§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
rose to call the attention of the House to the Earl of Derby's despatch to Lord Augustus Loftus of 1st May, 1877. The noble 482 Duke said, he must throw himself upon their Lordships' indulgence while he made a few observations on the subject he was about to bring under their notice; and he had this claim to their indulgence, that he could assure their Lordships that he would rather that the subject had been brought under their notice by some one else—and it was only because no other noble Lord had shown an intention of bringing it under consideration, and because he felt that the matter was at present one of vital importance, that he had ventured to introduce it. He thought the despatch was couched in language of a much stronger description than the noble Lord and the Government could have intended to use; and his fear was that it would be read by other countries, and more particularly by Turkey, as an abrogation of the Declaration of Neutrality. It was most important this country, acting in concert with the other Powers of Europe, should maintain a strict and bonâ fide neutrality. He perceived in that morning's papers indications of the ill effects that had already arisen from his noble Friend's despatch; he saw that at St. Petersburg, at Berlin, and at Paris it had caused much consternation; and he had brought the matter forward in the hope that his noble Friend the Secretary of State might be able to state what would calm and soothe the alarm that now prevailed on the Continent. He hoped nothing would fall from himself that would in any way embarrass Her Majesty's Government. He felt deeply grateful to his noble Friend and to the Government for their continuous, assiduous, and unremitting exertions to maintain the peace of Europe. Unfortunately those exertions, however strenuous, had failed. In the despatch to which his Notice referred, he perceived that his noble Friend particularly inveighed against Russia for having broken the Treaty of 1856; but his noble Friend himself the other day in this House declared that no Treaty was irrevocable. Now, he (the Duke of Rutland) thought that he could show their Lordships that Russia had not broken that Treaty. After the outbreak of the Servian War there were differences of opinion between several of the Powers; an attempt was made by diplomacy to arrange these difficulties and differences; a Conference 483 was proposed, but did not succeed in arranging them; a Protocol was proposed, and again that failed of its intended object; and why did they all fail? He asked their Lordships whether Russia did not go to the utmost extent she could in meeting the demands of his noble Friend and of the other Powers of Europe? She gave way on almost every point in controversy; whether it was the occupation of Bulgaria, or the granting of administrative autonomy to European Provinces—in every way Russia did what she could to meet his noble Friend. But Turkey refused to give way; she would do nothing; she would listen to nothing; she maintained that attitude at the Conference, and in that spirit she rejected the Protocol. After the Powers of Europe had been brought together and endeavoured to settle these matters by peaceful means, and after their endeavours in common had failed, he thought Russia was justified in saying she had fulfilled her obligations under the Treaty of Paris, and she was called upon to interfere in a more active way. A great deal had been said about the independence of Turkey; but the independence of Turkey was a thing of the past. Did anyone mean to say that, after the blood and treasure we expended in the Crimean War—after 20 years of misgovernment in Turkey, increasing every year and every month, and culminating in the Bulgarian atrocities—we had no right to interfere in the concerns of Turkey? The noble Lord himself had interfered. What could be more direct interference than writing such a despatch as the noble Lord wrote on the 21st of September, in which he said—Your Excellency will, in the name of the Queen and Her Majesty's Government, call for reparation and justice, and urge that the rebuilding of the houses and churches should be begun at once, and necessary assistance given for the restoration of the woollen and other industries, as well as provision made for the relief of those who have been reduced to poverty; and, above all, you will point out that it is a matter of absolute necessity that the eighty women should be found and restored to their families."—[Turkey, No. 1 (1877), p. 238.]Could anyone who read that despatch conceive of its being sent to an independent Power? But further, the noble Marquess, whom he did not see in his 484 place (the Marquess of Salisbury), in his despatch to the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, dated Pera, the 4th of January last, said—The independence of the Ottoman Porte is a phrase which is, of course, capable of different interpretations. At the present time it must be interpreted so as be consistent with the conjoint military and diplomatic action taken in recent years by the Powers who signed the Treaty of Paris. If the Porte had been independent in the sense in which the Guaranteeing Powers are independent, it would not have stood in need of a guarantee. The military sacrifices made by the two Western Powers twenty years ago to save it from destruction, and the Conference which is now being held to avert an analogous danger, would have been an unnecessary interference if Turkey had been a Power which did not depend on the protection of others for its existence."—[Turkey, No. 2 (1877), p. 213.]He asked their Lordships whether, after reading the despatch, it was not something beyond all human belief that people could still talk of the independence of Turkey? There was another thing in these debates on the Eastern Question which had struck him as curious, and that was the amount of blame that had been cast upon the late Prime Minister, lately the leader of the Liberal Party for his participation in what was called the Autumn Crusade. The Government of this country must always be anxious to know what the real feelings of the people were on this or any other subject; and if their Lordships doubted what the feeling was their doubt might be removed by a despatch of the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, containing language which reflected the greatest honour upon him. On the 5th of September, 1876, the noble Lord wrote—It is my duty to inform you that any sympathy which was previously felt here towards that country has been completely destroyed by the recent lamentable occurrences in Bulgaria; the amount of outrages and and excesses committed by the Turkish troops upon an unhappy, and for the most part unresisting population, has raised an universal feeling of indignation in all classes of English society, and to such a pitch has this risen, that in the extreme case of Russia declaring war against Turkey, Her Majesty's Government would find it practically impossible to interfere in the defence of the Ottoman Empire.Well, how was that feeling discovered? Why, through the efforts of Mr. Gladstone. His noble Friend the noble Duke seemed to admit that he was correct.
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
Did the noble Duke deny it? Why, last night, in "another place," Mr. Cross said he perfectly agreed in all that had been said throughout the country in reference to the atrocities committed in Turkey; and, therefore, he contended that the Government were indebted to Mr. Gladstone for the knowledge of the real feeling of the country in this matter. He might be told that these things had passed, and that it was perfectly useless to ask these questions now, and that he was merely wasting their Lordships' time; but he thought not, if they could only learn a lesson from what had taken place and apply it for guidance in their future conduct. He was one of those who were of opinion that, if the Government could have conscientiously signed the Berlin Memorandum, peace would have been secured; but, unfortunately, on that occasion they separated themselves from the rest of Europe. He had an earnest and strong conviction that his noble Friend was unable to sign it; but the consequence had been that we had lost the opportunity of joining with the other Powers in securing the peace of Europe. His fear was that at present they were again on the verge of a similar catastrophe. He would ask his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) whether any other Power in Europe had written such a despatch to Russia as that on which he had been commenting? He would ask him, further, whether the despatch of the 1st of May was submitted to the other Governments of Europe, and, if so, whether they approved it? It was very important that they should not be agitated at the present moment. He was sure that they were all anxious to localize the war and, if possible, to procure peace; but he felt confident the only way to do so was for the Powers of Europe to hold together and maintain a strict neutrality. He did not desire to detain their Lordships, but he could not sit down without referring to the words which the Emperor of Russia used to our Ambassador on the 2nd of November last. Mr. Cross read the despatch in "another place" last night, and perhaps he was wrong in repeating it now; but he felt it was so important at the present 486 moment that the words of the Emperor of Russia should be known to every man, woman, and child in this country and in all Europe that, at the risk of wearying their Lordships, he would read an extract from it again. Lord Augustus Loftus, in a despatch dated November 2, 1876, wrote—His Majesty pledged his sacred word of honour in the most earnest and solemn manner that he had no intention of acquiring Constantinople, and that, if necessity should oblige him to occupy a portion of Bulgaria, it would only be provisionally, and until peace and the safety of the Christian population were secured. . . His Majesty could not understand, when both countries had a common object—namely, the maintenance of peace and the amelioration of the condition of the Christians—and when he had given every proof that he had no desire for conquest or aggrandisement, why there should not be a perfect understanding between England and Russia—an understanding based on a policy of peace, which would be equally beneficial to their mutual interest and to those of Europe at large. 'Intentions,' said his Majesty, are attributed to Russia of a future conquest of India and of the possession of Constantinople. Can anything be more absurd With regard to the former it is a perfect impossibility; and as regards the latter I repeat again the most solemn assurances that I entertain neither the wish nor the intention.' His Majesty deeply deplored the distrust of his policy which was manifested in England, and the evil effects it produced, and he earnestly requested me to do my utmost to dispel this cloud of suspicion and distrust of Russia, and charged me to convey to Her Majesty's Government the solemn assurances he had repeated to me."—[Turkey, No. 1 (1877) p. 643.]No language could be stronger than this. There was the word of honour of the Emperor of Russia given to Her Majesty's Government that he had no desire to acquire Constantinople, and that he did not seek to approach India. He (the Duke of Rutland) could not believe that anyone claiming the name of a gentleman, much more that of an Emperor, could falsify his word of honour given in such language. It seemed perfectly impossible. But suppose it were not so—suppose that Russia did wish or attempt to take Constantinople, to stop the Suez Canal, and seize on Egypt — suppose all these impossibilities, what better security could there be against them than to unite with the rest of Europe in resisting such schemes of aggrandizement? If that time should ever arrive, he felt confident there was no man in England in whom the country 487 could repose greater confidence than in his noble Friend the noble Earl. The interests of England and her honour would be safe in his hands.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, the noble Duke has concluded with a remark so personally complimentary to myself that I almost shrink from commenting, as I otherwise should have been inclined to do, on some points of the speech he has just made. My noble Friend says the interests and honour of the country are perfectly safe in my hands; but if I am to put the plain and ordinary meaning on the remarks which he has just made, he must believe that the course we have pursued in this matter is both unwise and unsafe; and if that is the case, I should be surprised that my noble Friend felt any confidence for the future, which was so little justified by the past. On previous occasions when I have heard my noble Friend speak in this House he has not often indulged in flights of imagination; but I think my noble Friend was for once imaginative when he said, in the opening sentences of his speech, that he would not have thought of bringing this subject before your Lordships if anyone else had appeared willing to do so. Now, my Lords, the despatch on which he has commented was placed in the hands of the public yesterday morning—the same afternoon my noble Friend placed his Notice on the Paper:—and I do not well understand how he could contrive to ascertain in so short a time that he was the only person likely to bring forward the subject. But that is not all. My noble Friend is imaginative again when he speaks of the consternation produced by the appearance of the despatch in the various European capitals. I should like very much to know how he has found that out. I think I have at least as many opportunities of knowing what takes place in the various capitals of Europe as my noble Friend can have; and although it is rather too early, when a Paper has only been before the world for 48 hours, to learn the effect it has produced, I certainly am not aware that it has created the feeling of consternation which my noble Friend has attributed to it.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I give my noble Friend equal credit for sincerity and simplicity; but if he has taken his estimate of the policy of the Government from the telegraphic information of The Daily News, I am not surprised that his conclusions have been such as he has described. But I must go on to the other points my noble Friend has touched. He puts to me a question which I think, under the circumstances, is one of a rather singular character. He wants to know whether, before the despatch referred to was published, it was submitted to the judgment of the other Powers. Was such a question, my Lords, ever asked before? Has it ever before been expected that a British Minister, writing an important despatch, expressing the opinion of his Government on the step which another Government has taken, should abstain from expressing that opinion until he had consulted with the other Powers of Europe, and made quite sure that no one would disagree with it? My Lords, I need not say that such a course would be altogether unreasonable. But my noble Friend goes back on matters of old date. He went back to the time of the Berlin Memorandum, and said if we had only signed that Memorandum there would have been no disturbance of the European peace. I have answered questions on that subject again and again within the last few weeks, and I shall only revert to the matter now to say that, if we had done as my noble Friend says we ought to have done, we should have been involved in what I am sure neither House of Parliament would desire — a war against Turkey in conjunction with Russia. I will not discuss that other point which my noble Friend the noble Duke introduced—namely, the debt of gratitude which we owe to the distinguished ex-Prime Minister, who was lately the Leader of the Liberal Party. My noble Friend thinks the Government ought to feel grateful to Mr. Gladstone for the language which he used and the course which he pursued. Well, if it was my habit or my wish to take a purely Party view of things, I should sympathize with my noble 489 Friend; I think that, in a party point of view, Mr. Gladstone has rendered great service to the Government: but if I had been a Member of the Liberal Party I should not be at all grateful to that distinguished person for the services he had rendered to them. My noble Friend went on to the question of the independence of Turkey, and said it was all nonsense to speak of Turkey as an independent State. I own I do not see what that has to do with the present state of affairs. It was a very fair question to discuss when the matter before us was to what extent we were entitled to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey; but when that is all past and gone, it is merely raising a retrospective and historical question which it would serve no good purpose to discuss. As to any charge of inconsistency in talking on the one hand of the independence of Turkey and on the other hand writing a despatch which dealt with the internal affairs of that country, I may point out that at the time that despatch of the 21st September was written we were in a peculiar position with regard to the Turkish Empire; the Powers were engaged in the work of mediation, and we, among others, were trying to bring about a settlement of the controversy. It was perfectly reasonable, therefore, and not at all inconsistent with the independence of that country that we should interfere when acts were committed tending to make effective mediation impossible, and say—"We can have no more to do with you if these acts continue; we can take up your case no longer if you do not put a stop to them." Then my noble Friend quoted the words of the Emperor of Russia to Lord Augustus Loftus, which have been for some time before the public of this country and of Europe. I do not quarrel with my noble Friend for referring to that declaration if he thought it appropriate and important; but I may observe that at the time when that declaration was made Russian armies were stationed on on the frontiers of Turkey; a war loan had been issued, and mobilization had taken place; and I may also point out that from the same high and distinguished authority there was another declaration made—I mean that speech at Moscow, which, if I chose to argue the point, I might refer to with as much 490 propriety and as much effect as that with which my noble Friend has referred to the conversation with Lord Augustus Loftus. I think my noble Friend was guilty of an argumentative fallacy when he said that the position we held in the despatch to which he referred would be considered inconsistent with our professions of entire neutrality. Now, I do not see what the two things have to do with one another. Does it follow that because we mean to be neutral in a war—does it follow because considerations of policy or the interests of our own country withhold us from taking any part in a quarrel going on between other Powers—that we are therefore bound to abstain from giving any expression of opinion on the subject? That has never been the course in this country, and if we had pursued it on this occasion we certainly should not have escaped criticism more severe and more just than that which has been addressed to us. As regards foreign Powers, I agree as to the danger of hasty language; but if there is one thing more than another which is likely to lead to hasty and ill-considered and, therefore, possibly injudicious and dangerous words on the part of those who represent either the present, or any other Government, it is that they should be called upon night after night, with no definite issue before the House, to express opinions which necessarily go forth to all Europe, upon the most delicate and difficult questions.
§ LORD WAVENEY
was understood to say that public feeling had not in the least changed since the Conference at St. James's Hall, and to refer to the meeting on Monday evening showing the interest taken by the public in this question.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I do not think it would be convenient to go into a debate on the Eastern Question at this moment; but I should be reluctant that this discussion should close without making a few observations on what has passed. I certainly cannot concur in the censure of the noble Earl the Secretary of State on the noble Duke for having brought this question forward. On the contrary, I think it exceedingly valuable that the noble Duke should have shown the moral courage to speak in opposition to the feeling of those around him, and give expression to his honest and conscien- 491 tious convictions on the subject which he brought before the House. The noble Earl found fault with the noble Duke for having gone back to the Berlin Memorandum. My Lords, I can quite conceive that Her Majesty's Government are anxious to throw a veil over the past; but I think it most natural that the noble Duke, having spoken for the first time in the House on the Eastern Question, should have referred to one of the most remarkable incidents in these negotiations. I entirely agree with the noble Duke that the act by which we separated ourselves from Europe and the mode in which the Memorandum was rejected were most unfortunate circumstances, and the misfortune has been aggravated by the subsequent boastings of Her Majesty's Government and their supporters that a most material check was thus given to the three Emperors. I should like to know what the check which broke up the concert of Europe at the time has effected? The noble Earl asked the noble Duke where he got his information as to the effect which the despatch to which he referred produced in foreign countries; and when the noble Duke said it was from the Correspondent of The Daily News there was a general laugh on the other side, as if the question had been disposed of. But I must remind your Lordships that something of the same kind happened last year. Certain things were conveyed to the people of this country by the Correspondent of The Daily Dews. Her Majesty's Government and the Prime Minister threw the greatest doubt on the information given them, but a long time afterwards, by an inquiry made by their orders, they did obtain information which, so far from justifying the sneers which they had indulged in at the information received from the Correspondent of The Daily News, entirely corroborated it. So that the fact of such a statement as that to which the noble Duke referred appearing in The Daily News does not seem to be conclusive as to its falsehood. Objection was made by the noble Earl to the noble Duke's reference to the despatch demanding, in an imperious tone, redress for the outrages committed by the Turkish Government. I am not going to enter into the dispute as to how much confidence the noble Duke ought to re- 492 pose in the noble Earl. I leave them to settle that among themselves. But from what I know of my noble Friend's disposition I am sure that he is as little inclined as anyone can be to manufacture despatches for home consumption, and which are not intended to be of any use in the transaction of public affairs—but when your Lordships read these despatches—one addressed to the Turkish Government, the other addressed in a scolding tone to the Russian Government, and compared them with the Proclamation of strict neutrality between the two countries—they certainly do raise the impression that they were intended rather to create a favourable impression at home as to the foreign policy of the Government than to secure the objects at which they professedly aim. I again say that I acknowledge with thankfulness the action of the noble Duke in bringing the matter before your Lordships.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I only rise to say that, considering the gratitude of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) to the noble Duke, your Lordships might have justly expected that the noble Earl himself would have expressed some opinion upon the despatch. But the noble Earl has risen and has sat down again, and has not said a single word on the subject of the despatch, except that it was not intended for Russia, but for home consumption.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he had described the despatch to Lord Augustus Loftus as one of a scolding character, and had added that although the noble Earl was incapable of manufacturing despatches for home consumption, a comparison of these two despatches might lead to the inference that they were intended to produce a favourable impression at home as to the policy of the Government, rather than a beneficial effect on the course of events abroad.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not so understand the noble Earl. I wish to point out that so far from the despatch being volunteered on the part of the Government, it was a despatch which was absolutely called for by the communication which was addressed by Prince Gortchakoff to Her Majesty's Government. That was a communication which upon the face of it stated that the Emperor of Russia in what he was 493 doing was acting in response to the sentiments and the interests of Europe. If Her Majesty's Government had the opinion that that was a just statement, then of course they were entirely in the wrong in responding to the despatch; but, on the other hand, if the statement was one which the Government of this country could not accept, then I believe it was their bounden duty to place upon record in a manner which could not be mistaken the opinion which conscientiously they entertained of the step taken by His Imperial Majesty. I believe that the people of this country agree in the statements which are made by Her Majesty's Government in the despatch of my noble Friend; and I must say I heard with some amazement and deep regret the suggestion made by the noble Duke that the Government of this country, in expressing their opinion, called for after the circumstances I have described, ought to have submitted their opinion to the other Courts of Europe before expressing it.