HL Deb 26 July 1875 vol 226 cc10-32

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Identic Note of Austria, the German Empire, and Russia to the Ottoman Porte of 20th October, 1874; to the reply of the Ottoman Porte of 23rd October, 1874; and to the Correspondence recently presented on the subject; and to move to resolve— That this House concurs with Her Majesty's (Government as to the illegality of the demand addressed to the Ottoman Porte by the Three Powers, Austria, the German Empire, and Russia, in their identic note of 20th October 1874; And— That this House regrets that no effectual measures seem to have been taken to prevent or to retard the definitive conclusion of a treaty between Austro-Hungary and the Danubian principalities, said*: My Lords,—Just before Easter the noble Earl the Secretary of State told the House that the Papers, which form in some degree the subject of my Notice, would in a few weeks be on the Table. Last Monday, for the first time, they were in the hands of Members. The conception of the noble Earl, as to the period involved in a few weeks, seems to be drawn from an age in which longevity went further than it does even at present. No doubt, when men lived 150 years, a few weeks was a correct description of the interval between Easter and the Dog Days, as at that time there may have appeared to be only a few hours in a fortnight, or a few minutes in a day. What renders the delay a little more remarkable is, that the last despatch is dated January 20th, so that on the face of it there is not any reason why the whole book, which is less than 30 pages, should not have appeared in February or March. However, I do not wish to criticize the noble Earl upon the point, but merely to excuse myself for being forced to address the House at what I know appears an inconvenient moment. It is no great fault—perhaps it is a kind of merit—in a Secretary of State, who seems born for higher things, to fall into the habits and traditions of the office he presides over. And these are well known to be, either to avert debates, or, if they must occur, to bring them on, when men have to perform the thankless operation of beating iron cold, or by the lateness of the Session bring the ashes of their mind in contact with the rising floods of Parliamentary indifference. My Lords, whatever may be thought on other questions, the House, I am convinced, will favour my decision of adding Resolutions to the Notice. A noble Duke upon the other side, who has long engaged the deference of all who belong in any way to Scotland (the Duke of Buccleuch), has quite recently laid down that if you want debate you must have Resolutions. It would also have been arrogant on my part to expect any of your Lordships to listen to an exposition of the Papers which could not lead to a result. Beyond that, it seems to me that when any one has taken up a subject of this character the House has a right to ask that he should point out some mode by which their judgment may be felt, by which their power may be usefully exerted with regard to it; although he does so at considerable risk, and although the House has a complete discretion of adopting his proposal or rejecting it. The practical effect at which these Resolutions aim may be uncovered in a moment. It is to localize and to restrict an infraction of the Treaties of 1856, acquired by the blood and consecrated by the honour of Great Britain—an infraction which the noble Earl the Secretary of State condemns, but which, as regards the conduct of one Power, at least, he has not succeeded in averting. My Lords, I need not dwell at all upon the former Resolution, since it is one of approbation and concurrence as regards the Government. It seems to be a just and proper tribute to their resistance of the Identic Note which the three Powers addressed to the Ottoman Porte on the 20th of October. As to the nature of that demand, Her Majesty's Government offered, as you may see in all of their despatches, an unqualified opinion. They deserve the greater credit because none of the other Western Powers were so placed as to hold decided or effective language on the subject. It is true, indeed, that Austria, as the Papers show, evidently doubted the legality, but was not on that account less forward in her action. With regard to the second Resolution, it is one of admonition, not of censure—to the effect that, unless there is something unexplained, something in the background, the Government ought to have done more to prevent or to retard the definitive conclusion of a Commercial Treaty between Austria and Roumania, when they viewed it as regretable. I readily admit my obligation to support this Resolution. Indeed, the point is so important that here I should desire to bring a short and easy train of reasoning under the judgment of the House, which may perhaps be calculated to force the gravity of the transaction home to minds which have not previously considered it. The principle of the three Powers, whose union has been so often serious to Europe, from the anarchy of Poland, at the end of the last century, down to the extinction of Cracow in 1847, is that the Vassal Principalities of Turkey shall negotiate Commercial Treaties, independently of the Empire in which they are incorporated. A congeries of minute arguments has been heaped up to show that trade requires the arrangement. But the noble Earl the Secretary of State has justly pointed out that the question is not commercial, but political. It is not a question of what tends to importation, as if revenue was the single object of societies, but of what the Law of Nations interdicts and sanctions. Now, the Law of Nations indicates distinctly that the power to negotiate Commercial Treaties is the power to negotiate without restriction upon everything. In the early spring, and again within the last few days, I felt bound to look through all the chapters upon Treaties in Vattel. He is still. the recognized authority of Europe, and I first learnt to refer to him from Lord Palmerston himself. Nowhere does he sanction the distinction which the three Powers have affected to establish. Nowhere does he view Commercial Treaties as legitimate, unless they are the exercise of a general negotiating faculty. Wheaton, whose treatise is received on the other side of the Atlantic, has a passage which ought not to be passed over, because it solves the question by deduction. It is—and I could give the page to noble Lords—to the effect that the validity of treaties ceases when either of the contracting parties forfeits independence. What follows? That their validity will not begin until dependence has been abrogated. We learn, therefore, from Vattel, that to negotiate Commercial Treaties is to negotiate all treaties, and from Wheaton, that the vassal principalities must throw off their dependence, before any contract can bind or regulate their conduct. Every one is thus led to see—without too much mental effort—that the arrangements proposed by the three Powers would be a large and a decided movement in the path of separation. But although untenable in principle, they might still be no more than the assertion of an heretical and unproductive theory, if the communities in question were not imbued with any separative tendency. Here facts come in to enlighten us. We know—and the noble Earl, the Secretary of State, himself has reprimanded—the aspirations of the Roumanian Government for a nationality they would be incapable of holding against the Powers on their frontier. We know the restless movements of the Servian principality from the time when, in 1863, the withdrawal of the Turkish garrison was urged upon our Government. The scheme of the three Powers is not then a barren declaration, but a living torch, addressed to an inflammable material, Which rushes forward to accept it. The next link is one the House can easily appreciate. When the Danubian Principalities are severed from the Empire which controls them, Commercial Treaties would be themselves a constant pretext for occupation by the neighbouring authorities. They have merely to allege that a stipulation has been violated, and send an army to the Danube to promote the execution of it. But all those who call to mind the campaign of Catherine II. against Turkey, or the campaigns of 1828–9, or that of 1853, will be agreed that the Danubian Principalities are the route to Constantinople, in a strategic sense, as distinctly as Herat is thought by eminent authorities to be the gate of India. No sooner, therefore, are they occupied than the guarantee of April 15th, 1856, which engages you by arms to support Ottoman integrity, begins to force itself upon you. And here, let me remark, that the moment would not be similar to that of 1854, when my noble Friend the noble Earl on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) came down to this House, and gave all the arguments against going to war, explaining, as he did, that no engage- ment bound the country; that it was free to linger in repose; that policy alone sufficed to govern its decision. In spite of my noble Friend the war occurred. It culminated in the guarantee I have alluded to. The question would not now be one of prudence, but of faith. Great Britain would be compelled to take up arms or sacrifice her honour. And while this great debate was agitating Parliament, millions of British capital, the fortunes of many men who have promoted the development of Ottoman resources, would be in utter insecurity. The whole chain is now before the House. Under these circumstances, it was evidently a British object, if you could, to divert Austria from an application of the principle the three Powers had laid down, and which is fraught with danger to this country. So long as Austria refrained, the principle of which the Ottoman authorities had exposed the character, might never have been executed, and even speedily renounced. Here, then, we are bound to ask my Lords, has the Secretary of State done what could be done for so legitimate a purpose; has he pointed out to Austria the many grounds on which the final step might be retarded; has he shown that at the best it was a question between commercial and political advantages of which the latter far outweighed the former; above all has he given prominence to the very guarantee I have alluded to of April 15th, 185C, which binds Austria with Great Britain and with France in the defence of Ottoman integrity? The position in which Austria stood as defined by that compact was remarkable and gave the noble Earl a locus standi for remonstrance—although friendly—which could not possibly escape him. Austria had the strongest interest in avoiding whatever tended to endanger the stability she might be called on to defend. She had besides the strongest obligation to avoid it. When a Power undertakes by force of arms to guard a system from infraction, no one would deny that she is equitably bound to abstain from measures which, positively are, or demonstrably tend to be, one. If any one was under an engagement to protect an edifice from fire, you would not say he was at liberty to act, from time to time, as an incendiary within it. A mass of arguments beyond my power to convey, beyond the patience of the House to listen to, might be constructed by despatch writers so competent as the noble Earl and his supporters, to arrest for a long time the course which Austria was meditating', and which has now become a grave event, although it is not yet appreciated properly. Have those arguments been used although they are not given in the Papers? Neither before nor since the Identic Note is any trace of them exhibited. If modesty has led the noble Earl to keep them back, when this appears, I shall be ready to acquit him. There is one circumstance, however, which ought to be alluded to in passing—although I shall not dwell upon it. On the 19th of April, I moved for the production of the Treaty which binds Austria so remarkably, and fixes her position on the Eastern question, because I knew from the best authorities that its production at that moment was the only chance of acting, in our sense, on the still hesitating, still undetermined attitude of statesmen at Vienna. Without any argument at all, the noble Earl repelled the Motion, in a way by which his own responsibility was seriously heightened. In short, he took a course which nothing could defend, except the opposite result to that which has arisen. Had the negotiation of Austria and Roumania blown over—and there was considerable hope of it—the noble Earl might have come down to this House and said—"Your proposition was superfluous. We have gained our point without you. It was not essential to produce the Treaties you required. We have saved the country eighteen pence or half-a-crown which their production would have cost it, thus showing how adroitly we can blend finance and foreign policy together." And it is, my Lords, a great flight of statesmanship to do so. But the result has shown—what I was thoroughly convinced of—that the proposal was not superfluous, but opportune and indispensable. Up to the end of time, the noble Earl can never possibly establish that, had he acted differently, had he acted as usage would suggest, and something more obligatory called for, the negotiation then suspended would have come to the maturity, which he, as well as I, was anxious to avert. The only inference I draw from this regretable proceeding is that, if the noble Earl repelled one method as improper or un- necessary, he was bound to resort to some other he preferred, or to succeed by abstinence from any. When it turns out that, according to his own Papers, which for six months have been revising, to which he might give any form he chose, he has done literally nothing, when that inaction has been accompanied by failure, no Opposition, however enervated and divided, no Member of an Opposition, however favourable to the Government, could pass his conduct without question. The second Resolution, therefore, was inevitable; but it leaves it open to the noble Earl to say that judicious measures were adopted at Vienna, although without success, and that he does not think it prudent to convey them to the Legislature. So far, I well know your Lordships go along with me. But it is not enough to prove the justice of the Resolutions, unless one can establish their utility. The House may fairly say that they are not bound to move out of their way to uphold the Secretary of State when he has taken a sound line, and to admonish him when he has been feeble or inadequate, unless a good effect upon the Continent of Europe can be traced to their proceeding. I approach that consideration, and all the more because it may be rapidly disposed of. Let the House only glance at the exact stage of the transaction. The three Powers laid down a new principle. The Ottoman authorities immediately exposed its inconveniences. The British Government upheld the Ottoman authorities. No kind of refutation was elicited. The whole thing remained suspended, and might have disappeared. One Power alone, after a labyrinth of difficulties, resolved to execute the project of which the standard was unrolled. My Lords, it is a perfect fallacy—although some who think with me were first inclined to adopt it—to assume that nothing now remains to be contended for, and that the Austrian step disposes of the subject. The extent of the blow to Ottoman integrity, the extent of the disparagement which falls upon the system of 1856, will be proportioned to the mass of States who follow that example, who so act as to encourage and confirm the separative forces of the Vassal Principalities. If no one joins, the evil will be localized. If many join, the crisis we are anxious to avert will be precipi- tated. Neither Russia nor the German Empire, although they shared in the Identic Note, have, since the Ottoman reply, done anything whatever. But even in Italy and France—although there is not time to prove it—a struggle appears to be going on between commercial and political ideas, of which the termination is uncertain. The opinion of this House—which, as I have often seen, has a prestige abroad even superior to that which it enjoys within the limits of the kingdom—would be the very barrier to check and guard the oscillating Powers. And the opinion of the House would be sufficiently conveyed in both the Resolutions. Both imply that the position of the Identic Note is not to be sustained. Both imply that the Austrian measure ought not to be generalized, while both are qualified to isolate it. My Lords, if anyone maintains that the undetermined Powers cannot be held back; that they are too intent on the supposed material advantages of these direct engagements with the Vassal Principalities; there is one part of the subject he has not yet attended to. My Lords, the three Powers themselves, when they resolved on the Identic Note, can hardly have observed the lever they were going to furnish to the general disturbers of political society. Indeed, the more we mingle in affairs, the more we see that critical decisions are often come to in a hurry. No sooner is it laid down that dependencies may enter into Treaties which involve a general negotiating faculty, and lead on by easy passages to the right of making peace and war, than every State which is not perfectly compact and homogeneous becomes threatened. If those who rule at Constantinople are forced to tremble for Moldavia, Wallachia, and Servia, Prance may be disquieted for Algeria and Corsica, the Italian Kingdom for Sardinia and Sicily, Great Britain for various possessions among the quarters of the globe. On the Austrian Empire the principle is calculated to rebound with a disintegrating force which clearly has not been anticipated. For the House will bear in mind that you cannot possibly maintain a special right upon this subject in the Vassal Principalities of Turkey. The despatches of the noble Earl completely overthrow that proposition. The principle is not a local, but a general one. To describe it briefly, it amounts to a new and ingenious road across the lines of public law to the dismemberment of Empires. It is just, therefore, that a House like yours—which, although night by night, we see it plunged into the business of a vestry or a school board, will not forget its mission as a guardian of sound principles and elevated interests—should do something to restrain the Powers which only verge upon, which only contemplate an error, unworthy of themselves, injurious to us, and tending to the loss of national cohesion in large and complex States, whatever age, whatever clime they may belong to. My Lords, one among many views which leads me to think the evil may be localized, is that the Cabinet of Germany have not the slightest motive to extend it; that, as these despatches show, they were drawn into the Identic Note reluctantly and doubtfully; that many European Governments look up to them for counsel at this moment; that they are themselves directed by a mind to which, ideas more just, or more complete than those which guided it at first have often been admitted. But everyone may form his own opinion on this subject, which I scarcely touch upon in passing. My Lords, it is not unusual to anticipate objections on a Motion of this sort, and to reply to them. The practice seems to me a dangerous one, as it is likely to fatigue the House, and indeed I know but one mode of thought with which the Resolutions are in conflict. It is that mode of thought—and many hold it conscientiously—which looks to a regular alliance between Russia and Great Britain as a specific for the maladies to which Europe is exposed. It cannot be denied that any course which discourages or limits the execution of the Identic Note, is unfavourable to the objects Russia has been long accustomed to pursue in the Danubian Principalities. The eloquent historian, Lamartine, pointed out that the sword of Russia had composed the Treaty of Kainardji, by which Turkey was so much humiliated in 1774. Since then, her policy in the Danubian Principalities has never been reversed, although late events may sometimes have interrupted it. To adopt a Motion to disturb it, or to check it, is not the part of men who wish to substitute an intimate relation with that country, for those paths which Mr. Canning and Lord Palmerston bequeathed to us. But the House might be justified in asking, how far that alliance can be compassed, except by sacrificing all the objects for which our foreign policy continues. At present, it is usual to remark that the European balance has been wholly superseded. It may be so. But it is only superseded and eclipsed because Russia draws into her system important Powers which used to counteract her. Should Great Britain fling herself as an additional and a subordinate ingredient into that sinister, dark, and overgrown preponderance, the dismay of those States which prize their independence without large armies to uphold it will be as boundless, as it must be certainly, well-founded. Even, therefore, should it be proved to-night that Resolutions such as these are little favourable to united action with St. Petersburg, they ought not on that account to be rejected by your Lordships. Nations which aspire to exist can hardly be unfaithful to the purpose which renders their existence sacred to the world. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Resolutions.

Moved to resolve, That this House concurs with Her Majesty's Government as to the illegality of the demand addressed to the Ottoman Porte by the Three Powers, Austria, the German Empire, and Russia, in their identic note of 20th October 1874.—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)


said, he did not wish to complain of the delay which had occurred in the presentation of the Papers which the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs promised on the 25th of February last should be laid on the Table of the House in the course of a few weeks, although that delay seemed to him to be somewhat unusual. It was, however, fully compensated for by the contents of the Papers themselves, for he did not believe that so many extraordinary propositions had ever been contained in so small a compass as were to be found in the space of this Blue Book. Some time last year, it appeared, a demand was addressed by Austria to the Porte for the right of concluding an independent Commercial Treaty with Roumania, and several propositions were laid down by Count Andrassy with respect to Servia, which, by some misapprehension, he omitted to prove. The question was complicated by a very extraordinary Paper that was brought before the Foreign Office, and which was signed by Prince Ghika, in which it was asserted that a modification of the Customs system of the Principalities could only be effected in virtue of a special Convention concluded between Roumania and a Foreign Power. That was a most illogical and untenable proposition. It might be alleged that the material interests of Roumania and those of the Ottoman Porte were distinct; but the Porte itself acknowledged that to be so, and it promised to consult with the Principalities in regard to their distinct interests, and to accede to any special arrangements which might be necessary for them. All that the Porte required was that the Principalities should not assume a power which did not belong to them. It was clear that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary regarded the Convention with Roumania as utterly indefensible, for he had declared that Her Majesty's Government were convinced that the pretensions of Roumania were inconsistent with the terms of existing treaties, and that they could not believe that any of the Powers who had signed the Treaty of Paris would infringe that important international instrument. That vigorous language, however, had not been backed up by any vigorous action—all that the noble Earl did when the matter came to a head was to make a proposition to the German Ambassador, which he promised to communicate to his Government—and the matter then disappears from the Blue Book. In another despatch the noble Earl let down the three Powers in rather an easy manner, remarking that too much importance should not be attached to the political aspect of the question, which lost much of its significance from the declaration of those Governments that they had no intention to weaken the ties which bound the Principalities to Turkey. The direct action of the three Powers in negotiating with the Principalities had done as much as could possibly be done to sever those ties; and if Her Majesty's Government were satisfied that the three Powers had no intention of doing what they actually had done, diplomatic action would seem to be useless. It was clear that the object of those Powers could not be a merely commercial one, because such an object could have been attained with the consent of the Porte, which was quite willing that a commercial Convention should be concluded. The noble Earl had proposed a Conference; but the proposal was at once declined by those Powers—which showed that their object was not commercial only. It was not pretended that anything was to be gained by treating the sovereign authority of the Porte with discourtesy. They must have had in view a political object of some sort. He did not pretend to offer an opinion as to what that political object was. The noble Earl had suggested several methods by which, without detriment to the authority of the Porte, the commercial objects professedly aimed at might have been attained: but the German Ambassador declared, with the somewhat cynical frankness that characterized the diplomacy of his nation, that the positive interests of his country could not be endangered by questions of mere form—holding that she had a right to conclude a direct special Customs Convention with the vassal provinces of Turkey. The Turkish Government had not been treated with common courtesy, and whatever might have been the object of those proceedings, their result was perfectly obvious—a great change had occurred in the Eastern Question, and it could not be doubted that if the Principalities possessed the right of making independent treaties, their position was essentially altered. Nor could it be denied that if treaties were ridden rough shod over in that manner on the plea of material interests, which were undefined, danger must arise both to the security of nations and to the peace of Europe.


said, that if they sanctioned the pretension of the Principalities to conclude Commercial Conventions, they would sanction that which was entirely inconsistent with the suzerainty of the Sultan, and which was wholly without warrant. The three Powers rested the demand addressed by them to the Porte upon the terms of the Treaties of 1856 and 1858; the Firman of 1866 and the Treaty of 1856 declaring that the Principalities should continue to enjoy under the suzerainty of the Porte the privileges and immunities they then enjoyed, including full liberty of worship, legislation, commerce, and navigation. He believed that on many occasions the Principalities had entered into arrangements with the Governments of neighbouring Powers without applying for the consent of the Porte; and the present complaint of the Porte hardly came with a very good grace, when it was remembered that, in the words of our late Consul General in the Principalities, "with regard to Consular jurisdiction, that treaties and capitulations were virtually a dead letter" there. If now the Porte held the Principalities to the Treaties, it should also have required them not to depart from those Treaties where the interests of the Powers were concerned. He believed that the Customs tariff had never been strictly observed in the Principalities; and in various existing Treaties it was not made imperative upon the Powers to ask the assent of the Porte for any arrangements they might make with States under the suzerainty of the Porte. In his opinion, too, it was very inopportune on the part of the Porte to raise these doubtful questions. The Government of the Porte were sure to be met by rejoinders which were more or less well-founded, and which might weaken the position of the Porte when it came by-and-by to apply for the assistance of the Powers in matters of graver interest. He thought the Porte should rest satisfied with the assurance—a valuable one—given it by the German Ambassador—that Germany had given and would give no encouragement to any designs which would bring about the separation of the Principalities from the Turkish Empire, or would injuriously affect the position and rights of Turkey. The House would, in his opinion, be hardly justified in imputing to the Powers that they were open to the charge brought against them by the noble Lord (Lord Stratheden); and with regard to the Resolution expressing the regret of the House— That no effectual measures seemed to have been taken to prevent or retard the definitive conclusion of a Treaty between Austro-Hungary and the Danubian Principalities, such a Resolution would be equivalent to a Vote of Censure upon the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, who, he thought, did not deserve it. In conclusion, he wished to say a few words upon the desire of the Principalities to separate themselves from Turkey. Such a desire on their part was no secret—but was very unwise. Practically, they were now in the enjoyment of independence, commercially and otherwise; but directly they withdrew themselves from the guarantee which at present secured to them this quasi-independence they would have little chance of long remaining an independent State. Russia might, perhaps, hold her hand from a feeling of grace and from religious sympathies; but the temptation would be strong, and incorporation with that Empire would bring Russia on the Danube, from which it was the object of the Treaty of 1856 to exclude her. On the other hand, nothing could be more fatal to Austria than any encouragement given to the Principalities to shake off their connection with Turkey. Austria must know that if they did so, they would be either incorporated with Russia, or, if they remained independent, would seek to extend their power by incorporating with themselves some of the neighbouring Austrian Provinces. Community of origin would be a great temptation on the part of some of these Provinces to coalesce with the Principalities, but he did not think it could be the wish of any Englishman that Austria should be weakened by the severance of any further portion of her Empire.


My Lords, before I say anything else on the subject, I hope I may be allowed to congratulate your Lordships on having heard the opinion—expressed I believe for the first time—of that Member of your Lordships' House who of all who sit here has the largest and longest experience of the Foreign Affairs of this country (Lord Hammond). I do not, however, entirely agree with the conclusions of my noble Friend. Still, although I am compelled to dissent from his conclusions, I think that the point of view from which he regards the question supplies a very useful and necessary corrective to the exaggerated apprehensions of the noble Lord who moved these Resolutions—apprehensions which were, I think, to some extent, shared by the noble Earl who succeeded him. The noble Lord who moved the Resolutions complained that an unreasonable delay had occurred in the production of the Papers, and that there had been a violation of a promise on my part. It is quite true that some delay has occurred; but it has arisen from two causes. I kept the Papers back, partly in the hope that before they were laid upon the Table we might have arrived one way or the other at a definitive settlement of the question—in which event the Correspondence might have appeared in a more complete form than it actually does appear—and partly, they were kept back for the purpose of consulting on the question of publication the other parties to the Correspondence, without whose consent I could not fairly lay them upon the Table. But, so far as my recollection serves me—though I may have spoken in general terms of laying the Papers in the course of a few weeks—the only promise I gave to the noble Lord was that they should be laid upon the Table in time for a discussion during the present Session. They are upon the Table now, and the noble Lord has brought the subject forward for consideration at least a fortnight, I am afraid, before the time when we may hope to look forward to the close of the Session. Therefore, I think the noble Lord cannot fairly complain that the pledge I gave has not been fulfilled. I will now pass to the substance of the noble Lord's Resolutions. The Motion of the noble is in effect a Vote of Censure of the Government. He asks you to express regret that certain things have not been done.


interposing, explained that what he said was, not that certain things had not been done, but that we could not see that they had been done.


I put the interpretation which I think most people would put upon the Motion. The noble Lord is, of course, quite free to understand his own Resolutions as he thinks fit. The question, however, is not what the noble Lord intends, but what his words imply. One of his Resolutions implies that certain steps, if they have not been taken, ought to have been taken. Now, I do not think your Lordships will, upon the statement which you have heard, endorse that view, and if a division is called for, I shall appeal with confidence to noble Lords on both sides to reject it. In answering the noble Lord, I shall not go back to the partition of Poland, nor discuss the expediency or otherwise of forming a close alliance with Russia. How does the matter stand? The whole story is told in these Papers, and I shall recapitulate it very briefly. The Government of the Principalities on the one hand, and the three Governments of Austria, Russia, and Germany on the other, desire to conclude Commercial Conventions with one another. The Government of the Porte objects on the ground that such Conventions are not within the right of the Government of the Principalities to contract without sanction from Constantinople. We and the French Government agree with the Porte in the construction which we place upon our Treaty obligations. The three Governments of Eastern Europe, on the other hand, regard such Conventions as within the right of autonomy which the Principalities confessedly enjoy. They accordingly proceed to make their Convention, and the noble Lord is of opinion that we ought in some way, which he does not explain, to prevent that transaction from taking place. Let me remind the House within what very narrow limits this question really lies. It is admitted on all hands that the Roumanian Government has not the right to make treaties properly so-called—treaties of a political character dealing with general interests. It is equally admitted that there is a certain class of Conventions with neighbouring States which the Roumanian Government is entitled to make by the Firman of 1866. And that, let me say in passing, disposes of his argument as to the impossibility, according to International Law, of any Convention being entered into by a dependent State. The whole difference between the two parties in this dispute consists in this—whether Commercial Conventions such as are now proposed come within one category or the other. We think they are excluded, for reasons which I will not dwell upon because the noble Lord accepts them as valid. The Austrians think they are included, grounding themselves mainly on the right of the Principalities to make their own internal financial arrangements, and on the words of the Firman of 1866. Now, is this a question which can be treated as one of European magnitude and importance? It can only be important in one of two ways—either as regards its immediate practical results, or as a step to the ultimate separation of the Principalities from Turkey. As to the practical results, they are, none. I am not authorized to say that if the consent of the Porte had been asked to the making of these Conventions, it would have been conceded without difficulty; but I believe that to be the case. The commercial arrangements of Roumania have no interest for Turkey. The Roumanian Exchequer is separate from that of Turkey; a surplus there is of no assistance to the Sultan, and a deficit there is of no importance, so long as the very small tribute to which Roumania is liable continues to be punctually paid. In fact, one argument against these Conventions is that they are utterly unnecessary. If the Roumanian authorities like to reduce their Customs duties to the lowest point, they can do it. Nobody will object and nobody will interfere. If they like to raise them within certain limits, to which they are bound by European Treaties, they can equally do so. They can make, and they have made, informal understandings with other States as to rates of duty to be levied, and they might have continued to do so. As regards material and practical results, it makes absolutely no difference which way this matter is settled. Well, then, is the conclusion of these Conventions a step to ultimate independence? I will be entirely frank. The Principalities, no doubt, have drifted in the course of the last 20 years into a position different from that which was made for them by the Crimean War. That is only saying that the Crimean War was waged 20 years ago. The Roumanians, as a people, are stronger and more united now than they were then. They may indulge in dreams of a possible future; but I shall be surprised if they take any steps to realize those ideas, and for this reason. Why I say that the Roumanian people will not take steps to separate themselves from the Turkish Empire is, that the only security they have for self-government, or even for existence, lies in the European guarantee which, as a part of the Ottoman Empire, they enjoy. So long as they remain in name a dependency of Turkey they are secure, as far as treaties can make them so, against the risk of being absorbed in any other State. They are not strong enough to stand alone, and they know it. I do not think, therefore, they will risk the forfeiture of the guarantee which now protects them. And I cannot doubt that they clearly understand the situation. That guarantee was not granted to the Principalities for their own sakes—it was granted to them as forming a part of the general system of the Ottoman Empire. So long as they remain within that Empire, they have a right to it, and no longer. I do not think they will be in haste to break off a connection which is not galling or humiliating, and which leaves them complete internal freedom, either for the sake of being absorbed in any more powerful State, or for the bare chance of being able to maintain a precarious independence, exposed to danger from every quarter, and without having a claim on the protection or friendship of any Power. That state of things I consider affords the best security we can have for the maintenance of the status quo. As for this small matter of the Conventions, it leaves things in substance where they were. The Roumanian people, at any rate, do not consider that they have gained a diplomatic victory, for we hear of the supplanting of the Government and of discontent and agitation at Bucharest—which does not look as if the Government were considered to have accomplished a national success. It may be that by better management on both sides this dispute might have been averted. I think that was possible, and in despatches I have indicated more than one way in which it might have been done. But the time for that is past—not by the fault of England. And now it only remains to consider in what way the actual result could have been averted. On that point the noble Lord (Lord Stratheden) has given us no information. He does not suppose that we ought to have broken off relations with the three Powers, because of this difference. Ought we to have withdrawn from the guarantee of Roumania? But that would be only injuring ourselves, unless other Powers took the same course. My noble Friend has suggested several remedies for the state of things which he desires to see put to rights. He has said that we might have laid the Papers relating to the matter before Parliament, and that we might further have appealed to the good faith of the other Powers interested in the question, in the belief that publicity and discussion would have changed the course of the question. We might have made more noise and written excited despatches about the observance of treaties; but what would have been the result of a course of conduct such as this? They would have said—" Your morality is excellent; but while we have just as much respect for treaties as you have, we have our own method of interpreting them, which unfortunately differs from yours." If we had endeavoured to create out of this a great European question, we might certainly have succeeded in making ourselves ridiculous; but we should have done no good to the Porte, and I do not think we should have been thanked for our trouble. Whatever is still possible to smooth over the difficulty and to save the dignity of the Porte shall be attempted; but I believe at this moment the Turkish Government, which certainly is mainly concerned, is not only satisfied, but grateful for the line we have taken. I do not think, therefore, that your Lordships will be more Turkish than the Turks themselves, and censure us for results which we did not bring about, and which, as far as I can see, no language or action on our part could have averted.


agreed with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) in deprecating the use of violent language, or the adoption of what would be called a rash or ill-judged course in reference to this matter. It was never desirable to adopt strong language, and in this matter it would have been more than usually rash to have done so. He agreed in thinking that it would be the greatest possible mistake to erect the subject which had been brought forward by the noble Lord (Lord Stratheden) into a great European question. He would not for a moment presume to set up his opinion on a question of the interpretation of treaties against the view which might be held by the Foreign Office. On the other hand, he thought great weight ought to attach to the views which had been expressed by the noble Lord (Lord Hammond), who was for so many years Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Looking at the question by the light of the Firman which was issued by the Porte, he was in considerable doubt whether the commercial arrangements which had been entered into by the Principalities were such as they were excluded from making by their general relations with the Porte. It would, in his opinion, be idle to address strong language to the other Powers, because their views on these points differed from those entertained by Her Majesty's Government. The general position of the Principalities was of a very artificial character. For many years past they had endeavoured to set themselves up as something greater than they really were, and, in all probability, they would continue in the same course. This being so, he thought it fair to regard the question as one concerning which the principle of self-interest would weigh with the Principalities—and as the noble Earl had said, self-interest was more binding than treaties—and prevent them from going as far as some persons thought them likely to go. The Principalities were not likely rashly to sacrifice a position in which they would lose the advantages of the European guarantee—within which they were now included—and become a mere shuttlecock between two great Powers. On the whole, he thought the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) had taken a very prudent course in advising the Porte not to attach exaggerated importance to the question in its present position, but to suffer it to be looked upon as a question of arrangement between neighbouring States, and not as one involving great questions of treaty obligation, and likely to imperil the arrangement made in 1856 with regard to the whole question.


If no other noble Lord is going to address the House I shall feel bound to make some comments on what has passed, and to announce the course I propose about the Resolutions. As regards my noble Friend upon the right (the Earl of Rosebery) he has shown an aptitude in foreign, not unequal to that which he was well-known before to have upon domestic topics, and has taken the first step in what I trust may be a long continued effort to uphold the validity of Treaties and the honour of his country. The noble Lord, who may be justly regarded as the Nestor of the Foreign Office (Lord Hammond), and the noble Earl on the front bench (the Earl of Kimberley) who has gone with him, have adopted the position of the Identic Note; they have supported the legality of the demand which it embodied; they are at utter variance with the Secretary of State, they are exposed to the reply which his despatches have brought forward, and I am not compelled in any way to answer them. But when I come to the noble Earl the Secretary of State himself, the importance of his office renders it incumbent on me to encounter some of the remarks of which I was the object. The noble Earl ascribed to me the view that a Parliamentary discussion, some time back, would have been the proper method for giving a more favourable turn to the transaction now before us. Undoubtedly I do maintain that, if a Parliamentary discussion were to happen, its chance of retarding the Austrian negotiation would have been greater before, than after the negotiation was concluded. But Parliamentary discussion was not, as it occurred to me, the most important weapon to rely on in the business. The noble Earl has said much to extenuate the gravity of what he was not able to avert, and denied that in Moldavia and Wallachia there is the separative tendency which I imputed to them, and which forms an important link in the case I urged upon your Lordships. How comes it, therefore, that the noble Earl, in language I will read, officially rebuked the aspirations of Prince Charles and of his councillors for an independence they would not be able to perpetuate? [Lord CAMPBELL here read the passage.] The noble Earl has charged me with general exaggeration in the importance I attached to the formation of these Treaties. What have I done except adopt the language of the Ottoman authorities, "that they are the earliest stage in the road of demands still more important, still more inadmissible?" The variance is between the noble Earl and men whom patriotism, interest, experience enlighten, who have a local knowledge of the countries in dispute, whose minds are constantly employed upon the subject. I venture to prefer the judgment which they form at Constantinople to that which he may form at Downing Street—were he without a bias—upon some parts of the question. Is there no such thing as ability, sagacity, or insight on the Bosphorus? Is statesmanship unknown, or is diplomacy uncultivated on those waters? The noble Earl has asked me, in a manner the most pointed, "what ought we to have done?" My Lords, there never was a question easier to satisfy. If either before the Identic Note of October 20th, or during the long interval which followed, one despatch had been submitted to the Austrian Government, pointing out— however guardedly and cautiously—that the course they meditated would not harmonize with the engagements which bound them to Great Britain and to France upon the Eastern question; that the advantages they sought might be more legitimately compassed; it would have seemed to me the conduct of the Government ought not to be impugned. Will it be said that such a task was beyond the faculties of the noble Earl, and those who sit around him here, or those who aid him at the Foreign Office? My Lords, the noble Earl regards the second Resolution as a censure. In that event, however just its terms, I shall withdraw it. Dissatisfied with the proceedings of the noble Earl in this affair, I do not fail to recognize his international utility in the function of maintaining peace between two contending Powers, or Powers not unlikely to contend. It would not, therefore, be consistent with my views as to the interest of Europe by any vote to weaken his authority at present. As to the former Resolution, nothing will induce me to withdraw it, and nothing will, I hope, prevent the noble Earl from acquiescing in it. It is a tribute to the Government as against the Identic Note, and it must tend to counterbalance the effect of the Austrian example on those States which at this very moment are doubting whether to be swayed by it.


acknowledged the friendly tone of the noble Lord's speech towards the Government and himself, and hoped that the noble Lord would rest satisfied with the discussion which he had evoked, and withdraw both Resolutions. He (the Earl of Derby) could not object to the first Resolution in the abstract, but it would afford no security that it would be unanimously accepted by the House; and looking at the state of the House and the number of Peers who were absent, and had taken no part in the discussion, any Resolution agreed to in such a manner would not have any weight with or influence over European nations.


adhered to his opinion, that the proper course would be to withdraw the second Resolution; and, as to the first Resolution, its acceptance or non - acceptance, entirely depended upon the Government. As to the first Resolution, if the Government would not adopt it, he must leave to them the responsibility of rejecting it.


said, that this was one of those cases of pressing a Resolution which no one particularly desired to oppose; but, at the same time, if it were accepted, it might give rise to some misapprehension in other quarters. The second Re-solution being withdrawn, there would be no necessity for the first; and it appeared to him that the better course would be to agree to a Motion that the Resolution should not be put. He therefore moved the Previous Question.

A question being stated thereupon, the previous question was put, "Whether the said question shall be now put?" Resolved in the Negative.

Then it was moved to resolve, That this House regrets that no effectual measures seem to have been taken to prevent or to retard the definitive conclusion of a treaty between Austro-Hungary and the Danubian Principalities.—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.