HL Deb 26 June 1876 vol 230 cc395-418

My Lords, I came into the House, like every one else, unprepared for the question which a noble Duke upon the front bench beneath has brought on as to Bulgaria. But having received to-day some information through a British correspondent at Rustchuk, as the subject is entirely connected with my Notice, it may be well, perhaps, to mention at the outset that it does not at all confirm, to their full extent, the statements of which the noble Duke desires to test the authenticity. The fact is that the Sublime Porte assailed by insurrections from without, at very different points in an extended territory, is reduced to the employment of those auxiliary forces in which discipline can hardly be maintained. My Lords, as the Notice is in some degree to call attention to a volume of despatches, I wish to say a few words on its contents. The most interesting documents which meet us are the the letters of Consul Holmes, whose post at Bosna Serai brought him into contact with the insurrection at its origin. Nothing can be more clear or valuable than the light he throws upon it. From him we learn that the undue liberality of the Porte was the immediate cause of the explosion. Some inhabitants of Herzegovina had of their accord transferred themselves to Montenegro. They unhappily obtained permission to return, which the Governor General of the Vilayet counselled the refusal of. They very soon diffused the incendiary lessons they had lately been acquiring. In none of his expressions does Consul Holmes admit the insurrection to be genuine. His language naturally merits a great deal more attention than I can now devote to it. The next interesting document is a long pamphlet, which professes to give the view of the insurgents as to maladministration and abuses. It certainly is able, vivid, and minute—it might make an impression on anyone who read it. But it is traced to no authority whatever. Consul Holmes himself transmitted it to the noble Earl the Secretary of State, without any clue to the workshop it proceeds from. Soon afterwards we travel on to the well-known Circular of Count Andrassy. The House may judge its scope by one recommendation—it is that all the revenue derivable from general taxation in a Province should be spent exclusively upon it, and never find its way into the Exchequer of the Porte; as if it were suggested that the produce of the income tax in Yorkshire or any other county were by an Act of Parliament devoted to its prisons and its roads. No wonder that grave men like the Due Decazes and the noble Earl the Secretary of State accepted with some reserve a proposition so astounding. They might indeed have asked themselves what strange interpretation of the 9th Article in the Treaty of March 30th, 1856, had possibly suggested it, that Article which stipulates against all interference on the part of foreign Powers between the Sultan and his people. Soon after we arrive at an elaborate despatch from the noble Earl the Secretary of State, in which, with manifest reluctance, he conforms as far as he is able to the line of Count Andrassy. But as it has long ago been stated that his concurrence was only granted at the suggestion of the Porte, who viewed the Austrian Note with horror, but thought that such participation would make it less oppressive, I need not dwell on that stage of the transaction—here the Blue Book ends. It is only about 100 pages, but it is not unimportant as it enables Consul Holmes to give that interpretation of an event which in its consequences agitates the world, for which every Capital in Europe ought to be indebted to him. My Lords, as to the Correspondence which I move for, I am anxious as far as possible to spare the Government embarrassment. It is not my aim to draw from them prematurely what has been termed the Berlin Memorandum, or any answer they have made to it: nor is it with a view to those documents that I employ the term of recent Correspondence. I allude to any Correspondence with Berlin which has taken place during the current year; and there is an obvious reason for demanding it at present. It was generally felt at the beginning of the Session, by those who had the nearest opportunities of watching the position at Constantinople or elsewhere, that the line of safety would be found in bringing the influence of Berlin to bear on those Powers which more or less upheld the insurrection. Having endeavoured to maintain that view at the beginning of the Session, for whole months I never troubled the noble Earl with any proposition or inquiry, but waited to see how far, and if at all with what results, it had been acted on. At last, during the course of May, the public learnt, with little satisfaction, that the authorities of Berlin had sanctioned a proposal which the noble Earl declined to approve. In order to gain a just impression of how we stand with Germany at present, in order to decide how far the Government have done their utmust to avert a situation much to be regretted, at least some portion of the Correspondence is essential. It is open, no doubt, for the noble Earl to say that none has taken place in the sense I have referred to; but he will hardly make such an admission. In every other case I venture to maintain the Motion ought to be acceded to, giving as it does a perfect latitude as to what shall be produced and as to the moment of producing it. My Lords, I have now said all that is strictly indispensable as connected with the Notice: and as no man can possibly predict whether the subject will again come before the House before the Session closes, any further observations I may hazard ought to be brief and hurried over. It is useless to dilate on a series of grandiose and tragical occurrences which the journalists of the day have had so many opportunities of painting. It is useless to point out at length the immense advantage which our policy derives from a revolution which at once propitiates and staggers the insurgents, checks superfluous expenditure, limits arbitrary power, secures to the best minds at Constantinople the ascendancy they wanted. Nor do I think it altogether necessary—a few days ago it seemed to be so—to contend that danger is very far from being exhausted and that until the Bosnian insurrection closes altogether, we cannot see what obligations our country might be called on to fulfil. The disposition to rather premature repose has been in some degree corrected by the attitude of Servia, of which we heard something from the other side to-night. On that point I wish to make an observation to your Lordships. Not long ago a Question was put to the Government as to the Treaty of April 15th, 1856, to which I have more than once directed the attention of the House. The noble Earl the Secretary of State did a considerable service in re-affirming its validity, which the Conference of 1871 had certainly obscured, although it did not actually impair it. The noble Earl went on to add that it was not framed in order to defend the Porte against its Vassal Principalities. I think with him that such was not the object primarily contemplated by it. But if through the medium of a Vassal Principality a foreign Power should endanger the integrity of the Porte; if a Vassal Principality invades the Porte with foreign gold to aid and foreign officers to lead it, then I should contend that the Treaty of April 15th entitles you to an influence upon the Vassal Principality you could not otherwise have aimed at. But setting aside completely the Treaty of April 15th, there is a special ground of interference as to Servia, which at a time so critical as this ought not to be forgotten. Certain Governments, not many years ago, induced the Sultan to evacuate the fortress of Belgrade, which he was at liberty to hold by the Conventions which existed. They thus became responsible to him for any future risks the measure might occasion. In 1863, when the question was much canvassed, Lord Palmerston declined to sanction that evacuation; and I am not sure whether he ever gave a greater proof of his sagacity. It took place, however, a few years after his death, with the concurrence of the Foreign Office. It involved Great Britain in an obligation to counteract as far as possible the evils which are flowing from it. It is not to be supposed that we intended to place a weapon in the hands of servia to be employed against the Ottoman integrity we are bound by Treaty to defend, to be employed, in other words, against our objects and ourselves, without a title to control or remonstrate. It is fortunate we have at Belgrade now, in Mr. White, a Representative whom long experience at Warsaw has familiarized with great events together with their passions and vicissitudes. Supported by the noble Earl, I have no doubt he will not be found unequal to the crisis he is traversing. My Lords, with a view to salutary influence, whether at Belgrade or Bucharest, or in the regions which are more disturbed, or even in Constantinople and St. Petersburg, the measure which I venture to suggest for more consideration is that both Houses of Parliament before the Session finishes should, by a well-considered Resolution, indicate their general adherence to the Treaties of 1856. The recent language of the Government, perhaps their recent conduct, on their part has proclaimed such fidelity. But so many voices in such various directions, either by violence or ambiguity or discord, have led the European world to doubt whether Parliament is more inclined to guard or to abandon the whole position the Crimean War attained, that re-assurance seems to be essential. Had Parliament been less reserved, or better understood in 1853—it is very easy to demonstrate now that such a war would not have been imposed upon us. My Lords, one cannot leave this topic without adverting for a moment to the kind of re-establishment which the public mind has lately undergone upon it. It is now seen more clearly than it was, that the interests of Great Britain on the Bosphorus continue, whether the administration of the Porte is good or bad among its subjects. Menobserve, at the same time, that the fall of the late Sultan has removed the cause of many evils which were formerly deplored and paves the way for many changes to which the throne was formerly an obstacle. They know that a force sometimes aggressive, sometimes undermining, always vigilant and subtle, has been near a final triumph on the Bosphorus. They have resolved that, come what may, that triumph shall not be effected. Among the classes of society who influence events, the spirit which existed 20 years ago appears to have revived. Its revival may be deemed among the best securities for peace, because it is among the firmest barriers against attempts by which that peace would be endangered.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for extracts of any recent correspondence which has taken place between Her Majesty's Government and that of Berlin on the subject of the insurrection in European Turkey.—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)


My Lords, I certainly do not rise to press Her Majesty's Government to accede to the Motion of the noble Lord, for I think nothing could be more inconvenient and embarrassing than that your Lordships should have before you a fragment of correspondence with one Power in regard to a matter in which several other Powers are engaged. But with your Lordships' permission I would wish to make some observations in regard to Turkish affairs generally. Whatever exception may be taken to the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government, and I think if they had adopted a different course, the complications in which we are involved might have been in a great measure averted, the course which Her Majesty's Government have since adopted entitles them, I would submit, to your Lordships' approval and that of the country at large; and it is satisfactory to observe that such would also seem to be the view taken of it by the Press of foreign countries in general, although a soreness, it is to be hoped only transitory, has been shown in a certain quarter. When I say that I think Her Majesty's Government would have done better by adopting a different course in the outset, I allude to the forbearance which they showed in allowing the Three Powers to assume to themselves a right to interfere in Turkish affairs to the exclusion of those countries which equally with themselves were parties to the Treaty of 1856. If this country had been admitted to their deliberations, the duration of them would have been shortened, time would not have been given for the spread of the insurrection, and an impression would not have been produced that England had become indifferent to the fate of Turkey. I have no other objection to offer to the course taken by Her Majesty's Government, so far as we are authentically informed of it. They could not have ignored the Andrassy Note when it came before them, however irregularly, for that would have been to show temper; they could not have identified themselves with it, for they had no share in drawing it up; but they rested on the Hatti Hamaioum of 1856, and on the more recent Declarations of the Porte in regard to improvement in its internal administration, which had, indeed, been promulgated before the Note which purported to recommend it was finally settled. Her Majesty's Government, judging from what we gather from ordinary sources of information, have acted wisely in declining to take part in the further proposals of the Powers, whether distinct or merely shadowed forth for the future; and also in reinforcing the British Fleet in the waters of the Archipelago, proving thereby that England was not, as had been alleged, indifferent to the maintenance of the independence and integrity of Turkey as an essential element of the balance of power in Europe. It has been the fashion to assume that the dissolution of the Turkish Empire was at hand; and in confirmation of this assumption reference has been made to the insurrection which has broken out in two remote Provinces of European Turkey, to the recent outbreak of fanaticism at Salonica, and to the pecuniary difficulties of Turkey. Much might be said in regard to the last; but it is sufficient for my present purpose to observe that those who have suffered by them would look in vain for indemnification to the dissolution of the Turkish Empire. It is not to be supposed that whether the insurgents or any foreign Powers were to be substituted for it, they would adopt its pecuniary liabilities. The outbreak at Salonica was nothing more than one of Mussulman fanaticism, and however much to be deplored is the fate of the victims of it, they brought it upon themselves by their own imprudence. Such outbreaks have frequently occurred, but no one ever saw in them signs of the approaching dissolution of the Empire. My Lords there is more vitality in Turkey than she is usually credited with. In the course of a long official life I have seen her involved in difficulties which seemed to portend her immediate destruction; but she overcame them all by her own unaided means, as she would have long since overcome the present insurrection, if she had only been left unfettered by the interference of foreign Powers. But when the dissolution of the Turkish Empire is talked of, it is as well to consider what would be the effect of an attempt to substitute Christian for Mus- sulman rule in the provinces of European Turkey. In servia and Roumania there is, so to say, no Mussulman population, with the exception perhaps of about 5,000 in the former. I fear there is too much reason to suppose that servia has been encouraged from other quarters to assume her present aggressive attitude; but servia and Roumania both find in their connection with the Porte security for the autonomy which they enjoy, as included in the general guarantee of the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire contained in the Treaty of 1856. Once deprived of this security, they would be open to occupation by foreign Powers, they would lose the autonomy which they possess, would become subject to laws which they knew not of, liable to fiscal burdens from which they are now exempt, to military service beyond their own frontier, and to the rule of foreign Governors, instead of that of their native Princes and of their present cherished Constitutional administration. With regard to the other Provinces of European Turkey, where the Mussulmans constitute about two-fifths of the whole population, it is not to be supposed that with all the material strength which they possess, they would submit without a struggle to be expelled from their homes and their possessions and give place to others whom they have hitherto considered subject to them; and we cannot but look with dismay on the desolation, ruin, and bloodshed which would be involved in such a struggle, in which fanaticism on either side would form a prominent feature. A solitude would be made, though it might be called peace. Of the conduct of the insurgents Mr. Consul Holmes, than whom no public servant that I know is more deserving of consideration for his calm and deliberate judgment, thus speaks in his despatch of the 28th of September— The revolt was assuredly arranged by Servian agitators and accomplished by force. The mass of the inhabitants, unarmed, had no choice. Their homes were devastated, and their lives threatened, and they were ordered to follow their leaders. And now the ruin is such that those who wish to submit cannot. They have no homes to go to, and the armed bands threaten all those who breathe or whisper of submission. These bands are all formed of a mixture of people from different parts of the country, and all mutually watch each other, to prevent any combination to submit. The ruin and devastation in the plain of Nevassine and all along the Dalmatian frontier, and wherever the insurgents have passed, is piteous to behold. But even supposing the Turks should be expelled, there would be but little chance of a well-ordered Administration of the country being set up by the successful insurgents, or that a better state of things would be brought about than might be expected from an improved system of Turkish Administration. But Mr. Holmes says in his Report, speaking, I believe, of the Herzegovinians— They do not, and never have desired independence or annexation to Montenegro, but they wish to remain Turkish subjects under very extensive administrative reforms, the execution of which to be guaranteed by Europe. Whatever your Excellency may hear to the contrary, I can assure you that in the Herzegovina the only part of the people wishing for annexation to Montenegro are the districts adjoining the frontier from Sutorina to Poloskine. These districts are mere rocks, the scanty population herdsmen; and they are a burden rather than a profit to Turkey. In Bosnia, almost to a man, the population would refuse to be annexed to servia or Austria, and they have never dreamed of independence, which from the nature of circumstances and the state of education, is impracticable. They only wish to be Turkish subjects, but to be governed with justice, and placed on an equality in law with their Mussulman compatriots. To obtain for them, and, indeed, for all classes of the Sultan's subjects, justice in administration, equality in law, exemption from wrong, however inflicted, equality of civil rights, and freedom from petty oppression and vexation, may well be the object of all Powers that desire the well-being of Turkey. There needs no undue interference in the internal affairs of Turkey—no assumption of a Protectorate over any classes of Turkish subjects; but kindly sympathy with their wants, and friendly encouragement to the Government to observe its engagements as regards the good government of all the Sultan's subjects; and such encouragement may be of infinite value as support to the Sultan, who has inaugurated his accession to the Throne with the most solemn assurances of his determination to rule with justice and impartiality. Such encouragement, acting in a common spirit with other Powers friendly to the Turkish Empire, Her Majesty's Government may well give; but I would caution them against acting collectively. Advice collectively given is too apt to degenerate into collective interference. Equally would I caution them against taking part in any Conference which it might be proposed to convene for the settlement of Turkish affairs. There is so much disturbance in the political state of Europe, that in any such Conference questions would infallibly be raised, and projects of compensation agitated, foreign to the avowed object of the Conference, but which might prove very embarrassing to Her Majesty's Government to deal with; in which Great Britain would have no direct interest, but which might involve consequences fatal to the general peace of Europe. In the interest of the Turkish Empire, no less than in that of the general peace of Europe, Her Majesty's Government might well adopt, as the ruling principle of their policy in Eastern affairs, the spirit of the Declaration of 1826, when Portugal was threatened by a Spanish invasion—Mr. Secretary Canning then holding the Seals of the Foreign Department— That His Majesty disclaims the wish and abjures the intention of interfering in the internal concerns of any foreign State; but His Majesty will not endure that foreign force or foreign intrigue shall produce confusion and civil war in a country with which His Majesty has long been connected by ties of the strictest amity and alliance, and whose Government, as at present constituted, has not given just cause of offence either to Spain or to any other Power.


said, that in the transactions which had been brought before the House by his noble Friend (Lord Campbell) and of which the noble Lord who had just sat down had spoken in so judicious a manner, the first feature which struck him in a conspicuous light was the evil effect attaching to the Letter agreed to on the part of the three Northern Powers to act separately and apart from the other Powers on a question of such grave importance. It appeared to him almost to amount to a revival of the Holy Alliance in the interests of Russia. The evil effect of such partial and conclusive action was, first—that it excited a certain amount of resentment on the part of the Governments of those nations which were excluded from the deliberation of the Conference upon those affairs, and a feeling of uneasiness and jealousy in the minds of the communities and nations of which those Governments were the representatives. It tended further to place the Great Powers of Europe before the world in a position of antagonism upon a class of subjects upon which general unanimity and assent was more than ever necessary. Further, when such partial action was applied to Turkish affairs it naturally created a feeling of agitation and distrust at the Porte; for the Turkish Government could not with indifference see its affairs brought under separate and partial consideration by those Powers which it perhaps regarded as its enemies or adversaries, while the Powers which it regarded as its friends and allies were excluded. This course, too, involved a dangerous and pernicious loss of time, for after resolutions had been agreed to they had to be submitted to the other Powers, and ultimately to the Turkish Government itself. But how was it possible that the Governments which had not participated in the discussion of those resolutions could be in a favourable position to consider them? It was not too much to suppose that the policy in question was, in the first instance, inspired and prompted by Russia'—availing herself of the connivance or goodwill of the German Government, the weakness of Austria, and the inability at that moment of the other Powers to co-operate with each other. It could not be doubted that in embracing this policy the object of the Russian Government had been to cancel the moral and material results of the Crimean War, and next to stimulate and expand those interests within the dominions of the Sultan among the Sclavonian races on which the Russian Government formed its basis of action. They could not, he feared, expect to see any change of policy in those respects. The Russian Government, he did not doubt, would avail itself of every opportunity and means to attain those results, unless it found itself in the presence of a most serious difficulty and complication. He hoped for very little from the action of the Russian Government in this matter, and he saw little ground for hoping for much assistance from the Government of Germany. That Government up to the present time—whether as the Government of Prussia or as the Imperial Government—had never taken any active or decided position in respect of the affairs of the East, and he should expect, unless their policy was very much altered, that they would be rather inclined to assist and connive at the expansion of Russian interests than otherwise. He certainly hoped for nothing from the the moderation or weakness of the Russian people; because he believed there never was a moment in which Russia was more powerful, more independent, more ambitious, or more patriotic in all her enterprizes than she now was. If he entertained any hope that the counsels of Russia would be guided by moderation and wisdom, he derived it almost exclusively from the character of the Sovereign, who was the master and ultimate authority in the direction of the policy of the nation. It could not be said, of course, that the conduct of the Emperor of Russia, or of the Government acting under his control, had always been such as to command the sympathy or approval of Her Majesty's Government or the British people. The resolutions of the Emperor of Russia had unavoidably in several instances been antagonistic to our interests. If the Emperor of Russia could be induced to feel that he would experience on the part of Her Majesty's Government a positive and determined resistance to an aggressive and ambitious policy, which could only be persevered in at the risk of inflicting upon Europe and Russia the dreadful evils of a European war, he believed that the pacific motives which had actuated the Emperor through his career would gain the upper hand, and that, swayed by the wisdom and moderation of his natural character, he would retire from the position he had occupied, and spare the world the calamities to which allusion had been made. It had been contended that if Her Majesty's Government had protested against the separate action of the Three Powers at an earlier period they would not have persevered in the policy they had pursued. He was rather doubtful of this. He could not see that Her Majesty's Government could have protested with any prospect of success against the action of the three Cabinets without making themselves parties to some general action of the European Cabinets, at which France, Italy, and England must have assisted. That, however, would have been an inconsistent course of action; because Her Majesty's Government were prepared to represent that the Turkish Govern- ment should be allowed to settle their own affairs without intervention on the part of the European Powers. If, moreover, Her Majesty's Government had protested against the separate action of the Three Powers at an earlier period, they might have exposed themselves to a rebuff on the part of those Powers, and it was not desirable that a Great Power should frequently tender advice that was not accepted, or offer protests which were disregarded. He preferred to look at the policy of Her Majesty's Government from a more general point of view, and he would ask whether the Government generally, during later years, had not taken such steps and enforced such resolutions as tended to re-establish the ascendancy of England in the councils of Europe, and enabled the Government to exercise a paramount influence in the solution of great questions? He thought the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to Russia and the East had been of a firm, honourable, and dignified character. He might first refer to the refusal of the Government to go to St. Petersburg for the proposed discussion of the rights of belligerents—a discussion which would have been conducted under influences and upon a scene decidedly favourable to the great military States of Europe, and unfavourable to the rights and claims of the secondary Powers, and especially to those of the maritime nations. That refusal of the Government to discuss the question of belligerent rights in Russia had redounded more to the honour and credit of this country with foreign nations than had been generally acknowledged. He would next point out as honourable to the Government that great act,—the purchase of shares in the Suez Canal. No step taken by the British Government had reflected greater honour upon this country abroad and in the minds of foreign Cabinets and nations than that act. The resolution and the address that had been exhibited in the conduct of the transaction and the confidence shown in the Ministers of this country by the subjects of the Queen when they undertook this great responsibility without the knowledge of Parliament and without consulting the Legislature, were attended with excellent results in foreign countries. It was regarded as a great proof of that community of patriotic action which animated all classes and parties of our countrymen when the interests of England were at stake. By purchasing an interest in the Suez Canal the Government had given a signal and conspicuous proof that in no circumstances would they hesitate to maintain the paramount influence and interests of this country in the East. Moreover, the favourable impression which this policy had created abroad had been confirmed by the refusal of the Government to assent to the Berlin Memorandum. The Government by that act showed that they regarded their obligations to Turkey as serious, and that they were determined to respect the rights and independence of the Turkish Government. This favourable impression had been further confirmed by the despatch of the British naval force to the Mediterranean. It might be contended that this measure was not necessary, because the contingencies which might call the forces of England into action had not actually occurred, and that there was no probability that those contingencies would arise. It was true that no overt attack on the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire had been made, and he did not think that any had been intended. On the other hand, the action of England was not required in the case of mere internal disturbances in the Ottoman Empire. It was possible to imagine a rising in Roumania, or Turkestan, or Mesopotamia, in which no European interests were involved, and which might be left to be dealt with by the parties concerned. There might even be insurrections nearer Europe, or the revolt of a Greek island, with which it would not be the duty of the English Government to interfere; and there might be a revolt of Turkish provinces which might not bring our guarantees into action at all. Between, however, the overt attacks of a foreign Power and the simple insurrection of a Turkish province there might be another description of agitation of a very obvious and mixed character which might evoke a serious discussion as to whether our responsibilities and guarantees were involved, and whether our intervention might not be necessary on the ground of national policy. This was not the first time that questions of intervention by European Powers in the affairs of Turkey had arisen. When an insurrec- tion broke out in the Turkish dominions that seemed to Russia to be prejudicial and hostile to her interests, she made no difficulty in interfering by force of arms. When Syria was seriously invaded by the Egyptian army, and Turkey itself was threatened, the Russian Government sent an Ambassador to Constantinople, and signed the Treaty of Unkius Skelessi. The same thing occurred in 1840, when an invasion of Turkey was threatened by the Ruler of Egypt, and when the British Government made no difficulty in securing, by an alliance of the Three Powers, the restoration of tranquility and peace in the Turkish dominions. We could not say there might not be such an insurrection in the dominions of the Sultan, stimulated and aided by foreign sympathy and foreign support, that it might not be the policy of this country, as it had already been, to interfere even by force of arms, in combination with its allies, for the authority of the Sultan. And it was not only on the score of feeling that such a necessity might arise. The Levant had always been the scene of unexpected and unforeseen catastrophes and surprises. He need only ask their Lordships to remember Navarino, the great defection of the Turkish fleet in 1839, the massacre of Sinope, and the rupture of the Black Sea Treaty by Russia in 1870. Might not unforeseen occurrences and emergencies again arise? In the prospect of such emergencies he did not think they ought to withhold their meed of approval from the Government for rapidly concentrating our naval forces in the waters of the Levant—for we could not see at what moment aid might not be required either for the assistance of our allies, or the defence of national interests which were to us of the highest importance. No doubt some might say the conduct of the Government was justifiable with reference to our engagements while they lasted, but that it would be desirable, so far as it was consistent with national engagements and honour, to withdraw from our position with reference to Turkey, lest it should be found not only an impossible, but also an unjust one. If he believed the interests of religious toleration, the cause of general human progress and improvement, the cause of political and commercial freedom were identical with the action of the Christian insurgents in Turkey, and of the Christian races generally in Turkey; and if he believed that the Turkish Government was hopelessly antagonistic to those interests, he should be the last to argue in favour of the maintenance of our present policy. But he thought exactly the contrary was the case at the present moment. He entirely agreed with what had been said by his noble Friend near him (Lord Hammond); and as one of the few survivors of the period of diplomatic intervention, through the Embassyat Constantinople, he would remind their Lordships that at no period had our Government or our Embassy been really indifferent to the cause of Christian improvement. As one who had served at the Embassy he was conversant with the course pursued by it and the Embassies of other Powers, and our Government had always taken the lead in aid of Christian interests and in the rights of religious toleration and equality, and had sometimes been the only advocate of them. In illustration of this the noble Lord quoted a passage from an interesting letter written by an eminent Russian diplomatist, in which he sketched the policies of different Ambassadors and described the leading feature of English policy as solicitude for the interests and improvement of the Turkish people. He could not admit that the principle of religious toleration was to be sought for on the side of the Christian population. On the contrary, he believed if they were prematurely admitted to exclusive power, it would be exercised in the most intolerant and oppressive manner. An indication of this probability had been furnished by the treatment of the Turkish population in Greece; and he feared that if the Christians became dominant in Roumania, Bulgaria, and other European States their ascendancy would be marked by persecution exceeding any that had accompanied Turkish rule. Whereas every step taken by the Turkish Government under the influence of European Powers would be a step towards toleration and respect for the rights of others, Christian ascendancy would probably produce government of a different character and tendency. Nor did he think that free trade or general improvement would be promoted more by Oriental Christians than under Mussulman rule. The trade of England with Persia and Central Asia, the mainte- nance of our communication with India, and the British capital invested in public works in India, were considerations which testified to our great interest in the maintenance of the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire, coupled with the adoption of those improvements which he believed the Turkish Government was able and willing to make in its administration. Therefore he trusted the Government would not commit themselves too positively to the affirmation of the principle that under no circumstances could it become the policy of England to interfere for the restoration of tranquillity within the dominions of the Sultan; and he trusted they would continue to recognize, as the true policy of England, perseverance in that course which was so energetically and ably laid down in times past by Lord Palmerston as the course that ought to be pursued by England in the East.


My Lords, I certainly cannot find any fault with my noble Friend who has raised this discussion, for having, in the exercise of his discretion brought before your Lordships the general state of Eastern Affairs. There is no doubt that they are exciting deep and general interest not only in England, but throughout Europe; and while, on the part of the Government, I acknowledge—as I am bound to do—with gratitude "the prudent and patriotic reticence and reserve," to quote a phrase used by the Prime Minister, which Parliament has observed, I have no right to object, and I do not object, when any noble Lord chooses to take the opportunity of expressing his views as to what the Government ought to do or to leave undone in the present position of affairs. I should be extremely ungrateful if I made any objection of the kind on the present occasion, because, almost without exception, every remark which has fallen from the three noble Lords who have spoken has been in a sense friendly and complimentary to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. On the other hand, I hope I shall not be charged with disrespect to this House or discourtesy to any Member of it, if I do not, in my turn, take the opportunity of explaining and justifying in detail the policy which we have pursued. Everyone who has watched the course of foreign affairs must have observed how very much more is made of the words of persons in official position than those words really implied; and how often it happens that a word casually dropped in debate—perhaps elicited by something which has passed in the course of discussion—has some significance attached to it, some construction put upon it, which was never intended by the speaker; and how often a phrase, used with a very simple and innocent meaning, is construed as implying something which it is not at all convenient to have imputed to the Representative of any Government. There is another reason why a full discussion is not at present possible—it would require as a preliminary that the Papers relating to what has passed should be before your Lordships, and that your Lordships should have had time to consider them. The production of these Papers, which has often been promised, has been unavoidably delayed; but they shall be laid before Parliament during the present Session, and in time for a full discussion of them, if such a discussion be thought desirable. But to lay them at the present moment on the Table would be premature and inconvenient; and, moreover, they could only be produced in a very fragmentary form. I cannot, therefore, assent to the Motion of my noble Friend (Lord Campbell). That Motion, I think, was only made for the purpose of exciting a discussion, and it is the less necessary that I should follow my noble Friend through his review of the past state of affairs, because I think that generally what he said was in favour of the course which has been pursued. My noble Friend adverted to three points—he spoke of the movement in the Herzegovina having been to a great extent directed from outside the Turkish Empire. That is a matter on which I do not care to differ with him. Next he said that the Austrian intervention was not to be justified according to the terms of the Treaty of 1856. Well, that intervention has come and gone, and the question whether it was or was not strictly within the limits of the Treaty of 1856 is now mainly an historical one. As to the third point—namely, the course which ought to be adopted towards the Government of Turkey in certain contingencies which my noble Friend defined beforehand, that may be an interesting question for him to raise, but he would hardly expect that either I or any person holding my office should enter upon a discussion of what ought to be done in the hypothetical case which he put. But there was one suggestion of a practical character that he threw out. If I rightly understood him, he recommended that a Resolution should be passed by both Houses of Parliament asserting the maintenance of the policy of the Crimean War. I am quite aware that in making that recommendation my noble Friend intends only to strengthen and support Her Majesty's Government, and I am grateful to him for that intention; but I think that, upon reflection, he will see that the course which he proposes is one that would be open to considerable inconvenience of a practical kind. In the first place, I do not think that the course he suggested could be adopted by the Government without raising considerable discussion and great difference of opinion; and I am afraid it would follow that the difference of opinion that would be so manifested would create an appearance of even greater division than actually exists. Further, the state of things in1856 was not the same as it is in 1876. An abstract Resolution, founded on an historical question, is not a convenient mode of dealing with events as they really occur; and if a Resolution such as he proposed were not couched in language so vague and general as to be almost unmeaning, it would tie the hands of the Government in an inconvenient degree. I am not called upon to comment on the speech of my noble Friend who spoke second in the debate (Lord Hammond), to whom I listened with the greatest possible interest, remembering as I do that he was my earliest instructor in matters of foreign policy, of which I have grateful recollections. He, as far as I could follow him, threw out some suggestions as to our conduct which I heard with attention and respect. As regards the past, I do not think my noble Friend found any fault with what we had done except that he thought that instead of allowing the Three Powers in a recent transaction to formulate their ideas and place them before us, and then expressing our dissent, it would have been better if we had insisted on having a voice in the deliberations in the first instance. I do not, however, think that if we had done that it would have practically altered the course of events. Let it not be supposed that the influence of this country in European affairs was not felt. No one could think that really was the case who witnessed the extreme anxiety shown by all parties when the Austrian proposition of January was still in doubt. The noble Lord (Lord Napier and Ettrick) who succeeded my noble Friend has left me nothing to reply to. But I do not think I should be acting with courtesy to your Lordships if I sat down without making a very brief statement of the present position of Eastern matters as far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned. I need not go back to the time of the Austrian Note, to which we gave our assent, although not very sanguine as to its producing the effect expected from it; nor is it necessary to do more than allude to that Memorandum or Minute agreed upon at Berlin between Austria, Russia, and Germany, and which subsequently received the assent of France and Italy. We thought the propositions which it embodied open to objection, we stated our objections, and we declined to take part in it. For a time, therefore, we were in a position of isolation from the rest of Europe. The events which followed have in a great measure altered our position in that respect. When, by a bloodless revolution, the late Sultan had been deposed and his successor placed on the Throne, every one felt that in the case of a country where so much depends on the personal character and will of the Sovereign, it was a matter of course that time should be allowed to the new Sultan and his advisers to consider their position, and to take the initiative in passing such reforms and concessions as they might think likely to bring about a pacification. That was the view taken by all the Powers; and the Note which had been drawn up, founded on the Berlin agreement, was accordingly not presented. I do not know that it has been formally abandoned, but its presentation has been indefinitely adjourned—which is much the same thing. The cause of disunion between England and the other Powers is therefore removed, and we are all free, if we think fit, to enter into fresh attempts at mediation, either collectively or separately. We are not yet informed what the propositions of the Porte for a reform of the internal administration of Turkey are likely to be, and considering the enormous difficulty of the work, I do not think we ought to be impatient. It is too early to say what we have to expect from a new reign, but I will not hesitate to state my conviction that the transfer of power from the late to the present Sultan, though an act not in any way in the slightest degree due to foreign advice or influence, was an act justified by the presence of a great public danger, and by the proved impossibility of hoping for any real reform in administration under the late reign. It has been put about that the revolution which has been accomplished is a triumph of the fanatical or anti-Christian party. Such, in my belief, is the very reverse of the truth. The late Sultan caused universal discontent, not by concessions to the Christian population, but by bankruptcy, by maladministration, and by the abuses of every kind which were allowed to grow up; and, according to my information, the change has been as popular among the Christian as among the Turkish populations of the Empire. The situation, then, is this. The Porte has been encouraged to negotiate directly with the Insurgents. The result of those negotiations is not and cannot yet be known. They may succeed, or they may fail. If they succeed, there is nothing more to be said or done by the Powers. If they fail, and hostilities begin again, we are free to interpose our mediation if, or when, we think it likely to be useful, or to abstain for the time altogether if we see no reasonable prospect of success. That any advice which we give will be disinterested it is hardly necessary to say. I cannot, of course, affirm that it will be taken—but I think it will be listened to by the Porte as the advice of a friendly Power, and by Europe as the opinion of a Power which wants nothing except the maintenance of peace. My Lords, I do not know whether any words of mine are likely to have weight, but I would deprecate if I might all hasty and hostile criticism of the conduct of foreign Powers. The situation is very complicated. Even in countries not possessing Parliamentary Government, public opinion is a force which must be taken into account; and, for my part, I see no reason to doubt that all the great Powers, without exception, would be glad to bring about the end of a quarrel which has in it so many elements of danger, not to Turkey alone, but to other States. For us, our general line of action is clear. We would gladly reconcile, if we could, the Porte and its insurgent provinces; but we have, as I conceive, no right and no wish to take part with one against the other in a purely internal quarrel. That is the rule on which we have acted, in times not remote and in the case of civil wars far more extensive and more sanguinary. I do not wish to lay down that rule as absolutely and universally binding. Human affairs are too complex and too changeable to be regulated by any formula, but it is our general principle of action, and, I think, a sound one. We feel bound, as I have said, to leave to the Porte the initiative in its own affairs; but we have been and are in communication both with the Porte and with other Powers with a view to offer such counsels as seem to us likely to be useful. I have heard it suggested that we are supposed to be thinking too much of the interest of the Turks, and too little of that of the non-Mahomedan races. I am utterly unaware of any foundation for that charge. No one supposes that the maintenance of the Ottoman Empire in any form within Europe is possible if there is to be permanent disaffection and discontent among the Christian races. They are in European Turkey a majority too numerous and too powerful by intelligence and wealth to be kept down by mere force. That is as well understood by every person who has any claim to be called a statesman at Constantinople as it is here. The problem to be solved is how to reconcile their reasonable wishes and claims with the maintenance of that general system to which all Europe is pledged, and which cannot be overthrown without a general convulsion extending far beyond European limits, and leading to many complications which we can hardly foresee. It is one thing to say at any given moment—"We will not try to mediate, because our interposition would probably do no good," and it is quite another to lay down as a general rule that we have nothing to do with the matter, and will let events take their course. The former course may be one dictated by reason and prudence the latter is the language, as it seems to me, not of statesmanship, but of mere indolence and despair.


said, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) must be perfectly aware that there was great anxiety on this question in the public mind, and that it was therefore very desirable that information should be given on the subject; but after the statement of the noble Earl that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it was not desirable to give further information than they had given, and after the promise made in that and the other House of Parliament that information would be given at no very distant period, he had not the slightest wish to press Her Majesty's Government on that point. With regard to their policy, even if he wished to refrain from blaming Her Majesty's Government he had this difficulty—he did not know exactly what they were doing or what their policy was. A noble Lord (Lord Napier) had referred to a matter which was only indirectly connected with the subject of the insurrection in the Turkish Provinces—namely, the purchase by Her Majesty's Government of Suez Canal shares. He (Earl Granville) was not a great admirer of that transaction, and up to the present moment he had not seen the great political results which might have been expected from it. With regard to the question of the Berlin Memorandum, he thought Her Majesty's Government were right in not adhering to that Memorandum. He was, indeed, in ignorance at that moment what that Memorandum was, and he must reserve his opinion upon it till he had further information. With regard to the sending of a Fleet to Besika Bay, we did not know whether that course was adopted at the suggestion of any other Power, or what was the motive which influenced Her Majesty's Government in taking that course; and therefore, until he was aware of all the circumstances of the case, he thought their Lordships would agree that he was right in reserving his opinion on that subject. Those who sat on that side of the House were not in the slightest degree negligent of the important interests which Great Britain had in the settlement of the question. On the other hand, it should be understood that they would not refuse to co-operate in any course which might clearly lead to the most efficacious means of maintaining peace, and of arriving at a satisfactory settlement of this question. But above all it should be understood that those on that side of the House were not unmindful of the obligations which Turkey took upon itself by the Treaty of 1856 with regard to its Christian subjects. He was very glad to hear the assurance given by the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government would use their influence derived from that Treaty in seeing that justice was administered by the Turkish Government with regard to the Christian population.


said, that after the statement of the noble Earl the Secretary of State he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter to Nine o'clock, till to-morrow, half past Ten o'clock,