HL Deb 14 May 1877 vol 234 cc829-49

, on rising to ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a Question of which he had given Notice, and which had reference to the Tripartite Treaty of' the 15th April, 1856, said, he had no intention of making a speech on the Eastern Question or of saying anything which would call forth such a speech from any noble Lord on either side of the House. Indeed, he would not have made the inquiry which he was about to make if it had not been for a statement addressed to their Lordships last month by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), in reply to some observations of his. In the discussion raised on April 19, he drew attention to the dangerous nature of the Tripartite Treaty, and he got this answer from the noble Earl— It was a Treaty between England, France, and Austria; and any obligations which we may be held to have contracted under it are obligations to those Powers alone. That being so, the first and most material question is, Does there exist at present, or is there the slightest probability that there will exist, any intention on the part of the French or Austrian Governments to call upon us to fulfil our Treaty obligations? To that question I can give an unhesitating answer. I am perfectly convinced that neither the French, nor the Austrian Government has the slightest intention of calling upon us to fulfil what we are bound to under the Treaty of April, 1856; and consequently I have not thought it necessary to take any steps in regard to that Treaty, or to free ourselves from the obligations which it involves. Now, if that answer had been given by the Austrian Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it would have been satisfactory; but coming from the English Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it required some further explanation before it could be regarded in that light. He could not see how the ipse dixit of an English Minister could abrogate a Treaty to which two Powers besides England were parties. The confidence in the matter displayed by the noble Earl reminded him of what was not an uncommon occurrence outside that House. It sometimes happened that a person was asked to back a bill merely as a "matter of form;" but at the end of three months it became evident that the thing was a reality. Thinking over the noble Earl's answer, he came to the conclusion that it could only have been based on one of four hypotheses. First, that Austria would not in any case be embroiled in the present contest; second, that, in that case, she would prefer to fight alone to fighting with the help of Great Britain; third, that she had no right to compel us to go to war under the disputed Treaty; fourth, that she had given Her Majesty's Government her assurance that she would not call upon us under that Treaty. In answer to the first of those hypothetical reasons he might remark that it was a very delicate subject to launch upon—the liability of Austria to be embroiled in the present contest; but he might say thus much without unduly trenching on dangerous ground, that no person of ordinary sense could cast his eye on the map of Eastern Europe without perceiving that it was very difficult for Russia to strike a blow at Turkey without touching one of those numerous interests of Austria, interference with which might make it necessary for the latter Power to interfere in the contest. As to the second hypothetical reason—that Austria would prefer to fight alone to fighting with the help of Great Britain,—it was undoubtedly true that any contingent of land forces which we might send to her assistance would be numerically very trifling as compared with the troops which she herself could put in the field; but we must remember that aid in such a way was only one of the sinews of war. A short time ago the Prime Minister, in a very remarkable speech, said that the resources of this country were practically inexhaustible, and that if England once drew the sword she would not sheath it again until right had been done. That being the view of Her Majesty's Government, he could not think that Austria would prefer to fight alone rather than have the aid of Great Britain. He now came to the third hypothetical reason, which he thought was the most intelligible of them all—namely, that Austria had no right under the Tripartite Treaty to compel us to go to war. As their Lordships were aware, the Tripartite Treaty contained two distinct provisions—first, the three Powers which were parties to it guaranteed jointly, severally, and, as far as he could see, unreservedly, the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire; and, secondly, they agreed to treat any infringement of the Treaty of March, 1856, as a casus belli. What was the situation at the present moment? The Russian Army was marching into the Provinces of the Ottoman Empire. How, then, could it be maintained that the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire had not been interfered with? With regard to the second point the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had set out in a despatch his views of the Treaty of March, 1856, and according to that view we could not say that there had been an infringement of that Treaty. It was perfectly true that no Power had as yet thought fit to treat that infringement as a cases belli; but we had no security that during the progress of the war between Russia and Turkey no Power would treat it as a casus belli; and if at any time one of the other Powers who were party to the Tripartite Treaty did think fit to treat the infringement of the Treaty of March, 1856, as a casus belli, we might be called on to interfere. With regard to the fourth hypothesis—that Austria had given Her Majesty's Government her assurance that she would not call upon us under the Treaty—that, of course, was a matter beyond his cognizance; but if she had given such an assurance their Lordships ought to be informed of it. If the Treaty had been voided in that way, let the fact be declared. He knew this was a most delicate matter. He believed that connected with the Eastern Question there was none graver than the point whether the Tripartite Treaty was at this moment operative or inoperative. If it was inoperative let the Government declare that it was so; but if it was operative, he held that it was a source of serious danger. He did not believe that any Government could ever engage this country in a war on behalf of the Ottoman Empire; but we might through this Treaty drift into the quarrel, and then not on behalf of English or even Ottoman but of Austrian interests. The noble Earl said the other day that in his opinion Treaties were not eternal. Well, he supposed that was true. Treaties were not eternal any more than Protocols; but he would like to know from the noble Earl what period of existence he assigned to Treaties. Would he give them the average life of man? If that was to be their term, let them be decently buried, and consigned to the sepulchre of archives when they reached it; but let them not sneak out of existence under the impression that nobody was to act upon them. He thought that in the present circumstances it would not be difficult to make an arrangement to free ourselves from the Tripartite Treaty, and he believed that if we did not do that, the day would come when that Treaty would involve us in the alternative of a war on the one hand, or—he would not say dishonour, but a very discreditable proceeding—on the other. He begged to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether in their opinion the time had not arrived for entering into an amicable arrangement with France and Austria by which this country may be released from the engagements of the Tripartite Treaty of the 15th of April, 1856?


said, he could not think that the noble Earl had adhered to his pledge of not saying anything which ought to give rise to a speech on, or a discussion of, the Eastern Question; but he did think there was every reason why something should be said from the Conservative side of the House, to show that those who sat on that side reposed the fullest confidence in the Government. Their Lordships could not but have observed that there had been many discussions recently in which the policy of the Government on the Eastern Question had been attacked by noble Lords on the Opposition side, but in which no utterance of approval or disapproval had come from the benches behind that of Her Majesty's Ministers. That silence had arisen not from distrust, but by reason that those sitting on the Ministerial benches reposed the most absolute trust in the discretion of Her Majesty's Government. While negotiations were pending noble Lords on his side of the House did not wish to make speeches; but their silence might be maintained too long, and now that war had actually broken out, Parliament and the country ought to encourage the Government to continue in the policy they had pursued. To his mind no part of that policy had met with a more distinct and expressive approval than the manly and straightforward despatch of Lord Derby in answer to the Circular of Prince Gortchakoff, which had been made the occasion of a flank attack on the Government by the noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland). The noble Earl who had spoken that evening had spoken in the Russian interest.


rose to Order. He had never said a word about Russian interests. Besides, he submitted that the noble Viscount was exceeding the proper bounds in entering on the whole Eastern Question.


thought he was strictly in Order. He accepted the noble Earl's disclaimer; but he would like to know in whose interests the noble Earl had spoken? British interests were certainly involved in the struggle; and it was no discredit to Russia, from her point of view, that she should want Constantinople; and we knew in our hearts that she wanted it. Her principal ports were in the Black Sea; her great arsenals were in the Black Sea; the mouths of the Danube were in her hands; and it was perfectly intelligible that she should wish to have the command of the Black Sea. Would any one say that British interests were not involved in that? We knew that for three generations the Russian Government had aimed at making Russia a great naval Power. Why else had the seat of government been removed from Moscow to St. Petersburg? Nature had set a barrier against her in the Baltic; but if she could obtain the command of the Black Sea she would be able to achieve the object of her ambition. She made use of soft and honeyed words; but her acts showed that she was bent on an aggression in the direction of the Mediterranean, which the interests of England and the interests of Europe could not allow of. No one could look at the map of the seat of war in the Library without seeing that within a week not only English interests, but the very existence of England might be at at stake. ["Oh, oh!"] Was not the Euphrates Valley the road to India? The Russians were constructively at war with Egypt. They had a Fleet in the Red Sea; and what was to prevent them from sending their ships to the mouths of the Suez Canal? English interests were at this moment most desperately involved, and England should not change front by an abrogation of the Tripartite Treaty.


said, he agreed with the noble Viscount who spoke last (Viscount Bury) rather than with his noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery), as to the attitude which their Lordships' House should assume at that moment. When the whole of England and the whole of Europe had been watching with interest a debate on the Eastern Question which had already extended over nearly a week in the other House of Parliament, he thought the voice of their Lordships' House ought to be heard on the question also. The House of Lords was concerned in the discussion of that question equally with the Commons. There was a time when the great issues of foreign affairs were raised far more in their Lordships' House than in the other House of Parliament. There was a time when the voices of the greatest orators of their Lordships' House were heard; and he would be glad to see a renewal of it. He could not fall in with the suggestion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery), that the proceedings on the present occasion ought to be confined to an oratorical duel between himself and the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. England and Europe in general ought to be enlightened by the wisdom and experience of their Lordships' House. He could not, indeed, support the Motion of the noble Earl, but if it elicited a discussion good could not fail to be the result. Upon the immediate question before the House he was bound to say he saw extreme difficulty in the course suggested by his noble Friend—namely, that there should be an abrogation of the Tripartite Treaty. Having taken some little pains to inform himself on the point, he believed that it would be as entirely contrary to precedent as it would be discreditable to honesty and common sense to maintain a Treaty as long as it did not carry with it any peril or any complication, but the moment it did to ask for its abrogation. Such a course would not be consistent with the honour or with the custom of England. He remembered a very eminent officer who resigned his commission before the Crimean War broke out. After the declaration of war a reverend friend said to him—"How very grateful you ought to be that you left the Army before it became dangerous." Now, that was the position in which his noble Friend wished to put this country—he asked that she should give up the Tripartite Treaty the moment it became dangerous. Their Lordships knew that the great Treaty of March, 1856, was signed by all the Five Powers. By Article 30 of that Treaty it was recited— His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias and His Majesty the Sultan maintain in its integrity the state of their possessions in Asia such as it legally existed before the rupture. Now, that was not exactly the present state of affairs. In anticipation of a particular event, three of the Great Powers determined to draw up the Treaty now known as the Tripartite Treaty. Why the Five Powers did not join in that act he did not very well understand. Perhaps it was that as Italy was then only Sardinia, and Prussia was not Germany, the Three Powers determined that the second Treaty should be one confined to the two great military Powers, Austria and France, and the great naval Power, England. There must have been a strong belief on the part of the Three Powers, and of our own Minister, Lord Clarendon, that Russia was not to be trusted in respect of the maintenance of the conditions of the Treaty of March, 1856, and that the time might come when she would free herself from the obligations of that Treaty. That being the case, the Tripartite Treaty was not a complement or a supplement of the Treaty of March, 1856, but was a special and separate document with a special and separate meaning. That meaning was that if the interests of Austria on the Danube were seriously in danger England would not be indifferent to that danger. Mysterious Germany spoke but little, but she spoke enough to make us understand that she would be unwilling to see the mouths of the Danube fall into the hands of Russia. He was not one of those who believed that India would be lost if the Euphrates Valley were in the hands of Russia; but he did believe that there would be the greatest danger to English interests if Russia became so dominant in Persia as that Persia was at her beck and the Persian Gulf in her hands. These were questions of ultimate danger, though not of pressing danger. Supposing that Russia had no design of territorial aggression, then the Tripartite Treaty would be perfectly harmless; but, on the other hand, suppose that, having entered on what many persons said was a most unnecessary war, and what Her Majesty's Government declared to be an aggressive war, and that her design in making it was territorial aggrandizement—then we stood on the firm ground of the Tripartite Treaty, and we could call on the other Powers who were parties to that Treaty to assist us in vindicating it. That being the case, he did not see any reason for asking for its abrogation. He did not think we could do so without a breach of honour. He was sure we could not do so without a breach of neutrality. We were in a position of neutrality, and it was our business to maintain it not merely in form, but in reality, and he could not conceive a greater breach of neutrality than for England to come forward and ask the two other Powers to agree to an abrogation of the Tripartite Treaty.


When the noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) asked Her Majesty's Government to abrogate the Tripartite Treaty, on the ground that it was not for the protection of British, but of Austrian or Turkish interests, he, by implication, impeached the conduct of the Government which in 1856 negotiated and concluded that Treaty. The noble Earl said nothing of what would be the effect throughout Europe if Her Majesty's Government were to assent to his Motion. It would greatly discourage France, which was at present divided between a desire to maintain the alliance with England, and a desire for an alliance with Russia. But it would still more discourage Austria, which had stood by us through these negotiations, and it would furnish a fresh occasion to Prince Bismarck to launch epigrams against England for showing the white feather, and on her complete effacement.


said, that at a time when the Turkish Empire was struggling for existence it would not be consistent with the neutrality which we professed, to relieve Russia from the check which the existence of a Treaty, the object of which was to secure the integrity and independence of Turkey, was calculated to impose on any views of territorial aggrandizement at her expense. He did not think that the noble Earl who had brought the question forward (the Earl of Rosebery) had so established his proposition as to induce their Lordships to accept it. He apprehended that before we made any such application to France and Austria as that which the noble Earl suggested, we ought first to ascertain in what way such an overture would be received—for if it were rejected our position would be a very painful and difficult one. Neither France nor Austria might be prepared at the present moment to call upon us to fulfil the engagements of the Treaty; but, at the same time, Austria especially might feel very reluctant to release us from the obligation of joining her in maintaining the independence and integrity of Turkey—for in the course of the war demands might be made by Russia which would be both unpalatable and even dangerous to Austria. England and France might not be so much interested as Austria in the territorial question; but they were both interested as regarded the occupation of Constantinople and of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles by Russia. Any such occupation would not only be dangerous to them, but also to every Power on the shores of the Mediterranean. We must not disguise from ourselves that if Russia were once in possession of either of the shores of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles she might defy the united navies of Europe. It might be that Turkey had forfeited all claim to material or moral support; but there were other interests affecting England and Europe at large, which we could not disregard, although, in providing for them, we incidentally contributed to support the Ottoman Empire.


My Lords, I have waited to see whether any other noble Lord would address the House on this question; but, as no one seems inclined to do so, perhaps it may be as well that I should at once, and without entering into the larger and more general question, proceed to answer the inquiry made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery). Now, I am bound to say that though the subject of his Question is one of extreme delicacy, yet it is one of such great importance that I am not surprised the noble Earl should have thought it right to bring it forward; and I must further say that the observations he made in putting the Question were in a spirit of temperate and impartial criticism. I have nothing to complain of in the Question or in the manner in which it has been put; but when the noble Earl says he is not reassured by the explanation which I gave the other night, and that it is impossible to know how soon we may be called on to fulfil our engagements under the Tripartite Treaty, and when he illustrates the position by a circumstance of which I hope many of your Lordships have not had experience,—that of persons who, having put their names on the back of a bill as a matter of form, find that their having done so was anything but a matter of form—I must, in reference to that illustration of the noble Earl, say that the names on the back of this particular bill are not those of persons with whom I have the honour to act in political life, and therefore whether it was wise to contract an engagement so stringent is a question which I must leave the noble Earl to settle with those who represented the Liberal Government in 1856, and those —happily more numerous—who represented the Liberal Government in 1871, when what was done in 1856 came under revision, and when the Government of the day did not think it necessary to ask for the abrogation of this Treaty. If I were to answer the noble Earl's Question generally, I should have no objection to go this length—I would willingly admit that any engagement which, like this Treaty, binds the parties to it to regard a certain condition of things as a casus belli, and binds them to that in circumstances which it is impossible to foresee, may cause grave and serious inconvenience, involving as it does an engagement to go to war at a time when it is possible we may be engaged in hostilities elsewhere, or at a time when the state of public feeling in this country would make it impossible for us to act up to our engagements, or at a time when there would be no English interest to be served by your doing so. If, therefore, the question were whether I should or should not be ready on behalf of the British Government to enter into an engagement like this Tripartite Treaty, I frankly admit, for my part, that I should hesitate a long time before I should take that course. But I do not agree with the noble Earl when he went on to say that the practical risk of our being called upon to act on this engagement was greater than I represented. The noble Earl argued the question very logically when he put hypothetically these four conditions, as those which alone could give us security against being so called upon:—first, that Austria will not in any case be embroiled in the present contest; second, that in case she were she would prefer to fight alone rather than to fight with the help of Great Britain; third, that she has no right to compel us to go to war under the Tripartite Treaty; and, fourth, that she has given the Government her assurance that she will not call upon us under that Treaty. Now, I admit at once that Austria is not free from the possible danger of being embroiled in the war which is at present being waged. Next, I agree that if she were embroiled in it, obviously it would be to her advantage to fight with this country for an ally rather than alone. As to the third point, the question, what claim Austria might have under this Treaty to call on this country, involves various considerations, difficult to discuss in a merely speculative manner. The Treaty having been framed to preserve the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire, the question might not be unfairly raised whether, if the contracting Powers had allowed that integrity or that independence to be violated, and war having broken out between Russia and Turkey, one of those contracting Powers, at a later period of the war, would have the right to call upon the others, not on the ground that the interests originally defined had been attacked, but on the ground that other interests had come to be involved. I am not giving an opinion on that question—I only mention it because the noble Earl touched on circumstances which might hereafter arise to induce one of the contracting parties to call upon the others. I think it might be a question whether, having allowed the time of action to pass, Austria would be entitled to call upon us later under the Treaty, on the plea that her own interests were concerned. Then as to the fourth assumption of the noble Earl, which raised the question. whether Austria has given us an assurance that she will not call upon us under the Treaty—well, my Lords, I cannot say that in so many words we have had any assurance of that kind; but so far as one can judge by the language and actions of Austria what her course is likely to be under circumstances which have long been foreseen, I think I may say that in the attitude of the Austrian Government throughout the long and complicated negotiations which everyone at least knew might end in that war which unhappily has broken out, we have seen nothing to lead to the idea that Austria has any intention to stand on her Treaty rights in this matter. To the French Government the noble Earl did not allude, and perhaps with regard to that Government it will be enough to remind your Lordships that, like ourselves, France has announced her intention of observing a strict neutrality; and I apprehend when a Government announces its intention to maintain a strict neutrality, though the case has arisen in which it might call upon the other parties to the Treaty to join in action, it may be assumed that by such announcement it foregoes any claim to ask at a subsequent period for assistance in war. Then there remains the question whether it is expedient at the present moment to take the step proposed by the noble Earl and communicate with the other Powers with the view of withdrawing from the engagements of the Treaty. I do not think this would be the moment to take that step. You have to consider in dealing with these international engagements, not only what will be the actual effect of the thing you do, but what will be the interpretation put upon your acts and what will be the conclusions drawn from them. It is one thing to say that we are not going to war to maintain the Ottoman Empire, and another to take a step which might be understood by Europe — and not unreasonably—as a formal announcement of our indifference to whatever might occur. We have been and are in very confidential communication with the Government of Austria—there has been a confidential interchange of ideas between us—and I have not, for my own part, the slightest idea that the Austrian Government will call upon us to act on the conditions of this Tripartite Treaty in a manner which might be a cause of embarrassment to us. When the war now unfortunately being waged shall have come to an end, it will no doubt be necessary to reconsider and revise the engagements of the several Powers as set out in the various Treaties now existing, and which an altered condition of affairs may render no longer applicable. When that time comes it will be a fair question to consider whether the engagements of the Treaty of 1856 should be longer continued; but I think that at present to adopt the course suggested by the noble Earl would be injudicious and impolitic.


said, that by what on a former occasion he ventured to describe as "the destructive criticism" of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) he had rather challenged a defence of those whose names were to the Tripartite Treaty. He (the Duke of Argyll) was not going in their de- fence to say that distant and contingent promises were to be evaded. He remembered that some anxiety which had been raised by a Treaty entered into by the noble Earl himself was at once relieved by an explanation from the noble Earl that the document meant nothing at all. However, this was too grave for mere repartee, and from this he passed as unworthy of occupying the attention of their Lordships. He could not, however, but feel that in the discussion to-night there had been on the noble Earl's part a total suppression of the real arguments and facts which were determining our position in respect to the Treaty of 1856. Let their Lordships remark the position of embarrassment with which this country and the other Governments of Europe were placed in respect to those great instruments which were deemed the determining instruments of the public policy of the year 1856. It was a position of embarrassment, not to our own Government only, but to all the other Governments that were parties to those Treaties. And why? Because they were crumbling beneath our feet, and the very parchments on which they were written were scattered in fragments along the shores of the Black Sea. Why, then, were the Governments silent at such a time? They were silent because those Treaties were breaking down through the infamous conduct of the Government of Turkey. Her cruelty and her breach of every solemn promise she had given to these Powers, made it impossible for us to defend her from the consequences of her own acts. He did not intend to say a word in hostile criticism on the Government; but since the Papers were distributed only last week war had broken out, and the public attention would be exclusively directed to the future, and not to the past. Some of their Lordships might read these Papers, together with some Members of the other House and a few members of the Press; but practically they would be dead letters. The impression they had left on his mind was that they did not afford the slightest ray of hope of improvement in the internal government of Turkey. Our own agents reported that things were, indeed, worse than ever. Mr. Reade, our Consul at Rustchuk, declared that the oppression exercised by the Mahomedan officials over the Christian populations was worse than ever it was before, because they now flaunted in the face of the people that the Turkish Government had successfully defied all the Powers of Europe. That despatch was, he believed, only a few weeks old. It was said on behalf of Turkey that she had been prevented from reforming her internal administration at first by the fear of war, and now by the presence of a hostile army on her frontier. But Turkey might, notwithstanding, have taken some steps towards improvement—she might have appointed some Governor over the disaffected Provinces whose name would have given confidence to Europe. When Russia or Turkey wanted an effective naval officer for any particular service, they came to the British Admiralty; and if Turkey had desired to give a pledge to the Powers of Europe she might have appointed a Governor over Bulgaria in whom Europe felt confidence. On the other hand, evidence was not wanting from the Commissions of Philippopolis and other transactions that the Turkish Government had used every endeavour to foil justice and to prevent the punishment of the miscreants who had committed the Bulgarian atrocities. And what thanks did the British Government get for their patronage of this iniquitous and detested Government? Lord Derby, who had humbly and with bated breath recently made some recommendations to the Porte, received a most insolent answer from the Grand Vizier, who told him that Turkey wanted no foreign interference. Those were the thanks the Government obtained from the Grand Vizier for their protective kindness for the Turkish Government, and those were the reasons why the Government could not and dared not enforce the Treaty of 1856. There was a maxim equally true in politics as in private life, that honesty was the best policy—and it would be a monstrous injustice and a crying shame to do anything to keep such a Government as that over 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 of the Christians of Europe. He repeated that no ray of hope could be held out that if war had not been resorted to there was any prospect of amendment in the Government of Turkey. This Blue Book had informed him of a fact which he had learned with amazement — that the Government of England was not only a party to the Protocol of March 31, but almost as much a party to the Declaration that accompanied it. The facts were these —When the Protocol was first communicated to the Government, Lord Derby said that he had no objection in principle to the signature of such a document, but the price to be paid for it was a promise on the part of Russia that she would disarm. What was the language of Russia? He (the Duke of Argyll) denied that she had "sprung a mine" upon England or upon Europe. The Russian Government said distinctly that they would not disarm for the signature of the Protocol. Lord Derby thereupon said that he must consult the Cabinet, and he took some time before he gave his answer. He then told Count Schouvaloff that the Cabinet objected to sign the Protocol, except on the condition of disarmament. Count Schouvaloff stood firm, and said, "We cannot and will not disarm until we have obtained from Turkey certain securities for the improvement of the condition of her Christian populations." A separate sketch containing three conditions was placed in the hands of Lord Derby, and he said he would consult the Cabinet whether they would sign or not. The Cabinet, after knowing the intentions of Russia, the nature of the Declaration, and the separate terms she demanded from Turkey, determined to sign the Protocol. He (the Duke of Argyll) said that under these circumstances the Government of England were a party to that Declaration, and that this was one transaction—the Protocol, with its accompanying Declaration. He ventured to think that the Government had taken a wise course, and that they did right in supplementing that demand on Turkey. That was followed by a despatch, dated April 5, from Lord Derby, urgently requiring that Turkey should accept the Protocol in conjunction with the Declaration. He said the Turks would be most unwise if they did not accept this Declaration, and that if Turkey did not do what was required she would be put in the wrong in the eyes of Europe. In all these transactions the proof was incontestable that our present situation with regard to the Treaties of 1856 was due to the absolute refusal of the Porte to make any and every concession — even the most reasonable, and urged in the most modified and temperate form. He (the Duke of Argyll) must break his promise not to criticize the conduct of the Government to do so only with regard to one point, which was this — In the answer which the noble Earl made to the Russian Declaration of War he had used this argument—the Protocol asked no new guarantee from Turkey. Was that a fair statement? He quite agreed that the Government of England was free to answer that Circular perhaps they were called upon to answer it, without consulting the other Powers of Europe. England had a position which entitled her to speak independently, and she ought to speak when she did speak with no bated breath. He did not object to the independent tone of the answer; he did not object to the answer because it was insulting to Russia, but he did object to it because it was incorrect in its statement of fact. It was not true and fair to say that the Protocol demanded no new security for the Christians of Turkey—it was a mere verbal quibble to say so; the Protocol did not, but the accompanying Declaration did; we were parties to both, and we urged both upon the Government of Turkey. Under these circumstances the Declaration did demand of Turkey securities for the better government of her Christian subjects; and in supporting that view we did rightly, and in refusing to recognize it we did wrongly. Our position—our embarrassing position as regarded Treaty rights, resolved itself into this at last: we were dealing with a Government utterly barbarous, utterly faithless, and which it was impossible for us to save.


said, that Treaties such as those of 1815 might for a time be inoperative as to parts of them; while, in the main., such as in the great principle of the abolition of the Slave Trade, they remained intact. During the 21 years in which he had been a Member of their Lordships' House, he had been most respectful in his language towards foreign Potentates; but he must remind their Lordships of the speech of the 14th Earl of Derby, on the 18th of April, 1859, on the refusal of a Congress, at the instance of Russia, in which that noble Lord said— I am quite sure, also, that the maintenance of peace will be materially strengthened and supported by the knowledge throughout Europe at large that this country will not be allowed to remain a helpless or a feeble spectator of events that may compromise her dignity and her honour; and that a serious responsibility will rest on the head of that Power, whichever it may be, that without due provocation, and without the most urgent and imperative necessity, merely to gratify its own ambitious aims, precipitates the evils, the dangers, and the crimes of war."— [3 Hansard, cliii. 1857.] He (Lord Denman) would also call their Lordships' attention to a speech of Mr. Cobden, also to be found in Hansard, and to the words of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to it— The present, like previous Administrations, have deemed it a matter of general European concern, and therefore of British concern, that Turkey should not be made the subject of foreign intrigue and of foreign aggression. My hon. Friend used very strong language on this subject when he said that the people of England—I forget the exact words—had been in a state of disgraceful panic and cowardice with respect to apprehended designs of Russia on Turkey. It is not now necessary to go back to a discussion of the causes of the Crimean War; but I am bound to say when we speak of non-intervention in Turkey—when we speak of repudiating all ideas of resisting the natural and. general development in force, numbers, and intelligence of the Christians of that Empire—we by no means mean to assert that the ancient policy of this country is to be repudiated, and that we hold it henceforth a matter of indifference what schemes are formed by any foreign Power against the existence, or against the territorial independence, of the Ottoman Government. And I am bound to say also, that while a real and lively sympathy clues exist throughout the country for the Christian population of Turkey, on the other hand there does exist a belief that the principles on which the Crimean War was waged were sound principles, and that the question whether wholesale aggression from any European Power on Ottoman territory is to be permitted or not is a fair subject for consideration by the British Government, and for the adoption of such measures, whether of diplomacy or force, as circumstances may appear to the Government to warrant. My hon. Friend, towards the close of his speech, drew a deplorable picture of the general condition of the Turkish race. I ask not whether the description is in all respects accurate, or in some degree exaggerated. I am afraid, as regards the history of the Turks from the time of their first appearance in the Western world to the present day, he would be a very bold man indeed who was prepared to contend that their conquests and dominion have been favourable to the happiness of mankind or the progress of civilization. But, however that may be, what is the use of drawing these highly coloured pictures, unless you recommend a particular policy?"—[3 Hansard, clxxi. 146-6.] He (Lord Denman) would further call their attention to a speech of Mr. Gladstone on the Neutralization of the Black Sea, on March 7th, 1871, in which that right hon. Gentleman said— It will be beyond the power of the Government adequately to discuss that subject while the Conference was sitting."—[3 Hansard, ccvii. 1605.] Further than that, on March 9th, Sir Charles Dilke was against the acceptance of that Conference, at which France could not be represented. This Motion was withdrawn; but it was now the custom to discuss the whole Eastern Question, out of Parliament and in Parliament, whilst negotiations were going on, and the conduct of the Government of the day in declaring on 14th of February, 1871, that the Treaty was only intended to last for 20 years, or only during Lord Palmerston's life, showed that they were ready to patch up a hollow peace with a mental reservation, and not to give that fair play to Her Majesty's Government which they had obtained for themselves. As the Treaty of Paris, instead of claiming any compensation, was of itself the only fruit of the Crimean War, it could not be abrogated without the most serious cooperation of all the parties to it.


My Lords, I can of course speak again only by your Lordships' indulgence. An entirely separate question has been raised by the noble Duke. I do not at all object to the course he has taken, because, no doubt all the questions that have been discussed this evening are more or less connected one with the other; but, at the same time, I may say that there is a certain inconvenience in discussing the correctness or incorrectness of language held in diplomatic documents when you are not aware that a discussion is to be raised, and you have not the documents before you. I do not want to argue any of the matters tonched upon by the noble Duke. I only rise utterly to repudiate and disclaim the construction which the noble Duke has placed upon the transactions in connection with the Protocol and the Russian Declaration. The noble Duke argues that because we are responsible for the Protocol, therefore we are responsible for the Declaration, which was the sole work of Russia. My answer is simply this—The very fact of a Declaration being made by one Government alone, upon its own account, and not in a collective document, is a sufficient indication, to my mind, that only the Government that issues the separate document can be responsible for its contents. I should not contend that the Russian Government could be held in any manner responsible either for the general tenour or for the language of that Declaration, which, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, I appended to the Protocol. I cannot, therefore, either exercise any control or accept any responsibility for that other Declaration which was made by the Russian Government.


said, that while the noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) who spoke with great ability, had confined himself very much to the point he had brought before their Lordships, it was a noble Lord on the other side who introduced a much larger question, and he was followed by other noble Lords, before his noble Friend the noble Duke spoke at all. And when his noble Friend did speak, it was to show that it was the fault of Turkey and of the Government of Turkey that the present state of things had arisen; and therefore it was quite natural that the noble Duke should quote Papers which had been laid on the Table a week ago, and with which noble Lords opposite must be perfectly familiar. He must ask their Lordships to read those despatches, which gave day by day descriptions of conversation between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the one side and the Representative of Russia on the other. As far as his memory went, the noble Duke gave an exact abstract of what passed. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) asked for seine assurance of demobilization; the Russian Representative gave some reasons, some of which were good and others weak for not doing that. The noble Earl then asked Count Schouvaloff if he could not make some suggestions to remove the difficulty, and he mentioned to him the exact points which were afterwards embodied in the Declaration as a means of avoiding it. On the second occasion the noble Earl said he could not answer a question which had been put at once, but he would refer it to the Cabinet. It was referred to the Cabinet, and the noble Earl accepted the four points which were embodied in the Declaration without one word of objection on the part of the Cabinet, but merely stating to Count Schouvaloff that the Protocol must fall to the ground if disarmament did not ensue. He asked their Lordships very carefully to read the despatches, which would bear out every word the noble Duke had uttered.