HL Deb 16 April 1877 vol 233 cc1180-207

in calling the attention of the House to the Papers laid upon the Table relating to the Protocol signed on the 31st of March 1877, said: My Lords, when I gave Notice that I would to-day call the attention of your Lordships to the Papers relating to the Protocol, I was not at the moment aware that a noble Lord (Lord Stratheden and Campbell) had put down his Notice on the same subject for this evening. On the contrary, seeing that the noble Lord has several times deferred it, and not seeing it in the Orders of Friday, I was under the impression that he had indefinitely postponed it. However, as the noble Lord is not in his place, it devolves upon me to at once proceed with the remarks which I intend to make; and I may at once assure your Lordships that I shall not detain you for any very long time. The first observation I desire to make will have reference to what, I think, will strike your Lordships as the very meagre information given to Parliament by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the important negotiations which had been going on for the last eight weeks. The Papers relating to that negotiation, consisting as they do of only nine pages—some of which are taken up with letters of which there are both the original and the translation—present a strange contrast to the voluminous Blue Book, of 1,200 pages, presented to Parliament shortly after the commencement of the Session. I must say that I think the information contained in those nine pages is very deficient, and does not help us very much in forming an accurate opinion as to the circumstances under which the Protocol was agreed to, and the Declaration of Her Majesty's Government which accompanies that document. The first information, such as it is, may be said to be contained in a letter addressed to Lord Augustus Loftus, and signed by the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and dated on the 13th of March. That letter appears to have enclosed the draft Protocol handed to the noble Earl by Count Schouvaloff; but in the Papers presented to this House that draft Protocol is not included. I am told that in "another place" it has been stated that an objection had been made by the other Powers of Europe, or some of them, to the production of that draft Protocol. In regard to the signed Protocol, that is undoubtedly an European document; but I do not understand that the draft Protocol was intended to be a European document. The draft Protocol handed to the noble Earl does not appear to be an identical communication to all the Powers of Europe, but a document drawn up by the Russian Government, and handed by the Russian Ambassador to the English Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Therefore, I do not see how the other Powers of Europe have any ground for objecting to its production. If when handing it to the noble Earl, or even at a later period, Count Schouvaloff intimated that it was to be regarded as of a confidential character, of course I cannot complain that the noble Earl should decline to produce it. But, in that case, I doubt very much the propriety of presenting to Parliament the two despatches of the 13th March, in which there is an allusion to that document. Going back over a period of 30 years, I think I can assert that the rule has been that if the Foreign Office presents to Parliament a document in which reference is made to another document, Parliament is entitled to have the document so referred to. And it appears to me inconsistent, moreover, to publish a reference to a particular document, whether confidential or non-confidential, on a particular subject, unless the subject-matter of the communication is also published. My Lords, this is not a question of Parliamentary etiquette—it is a matter of great importance that the country should be informed of the attitude in which Russia presented herself when asking for the adoption of the draft Protocol, as well as what was the attitude which Her Majesty's Government themselves assumed. I do not ask for the changes in the draft Protocol in consequence of confidential communications between the Powers, but it is important that we should know the character of the original proposal. I am far from wishing to have all the subsequent confidential communications regarding the Russian proposal; but I must think it not a little singular that there is no record whatever in the Parliamentary Papers, which shows the general attitude of the Powers of Europe as well as that of Her Majesty's Government. My Lords, having made those observations, I will at once go to the Protocol. Now, taking it as a whole, I do not think the Protocol is a very clear or business-like document—it contains no binding intimation or agreement, and it is obviously open to different interpretations by the various Powers. It is not to my mind what a diplomatic paper of the kind ought to be. Next, one cannot fail to notice that from it is omitted all mention of the guarantees which the noble Marquess who represented this country at the Conference (the Marquess of Salisbury) joined the other Powers in asking at the hands of Turkey. Looking at the Protocol, it appears to me that during this last negotiation, as well as on previous occasions, Her Majesty's Government seem to have had no definite line or standard in accordance with which they thought this country and the other Powers ought to proceed. The Powers of Europe, in going into the Conference, seemed to be prepared to insist internationally upon certain guarantees on behalf of the Christian subjects of the Porte; and although such guarantees appear to have been mentioned in the original Russian proposal, they have disappeared from the Protocol which we have signed. There has been, I think, on their part too much inclination to be always going up and down according to the thermometer of Russia. I do not deny that in negotiations between Powers there must be "give and take;" but what I maintain is that Her Majesty's Government ought to have had a clear view of what is their own policy—they ought to have known more certainly what they would and what they would not do for the Christian subjects of Turkey. Having said so much against the Protocol, the remainder of my remarks in reference to it will be in its favour. No one can object to the first paragraph of the Protocol— The Powers who have undertaken in common the pacification of the East, and have with that view taken part in the Conference of Constantinople, recognize that the surest means of attaining the object which they have proposed to themselves is before all to maintain the agreement so happily established between them, and jointly to affirm afresh the common interest which they take in the improvement of the condition of the Christian populations of Turkey, and in the reforms to be introduced in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Bulgaria which the Porte has accepted on condition of itself carrying them into execution. There is here a point to which I will call your Lordships' attention. I know it has been stated that the effect of the Protocol is to destroy the Treaty of 1856. I do not concur in that objection. I have, I know, been charged with having said last year that the Treaty was destroyed already. But what I said last year, and what I have repeated this year, is that the Treaty of 1856 exists; that it was not broken up, and that it is not desirable to break it up. I concur in the language held by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) at Constantinople—that the Turks having failed to carry out the solemn promises made by them to the Powers of Europe, those Powers have a right to consult together with the view of putting an end to the complications to which the non-fulfilment of those promises has given rise. I am pleased also to observe that the last paragraph but one of the Protocol states that— The Powers propose to watch carefully, by means of their representatives at Constantinople and their local agents, the manner in which the promises of the Ottoman Government are carried into effect. I rejoice at that declaration. This appears to me to be as strong diplomatic pressure on the Porte as can be imagined. It is pressure such as you could not dream of applying to any other Power in Europe. It appears to me to be the very strongest kind of diplomatic pressure, but one which we are fully justified in applying to the Ottoman Government, because it has utterly failed to carry out its promises. The last paragraph of the Protocol is in these terms— If their hopes should once more be disappointed, and if the condition of the Christian subjects of the Sultan should not be improved in a manner to prevent the return of the complications which periodically disturb the peace of the East, they think it right to declare that such a state of affairs would be imcompatible with their interests and those of Europe in general. In such case they reserve to themselves to consider in common as to the means' which they may deem best fitted to secure the wellbeing of the Christian populations and the interests of the general peace. That, my Lords, is the language of the Protocol. I will ask your Lordships to compare that paragraph with this passage in another document — the Berlin Memorandum— If, however, the armistice were to expire without the efforts of the Powers being successful in attaining the end they have in view, the three Imperial Courts are of opinion that it would become necessary to supplement their diplomatic action by the sanction of an agreement with a view to such efficacious measures as might appear to be demanded, in the interest of general peace, to check the evil, and prevent its development. I have read the words of the two documents, and they are so much alike that if I had said I read the last phrase I have quoted from the Protocol and not from the Berlin Memorandum, I believe none of your Lordships, with the exception of the noble Lord on the front Opposition bench, would have detected my error. I admit that there are differences in the two documents, but they appear to me to be exceedingly small. Before going into these differences, however, I wish to make an allusion to the Berlin Memorandum. During the Easter Recess two Cabinet Ministers, on the very same day, addressed their constituents on the subject of the Berlin Memorandum. In a speech delivered at Peterborough, on April 4, the First Lord of the Admiralty is reported to have said— The position of the country had fallen to such a deplorable pitch that only a few months ago the three great Northern Powers, having met to consider the Eastern Question, sent their propositions to London, and begged that England would approve or dissent by telegraph within 48 hours, and that a foreign Minister would wait in a foreign capital to receive the telegram. Oh, shade of Mr. Pitt! What would he have said of such an act? But the three Powers reckoned without their host, for not only would the British Government not reply to that unhappy message, but they refused to assent to the proposition at all, and the consequence was that the Memorandum that had been composed by these three Powers never assumed the shape of a Note to be presented at all, and these three Powers which had given the assent to the proposition found reasons to withdraw. The result had been that for the last few months England had been taking the lead.…. Courage, however, was one of the highest qualities a man could possibly show, and no one could help admiring the indomitable pluck of the Turks. My Lords, the words I have just quoted are from a speech by the First Lord of the Admiralty; and though such sentiments ought to be admired, perhaps, when coming from a jolly tar, they do not appear to me to be prudent when coming from a Cabinet Minister at a time when the Government were pressing Turkey to agree to the demands of united Europe. Another Cabinet Minister, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in a speech delivered at Gloucester, on the same day, is reported to have made these observations— England was no longer the nation to which a Berlin Memorandum was sent, concocted and signed previously by the great military Powers, to which the concurrence of this nation was demanded, without even the ceremony of previous consultation. In these matters England was the leader of the nations of Europe. On her decision the other day, it was said, hung the issue of peace or war. I must say, my Lords, that there is very considerable identity in the speech of those two right hon. Gentlemen; so much so, indeed, that I think there must have been some previous communication on the subject; but I should think these utterances must have been settled at the Irish Office rather than the Foreign Office. It would appear from what was said by those two right hon. Gentlemen that great touchiness was shown by Her Majesty's Ministers in respect of proceedings at Berlin, and that conjecture is supported by the utterances of the two Cabinet Ministers to whom I have adverted. But if it be so, it is an extraordinary fact, and one which I find it difficult to account for. I remember that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) within a week after he took office said it was a mistake to suppose that England was isolated or that respect was not paid to her by the Foreign Powers—on the contrary, he said he did not know of a time when more respect was paid to her opinions on all subjects by Foreign Powers. If that were so when the noble Earl made that statement, I am not aware of any acts of the present Government within the last two years which should have brought about such a wonderful change as that described by the two Cabinet Ministers. Again, is it a fact that the proposal of the Berlin Memorandum was left without a reply by the Government of this country? I think they did make a reply to it. I understood from a statement made by the noble Earl in this House that he had intimated to the Government of Russia that it was no question of form which had prevented the Government of this country from acceding to the Berlin Memorandum; and with all respect to the two right hon. Gentlemen, I should be more disposed to accept the declaration of the noble Earl on this point than the statements made by them in speeches to their constituents. I must say I regret the two speeches to which I have referred. I believe that diplomacy is never more effectual than when conducted quietly and unostentatiously. Even when it is a success it is a great mistake to trumpet it and to take all the credit of having led in it; but it is still more unwise to claim a monopoly of credit in the case of diplomacy when it has proved to be a complete failure. I should not have alluded to this matter only that I think on such grave matters Cabinet Ministers should be a little more prudent in their utterances when they address their constituents. Now, as to the Protocol and the Berlin Memorandum, I admit that there is a difference. For one thing, there is a difference of time. The armistice referred to in the Memorandum was one for a definite time—I do not now remember for how long; but the armistice referred to in the Protocol is much more indefinite. Again, in the case of the Memorandum, the future concert between the Powers was to have been with reference to "efficacious measures." By the Protocol the concert is to be as to "means." Well, "means" are "measures." True, the word "efficacious" is not used; but Europe would not meet to adopt inefficacious measures; and therefore I think the omission of the word efficacious amounts to nothing. You did not like the Berlin Memorandum. Well, there is this great difference between it and the Protocol; and though it is a difference which may not be obvious to the common eye, it is still very important. The difference I refer to arises from the difference in the state of things existing at the time that Memorandum was proposed compared with that which exists now. If, instead of rejecting the Memorandum and saying in effect that you had no policy of your own, you had said—"We will not take the Memorandum as it stands; it is one concocted in our absence, and we shall not adopt the words you propose, but we are willing to discuss modifications—we will ourselves propose modifications"—had you done that, might you not have succeeded in obtaining a Memorandum which would have been accepted for the whole of Europe? What a difference, I say, this would have made. Do you believe that before the time when the Turks were encouraged by the expectation of disagreement among the European Powers — before they had been encouraged by the disruption of the European Conference—before they had heard of certain statements made in this country during the Recess, that we had failed in our diplomatic efforts—before they heard it stated, whether rightly or wrongly, that there was no thorough accord between the European Powers—they would have refussed to comply with the united request of those Powers? Then, consider the advantage there would have been in presenting a united Memorandum or Protocol to Russia before she had gone to enormous expense in preparations for war—before she had mobilized a vast army, and before her Emperor had committed himself by a celebrated speech I do not know that I have any other observation to make on the Protocol; but certainly I wish to say a few words on the Declaration of Her Majesty's Government which accompanied it. I am unable to gather the history of this Declaration. I believe we were told that when we read these Papers we should know all about it. I have read them, but I remain still in ignorance on the point. I wish to know who made the first declaration—Count Schouvaloff or the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary? In the index the Declaration of Count Schouvaloff appears first; in the body of the Papers the Declaration of the noble Earl precedes that of the Ambassador. This, I suppose, is accounted for by the fact that in the one case the alphabetical, and in the other the chronological, order is observed. I will take it that the Declaration of Count Schouvaloff was the first made; but I presume that there must have been some intimation of an intention of the Russian Ambassador to append such a Declaration. As things have turned out that Declaration has been the immediate cause of the hopeless state in which matters are at this moment. I should like to know whether the Russian Declaration was provoked by any demand on the part of Her Majesty's Government? I should also like to know whether Her Majesty's Government objected or did not object to this Declaration of Count Schouvaloff? If they did not object to it there was, it appears to me, no necessity for further negotiations. If they did object, it would surely have been more natural to have said" Here we are all united in agreeing to sign a Protocol to gain that which we desire to secure — peace and good administration for the Christian subjects of the Porte. If you make a Declaration which creates new conditions and new difficulties, we must hesitate and pause before we sign it." The strength of that argument would be obvious. I should also like to know whether the Declaration made by Lord Derby was communicated — as I suppose it must have been—to all the Powers of Europe consequent upon the Declaration of Count Schouvaloff; and I should like to know, moreover, whether all the European Powers approved or disapproved of that Declaration? If they disapproved of it, it is clearly open to the objection that Her Majesty's Government were taking a step which exposed you to the imputation that you were breaking up that concert of Europe which the whole of the negotiations and the Protocol itself were intended to secure. If, on the other hand, those other Powers did approve of the English Declaration, why did they not join in it? If Europe was united, why did England put herself in the position of being alone? Italy has made her own Declaration; but if France, Germany, and Austria approved of the Declaration made on the part of England, why did these three Powers not sign it? Why, if there was to be such a Declaration as yours, were yours the paws to be put in the fire? If you had any reason to believe that immediately after the signing of the Protocol Russia would go forward in disregard of that diplomatic act, you should have thought of some measures to prevent yourselves from appearing as her dupe. What a great pity it is you did not adopt the words of the Italian Declaration, which is clear and simple and meets all the difficulties of the case. The Italian Government do not use the word "solely," as we have done, and thereby allow it to be inferred that they signed the Treaty in the interests of European peace alone, and without regard to the condition of the inhabitants of the Chris- tian Provinces of Turkey. I know it is said that the word "solely" was not used for the purpose of excluding the latter object; but the great advantage of the Italian Declaration is this—that it is a clear statement on the part of the Italian Government in this sense—"We sign a certain document with five other Powers; if one, two, or three of those other Powers depart from it, we shall not be bound by the Powers who do not to adhere to the agreement by that document come to." That appears to me a safe and reasonable proposition; but what have Her Majesty's Government done? They do not put the onus upon the only co-signatory Power whom they suspect may act adversely—they make their observance of, and agreement to, the Protocol subject to the condition that Turkey, who is not a co-signatory, should disarm. Is that not to undo and weaken the effect of Her Majesty's Government's own representations? I hold, and have held, that even if Her Majesty's Government were justified in pledging themselves against all measures of coercion—which I do not admit —it was madness, at a time when the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) was using all his eloquence at Constantinople to enforce the views of the Conference, to have chosen that particular moment to inform the Turks that they had nothing to fear from non-compliance with the demands made upon them; and I think it very unwise at the time when you were signing the Protocol to declare that it lay with Turkey or with Russia alone to break up the whole of the understanding that had been come to in this matter between the European Powers. I have not, my Lords, spoken at any great length, though there are some other criticisms which I might have made in respect of this Protocol. The observations I have made have chiefly for their object to obtain from Her Majesty's Government information which these Papers utterly fail to afford. I cannot hope, after the refusal which has been given in "another place," that the missing Papers will be supplied; but I do trust that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) will, in that clear and business-like manner of which he is a master, fill up some of the gaps, give us some intelligible account of what has passed, and throw some light on the present attitude of this country and of other Powers. My chief object has been, as I have said, to obtain information; but, my Lords, in saying this I beg emphatically to repudiate the doctrine said to have been laid down by the highest authority in "another place"—that it is the duty of an Opposition on such a subject as this either to confine themselves to asking for information, or to propose a Vote of Censure, laying down its own policy, and challenging the judgment of Parliament on the question. Against that doctrine I enter my protest. There is no graver responsibility than rests upon an Opposition in dealing with Foreign Affairs. There are moments when they ought to give their warmest support even to a Government whose general principles they oppose. There are times so critical when, although they do not approve the exact course which the Government are taking, it might be a greater evil to attack them. There are, again, times when it becomes the imperative duty of an Opposition, in the teeth of the greatest majorities of the most powerful Ministries, to fight by every means in their power for the opinions which they hold. On the other hand, there are occasions—more especially when a Ministry appears to waver between a course which the Opposition approve and one which they condemn—when it may be wise to impress upon a Government and the country the views in favour of the former, and when it would be most unwise to pin the Government and commit Parliament by divisions to the latter and objectionable course. Attacks have been made on the conduct of the Opposition both during the Recess and since the opening of Parliament. Party motives were attributed to some of us who united with persons of all conditions and politics in complaining in the Autumn of the want of support which Her Majesty's Government gave to the Christian subjects of the Porte—persons who were equally strong in support of the Government when, by the noble Earl's demands for reparation, by the proposal of the Conference, and by the mission of the noble Marquess, it was hoped that the Government were changing their course. That those demands failed, that that Conference was without results, cannot by any possibility be laid to the account of Opposition; and I trust that some of those who were so much alarmed lest appeals to the sentiment of the people might obscure their judgment as to their material interests will, in the critical times which are coming, remember that appeals to pride, anger, and prejudice may lead the judgment as far from a knowledge of their real interests as appeals to sympathy for suffering and horror of injustice and wrong. Since the opening of Parliament we have, I hope, temperately and with moderation, laid down the general lines of the policy which we advocate. It is not to alienate, but to conciliate, the Christian subjects of the Porte; it is not step by step to facilitate the position which Russia takes up of being the only Power in earnest in the matter, and to pave the way for the step which, in my opinion, she so unfortunately is prepared to take. The policy we wished to see adopted was that this country should be the promoter, and not the obstacle, to that union of Europe which should show it, self in earnest in insisting upon those reforms which Europe has declared to be necessary to the peace of Europe. We are told that our policy means the bombarding of Constantinople and bloody battles, resulting in a general partition of the spoils by the whole of Europe. I say that our policy is no such thing. You might as well say that I am encouraging street disturbances because I wish half-a-dozen policemen to stop a "rough" from throwing stones to the danger of the passers-by. If the boy was utterly reckless, he might kick a policeman's shins, and possibly get a little roughly handled himself, but the chance of real opposition would be nil. Is it possible to infer from the obstinacy of the Turks at the present moment, which the noble Earl so properly condemned, but which another Minister calls "indomitable pluck," after you have succeeded in convincing them, rightly or wrongly, that they have Russia alone to fear, that they would have opposed a similar resistance to United Europe seriously and earnestly intent upon the pacification of Europe? As for the division of spoils, why is that necessarily to happen which has not happened before in somewhat similar circumstances? The case of the Crimean War was, I admit, peculiar; but there engagements were made and observed that the Western Powers should derive no material advantages from the result. Which of the Powers of Europe obtained mate- rial advantages after the independence of Athens? Did Franco or England profit materially by the occupation and successful settlement of the Lebanon? We have certainly not thought it our duty to lay down a cut-and-dried detailed scheme for the settlement of a complicated problem. But I might quote not only Sir Robert Peel, not only Lord Palmerston, but the First Lord of the Treasury in confirmation of the fact that such is not the duty of an Opposition. What we do claim—and I am certain that the noble Earl is not one who will propose to debar the Opposition or restrict it to the two alternatives laid down—I am sure the noble Earl will admit that it is our right to exercise the power which has been possessed and has been exercised by all preceding Oppositions —the power of discussing, of criticising, and, if necessary, of protesting, with or without Motions of Censure, as at the time may seem best and most conducive to the object which we have in view. If, by abstaining from Votes of Censure, Her Majesty's Government think we are doing them any wrong, they have the remedy of Votes of Confidence. If, on the other hand, the moment arrives when we think it is necessary to bring this question to the test of a division, it will be for the country to decide whether in so doing we are actuated by Party or personal motives, or whether we are acting, according to the best of our judgment, for the public good.


My Lords, it is always the right, and it may often be the duty, of one who holds the position which is filled by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville)—that of the official Representative in the House of a powerful and important Party in the State—to challenge the conduct of those who are charged with the affairs of the country, and to do so in whatever form—whether by Questions simply intended to ask for information, or by Votes of Censure directed against the general policy pursued, or by debates such as the noble Earl has now raised—it is, I say, his right and duty to call upon us to vindicate the course which we have pursued, and to state, on his part, what is the course that he would have taken had he been in our position. So far, then, there will not be the smallest difference of opinion between the noble Earl and myself. I was, however, a little surprised at the vindication of the rights of an Opposition which the noble Earl thought it necessary to address to your Lordships. My Lords, I was not aware that anybody here had questioned the right of any of your Lordships to bring these matters under the consideration of Parliament, at whatever time or in whatever manner, he might think fit. I do not believe that anyone either here or in "another place" has ever said that it is the duty of an Opposition to move a Vote of Censure against any action which they disapprove, under penalty of being taken to have acquiesced without objection or protest in that course of action. What I daresay has been said, and what I think the noble Earl means to refer to, is this—that when some distinct and definite issue has been placed before Parliament—such as that of using, or abstaining from using, coercion in regard to Turkey, and when the Government at the beginning of the Session had indicated the course which they intended to take upon that point—that course being that which they have adhered to throughout—and when the Leaders of the Opposition in one or both Houses profess a different view, and hold that the action of the Cabinet in regard to that subject affords ground of complaint, while, at the same time, they refrain from bringing the issue to the fair test of a vote—then I think it is a fair matter for comment if that distinct issue and contrast of opinion is not brought in one or other House of Parliament to the test of a division. No doubt it will be said that such a course in the actual relations of political Parties may be impolitic; but when a large issue is before the country, and when those who have formed a decided opinion upon it shrink from bringing that issue to the test of a division, it is, I think, a fair criticism upon their course of action, that either they are not thoroughly satisfied as to the soundness of their views, or that they doubt whether those views will find support either in Parliament or in the country. Well, my Lords, I will not dwell upon that point; nor do I think it necessary to discuss the question which the noble Earl rather touched upon than seriously raised, as to the justification which may exist for the agitation that was got up last Autumn. That matter is past; but, undoubtedly, if my opinion were asked, I am bound to say that I think, however humane may have been the feeling which in many cases led men to hold the language which they did, that agitation, in my opinion, did considerable mischief abroad, because it created a false impression as to the real feelings and ideas of the English people. That matter, however, the noble Earl only touched upon in passing, and therefore I shall not dwell further upon it. Now, the noble Earl said that he rose for the purpose of asking for information upon various points connected with the Protocol which has just been signed. In the first place, he complained of the very meagre information given to Parliament as to the important negotiations which have taken place, and he compared the scanty Papers just laid on the Table with the voluminous character of the Blue Books which were presented some six weeks ago. My Lords, all I have to say in answer to that is, that when we are dealing with a matter of this kind we are under the necessity of consulting not merely our own feelings and convenience, but—the matter being of an international character — of consulting the feelings and convenience of other Powers. The noble Earl says it would have been convenient to have seen the draft Protocol as it was first proposed. For my own part, I have not the slightest objection to that draft Protocol being laid upon the Table. I had proposed to lay it; but I do not think I commit any breach of confidence in saying that I communicated with the Russian Ambassador—and your Lordships must remember that that draft Protocol is his proposition and not mine—and he expressed a strong opinion that it would be contrary to the wish of his Government that the draft Protocol should be laid before Parliament. Another reason against its production was this—that it would have served no useful purpose to have laid merely the first draft of the Protocol before you, because, in consequence of the communications which passed between the various Governments, that Protocol was altered again and again; and if I had presented the first draft I should have been equally bound to have presented the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth—I really do not know how many there were, but I think their multiplicity would have been rather a source of confusion than of information. I, however, would prefer to rest the non-production of the draft Protocol on the first of the reasons which I have addressed to your Lordships. But, my Lords, as far as the general substance and purport of the document is concerned, it is—subject to certain modifications—that which I first received. Then the noble Earl goes on to say that he does not think the Protocol a businesslike document. That is a matter of opinion; and, as my feelings as the author are not concerned, I shall not quarrel with the noble Earl on that point. But the noble Earl made a more definite objection. He said—" Why did you not put in the Protocol the guarantees for the execution of the promises of Turkish reforms which had been proposed in the Conference?" Well, my Lords, that admits of a very easy and simple answer. We knew all along that we should have considerable difficulties to meet not on the one side only, but also on the other. The result has been that, even modified as the Protocol has been—even with the omission of those guarantees which the noble Earl is so anxious to have had inserted—we did not succeed in making it acceptable to the Turkish Government;—I leave your Lordships to consider whether we should have increased or improved the prospects of getting the Protocol accepted if we had put into it that one particular proposition to which, as we have every reason to know, the strongest objection was entertained at the time of the Conference. Well, then, the noble Earl goes at once into a more general criticism of our course; and he says in these negotiations we have too much followed the lead of Russia, and that we have not sufficiently laid down a policy of our own. I must remind your Lordships—though I think it anything but necessary—what were the conditions under which we entered upon this negotiation, and what was the primary object which we had in view. No doubt the reform of Turkish institutions was an extremely desirable and an extremely important object; but, for the moment, the one thing urgent—the one thing pressing—the one thing without which we could not hope to do any good with regard to other matters, was this—to induce these two Powers, Russia and Turkey, who had mutually armed one against the other, to abandon their attitude of mutual hostility, and to dis- band those immense forces which they had gathered. That was the primary object which we had in view. The question in our minds was this—"What is the least with which Russia will be contented, and what is the most we can get Turkey to give?" If you say, looking at the matter from that point of view, that we ought not to have negotiated upon that ground, that is equivalent to saying we ought to have abandoned, or ought never to have undertaken, the work of negotiating between Russia and Turkey, which we had been engaged in for some months past. Then the noble Earl proceeded to discuss the bearing of the Protocol upon the Treaty of 1856. I do not know that there is such a difference between the views which he has expressed upon that point and those which I entertain, as to make it necessary for me to comment upon what he said. The noble Earl said that he agreed to that part of the Protocol which proposed supervision—although "supervision" is absolutely a stronger term than is used in the document itself —by the Representatives of the Powers, to see whether the Porte fulfilled the promises into which it had entered, and he says that he does not object to that. Then the noble Earl says that although there might be some small difference between the two documents, still substantially the Protocol and the Berlin Memorandum are nearly the same. Now, unfortunately, I have not the Berlin Memorandum with me; and if I had I should not try the patience of the House by reading out the paragraphs one after the other in order that you might compare them—but there is no doubt in my mind that there is the widest possible difference between the one document and the other. I pass by what is sufficiently notorious, that the Berlin Memorandum was the result of an agreement between three Powers only, placed before us with the alternative of either accepting or rejecting it at very short notice, as if the proposition was one in the formation of which and in the propositions of which we were in no way concerned. I do not wish to dwell upon that; and certainly I should disclaim the idea thrown out by the noble Earl that our diplomatic action in regard to that Berlin Memorandum had been governed by any consideration of pique, or of offence taken at the rather summary manner in which it was laid before us. The noble Earl does not allege that there is anything to that effect in the Correspondence which has been laid before Parliament, or in any language held by Members of the Cabinet in Parliament; but he seemed to think there was an indication that such was the case in a speech delivered by a right hon. and much respected Colleague of mine to his constituents. Well, my Lords, surely there is a very wide difference between the language which you hold in diplomatic correspondence, and the language which is held at such meetings as that. It is a fair matter of argument for anyone addressing an English audience to hint that we consider we have been treated unceremoniously in the matter of the Berlin Memorandum: while it would have been utterly out of place on our part, and would have shown an utter want of dignity and self-respect, if we had evinced the slightest trace of annoyance or offence in our diplomatic correspondence on the subject. To return to the more important point with regard to the resemblance or the difference between these two documents. I would just point out that the Berlin Memorandum set out that if certain results were not obtained within a very short date "efficacious measures" — those are the words—should be employed to obtain them. Now, read by the light of subsequent events, nobody can doubt what the "efficacious measures" of the Berlin Memorandum really meant. They meant military occupation, and we, from first to last, have utterly declined to give even an apparent sanction to such a step. Now, my Lords, what is it that we have promised in the last paragraph of the Protocol—as to which some persons have laboured, but I think with signal ill-success, to show that it at least implies, if it does not express, the idea of coercion? What it amounts to is really this—that if certain things are not done by the Turkish Government—we being the judges whether they have been done or not—then at some time which is not fixed—we being the judges whether that time has arrived — we will proceed, in common with the other Powers, to see what we will do. If you choose to criticize that undertaking as binding us to remarkably little in any sense, I am inclined to agree with you; but I submit there is a very wide difference between an undertaking of the kind I have described and those "efficacious measures" of the Berlin Memorandum, which, everyone knew, referred to the ultimate employment of military force. The noble Earl said it was a matter for regret that we did not come to some understanding with the other Powers about that Berlin Memorandum; because, if all the Powers of Europe had been united, there was no question that Turkey would have given way. Well, my Lords, the assumption that all the Powers would have been united is a very large one; and I must say that I think it extremely doubtful, judging by the light of subsequent events, whether, even if there had been that union of all the Powers in making demands on Turkey which some of them would not have been prepared to enforce, a union of that sort would have induced the Porte to abandon the line of action which it had taken up. That is not a question of theory only. All the Powers of Europe did unite at the Conference; and I do not hesitate to say, looking at the matter as we are able to do now, that nothing would have ensured the requirements of the Berlin Memorandum being acted upon except the employment of force. Well, then, the noble Earl went on to a matter to which I do not ascribe quite so much importance as he does. He is very anxious to know which of the two Declarations which appear as annexes to the Protocol was made first —the English or the Russian. The noble Earl is more experienced in diplomacy than I am, and he may see an importance in this matter which escapes my observation. As a matter of fact, the Russian Declaration preceded mine in point of time; but I do not know that either on the part of the Russian Ambassador or mine any importance was attached to that fact at the moment. The two Declarations were put in at the same meeting at which the Protocol was signed; and, appended to it, they form a single document. Then the noble Earl asks was this Russian Declaration elicited by any demand made on the part of the English Government? It was only so elicited in this sense—We had asked whether the Russian Government would be prepared to disarm in the event of this Protocol being signed? We said that we saw no particular advantage in entering into an engagement of this kind —it was not our plan; it was not devised by us. The Russian Government asked us to sign a document of this nature, giving as their reason that they were anxious to disarm; but that it was impossible for them to disband their army, and so appear to retreat in the face of Turkey, unless they had something to show that in the propositions which they had put forward they had the sympathy and support of Europe. I do not pledge myself to the precise form of words; but there is no question that the object with which the Russian Government asked us to sign this Protocol was to give them, as they said, an excuse for demobilization. I think it was a very natural and proper answer to that remark to say—" If we go out of our way to sign a Protocol which we do not consider of any particular advantage to us, what guarantee will you give us that it will accomplish the object for which you profess to ask for it? If the Protocol is signed, will you demobilize or not? "The Russian Government said they could not give a promise of that kind; and they put forward reasons of which I am not inclined to dispute the validity. They said, in the first place" Peace has not been concluded with Montenegro, and if Montenegro is again invaded we cannot promise to disarm and leave Montenegro to its fate." Again they said—"It is possible, that fresh massacres may take place; and if that is the case, it will be impossible for us to withdraw our troops from the frontier." Well, we admitted that there was a certain validity in that reply; and then we devised the very simple expedient of this Declaration, which comes to this—" You say you ask us to sign a certain document for a certain purpose. We will sign it for that purpose, but we will add to it a condition which, if that purpose is not accomplished, will prevent its being used for any other purpose." My Lords, that is the whole history of the Declaration on which the noble Earl has commented. Then the noble Earl asks—"Did you consult the other Powers as to your intention to make this Declaration?" I do not, speaking off-hand, remember in what form it was communicated to the other Powers, but we made no secret of our intention in that respect. I am certain that it was known to the Representatives of the European Powers here, and from the language which they held on the matter, and from such means of information as I possess, I do not believe that any objection or disapproval of that Declaration was either expressed or felt in any quarter. The noble Earl says he very much prefers the form of the Italian Declaration, and asks why we did not follow it? For the best of all possible reasons —that I did not hear of the Italian Declaration until after I had signed my own. Then the noble Earl says that there is one grave objection to the course of proceeding which we took—which was this—that it was in the power of Turkey, without reference to any other Power, to render the Protocol altogether ineffectual. This, my Lords, is quite true. But recollect what was the object of the Protocol. We were endeavouring to mediate between Russia and Turkey. In a mediation of that kind, if one party refuses to accept mediation—no matter what form the negotiation may take, no matter what course you may follow, that one party can, by refusal, entirely prevent the success of your mediation. No doubt it was in the power of Turkey to render the Protocol inoperative; but my contention is that precisely the same objection would apply to any other method of mediation which might have been adopted. It may be asked why we took this course—why we consented to sign a document of this kind? My answer is this—we were bound to assume, when the Russian Government came and told us that they were wanting an excuse for disarmament, that in that expression of opinion they were really sincere. If that were so, it was obviously our duty to help them by removing every obstacle in the way of peace. If, on the other hand—I do not say that the fact is so, I only put it forward as an hypothesis—but if you were to suppose that from the beginning there had been no real intention on the part of Russia of making peace, but that her only object was to secure a convenient cases belli, then I say on that hypothesis our best course was to do what we did; because, in the event of our refusing to take that course, it is perfectly certain that the whole responsibility and whole blame would be laid upon our shoulders. My Lords, I think I have answered the questions which the noble Earl has put; and probably, under the present circumstances, your Lordships will be of opinion that I act wisely in abstaining from any speculations as to the future.


said, he thought some of their Lordships must have been struck by the disclaimer of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) when, in the course of his remarks, he said that even if this Protocol, and the Declaration attached to it, was, as had been suggested by the noble Earl who preceded him, an unbusiness-like document, he did not consider himself to be responsible for its unbusiness-like character, on the ground that he was not the author of the Paper. Now, among the signatures appended to the Protocol was that of the noble Earl himself, and he presumed that the noble Earl would not have signed it if he had not been responsible for its contents. Persons who happened to be in embarrassed circumstances sometimes obtained loans of money by affixing their, signatures to bills; but he should be much surprised if a person doing so were to argue that he was not responsible for the bill because he had not drawn up the terms of it. Whatever opinions might be entertained as to the points debated to-night, there could, he thought, be little difference of opinion on the point that Her Majesty's Government had been singularly unfortunate in attaining those ends which they had from time to time put forward publicly as the objects of their policy. The Prime Minister, at an early stage in these negotiations, made a statement to the effect that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to uphold the Treaties of 1856. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could not conceive, however, how a more serious blow could have been struck against those Treaties than had been inflicted by the Protocol which laid on the Table of their Lordships' House. At another time we heard that it was the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire which must be the special object of the solicitude of Her Majesty's Ministers. But the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire were never more seriously threatened than at the present moment. Again, the head of the Government had told them that the great object they had in view was the amelioration of the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte. We had had no statement from Her Majesty's Govern- ment to the effect that the condition of the Christians was in any way improved. Finally, we had heard that the object of these negotiations was the maintenance of the peace of Europe. Ho feared, however, that the peace of Europe was not worth many days'—perhaps not many hours' purchase. In the face of all these failures, surely it was our duty to watch narrowly every fresh step taken by Her Majesty's Government, and no step could be much more important than that involved in the Protocol. In order to appreciate fully the importance of the change which the Protocol involved, it was necessary that we should carry our minds back from this—the beginning of a new chapter in the history of these events—to the state of affairs when the last chapter was closed by the failure of the Conference at Constantinople. Let him remind the House what was the position this country then occupied in the European concert. In the first place, the language of the Powers was at that time the language of absolute unanimity. Secondly, they were agreed in demanding certain very specific reforms, and they solemnly placed on record their belief that those reforms could not be obtained without certain guarantees for their execution; and lastly, we had made it known to both parties in this dispute that we had no intention of allowing ourselves to be drawn into it except in so far as diplomatic pressure and intervention were concerned. How complete a change had since occurred! The language of the Powers was no longer unanimous. The Declarations affixed to the Protocol disclosed a state of things far removed from unanimity. It was a symphony, but it was a symphony of discord. Again, what had become of the reforms, and the guarantees for their execution, on which we had insisted at Constantinople? There was not a word about these guarantees in the Protocol, and as for the part which this country would have to play in these transactions, if he had merely read the document and not listened to the explanations of the noble Earl opposite, he should have said that Her Majesty's Government had assumed, by the signature of the Protocol, a liability very different from any liability they had incurred before—because they had placed on record for the first time that they, with the other Powers, had undertaken the pacification of the East. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had explained to-night that the words did not bear this construction; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) maintained that any person reading the Protocol for the first time would consider, on the contrary, that Her Majesty's Government had bound themselves by diplomatic or other means to see that the present state of affairs in the East was not allowed to continue. It was, therefore, right for noble Lords on that side of the House to ask what Her Majesty's Government had to say in justification of this change. The explanation of the noble Earl opposite was almost cynical in its candour. The noble Earl told their Lordships that the Protocol was accepted because it was the only means which Her Majesty's Government saw by which peace could be maintained. Peace was, to use the noble Earl's expression, the one thing urgent at the time. Now, he ventured to say that, although the Protocol might give Her Majesty's Government the prospect of a short breathing time, they should have hesitated to sign a paper which so completely condemned—he might almost say stultified — their previous action during these negotiations. The Protocol expressed, or ought to express, the solemn convictions of Her Majesty's Government. They said they had grounds for hoping the Porte would profit by the present lull to apply energetically such measures as would produce a real improvement in the condition of the Christian population, which was considered indispensable to the tranquillity of Europe. What were these "grounds for hoping" that the position of the Christians would be improved? The only grounds mentioned in the Protocol were the promises volunteered by the Porte itself. But over and over again those promises had been declared by the noble Earl and his Colleagues to be positively worthless. At the very outset the noble Earl opposite, when giving instructions to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who represented this country at Constantinople, told him on no account to believe any of the Turkish promises. Again, the noble Earl, writing to the noble Marquess on the 20th of November last, had warned him that—"The mere announcement of re- forms by the Porte cannot be accepted as sufficient." The Protocol referred to the Circular of the 13th of February, 1876; but that Circular was a document which had come in for a large share of the condemnation of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess, writing to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on January 13, 1877, said— These reforms have already been promised in the Note of the 13th of February, 1875.…. and the two first had previously been promised in the Hatti-Humayoun of 1856. A renewal of these promises, if it is accompanied by adequate guarantees of performance, would be a valuable concession, but without any such guarantees little practical advantage is likely to be obtained by reiterating the proclamation of these reforms."—[Turkey, No. 2 (1877) p. 304.] If Her Majesty's Government placed confidence in the good intentions of the Porte now, why was it necessary to expose this country to the humiliation of a diplomatic defeat at Constantinople? Why was it necessary to supersede Sir Henry Elliot, and to send out, in the person of the noble Marquess opposite, a highly-skilled advocate, whose conduct at Constantinople we all applauded, but whose language increased the humiliation this country must have felt when the Conference ended without any good results at all? But not only wore Turkish professions and promises not more valuable or entitled to respect now than they were at the time when Her Majesty's Government had expressed its disbelief in them: they were less valuable and less entitled to respect than at the time of the Conference, for we had had in the interim considerable experience. He would ask their Lordships whether any of the engagements made by the Turks within the last few months had been fulfilled? Why, they had not even, in spite of promises and the denunciations of the noble Earl, carried out the sentences passed on those who had been sentenced for the most heinous crimes by their own Courts of Law. But that was not all. We had to bear in mind that what the noble Marquess opposite called the one motive power at the back of the Conference would be removed by this Protocol. How could we, after Russia had consented to a disarmament, expect Turkey to be more desirous than she was before to carry into effect the wishes of the European Governments? The chances of these reforms being voluntarily carried out by the Porte were, therefore, smaller than ever, and the Protocol gave us no information with regard to the means which Her Majesty's Government would adopt in order to secure their execution in the event of the too probable failure of the Porte. Our engagement was a contingent engagement only, and he ventured to say that of all the objectionable forms of bargain to which a great country could bind itself, a contingent bargain of that kind was the worst. The danger of such a bargain was very much increased when it was found to be embarrassed by such reservations as were appended to the document of which he was speaking. The Protocol, it was said, was to be null and void in a certain event; but he wished the noble Earl had informed the House how much of it was to be null and void. We could not, in the first place, well recede from the position which we had accepted of being responsible, in some degree at least, for the pacifiation of the East; nor could we retreat from the programme which had been urged by the noble Marquess opposite at the Conference at Constantinople. Again, he presumed we did not wish to withdraw our affirmation of the interest we took in the improvement of the condition of the Christian population of Turkey. It came, therefore, to this —that he supposed what we did intend to withdraw from was the concluding paragraph, the only portion of the document which had the appearance of pledging this country to action; but which, after the speech of the noble Earl, meant nothing at all. Besides, let the House consider for a moment the number of contingencies on which the operation of the Protocol was made to depend. It was to come into effect if peace were made between Turkey and Montenegro, if the Porte carried out certain reforms which, so far as this country was aware, it was not likely to carry out, if Russia was satisfied with those reforms, and if disarmament followed. All those conditions were to be fulfilled before the Protocol could have any effect at all. Now, for his own part, he did not think that the policy of a great country ought to be made to depend on such eventualities. We had placed ourselves in a position of incurring very great liability. He wanted to know in what coin the noble Earl meant to meet those obligations?—because at present the House was without any information on the subject. These reservations were the outcome of the caution of the noble Earl; but he feared, he might add, that, despite all those precautions, the peace of Europe would before long be disturbed. The noble Earl had said, with justice, that it was difficult for him to give their Lordships any further information with respect to the prospects of peace or war; but he must express a hope that if any opening were still left for intervention, Her Majesty's Government would spare no effort in order to avert the evil by which Europe was now threatened. Should war, unfortunately, break out, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was afraid many like himself would think some share of responsibility attached to the Government who had from the outset hesitated between two lines of policy. They might have adopted a policy of strict non-intervention, or the policy indicated by the noble Marquess opposite at Constantinople, who used language which was intelligible only upon the assumption that if it was disregarded Her Majesty's Government were prepared to act in accordance with it. There was much to be said in favour of either of these policies—there was nothing to be said in favour of that hesitation between the two which had marked the action of Her Majesty's Government. We had to choose between complete abstention and active interference. We had sought to obtain the immunities of the one and the credit of the other, and our failure had been humiliating to ourselves, calamitous to those whom we sought to protect, and disastrous to the peace of Europe.


was understood to say that in the remarks which he on a former occasion made in reference to Sir Henry Elliot, lie did not for a moment mean to imply that he had not worked hard and conscientiously in the discharge of his duties, or that he did not adequately represent the policy of the Government; but that his views were so strongly in favour of Turkey, and were expressed with so little disguise, as to render him not peculiarly well fitted to be the Representative of this country at Constantinople. Coming, however, to the Protocol, lie could come to no other conclusion than that it was of no use whatever. If there was to be peace it was not wanted, while if war broke out it fell to the ground. In the one case it was null and in the other void. He did not think it necessary, therefore, to comment upon its several clauses. But there was something beyond it which was of the greatest possible consequence, and that was what would result from it? The most startling thing he had heard that evening was that the Protocol had been signed at the request of Russia as an excuse for mobilization. If, he might add, the Protocol had in itself no meaning, it was rendered still more invalid by the Declarations which were appended to it, and which were made to turn on certain eventualities, which, in all likelihood, would never occur. They had not, at all events, happened so far as things had gone at present. A great deal was said, too, about an European war;—but he could see no reason why any war which occurred between Russia and Turkey should extend to the rest of Europe. He could not conceive for a single moment that any other Power could have any object, or aim, or motive, in making the war of greater magnitude than it would be between Russia and Turkey, should they unfortunately come to blows. At any rate, Turkey had had ample warning that this country would not come to her assistance. Turkey seemed to suppose that she could resist all moral suasion and set her face against Europe, and Russia had taken upon herself the task of showing Turkey that she was wrong. As to the action taken by the Government in isolating itself from Russia, he could only say that while he did not desire to cast any blame upon them, it was not such as, in his opinion, was likely to promote peace—the declared object which they had in view.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.