we might hope to close it in the spirit of justice and rectitude, as well as with due regard to our national dignity. Agreeing, as he did in much that had been said to night by Members of Her Majesty's Government, he was bound to say that, after the best study he had been able to give to the papers and protocols, he did think that there was an unnecessary strain placed upon the acceptance by Russia of the third of the propositions under discussion, and he did believe that they were in danger of being led on from a just and a righteous into an unrighteous and unjustifiable war. We seemed now to be continuing the war with no precise or settled purpose, but with the notion of obtaining some great and striking military success, such as would draw, as it had been expressed, the teeth of Russia. He thought it desirable that the people of England should fully understand how great had been the success of our arms during the campaign, and how material had been the concessions made by Russia. He believed that from the first Her Majesty's Government had been really anxious to preserve the peace of Europe by any means compatible with the national honour. In February, 1854, Russia demanded that any negotiation for peace should take place, not at Vienna, but at some neutral point—which, with considerable naïveté, was afterwards explained 1170 to be St. Petersburg, or the head-quarters of the Russian army; and, further, that such negotiation should be between Russia and Turkey alone. These points had, however, already been conceded by Russia. The Russian Government further demanded a confirmation of all the old treaties—but they were now content that those treaties should be swept away; and whereas at the commencement of the war Russia required that the protectorate of the Christians in the Turkish empire should be committed to her alone, she was now willing that it should be committed to the great Powers of Europe. He contended, then, that all the main objects for which this country had engaged in war had already been gained. The Principalities had been evacuated; arrangements had been made for a European guarantee to secure their future immunity from Russian invasion; and it was agreed that those treaties should be swept away which had afforded a continual excuse to Russia to interfere in Turkish affairs, and by degrees to annex great Turkish provinces to her own dominions. The question upon which our negotiations had failed was that of limitation, and he thought the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had made a very strong point in quoting a high authority to show that to require any Sovereign State to limit the number of its ships of war was an indignity to which it could not be expected to submit. He (the Bishop of Oxford) thought such a limitation would afford but slight protection to Turkey, because it might very easily be evaded. They all knew that in the great shipbuilding yards of Russia many large vessels might be kept on the stocks in readiness to be launched at any moment. He should regret that any language should be used in that House which would make it difficult for Ministers to carry on these conferences and communications, so that they might endeavour to vary the terms of their requirements to meet the only remaining point, and thus give peace again to Europe. No peace could be lasting or secure with a great nation, which inflicted upon it, even though its humiliation for a time should be ever so complete, terms which it felt to be unworthy of its inherent greatness. It might be said that that was holding Russian language, but it was the language that was held by no less a man than the Duke of Wellington himself at the termination of the last French war. When the question was discussed of obtaining a security for Europe against 1171 the awakening and insatiable ambition of France, he observed that if large cessions were required the operations of war might be considered as only deferred until France should find a suitable opportunity of endeavouring to regain what she had lost. He (the Bishop of Oxford) was far from wishing to see the British nation quit any war in a dishonourable manner, or without the successes merited by its arms; and therefore he regretted the depreciating language which had sometimes been used with regard to the results of the campaign, because it tended to render the attainment of peace more difficult, consistently with the honour of England. There was danger in a great country like England making peace under equivocal circumstances. Much of the power of England, throughout the Continent and in the East, depended upon the prestige of her name, and undoubtedly, as an Englishman, he could not desire to see her quit the war in a manner that would lead to any abatement of her power; but he thought, after the substantial gain which had resulted from the campaign, and after the courage which the British armies had displayed, they might make peace now with perfect safety, if proper guards could be provided against a renewal of the ambitious aggressions of Russia. The courage exhibited by our troops at the Alma and at Inkerman had raised rather than lessened the character of England with respect to the strength of her military array and the might of her soldiery; and he need scarcely remind their Lordships that the Russian navy had been swept from the sea, and if it had not been defeated it was only because it had shrunk from encountering the fleets of the allies. He therefore felt deep regret that language should have been used by any one which might throw difficulties in the way of those who were intrusted with the conduct of delicate negotiations, and might prevent a safe and honourable peace from being secured to Europe. He would remind their Lordships that, great as was our power as a nation, brave as were our soldiers, unequalled as were our fleets, it was only for Him who was higher than the highest to breathe upon us, and our power would fade away beneath that blast. He entertained not the slightest doubt that France and England, so far as mere human might was concerned, could utterly overcome those who were set against them; but, although he entertained such confidence, he knew that there was One who disposed the events of nations as well as the affairs of men; 1172 and he prayed their Lordships to allow no language to pass unrebuked within their walls which would make a just and honourable peace more difficult of England's attainment.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
My Lords, I should not have risen to address your Lordships at all this evening if I thought it likely that it would be left to your Lordships to signify your opinions by your votes; but I rather apprehend that the appeal made to my noble Friend not to divide the House is about to be attended to, and I am, therefore, desirous of stating the views which I entertain upon the Resolutions which have been brought before the House. I must say, my Lords, that I have listened to much of what has passed this evening with very sincere pain. When I saw the notice given by the noble Earl some ten days ago I apprehended that some little mischief might arise from the discussion of the questions which the noble Earl was about to raise; but I must say that those anticipations of evil have been considerably augmented by the speech which has fallen from my noble Friend this evening. Throughout that speech my noble Friend so greatly extenuated—I may say defended—every act of our enemy, and pressed so heavily upon every act of ourselves, that I am afraid the result cannot be otherwise than to a great extent to irritate the people of this country, and to lower us in the estimation both of our allies and of our enemy. In expressing these opinions with reference to the speech of my noble Friend, I beg to assure him that I am addressing the House most seriously in the interests of peace, and in my conscience I believe that the speech addressed to your Lordships by my noble Friend is far better calculated to postpone the conclusion of peace, which all so heartily desire, than any of the declamations of the most violent friends of war. I cannot but apprehend that the speech of my noble Friend, followed by such Resolutions as those which he has proposed, must, in the first place, have the effect of encouraging Russia to persevere in all her efforts and demands, and it may also even induce her to withdraw the concessions she has already expressed her entire willingness to make. And if this is likely to be the effect on our enemy, what is likely to be the effect on our friends? What is the present condition of Germany? Germany is divided upon the question, but we have nevertheless many friends of our cause in the States of Germany. Then, is not a 1173 debate like this, and such sentiments as those which have been expressed, not by an inexperienced Peer, but by one who has occupied a high position in administering the affairs of the country, and one who bears a great and historic name, calculated to paralyze Germany, to turn those friendly to us against us, and to induce those unfriendly to us to persevere in their hostility? Is it not highly probable that many of the people of France may look with alarm at the discussions which have taken place? Is it not likely that the people of France may say, "If we are to be pushed forward in this alliance, what security have we, with a free constitutional Government in England, that she may not desert us in a short time?" And are not the people of France likely to be deterred by that consideration from a continuance in that firm and fixed alliance which has been so cordial hitherto? My noble Friend has spoken of a war-cry having been instigated in this country; but I must say that if you put forward language so friendly to the actions and conduct of our enemy as that held by my noble Friend, you are much more likely to instigate a war-cry than by any course you could possibly take, and you are likely to raise a feeling in the country which may prevent any Government—even a Government as friendly to peace as the present Government must be, unless they have departed from the sentiments which I always heard them express when I had the honour of a seat with them—from concluding peace. I do not think, however, that there has been a war-cry in the spirit in which my noble Friend has stated. There has been no vain love of military glory—no desire on the part of the people of this country to see a sanguinary conflict for the mere sake of hearing the firing of cannon and the proclaiming of a great victory in the park; but, on the contrary, I am convinced that the spirit of the country goes only to the belief that we have not yet attained those great objects for which alone we entered upon the contest. My Lords, if I listened with pain to the speech of my noble Friend, I must say that I also viewed with regret the Resolutions which my noble Friend calls upon this House to affirm. He calls upon us to say that the proposals made by Russia were such as ought to have been accepted. [Earl GREY made an observation.] Perhaps I had better read the Resolution. It calls upon us to "express an opinion that the proposals of Russia were such as to 1174 afford a fair prospect of concluding a peace, by which all the original objects of the war might have been gained, and by which Her Majesty and Her allies might have obtained all the advantages which can reasonably be demanded from Russia." Now, it is impossible for us to take into account the rumours which we have heard of Russia having been disposed to concede something more. I confess that I, for one, cannot agree that the proposal made by Russia—the counter-proposition made upon the third point—gives us any such assurance. We have heard a great deal of discussion with regard to the limitation of the power of Russia in the Black Sea. I confess that I cannot see that that limitation would be any such great indignity that it would be inconsistent with her honour to accept it. In fact, we are not obliged to look upon the proposition in any such point of view; for the limitation of the power of Russia in the Black Sea was one of the Four Points accepted and adopted in principle by Russia herself; and it was simply the mode of carrying out that principle which she refused to adopt. It has been said that the counter-proposition of Russia would have given us the object we have at heart; but I frankly confess that I cannot for the life of me see either that it would be an equivalent, or that it would offer any security at all for the independence of Turkey. It appears to me that the counter-proposition of Russia is really one entirely for her own advantage. Putting on one side the question of limitation, what is it she proposes? It is simply this—that, as regards the whole question of the Black Sea, we are to return to the status quo ante bellum, with this simple exception, that Turkey is not to wait for a declaration of war, but is to be at liberty at any time she pleases to call in the assistance of the Western Powers, and, in point of fact, to open the Straits. But Turkey might some day "call those spirits from the vasty deep" when there would be no one to answer her. My noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has already observed that if the proposition of Russia were agreed to it would impose upon the Western Powers the necessity of maintaining a very large fleet in the Mediterranean for the purpose of watching the safety of Turkey. You would be in a perpetual state of semi-war, and I appeal to any noble Earl whether the experience of the last half-century does not tell us that if this state of semi-war 1175 were for one moment departed from the inevitable consequence would be that we should have to incur again the heavy expenses to which we have been put in the prosecution of the present war. Directly peace was concluded the House of Commons and the people of the country would call for a diminution in the expenditure; in a short time we should only have three or four vessels of war in the Mediterranean; those vessels would probably be locked up for months in the harbour of Valetta, and then where would be the security of Turkey? My Lords, I think when this nation is embarked in war, it is your bounden duty to yourselves, to your country, but, above all, to posterity, not to allow that war to close in such a manner as that you will be exposed at an early day to its renewal, at a time, too, when you may not be able so well to thwart these endeavours, as I sincerely hope you may now be enabled to do. As I before said, I never addressed this House with more pain than I have done upon this occasion; and, if even there is not a division, I must still say emphatically "No" to the Resolution.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, little as I wished to intrude upon your Lordships any observations of mine upon this occasion, my disinclination to do so has been materially increased, and the inutility of doing so is more plainly demonstrated, after the speech of the noble Duke, in which there is not one single syllable from which I can dissent, or which does not entirely express the views and opinions with which I regard the unfortunate Motion of the noble Earl opposite. I call it by this term, because I think it is most unfortunate that a proposition like that which is now before us and accompanied by a speech involving such principles, made with such ability, and exhibiting, upon the part of a noble Lord of such influence and such station, opinions so unfavourable to his own country, so encouraging to the aspirations of Russia, should have been brought forward in this House, more especially as this speech, while it is utterly at variance with the opinions of the people of this country, no doubt, will go forth to Europe and to the world; and more especially, too, as it appears to have been supported, at all events by one noble Lord in this House, and that it will not be known to Europe and to the world that in all probability, that noble Lord would have been the one, if not the 1176 only one, by whom the Motion would have received support upon a division. Though not desiring to fetter the judgment of the noble Earl, and thinking that, considering what his own views are, he probably exercises a sound discretion in abstaining from a division, I must say I think that if he wished to place his own opinions and the opinions of the Peers of England fully and fairly before the country and before the world, he either ought not not to have brought forward a Motion of this kind, at this time, or he ought not to have made that Motion nugatory by resolving to withdraw it. Without wishing to imply anything disrespectful to the noble Earl, I would say that, if we have the poison of his arguments we ought, at all events, to have the comfort of the antidote which a division would have afforded. I desire that there should be no mistake as regards the opinion of this House. If the noble Earl disputes the fact I challenge him to disprove it; but I venture to say that, if the Peers of England divide on this question there will not be a dozen—I will even say there will not be half-a-dozen—out of the 450 Members of your Lordships' House who would not give a negative to the proposition now before us. Then, again, I confess I regret the manner in which this discussion has been brought on. I could have desired that Her Majesty's Ministers had taken a course more in accordance with usual practice, and that the negotiations having closed, and my noble Friend having admitted to us that for all substantive purposes they were closed, and that that was the vindication of the Government for laying upon the table the result of these negotiations—I say, that being the case, I cannot but lament that Her Majesty's Ministers did not express to the House, as they might have done, their regret that these negotiations had not led to a favourable issue, and invite Parliament to give an assurance—which I am certain they would have been ready to give—of their cordial and continued support in the vigorous prosecution of the war. The right rev. Prelate, who does not, indeed, altogether concur with the noble Earl in all he has put forward, stated that, had the noble Earl proposed a different kind of Resolution, he would have supported it. My Lords, so should I; but that depends upon what difference was made in it. Though I come nearer to the right rev. Prelate than to the noble Earl, I certainly could not support a Resolution which should bear upon the face of it an 1177 opinion that further conferences at Vienna, in the present state of matters, would lead to peace. I own that I have no such hope, and desiring, as I do, a just and honourable peace as much as any man can do, and agreeing with the noble Duke in his statement as to what the feelings of the country are on this point, and that there exists an anxious and earnest desire to obtain, if it can be obtained, an honourable peace, yet that the country is sternly resolved to carry on the war with vigour until that kind of peace is obtained—I say my regret rather is, that the propositions made were such as, even if accepted by Russia, would not have given us all the security which we ought to have. It is idle, I think, to look back, as the noble Earl did, into what might have been done and what was done two years ago, and how far we might have averted the war at the period of Prince Menchikoff's mission to Constantinople; although I must be permitted to say, en passant, that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, giving, as he did, a very admirable answer to the noble Earl, appears to me to furnish the strongest case I have ever heard against the Government of which he was then a Member, for not having taken at that time a more decided and more strenuous course in resisting the aggressive attitude assumed by Russia. I think the whole tendency of his arguments showed that a more decisive position than was then taken up by Her Majesty's Government, and the placing before Russia the inevitable consequence of persistance in the line of conduct she was pursuing would have afforded a much better chance of preserving peace than the reluctance displayed by the English Ministry to enter upon the war. I agree with the noble Earl who opened this discussion, that Russia did not desire war; that Russia was bent upon attaining her objects at all costs, but if possible without war; and the more she could gain by a stealthy march upon the integrity and independence of Turkey, the better she felt she would be prepared for war when it came, and the better placed she would be. Such a feeling as that, however, was to be met by a firm and uncompromising declaration on our part that we understood the projects of Russia, and that if she persevered in them she must do so with the certainty of having united against her the determined hostility of the two great nations of the West. I am persuaded that such a tone taken at that time would have 1178 checked the aggressions of Russia, and have placed us in a much more favourable position than we are now in. My noble Friend talks about Russia not having unveiled her designs, and of having given no outward signs of that violent ambition by which she is devoured. But the fact is, that at that time the British Government knew perfectly well what the designs of Russia were. Russia wished, indeed, to be on friendly terms with England, and with that view put forward certain discreditable proposals; but the Government knew perfectly well what the ulterior objects of Russia were, and from that moment it became the duty of the Government to have taken up a firm stand, and to have shown, by unequivocal language and conduct, that the objects contemplated by Russia could not, at all events, be attained with the sanction of England. But it is useless now to refer to the past. The question at present is, what course ought England now to take to bring this war to a speedy, but above all, to an honourable and a satisfactory termination? I do not undervalue the concessions which Russia has been compelled to make by the progress of our arms, and by the pressure upon her resources. I do not undervalue her withdrawal—if she has indeed withdrawn from them—from those claims she originally made as to a protectorate over the Greek subjects of the Porte, her assent to the independence of the Governments of the Moldavian and Wallachian Principalities; nor do I undervalue her admission of the necessity of securing the free navigation of the Danube—though with regard to the latter point we must not talk as though it were a new concession, because, although in practice Russia did not concede it, yet, as far as treaty obligations go, as far as the bounden duty of Russia, pledged in the face of the rest of the world went, the freedom of the Danube was just as much secured by treaty as it will be when secured by any new treaty, if entered into. I say, my Lords, I neither undervalue those objects, nor do I pretend to say that they are incomplete in themselves;—but the main object for which we entered into this war was to take a sufficient guarantee for the permanent independence and integrity of Turkey against the open aggression or the secret wiles of Russia. My complaint with regard to the third point is, not that we asked too much, but that we asked too little. My Lords, in the course and progress of this war a material 1179 change has taken place in the demands which were originally made, but that change has been rendered necessary by the alteration of the circumstances under which we are now placed. Terms and restrictions which we were willing to accept to avert war are quite insufficient now that we have once drawn the sword. When, as the noble Earl has told us, we have lavished no less than 50,000,000l. of treasure, and when the lives of 20,000 of our fellow-countrymen have been sacrificed, it would be vain to expect us to accept those terms which we would have been willing to accept before the war broke out. But, my Lords, a material alteration has taken place in the character of the war in which we are engaged since the original demands were made. It was entered into as a purely defensive war, but by the expedition to the Crimea it has assumed an aggressive character. I have not to reproach myself with having taken any part in that change in the character and circumstances of the war. The war commenced as a purely defensive war, having for its object the defence of the independence and integrity of Turkey, and the setting free of the Danube, and this country might have been satisfied with accomplishing those objects if the war had retained that character; but as the character of the war has changed, conditions which we might at first have accepted cannot now be agreed to with honour, or even with safety. From the moment that you commenced an aggressive war—from the moment you gave effect to the declaration of the Government, and we became bound to put a stop to the preponderance of Russia, and to weaken and impair the power of that great country—from that time it was very useless to talk about our propositions being humiliating or inconsistent with the dignity of Russia. You have entered upon the task of materially diminishing the power of Russia, and any condition which tends to that result must be humiliating, and may be insulting, to her dignity. You pledged yourselves when you entered the Crimea and sat down before Sebastopol, that yon would destroy what the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs called a standing menace to Turkey, and of which he said that as long as it remained it was a mockery to talk of a safe and honourable peace; after that challenge, and after the armies of two great nations have been occupied seven months, notwithstanding the most heroic exertions 1180 and unparalled efforts of privates and officers in the siege of that fortress, and as yet without success—after that declaration on the part of the Government to which I have referred, and to which the country is committed—I say that to withdraw from before that fortress baffled and defeated, and to leave that standing menace to the independence and integrity of Turkey undiminished in power, would be a humiliation to England and to her ally. Anxious, therefore, as I am for peace, and unwilling as I am to say a single word which may interfere with any attempt to secure that inestimable blessing, I say that I do not believe that any engagement which we could have entered into at the Conferences at Vienna, and which could have been accepted by Russia as being consistent with her dignity, would have afforded sufficient guarantees for the future, now that we have entered upon an aggressive war. We are not responsible for the aggressive character of the war, nor are we responsible for the conduct of it, or for the strategy which has been displayed; but we are responsible for this—that we have committed to a particular Ministry the power of exercising the functions of State, and we are responsible to the Sovereign and to the country that their efforts shall not be disgraced by an unworthy peace, whether we approve or disapprove the conduct of the war. I concur with the noble Earl that the proposal to limit the number of Russian ships of war in the Black Sea contains nothing dishonourable to Russia, because it is founded upon the principle of a reciprocal limitation on the part of Turkey. The right rev. Prelate has slightly misunderstood what fell from my noble Friend on this subject. What my noble Friend said was, that it would have been no more humiliating to Russia to consent to a condition to reduce her naval power in the way proposed than it would be for England and France to enter into an arrangement to reduce their naval establishments in the Mediterranean. The acceptance of such a proposal would not have been more humiliating to Russia than the arrangement entered into by England at the close of the war with the United States, that not more than a certain number of vessels should be kept on those lakes which lie between the territory of the two nations. I quite agree that any condition as to the limitation of the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea might easily be avoided. I think it very 1181 possible that vessels might be kept upon the stocks in various stages of preparation, that ships might be built as merchantmen which would be ready at any moment to take guns on board, and that the provision might be easily evaded; and, therefore, I say that any such provision does not appear to me to afford that security for the future which I think we ought to demand. The question, however, for your Lordships to consider is, not whether the proposals made to Russia were satisfactory, but whether the Russian counter-proposals afforded a fair expectation of our obtaining from Russia the original objects of the war, and of obtaining all the advantages which we have a reasonable right to expect from her. Now, my Lords, what were the advantages which we were to obtain from the counter proposition of Russia? Russia proposed that her fleet should not be limited either in extent or number, but that she should have power to increase it to any conceivable limit; but she was willing that Turkey should have the power to do away with the principle of the mare clausum, and, in case of danger or menace, that she might open the Straits, and summon the fleets of her allies to her assistance. Now, my Lords, observe that the Dardanelles are, by every principle of national law, the absolute property of the Ottoman Porte, and that Turkey has the abstract right of opening or closing those Straits as she pleases. It is true that, as regards other countries, Turkey is bound by treaty to close the Straits, but quoad Russia there exists no such obligation, because all treaties between Russia and Turkey are dissolved by the war; so that all Russia is willing to concede is that Turkey shall exercise a right which belongs to her on every principle of international law. If there could be a proposition more calculated than another to embroil Russia and Turkey, to keep up a constant fear of insecurity, to impose on the guaranteeing powers the necessity of keeping up forces without the hope of effecting the object for which the forces were maintained—if there could be a proposition having for its object these results, that was the proposition made by Russia, and which the noble Earl calls on your Lordships to affirm. The noble Earl seems to think that Austria views these proposals with satisfaction, but I do not think that any such inference can be drawn from the written expression of the opinion of Count Buol. I do not yield to the right rev. Prelate or to the noble Earl in the 1182 sense which I entertain of the horrors and calamities of war; but it is of no use now to moralise as to those horrors and calamities. We are entered into war, and the question is, how shall we withdraw from that war, not only without discredit to our army, not only without dissatisfaction to our allies, not only without alienating from us those who have been hitherto with us, but how we shall withdraw from it with the security of a reasonable prospect that we shall not within six months plunge into another war more angry in its character and more intense in its hostility than the present, from our having shown too great an eagerness to arrive at a hasty peace? I say, therefore, in the interest of peace, that this is no time for commenting upon how the war might have been avoided; our question is, in the interest of our common country, to determine what is to be done to obtain the great object of the war. In that sense I can hardly say that I regret that the negotiations at Vienna have failed, because I was convinced that they must fail from the commencement. I believe that if we are to have a secure and honourable peace we must conquer that peace; and, if we are to conquer that peace, it must be by showing, in the teeth of such resolutions as those of the noble Earl, or in the teeth of any resolutions calculated to quench the energy and to damp the courage of this country, that it is our fixed determination to go through that which we have entered upon, and not to depart from it until we have arrived at an honourable and satisfactory conclusion.
§ EARL GRANVILLE rose to state a matter of fact, and not to prolong the debate, which the remarkable unanimity that had characterised the discussion rendered altogether unnecessary. Every Peer who had addressed the House had condemned the course which his noble Friend had suggested; and he must be allowed to congratulate the House that, although the speech of his noble Friend who had introduced the Motion appeared to be of a singularly irritating character, and singularly calculated to lead those who differed from him to indulge in some exaggerations upon the other side, yet that, while the tone had been firm, he had scarcely remembered one sentence which had been uttered which could fairly be charged with intemperance or irritability. The matter of fact which he wished to state was, that, whereas the noble Earl had supposed that the Conferences at Vienna were closed for 1183 any practical purpose, not only was that not the case, but at this very moment proposals had been received from Austria, accompanied with subsequent modifications, which were at present under the consideration of the two Governments of France and England. There was very little chance—indeed he might say there was no chance—of a favourable conclusion. He thanked the noble Earl opposite for the really useful speech—useful to the national cause—which he had just made, and he trusted that his noble Friend (Earl Grey) would yield to his appeal to divide upon the present question.
§ EARL GREY,
in reply: *—My Lords: I can assure your Lordships that I am not going to commit what I am sensible would at this hour be the great impropriety, of availing myself of my right of reply, in order to answer the various objections which have been made to the Address I have moved, and to the arguments by which I supported it; but some imputations have been cast upon me of so serious a character that I cannot pass them by without notice. These imputations were made in the first instance by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for foreign affairs, and were repeated by the noble Duke below me (the Duke of Newcastle), and by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby). My noble Friend accused me of having served the cause of Russia by my speech; of being the eulogist of the late Emperor; of having praised the moderation and forbearance of Russia; and of having gone so far as to say, that the Four Points presented to her as the basis on which the allies were prepared to treat for peace, were humiliating to her, and ought not to have been required from her. Now, my Lords, all these statements as to what I said in submitting my Motion to yon are entirely erroneous. I will take the last first. So far from having objected to the "Four Points," as they are called, I said expressly, that although all the matters in dispute before the breaking out of the war had been long ago decided in your favour, yet I was aware that you had declared, as you were entitled to do, that after the war had begun, you would no longer be content with the same terms with which you would have been satisfied before hostilities had been commenced. My argument was not that the "Four Points" were objectionable (for I think that they afford a fair basis for peace) but that Russia had fairly met you in the endeavour to 1184 carry these heads of agreement into effect. I contended that on the two first heads Russia had acceded to all you had asked, that on the first part of the third head she had also come to an understanding with you, and that on the second part of this head, what she proposed was better for your own purpose than that for which you asked, and that the condition on which you insisted, and the refusal of which you made the ground for breaking off the negotiation, was one which would have been perfectly worthless if you had obtained it, while it was justly regarded as objectionable by Russia.
Then, with regard to my alleged praise of Russia for moderation and forbearance, I beg to remind my noble Friend that I never used the words at all except when I recalled to your Lordships' recollection the fact, that in the original dispute with respect to the Holy Places, it stands recorded in the papers on our table, as my noble Friend's own opinion, that Russia was in the right and France and Turkey in the wrong, and that for some time Russia had acted with moderation and forbearance. I quoted this as the opinion, which it undoubtedly was, of my noble Friend and of the Government.
It is equally incorrect to represent me as the unqualified eulogist of the late Emperor Nicholas, and as having asserted that Russia had been in the right throughout. What I did say was that the late Emperor, though he had great faults, had also some great qualities; that his faults were not the faults of fraud and falsehood, and that he did not deserve the unmeasured vituperation of which he has been the object. I said that the original cause of the war between this country and Russia arose from a misunderstanding between the two Governments as to their mutual intentions, for which our own Government was at least as much to blame as that of Russia: but so far was I from asserting that Russia had been in the right throughout, that I expressly said, in speaking of the occupation of the Principalities, that it was an act of aggression which it was impossible to defend, by which Russia put herself entirely in the wrong, though up to that time she had been, if not altogether in the right, at all events, much more so than her antagonist. My argument did not lead me to refer to what took place afterwards, but I have no hesitation in avowing my opinion, that in the various transactions that intervened 1185 between the occupation of the Principalities and our declaration of war, Russia was for the most part greatly to blame, and especially so in her rejection of the terms proposed in December, 1853, to which my noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) has referred. The view which I took of the case was, that owing to the undecided line of policy pursued by our Government, the Emperor Nicholas was drawn on to commit himself to enforce a demand, which was not originally an unreasonable one, by means of a very objectionable kind, so that before he was aware that we should support Turkey in her refusal, he had gone too far to retreat without what he considered a sacrifice of dignity, to which, with his proud nature, and in the position he held, it was not wonderful that he could not make up his mind to submit. Hence I intended to argue, that although the aggression committed upon Turkey by the occupation of the Principalities was one which she was entitled to resist; still, when the circumstances which led to this step were considered, the conduct of Russia did not deserve to be described in the exaggerated language that has been applied to it, and that has created the spirit of animosity against her now generally displayed.
As to the service which it is said that my speech will do to the cause of Russia, I would remind your Lordships that this is merely what has been said of every man who has at any time ventured to lift up his voice against a popular war. It was said of the opponents of the American war; and, again, of the opponents of the revolutionary war with France. It may be admitted that some inconvenience does arise when the country is engaged in war, from the arguments of those who oppose it, but far more inconvenience—or rather a most formidable evil—would arise in a free country, from attempting to restrain those who disapprove of war, from expressing their opinion. Your Lordships cannot fail to perceive that it is possible, at least, that a war, though popular, may yet be unjust or impolitic; but there would be no means of preventing or putting a stop to such a war if those who condemn it are to be silenced on the ground that their arguments may help the enemy. If this principle were to be established it would be better, as regards its foreign relations, for a nation to be under a despotism than under a free government. A despot, before he plunges into war, or rejects overtures for peace, 1186 will generally listen to what his counsellors may have to say in favour of peace, and will not, therefore, decide for war without knowing the arguments against it. But, in a free country, public opinion is the ultimate governing power which decides, in the last resort, the great question of peace or war; and how is the public to have the means of forming a sound opinion, and of coming to a just decision on this most momentous question, if you are to silence all those who would endeavour to show by argument the injustice or impolicy of engaging or persevering in war, while free conrse is given to those who flatter the passions of the people, and court their favour, by defaming and vilifying any nation with which we may have a controversy? The noble Duke below me (the Duke of Newcastle), while he joined my noble Friend the Secretary of State, in condemning the course I have taken, on the ground of its being serviceable to Russia, added, as an additional objection to it, that he feared it would irritate the people of this country and thus make them still more averse to peace. My Lords, I do not think so meanly of my countrymen, as it would appear that the noble Duke does from his expressing this opinion. I have no doubt that the speech I have made this evening will give great offence. Neither individuals nor nations, in general, like to be told that they have been in the wrong; but I have such confidence in the right-mindedness of the people of England, that I do not doubt that in spite of the offence I may have given, they will allow their due weight in the end, to whatever truth and justice there may be in the arguments I have used.
My Lords, I have only further to say, in answer to the advice of the noble Earl opposite, that I should call for a division, that I shall act upon the old maxim that it is dangerous to take advice from an enemy, and that I much prefer following the advice not to ask your Lordships to divide, which was given to me by my noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton), who must, I fear, be considered as the only one of your Lordships who has supported me in this debate, since, if I rightly understood my right rev. Friend who spoke a short time ago (the Bishop of Oxford), he does not intend to give me his vote, though all his arguments seemed to me to be in favour of my Motion. I am the less inclined to put your Lordships to the trouble of a division, because I know that more than one of the 1187 very limited number of those who are inclined to vote with me are unavoidably absent.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Negative.
§ House adjourned to Monday, the 4th of June next.