§ The QUEEN'S SPEECH reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
, in moving an humble Address to Her Majesty, in answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, said:—My Lords, the circumstances under which Parliament this year assembles will be viewed by your Lordships and the nation at large with a sense of loyal satisfaction. It is a matter of congratulation to every subject of Her Majesty that, after an interval of several years, Her Majesty has been again enabled to inaugurate the proceedings of Parliament by Her presence. The fact that Her Majesty has to-day appeared on the 7 Throne in your Lordships' House may be taken as a gratifying indication that She is still favoured with that health and energy which for so many years have enabled Her to perform the duties of a Throne so illustrious as Hers. This circumstance is made still more gratifying by contrasting the present circumstances of the Royal Family with those which were the main cause of Her Majesty's absence last year. A Member of Her Majesty's Family was only then beginning to recover from a dangerous illness—I am happy to say that Prince Leopold is now entirely re-established in health.
My Lords, I will now proceed to make a few observations on the topics adverted to in the Speech from the Throne: but, before doing so, I will bespeak an exercise of that indulgence which your Lordships are accustomed to extend to noble Lords in my position. Her Majesty's most gracious Speech commences with a reference to Foreign Affairs. Intelligence of those affairs is always important, but it will be received on this occasion with special interest. The state of our foreign relations has been, perhaps, the most prominent subject in the public mind during the Recess, and it is therefore most satisfactory to hear that our relations with Foreign Powers continue to be of the most cordial character. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that some time ago a revolt broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That revolt was at first of small proportions; but it gradually gained strength, partly because of the inefficiency of the armed forces of Turkey, and partly from the financial collapse of the Turkish Government. Under those circumstances intervention on the part of the Powers of Europe was deemed expedient—indeed, became inevitable; and if there must be interference—for that is the proper word—it was clear that such interference must, in the natural course of things, emanate from Austria, because the frontier territory of Austria in the neighbourhood of the disturbed Provinces being inhabited by an excitable people, was endangered by the hostile operations in its neighbourhood. I believe that the conduct of Austria in this matter has been characterized by energy, temperance, and discretion; and the course which has been taken by Her Majesty's Government in 8 reference to that action will, I think, meet with general approval. In the Speech from the Throne, Her Majesty says—I have considered it my duty not to stand aloof from the efforts now being made by allied and friendly Governments to bring about a pacification of the disturbed districts.That is an attitude of a kind which does not unduly commit this country to any definite line of future policy. It requires but little reflection to show that had any other course been adopted grave difficulties might have ensued. Had this country stood aloof from all representations made to Turkey, we might have been accused of an indifference which savoured of cowardice. On the other hand, if the alternative of that course had been adopted—had this country recommended Turkey to concede what was asked by the other Powers, a responsibility might have attached to this country which would have been unnecessary and which certainly would not have been desirable. I think there is strong reason to hope that what has been done by England and the other Powers will lead to peace in the disturbed Provinces and to the establishment of religious toleration for the Christians who inhabit them.
My Lords, the next reference in the Royal Speech is to another topic of much importance and one which has excited much public interest. It will be remembered that two years ago much interest was felt in reference to the position of this country in regard to the Suez Canal, and it was the subject of a discussion in your Lordships' House. On that occasion the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that there was no opportunity of acquiring the Canal from M. Lesseps and the shareholders. But in the course of the last autumn, owing to the financial embarrassments of the Viceroy of Egypt, circumstances were altered, and an opportunity did present itself by which England was enabled to acquire a definite and tangible position in respect of the undertaking. It must be acknowledged that it was not a satisfactory state of things that while England contributed three-quarters of the entire traffic of the Canal she should have no voice in the management of the Canal except what she might be supposed to derive from vague claims and indirect interests, 9 Now, however, this country is in a position to represent one-half of the proprietary interest. The opportunity for attaining that desirable end arose with some suddenness, and it had to be at once seized or allowed to pass. As your Lordships are aware it was not allowed to pass, and I believe the opinion of Parliament and the country to be that the conduct of the Government in this matter has been characterized by energy, by diligence, and promptitude. The Papers on the subject will be laid before Parliament, and I venture to think that the action of Her Majesty's Government will be endorsed by Parliament as thoroughly as it has been approved by the country. Your Lordships will observe that while acting with decision for themselves, Her Majesty's Government have duly respected the constitutional forms and rights of Parliament, in accordance with which both Houses will be afforded an opportunity of expressing their judgment on the matter.
My Lords, the paragraph in the Royal Speech having reference to the affairs of China and to the expedition sent from Burmah to the Western Provinces of China will be welcome to all who remember the threatening aspect of affairs in that quarter at the end of last Session. The murder of Mr. Margary will be made the subject of grave inquiry, and there can be no doubt that it will not be allowed to drop before satisfaction has been received, and reparation made for the atrocious assault made upon our Envoy last year.
My Lords, I am sure that the passage of the Speech which refers to the success of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to India will meet with a loyal response. It is a cause of thankfulness that the health of His Royal Highness has been preserved, notwithstanding the trying climate of India and the energy which has characterized the movements of the Prince during his tour.
I now come to a subject which has excited the public mind very much during the Vacation, and respecting which much misapprehension—or rather, I should say, uncertainty—still prevails. When I speak of uncertainty in connection with Slavery, your Lordships will understand me as confining myself to the legal aspect of the question. As to 10 Slavery and the Slave Trade, the attitude of the country has long been fixed and certain, and the attitude of the Government in respect of both is also fixed; but there is uncertainty, as regards the legal aspect of the question, which it is well should be ascertained and settled in a positive manner, and I am sure your Lordships will concur with me in thinking that the Government have done well to refer that part of the question to the careful consideration of a Royal Commission. It would indeed be strange that anyone should suppose that on the question of Slavery itself there is any uncertainty in the minds of a Government which has concluded a treaty with the Seyyid of Zanzibar that promises to result in the complete extinction of slavery within the territories of that Potentate, and which has brought about the annexation of Fiji—one of the objects of this annexation being the suppression of a species of slavery which existed in those parts.
Her Majesty's gracious Speech next refers to the Conference with respect to the Confederation of the South African Colonies. There is much reason to hope that what has been proposed by the Government will have the effect of placing on a better basis the relations of the several races which inhabit those regions.
My Lords, it is a matter for congratulation that the outbreak in the Malay Peninsula seems to have been effectually quelled.
Among the subjects on which legislation is promised in Her Majesty's Speech, one of the most important is that of the Merchant Shipping Laws. Scarcely a Session has passed within the last 30 or 40 years without some legislation on that subject. The measure passed last Session was admittedly a temporary one; but it afferds a basis for satisfactory legislation of a permanent character, and the present time is one eminently favourable for satisfactory legislation. There has been time for the various interests concerned to consider the matter with calmness, and your Lordships will all agree that it would be impossible that any permanent legislation on the subject could be satisfactory if it did not, to some extent at least, receive the co-operation of all the interests involved in such legislation. It will not appear surprising that some difficulty should be felt in dealing with 11 the question of we consider what has been the advance of our shipping trade. From the Board of Trade Returns I find that in 1846 the British vessels engaged in the foreign trade amounted to about 6,000,000 of tons, and that in 1874 they amounted to 30,000,000 of tons. These are exclusive of the British ships engaged in the coasting trade. My Lords, in speaking on this subject, it is impossible not to refer to the zeal shown by an individual in the cause of our seafaring men. I believe that even those who hold that the figures and allegations of fact brought forward by Mr. Plimsoll are not borne out by the facts of the case, are not disposed to deny to that Gentleman a grateful recognition for having kept alive the question, and having brought forward circumstances of much importance in connection with a discussion of our Shipping Laws.
Coming to the paragraph in the Royal Speech which has reference to Education, I will remind your Lordships that the legislative changes already brought about with respect to our Universities have been carried out by the authorities, and it cannot be doubted that whatever further changes Parliament may think it necessary to make, if conceived in a moderate spirit, will be favourably received, and will be carried out in the best manner possible. As regards Primary Education—a subject which in recent Sessions has been much discussed by both Houses of Parliament—I have only to observe that your Lordships will see with satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government have lost no time in the endeavour to complete the legislation already in operation on that important matter.
The Inclosure of Commons unquestionably is a matter which demands the attention of Parliament. It appears that some machinery is necessary; but I feel sure that the Government do not intend any interference with the local management of commons, which for many reasons must be the best.
Any measure for promoting economy and efficiency in the management of Prisons, and at the same time effecting a relief of Local Burdens, must, I presume, be of a financial character, and will, therefore, be dealt with mainly in the other House of Parliament; and, consequently, I will do no more than call the attention of your Lord- 12 ships to the fact that these subjects have not been forgotten in the Queen's Speech. Experience has shown that successive Governments find the greatest difficulty in passing all the measures proposed for the Session in the Speech from the Throne. For that reason it appears to me that one of the most satisfactory features of the Speech addressed to Parliament to-day is that it does not promise too many measures; but if the measures which it does promise are passed in the present Session, then the time of Parliament will have been well spent.
My Lords, I will conclude by moving that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne, as follows:—
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, bog leave to offer our humble thanks to Tour Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Tour Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
We humbly thank Tour Majesty for informing us that Tour Majesty's relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be of a cordial character.
We humbly thank Tour Majesty for informing us that Tour Majesty has considered it your duty not to stand aloof from the efforts now being made by allied and friendly Governments to bring about a pacification of the disturbed districts of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and that Tour Majesty has accordingly, while respecting the independence of the Porte, joined in urging on the Sultan the expediency of adopting such measures of administrative reform as may remove all reasonable cause of discontent on the part of his Christian subjects.
We humbly thank Tour Majesty for informing us that Tour Majesty has agreed to purchase, subject to the sanction of Parliament the shares which belonged to the Khedive of Egypt in the Suez Canal.
We humbly thank Tour Majesty for informing us that the representations which Tour Majesty addressed to the Chinese Government, as to the attack made in the course of last year on the Expedition sent from Burmah to the Western Provinces of China, have been received in a friendly spirit, and that the circumstances of that lamentable outrage are now the subject of an inquiry.
We rejoice to learn that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has enjoyed uninterrupted health during his journey through India; and that the hearty affection with which he has been received by Your Majesty's Indian subjects is an assurance to Your Majesty that they are happy under Your Majesty's rule, and loyal to Your throne.
We humbly thank Your Majesty for reminding us that at the time that the direct Government of Your Majesty's Indian Empire was transferred to the Crown, no formal addition was made to the style and titles of the Sovereign, and we rejoice to learn that Your Majesty deems the present a fitting opportunity for supplying this omission.
We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has given directions for the issue of a Royal Commission to in-quire into all Treaty engagements and other International obligations bearing upon the subject of the Slave Trade, and the action of British national ships in territorial waters of Foreign States, with a view to ascertain whether any steps ought to be taken to secure for Your Majesty's ships and their Commanders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty.
We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that a Bill will be laid before us for punishing Slave Traders who are the subjects of native Indian Princes.
We rejoice to learn that the general prosperity of Your Majesty's Colonial Empire has continued to advance.
We join with Your Majesty in trusting that the operations conducted by Your Majesty's troops in Malay have restored order and reestablished the just influence and authority of this country.
We humbly assure Your Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the measures which may be submitted to us, and that we earnestly join in Your Majesty's prayer that our deliberations may, under the Divine blessing, result in the happiness and contentment of Your Majesty's people.
THE EARL OF ELLESMERE
—My Lords, in seconding the Motion of my noble Friend who has just sat down, I have in the first place to solicit the indulgence of your Lordships on this my first occasion of addressing you. My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to commence my observations by joining with my noble Friend the Mover of this Address, in expressing satisfaction that 14 Her Majesty has been able to come down and in person to open this Session of Parliament. I think that perhaps the most important part of the Speech from the Throne is that relating to the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It seems to me to threaten the gravest results. It must be remembered that the state of things as regards the East is very different in 1876 from what it was in 1853 and 1854, when disturbances in the Northern parts of Turkey were raging. At that time Russia was adopting a policy of her own. Now, when an insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina has arisen, Austria, to whose Government the insurrection is naturally the cause of great uneasiness, has come forward and, acting in concert with Russia and with the German Empire, which did not exist in 1854, has recommended to the Porte measures calculated to restore peace in the disturbed Provinces. To that diplomatic movement Her Majesty's Government have given their assistance, and the reply given by the Porte is a sufficient answer to those who said that Her Majesty's Government should have held aloof. As to the purchase of the shares of the Suez Canal, the proceeding of Her Majesty's Government is so exceptional in its nature, that without hearing an explanation of all the circumstances attending that course of action, it would be hardly proper to offer any opinion at all; but, as has been pointed out by the noble Earl who moved the Address, this is not the first occasion on which the question has arisen of England obtaining an influence in the management of the Canal by the purchase of shares. The noble Earl has also pointed out that if Her Majesty's Government had not purchased at once, when the opportunity arose, that opportunity would have quickly passed away—the Khedive would soon have found ready purchasers for those shares. As regards the paragraph in the Royal Speech having reference to China, our diplomatic proceedings in relation to the event alluded to in that paragraph have been perfectly successful, and have given one further proof that England is always ready and willing to defend British subjects, and demand reparation for wrongs inflicted upon them, and if the expedition now on the way to Yunan should be finally successful, I think the prestige of England in those regions will be 15 materially increased. If the news I read the other day be true—namely, that the Chinese official in the Province where Mr. Margary had been murdered is recalled—it will show that the Chinese Government is inclined to do justice in the case. It must be a source of gratification to every one that the visit to India of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has been a marked success, and that the health of His Royal Highness has not suffered from the trying duties which he has performed in such a climate. The outbursts of loyalty with which the Prince has been greeted in all parts of India which he has visited are in the highest degree satisfactory, and now this country awaits the return of His Royal Highness in unimpaired health and with increased knowledge of the great Empire over which at a future day—may that day be distant—he will be called upon to rule. My Lords, I will not enter into the question of the Slave Circular, because the whole subject is to be investigated by a Royal Commission. I will merely observe that the actual state of the law is to be regarded as most unsatisfactory and ambiguous, and that therefore it is easy to understand that at times the position of naval commanders must be a very difficult one. It will be an advantage to have a uniform method laid down for dealing with fugitive slaves—regard being, of course, had to exceptional cases. I will not anticipate what may be the conclusions of the Royal Commission, but it would be absurd to suppose that in this year of 1876 any Englishman can have a bias in favour of Slavery. As regards the South African Colonies, I will only allude to the affairs of Natal, and only to say that it was natural that the Government of this country after a disturbance had been put down in a colony should recommend measures to prevent a recurrence of such a misfortune, and that some uniform principle should be laid down for dealing with the Native tribes. The first proposition of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies did not meet with the approval of all the statesmen of the South African Colonies; but I think that, on reflection, they will see that it would be attended with great advantages even if they did not see all the benefits which were likely to arise from the Confederation. The Royal Speech promises a Bill for regulating the Ultimate 16 Tribunal of Appeal. That is a rather abstruse question, and your Lordships will pardon me for not going into it; but as to the Bill which we are promised for the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Law, I may refer to the fact that on receiving a deputation which waited on him a few days ago, the First Lord of the Treasury said Her Majesty's Government were determined that another Session should not pass without legislation on the subject, and this declaration will, I think, be received with satisfaction by your Lordships and the country. As to Education, I may be allowed to express a hope that any measure introduced by the Government for the purpose of effecting changes in the Universities will be Conservative in its spirit—that it will aid the progress of University education without destroying the character and ruining the prestige of the Universities. I presume that any measure having reference to Primary Education will follow on the lines laid down in 1870. I am aware that School Boards are unpopular with some persons; but I believe that time and a further experience of the Act of 1870 will do much to remove acerbities now existing. With regard to the Inclosure of Commons, legislation is necessary; but I hope that no Bill will pass which will deprive the people of open spaces desirable for their health and recreation. My Lords, I will conclude by seconding the Motion for the Address. [See Page 12].
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords—Both my noble Friends—the noble Earl who moved and the noble Earl who seconded the Address—have made allusion to the indulgence which Peers in their position usually receive from your Lordships' House on occasions like the present. I venture to think that it has been a source of great satisfaction to this House, and very creditable to it, that for many years successive Governments have selected noble Lords not of advanced age or of great, experience in debate who have been able, with very great distinction, to do what, in my opinion, are two of the most difficult things in the world—to move and second the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. With regard to the noble Earl who moved the Address on this occasion, I must say that I feel the satisfaction which I am sure all your Lordships feel at seeing him perform such a 17 duty in a House in which his grandfather occupied such a distinguished position. This House will sincerely join in the satisfaction expressed both by the noble Earl who moved the Address and by my noble Relative who seconded it at the fact that Her Majesty has been able to appear on the Throne this day to open in person this Session of Parliament. The speeches of my noble Friends were highly creditable to them; but I remarked that in regard to some of the subjects mentioned in the Speech from the Throne both the noble Earls summed up their observations very briefly. Both noble Earls seemed anxious to avoid any allusion to the Bill for regulating the Ultimate Tribunal of Appeal. Well, there are some things over which it is better to throw a veil, and perhaps the noble Earls thought that this was one of them. Again, my Lords, it occurred to me as I heard the enumeration of those measures that there were some rather remarkable omissions from the Speech of to-day. Last year, to judge by the Speech from the Throne at the commencement of the Session, the Public Health was an object of greatest solicitude to Her Majesty's Government; but in the Speech from the Throne today there was no mention whatever of a question which had been in former years an object of such anxious solicitude. I hope I may infer that the public health is now in a satisfactory state, seeing that there is a most remarkable silence on the part of the Government in reference to their once favourite topic. Even the Pollution of Rivers Bill of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) finds no place in the Speech now before your Lordships' House. With regard to Education, I am glad the Government are applying themselves to that subject, and I shall await with anxiety the measures which they intend to introduce with reference to the Universities and to the Primary Education of the country—because I venture to think it will require all that skilful management in which my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council is so successful to enable him to reconcile the conflicting views of his Colleagues on the subject of Primary Education. The Home Secretary is said to be the friend of compulsory education; while, as I understand, the Prime Minister, in his private capacity, joined a majority to 18 prevent the only means that was suggested of carrying out the Agricultural Education Act from being adopted in Buckinghamshire. I will reserve my judgment on the question until I see the Bill. I think the Bills which have been brought to our notice to-night are Bills of the greatest importance, and worthy of the greatest consideration on the part of your Lordships. I recollect hearing of a gentleman who said to an author that the pleasure he enjoyed in reading his books was equal to the pleasure he enjoyed in receiving them—which was not much; but I have no hesitation in saying that if the bill of fare presented to Parliament by Her Majesty's Government this Session be carried out in well-considered measures, and are steadfastly carried through Parliament, it will give satisfaction to Parliament and to the country at large. My Lords, there is one subject not referred to in the Speech from the Throne, but I cannot help alluding to it shortly, because it has occupied the attention of the public mind very much during the Recess. I mean the state of the Navy and the administration of the Admiralty. Serious charges—charges which would appear to be difficult to be answered—have been brought against the administration of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Now, those charges have undoubtedly received increased strength by the Fugitive Slave Circular. The accusation against the right hon. Gentleman based on that Circular is certainly undeserved: and I think it only right to pointout that there are questions involved which are not merely of a departmental nature, and that, as the noble Earl opposite knows, the First Lord is not responsible for questions of that character. It is quite clear that my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is responsible for that Circular, and that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not responsible for it. There are, however, other charges against the First Lord; but he has reserved his defence for his place in Parliament, and that being so, I think it is more becoming for me to await that defence before making any observation on those subjects. There are in your Lordships' House the Lord Privy Seal and other noble Lords who, no doubt, will be quite ready to defend him; but, as there will be a more fitting opportunity for entering on a discussion 19 of these charges, I shall mate no further allusion to them on this occasion. My Lords, there is a topic which, of necessity, has been brought prominently before your Lordships in Her Majesty's Speech; and here again I must give due credit for what I thought the appropriate manner in which the noble Earl, the Seconder of the Address, spoke of the triumphant and successful progress of the Prince of Wales in India, and the good results which are likely to follow from his journey through that Empire. It must certainly have been a great satisfaction to Government to be able to give in the Speech from the Throne a confirmation of the general impressions of the country of the affection and respect with which His Royal Highness has been received in India. In Her Majesty's Speech it was observed—At the time that the direct Government of my Indian Empire was transferred to the Crown, no formal addition was made to the style and titles of the Sovereign. I have deemed the present a fitting opportunity for supplying this omission, and a Bill upon the subject will be presented to you.I infer from that passage in the Speech that Her Majesty thinks it desirable to move in this matter, from considerations of the effect of such movement on the Native population, in connection with the visit of the Prince of Wales to that country. My Lords, I venture to say that, in regard of the dignity of Her Majesty herself, no name can appeal to the imagination so forcibly as that of Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. My Lords, the noble Earls who moved and seconded the Address referred, in complimentary terms, to the administration of the Colonies. No doubt the administration of the Colonies has been viewed with favour by the country at large; but even on the Sun there are spots, and perhaps the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) will forgive me if I touch upon some of the spots of his administration. The Prime Minister, at the Mansion House some time ago, with that desire to render compliments to his Colleagues which so frequently characterizes his allusions to them, went a little beyond the ground on which he was standing, and spoke of the Confederation of the South African Colonies, remarking at the same time, that the Confederation of the North American Provinces was due to the Members of the 20 present Government. I thought that the person who possessed sufficiently large and comprehensive views of Colonial policy to carry out a scheme of this kind was my noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley), who now sits behind mo. I am certain the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) will admit that the real work of the Confederation of North America was done in the time of my noble Friend, who afforded his sanction and encouragement to that measure, and during whose term of office that celebrated agreement was carried into effect in Canada, and also, I think, in Nova Scotia. The noble Earl, no doubt, deserves great credit for the manner in which he took up the questions that were left to his hands, and it must have been with great satisfaction that he applied himself to the introduction and passing through Parliament the Imperial Act that was to carry that Confederation into effect. Several questions were, however, left behind—questions not altogether easy of solution—the purchase of the Hudson's Bay Territory, the question of the Vancouver Territory, and also of Prince Edward's Island, which, under my noble Friend, joined that Confederation. I am afraid that there is at this moment the question of Newfoundland and its fisheries, which still remains open, and is not very easy of settlement. I said there were spots on the Sun, and with all the noble Earl's ability, industry, and patriotism, if he has a defect it is, perhaps, that he is so desirous to promote a policy that finds acceptance and which is desirable in itself, that he is a little too anxious to publish his opinions, and does not take quite sufficient care to mature his plans so as to bring them to the most favourable issue. When the noble Earl introduced a now policy for the administration of the affairs of the Natives of Natal it certainly did strike me that it was an imprudent thing to publish a despatch which was sure to be translated in the colony, and which described the position of the Chiefs and Natives. The noble Earl, after describing the enthusiastic devotion of the Natives towards their Chiefs, went on to state that it was desirable to diminish that attachment and to detach the Natives from the Chiefs. That was not, I think, a prudent declaration, when you consider the influence of the Chiefs and the inexhaustible number of Natives 21 with whom you have to deal in Natal. In the same way the noble Earl under-took a measure which I believe to be of the greatest importance, and which I hope he will be able to carry through—for it is a measure which will do him great credit—I moan the Confederation to which Mr. Disraeli alluded. That is a proposal of the greatest importance and advantage; but the noble Earl directed the immediate publication of a despatch containing errors which he was afterwards obliged to retract—errors which might have been corrected by a little more communication with the Governor of the Colony and the local authorities.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I bog the noble Earl's pardon. I am not aware that I have retracted any errors.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
At any rate the noble Earl used language which, justly or unjustly, was sure to be irritating to certain persons belonging to the Colonial Government, and there can be no doubt that the noble Earl did afterwards withdraw the names of those particular persons. There is also another point connected with this Confederation, upon which the Government will be required to give explanations. I should desire to know what is the exact position of a very eminent man, of great intellectual powers—Mr. Froude—who was sent to that colony by the Colonial Office. We shall also require to know what are the conditions under which he has acted, and whether it is true that—after the noble Earl himself had laid down in the clearest manner the constitutional relations between the Home Government and the Colonial Government—the Delegate, or the Commissioner, or whatever post Mr. Froude occupied, absolutely "stumped" the colony at meetings of the most hostile character to the existing Government of the colony. I shall be curious to know whether that conduct has been approved or disapproved by the noble Earl. I do not see why because a colony having representative institutions is small, you should not be as punctilious in your relations with it as you would be with the largest of your colonies. I now approach the subject of Foreign Affairs. I have been now for some time in Parliament, and I cannot reproach myself with ever having intentionally said anything to embarrass a Secretary of State, whoever 22 he might be, in his negotiations or relations with foreign Governments, and I feel that such a course is perfectly consistent with the freest discussion of Foreign Affairs in Parliament. I am bound to say that during the first 18 months of the present Administration it would have boon very difficult for me or any of my friends to attack the Foreign Minister. There was no question of very great importance going on, and, as far as I know, no mistakes were made by the noble Earl. I am not sure there were not a few people in the country who regretted that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) did not do anything a little foolish and a little sensational. But the case is different now. At the present moment—during the Recess—three questions have arisen which have in an extraordinary degree occupied the public mind. As to one the country has waited with prudent reticence to hoar the statement which will be made by the Government in Parliament, and has abstained from prejudicing the question one way or the other. I refer to the complications which have been referred to by the Mover and Seconder of the Address as having arisen in consequence of the insurrection in Herzegovina, and also to the concluding act of the Government in joining in the Andrassy Note to the Government of Constantinople. If I remember right, in October last the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he spoke at Liverpool, treated the matter very lightly, and expressed his belief that we should hear little more about it. He also expressed his conviction as to the readiness of the Porte to do what was right in regard to the Christian subjects of the Sultan; and he pointed out with excellent judgment some of the difficulties that attended the question. A month later the Prime Minister, speaking at the Mansion House, was obliged to take a much graver view of the insurrection: and the noble Earl himself a month afterwards naturally took a graver, view of the insurrection than he had done before. He said he might be thought a dupe, but he certainly thought that the other Powers were in earnest in co-operating for the peaceful settlement of the question. I am not one of those who think that the noble Earl was a dupe in entertaining that belief. I think he was right in that belief, which was 23 based on the great interests which the different Powers have in the peaceful settlement of the question. If all those Powers had the same views or interests the matter might be serious; but any statesman, however bold, would hesitate to incur the responsibility of breaking up the Ottoman Empire, and dealing with the Mussulman and Christian populations of the Sultan. No doubt there must be differences of opinion and separate views and interests among the Great Powers, and I think that was a sufficient reason for the noble Earl's belief in a moderate settlement of the matters in question. The question for the public is threefold. Austria would naturally take the initiative in these representations to the Porte. I do not in the slightest degree object to that; but what the House will wish to know is whether we took any part in the negotiations that led the three Powers to frame the Note, or whether we were only consulted by the three Powers when the Note was settled. The next question, of the greatest importance, is, whether the Treaty does or does not infringe the provisions of the Treaty of 1856 as revised in 1871?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
What I want to know is whether the presentation of the Note affected in any way the Treaty of 1856 and the revised Treaty of 1871? Now, I apprehend that any effect of that kind would depend upon Article 7 and Article 9 of the Treaty of 1856—the first of those Articles securing the independence of the Ottoman Empire and the latter referring to the spontaneous promises of the Sultan to grant certain rights to his Christian subjects. It is very important to know whether the mode in which the Note was presented was calculated to infringe upon those Articles. Subject to that reservation, I venture to express the opinion that there has been no infringement in what we have learnt has been done, and neither Lord Palmerston nor Lord Clarendon ever considered that the Treaty precluded us from attempting, in common with other Powers, to obtain from the Porte the fulfilment of the promises which it admitted were embodied in that Treaty. If the Government have no statement to make on this point so much the better; 24 and if they decline to speak on matters of so delicate a character, I am not the person to press them to do what may be inconvenient or disadvantageous. I now refer to another subject which has awakened very general interest in the public mind—the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. I must say that I think it very creditable to the impulses and instincts of the people of this country that they have received the announcement of the three matters of which I am speaking in the way they have done. That of the Suez Canal purchase was received with very general approbation, which I am not sure has not diminished to some extent. I think the history of the Canal is one of the most extraordinary illustrations it is possible to imagine of the French proverb—Man proposes and God disposes. We all remember how Lord Palmerston opposed the Canal. With regard to the engineering mistake, that could hardly be imputed to him, for he spoke on the engineering authority of this country; and, as regards his financial prophecies, I can only hope that they may be equally falsified, though it can hardly be said they have been up to the present moment. There can be no doubt that the reasons which influenced him were of the most purely patriotic character, and that he was entirely carried away by very much the same sort of considerations as I believe influenced Napoleon III. and the French in their great anxiety to promote the scheme. But one effect of Lord Palmerston's opposition, whatever other effects it may have had, was to excite a strong feeling in France. I do not know how far it diminished the investments of English capital in the Canal—but I generally find that British capitalists are extremely apt to look after their own affairs and to think they know better than official gentlemen. At all events, Lord Palmerston's opposition was the cause of M. Lesseps' getting funds in France. Mr. Senior, in his amusing Journal, tells us that there was no shopkeeper in Paris who did not buy a share to have his revenge on those English; and M. Lesseps tells of a gentleman who came to him for shares in a railway in the island of Sweden, to whom M. Lesseps replied—"It is not a railway, it is not an island, it is not Sweden; but it is a canal, it is an isthmus, and it is Suez." "Never mind," said this enthusiastic 25 gentleman, "it is to spite the English, and it is all the same." The French people who thus laid down their money, and who have been out of it all this time, have certainly conferred great benefits on this country. The question of England acquiring some interest in the Canal was not entirely dormant during the administration of the late Government. M. Lesseps came to this country, and it was generally considered a grateful tribute to the ability with which he had carried out an enterprise so beneficial to this country when the Queen presented to him one of the highest of our Orders. Proposals were at that time made to our capitalists and suggestions were made by our Consul General in Egypt and by English gentlemen connected with the Suez Canal; but none of those proposals were in the slightest degree definite enough to call upon the Government to regard the matter, as they otherwise would have done, as one for very grave consideration. The Prime Minister authorized Mr. Lefevre, the Secretary to the Board of Trade, to see M. Lesseps and to obtain the data on which any proposal should be made. Mr. Lefevre and M. Lesseps met several times; and at the last interview M. Lesseps told Mr. Lefevre that though he had powers to enter into arrangements with the English Government, it must be a sine quâ non that the control and direction of the Canal must remain with himself and the French Council; and that I own made it unnecessary to go further into the matter. I think it would be a great mistake to go into any serious discussion of the purchase of the shares, as we have not the Papers before us; but I may be allowed to point out one or two matters which we may at once dispose of, and which need not impede the progress of the serious discussion when it comes on. Praise and blame have been bestowed on the Government, neither of which I think is of great importance. It has been said that things had not gone well with the Government in the last Session, and that they had got into some scrapes during the Recess, and that by this transaction they hoped to divert public attention from their misfortunes, and to turn it into other channels. Now, I wish to state that—whether this purchase strengthens or weakens our position in time of peace or in time 26 of war—whether it is wise or unwise—I have not the slightest doubt Her Majesty's Government went into the matter with the single-minded view to the maintenance of our most important line of communication with India. Again, it has been said—and it was intended to be complimentary—that this was the beginning of a new, great, comprehensive, and spirited foreign policy; that the Government wished to obtain a protectorate over Egypt, and that they wished to depart from our traditional policy on the Eastern Question. But the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary repudiated, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, any intention of the sort. This was not only an honest and sensible thing to do, but it required some moral courage on his part entirely to throw away this oriel glory. But if the noble Earl would decline to accept the exalted position of Chatham, some of his friends thought it complimentary to represent him as the most accomplished disciple of Machiavelli, and to suggest that his real object was that which he disavowed: but if he really desired to obtain Egypt, the noble Earl would have been more skilful had he held his tongue until the proper moment had arrived. I must say the noble Earl held very proud and proper language at Edinburgh, when he said—"We have said what we want, and why we want it, and Europe is accustomed to believe what we say." It is a proud boast, and I believe he was entitled to use it. We are occasionally abused abroad—sometimes with justice, sometimes without; but I do believe our reputation for truthfulness stands very high indeed, and I cannot imagine anything more injurious to our influence for good than that either opponents or friends should suspect that Her Majesty's Government would hold, directly or indirectly, language which would have the effect of throwing doubts over the plainest assertion of the Foreign Secretary, and make it believed abroad that his character, his position, and his powers of clear expression were intended to be used only to conceal his thoughts. There is another point on which I wish to make a remark. At the outset, when the purchase was first announced, it was said it was a good commercial transaction, and I think the noble Earl assured us we should never lose a penny by it; since then various statements and 27 counter-statements have been made by persons of authority. I am inclined to doubt whether good commercial transactions are ever conducted in a hurry, and I conceive some explanation is necessary when the transaction is the purchase of a long reversion at a price above the market value. I do not know whether it has ever happened to any of your Lordships to have dealings of that kind; but I have often heard that when in such a case a person proposed to take time to consider in order to ascertain something about the value of the security, the ready answer always was, "for God's sake don't; there is an old lady round the corner who is quite determined to have it, and I cannot disappoint the old lady, if you don't have it." But I believe it is generally found afterwards that the article is not quite so valuable as it was represented to be. But there is another thing which one can hardly conceive—namely, the lending of money at £5 per cent to one who borrows in the market at £9 per cent. My own inclination is to believe that, as a commercial speculation, the purchase of these shares was not a good one: but I shall be content to rely entirely on the statements which, I trust, the Government will be able to lay before Parliament. But even if they can prove that it is an excellent speculation that of itself will not justify them in what they have done; and, on the other hand, if its opponents prove that the speculation was unprofitable, I say that is by no means fatal to the wisdom of the act. The question really turns on this—whether the step was taken with reference to any well understood measure of policy—upon that it must float or sink. I will not argue the case one way or another. I should, however, like to know whether at the time of this purchase the Government were acquainted with the constitution of the Company and the amount of influence which the possession of these shares would command—whether the shares were purchased as a means of obtaining an effectual control over the management of the Canal—whether they knew that however large the number of shares they bought, they would have only a certain limited number of votes; and whether they knew that M. Lesseps had secured to himself the permanent management of the Canal for a certain number of years? I should also like to 28 know, while the Canal has been in the possession of a French Company, what amount of practical inconvenience up to tills time has been suffered by commerce, and whether in time of peace the Government without the possession of these shares would not have sufficient influence to prevent inconvenience to commerce? In case of disputes among the shareholders themselves, I want to know whether the course taken by the Government would in any way increase or diminish that influence? I should like also to know whether the possession of these shares in respect of which they can derive no pecuniary interest for. 19 years can in time of war protect our road to India, further than our influence in having the immense share as customers of the Canal and more than the maritime supremacy of England? These are the points on which I want to hear what can be stated by the Government. There is one point connected with this, whether the purchase was right or wrong—whether Parliament should meet only this day instead of in December. My own opinion is that, considering that it involved a loan from Messrs. Rothschild of £4,000,000—a transaction of a new and unusual character—the Government was wrong in not calling Parliament together in December. It is unwise to create a new precedent in a doubtful matter. Lord Melbourne had a maxim which I think was a very sound one—that when the Government had anything doubtful to do the quicker they were in calling Parliament together to share the responsibility the better. I quite share that opinion; and therefore when I find that Her Majesty's Government did not call Parliament together, I cannot help thinking that the Government in this case have acted as if they had no information which would stand Parliamentary investigation; and that it was more convenient for them to wait two months in order to get that information. This brings me to another point on which I should like information—I mean the mission of Mr. Cave. I do not know that that mission has anything to do with these Canal shares; but I am curious to know in what capacity Mr. Cave has gone out, and for what purpose. I feel curious to know whether the Khedive applied, as he has done before, for the assistance of some Englishman of high character to advise him, 29 or under what inducement Her Majesty's Government sent out, with very considerable ostentation, their Paymaster General, accompanied with officials of other Departments. I should like to know what instructions were given to Mr. Cave. Was he sent out solely to ascertain the value of these shares, or to go into the whole finances of the Khedive? Of one thing there can be no doubt—the moral effect of the interference of the Government with the finances of that country. The natural result is that people believe that the Government in some way or other have taken the management of the finances of Egypt, and that people have been "bearing" and "bulling" large sums, and all in consequence of this ostentatious commission, which was certainly of a very unusual character, and which will require a great deal of explanation to reconcile it to your Lordships. I come now to refer to another matter which aroused a spirit of, I may say, indignation throughout the country—I mean the famous Fugitive Slave Circular. The excitement which it caused was great, not only among Liberal Members but among Conservative Members. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, forgetting his official prudence, denounced it in a speech, which was reported in all the newspapers next day, in which he altogether repudiated the Circular, and said he did not know what it meant or who was responsible for it. Mr. Cave, the Paymaster General—a most loyal Colleague—said it was no doubt a blunder, but a blunder committed during the Recess and in the absence of the chief of the Department. Now, I believe Mr. Cave is a very good man of business, but I do trust he will be a little more accurate in getting up his facts about the finances of Egypt than he was about this Circular. The noble Earl the Minister for Foreign Affairs was the first who dealt with the Circular, and he put the case very briefly and with his usual judgment. He said it was issued on the advice of the highest legal authorities. These must be the Law Officers of the Crown, or perhaps the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack himself. Now, if there was any doubt as to the law, the position was no doubt a difficult one: and yet in the second Circular you unfortunately retained the principle of that policy which, 30 rightly or wrongly, was condemned almost universally by the country. Now, at a later period, two Members of the Government based their defence of the Circular upon precedents said to have been afforded by the late Government. All I can say in reply to that is, that as far as I myself am concerned, it has never been my duty, as a Minister of the Crown, to criticize slave circulars. I will go further, and say that I do not think the subject of a slave circular was ever mooted in any Cabinet with which I had the honour to be connected. There was certainly a letter issued by Lord Clarendon on the subject, which to some extent might be regarded as in some degree favouring the tone of the policy embodied in the second Circular of the present Government; but upon close examination I think your Lordships will agree with me that that similarity is rather scant, and that it does not really justify the course which has been taken. So far as I can see it is perfectly impossible for the Government to maintain their second Circular any more than they were able to maintain the first. I do not mean that the noble Earl could not justify it by "the first legal opinions" received in the beginning, and subsequently by the more matured opinion that he got. The noble Earl may attempt to justify it also by the precedents of former Governments; but I believe there was no Government of late years which ever dreamed of ordering the surrender of slaves who had taken refuge on our ships out of territorial waters. When you consider that up to the present time there has been such progress all over the world in the abolition of the Slave Trade, when you consider the excitement produced in the public mind—not only the lay mind, but the legal—and the discussions which have been advanced, and when you consider that upon the whole subject the greatest alarm has been felt on all sides, I believe it would be perfectly impossible for Her Majesty's Government to adhere to that Circular. Therefore I was prepared and not surprised at their having beat a retreat; but I confess I was not equally prepared for the mode of the retreat. Now, what is it? They have had recourse to their old friend a Royal Commission. It is their resource in all difficulties. If a cloud no bigger than a man's hand 31 appears on the horizon, immediately a Royal Commission is sought for. And what is this Royal Commission to inquire into? We are told in the Speech from the Throne that it is—To inquire into all Treaty engagements and otter International obligations bearing upon this subject, and all instructions from time to time issued to my naval officers, with a view to ascertain whether any steps ought to be taken to secure for my ships and their Commanders abroad greater power for the maintenance of the right of personal liberty.Well, these instructions are of two kinds. First of all, the Royal Commission is to collect information which I stake my credit could be obtained in one afternoon from a clerk in the Slave Trade Department and from the head of that Department. But it is to collect information. Well and good; but do your Lordships think that when the Government issued their first Circular they had not all the information at their command which they can possibly have now? They talk of precedents; but must not these precedents have been in their mind when they first undertook to deal with the question? To talk, therefore, of collecting information on such a subject by means of a Royal Commission is nothing more than a delusion and a sham. What, in short, has the Commission to do? Why, it has a much more important task than that of collecting information—it has to frame a policy for Her Majesty's Government. Well, speaking for myself I must say that I do not think the people of England will consent to this. They are powerful in both Houses of Parliament; they are powerful in the country: but depend upon it the feeling of the country on this subject is not to be trifled with. Lord Castlereagh once made a speech on the Slave Trade, and when he sat down Mr. Wilberforce rose and said—I know the noble Lord, and I know he hates slavery; but if the noble Lord had been in favour of slavery, if he had been a promoter of the Slave Trade, I believe that this is exactly the speech which in that case he would have made.Now, I know Her Majesty's Government. Nobody can have a doubt of their detestation of slavery; but I do feel strongly that in taking these means of evading the difficulty—in trying, as they are about to do, to throw the responsibility of their slavery legislation on the 32 irresponsible shoulders of a Royal Commission—they are adopting a course which will induce the country to think that they are procrastinating on this question. This is no Party question. No Party has a right to arrogate to itself an exclusive interest in the abolition of slavery, or an exclusive interest in its detestation of slavery. It is a great national question; and I do trust that Her Majesty's Government will feel that by coming forward and taking upon themselves the responsibility of what is to be done, and not seeking to get quit of it by delegating it to a Royal Commission, they will be adopting the best and the surest course.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords—I am sure your Lordships will not expect, and it certainly has not been the custom on former occasions of a similar kind, that I, or that any Member of the Government should enter into a full and detailed discussion of any one of the various subjects which are treated in the Speech from the Throne. There would be two obvious objections to such a course in the present instance—one that the Papers which relate to the various transactions, and on which your information will necessarily be for the most part based, are not yet in your Lordships' hands; and the second objection is that, owing to the multiplicity of the subjects mentioned, it would be impossible to deal exhaustively with any one of them in a consecutive and a continuous discussion. Not long ago a very eminent Member of the House of Commons—who was a sportsman as well as a statesman—likened a debate on the Address to a day's coursing where there were too many hares on the ground—you started a fresh hare every moment and caught none. I therefore propose now to touch only on a few of the main questions which have been indicated in the Speech from the Throne, and which have been referred to by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville). But before doing so, I must join with him in the agreeable duty of expressing what I think is the general feeling of your Lordships as to the manner in which the Mover and Seconder of the Address have discharged their difficult and delicate duty. They have discharged their office with good taste and good judgment. I am sure, from the ability both have shown, that your Lordships will feel 33 gratified if they should take a part in our discussions on future occasions. It is impossible, as I have said, to discuss the various questions of domestic legislation which have been referred to in the Speech from the Throne; but I will just say this—that if the list of measures to be brought before Parliament is not so large as it has been on some other occasions, we have been guided by important considerations. In the first place, we have been influenced by the wish not to undertake more than we have a reasonable prospect of being able to accomplish; and, in the next place, we have been taught by former experience that if more measures are brought forward during one Session than can be conveniently dealt with they are almost sure to be in one another's way—they fail to pass, and "Most haste is worst speed." But if, as I have said, our list is not as long as it has been on some former occasions, the subjects dealt with are not inconsiderable. We propose to deal with the Ultimate Tribunal of Appellate Jurisdiction, with the laws relating to Merchant Shipping, with University Reform and Primary Education, with the question of Inclosures, and with the re-organization of our Prison System. These are not small results to aim at, and if we succeed in effecting them the Session will not have been wasted. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) referred to the subject of Appellate Jurisdiction, mentioning the fact that the Mover and Seconder had taken no notice of that subject; and he said that perhaps the reason was that it is one of those questions over which it might be convenient to throw a veil. If there is any "veil" in the case—of which I am not aware—I think my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack will not be long before he takes it off. The noble Earl also referred to the want of any sanitary measures in the programme submitted to Parliament. Now, we are deeply and warmly interested insanitary reforms; but I am not aware that we ever promised to introduce a new Public Health Bill every year. Last year there was a Bill of 400 clauses; and I do not suppose that those who take the deepest interest in those questions would think it convenient or satisfactory that we should every year add to or alter the mass of existing legislation upon them. My Lords, I do 34 not think I need dwell at any length upon the questions of Indian and Colonial policy which are referred to in the Royal Speech. The proposed addition to the style and titles of the Sovereign will mark more clearly the relation which She holds to the Native Princes of India, but it raises no controverted question—it makes no change in the relations between governors and governed—it involves no doubtful point of constitutional law—and it is not, therefore, a proposal likely to lead to difference of opinion. The disorders in the Malay Peninsula, which at one moment undoubtedly bore a threatening aspect, have been put an end to by prompt action on the spot; and I think I may say that throughout the vast area of territory under the administration of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies there is no disorder; I believe I may add, there is no discontent. When the time comes, my noble Friend will be able to explain to your Lordships the progress made in the important scheme of Confederation of the South African Colonies; and I may say that my noble Friend will also take an early opportunity of eliciting the opinion of Parliament upon a subject which, in its present state, it was not thought desirable to mention in the Speech from the Throne—I mean the negotiations on which we last year entered for an exchange of territory with France upon the West Coast of Africa. That is a subject which has been much discussed in the public Press, and I may therefore remind your Lordships that it was stated on the part of the Government last year that no steps would be taken in regard to it without giving to the country and to Parliament the fullest opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the measure. To that pledge we adhere, and I only mention it now to show that it has not been forgotten. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) spoke in very complimentary and well-deserved terms of the Colonial administration of my noble Friend. But the unintentional compliment paid by the noble Earl was even higher than that which he expressed, because he was obliged to go back to two matters which I should think hardly any one in this country would have thought of as subjects of criticism—one the publication of a despatch relating to the affairs of Natal; the other, 35 the appointment of a certain person to act in an official capacity in South Africa. Almost the highest compliment which could be paid to the head of any Department is that his critic should dwell upon matters so small in themselves, because it furnishes the most conclusive proof that causes of complaint have been looked for, and that none of any importance could be found. I turn now to a class of questions as to which I neither expect nor desire unanimity—questions with which I am depart-mentally connected, and relating to our foreign policy. I will take one by one the most important points that arise. The noble Earl did not, I think, refer to the affairs of China. In truth I have but little to add to the statement contained in the Speech from the Throne. Your Lordships are aware of what occurred in the course of last summer—the attack upon the Yunan Mission and the lamentable murder of Mr. Margary. "We have insisted that that matter shall be thoroughly and strictly investigated, and we have required the presence of English officials to assist in the investigation as a security that it shall be real and not collusive. So much we have secured after protracted negotiations, in which Sir Thomas Wade has displayed his accustomed energy and ability. The inquiry is now in progress. The result remains to be seen. I need hardly say that we have the most anxious desire to remain on friendly terms with the Government of China. We can have no inducement and no desire to engage in a costly war carried on in a distant and unhealthy country, and in which no great honour can be gained. We can have no desire to injure our growing commerce in that quarter of the world. We can have no desire to help to break up the vast Empire of China or to have another "sick man" on our hands. We have every motive to induce us to insist upon nothing beyond what is strictly reasonable. But what we have demanded from China we cannot go back from; and I sincerely hope that the Chinese authorities will be well advised in this matter, and will not attempt, by any evasion or any delay, to shield those whose guilt may be proved, whatever may be the rank or official position of those persons. From that remoter scene I pass to another country, nearer to pur own, with 36 the affairs of which, during the last 20 years, we have been continually connected—I mean the Empire of Turkey. I need not allude to what you all know—the state of things which has prevailed during the last six months in a part of the Turkish Empire. The insurrection which broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina was from a military point of view insignificant, and I do not know that even now it deserves any other name. It might have been speedily suppressed by an efficient and energetic Government. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) is right in supposing that when I referred to the subject last October I did so in the belief that the contest was not likely to assume serious proportions; and I think that belief was justified by the state of things then existing. But, as a matter of fact, efficiency and energy were not shown by those concerned in dealing with the insurrection; and when at last some action was taken, it coincided in point of time with that financial collapse which though important enough in other ways, and a cause of suffering to many of our countrymen, is most important and most significant as a sign of general maladministration. Naturally, by this act of repudiation the friends of Turkey were discouraged, and the insurgents gained hope and strength. They have not even now, as far as I can see, obtained any great success, but they have certainly not been put down; and apprehensions are entertained—probably not without reasonable cause—that, if the contest be not promptly suppressed, its area will be extended; Servia and Montenegro may be drawn into it, and there may be produced in those countries a general state of disturbance and confusion which will re-open the whole Eastern Question. That is not a prospect to which any one can look forward with satisfaction A war of that kind, however it may begin, would infallibly as it went on become a religious war—a war between Mussulman and Christian; and even in districts where there might be no actual conflict, feelings of mutual animosity and antagonism would be created between the two religions which, let me say in passing, would probably not be confined to Europe, but might be a source of trouble, and even of danger, to us in another part of the world. Under those circumstances it is not sur- 37 prising that the Governments of Austria, Russia, and Germany should have been anxious to find a means of pacification. Your Lordships know from the Press the general purport of what has passed. The Note of Count Andrassy, which has now become public property, embodies the proposals which were agreed upon between the three Governments of Austria, Russia, and Germany. The noble Earl asks me whether we were consulted in framing the Note. My Lords, I have no hesitation in answering the question. The Note was framed, in the first instance, between the three Governments of Austria, Russia, and Germany. The three other States which have been concerned in the matter—namely, France, England, and Italy—were appealed to subsequently as to the course they would take. We agreed, as your Lordships are aware, to give a general support to the plan indicated in the Note. That decision was undoubtedly one of considerable importance, and I am bound to state clearly the reasons which led us to it. In this instance not only were the three traditional courses open to us, but there were four possible alternatives which we might have adopted. We might have retired from the whole matter, saying that it was no concern of ours. That would have been a very simple and a very easy course; but, my Lords, I do not think it would have been consistent with English policy or satisfactory to the country. It would have deprived us of all influence or right to make our voice heard in regard to future complications which might arise in the Turkish Empire. I ought, perhaps, to mention that not only were we solicited to take the step which we did take by every one of the other European Powers, but from communications we received we have good reason to believe that the Government of the Porte itself was most anxious that we should not stand aloof. Well, we might, in the second instance, have advised the Porte in a contrary sense to the advice embodied in the Austrian proposition. But either our advice would have been taken, or it would have been refused. If it had been rejected, we should have been placed in a false, and even ridiculous position, as being more zealous for Turkish independence than the Turks themselves; while, if such (advice had been tendered by us and 38 accepted by the Porte, we undoubtedly should have been mainly responsible for any calamity which might have befallen the Porte in consequence of acting upon our advice; and having made ourselves so responsible, it would have been difficult for us honourably to withdraw from the business, and to say—"It is no affair of ours." Again, we might, as a third alternative, have proposed some different course if we had had one to propose. It has been suggested, for instance, that the matters in dispute might have been referred to a Conference. But the objections to any proceeding of that kind are obvious. In the first place, we should have stood alone in making that proposition. Then, it would have been of no use to go into a Conference unless we had some definite proposal to bring before it:—so that the mode of proceeding suggested would only have ended in the consideration of some such scheme as has now been placed before the Porte, while there would, of course, have been a great loss of time which might have altogether prevented the work of pacification that we desire to promote. It seemed to us, therefore, that we had practically very little option as to the course we should adopt, both in the interest of the Porte and in that of the populations concerned. Then the question may be asked—"Do you believe that, assuming the Porte to act on the advice given, the insurgents will accept the conditions and will lay down their arms?" Well, that is a point on which no one can speak with certainty. Still, it should be borne in mind that by far the greater part of the strength of the insurrection appears to have been derived from districts lying beyond the Turkish frontier. Everybody knows how strong and general is the sympathy of the neighbouring populations; and I believe if the Austrian Government fulfils in an efficient manner, as it has undertaken to do, the duty which international obligations impose upon it—the duty, I mean, of properly watching its frontier—that the area of hostilities will be greatly limited. In that case, even if a total pacification does not occur, the whole affair will be reduced to the dimensions of a local disturbance, and will cease to be of European importance. If, however, the war should continue as before, it will be for Her Majesty's Government and the other Go- 39 vernments of Europe to consider what steps to take—and I do not think the noble Earl opposite would expect me to state now what course we should take in the event of certain contingencies which it is impossible at present to foresee. I may, however, say now that as regards all future proceedings, we hold ourselves entirely free. We have given a general support to this Austrian proposition because we believe that, on the whole, its acceptance is the wisest course for the Porte to adopt; but it is quite within our power—I do not say to withdraw, for there is no withdrawal in the question—but to abstain from further action, without anyone being able to say that we have either disappointed expectations which we have created or broken any engagements into which we have entered. I am aware that the course we have adopted may be attacked from two opposite points of view. Some persons may think that any interference in the internal affairs of Turkey is indefensible on principle, and is a breach of Treaty engagements. Now, my Lords, to that my answer is two-fold. In the first place I say. Volenti non fit injuria. Our adhesion to the Austrian proposal was regarded by the Porte as a benefit. In the next place, I do not think that Treaty obligations apply to such a ease as the present. You do not, as a rule, enter your neighbour's house without his leave; but if Ms house is on fire, if he cannot or will not put it out, and if the fire is likely to spread, you are not likely to be scrupulous about committing a trespass. On the other hand, there are many persons whose opinion is deserving of all respect who think that nothing ought to be done to avert or postpone the general breaking up of the Turkish Empire. That, my Lords, is not a matter within our power. We may abstain from interfering; but it does not follow that other Powers will do so. There are other Governments besides Turkey which, in their own interests, are not inclined to allow of a wide-spread agitation among the Sclavonic races, having for its object the creation of a powerful Sclave State. For my part, I repeat that a war between the Mahomedan and the Christian populations of Turkey would be a great evil to the world and possibly a danger to ourselves; and I hold that if, without too deeply compromising ourselves, we 40 can stave off that event, we should have done a good work for ourselves, for Turkey, and for civilization. I do not think the noble Earl (Earl Granville) expects an immediate reply to the rather large questions which he put to me on this subject. One was, whether the Note affected in any way the provisions of the Treaty of Paris. I do not know what particular stipulation of the Treaty the noble Earl had in mind; but I believe there is in the Note no contravention of that Treaty. I have now, I think, said enough on the question of the Austrian Note, and by a natural transition I pass on to Egypt. The question of the Suez Canal will, no doubt, come before your Lordships and the other House of Parliament at a very early period: you will not, therefore, expect that I should at the present moment enter into it in detail, and I shall confine myself to saying a few words on the point of principle. It appears to me that ever since the Suez Canal was constructed it has been felt that it was a misfortune to England that the undertaking should have been entirely executed by a foreign Company. It is of no use discussing now the manner in which that state of things came about. I do not wish to be unjust to Lord Palmerston, or to accuse him of having taken a mistaken view of the situation—there were many circumstances connected with the scheme of the Canal, as it was originally brought out, which may naturally have exercised a powerful influence over the mind of a Minister in his position:—but the fact remains that the Canal was made by the aid of foreign capital, it was made in spite of the opposition of the English Government, and its management remained in French hands. There was, however, a double check on the administration of the company—one the authority of the Sultan, and the other the influence possessed over the Canal by the Viceroy of Egypt, partly in his territorial capacity of Ruler of the country through which it passed, and partly, also, as being the person most largely interested, as a shareholder, in its success. Now, it is evident that, under existing circumstances, the power of the Sultan over M. Lesseps and his Company must have been in some degree diminished; and when the Viceroy was anxious to sell his shares, and when a French Com- 41 pany was ready to buy them, it was clear that if they had done so their power over the Canal would have become more absolute and complete than at any former time. We did not think that would be a desirable result, considering that the Canal is our high road to India, and that more than three-fourths—I believe it would be more accurate to say four-fifths, of the tonnage passing through it belongs to us. I cannot believe that our desire to have, under the circumstances, an increased control over the Canal was unreasonable. We saw our way to acquire the influence necessary for that purpose, and we seized the opportunity. I do not in the least care to deny that the transaction is one of an unusual character. It is, I dare say, a somewhat out-of-the-way thing for the Government of a great State to become shareholders in a commercial undertaking; but it is an equally peculiar thing that a foreign and private Company should hold possession of that which has become, not indeed the only, but the principal means of communication between England and a dependency which is in itself an Empire. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) has referred to various reports in connection with this subject, and he has expressed it to be his opinion that the transaction ought not to have been concluded without calling Parliament together at the earliest possible moment. Now, I need not point out—what the noble Earl himself admits, and what, indeed, is obvious—that although the Government may have bound themselves, they have not bound and could not bind Parliament in the matter. We took upon ourselves the risk and the responsibility of recommending to Parliament the purchase of those shares. Legally and constitutionally we could do nothing more than this; Parliament was free to reject the bargain; and I think we are entitled to contend that, in postponing the meeting of Parliament till the usual time, we were not influenced by any undue motive. We acted in that respect against our own interests. There is no doubt that if Parliament had been summoned on the earliest possible day to become a party to the purchase, there would have been much less discussion than will probably be the case now, and the transaction would have been completed under an impulse of general enthusiasm. I do not, 42 however, think that would have been desirable on public grounds. I look upon the question as a grave matter, and one which ought to be discussed in a deliberate manner. If, then, any one complains of delay because a period of two months has been allowed to elapse before Parliament was summoned, in my opinion there would have been quite as good reason, had Parliament been summoned at once, for complaining that we were taking the country by surprise, and not affording the opportunity for having the subject fully and calmly discussed. I need add nothing as to the consideration—though it is one not wholly without importance—that much public inconvenience is caused by the assembling of Parliament before the usual time, and that when it does assemble under such circumstances it is very often deprived of the assistance of some of its most useful Members who, being in distant parts of the world, are not able to arrive in time for its meeting. That, I believe, is all I have to say on this part of the subject; but I may, perhaps, be allowed shortly to refer to the view the noble Earl takes as to the commercial aspect of the transaction, which I agree with him in thinking is certainly not its most important feature. I have good hopes that in a financial point of view the bargain will not turn out to be a bad one. I have expressed that opinion before, and I repeat it; but I do not hesitate to say that if financially it turned out to be a bad bargain, that would be a consideration not to be set against its other advantages; and, on the other hand, that we should not have been justified in concluding the purchase merely on the ground that it would pay well. It is no part of our business to invest the public money in a foreign commercial undertaking because it gives a good return, and if we had acted on any ground of that kind we should be justly liable to criticism. What we desired was influence over the administration of the Canal. I have been told that we have not obtained it, because the voting power connected with the shares which we have bought is limited. Certainly I cannot prove the contrary. If a man denies that two and two make four, I know of no argument that will convince him; and anyone who contends that you may hold two-fifths of the capital 43 of an undertaking like the Suez Canal and yet exercise no influence over it, seems to me to stand in the same position. Holding that large sum, we might if we pleased create a constituency which would not be far from a majority of the whole body of voters, and that is a power which, although we may not choose to exercise it, yet is not unimportant to hold in reserve. I am supposed to have said somewhere—I believe in Edinburgh—that I did not think any political significance was to be attached to this transaction. Now, my Lords, I never made any assertion half so foolish. I never said that the transaction was one of no political significance. What I did say, and what I now repeat, in answer to the observations of the noble Earl, is that it seems to me eminently desirable to repudiate that particular political significance which by many persons—not so much in England as abroad—has been attached to it. It was thought that the purchase was made for the purpose of establishing an exclusive Protectorate over Egypt, and that we had adopted the very policy which we opposed at the time of the Crimean War—that of a partition of the Turkish Empire. I hold that to ascribe to us a policy of that kind is an imputation on this country, and one which it is desirable to repudiate in a most distinct way. What we want is an uninterrupted passage through Egypt and the absence of any foreign control over that country. We want no exclusive use—no monopoly—of the Canal. What we desire is that no such exclusive monopoly should be established by others. We have a greater interest in the East than any other Power; but while we desire to maintain a free passage to the East, we are aware that others have the same wish, and we are bound to respect their interests, as we expect our own to be respected. During the last two or three years a good many difficulties have arisen with regard to the Suez Canal. They were not of a very grave character, and they have been adjusted in a more or less satisfactory manner; but they were and are constantly recurring, and it is their recurrence which we desire to prevent. M. de Lesseps has met us in a friendly spirit, and we are engaged in negotiations with him which I hope will result in a settlement of the various differences which have arisen 44 between the Company and those who use the Canal, and also in the introduction of an English element into the management. I do not speak of that as a result which we are certain of obtaining, but we have reason to be hopeful. The state of the case is briefly this—on the one hand, we do not claim credit for a deep-laid and long-meditated act of policy. There has been nothing underhand—nothing done in secret; we used an opportunity which presented itself, and that was all. On the other hand, after the first moment of natural surprise, I do not believe there exists, or has existed, in any country in the world the slightest feeling of irritation or of distrust as to our policy on this subject. The noble Earl has referred to the financial mission of Mr. Cave. The history of that mission is simple. Every one knows that the Ruler of Egypt has been extremely active in promoting useful public works intended for the development of the resources of Egypt. These works are undertakings which involve a large expenditure of capital, and which are not immediately productive. The result is a certain amount of financial embarrassment. Her Majesty's Government in November last were applied to for the services of two English gentlemen, experienced in financial matters, to assist the Khedive in remedying the confusion which he stated to exist in many branches of his financial administration. We were willing to comply with that request; but it did not appear altogether clear in what capacity these gentlemen were to be sent out, and what was the nature of the services they were expected to perform. We therefore thought it better, before sending them out, to send some one well acquainted with finance and administration generally, and possessing the confidence of the Government, to ascertain more exactly than could be done by correspondence what it was that the Khedive wanted. We thought it desirable, also, that the gentleman whom we sent should be one who might offer him advice and be able to report to us what the financial situation of Egypt really was. The Khedive readily accepted that offer on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and gave Mr. Cave a friendly and even cordial reception. The noble Earl has referred to speculative transactions as having occurred in consequence of 45 this mission. All I can say is, that if a Government is to abstain from doing any act which might lead people to speculate on the Stock Exchange, I really do not know what act of any State might not be liable to a similar objection. No doubt, there may have been a good deal of speculation in consequence of Mr. Cave's visit. If a Government goes to war with another, the effect of that proceeding is to raise the price of horses in the country concerned; but no one would accuse the Government in question of going to war in order to encourage speculation in horses, or hold them responsible for losses that might ensue. In the same way, if speculation should arise in consequence of this mission, we may regret it, but we do not admit that the fault is ours. We have instructed Mr. Cave to abstain most carefully from even appearing to mix himself up with any of those financial schemes which are frequently being laid before the Khedive, and we have no reason to suppose that he has departed from our instructions. We disclaim all desire to interfere in the internal affairs of the Khedive; but we have an interest in his prosperity, and we have shown it, among other things, in inducing him, without pressure or menace, but by mere friendly advice, to withdraw from what we believe to be an unintentional and inadvertent aggression on the territory of Zanzibar. I call it "inadvertent" because it does not appear to have been in the first instance sanctioned by the Government of the Khedive, but was an act done by the officer in command on his own responsibility. We have also obtained from the Khedive an assurance that he will not entertain any such projects as have been attributed to Mm of effecting the conquest of Abyssinia. We have reason to think that an honourable peace will before long be concluded with that country, and that the Egyptian troops will be withdrawn. My Lords, I have done with Egypt, and I now turn to a subject which I fully admit to the noble Earl has excited a feeling in this country disproportionate to any practical results which are likely to arise out of it. I mean the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into our national duties and obligations in regard to slaves who may escape on board our vessels in the waters of coun- 46 tries where Slavery is the law of the land. My Lords, I do not often agree with Mr. Bright, but I do agree with what he said in a recent speech, when he observed that this subject was not so free from difficulty as might appear at first sight. I think that any person acquainted with what has passed will admit that considerable uncertainty, confusion, and contradiction exist as to what our obligations really are. I have seen the Circular that was first put forward and subsequently withdrawn spoken of as if it had been a volunteered expression of opinion on the part of the Government. I do not know what your Lordships' experience may be, but my experience is that Government Departments are not fond of volunteering expressions of opinion on abstract propositions, and particularly in regard to doubtful questions, and where a good deal of unpopularity may be incurred. The fact is, that certain cases occurred which required that instructions should be issued. The Government were asked for those instructions, and we were bound to supply them. It has been said that we might have left the officers to act on their own responsibility; but subject to the condition that we were free to disavow their proceedings if we did not agree with them. That is a course which might be convenient to the Government, but it would be an evasion of responsibility, and unfair to the officers concerned. The question was referred to the Foreign Office, and, as is usual in such cases, we placed it in the hands of the Law Officers of the Crown. That Circular about which so much discussion has arisen was, as I stated at Liverpool, prepared by the highest legal authority. It was framed upon an opinion given by Sir John Karslake, Sir Richard Baggallay, the late Attorney General, and by the present Attorney General, Sir John Holker. We all know what sort of client a layman is proverbially said to have when he becomes his own lawyer, and for my part, and on behalf of my lay Colleagues, I am not ashamed to admit that we did not consider ourselves bettor qualified to decide a point of law than the Law Officers of the Crown. I agree with the noble Earl that no Party considerations are involved in this question. There is no Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery Party in this country—the whole Slavery 47 contest has been dead and buried for 40 years. But, then, the question may be asked, why, having issued that Circular, we withdrew it? We suspended the first Circular for two reasons: partly from a feeling of which I shall never be ashamed—that it is exceedingly undesirable to go against the general feeling of the country unless you are absolutely obliged to do so, and especially at a time when, Parliament not being in Session, detailed discussion and explanation are impossible. We had another reason which is equally intelligible. We suspended the first Circular and subsequently withdrew it, because an even higher legal authority—if it is not invidious to say so—I mean my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack—led us to believe that in that matter we had probably been wrongly, or, at any rate, doubtfully, advised. That was our position. My noble and learned Friend entertained grave doubts of the soundness of the law laid down by the Law Officers of the Crown; and in that conflict of opinion we were not prepared to commit ourselves to the defence of what might prove to be an untenable position. As to the Circular last issued, we are prepared to contend, and we think we can prove, that it accurately represents the state of the law. We have no wish, unnecessarily, to set ourselves against a strong and almost universal expression of public feeling; and if the public opinion of this country considers that existing international rules, such as we find them, ought to undergo modification, that is a result which it may not be impossible to accomplish, either by agreement with other Powers or in some other manner. But the first point is to know exactly how we stand, and there is no better way of ascertaining that than to obtain from a body of men who will command general respect an authoritative and impartial declaration of what our obligations and rights in the matter are supposed to be. The noble Earl opposite rather laughed at the notion of a Commission of Inquiry into such a matter; but I think I recollect that a Commission of Inquiry sat upon the subject of the Neutrality Laws—which was quite as much a matter of policy as this—and no one ever disputed that great advantage was derived from it in subsequent discussions. So, again, years ago, when I sat in the 48 other House, various questions connected with Treaties of Extradition, upon which there was considerable doubt, came before us; they were referred to a Select Committee, and the result was the framing of the system under which our present Extradition Treaties have been negotiated. To whatever extent we may legislate or negotiate, it is desirable, in the first instance, that we should ascertain, in an authoritative manner, what our rights and obligations really are. This is the object of the step we have taken. I do not suppose the inquiry will occupy any length of time, and when the result is known we shall be prepared to act upon it. I have detained your Lordships an unreasonable length, but after the appeal made to me by the noble Earl, and considering the various subjects of interest on which information is expected by the public, I could adopt no other course.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
My Lords, there are two or three observations I wish to make. And first with regard to the Suez Canal—and in regard to that I think my noble Friend has scarcely done justice to Lord Palmerston—I had frequent opportunities of conversing with Lord Palmerston upon the subject, and therefore I am able to state fairly what his opinions were. The noble Lord objected to the Canal on these grounds—He said we have now an open course to India for our commercial fleets and soldiers, and if new communications are to be opened there will be competition—for either Russia or Franco may seriously compromise our communication with India. You may remember that at that time there was a Napoleonic idea respecting Egypt, to the effect that it might become a French appanage, which had considerable influence on Lord Palmerston's mind. He knew the hereditary appetite for Egypt in the mind of the Emperor, and therefore he saw that great difficulties might arise. If the Canal did not succeed, Suez would still be a French town, and that would be a serious inconvenience to our existing communication; and if, on the other hand, it did succeed, it would be in the hands of a French party, supported by the French Government. If we look back to the time preceding the Emperor's attempt to march to Berlin, matters will wear a different aspect from that they present now; for 49 had it succeeded, the Emperor might have gratified his hereditary appetite for Egypt. On that account Lord Palmerston objected to the occupation of Egypt by the French, which he foresaw would be the consequence of the making of this Canal. He said it might not be in our time that complexities would arise, but arise they must from the making of that communication; and we know that a year ago complications did arise about tonnage dues, and the Company wanted to stop the communication altogether. The Company objected to the exemption claimed for the parts of a ship occupied by machinery, or provided for the accommodation of sailors, and there was a discussion at Constantinople. This was just one of those difficulties which justified Lord Palmerston in objecting to the Canal. He saw its advantages, no doubt, but he thought it probable the disadvantages would be greater; and I am not so sure we are yet altogether clear of the difficulties the possibility of which he foresaw. I do not agree that it would have been well to have called Parliament together in December last. If Parliament had met in December, the purchase would have been approved with acclamation, and Parliament would have passed at once any measure that the Government might have proposed. But the feeling of the country has changed a little since then, and Parliament will now calmly consider this important matter. As to the proposed Commission on the Slavery question, I would ask whether it is wise to appoint such a Commission at all? You cannot lay down any hard-and-fast rules applicable to every case; and you must trust to the discretion of individual officers, in the cases that arise, for the exercise of their judgment. Legislation in a sense unfavourable to the slave will not be tolerated by this country, and a measure which may be popular here may embarrass us if rigidly applied in different parts of the world; and we shall be obliged at last to trust to the discretion of our officers, whom I have found on the whole to act with very great judgment in these cases. Many of them are as it were brought up to the practice of dealing with these eases of slavery, they are constantly discussing them, and they have a greater knowledge of the points involved than can be possessed by us in England; 50 because the actual cases with all the circumstances do not come before us. In dealing with the subject of Merchant Shipping, I hope the Government will not fall into the error of attempting to put everything into one Bill, but will separate the construction and loading of ships, the treatment of the men, and the subject of insurance; because by dealing with different branches of the matter separately, they will facilitate the passing of their Bills, and they will greatly facilitate the future amendment and consolidation of the law—for such future amendment will be inevitable—and if Acts are comparatively short they can be repealed and re-enacted with Amendments, which is a far better and less puzzling course than to pass amending Bills which contain only ambiguous references to former and inaccessible Acts.
Address agreed to, remine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.