§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I should infinitely have preferred that my noble Friend near me (the Marquess of Clanricarde), who first gave notice that he would call your attention to the affairs of Poland, should have resumed his Motion on his return to London; but as he does not wish to do so, and as I think it important that it should be brought before your Lordships, I have undertaken the task. I have less hesitation in doing so because I shall occupy a small portion of your Lordships' time, and I know that whatever importance the dis- 621 cussion may have it will derive not from what I may say, but from the explanations of Her Majesty's Ministers and from your Lordships' expression of opinion in this House. It is, I think, of great importance that we should have such explanations of the views of the Government and such an expression of your Lordships' opinion, because I cannot look at the present state of things as regards Poland without entertaining very serious apprehensions as to the consequences to which it may lead. I do not forget that my noble Friend the Secretary of State, in discussing the subject not long ago, declared a strong opinion against armed intervention on behalf of Poland. He stated that he thought, that instead of any good likely to arise from such intervention, it would most likely lead to calamity and confusion, and he trusted the tranquillity of Europe would not be disturbed by any appeal to arms in behalf of Poland. I believe that in expressing that opinion my noble Friend expressed an opinion which is shared by a great majority of your Lordships and of the nation. I believe that there are few persons who have carefully considered this critical question, without coming to the conclusion that it is one upon which a war would not be likely to lead to any good result; and therefore I am persuaded that if the question were put distinctly to Her Majesty's Ministers, to Parliament, and to the nation, "Will you, or will you not go to war on behalf of Poland?" the answer would on the part of each be "No." Although I believe that there is a general concurrence of opinion, and that every person in this country is convinced that it is not a case in which we ought to go to war, still I cannot read the papers which have been laid upon the table without feeling great alarm, lest, while we are very far from intending it, we may yet gradually and step by step be led to that most awful conclusion of war. I believe that that is a danger at this moment of a most serious character, and I believe it can only be averted by this country acting upon a clear and well understood line of policy. I therefore regard it as above all things necessary that Her Majesty's Government should not take any, even the smallest, step in this matter, without the fullest consideration as to the ultimate result to which it may tend, and that they should constantly bear in mind how difficult it is, when once embarked upon the wrong track, to know when or how to stop; so that by a single false step they may be betrayed into a 622 course which, if they had been asked to adopt in the first instance, they would have refused without hesitation. I believe that their policy, deliberately adopted and firmly adhered to, should also be understood by the nation and by Europe, and that there should be no mistake as to what line this country will ultimately take upon the question. I am confirmed in that opinion by remembering what formerly happened. It is just ten years ago since we were placed in a position with regard to Turkey and Russia not very different from that which we now occupy with regard to Poland and Russia, and at that time both your Lordships and the public would almost unanimously have declared that there was no danger of our going to war with Russia in the Turkish quarrel. I remember being myself so convinced of this, and that it was therefore better to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, that I was one of those who joined in dissuading my noble Friend near me (the Marquess of Clanricarde) from raising a discussion upon the subject. The result, I think, proved that my noble Friend was right in thinking that such a discussion would have been useful, and that we who induced him to abstain from bringing it on were mistaken; for, in consequence of there having been no such public declaration of the views and intentions of Her Majesty's Government as would have been elicited by a debate in this House, both Turkey and Russia were left in doubt as to what the policy of this country really would be; and thus it happened, that whereas there would have been no war if it had been distinctly known from the first that we either would or would not support Turkey by arms in her refusal of the demands of Russia (because in the one case Russia would not have committed herself to insist on what she asked, and in the other Turkey would have yielded), the perfect uncertainty which was allowed to hang over our intentions until a very late period encouraged both parties to commit themselves so deeply in the controversy that neither could withdraw, and war was the unhappy consequence. With this experience before me, I feel most anxious that we should have a clear understanding what policy Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue; and I must confess that after carefully looking through the papers I have failed in making out what their policy is. The points on which I wish for some explanation from the Government are, first, what is their expectation with regard to the communication which 623 they have made to Russia—what ground have they for believing that those communications, and especially the last, are likely to lead to any practical result? To those who know no more than can he collected from the papers before us, it does appear extremely difficult to make out in what manner the proposals which have been made to Russia are likely to lead to any satisfactory result. I wish to hear from Her Majesty's Government some explanation of the grounds which lead them to believe that Russia is likely to agree to their proposals, or that it is, indeed, in her power to do so. On a former evening the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellen borough) pointed out the difficulties there were in regard to an armistice. He asked—and I have never yet heard the question answered—with whom is the armistice to be made; how are its conditions to be settled; and within what limits is it to be confined? As he truly observed, an armistice requires that there shall be contracting parties, and that there shall be limits fixed within which it shall prevail. Even if Russia were disposed to consent to an armistice, what steps would she take for the purpose? The Russian Government may be perfectly willing to say, "If we are not attacked, we shall be ready to allow things to take their usual course; we are practically in possession of the whole territory. There is no portion Of that territory in which there exists a force capable of maintaining itself against a Russian force." We cannot expect Russia to say, "If persons in arms in any part of Poland attack our authority where it is actually established, we will abstain from resisting them." On the other hand, I do not understand how the insurgents, on their side, are to say, "We will abstain from making those attacks;" because, if they do, it is practically giving up the insurrection. As the noble Earl opposite very justly observed, an insurrection is not a thing which can he carried on in this manner; if it is suspended, it may become extremely difficult to resume it. Again, with regard to an amnesty, I always believed that an amnesty was a measure which followed pacification, not that it preceded it. How is it possible to grant an amnesty until a pacification is attained? Then, with regard to the establishment of free institutions and an administration vested in the hands of the natives of Poland, I think we ought to know from the Government what ground they have for believing that the Poles are prepared to concur in such an arrangement. 624 I need hardly remind you that free institutions and a national administration are only practicable provided you have the co-operation of the governed. If they are determinedly opposed to the Sovereign, such a system cannot work, even for a single day. Therefore, before these national institutions can be granted, the Poles must be ready to accept them. All that the public know upon the subject at present is that the Poles utterly repudiate the acceptance of a National Government under Russian authority within the limits of the Kingdom of Poland, as defined by the Treaty of Vienna. They ask for something much more. They ask for the old limits of Poland and complete independence. While the Poles decline to accept national institutions on the terms on which we ask for them, and on which alone we have a right to ask for them, I cannot understand what advantage is likely to result from pressing them upon Russia. Then, again, I would wish to ask whether the Government have sufficiently considered whether experience leads to the conclusion that the interference of third parties between a Sovereign and his subjects, when there are differences between them, is likely to lead to useful results? My own opinion is that useful results only follow when third parties interfere by the strong hand—determined to enforce on both sides the adoption of some middle course. If they interfere merely by advice, it generally happens that such an interference, however well meant, has the same fate as that which proverbially follows interference between man and wife. Concessions which, if offered spontaneously by the Sovereign, would be received with gratitude, when only granted at the instance of some foreign Government are generally received without any gratitude at all, and are used merely as the means of obtaining something more; while, if they are rejected, the fact of their having been pressed upon the Sovereign by a foreign Government increases the dissatisfaction and discontent. Not being able to see, as far as the papers before us contain any information, in what manner the propositions which have been made to Russia are likely to be attended with advantage, I think it is most essential that the Government should explain their views in making them, and what result they expect will follow. I hold it to be beyond doubt, that in cases of this kind, if diplomatic interference does no good, it must do mischief. It certainly must do this mischief—it must encourage hopes on the 625 part of the insurgents which, if they are not to be fulfilled, it is cruel to them to hold out. Your Lordships will have observed in the papers that Colonel Stanton three months ago reported to Her Majesty's Government that diplomatic intervention did encourage the hopes of the insurgents, and that their determination to continue the unequal contest might be in part attributed to their expectation that diplomatic intervention would in the end be followed by stronger measures; and therefore that by maintaining themselves for a certain time they had much to hope from foreign countries. If this insurrection is not to succeed, if the Poles are in the end to submit to the overwhelming power of Russia, every man of humanity must desire that the contest should not be unnecessarily prolonged. I dare say most of your Lordships have read a very interesting account of the last attempt at an invasion of Volhynia, which appeared in The Times from its private correspondent. Can anybody wish that such purposeless bloodshed as is there described should be continued? And is there not a grave responsibility incurred by any nation or individuals who act in such a manner as to encourage the continuance of such utterly fruitless contests? There are other dangers connected with this diplomatic intervention. If it goes on, we must look to what the possible result may be. What would happen suppose Russia should send a decisive refusal to comply with your propositions? I do not anticipate that such a refusal will come, for it seems to me, from all we can learn from the usual sources of information, that her returning such an answer is unlikely. But, suppose Russia should positively refuse to agree to your proposals—are we to accept that refusal and to take that rebuff without doing anything more? Can we do that without serious injury to our reputation and to our position in Europe? If we send a rejoinder, if we press our demands with greater instance than ever, are we not taking a very serious step in that course which necessarily leads directly to a rupture of diplomatic relations? Suppose Russia abstains from any direct refusal, and professes her readiness to meet our views, and asks us to join with her in considering what practical measures could be adopted. If that is her answer, in what serious difficulties should we not be involved? We should then have imposed on us the responsibility of suggesting practical measures for the settlement 626 of this question. Upon the bases which you have laid down, are there any practicable measures by which a settlement can be arrived at? My Lords, I think there is every reason to believe that even in 1815 the system laid down with respect to Poland was not a practicable one. In 1815 Russia was required to give a constitutional government to Poland. Is there any strong reason to believe that even at that time we imposed upon Russia a task which it was possible for her to perform? But now after half a century of struggle—of mutual wrong on both sides—of turbulence on the part of Poland, and of repression, not to say tyranny—but I am afraid I must call it tyranny—on the part of Russia—after half a century of such proceedings on both sides, is it possible to arrive at a practical settlement upon the bases which my noble Friend has laid down? But if not, and if still we enter into negotiations on these bases, what will be the result? We shall get into interminable discussion; we shall have all the jargon of diplomacy again resorted to; but we shall waste our time without any practicable advantage, and the struggle will be renewed between the parties unless, in the mean time, Poland shall have been subjugated by Russia. My Lords, will not such fruitless negotiations gradually assume the tone of hostility? There will be more and more acrimony on both sides, till, at last, both parties arrive at that state of mind when all peaceable negotiation must come to an end. And, remember that it is not the Governments alone that are concerned in the matter—if it were only the Governments, my apprehensions would not be so great; but I am persuaded that in this country, if the people are taught by Her Majesty's Ministers and by Parliament to believe they have a right to demand a different treatment of Poland by Russia, and to press that right by negotiations which gradually become more angry—if they are taught to believe this, and that these negotiations go on for weeks and months with no practical advantage arising to the Poles, the inevitable result will be that passions will be excited in the public mind which no Minister will be able to restrain, and which will force England into a war. The same may be said of France. Your Lordships will remember that significant observations have already appeared in a French newspaper, which is said to receive official inspiration. That journal has stated that no vague answer from Russia will do—that her reply must 627 bear practical fruits, or, if not, France and Europe will not be contented. We must remember, too, that in Russia also this subject excites deep interest among the whole population. Your Lordships may have observed in the papers on your Lordships table that Lord Napier, some time ago, reported that this question of Poland touched all the national and religious feeling of the Russian people. He says that the first symptom of this patriotic feeling was manifested by the nobles at St. Petersburg, who expressed in very strong language their willingness to come forward in support of the Emperor. Lord Napier informs us that a meeting took place, and that at that meeting a strong determination was expressed by those assembled to come forward with their lives in support of the Czar and their religion, on condition—I am not, of course, quoting the exact words—that no concessions were made to Poland. That is a most significant statement of Lord Napier. It was made two or three months ago, and he adds that the example which has been set at St. Petersburg will be followed in the rest of the empire, and that the people will everywhere come forward to support the honour of Russia. He says also, speaking of the time at which he writes, that recruits in the Russian provinces are coming forward with unusual alacrity, and consider that they are going to a holy war. I have seen private accounts of a much more recent date, and they confirm Lord Napier's statements. In one of them it is stated that the same national feeling as that which the Russians exhibited in 1812, and which led them to support their Government with such ardour against foreign aggression, and to make such sacrifices as they did at that period, is showing itself at the present moment. I think, my Lords, that is a very grave symptom; and it is not unnatural that I should feel desirous to know from my noble Friend what is the course which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue. I could understand the despatches which have been sent to Russia, and the propositions which have been made, if you intended them to lead to a quarrel—if you meant to make out a case of war against Russia under the Treaty of Vienna. I could perfectly understand them if that were your object, though the Treaty of Vienna confers no right on this country to interfere except with respect to the arrangements made at the time that treaty was drawn up. But if that is not the intention—and I am convinced it is not the 628 intention—of my noble Friend, then I think this House ought to have explained to it the grounds on which the Government are taking a course which seems so likely to lead to that result, Let it not be supposed because I hold this language that I am more indifferent than any other Member of your Lordships' House to the present state of Poland. I have seen with the same indignation as your Lordships the measures which ultimately produced the revolt; I have observed with as much horror the frightful bloodshed which is now going on; but, at the same time, my Lords, I think a great nation like ours ought not to act on mere impulse. We are bound to consider what we can do and what we ought to do. I do not believe it is the duty of this nation to set up as a general redresser of grievances all over the world, nor that we can undertake the mission of setting right everything we see going wrong in any of the States of Europe. We have acted—I think most wisely acted—on this principle with regard to America. We have there seen with the greatest sorrow and with the greatest surprise a most bloody and what appears to us a most purposeless civil war going on for two years; but Her Majesty's Government have thought—I believe with the almost unanimous assent of the nation—that it would only make matters worse to interfere, and that therefore things ought to be left to themselves. I cannot but think the same is the case with regard to Poland. When I look to the extreme difficulty of interference—to the calamities which a war between this country and Russia would bring on the world—to the almost positive certainty that the flame of war once kindled in Russia would spread all over Europe—to the sacrifices which would be imposed on the people of this and other countries, and the extreme uncertainty whether a successful war would lead to any permanently good result—to the question whether Poland would be able to organize a stable or really independent Government, capable of conducting the affairs of that country in such a manner as to preserve peace and order—when I look to the extreme doubt which must be entertained on that head, and the certainty, on the other hand, of great suffering and bloodshed in attempting to bring about by force any settlement of this question, and to impose some new arrangement on Russia, I do most cordially concur in the opinion of my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs that this is not a case for armed intervention. But 629 if it is not a case for armed intervention, I do hope Her Majesty's Government will not, by interference of another kind, aggravate the evil which they would gladly put an end to. It is on these points I am most anxious to obtain information from Her Majesty's Government, and with that object I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Copies of any further Papers with regard to Poland.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I have no fault to find with my noble Friend either for bringing forward this question or for the tone and temper with which he has addressed your Lordships. If I had asked him to postpone this question, it could only have been on the ground that an answer had not been received from Russia; and if I had asked him to postpone the question, on that ground, I should no doubt have had to ask him to postpone it again, because this is a question on which Her Majesty's Government are not acting alone, and I should not have been entitled and should not have ventured to give an answer as to the effect of the Russian reply to Her Majesty's Government without further communication with the allies with whom we are acting. Such a postponement would have brought your Lordships to nearly the end of the Session, when it would have been hopeless to have had any sufficient attendance on a subject so important. Therefore, I say that I have no fault to find with my noble Friend for now bringing forward this question; and still less could I find fault with him for the tone and temper with which he has addressed your Lordships. His remarks have been made with the hope of preserving the peace of Europe, and at the same time they have been made with the moderation and the fairness which becomes a Member of your Lordships' House, and which becomes the high character of my noble Friend. With regard to the question itself, I confess that I do not agree in the views of my noble Friend. But there are others whose views upon the subject are entitled to attention, and I propose to deal with their views before coming to those of my noble Friend. Although my noble Friend agrees with me that this is not a case for armed intervention, and that armed intervention would be more likely to produce fresh calamities than to put an end to those which now exist, there are many who think that armed intervention should take place, and that the cause of Poland is one of such long-suffering and grievous persecution, and 630 that the success of Russia would be so injurious to the fair settlement of Europe, that we ought to be prepared to use arms, or, at all events, to use our fleet for the purpose of menace and intervention. Now, my Lords, when a country has to defend its honour or to stand up in behalf of its independence, one can understand that there should be no previous calculation of chances and consequences, for the very existence of a nation may then be at stake. But when a country is called upon to interfere—first for the sake of humanity, and next for the purpose of re-arranging or redressing the balance of power in Europe—it would then become those who propose to undertake such a war to consider, with great deliberation and with the utmost gravity, its chances and its prospects. At all events, if force is to be used—if money is to be spent and life sacrificed—there should be some clear expectation that an adequate result will be secured in return for the cost and the sacrifice. Now, with regard to the Polish question, directly you begin to examine it there appears to be every difficulty in the way of, and almost every objection which can possibly exist against, a war of that kind. When you are told that a war on behalf of Poland would be justifiable, the question arises, what is Poland? There is a Poland of the Treaty of Vienna, well defined, in regard to which the Powers of Europe have certain rights of interference or remonstrance. But that is not the Poland which is looked to by those who are urging a war on its behalf. So far is this from being so, that from the very beginning of this agitation, when Count Zamoyski made his representations to the Emperor of Russia, the claim has been that the ancient Kingdom of Poland should be restored, and that that kingdom should consist of the various countries and provinces in which any great number of Poles are to be found. I say "any great number of Poles," because there are some of these provinces claimed by Poles in which the Pales are clearly not in a majority. Then, if we look at the matter historically, we find that the Poles who have been rising in insurrection, or who say they have been driven into insurrection, are not confined even to those provinces which belonged to Polands in 1772 at the time of the first partition. As your Lordships are aware, attempts at insurrection have been made in Ukraine, which was yielded by John Sobieski some time in 1720. Now, is this country, is France, is Austria, to under- 631 take a war in behalf this indeterminate Poland? You may say, "Here is a homogeneous race which in a particular part of Europe goes to form the kingdom of Poland." But are you to interfere in behalf of the minority where the Poles form only a minority? Are you to say that they shall predominate there over the other part of the population, and to make war that they shall predominate? Then, again, what is the Government on behalf of which you would fight? It is an invisible Government, having no assured existence, no dwelling place, no council with whom you can properly treat. Moreover, what would be the kind of Government which they would establish if you succeeded in interfering in their favour? Would it be the regular and legal authority of a constitutional monarchy? If it was not a monarchy, and if the democratic party in Poland should get the upper hand, are those who intervene in their favour to assist in establishing the democracy? These three monarchies—England, France, and Austria—might well hesitate in so doing. And then the result would be that those in behalf of whom you interfered would immediately turn round upon you and say that your oppression was worse than the Russian oppression, and that your endeavour was to fix upon them a Government which they detest more than the viceroyalty of the Grand Duke Constantine. Many of the Poles themselves have this feeling, and say, "Whatever may be done, let us have no armed intervention; because we know that armed intervention leads to a protectorate, and a protectorate implies interference in all our internal and domestic concerns; therefore, for God's sake, whatever you do, don't give us armed intervention, or establish a protectorate in Poland." But, if even there was not in Poland a Government of which you disapproved, who can say that you would not establish there—surrounded by Russia, by Austria, and Prussia—a focus of disorder, a regular school of agitation with respect to every neighbouring country, so that, instead of a blessing, you would be inflicting a curse upon Europe? I need not proceed further upon this subject, and I do not mention this because there is any considerable party for armed interference; but I say it rather in the prospect of the state of things which my noble Friend apprehends. He apprehends, certainly more than I do, that the time will come when diplomatic correspondence may lead to a demand for war against Russia. I say, that if ever that subject 632 came to be considered, all these circumstances must be fully deliberated upon, and the Government must have a clear object before they can venture to come down to Parliament and proposea war against Russia on behalf of the Poles. I now come to the general view of my noble Friend, and I think he will not deny that the gist of his whole speech is that we should do nothing. My noble Friend spoke of examples; but the only example which he quoted was that of the negotiations with Russia which led to, or rather preceded, the Crimean war. Now, in the case of almost every European war there have been previous diplomatic negotiations. One of the most recent cases was the rupture of the Peace of Amiens. A long correspondence took place before that rupture; and I repeat that in almost every case in which war has been undertaken there have been long negotiations, with the hope that war might be averted. So that to say that there were negotiations before the Crimean war, and therefore that negotiation must lead to war, is not a very conclusive argument, nor ought it, I think, to influence your Lordships upon this subject. My noble Friend talks of his plan of doing nothing, and of not entering into correspondence upon this subject, as if that course of policy were certain to insure peace. Now, let my noble Friend consider what took place just seventy years ago upon this question of peace and war. In February 1792 Mr. Pitt, who, I believe was sincerely desirous of peace, said, it was impossible that any man should have the foresight to predict with certainty that this country would have fifteen years of peace; but that looking at the state of Europe, he had never heard of or known the time in which the prospect of fifteen years of peace was more favourable than it was at that time, in February 1792. Now, mark! The French Revolution had then run a great part of its course, and many of the powers of Europe had determined to invade France. Much later in the year Lord Grenville, writing to his brother, gave his views of what was the state of Europe—I bless God that we had the wit to keep ourselves out of the glorious enterprise of the combined armies, and that we were not tempted by the hope of sharing the spoils in the division of France, nor by the prospect of crushing all democratical principles all over the world with one blow."—Nov. 7, 1792.Lord Grenville goes on in this letter to describe what different countries were doing, and he ends by saying, "Other countries may do what they please, we shall do no- 633 thing." That is the very policy which my noble Friend now recommends. In November 1792, Lord Grenville mentioned the course of doing nothing as being likely to maintain the peace of Europe. Lord Grenville was a statesman whose authority was much respected—he had it sincerely at heart to maintain the peace of the world, yet he found himself obliged within three months to recommend to Parliament a war that continued for twenty years—a war, the burden of which we are still paying, and which is double the amount of the present income tax—a war during which rivers of blood flowed and millions of treasure were spent. I am not, however, going to advance the opinion that that was a case in which, if there had been an interference a little sooner—or if Mr. Pitt had told the Powers of Europe that he would not interfere with the internal concerns of France—I do not say we should have had peace, though that is my opinion; but this I do say, that the policy of doing nothing and of not interfering does not always save you from war, for it did not save you from the bloodiest and most expensive war that this country ever had. My noble Friend says, that if you go on negotiating, passions will be excited which it will be impossible for you afterwards to restrain. Were there not in that case passions excited that no man was able to restrain? Lord Macaulay compares Mr. Pitt, during the war with France, to the tall man in the crowd who appeared to control its movements, but who was really pushed on by the immense mass of people behind him. If, however, there is danger that if negotiations go on passions may be excited, is that the only danger? Do not tell me that doing nothing will prevent passions from being excited. On the contrary, I believe that would be the very way in which passions would be excited. What has happened? There has been a Russian party, of which Lord Durham told us, in 1831, that it professed the most violent hatred to the Polish nation. Suppose England declared that she would not take a part in the dispute, that she would not whisper a word in behalf of the Poles, or against the atrocities that might be committed by the Russians—that Russian party would probably overbear the Russian Government and the Russian Emperor, and they would say, "We have nothing to do with the Poles but to exterminate them." France would probably not bear that; I do not believe that Austria would bear it. But that Russian party might go on; then 634 it would be found that a war with France and Austria could not be averted—a war, moreover, in which the whole of Europe might be forced to take a part. Passions would then be excited. It would be said, let not England play so inhuman and dastardly a part as to stand aloof; and therefore we should at last find ourselves obliged to take part with the other nations of Europe. Observing what great statesmen of this country have done, I have no confidence in this policy of doing nothing; nor can I imagine that a great country like this can separate itself from all the affairs of the world, and say, "Let not our voice be heard or our influence prevail. We must look only to ourselves, and take no part in the politics of the world." We had a great Minister in Sir Robert Walpole, who was peculiarly a Minister of peace. He was continually using the influence of England in the quarrels of France, Germany, and other parts of Europe. He sent a fleet of several sail of the line to Lisbon to secure peace; and he did secure peace, not by being indifferent to what was going on in Europe, for he was constantly using the influence of England. There is, then, according to my noble Friend, the alternative of making war with Russia or doing nothing. I believe that both courses would, in the present case, be inexpedient For Poland. What we have been doing is this:—We have entered into communication with France, which has always shown great sympathy with Poland, and has always been ready to use her influence on behalf of the Poles. We have consulted Austria. The Government of Austria is a wise Government, and I, for my part, rejoice to see that Austria is resuming that power and greatness which she has long preserved in the Councils of Europe. I shall be happy to see her finances restored, to see the discords that have lately prevailed in Austria and her various provinces much abated, to see that she is prepared with a renovated Government in which the voice of the people may find expression in a free Parliament, and to see that Austria is ready to take that high part—and, I believe, it will be a still higher and greater part than she has ever yet taken—in the Councils of Europe. I rejoice unfeignedly in that prospect. The opinions of Austria do not agree with the opinions of Russia or of Prussia with reference to Poland. But it is the opinion of Austria that her Polish subjects ought to be governed with as much attention as possible to their natural distinctions of 635 race, their religious observances, and to their customs, habits, and feelings. The result has been, that when the National Parliament met, although some questions were put by Polish Members as to the policy pursued by the Government, and though they made the Address somewhat stronger in some passages, yet the leaders of the Galician and other Polish provinces were, on the whole, satisfied with the Austrian Government, and with the policy which that Government is pursuing in Austrian Poland. When, then, I am told that any self-government is impracticable, I ask why the Russian Government cannot show the same temper, wisdom, and moderation as that of Austria? Why is the Russian Government constantly attempting to suppress the language and change the religion of its Polish subjects? Why do they not indulge the feelings and wishes of Polish subjects? It is, therefore in union with France and Austria that we have made our propositions to Russia; and my noble Friend was therefore mistaken in saying that our interference is like an interference between the Northern and Southern States of America. The North and South have been long fiercely engaged in civil war; but neither to one or the other is England at all pledged or engaged to pursue any particular course of policy. Whereas, in regard to Poland, it is not only on questions of internal government that we have a right to interfere; Russia, having acquired Poland by treaty in 1815, bound herself to certain conditions on behalf of Poland, to which all the Powers of Europe were parties and witnesses, and which they are almost pledged to maintain. Therefore, I say that this is not a case in which it is our duty to be silent, to show complete apathy, and to wash our hands of all concern in the government of Poland. Austria was anxious to propose certain terms; but they were such as, in the opinion of other statesmen, the Russian Government could not well accept. Austria is most desirous of preserving the peace of Europe; but she is most desirous at the same time that the Poles under Russian sway may be contented, and have the rights and advantages which were secured to them by treaty. Combining, therefore, these two things—the interests of peace on the one hand, and the interests of the Polish race on the other—Austria was a party to the proposals that have been made. My noble Friend says there is no Government in Poland with which Russia can make an 636 armistice. But so far as an armistice or a suspension of hostilities is concerned, it can be made without any regular agreement by an understanding on both sides. Suppose you have an army in China, and it is desirable for any reason to have an armistice. The leaders of the two armies would not refer this matter to their respective Governments. The leaders of the two armies would enter into a suspension of hostilities with a view to the conclusion of peace; and so this might be done, if it were not that there is, I am afraid, on the part of the Russian Government, and also on the part of the Poles themselves, a disposition to make terms and conditions as to such an armistice which the other party would not be willing to accept. In the first place, the Russian Government say that they cannot treat with the Poles as if they were a regular body—that they are nothing but a rabble. The Poles, on the other hand, if they agreed to a suspension of arms, would expect that some person representing them should be recognised and received in the conferences of the European Powers. It is clear, that when such are the views of the two sides, an armistice is not likely to take place. But there is not the same reason why the other proposals made by the three Powers should lead to no result. The first proposal is that there shall be a complete and general amnesty. That was the first proposition made by Austria to Her Majesty's Government. If there was a complete and general amnesty, it would, I suppose, put an end to all inquiries, trials and punishments for past offences up to the date on which it took effect. That is what it ought to be, and that would, at all events, establish a basis for pacification. I can see no reason why Russia, if she means to have her subjects contented, should not agree to that proposal. Next, we have proposed that there should be a national representation, similar to that which the Emperor Alexander gave to Poland. The Austrian proposal—and this is the only one in regard to which there is any difference—differs from that of France and England. It proposes that there shall be a national representation, participating in the legislation of the country, and possessing efficacious means of control. The third proposal is that Poles shall be appointed to public offices, so as to form a distinctive national administration, inspiring the country with confidence. I do not see why Russia should not agree to those terms. They appear to 637 me to be, in the first place, in complete agreement with the intentions of the Emperor Alexander I., and, in the next place, to be the only terms upon which a lasting peace can be established between the Russian Government and the people of Poland. All that we have seen from 1815 to the present time tends to show that the Russian Government, acting by the Russian laws and Russian agents, and holding at naught the religion and the language of the people, can never secure permanent peace in Poland. Well, then, why not attempt another mode? We are bound, I think, according to our view of the Treaty of Vienna, to suppose that Russia is to govern Poland; but has she governed it according to the wishes and according to the nature of the people of that country? My noble Friend thinks that that could not be; and then he asks—which is, no doubt, applicable to all these proposition—"Are the Poles ready to accept them?" That, no doubt, is a question; but it would be impossible for us to propose terms other than those which suppose that the Russian Government is to prevail in Poland. When it is said that the Poles will not accept these terms, that word "Poles" which describes 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 of people in Poland, cannot be applied to every party who is to be found in Poland at the present time. There are the leaders of the insurrection, who have hopes of its success, and who, of course, would not agree to the terms; but there are others, who might say in the words which Livy has put into the mouth of Hannibal—Melior et tutior pax certa quam sperata victoria. For some months the Poles have been endeavouring to establish an independent government. They have weakened, impaired, and almost destroyed the regular action of the Russian Government in Poland; but they have not a single town, they have no Government that they can avow, they have not any regular army which can hold the field against the Russian forces; and many of them would, I should think, be inclined to say, "If we can obtain tolerable terms from Russia, if we can obtain an amnesty, if we can obtain free institutions and the use of our own language in our courts of justice, it is better that the authority of Russia should be restored than that we should go on with a contest which appears to us not likely to result in success." No doubt there will be men who will say, "We can conquer in this war," and who would be ready to listen to the advice of the noble 638 Earl, who spoke upon this subject with great eloquence—"We will go on fighting, and we hope to succeed." Looking to the past history of Poland, looking to the force by which the partition of Poland was originally effected—looking to what has been done since 1815 by the Russian Government, I certainly cannot blame any Poles who with the least glimmer of hope continue in the field with the expectation of gaining their independence. But, not blaming them, I say that we can neither assist them in arms, nor can we propose the independence of Poland to the Russian Government. It is only in case—a case which is far from improbable—of there being a considerable majority of the nation which is willing to accept fair terms that these six propositions could be of use. In that case they would be of service to the Poles. They would be a sort of charter to the Polish nation. If the Emperor of Russia were to accept them, they would be a sort of engagement on his part that he would for the future govern Poland on certain bases. It would be his interest to adhere to these terms, because they would give him the best chance of preserving peace in Poland, and preventing that country from being a source of weakness to his empire. It is likely that he would observe them, because any notorious violation of them, any attempt to exterminate the Poles in the Kingdom of Poland, or to destroy their religion and their nationality, must excite the opposition of Europe—an opposition not confined to England, France, and Austria, but combining all the Powers which signed the Treaty of Vienna, and also other Powers which feel the wrong of endeavouring to exterminate that brave and gallant nation. My noble Friend says that any such interference must do mischief. Is he borne out by experience? We know that in 1831, when not much was done, Lord Heytesbury wrote to Lord Palmerston, and said—Although your terms have not been accepted, do not imagine for a moment that your representations have been without influence. In those provinces of Russia which are inhabited by Poles most severe punishments have been inflicted. Not a man of the least distinction who was caught in the ranks of the insurrection has escaped without many years of imprisonment or banishment to Siberia; but in the Kingdom of Poland, with the exception of those officers who had violated their oaths, hardly any have been subjected to severe punishment.That is the testimony of Lord Heytesbury with regard to what occurred then, and my 639 opinion is that that experience applies to the present case, and that so far from doing mischief, if anything is obtained for the Poles, it will be obtained by the three great Powers of Europe representing to the Emperor of Russia what justice and fairness and the good faith of treaties demand. Far be it from me to predict what may be the effect of the answer of the Emperor of Russia, or what course, after having received that answer, we may think it our duty to pursue. Everything depends not only on the terms, but the tone of that answer, and on the proofs of sincerity which the Imperial Government may give. There are, I must own, some unfavourable symptoms—more especially the appointment of General Mouravieff as Governor of Lithuania, and the decrees issued by that General, which I have read to-day, ordering the Polish landowners to reside on their estates in order to give help to the Russians, and then exposing them to have their estates devastated by the peasantry, or distributed among that peasantry, if they do not betray the Poles who are in insurrection, and with whom they must have sympathy, although they have not themselves risen. The appointment of such a man as General Mouravieff, and the issue of these decrees, are not favourable to the hopes we may entertain that the Emperor of Russia and his Ministers will act a liberal and merciful part towards Poland; but still I think that it was our duty to make these propositions, and I believe that with regard to the kingdom those proposals will have great effect in keeping up the nationality of Poland. No man expects—Lord Castlereagh did not expect in 1815—that the Poles would ever lose the hope of establishing their national independence. That hope will still cling to them, as it has clung to them for nearly one hundred years, and no doubt if they are tranquil subjects of the Emperor of Russia their national independence will in time be conceded. But if we are so far successful as to prevent this war of extermination from going on; if we are so far successful, in conjunction with France and Austria, as to restore to the Poles a form of Government that at least shall be moderate and just, that shall preserve not only in the homes of Poland, but in her municipal councils and in her national assemblies, that spirit of the Polish people which I believe will never die—which I hope will never die—if we are so far successful, then our diplomacy, I con- 640 tend, will not have been exerted in vain, and for my part I shall never be ashamed of having taken part in such negotiations.
said, he had great doubts whether his noble Friend who had just spoken, or the noble Earl who preceded him, had fully and adequately stated the position in which we stood in reference to the question under discussion. His noble Friend had referred to the declaration made by Mr. Pitt and Lord Grenville in 1792; but the situation which he now occupied was entirely different, making the avowal which he did with respect to the impossibility of having recourse to armed intervention—an avowal made, be it borne in mind, at the very moment when the Russian Government was deciding what answer it should give to the six propositions. [Earl RUSSELL: It has decided. The despatch will be sent out from St. Petersburg to-morrow.] The noble Earl proceeds on the assumption that the despatch will be sent from St. Petersburg tomorrow; but it should not be forgotten that what was taking place in the House that evening would, in all probability, reach St. Petersburg before the despatch had left; for the Russian Government, no doubt, had notice for the last fortnight that the debate in which their Lordships were engaged was coming on, and would not unnaturally delay the reply until they received an account of what had occurred to-night. It would then go out to St. Petersburg that, come what might, armed intervention was out of the question; and that, he could not help thinking, was an announcement which was likely to have a vital effect, not only on the tone and manner, but on the substance of the Russian answer. At the same time, he quite concurred with his noble Friend in the opinion that armed intervention was entirely to be deprecated; nor would it be supposed that he took that view from any coldness towards the Polish cause. His association with that cause dated back for half a century—to the time when, with his late lamented friend, Prince Czartoryski, he stood forward in its support at a critical moment. At that time he had no seat in Parliament and could not therefore plead the cause of the Poles therein; but, in concert with that distinguished man, he had communicated his opinions on the subject under the title of An Appeal for Poland—an appeal which he had good reason to suppose had some affect on those to whom it was addressed, It was an appeal, not for armed interven- 641 tion, but one to the Allies, by means of which he hoped to gain his point—the independence of Poland. But to revert to the position of the country at the present day, he must observe with respect to the armistice which had been talked of, that however much noble Lords might desire that it should take place, it was hardly to be expected, inasmuch as it would put a stop to the whole proceedings of Russia, and give the Poles a decided advantage. Who, he might add, was to be the negotiator in the matter for the Poles, or who was to give the requisite guarantee?—a difficulty which applied not only to an armistice, but which belonged to the whole of the negotiations connected with the existing struggle. As for this country, we were not in a position to undertake offensive operations. We were, indeed, bound to pay the uttermost attention to our defensive preparations, and he confessed he had heard with astonishment and regret that in some most highly respectable quarters objection was taken to the expenditure as a needless expenditure because they said there was not the least danger of our being attacked. When a man insured his house against lire, he did not neccessarily imagine that a fire must take place. He simply took reasonable precautions against the result of neglect on his own part or that of his neighbour, and thus stood the case with respect to our system of national defence.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I confess, my Lords, that I seldom hear this subject of Poland broached without reluctance, and, for my own part, I have seldom or never taken any part in the debates. I now approach the subject with reluctance, because our judgment and our feelings are apt to be brought into painful conflict. It is impossible not to feel the deepest sympathy and the warmest admiration for the continued struggle of a brave and generous people, suffering under a painful sense of their own denationalization—if I may use the word—and under a feeling of oppression from the Government under which they have been placed. It is impossible not to admire the firmness, the perseverance, and the deathless courage with which, against forces incalculably superior, they have sustained for so many years what they believe to be the cause of their nation. And, on the other hand, I never approach a debate upon the subject of Poland without thinking and fearing that language used in this House and elsewhere may do much 642 more injury to that gallant people than it can do good—that it may raise expectations of external assistance, that it may lead the Poles to believe in intervention armed or unarmed, that it may lead to the hope of active interference to obtain that which is their dream—the restoration of their nationality; and that the hopes and expectations so raised may lead to the continuance of a hopeless struggle, only to plunge them into deeper mortification and deeper despondency when they find that those hopes and expectations have—and can have—no possible foundation. My Lords, I confess I was somewhat surprised at the willingness which the noble Earl (Earl Russell) expressed to enter upon this discussion at this moment; because it does not appear to me the most opportune moment for discussing the vain question of the propositions which have been submitted to the Russian Government when we are expecting the answer of that Government, and when it is possible that the language used here may affect that answer either in one way or the other. On the one hand, the Russian Government may be justly irritated if any language is used in this House holding forth the intervention of England by armed force, and so with the conjunction of her allies to force on Russia a policy of which she may not approve; and, on the other, they may be led to treat with less consideration the proposals of the Government than they would otherwise do if they have a declaration that under no circumstances will this country go beyond diplomatic representations. Whatever disinclination, however, I may have felt to express such an opinion, it has been entirely removed by the very clear and explicit declaration of Her Majesty's Government, that, whatever may be the answer of the Russian Government, Poland must not expect any aimed interference on the part of this country for the re-establishment of her liberties. I say, that if Her Majesty's Government think it consistent with their duty to make that statement in the present state of affairs, I can have no hesitation in declaring my entire concurrence in that declaration, and my conviction, moreover, that it is the deliberate determination of this country that they will not willingly and knowingly be drawn into hostilities for the purpose of maintaining the liberties of Poland. That being the case, I confess I have some apprehension as to the possible consequences of the course which Her Majesty's Government 643 have adopted. The noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs sees before him clearly the difficulties which surround an attempt at negotiation; and what I apprehend, and what the noble Earl who commenced the discussion (Earl Grey) apprehends is, that although this country, and although Her Majesty's Government may be determined not to be drawn into a war as a consequence of their representation, yet that gradually the effect of diplomatic negotiations may be such as to bring about disagreements, difficulties, and complications which, in spite of us, as in the case of the Crimean war, may, sooner or later, end in hostilities. It is a question whether this country may be dragged into a war, not for the sake of Poland, but into a war against Poland. If we impose certain conditions on Russia and Poland—if we find those conditions impracticable—if we find that Russia has acceded to those conditions, but that the arms placed in the hands of the Poles are used against Russia and for the destruction of Russian power, Russia will have the right to come and say, "You compelled me to make these promises, and you compelled me to adhere to them. I have adhered to them, and am now suffering from following your advice." I do not say that we shall have to give our active support to Russia in going to war against Poland—that may be too extravagant a supposition—but we shall be bound in such a case to throw into the hands of Russia the whole of our moral influence and the whole of our moral support. But the danger that suggests itself is this:—When the Government agreed to submit to the consideration of Russia these six propositions, did they come to any understanding with their allies as to what course to pursue in reference either to their acceptance or their rejection?—because it is most important that you should not take one step without being well aware what will be the consequences of that step, It is in that manner that we are drawn into complications. It is in that manner that we are drawn into war. It may be that Austria, France, and England are perfectly agreed upon the next step in the event of rejection. If that be so, I have not a word to say. But if there be no such agreement—if it be left to each separate negotiation to settle what shall be the next step when the answer is received, then I think that the Government have entered upon an improvident course, and that it is impossible to foresee what European complications 644 may not arise out of it. For this reason I think it is more to be regretted that the noble Earl should have taken a course in framing his proposals quite different from that of either France or Austria, and that he should have based his demands upon the obligations of the Treaty of 1814. If the noble Earl had said, as France and Austria have said, that it is a matter of European interest—that it is a matter in the interest of Russia herself—that this bloody and devastating insurrection should be put an end to, and that they have united to consider some mode of putting an end to it and finding a remedy for these grievances, I could understand that language, and that, whether the advice were accepted or rejected, it would not lead to any ultimate consequences. But when he appeals on the ground that he has the right to demand the fulfilment of treaty obligations, if he is met by a refusal on the part of Russia to accede to that demand, he is placed in a position not creditable to a first-rate Power. You make a demand, you meet with a refusal, and you are obliged to accept the rebuff that is given you. I therefore regret that the noble Earl should have founded his requisitions upon the obligations of the Treaty of 1814—with regard to which treaty it cannot be denied that many other important provisions have been violated, not only without any step on the part of this couutry, but almost without protest. I do not say whether we can fairly call on Russia to fulfil those obligations, when we have not granted but confirmed to her since that time her dominion over the Kingdom of Poland. I do not hesitate to say that, in my judgment, Russia has not fulfilled the obligations of the treaty and we may fairly call upon her to fulfil them; but what I object to is that it places this country in a position different from the other Powers, and that it makes a refusal by Russia not merely an ungracious act, but an act which very nearly approaches an insult. I will not enter upon a discussion of the six points, as I think it will be inconvenient to do so while the answer of Russia is in abeyance. I am quite aware of the difficulties with which diplomacy is surrounded; but the noble Earl knows not for whom he is acting—he knows not who are his clients. I know whom he wishes to make his clients—the inhabitants of that portion of Polish territory which was handed over to the dominion of Russia by the Treaty of 1814. The noble Earl says that with regard to every- 645 thing else we have no right to interfere, and that our requisitions must be limited to giving increased liberty to the Poles in the Duchy of Warsaw. But the great body of his clients reject his propositions altogether. They deprecate the subjection of any of their fellow-countrymen to Russia, and they say they will not recede from this terrible revolution until the Polish nation is made entirely independent of Russia. It is not a very promising position for the noble Earl to start with propositions, when the parties whom he wishes to serve are unwilling to be bound by the terms which he offers. The noble Earl has admitted to-night the difficulty, if not impossibility, of an armistice, which were pointed out so forcibly a few nights ago by my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Ellenborough); in short, it is perfectly clear that it is impossible where you have two parties engaged in a sort of partisan or guerilla warfare—on one side regular forces broken up into small fractions, and recently, I believe, broken up into smaller, and on the other side a body of independent partisans acting for themselves, under the control of a Government—for it is a Government—with which you have no communication. The noble Earl himself allows that the Poles would not enjoy the benefits of an armistice unless they refrained from hostilities of every kind. He tells them, that if they will give up the insurrection and take no further steps, no attack will be made on them; that there will be no fighting when they have laid down their arms and there is nobody to fight. But the Poles' hopes are in their arms; and the noble Earl, in his letter, tells them an armistice, which means that they are to lay down their arms, is an absolutely necessary preliminary to all other measures. He goes on to say—In an ordinary war the successes of fleets and armies who fight with courage, but without hatred, may be balanced in a negotiation carried on in the midst of hostilities. An island more or less to be transferred, a boundary more or less to be extended, might express the value of the latest victory or conquest. But where the object is to attain civil peace, and to induce men to live under those against whom they have fought with rancour and desperation, the case is different. The first thing to be done, therefore, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, is to establish a suspension of hostilities.That is just the thing which, on the confession of the Government, is utterly impossible; and, the preliminary being gone, away goes, of course, all that was to be built upon it. The noble Earl goes on— 646Tranquillity thus for the moment restored, the next thing is to consult the Powers who signed the Treaty of Vienna. Prussia, Spain, Sweden, and Portugal must be asked to give their opinion as to the best mode of giving effect to a treaty to which they were contracting parties. What Her Majesty's Government propose, therefore, consists in these three propositions:—1. The adoption of the six points enumerated as bases of negotiation. 2. A provisional suspension of arms to be proclaimed by the Emperor of Russia. 3. A Conference of the eight Powers who signed the Treaty of Vienna.Having dealt with the armistice—which, on the noble Earl's own showing, is at once an indispensable and an impossible preliminary—the noble Earl comes next to deal with the general amnesty, and he says there can be no difficulty in showing that there might be a general amnesty satisfactory to all parties. That was not the language which the noble Earl used when the Emperor of Russia did proclaim an amnesty. The noble Earl was forward then to say that the Poles were perfectly in the right to take no notice of it; and he informed the Government of Russia, in a despatch, that an amnesty could only take place under two circumstances—first, where one party had obtained a complete preponderance and had suppressed the revolt; and next, when the party amnestied had full confidence in the good faith of the Government.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I think the noble Earl also laid it down that the subjugation of one party must be complete, which certainly was not the case then, and is not now. My Lords, I see equal difficulties in carrying out these negotiations whether Russia accept or refuse these propositions. I do not share in the apprehensions that she will refuse, though she might do so with perfect safety after the declaration of the noble Earl that nothing would induce him to go to war. I anticipate she will profess her perfect readiness to enter into a discussion of these points, which will be referred, of course, to a Conference of the eight Powers. Considerable delay, of course, will take place, difficulties will be raised, suggestions will be made, objections taken, and all this time this desolating war will be going on, and not a single step will have been taken by you except this, that by holding out hopes of diplomatic intervention you have given additional stimulus to efforts which cannot lead to any practical result. I do not dis- 647 sent from the propositions of the noble Earl taken by themselves, but I object to our entering into any new engagements with Russia, or making ourselves responsible for the performance of obligations which we have imposed, and for the consequences which may result to Russia. Suppose that the consequences should be that the arms which she places in the hands of the Poles should be turned against her, that there should be a state of disloyalty throughout the whole population, that the Polish nationality should be not pro-Polish, but anti-Russian, bound together and determined to contravene all the policy of Russia, you would have placed yourselves in a very embarrassing position, and the consequences might be serious complications for Europe, which less direct interference might have avoided. The noble Earl, speaking of the manner in which this country was led into war in the latter part of last century, and referring to the policy of Mr. Pitt, said, that though we did nothing then, we got into a great war immediately afterwards. But surely the noble Earl does not mean to argue that it was by doing nothing that we got into war? That is an argument, I must confess, much less logical than I should have expected from a great constitutional authority such as the noble Earl. The noble Earl quoted the comparison of Mr. Pitt to the tall man in front of the crowd flattering himself that he is leading them, when, in fact, he is being pushed on from behind. I am very much afraid that the noble Earl is the tall man in this matter. I am afraid, that while in this diplomacy of his he flatters himself that he is leading all Europe, he—the unfortunate tall man—is, in fact, being pushed on by those behind him. If the objects of the noble Earl can be gained with the good will of Russia, and with a studied determination on the part of Russia to act upon them with good faith—if they can be attained to the satisfaction of the Poles, and the suppression of those dangerous dreams of nationality which can only be accomplished at the cost of a European war, I shall be ready to admit that the noble Earl has done good service. But I see great danger in the course on which he has entered. I am afraid that he may do more harm than good; and I should be disposed to regret that this discussion had taken place, except that it has elicited that which I trust will be an effectual answer to the exaggerated hopes which have 648 been raised—an assurance, that if the object of those dreams—a national and independent Kingdom of Poland—is obtained, it must be obtained not by armed intervention, not by the assistance, not even with the good-will, but contrary to the judgment, the wish and the desire of England, as well as of the other Powers more immediately concerned, I do not complain of the opinions the noble Earl has expressed, or the principles he has laid down, though I look with some apprehension to the course which he has taken.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have no ground to complain of the discretion with which this debate had been conducted. Natural sympathy has been expressed with a gallant and injured, nation, and at the same time the discussion has been marked by a full sense of what is due to the honour and interests of England. But the conduct of the House as a whole, has been somewhat inconsistent on this matter. As soon as the Polish insurrection was announced, eloquent appeals were made to the Government to take their right place by putting themselves at the head of the public opinion of Europe, which inclined so manifestly on the side of Poland. Similar appeals were made in subsequent debates, and we were told of the immense influence we might exercise on the Russian Government by taking this course. Now, however, when the Government have moved, and when they have taken the steps which appeared to them judicious, the two noble Earls who have been the principal speakers this evening have blamed the Government for what they were doing, and tell us that the wisest course was to do absolutely nothing. At times it may be possible for the Government to lead and to check public opinion; but on a matter which they have so deeply at heart I do not believe that the people of England would allow the influence which belongs to this country to be set at naught by their Government, and that no efforts should be made by them to remedy a great and acknowledged evil. I believe it would be perfectly impossible, however desirable it may be held to be, to indulge on all occasions in that dolce far niente policy which my noble Friend (Earl Erey) so ably advocated. Well, then, my Lords, I think that the discussion of to-night has, on the whole, been satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government. I think that the principles laid down by my noble Friend (Earl Rus- 649 sell) have met with general acquiescense from both sides of the House. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) certainly made some objections. He said that he was much relieved by the declaration of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to enter into armed intervention in favour of Poland; but he went so far as to say that the course actually taken by my noble Friend (Earl Russell), with a view to securing the independence of Poland, might have the very contrary effect, and might eventually lead us into a war against Poland. Now, as to the danger of drifting into a war against Poland, in consequence of our remonstrances against the Russian Government, he confessed he was rather surprised to hear such a danger suggested by the noble Earl. He thought it rather too ideal to discuss.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I admit that the expression used was somewhat exaggerated. But what I wished to convey was, that in consequence of the propositions made to the Russian Government by the noble Earl we might ultimately be obliged to throw the whole weight of our influence into the scale against Poland.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I do not think that the moral influence of this country can be affected by any such contingency as the noble Earl suggests. The noble Earl also finds fault with my noble Friend (Earl Russell) for having insisted so much on the obligations of the Treaty of 1815. But, my Lords, it appears to me that is really the strongest ground we can take. In relying on the obligations of that treaty we have had the concurrence of Austria; and, in addition, we have had the concurrence of France, which, for certain reasons, is not so strongly in favour of the maintenance of the Treaties of 1815. The whole three Powers have thus been brought to bear in one focus. And it is quite clear the Treaty of Vienna, contracted by Russia as well as by the other European Powers, gives us the right to speak with force on conditions imposed by that treaty. Again, the noble Earl put forward, as one of the hypotheses with which we have to deal, the case of Russia refusing to treat on the bases of our propositions. Now, my Lords, is that possible? Russia, having invited us to interchange opinions on the basis of the Treaty of 1815, can she turn round and say she will not treat at 650 all? The noble Earl said he wished to know from the Government whether they had come to an understanding with the other Powers as to the course which should be pursued after the answer of Russia was received. I cannot conceive anything more imprudent than it would have been for Her Majesty's Government to enter into an agreement with other Governments as to our future course, while we were in utter ignorance as to what the answer of the Russian Government might be. The course which Her Majesty's Government have taken is, not to anticipate events, but to deal with cases as they arise; and I believe that is the correct policy for the country, whatever Government may be in power. I think the Russian Government will entertain our propositions. They may, at the same time, take a course that may lead to delay. It would therefore he most unwise in us to come to any positive decision in the case until all the facts enabling us to form a proper judgment in the matter are before us. The noble Earl made a great attack on the proposal for what he called an "armistice." There is no such thing as "armistice" in the despatch. It is a suspension of hostilities. I admit that there may be difficulties in the way of such a suspension, but I do not think it is impossible; and if it is possible, then for the sake of humanity it is a thing which ought to be included in the propositions. One noble Lord has expressed an opinion that this proposition is in favour of Russia, and another believes that it is entirely in favour of Poland. If it is really something half-way between those two extremes, I do not think it will be impossible to obtain this suspension of hostilities—for though this is a guerilla warfare, carried on in various parts of the kingdom, we know it is under one general direction, and that if those who direct the Polish movement are so inclined, they can suspend hostilities on their side. At all events, I am sure your Lordships will be of opinion that we were right in endeavouring to bring about what would, at least for a time, terminate those atrocities which are said to be committed on both sides. The noble Earl spoke of the inconsistency of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary in not attaching to an amnesty which was spoken of on a former occasion the value which, by his proposition, he shows he would attach to an amnesty now. But I am unable to see any inconsistency in the conduct of my noble 651 Friend in reference to this matter. The amnesty offered by the Emperor was on the condition that the Poles should lay down their arms. There was no other condition. But now there is a comprehensive plan, including a Conference of the Powers, submitted to the Emperor, and an amnesty is proposed as one of the measures which should be adopted by His Majesty; and therefore the circumstances of the two cases are entirely different. In conclusion, my Lords, I will say that I think this debate has been conducted in a manner particularly creditable to this House, and that though different views have been expressed, I do not think anything which has occurred here is likely to add to the difficulties which my noble Friend has in carrying on these delicate negotiations.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
was of opinion that the negotiations had originated in an entire mistake. It appeared to him most inexpedient to say that in any event we would not go to war; yet the honour of the country might be so far engaged in the matter as to make it impossible for us to retract. His noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had endeavoured to show that a do-nothing policy would be an extremely ruinous one, and could not save us from war. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) thought such a policy would actually lead us into war. What was the policy of the noble Earl as laid down in his despatch? He wanted, after all that had happened of late years, to go back to what had been established by the Treaty of 1815. That was a fundamental error. He agreed that we had a right to insist on the terms of the Treaty of Vienna; but the question was as to the expediency of interfering for that end. The circumstances of 1815 were totally different from those of the present day. In 1815 the Emperor Alexander was supposed to favour the Poles, being influenced by the eminent men of that country who composed his Government, and there was none of the enmity which existed now between Russia and Poland. It was impossible then to suppose that the Emperor of Russia should have a Polish kingdom under his sway with free institutions and a free Government; and what was impossible at that time was infinitely more impossible now. In 1815 the Emperor allowed a Polish army to garrison the country; but where was the Polish army now? He certainly entertained grave apprehensions as 652 to the results which would flow from negotiations which he thought were founded upon an erroneous basis. It had been said, that an attempt should be made to procure from the Emperor a proclamation suspending hostilities. Why, he would be most delighted to issue such a proclamation, because that would virtually be the end of the war. Our allies would not take it so coolly as his noble Friend seemed inclined to take it if their propositions were not agreed to. But he did not see that it was possible that the propositions made by Her Majesty's Government could tend to the tranquillity of Poland. Whether wisely or unwisely, the Poles seemed determined to fight to the death for their independence. Hitherto, though sharing the universal feeling of this country in their favour, he had said nothing, because so long as we were determined not to interfere by arms in their behalf, it was right to say nothing which would lead them to rush into a contest which he always thought must lead only to bloodshed and misery. But now the case was different, and the question was, not what would happen to Poland or to Russia, but to England. In his opinion we had too many guarantees on hand already, and any new ones should be avoided as far as possible. But if we went side by side with France in this matter, he did not see how we could draw back, and the result very likely would be that we should be drawn into war. He agreed with those who thought that we ought not to go to war about Poland; but while he was afraid that our present interference would not have a good end—and no prospect of such an end had been held out on either side of the House that evening—there was one thing for which we ought to go to war—namely, the honour of this country.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he wished to make a correction upon a point of historical interest. It was stated that Lord Aberdeen repeatedly declared that nothing would ever induce him to go to war in defence of Turkey. Now, he was pretty intimate with Lord Aberdeen, who, he was persuaded, never said this, and was too well acquainted with public affairs not to feel that circumstances might arise in which it would be necessary to go to war for the honour of this country. Lord Aberdeen certainly hoped and believed that the negotiations then going on would not lead to war; but he never made any declaration half so definite as the one attributed to him—namely, that it was not the policy of this 653 country to go to war for the sake of maintaining the independence of Turkey. With regard to the subject before the House, though his noble Friend (Earl Grey) had advised a do-nothing policy, this was not the language of the noble Earl opposite, nor yet of the noble Marquess. But unless we were in a position to do absolutely nothing, and to say not a word in favour of Poland and in reprobation of the cruelties of which she had been the victim, no other course could be taken than that pursued by Her Majesty's Government. If it was their duty to speak at all, they were bound to limit their suggestions within the four corners of the Treaty of Vienna. But his noble Friend (Earl Russell) had not maintained that we were bound to restore Poland to the position in which it was constituted by the Treaty of Vienna; he merely said that the Treaty of Vienna gave us a locus standi, which entitled us to speak on the Polish question along with the other Powers of Europe. It followed, however, that we could not propose to the Emperor of Russia to part altogether with his Polish empire. As to the policy of doing nothing, silence under certain circumstances might not imply assent. We might have no relation with a part of Europe which was the scene of great horrors, and in which great cruelties were being perpetrated; but if we had a locus standi for speaking upon the condition of that country, and yet offered no opinion, we were guilty of a great dereliction of public duty. This was the position of the Government in the present instance. He did not know what the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) meant by the speech he had just made, but he seemed to advocate a doctrine which ought to be repudiated—that England ought never to speak unless she was prepared to follow up her speech by broadsides of shot and shell, and ought never to use her moral influence on the side of any people, unless she was prepared to go to war in their favour. Now, we were often inclined to exaggerate our advantages as compared with those of former times; but one of the advantages and the blessings which we now enjoyed was certainly an increase in the power exercised by public opinion. In our day, public opinion acted much more powerfully and rapidly, and with much greater certainty, upon the councils of the world than it ever did before, and it would be a grave dereliction of public duty if England, representing as she did to a great extent the 654 feeling of Europe, had held her tongue upon the subject of Poland. It was worthy of remark, that during the whole debate no course had been pointed out other than that pursued by the Government, except the policy of total and, he must add, of ignominious silence.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
thought that England could not possibly have stood still and said nothing, while the public voice of Europe was raised against Russia; and in this instance he believed that the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had rather followed the instinct of his nature, which led him to criticise what had been done, than indicated the course which he would himself have pursued in such a case. He must admit that he was far from being sanguine that the propositions made by the Governments of England and France to Russia would be accepted, or if they were accepted, that they would be adhered to. They might, however, lead to some mitigation of the abominable cruelties perpetrated on the Poles, even if they led to no political consequences. It was said that moral force ought alone to be employed; but moral force always meant that there was something else in the background. It did not follow that this something else was always to be used, but it acted on the minds of those with whom statesmen were arguing. He had regretted to hear the impolitic extent to which the leaders on both sides of the House had carried the doctrine of non-interference. Lord Castlereagh was not in favour of revolutions or demagogy, yet at the end of a long war we were at the very point of war with Russia on the subject of Poland, and perhaps nothing but the return of Napoleon from Elba prevented that war from actually taking place. The good Government of Poland was, in fact, a European object, and the object of every European statesman. Her Majesty's Government had in these negotiations too exclusively confined themselves to the Duchy of Warsaw, the pacification of which would settle nothing. It would be the pacification of 5,000,000 Poles in the midst of other large Polish communities, and would lead only to confusion and disorder. It was therefore only with a view to other results that he looked upon the action of Her Majesty's Government with any satisfaction. If it led to a suspension of the scourge which now hung over individuals and communities, it was at present the most that could be hoped for. Express treaty stipulations 655 were made in favour of the Poles, that they should receive the rights of self-government, that free intercourse should exist between the different provinces of Poland, and that they should have power of access to each other as Poles. The Treaty of Vienna was the only recognition, on the part of Europe, of the partition of Poland. As Russia had disregarded the stipulations of the treaty in favour of the Poles, her only title to Poland now was the sword. He thought that Her Majesty's Government ought to have gone further than they had done. Austria required some security against an overpowering neighbour, and as long as the noble Earl was content with so narrow an issue as that which he had raised, he could not expect the hearty support of Austria. The only title of Russia to Poland, he would repeat, was the sword, and the sanction of the Government to the Russian occupation of Poland ought to be from that moment withdrawn.
§ EARL RUSSELL
said, he desired to explain that he had at present no papers to produce with regard to Poland. As soon as the Russian answer arrived, Her Majesty would direct it to be laid before Parliament.
§ EARL GREY
said, that under these circumstances his Motion must be, of course, withdrawn. He objected to the Government asking, not for a real restoration of Poland, but for the re-establishment of the system of government that existed in 1815. He believed that this was an impossibility, and that neither Poland nor Russia would consent to such an arrangement. The course adopted by the Government was a combination of all that was objectionable, and was just one of those middle courses which could lead to no result. He had not, as the noble Earl had suggested, condemned negotiations tinder any circumstances, nor could he admit that doing nothing was the cause of the great Revolutionary War. He still believed, that if the Government had not encouraged the coalition against France and the invasion of that country, that war would never have taken place.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.