§ Order of the Day for the consideration of the Queen's Message, read.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, in moving an humble Address to Her Majesty, thanking the Queen for the Gracious Message which we have recently received from Her Majesty, I think it will not be considered unreasonable that I should make a few remarks on the circumstances in which that Message has been addressed to Parliament. I assure your Lordships I shall not ask you to follow me into any narrative of the war between Russia and Turkey, or of the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government during that war. When last I had the honour of addressing your Lordships on this subject—which, was on the occasion of the meeting of Parliament—I remarked that during that war no noble Lord opposite had challenged the policy which we had pursued, and I thought, therefore, that I was entitled to assume that the policy on which we had acted had been generally approved; and I believe I may infer, from what passed on that occasion, that noble Lords opposite assented to my statement. But it so happened, my Lords, that at almost the very moment I was then addressing you, circumstances were occurring which gave quite a new aspect to affairs; and I think that upon those circumstances, and upon all the conduct of Her Majesty's Government consequent to those circumstances, your Lordships have a legitimate, Constitutional, and Parliamentary right to declare your opinion. With one exception, I will ask your Lordships attention only to what has occurred from the moment to which I have been alluding.
My Lords, before I enter into the details with which I shall have to trouble 761 your Lordships, I ask permission to read an extract from an important despatch, which extract it seems to me to be necessary you should have in your minds before you can form an impartial judgment on the statement which I am about to submit to your Lordships' House. My Lords, in that State Paper, which was an answer to the Circular from Prince Gortchakoff announcing and vindicating the commencement of the war between Russia and Turkey, the Secretary of State (the Earl of Derby) argued with great ability the many reasons and considerations why we could not agree with his Highness, and why he thought the Government had made out no case for their belligerent conduct; and, finally, having given many reasons for this opinion, the Secretary of State concluded—The course on which the Russian Government has entered involves graver and more serious considerations.That is, graver and more serious than those which he had already alleged.It is in contravention of the stipulation of the Treaty of Paris, of March 30,1856, by which Russia and the other signatory Powers engaged, each on its own part, to respect the independence and the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. In the Conference of London, of 1871, at the close of which the above stipulation, with others, was again confirmed, the Russian Plenipotentiary, in common with those of the other Powers, signed a Declaration affirming it to be an essential principle of the law of nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a Treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the contracting parties by means of an amicable arrangement. In taking action against Turkey on his own part, and having recourse to arms without further consultation with his Allies, the Emperor of Russia has separated himself from the European concert hitherto maintained, and has at the same time departed from the rule to which he himself had solemnly recorded his consent."—[Turkey, No. 18, 1877.]My Lords, the reply from which I have read that extract is dated as far back as the 1st of May, 1877, and it is of the greatest importance that the House should bear in. mind that at the commencement of the deplorable war which, I trust, has now ceased, this announcement was so deliberately made, and this principle was vindicated in a manner so distinct by Her Majesty's Government. My Lords, the extract which I have read conveys the keynote of our policy; it is, I may say, the diapason of our diplomacy 762 upon it our policy was founded' and had not those engagements been entered into by Russia, and had we not held her bound by those engagements in the face of Europe, no policy of neutrality would have been sanctioned by this country. I believe, my Lords, I may say that not alone for this, but for other countries which adopted the same policy. Well, since I had the honour of addressing your Lordships at the beginning of this Session, circumstances which were at that very time occurring, and which continued afterwards have given a new aspect to the state of affairs. Those circumstances were as follows:—About that time Her Majesty's Government received private information that negotiations were commencing, or were about to commence, between the belligerent Powers. No sooner had that information reached us, than the Secretary of State addressed to Her Majesty's Ambassador at St. Petersburg, Lord Augustus Loftus, instructions, which were as follows, and were dated the 14th of January:—Her Majesty's Ambassador has been instructed to state to Prince Gortchakoff that, in order to avoid possible misconception and in view of reports which have reached Her Majesty's Government, they are of opinion that any Treaty concluded between the Governments of Russia and the Porte affecting the Treaties of 1856 and 1871 must be an European Treaty, and would not be valid without the assent of the Powers who were parties to those Treaties."—[Turkey, No. 3, 1878, p. 8.]My Lords, on the 23rd of January, having received no answer from Russia with respect to those representations, the Secretary of State, pressing for an answer, telegraphed to Her Majesty's Ambassador in these terms—Have you received an answer from the Russian Government to the communication which you made on the 15th inst., respecting the validity of any future Treaty? "—[Ibid. p 12.]On the 24th of January—10 days after the original representations—Her Majesty's Ambassador writes to say he had received no answer himself, and adds—I presume Prince Gortchakoff regarded the communication as a statement to record the opinion of Her Majesty's Government which required no answer. If an answer was to be given, it would probably be made through the Russian Ambassador in London."—[Ibid. p. 14.]Accordingly, my Lords, on the day after that message was received, Count Schouvaloff read to my noble Friend 763 the Secretary of State the following extract of a telegram from Prince Gortchakoff:—We repeat the assurance that we do not intend to settle by ourselves (isolément) European questions having reference to the peace which is to be made (se rattachant á la paix)."—[Ibid. p. 15.]Meanwhile, my Lords, information reached us that negotiations were now being carried on between Russian and Turkish delegates at Kezanlik, and that those negotiations were being conducted with the utmost secrecy—I may say mystery—which secrecy, we were pained to find, extended to those who had religiously and honourably observed that policy of neutrality which had been promised by the Secretary of State. In consequence of this, my Lords, on the 29th of January the Secretary of State addressed the following despatch to Lord Augustus Loftus:—I have to instruct your Excellency to state to the Russian Government that Her Majesty's Government, while recognizing any arrangements made by the Russian and Turkish delegates at Kezanlik for the conclusion of an armistice and for the settlement of bases of peace as binding between the two belligerents, declare that in so far as those arrangements are calculated to modify European Treaties and to affect general and British interests, they are unable to recognize in them any validity unless they are made the subject of a formal agreement among the parties to the Treaty of Paris.At the same time, my Lords, the Secretary of State sent the following Circular in identical language to Her Majesty's Ambassadors at the Courts of Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Rome. Your Lordships will perceive that it contains an additional paragraph, but in other respects is substantially the same as the communication to Lord Agustus Loftus—I have to request that your Excellency will inform the Government to which you are accredited that Her Majesty's Government, while they are prepared to recognize any arrangements which may be made by the Russian delegates and those of Turkey at Kesanlik with a view to the conclusion of an armistice and the settlement of the bases of peace as binding between the two belligerents, declare, nevertheless, that in so far as such arrangements may be found calculated to modify European Treaties, or to affect general interests, or those of Great Britain, they are unable to recognize in them any validity unless they shall be made the subject of a formal agreement by the Powers parties to the Treaty of Paris.Her Majesty's Government entertain the hope that the view of the case above stated, which is entirely based upon the Treaties, and 764 more especially upon the Treaty of London, of 1871, will receive the assent of the other Powers who were parties to those Treaties."—[Turkey, No. 5. 78. p. 5.]At length, my Lords, there came the following reply from the Russian Government, in a despatch from Lord Augustus Loftus to the Secretary of State:—
§ "St. Petersburg, January 30, 1878.
§ "I have received your Lordship's telegram of yesterday, containing a declaration relative to the question of the validity of the bases of peace, and I have this morning communicated the substance of it to Prince Gortchakoff. His Highness replied that to effect an armistice certain bases of peace were necessary, but they are only to be considered as preliminaries and not definitive as regarded Europe. His Highness stated categorically that questions bearing on European interests will be concerted with European Powers, and he had given Her Majesty's Government clear and positive assurances to this effect."
Those positive assurances were repeated in communications made by the Russian Ambassador in London; and, I am bound to say, as so many remarks have been made on the conduct of that Plenipotentiary, that, so far as my personal experience is concerned, I believe he has made no representations to Her Majesty's Government which are not to be found in the instructions which he received from his own Government. Well, my Lords, this carried us through the month of January—the month in which Parliament assembled, the month in which those negotiations between Russia and Turkey commenced, and the month in which we received that declaration from Prince Gortchakoff which Her Majesty's Government was induced to regard as satisfactory. And that it was deemed satisfactory by the Government of Austria, also, I think there can be no doubt; because, immediately after its receipt—that is to say, on the 4th of February—a formal invitation was received by Her Majesty's Government from the Government of Austria to a Conference to be held at Vienna. That communication was made with the knowledge of Russia—or, to use the language of a despatch of the Austrian Ambassador, Russia "fully appreciated it"—and the object of the Conference was stated to be the establishment of "the agreement of Europe on the modifications which it might become necessary to introduce
into the above-mentioned Treaties," in order to mate them harmonize with the present situation. Your Lordships will observe that the character in which this Government—the Government of Austria—addressed our Government and the other Governments that were to take part in the Conference was a character which did not exist, except by the Treaties of 1856 and 1871. Avowedly, it was in her character as a signatory of the Treaties of 1856, that Austria addressed the invitation to the other Powers, and it was in their character as signatories of those Treaties that the other Powers received that invitation. That carried us to the commencement of February, and the month which follows is not rich in diplomatic documents. But, my Lords, it was not an uneventful month. During the whole of that period, Austria was busy in conferring with the different Courts of Europe, and in making arrangements for the meeting of the Conference. There were many suggestions made—there was the scheme of its meeting at Vienna; there was the objection of some of the Powers to the meeting being held in a capital city; there were discussions as to the presidency, as to the locality, and as to the name of the Assembly—whether it should be called a Congress or a Conference; as to whether it should be held in a capital city or in a place of more obscure character; and as to whether it should be presided over by a Secretary of State or by some other Minister. All those questions occupied the minds of Governments; but they did not occupy the mind of Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government never made the slightest difficulty on these heads. There were persons proposed whom we might not have approved as the best President of the Congress; there were localities proposed which, perhaps, we did not approve as the best; but we never made any objection of any kind. We thought too much of the interests of peace and of the magnitude of the considerations involved in a meeting of a Conference or a Congress; so that whether it was to be a Conference or a Congress—which, I believe, are exactly the same—or whether it was to be held at Vienna, as originally proposed, or at Baden, or at Berlin, or who was to preside over it, were matters which Her Majesty's Government put on one side—because we
were anxious that there should be such a meeting, believing that its meeting was the only means then apparent by which the peace of Europe might be maintained. Well, my Lords, early in March, an invitation arrived to meet in Congress at Berlin—the objection which had been made to Vienna, as the capital of one of the signatory Powers, seems to have been waived in the case of Berlin, and a Congress at the latter city was invited. Without a moment's delay we stated that we would accept it, and we did not for a moment ask why Berlin should be preferred to Vienna—all we wanted was that there should be such a meeting. But, in order that there should be no delay—mindful as we were of the events which had been occurring during the month of February—and I ought to have reminded your Lordships of them before—when Austria was carrying on those negotiations—remembering that during the whole of that time secret negotiations were being carried on between Russia and the Porte—remembering the fact that, during the whole time while those secret negotiations were proceeding, the Russian Army was advancing, and, if not occupying, encircling the capital of the Sultan; and, remembering that we had felt it our duty to advise Her Majesty to send a portion of the Fleet to the Dardanelles and into the Sea of Marmora—we considered it was of importance that, when we assented to attending a Congress at Berlin, the policy of Her Majesty's Government should be stated in an unmistakable form. Accordingly, the Secretary of State, on the 9th of March, while signifying his agreement to the proposition for a meeting at Berlin, expressed to Count Beust the views of Her Majesty's Government in these terms—
Her Majesty's Government, however, consider that it would be desirable to have it understood in the first place that all questions dealt with in the Treaty of Peace between Russia and Turkey should be considered as subject to be discussed in the Congress, and that no alteration in the condition of things previously established by Treaty should be acknowledged as valid until it has received the assent of the Powers."—[Turkey, No. 24, 1878, p. 4.]
Therefore, my Lords, I think I have shown, that during the eventful month that elapsed from the time to which I before alluded, Her Majesty's Government were consistently maintaining that great principle which they had vindicated
before the war commenced, which they had repeated on other occasions, and which, on this occasion, when the meeting of the Congress appeared to be settled upon generally, they felt it their duty to again affirm in the terms I have just read to the House. A day or two afterwards—on the 13th March—in consequence, probably, of some rumours which may have reached us, or of some slight indications of feeling which it was impossible to record, but which the observant critic would not fail to remark—the Secretary of State wrote in this language to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Vienna—
I have to request your Excellency to inform Count Andrassy that, in order to avoid any misapprehension as to the meaning of their recent declaration contained in my note to Count Beust of the 9th inst., Her Majesty's Government desire to state that they must distinctly understand before they enter into Congress that every Article in the Treaty between Russia and Turkey will be placed before the Congress, not necessarily for acceptance, but in order that it may be considered what Articles require acceptance or concurrence by the several Powers and what do not."—[Ibid.]
Now, my Lords, after some slight delay, we received a Memorandum from Prince Gortchakoff, which was communicated by Lord Augustus Loftus on the 17th of March—
In answer to the communication by Lord Augustus Loftus of the despatch in which Lord Derby has answered the proposal of Count Beust respecting the meeting of a Congress at Berlin, I have the honour to repeat the assurance which Count Schouvaloff has already been instructed to give to the Government of Her Britannic Majesty—namely, that the Preliminary Treaty of Peace concluded between Russia and Turkey will be textually communicated to the Great Powers before the meeting of the Congress, and that in the Congress itself each Power will have the full liberty of its appreciations and of its action ('la pleine liberté de ses appréciations et de son action.')"—[Ibid. p. 9.]
Now, my Lords, I am not a diplomatist, and may not, perhaps, be an impartial judge; but I must say that the phrase, "la pleine liberté de ses 'appréciations et de son action" was one of which I was not able to form that clear conception which in matters of such importance is necessary. As to what "appreciation" and "action" may be, no doubt, different interpretations may be furnished. It is a phrase involved in some degree of classical ambiguity. Delphi itself could hardly have been more perplexing and more august. This did not satisfy Her
Majesty's Government, and, therefore, the Secretary of State addressed to Count Schouvaloff on the 21st, the following Note:—
Her Majesty's Government have considered the communication which you were authorized by Prince Gortchakoff to make on the 19th inst. Her Majesty's Government cannot recede from the position, already clearly defined by them, that they must distinctly understand before they enter into the Congress that every Article in the Treaty between Russia and Turkey will be placed before the Congress, not necessarily for acceptance, but in order that it may be considered what Articles require the acceptance or concurrence of the other Powers, and what do not. Her Majesty's Government are unable to accept the view now put forward by Prince Gortchakoff, that the freedom of opinion and action in Congress of Russia, more than of any other Power, would be restricted by this preliminary understanding.
To this we received a conclusive answer. Count Schouvaloff says—
I lost no time in communicating to Prince Gortchakoff the tenour of the letter which you did me the honour to address to me on the 21st. As different interpretations had been given to the interpretation of 'liberty of appreciation and action,' which Russia thought it right to reserve to itself at the Congress, the Imperial Cabinet defines the meaning of the terms in the following manner:—'It leaves to the other Powers the liberty of raising such questions at the Congress as they might think it fit to discuss, and reserves to itself the liberty of accepting, or not accepting, the discussion of these questions.'
§ Well, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government could place only one interpretation on that communication. However ambiguous he language of previous despatches—however various the expressions that had been used—there was nothing in the previous Correspondence between the two Courts to induce us to assume that there would be a refusal on the part of Russia to that which England believed to be a natural, just, and indispensable condition of her entering into the Congress.
§ My Lords, let me make now one or two remarks on the character of this Treaty of San Stefano, which Her Majesty's Government felt so necessary to be submitted to the Congress, and which we believed—and I think we believed so in common with the other Powers—Russia was bound by her previous engagements as one of the signatories of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871 to submit for discussion to the Congress. The Treaty is in your Lordships' hands, and therefore I will not 769 enter into a minute criticism of its every Article; but it is necessary that I should put before your Lordships some of its principal provisions, because, unless they be clear in your Lordships' minds, you would hardly be in a position to impartially decide as to the consequences to which the Treaty would lead, and as to the course which in respect of it Her Majesty's Government have thought it their duty to pursue. The Treaty is one of 27 or 29 Articles, and, with the exception of a merely technical one, every one of them is a deviation from the Articles of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871. I do not say that every Article of the Treaty of San Stefano would be a violation of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, because that would be a harsh phrase. If the Government of Russia had been prepared—as we believed they were prepared—to place the Treaty of San Stefano before the projected Congress, I should look at the deviations between the Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, not as violations, but rather as suggestions on the part of the Russian Government to be laid before the Congress, in order that they might be considered in a spirit of conciliation, and, if just, be adopted by the other Powers of Europe. But let us look at what this Treaty of San Stefano does—this Treaty, which was negotiated in such secrecy and encircled in mystery from the beginning to such a degree, that the Porte was commanded by Russia not to let a single Article of it be known to the neutral Powers—the neutral Powers who were the Allies of Russia—without whose neutrality she could not have gained the advantages she enjoyed, and which would not have been shown unless it had been believed that, as regarded the other Powers, Russia would feel bound by the Treaties of 1856 and 1871. Well, my Lords, in the first place, the Treaty of San Stefano completely abrogates what is known as Turkey in Europe; it abolishes the dominion of the Ottoman Empire in Europe; it creates a large State which, under the name of Bulgaria, is inhabited by many races who are not Bulgarians. This Bulgaria reaches the shores of the Black Sea and seizes the ports of that sea; it extends to the coast of the Ægean and appropriates the ports of that coast. The Treaty provides for the government of this New Bulgaria under a Prince 770 who virtually is to be selected by Russia; its administration is to be organized and supervised by a commissary of Russia; and this new State is to be garrisoned—I say for an indefinite period—but, at all events, for two years certain, by Russia. My Lords, it is not merely this vast district, this vast space of country, which is taken from the Porte—and in which the power and the government of Russia are substituted for that of Turkey by the stipulations in this Treaty; but the distant Provinces of Epirus and Thessaly and Bosnia, now almost entirely cut off from Turkey, are invested with privileges—that is to say, new laws which are to be devised by Russia, and afterwards supervised by Russia; so that we may fairly say that all the European dominions of the Ottoman Porte are taken from the Porte, and for that Power is substituted the administration of Russia herself. My Lords, it is no different in Asia. It is not difficult to see that the effect of all the stipulations combined will be to make the Black Sea as much a Russian Lake as the Caspian. The harbour of Batoum, which has not been acquired by conquest, but is still in possession of the Porte, is to become Russian; all the strongholds of Armenia are seized by Russia; and the same process which is to be applied to European Turkey is to be applied to that portion of that great Province nominally left to Turkey—is to be subjected to laws devised and supervised by Russia. My Lords, the next point which I would bring under the consideration of your Lordships is that of the claim of Russia to that district of Bessarabia of which she was deprived after the Crimean War. My Lords, I need not recall to your recollection the distressing circumstances which are now occurring with reference to that portion of the Treaty of San Stefano; but I want to point out to your Lordships that here it is not a matter of trifling or local interest which is at stake. The Clause in the Treaty of Paris with regard to the cession of Bessarabia was one on which Lord Palmerston placed the utmost stress, and to which he attached the greatest gravity. It involved, he said, the freedom of the Danube, and, accordingly, Lord Palmerston treated it as an Article, not of local, but of European interest. It was inserted in the original Preliminaries of the Treaty, and an attempt was made 771 subsequently by Russia to evade it; but Lord Palmerston attached such importance to it that, at one time, the Congress of Paris was near breaking up because of the efforts made by Russia to escape from that Article. The great interest felt at the Congress of Paris in taking security against the closing of the seas, and the great rivers, and especially of the Danube, the freedom of which was the great boast of the Congress of Vienna, and is almost the only remaining achievement of that Congress, is a matter which your Lordships will bear in mind when examining the Treaty of San Stefano. It concerns the whole navigation of the Black Sea, it concerns our commerce in those waters; for, should the Treaty of San Stefano take effect, the large European commerce which is now carried on from Trebizond to Persia and Central Asia may be stopped at the pleasure of Russia in consequence of cessions in Kurdistan. But what would be the consequence of the Treaty as regards the navigation of the Straits? By that Treaty, the Sultan of Turkey is reduced to a state of absolute subjection to Russia. I cannot reconcile such a condition either with the freedom of the Straits, or the free navigation of the Black Sea, or with those rights and privileges which Europe has hitherto enjoyed with regard to those waters, while the Sultan has been an independent Sovereign bound to Europe by European Treaties. It is to the subjugation of Turkey, it is against an arrangement which practically would place at the command of Russia, and Russia alone, that unrivalled situation and its resources which the European Powers placed under the government of the Porte, that we protest.
§ Now, my Lords, this Treaty was signed on the 3rd of March—but it was not delivered to Her Majesty's Government till the 23rd of March. I do not say that during the interval we had not by extraordinary means obtained some knowledge of its provisions, but that was knowledge on which we could not absolutely rely; it was knowledge which, like all knowledge acquired in an indirect way, was likely to be in some degree erroneous; but, at all events, it allowed us to avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity of conferring as to the means by which such mischievous results might be averted—results equally disadvantageous to Europe as 772 to England. My Lords, we still hoped and still believed that a Congress might be obtained, and we looked to it as the best and only means by which the unsatisfactory state of public affairs might be remedied. We were prepared, if all the Powers entered into the Congress, and if it were a bonâ fide Congress, and in accordance with the positive engagements, as we held, of Russia—we were prepared, I say, to see the Treaty of San Stefano submitted to the discussion of that Congress in order that, to use the words of the Austrian Government, a règlement définitif of the conditions of future peace might be arrived at. My Lords, it appeared to us that the circumstances of the world at that time were not unfavourable to such a course. All the Great Powers of Europe during the last 10 years, except England, unfortunately for them, had been involved in fearful wars, and were suffering from the exhaustion attendant on such wars; and we believed that, with the general and natural inclination for peace arising from such circumstances, the discussions of a Congress—the unimpassioned discussions and the adroit experience of a Congress—were favourable—considering that it was the natural inclination and the actual interests of the Powers—to bringing about a settlement. And, my Lords, we, as far as we were concerned, had a due consideration for the circumstances in which Russia was placed, in consequence of the war between her and Turkey—because we could not expect that Russia would appear at the Congress merely in the same character as she assumed when she became a signatory to the Treaties of 1856 and 1871. We were prepared to consider the events that had occurred and their legitimate consequences; and having regard to the temper with which we expected that the proposals of Russia would be considered, having regard to the desires and interests of all concerned, and the abilities engaged in devising bases of reconciliation—we believed that Russia would not disappoint the other Powers. We regarded it as being for her own advantage to comply with the engagements into which she had entered, and that, acting as she had agreed to act by the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, she would have placed before the Congress the stipulations of all the Articles of the Treaty. My Lords, you 773 have heard from me, in my previous narrative, how these hopes were disappointed. My Lords, it was when these hopes were disappointed, and when we found there was no chance by the aid of Treaties, or by the public law of Europe, to bring about a settlement of these great affairs—it was then that we had to consider what was our duty. My Lords, the Congress could not meet after that refusal on the part of Russia to conform to her engagements under previous Treaties, and the conditions which England put forward as the terms of her joining in the Congress—that the Treaty of San Stefano should be placed before the European Powers—were conditions which she could never relinquish. The justice of them has been universally acknowledged. It is not denied even by Russia. What, then, was the state of affairs? No Congress was to meet, and a most important portion of Eastern Europe, and a considerable portion of Western Asia, were in a state of anarchy, either occupied by an invading army, or in a state of rebellion. It was wholly impossible to foresee what might not occur in circumstances of such difficulty and distress. My Lords, the country in which these events were occurring is a country which has always been subject to strange and startling vicissitudes. In the East there is only one step between collapse and convulsion. It was impossible not to foresee what might occur. Had not the English Fleet been ordered into those waters, the chief highway between Europe and Asia might have been seized, and the commercial road from Trebizond to Persia might have been stopped. We know that—if not in the memory of the present generation, certainly in the memory of Members now sitting in your Lordships' House—armies marched through Syria and through Asia without firing a shot, and held Constantinople in a state of trepidation. Why not march armies in the same way, and hold Egypt and the Suez Canal in the same state of trepidation as Constantinople and the Bosphorus were held at that time? In those circumstances, there was, in our opinion, only one course to take. When everything was unsettled, when there was no prospect of a settlement—for there can be no prospect of settlement where Treaties are violated, and public law is set aside—when there seemed no probability of the Treaty of San Stefano 774 being submitted for discussion to the European Powers, and of the public law being vindicated; when all Europe was arming—or, rather, when all Europe was armed—was England alone to be unarmed? Was England to be deterred from doing her duty to herself and to Europe by taunts and threats—because we were told that we were menacing when we thought to conciliate? My Lords, our Fleet, which has reached the waters of the Dardanelles, has acted in a manner worthy of it, and in the manner it might have been expected to act; but I have always thought that when it is found necessary to show our strength, certainly England should not be limited to one of her Services—that she should appeal to her Army to maintain her honour and her interests as well as to her Marine. Well, my Lords, in those circumstances, we felt it our duty to advise Her Majesty to send that Message to your Lordships' House the Answer to which I am about to propose.
And here let me make one remark upon the act of the Sovereign in that particular. It is the first time the Sovereign of this country has sent down such a Message to Parliament, because this message is in virtue of an Act of Parliament which was passed only a very few years ago. That Act was in consequence of the great military reform which was inaugurated by the last Government, and particularly by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Card-well). My Lords, that great military reform gave rise to much controversy and opposition in the country; but, as has been the case in respect of all great Acts of our Legislature, when it had been passed by the Parliament and the Sovereign, and became law, every man on both sides, without reference to his opinions, exerted himself to carry into effect—and into vigorous effect—its provisions. I am sure that during the duration of the present Government—and that has now scarcely been a short one—there has been an unceasing effort to carry into effect the measures and policy of the noble Viscount opposite. As for myself, I can speak without prejudice on this point, because it was my lot to differ from many of my Friends in this matter. The great principle which' is the foundation of the Reserve system—the principle of short service—is one which I have had the honour to support. Well, my Lords, it
is in consequence of that reform in our military system, and the institution of short service, that we were obliged to recommend Her Majesty to call out our Reserves. Under the new military system, it was laid down that a battalion in time of war or on active service should consist of not less than 1,000 men. A battalion in time of peace consists of only 500 men; and, therefore, the machinery of Reserves—the arrangement introduced by the noble Viscount opposite—that there should be with this short service a means by which, when men passed through their short service and left their colours, they might become, under another title, the soldiers of Her Majesty, was the only means by which you could convert our battalions of 500 men, in case of emergency, into battalions of 1,000 men, who should not be mere raw recruits. Unfortunately, the name for this Force is not a very felicitous one; it is called the Reserve Force, and it is called the Militia Reserve Force. But the world associates with the word Reserves some resource that is left to the last, that is only to be appealed to in great emergency, and is to be the ultimate means by which you can effect your purpose. But this is exactly the reverse of what the Reserve Force instituted by the noble Lord opposite is. It is not the last resource, but it is the first resource under our system. At this moment you really cannot put a corps d'armée into the field in a manner which would satisfy the country, unless Her Majesty was advised that the circumstances justified such a Message to the House from the Crown as I brought up the other day. Well, my Lords, if it was necessary in this state of Europe that Her Majesty should have a sufficient Naval and Military Force, we could take no step but that which we advised the Crown to adopt. And what are the consequences of this step? Her Majesty will be able in a very brief space of time to possess an Army of 70,000 men, fairly and even completely disciplined. It is double the force of Englishmen that Marlborough or Wellington ever commanded; but it is not a force sufficient to carry on a great war. If England is involved in a great war, our military resources are much more considerable than those you may put in motion by this Statute; but this is the only way in which you can place at
the disposal of the Crown a considerable and adequate force when the circumstances of the country indicate an emergency. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition (Earl Granville), the other night, in his lively and satisfactory answer to one of his own supporters, defended the Government, and admitted and approved the satisfactory state in which the country was with regard to defence. He said—
We happen to know from the Secretary of State that he has a corps d'armée ready, and that in a short time he can have another.
These make up the 70,000 men of whom I speak; and, therefore, the noble Earl admitted it was not an unreasonable amount of force we were calling upon Parliament to grant. The question, therefore, between us and the noble Earl is this—I should not say between the noble Earl and us, but between us and any who differ from the policy of the Government in this respect—the question is, are the circumstances which exist in the East of Europe at this moment—do the circumstances that prevail in the Mediterranean—constitute an emergency which justifies and demands that Her Majesty shall not only have a powerful Navy in these waters, but shall command, if necessary, not a very considerable, but an adequate and an efficient Army? Now, my Lords, I would say that this is a question which comes home to every man's bosom. I cannot understand—I cannot conceive myself—that in the position in which this country now finds itself, when an immense revolution has occurred in the Mediterranean Region—a revolution which involves some of the most important interests of this country; I may say, even the freedom of Europe;—I say, I cannot conceive that any person with a sense of responsibility in the conduct of affairs could for a moment pretend that, when all are armed, England alone should be unarmed. I am sure my noble Friend, whose loss I so much deplore (the Earl of Derby), would never uphold that doctrine, or he would not have added the sanction of his authority to the meeting of Parliament, and the appeal we made to Parliament immediately for funds adequate to the occasion of peril which we believed to exist. No, I cannot think such things of him; for to the individual of whom I did, I should say, Naviget Anticyram; only I trust,
for Heaven's sake, that his lunacy might not imperil the British Empire! I have ever considered that Her Majesty's Government, of whatever Party formed, are the trustees of that Empire! That Empire was formed by the enterprize and energy of your ancestors, my Lords; and it is one of a very remarkable character. I know no example of it, either in ancient or modern history. No Cæsar or Charlemagne ever presided over a Dominion so peculiar. Its flag floats on many waters; it has Provinces in every zone; they are inhabited by persons of different races, with different religions, different laws, manners, customs. Some of these are bound to us by the tie of liberty, fully conscious that without their connection with the Metropolis they would have no security for public freedom and self-government. Others united to us by faith and blood are influenced by material as well as moral considerations. There are millions who are bound to us by military sway, and they bow to that sway because they know that they are indebted to it for order and justice. But, my Lords, all these communities agree in recognizing the commanding spirit of these Islands that has formed and fashioned in such a manner so great a portion of the globe. My Lords, that Empire is no mean heritage; but it is not a heritage that can only be enjoyed—it must be maintained—and it can only be maintained by the same qualities that created it—by courage, by discipline, by patience, by determination, and by a reverence for public law and respect for national rights. My Lords, in the East of Europe at this moment some securities of that Empire are perilled. I never can believe that at such a moment it is the Peers of Engand who will be wanting to uphold the cause of their country. I will not believe for a moment but that your Lordships will unanimously vote the Address in Answer to the Message which I now move.
Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty thanking Her Majesty for Her most gracious message communicating to this House Her Majesty's intention to cause the Reserve Force and the Militia Reserve Force, or such part thereof as Her Majesty should think necessary, to be forthwith called out for permanent service.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I will preface the few observations I pro- 778 pose to make on the present occasion by stating that it is not my intention—and I am not aware that it is the intention of any noble Lord occupying the benches by my side—to offer any opposition to the Motion. My Lords, the noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield) commenced his speech by assuming that the Opposition, by not challenging the conduct of the Government, entirely approved their policy during the last two years. I deny the soundness of that proposition. I deny the fact; I deny the inference as to the past, the present, and the future. If we abstained in times of difficulty from bringing forward Votes of Censure against a Government whom we could not hope and have no wish to displace, it does not in the slightest degree follow that we approved of their policy. I think I can adduce a better authority than my own on that point. In 1854 a memorable Message came down to both Houses of Parliament—it was, indeed, at the commencement of the Crimean War. The noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield), the then Leader of the Opposition in the other House of Parliament, then made a very powerful speech, and he began that speech by giving his own reasons and by quoting Canning to show that it was perfectly consistent for him to concur in the Motion and at the same time condemn the policy of the Government that proposed it. I trust, therefore, it will be seen that I am perfectly justified in the course I am now about to take—the more especially as there is a difference between the Answers to the two Addresses, inasmuch as that of 1854 embodied and adopted all the considerations and reasons which that Message embraced; whereas, in the present case, Her Majesty's Government have—I think, most judiciously—confined the proposal which they make to us to language similar to that of the Address at the opening of Parliament—merely thanking Her Majesty for the Message. I trust the precedent I have related will not be repeated, and that it will not lead to another Crimean War; and I will shortly give some of the reasons on which I base that, perhaps, too confident hope. Another sense in which I hope it will not be a precedent, is that certainly I have no intention of making any personal or political attack on the Government, as the noble Earl did at that 779 time—I merely desire to state the reasons why I do not wish to commit myself and those who act with me to anything, but to leave on Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of the course which they have taken. Her Majesty's Government, it has been stated by the noble Earl, has decided, and has acted on the decision, to advise Her Majesty to call out the Reserve Forces, under the belief that there is a great emergency, and that anyone must be a lunatic if he did not see that there is such an emergency. Well, my Lords, I heard it last week pertinently stated that we had in the Cabinet the 12 picked Members of the great Conservative Party of Great Britain, and that one-sixth of that number had given the most signal proof of their condemnation of the measures which Her Majesty's Government then proposed should be adopted. Now, it appears that one of those is the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), who was cognizant up to the last moment of the policy and intentions of the Government. Your Lordships will agree with me that, as a political opponent of the present Government, it would be very bad taste in me to pay any personal compliment to the noble Earl at the moment of his, no doubt, painful secession from the Colleagues with whom he has been so long associated; but I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that it was not a hasty, but a well-considered, description of the noble Earl, when the Prime Minister expressed to this House his admiration of the penetration of his intellect, his capacity for business, and, above all, the judicial impartiality of his mind. Now, I do not think that the noble Earl can be considered a lunatic, and yet he certainly does not agree with the measures Her Majesty's Government propose. The noble Earl stated—I was unfortunately absent, but he is reported to have stated—that the measures upon which they had decided were not, in his opinion, prudent in the interests of European peace, or necessary to the safety of this country, or warranted by the then existing state of affairs. Now, it may be permitted to me, under such an authority as that, and with such imperfect information as I possess as to the real policy of Her Majesty's Government, to express a doubt—which doubt has not been removed by the speech which, 780 although it ended by such an eloquent and magnificent piece of declamation, consisted, as to the first half, mainly of extracts and summaries of the Papers laid before us, and which we have had the advantage of going through, as the noble Earl said, the ceremony of reading. The noble Earl dwelt in some detail on the character of the Act of Parliament—with regard to which he so justly complimented the noble Viscount behind me—under which the Reserve Force is formed; but I must say, if there is any truth in the opinion of the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that there is no "emergency" at present, I think that my noble Friend on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) was justified in pointing out the hardships on the men called out—always supposing there is no absolute necessity for doing so, of abandoning temporarily, and more often permanently, the situations by which they maintain not only themselves, but their families. I wish to point out that when there was no Reserve it was intended to create a Force of from 60,000 to 80,000 men; and when that body is formed, it will be much easier for the whole body of the Force if, when say 10,000 men are required, one-sixth are called out instead of every man of the Force. I am afraid that if the necessity is not such as has been stated, it will have a very bad effect in discouraging intelligent men from putting themselves under the obligation to enter the Reserve. My Lords, I now proceed to a much graver and more important question. I will call attention to some of the Papers which have been laid before us. And, first of all, to those Papers which have reference to the great diplomatic failure which has taken place in regard to the Congress, which it was hoped would settle the Eastern Question. No doubt there has been a diplomatic failure as regards Austria. She proposed the Congress, and certainly desired it to be entered into. With regard to ourselves, there is some doubt as to what our wishes were. With regard to Russia, it has been really somewhat of a diplomatic triumph. It was stated, when this Congress was proposed—and it has never been contradicted—that Russia was never much inclined to enter it. She thought—indeed it is rather confirmed by what has fallen from the 781 noble Earl—that her interests would be better answered by entering into negotiations with the different Powers separately, instead of meeting them collectively in a Congress; and certainly the noble Earl has mentioned some great difficulties that she would have to encounter in entering into the Conference. With regard to ourselves, I had some doubts whether we were sincerely anxious to enter into it, and the suspicion I entertain has been rather confirmed by the dissensions which we now know existed in the Cabinet. It appeared to me that Her Majesty's Government were not very clear themselves as to what proposal they would make in the Congress. That notion is entirely dispelled by what has fallen from the noble Earl, and he has shown what importance he attached to the meeting, and what confident hopes he entertained that it would lead to a satisfactory settlement. This being the case, I own I do not think Her Majesty's Government have been quite fortunate in the way they have dealt with this question of the Conference. The state of the case is this—a Treaty has been concluded between Russia—omnipotent as far as Turkey is concerned—and the Porte. That Treaty is one which I believe everyone present would wish to see modified in several important points. It is one that Russia herself has announced she is ready to modify—that she expects to make modifications. The question is—Is it to be modified by going to war, or by the united action of Europe, and by those rules which regulate the diplomatic relations of nations, and which would comprehend, among others, all English interests? Now, I confess I think it more desirable to resort to the latter than to the former mode of modifying the Treaty. We asked the other day for Papers which might give us some information of the views taken by the European Powers as to the course best to be adopted. The only Paper which appears to me to be an answer to the question is of the most inapplicable character that can be imagined. It is a small extract from a despatch, quoting Prince Bismark's very important, very satisfactory, and sensible remark, that the Conference could not be satisfactory unless this country took part in it. The inference I draw from this mass of Papers is, that there is not one Power of Europe 782 which expresses an exact agreement with the course which Her Majesty's Government have pursued in this matter. The noble Earl bases his principle on a particular Declaration of great importance—namely, the Declaration preliminary to the revision of the Treaty of 1856, which was made in 1871. Now, I attach considerable importance to matters of form, and I am glad of the immense importance that is now attached by the noble Earl to that Declaration; but I do not remember that any such enthusiasm was manifested by him at the time. If my memory does not deceive me, even the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, with as much of a sneer as was compatible with the courtesy with which he treats every Member of the House, rather ridiculed us for attaching so much importance to a mere matter of form. But it appears that there is somewhat of a change in the opinion of the Government in that respect. Tonight they base their policy on the principle of that Declaration; whereas last year it was grounded entirely on a certain despatch written in May, specifying and defining certain British interests with which alone we were to be exclusively concerned. Now, with regard to the Declaration of Paris, had we tried to thrust it single-handed down the throat of Russia, we should have entirely failed; and we must take some credit to ourselves for the patience and perseverance with which we induced all the other Powers to concert and combine; and it was that concert and combination which induced the Emperor of Russia to accept the Declaration, and make a retractation which would have been of a most humiliating character—if it were possible to say that that was humiliating which was merely the acknowledgment of flagrant error. I confess I do not see why we have not been more active in the present case in entering into concert with the other Powers. I now come to another point—why did we get into direct communication with Russia? Austria proposed the Conference and undertook the preliminary arrangements. It was hers to learn the views of the other Powers, and every country of Europe was bound to let her know the sine quânon conditions on which they would enter the Conference. If they had done that, I believe that Russia would have been more ready to agree to the proposal 783 coming from Austria in the name of all the other Powers than when it was proposed by a direct communication, and almost a threat, from one nation which she pretended to believe was bent on humiliating her. In saying this, I cannot help thinking—knowing now the divisions that have existed in the Cabinet—it is not impossible, that if the noble Earl who has left the Government had been unhampered by his Colleagues, he would have been able to bring about a satisfactory arrangement of this question of the Congress.
My Lords, I shall now refer to that remarkable Circular which has produced so great a sensation both in this country and in Europe, and the ability of which I fully allow. There seems to be an impression abroad, and I have heard from individuals, and it has been stated in the Press, that this Circular was written by the noble Marquess propriomotee, and on the spur of the moment—that immediately after he took Office as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs he examined this Treaty, analyzed it, and wrote an admirable Paper upon it, which obtained the sanction of the Cabinet and the appoval of the Sovereign. My experience of Cabinets and of the Foreign Office does not lead me to believe that this view is correct. Her Majesty's Government, more than nine months ago, were informed by the Russian Government of the terms which they were ready to make with Turkey; and it is rather remarkable that, in the indictment against Russia brought forward by the noble Earl, he entirely omitted any reference whatever to this important communication. I may mention, also, that those terms indicated, though in a general character, the terms it was intended afterwards to impose and which were afterwards contained in the Treaty of San Stefano. They were, no doubt, largely extended after their great successes, but in their general character there was a great similarity; and there was one very remarkable similarity—namely, that the cession of the port of Batoum is expressly mentioned as a point on which Russia would insist. Strong attacks were made on Her Majesty's Government for not making public at the time the communication which had been made to them by Russia. Those attacks were made chiefly by the supporters of the Government, not by their 784 opponents. I disagreed with those attacks. It was a confidential communication, which I do not think the Government were bound, or which it was even allowable for them, to present to the country at that particular time. But I must own that I am extremely surprised at the silent acquiescence with which Her Majesty's Government received so important a communication. There was one or two courses which they could have pursued. They might have said that the terms were fair and reasonable, and in that case Her Majesty's Government ought to have diplomatically pressed them upon the acceptance of the Turks; and if the Turks had persisted in resisting them I think Her Majesty's Government would have been justified in saying—"We cannot force the Turks to accept these terms, and as we think them fair and reasonable we will not object—but let us clearly understand—if, in consequence of successes, you increase your demands on a subsequent occasion, let it be clearly known that these are the terms of which we approve, and that if you go further you will entirely lose our support." Or, on the other hand, if the terms against which so formidable an indictment has been made were such as you could not possibly assent to, you were bound, and could have done it with immense effect at the time, to have communicated to Russia your insuperable objection to those terms, and your intention to oppose them. My Lords, I have never admitted that in wisdom Russian diplomacy is so greatly superior to the diplomacy of the other great countries of Europe; but what I do lay great stress upon is, that our English diplomacy, which stands so high for straightforwardness and justice, should be so scrupulously conducted that it would be impossible for any Power to have the right to make objection to it. Now, nine months ago you were in possession of those terms, and some weeks ago you had a real though not an official knowledge of the terms of the Treaty, and a little later the authentic terms of the Treaty were before you. I cannot positively believe that such was the indifference of the Cabinet on the subject that they had never asked the Foreign Office to examine the terms of that Treaty and place some analysis of it before them—it would be a matter of great curiosity if the noble Earl (the 785 Earl of Derby) should find himself able to inform your Lordships of the course he was inclined to pursue, and whether he concurred entirely with his Colleagues in their objections to the most important portions of this Treaty. With regard to the Circular of the noble Marquess, I concur in a great many of his criticisms on the Treaty, and these induce me sincerely to hope that the Treaty will be modified. The noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield), in his statement this evening, would lead us to think that the opposition of Her Majesty's Government is to be of such an uncompromising nature as to be absolutely destructive of the Treaty of San Stefano. But I cannot for the life of me believe that that is the opinion of the noble Marquess who now holds the Office of Foreign Secretary. I read with great interest a speech he made in Bradford about two months after I was there, in which, with great good humour, he turned some remarks of mine into ridicule. He said—You must always remember that this is a war not of Sovereigns but of peoples. There is an intense feeling on both sides—it may be fanatical, it may be of national hostility—but it is not one of those wars that Sovereigns can begin, continue, and end, according to the views of policy which in the Cabinet they may form. The war began on certain principles and with a certain aim, and before it is finished, if it be finished while military strength is still unexhausted, the Sovereigns must carry back to their people something with which they will be able to convince them that the object with which the war was fought and the passions on which it reposes, has been in some degree carried out.These are sentiments in which I agree, but which are absolutely incompatible with the position that a Treaty accomplished after great efforts by Russia should be swept away and the whole matter become a mere tabula rasa. There is no one who knows better than I do that silence is desirable in regard to diplomatic negotiations, and I think the noble Earl the late Foreign Secretary will confirm me when I say that, although I have been a somewhat pertinacious Questioner, I have never insisted on putting Questions which I had the slightest reason to believe he might think disadvantageous to the public service to answer. I sincerely hope that I may be able to make a similar appeal, with the same confidence, at the end of the Session, to the noble Marquess who now occupies that post—but there is one 786 instance in which I think silence has been most unfortunate. I think it most unfortunate that when the Berlin Memorandum was rejected by us, the Government remained absolutely silent on that matter; that we refused to announce any policy of our own. We thus broke up the concert that up to that time had existed in Europe. On the other hand, to have remained silent, instead of assuring the Turkish Government at the time of the Conference, that Lord Salisbury's remonstrances would certainly not be backed up by coercion; and it certainly would have been wise before the war began to maintain silence, instead of boasting, as the late Secretary of State for War actually did, that Her Majesty's Government had announced to all Europe, and therefore to Russia, that if war did begin we should give no assistance whatever to the Turks. Nothing would tempt me to press the noble Marquess opposite to give, at this moment, any details as to his views respecting particular Articles of the Treaty; but, at the same time, I think we are entitled to have some general information as to the great principles on which the Government intend to act in this matter. In the year 1854—in the very same speech to which I have already referred—the noble Earl, now Prime Minister, described, with great truth and accuracy, two different Parties with regard to the Eastern Question, and the remarks are so important that perhaps your Lordships will allow me to read them. The noble Earl said—Two theories have always existed, and each has been maintained by statesmen of eminence. There are statesmen who are of opinion that there is vitality in Turkey—that, far from being exhausted, it is a country full of resources, and of resources hitherto only imperfectly developed. There are statesmen, and the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) is one of them, who believe that Turkey is a country not only qualified for independence, but absolutely capable of progress. Statesmen of this school, upholding these opinions, have been of opinion that, with wisdom and with firmness, Turkey might form a substantial and a real barrier against Russia."—[3 Hansard, cxxxii. 285.]Nothing could be fairer than that description. He went on to say—Then there is the other school which believes that there is no vitality in Turkey—that it is decaying and decrepit—that its resources, always imperfectly developed, perhaps, are now virtually exhausted, and that it is totally impossible that it can long exist as an independent or 787 quasi-independent community; and these statesmen, not wishing to hand over this rich prey to its powerful neighbour, have been of opinion that, by encouraging the Christian subjects of the Sultan, and by advancing the civilization and increasing the right of these classes, you might in time prepare a population for Turkey which would prevent that intermediate state of anarchy which otherwise would happen between the fall of a great Empire and the rise of a new Power."—[Ibid.]So impressed was the noble Earl with this contrast that he repeated it in stronger terms in a subsequent part of his speech, with which I will not trouble your Lordships. Although the noble Earl did not expressly say so, the whole tenour of his speech was entirely in favour of the first theory. About four years later, a young Member of Parliament, of great ability and promise, made a speech, in which he advocated the second theory, and he was answered by his Leader, who described that theory, not as one held by eminent statesmen, but as a crude theory which could only be uttered by a person who had absolutely not given any thought to the subject. The promising young Member has entirely fulfilled the promise then entertained of him, and he is now Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Many things have happened and many persons have changed their opinions since then; but, as far as I can judge from the speeches and writings of the noble Marquess and from his conduct at Constantinople, there is no reason to think that recent events have changed his former opinions. It is equally clear to me from the speeches he made during the last two years—including that delivered in November last—that the noble Earl the Prime Minister also strongly adheres to the opinions which, in common with other eminent statesmen, he formerly held. It is a curious thing, that in the Circular just issued there are two sentences, one relating to the independence of Turkey and the other relating to the welfare of the Christian populations. The sentences appear to reflect both theories, and to a superficial reader they suggest the notion of a happy compromise having been arrived at on the subject. But this is not a matter for compromise. At a time when we are called upon to make military preparations, we have a right to know which of these important principles Her Majesty's Government intend 788 to adopt. I have said I have some hope of peace, and I will state my reasons for entertaining such a hope. In the first place, the hope is based on the undoubted fact that peace is the interest of everyone concerned. With regard to England, I am glad that England has repudiated with just indignation, as being an infamous insult, the suggestion that we had a desire for war. I feel that a great blow would be dealt at the dignity, the honour, and the interests of this country, if we alone, without an Ally, were to embark in any war of which the purposes were not quite clearly defined and of an absolutely necessary character. As to the other countries of Europe, of course, I speak in perfect ignorance; but, as far as I can perceive, neither France, Germany, Austria, nor Italy, has the slightest intention of joining with us at any time in a war against Russia. Again, take Russia herself. Is it possible that the Emperor of Russia can desire another war? Look at the state of exhaustion in which Russia is. Look at her pecuniary exhaustion—although it is not always safe to rely upon that as an antidote against war. Lately, the Emperor of Russia has witnessed all the miseries of war, and it is impossible to think he can wish to commit his subjects to a renewal of them. It is impossible to think that, having obtained so much, he should wish to run the risk of losing all. He must be perfectly aware by this time that it is in the power of Her Majesty's Government—wisely or unwisely, rightly or wrongly—at any moment, to begin operations against Russia; and he must be likewise aware that, when this country is once embarked in a war, it clings to its purposes with a tenacity which belongs to our race. On the other hand, I cannot believe that if Europe combined can approach him with a just and reasonable limit of alterations, he will refuse to yield to such pressure. I can only say that Her Majesty's Government will probably succeed in attaining the object they have in view, if they act within just and reasonable limits—not assuming the position of preponderating dictation, which was so admirably ridiculed by the noble Marquess in the Autumn, but acting in real concert with the other European Powers, and taking care to preserve to the Christian races without distinction any advantages which 789 they ought to derive from recent events, and, at the same time, freeing them as much as possible from foreign intervention. If Her Majesty's Government succeed in the work, I am pretty certain they will have the support of every moderate and intelligent man in the country, and I am quite certain they will have the support of my Friends who are now sitting near me.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, your Lordships will, I am sure, believe me, when I say, that if I could in honour do so, I would much rather avoid taking any part in this debate; but, considering the position which I have held during the last four years, it seems to me, that absolute silence on such an occasion with regard to matters which have necessarily been so much in my mind, might be open to the construction, either that I had no fixed opinion on the question, or, that, having an opinion, I was afraid to express it. My Lords, the position which I have taken up in regard to this matter has given rise to many reproaches. I have heard much of indecision, of vacillation, and even of cowardice. If, however, I may judge from my own feelings, it requires infinitely more courage for a man to stand up in his place and to express views which he knows are unpopular among the great body of his Friends, than to sit at a desk in Downing Street, and thence to issue orders which bring to him no danger and no unpopularity, but upon the giving of which may devolve the responsibility of a European War.
My Lords, before I go into the general question, I should like to say one word upon a personal matter. I have been referred to by my noble Friend at the head of the Government, and by newspaper writers and others, as having resigned Office in consequence of the calling out of the Reserves. Now, I feel bound to tell your Lordships that, whatever I may have thought of that step, it was not the sole, nor, indeed, the principal, reason for the differences that unfortunately arose between my Colleagues and myself. What the other reasons are I cannot divulge until the propositions of the Government, from which I dissented, are made known.
My Lords, I need hardly say I have no thought of asking your Lordships to object to the proposition that has been 790 made by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. I do not think it right, except in very extreme cases, that Parliament should refuse such a request, when it is made upon the responsibility of the Executive, who necessarily are more conversant than anyone else with the requirements of the case. But I cannot quite agree with one or two of the observations which my noble Friend made upon the subject. Why, he said, should anyone object to England increasing its Force when all the rest of Europe was either arming or armed? Well, my Lords, my noble Friend does not usually forget the existence of the British Fleet. We have never adopted the Continental system of vast Land Armies; and, if we were, unfortunately, to engage in hostilities with Russia, those hostilities, as far as we were concerned, would be mainly conducted by sea. Now, the British Fleet is not only the most powerful Fleet afloat, but is nearly equal to that of all other Powers put together. Then, my Lords, I must, with all deference, dissent from the appeal which my noble Friend addressed to me when he said—"How can you doubt the policy of this measure—the calling out of the Reserves—when you assented to the early calling together of Parliament, and to the Vote of £6,000,000, which were only parts of the same policy?" My noble Friend knows that I did not very willingly acquiesce in the early summoning of Parliament, and that the date ultimately fixed was a compromise on a proposition that Parliament should meet even earlier than it did. My noble Friend is also aware that I expressed grave doubts as to the necessity for this Vote of £6,000,000; at least, to its full extent. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to remove my doubts, by assuring me—which I have no doubt he did in perfect good faith—that we wanted the money principally as a Vote of Confidence, and that only a small portion of it would be spent. No doubt, I acquiesced in the Vote of £6,000,000; but, if I am to make a clean breast of it, I will explain that when that question came forward, I had temporarily retired from the Cabinet. My resignation was in my noble Friend's hands for a period of 48 hours. Meanwhile, public notice had been given of the Vote. I could not but feel, in these 791 circumstances, that it was impossible for the Government to recede from a step which they had publicly announced; and, feeling the great inconvenience of breaking up the Cabinet at such a moment, I acquiesced in what I had previously opposed.
My Lords, I think this is a time when the whole situation may be fairly reviewed; because, until the Treaty of San Stefano was made public, the materials for discussion were wanting; and if, now that the terms of the Treaty are known, discussion were further delayed, it might be too late to serve any useful purpose. Well, the Government determined to call out the Reserves, and the formal declaration is accordingly made that the present state of affairs is one of emergency. Now, my Lords, I am not quite satisfied on that point. I want to know what the emergency is, and who has created it? I can interpret that announcement only in one manner—namely, that the Government consider that negotiations with Russia either have been or are shortly to be broken off, and that immediate war is an event which must at least be looked forward to as probable. My Lords, I cannot take that view of the case; it is not the fact that diplomatic means are exhausted. The negotiations for the Congress, it is true, have come to a dead-lock; but I do not know that that fact, by itself, is much to be regretted. With the single exception of Austria, I do not know that any single Power has ever been anxious that the Congress should be held. Russia objected to it in the first instance; Germany came into it with some reluctance; the French Government did not disguise their aversion from it, giving the somewhat characteristic reason that they would appear there in a different position from that which they held in 1856. Now, my observation is—and I believe it to be the opinion of most diplomatists—that a Conference or Congress is a very convenient agency for putting on record, in the most formal manner, international decisions which have already been come to in substance; but in these days, when we can ask a question and get an answer from the furthest end of Europe within 24 hours, it is just as easy to ascertain opinion, and almost as easy to conduct negotiations, outside a Congress, as within. If I had to deal with the matter, I should endeavour to 792 keep the Congress alive, saying and doing nothing to prevent its ultimate meeting, but letting it stand over until the way was smoothed by private and separate negotiations between the Powers concerned. Now, my Lords, looking at the question from that point of view, I regret the steps which the Government have taken. They put forward a series of objections to the Treaty of San Stefano—objections of a most comprehensive character—and they communicate those objections not only to other European Governments—which is perfectly reasonable—but to the people of this country and the entire public of Europe. Now, my Lords, when, in addition to that, we proceed to arm in such a manner as to indicate an expectation of war, the general impression must be that the English Government demands that the Treaty of San Stefano should be torn up, and is preparing to support that demand by force. This is said to be a spirited and decided policy. So it is. But what is the next step to be taken? There are only three possible issues; and, of these three, one, I am afraid, is hardly within the range of possibility. It is possible that our demands may be acceded to. That would be a signal diplomatic triumph, on which I should be the first to congratulate my noble Friend; but that Russia should give up most of the results of the war, and that she should undergo what the public opinion of Europe would pronounce to be a diplomatic humiliation, is a result which I can hardly conceive can be hoped for. The second possibility is that we, on our side, may withdraw or greatly modify the objections we have taken. But, in that case, the diplomatic failure would be on our side. It would be well enough, in a private communication between two Powers, or in a private bargain between individuals, to ask, in the first instance, a great deal more than you meant to get—but, after a declaration of that kind is made public, and after you are prepared apparently to support it, to drop it, or to recede from the position you have taken up, creates a situation of an almost ridiculous character.
As to the Circular of my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, if it had been addressed—as I have no doubt it was originally intended to be addressed—to the British Representative 793 at the Conference as a summary of what the British Government desired to see accomplished, I should have no criticism to make upon it. But I am afraid, that when the Government put forth its programme to all Europe as that which they intended to follow, and when they accompanied that announcement with military measures, not in themselves unimportant, and the effect of which will be enormously exaggerated abroad, they are making concessions on the part of Russia much more difficult than before. I go so far as to say that if Russia were willing to take back her Treaty—although I do not contend that operation would not be beneficial to Europe—it would, at least, be a strong proof that she is not so aggressive and dangerous a Power as we have been in the habit of thinking. On the other hand, if Russia, as I believe, is not willing to cancel the Treaty; but, if, as I also suppose, she is prepared, in deference to European opinion, to consent to a considerable modification of what she has proposed, then I think the difficulty has been increased in two ways—first, by the publication of these negotiations; and next, by the appearance of menace which that publication involves. We all know how difficult it is in private life, when anything like a threat has been used, to yield that, which if such pressure had not been brought to bear, would have been readily yielded.
I may be asked, however—What, in the circumstances, would you do if you were consulted? My answer is, that I would not have pressed matters on in such hot haste. There is just now great irritation against us in Russia, and I do not think I am wrong in saying that in this country a very strong feeling of irritation against the Russian Government exists. I am speaking of public opinion in both countries, and not of their Governments. I do not believe that there is any very strong ground for that irritation on either side. By giving an opportunity for that feeling to subside, it appears to me that no harm could be done, while some good might be effected. I should have placed our views directly before the Russian Government, and discussed them point by point. The opinions of other Governments would not have been difficult to obtain—on many points we have got them already; and I think that many of the results of a Congress might 794 be attained without the rather cumbrous machinery of a Congress itself. No doubt, I may be told that while we were doing all this we should be losing time. Well, it is certainly an evil to prolong the state of anxiety and suspense in which we have already so long continued; but where military measures are concerned, I own I do not see on the English side what good reason there is for haste. Assuming that the worst happens—that we are not able to settle this question peaceably, and that war is proclaimed, who, I would ask, would lose most by delay? Russia has an enormous Army to keep up. She will not only be compelled to keep that Army up to its present numerical standard, but even to add to its numbers. We all know that she will be ill able to bear the expense. As to ourselves, we are free, in a military point of view, to choose our own time and place. The seas are ours, and no Russian men-of-war are likely to be seen there once a war breaks out. No English Dependencies can be even threatened by any Russian Army. I do not, therefore, understand what reason there is for exceptional haste in strengthening our Land Forces in face of a war which, even if it come, ought to be mainly a naval one. My noble Friend has certainly suggested that the Russian Army, if it could once get across the narrow strip of sea, might march through Syria and threaten Egypt. Now, we have always, in considering points of this kind, borne in mind the fact that we are mistress of the seas, and that we could sufficiently defend Egypt by naval means. I do not see how the remarkable operation of which I am speaking is to be executed. I am at a loss to understand how a Russian Army could march all through Syria and reach Egypt before a British man-of-war could leave Besika Bay and arrive at Alexandria. I do not, therefore, understand this haste in calling out our Reserves. I could understand it if it were simply the object to strike while the iron is hot —in other words, if it were for the purpose of taking advantage of the military feeling which is now so strong throughout the country, but which, probably, may cool down in the course of a few weeks. But my noble Friends would, I am sure, disclaim that imputation, and I give them credit for entire sincerity. There are, in this connection, three 795 questions, which must be answered sooner or later. Have you settled what are your means of fighting; who are to be your Allies; and what it is you are fighting for? The first question is one to which I do not profess to be able to give a clear answer. The only thing I see plainly is, that we believe England and Russia now may go on for a very long time without inflicting a vital injury on either side. You may very easily bring Russia to a state of bankruptcy; and, when you do that, you will have brought ruin on English holders of a considerable number of Russian securities. There is not, however, I believe, on record, a case in which any war was stopped in that way. Poor though Russia may be—and, no doubt, she is poor—she has an enormous territory, and can always find men and food. Now, when these two requisites are supplied in unlimited abundance, and a martial spirit animates a people, defensive fighting may go on for a very long time. You may blockade the Russian ports; but the losses sustained will not be all on one side. You may keep Russian corn out of this country, by which your own people will be the chief losers; but in these days of railroads the power of blockades is, except in very special cases, greatly limited; and with the German ports open, all you could accomplish by means of the most rigorous blockade would be to compel the commerce with Russia to make a considerable circuit. It has been said that a war between this country and Russia, no other Power taking part in it, would be not very unlike one of those duels between German students of which we used to hear, fought with sword blades of which only an inch or two at the ends was left bare. They might inflict a cut here and a gash there, they might cut off a nose, or do injury to an eye, but they were powerless to inflict any vital wound. All this you cannot help; nor, can you do anything serious by land against an enemy whose strength was only half developed when the First Napoleon invaded the country with 500,000 men and failed. We, on the other hand, are absolutely free from risk of attack by Russia, except in so far as intrigues and secret negotiations may do something to weaken our authority in India. Now, my Lords, I assume that there is not one of us here who desires a war at any time. 796 But, I may observe, that, in a popularly governed country like this, where the people are easily excited, and where they are apt to complain if their Armies do not perform impossibilities—remembering, as we do, the excitement and agitation at the time of the Crimean War—the most inconvenient kind of war to enter into is one which is very prolonged, very costly, and which is likely to be ultimately indecisive. Now, my Lords, I come to a question, in dealing with which I feel more at home. In the event of a war against Russia being undertaken, whom are we likely to have for Allies? Now, that is a matter upon which we have abundant means of forming a judgment, and I can tell you with certainty who will not be our Allies. In Germany, so far as the Government is concerned, the feeling has been from the very beginning of these transactions, —as is abundantly proved on the face of documents which have been laid before Parliament—one of warm and undisguised sympathy with Russia. That may not be the feeling of the German people, and there is every reason to suppose that, so far as a large portion of the German people is concerned, that is not the feeling which exists. But we have not to deal with the German people—we have to deal with the military oligarchy that governs Germany; and, as a matter of fact, neutrality, and that which would not be called a benevolent neutrality, is all I think that we could expect from Germany. From Germany, I pass to France. What is the line likely to be taken by the French Government? That is a question which I can answer without the slightest hesitation. I can do so, not because of any private or exclusive information, but judging by what we all know of the state of feeling in that country. There is not, I believe, a single French politician of any party who would accept the policy of another Crimean War. The fact, so far as I am able to form an opinion, is that the Crimean War was never popular in France. We all know that that war, however useful or beneficial in its results, was made by the late Emperor of the French for personal and dynastic objects. He at the time stood in a very peculiar position. He exercised supreme power, but he found it very difficult to get any respectable men to come near him. The little transaction of the Paris Boulevards 797 was fresh in men's minds; the recollection of it had to be effaced; and, in these circumstances, he, as an absolute Sovereign, no doubt, thought it a wise policy to sacrifice 100,000 French lives, in order to secure the prestige and respect which he expected would accrue, and which undoubtedly did accrue, to him, from an alliance with this country. That régime has, however, collapsed, as everybody knew that it would sooner or later, and in the present political situation of France, it seems to me that there is little prospect of her joining us in a policy of war. From France, I pass to Italy. There, no doubt, the circumstances are extremely different; but the result is, I am afraid, the same. Sardinia, in 1854, joined the Allies in a most gallant and spirited manner. Sardinia in 1854 was just in that position in which an adventurous policy is sure to be popular. She wanted a great deal, and possessed very little. But Sardinia is now absorbed in Italy. Italy is complete, and is content; her finances require to be re-organized, her administration to be consolidated; and I am sure neither my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, nor any one else, entertains much hope of common military action with us in the case of Italy. There remains, no doubt, one great Power, and that is Austria. I fully admit that if you are to seek, with a chance of success, for an Ally anywhere on the Continent, Vienna is the quarter to which you must look. But it is, I think, fairly open to doubt, whether it would be safe for us to rely much on Austrian co-operation. I am only stating that which everyone knows, when I say that there are very close and intimate ties between the three Emperors. In the next place, situated as Austria is, she would hesitate before embarking on anything which might be regarded as a rash policy, and would hardly come to a rupture with Russia unless she were previously assured of the support, or at least the neutrality, of Germany. Her population, too, is divided into a great many races not very friendly to one another; and, in fact, Austria is a country which a single unsuccessful campaign might not impossibly break up. Then you have to look to the internal divisions of the Empire. No doubt, the Magyars have strong sympathies with Turkey, but a directly opposite view is 798 taken by the Slavs. Then, you have the Austro-Germans, who want only peace. With two independent Parliaments pulling different ways, with an Army partly Slav—and to that extent dangerous to use against Slavs—with finances in such a state that I understand she had considerable difficulty in raising the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 required for the first mobilization of her troops—with all these elements of weakness, of confusion, and of discord, Austria, it seems to me, is a country on whose efficient aid we cannot fairly count. Then, my Lords, admitting, as I undoubtedly do, that the Austrian Government are sincere in their professions; assuming, if you please, that she is more efficient as a military Power than I, individually, believe her to be, the wide divergences between Austrian interests and those which we consider ours are such that, even if she were to enter into alliance with us, a compromise might at any time be effected between her and Russia by which we would lose that alliance. You cannot be sure that if Austria will come into the field with us as an Ally—we cannot be sure that if she does so she will not go out of the field without us—we may not have to go out of the field without her. Such is the state of things; and, in the circumstances, I am compelled to ask, if we are—I do not say drifting, but—rushing, into war, what it is we are going to fight for? What is to be the result of the war, assuming it to be successful? I know, at least, what it will not do. One class in this country, and it is rather a numerous class, will be sure to be equally disappointed, whatever happens. Those who profess admiration for Turkey, those who lament the fall of the Turkish Empire, are out of Court. You might have kept that Empire alive for a time, but you cannot now restore it. My noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs would be the last person to wish to do so. England would not allow it, and all Europe would be against it. If, then, you cannot restore the Turkish Empire, what are you to do? Are you to go to war to cut off something from the pecuniary indemnity which Turkey has to pay to Russia, or to make various modifications in the details of the Treaty of San Stefano? Those are results which may be fairly attained by means of 799 diplomatic negotiations; but the objects, it seems to me, are not of such transcendent magnitude as to justify the Government in preparing to enforce them by war, or by threats of war. We know, however, that there is a good deal more behind than any modifications of the Treaty. Consult the public—ask the first man you meet, and he will tell you, nine times out of ten—"Oh, we have lost influence in Europe, and we must fight to regain it." Well, I do not admit the fact. If it is any satisfaction to us to know it, from one end of Europe to the other, England's movements are watched with intense anxiety. That is a satisfaction which we may enjoy at the present, whatever anybody may think of the transactions of the last two years. Whether they think we have done too much, or too little, or not done what we ought, there is one thing certain—that during these two years England has not in any quarter been regarded or treated as a feeble Power. I own that individually this is not a kind of glory I care very much for; but, such as it is, you have it. I would say more than that. If it were true in any respect that English influence in the East were diminished, I should say it was diminished by a course of action which we deliberately and of our own free choice adopted. We chose to stand neutral—conditionally neutral, if you please, but the condition did not lessen the neutrality—we chose to stand neutral when we knew that Turkey must be defeated; and it is almost ridiculous now to say—"Oh, that is quite true; but then, you see, when the war began, we did not count upon Russia obtaining such an accession of military prestige." If you did not expect that, what did you expect? The truth is, that those whom I was once taken to task for calling our employers—the public—have not, from the beginning of this business to the end, known their own minds for six months together. Two years ago, it would have been almost dangerous for any man to get up at a public meeting and express in plain terms his doubt as to the disinterested philanthropy of Russia. Now, the cry is all the other way; and, as I believe, I have been an object of criticism in these two agitations, I may speak with impartiality; and I must say, that the foolishness and the virulence of each does not leave much to choose between 800 the two. If I could from this place address the English people, I would venture to ask them how they can expect to have a foreign policy—I do not say far-sighted, but even consistent and intelligent—if, within 18 months, the great majority of them are found asking for things directly contradictory? When we might have saved Turkey if we had chosen, not a voice was raised in favour of that course; and now, when the enemy—if you choose to call him so—is inside the fortress—when the Russian Army is at or near Constantinople—nearly everybody is crying that we ought to turn them out. I venture to ask whether a war for the sake of influence would be a war worthy of us? We have seen the experiment tried on a great scale not so very long ago. That was the motive—you may say the avowed motive—which led the late Emperor of the French to pick a perfectly purposeless and senseless quarrel with Germany. We know how that ended, and I do not think the author of that war was much pitied, however much we might sympathize with the people who suffered with him. Grant that we should be more fortunate, that we were successful, and obliged Russia to give back nearly all she has taken. What then? You will not have gained the greater part of your object. You will not have destroyed Russian influence or substituted English influence in European Turkey, because Russian influence in that country, which is now to be called Bulgaria, rests only in a slight degree upon military success; it rests on what you cannot take away—identity of race, community of religion, similarity of religion, traditional historic sympathies, and the common hatred felt against the common enemy. These are influences which you cannot take away; they will continue when not one Russian soldier is left in Bulgaria; they would continue even if English or Austrian soldiers had taken the place of the Russian Government. I say, therefore, if you go to war for the sake of influence over these populations, you are fighting for a shadow, and even that shadow you will not secure.
My Lords, I thought this was a convenient time to offer these general remarks on the policy which lies before us. I admit, of course, there are circumstances by which we may be forced into war; but I think 801 that, primâ facie, there is a great objection to undertaking to accomplish by war that, which if you are to gain your object in the most complete and efficient manner, will have to be done again in 20 or 25 years. We thought the work was done in 1856, and we know how far that expectation was disappointed. I certainly shall rejoice if my noble Friends, by peaceable and diplomatic action, obtain those results for which they hope. I shall not be inclined to reproach them, if, still confining themselves to the use of peaceable means, they obtain results considerably inferior to those put forward. But I must say I require something more than any of the reasons and arguments I have heard, either in this House or out of it, to show me that, in the circumstances which now seem likely to arise, there is a casus belli. Unless such a war be absolutely forced upon us, I object to it, because it will be a war undertaken without necessity, because it will be a war undertaken without a clear and defined object, because it will be undertaken with a divided country, and, in all probability, without an Ally.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I rise after my noble Friend, not to reply to his speech, but to make some observations on the speech of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) who preceded him. I may differ from my noble Friend as to the means by which the objects that I know both he and I have at heart may be attained, and I may differ from him—and I do differ widely—as to the fitness, and even as to the fairness, of many of the statements which he has now thought it right to make; but I have lived too long in friendship and council with him not to be well aware of the pure and patriotic motives by which his mind is inspired. But, lest there should be misunderstanding, I will refer to one or two of his remarks. If I understood him rightly, my noble Friend said England had never been in the habit of maintaining vast military armaments, and he seemed to imply that we were about to depart from our usual custom; but the noble Earl is well aware that the calling out of the Reserves will only put the country substantially in the position it occupied previous to the recent legislation as to our Military Forces. I am sorry to hear that my noble Friend does not regret that the Congress is not to meet. I was not aware that that 802 was his view; it certainly is not mine. I regret very much the difficulties that have arisen in the way of the meeting of the Congress, and I believe the majority of the people of this country share that regret. I cannot foretell what might have been the consequences of its meeting, but I am confident that throughout the Continent—if you except perhaps one of the late belligerents—there is a firm and deep desire for peace; and I believe that in no way could this feeling have found expression more readily than in a Congress, where the feelings of the different countries would have been known, and strenuous efforts—and I believe successful efforts—made to overcome the difficulties which have arisen.
Turning to the criticisms of the noble Earl (Earl Granville), I am glad we have the concurrence of the noble Earl in the opinion that the Treaty of San Stefano is open to objection on many points. The noble Earl, however, is anxious to establish that, although he has not opposed the policy of Her Majesty's Government, he has not assented to it; and he maintains that an Opposition is not bound to express any opinion as to the policy which the Ministry of the Crown think it right to pursue. But I own, my Lords, that I cannot see any analogy between his present position and the case of the Crimean War, which he brought forward in justification of his view. Where the Crown has declared war, and appeals to Parliament for support, it may be very patriotic for the Opposition, even if they do not approve their policy, to support the Government. But we are not at war. During the last two years we have been at peace—the conditions on which the policy of the Government was based were again and again explained and asserted—and yet, during the last two years, the noble Earl and his Friends have not thought it desirable to move a Vote of Censure. My Lords, I must leave it to the noble Earl to reconcile his conduct as best he may to his sense of duty. But what I understand to be the duty of an Opposition is this—if they believe the policy of the Government to be wrong, they are bound to challenge it.
The noble Earl then re-produced our old friend the Berlin Memorandum. I thought we had heard the last of that. Whenever any speaker during the last twelvemonth has found nothing else to 803 say against the Government, he has always wound up with—"Why did you not agree to the Berlin Memorandum?" It has always seemed to me that those who make this inquiry had never read the document, for I thought it had come to be agreed throughout Europe—even by those Powers who were parties to it—that it was one of the happiest things for Europe that the Berlin Memorandum had not been agreed to, and had, in fact, been abandoned. But, certainly, it is now too late to re-open the Berlin Memorandum.
I now come to what is more relevant to the present occasion. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) said the Government are now attaching too great importance to the Protocol of 1871—of which I believe the noble Earl was the author. He says it was treated very lightly at the time; we did not look upon it as a masterpiece of statesmanship, but that now we are treating it as a landmark in public law. I remember very well what was said about it at the time. It appeared to the people of this country that, when we were surrendering to the demand of Russia what was always considered a very important stipulation in the Treaty of 1856, it was a very poor compensation to obtain from her a Declaration that no alteration should be made in an European Treaty without the assent of the signatory Powers. But what we now say is this—We made the surrender—we got this Declaration in return; and, having got it, we want to make the most of it—we want to enforce it.
The noble Earl says, if we wished to have this Treaty of San Stefano considered by all the signatory Powers, why did we not address ourselves to Austria, which called the Congress together? That is a very reasonable question, which ought to be answered. I quite agree with the noble Earl that it was to Austria in the first place that our communication should have been addressed. It was Austria that invited the Congress, and stated its object—to consider the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, and how far the Treaty of San Stefano was in accordance with those earlier Treaties; and it was quite right, the Congress having been proposed by Austria, that we should apply to Austria for a clear understanding as to what was to be the scope of the Congress. Well, we did 804 communicate with Austria. We applied to Austria in the first instance; and it was in consequence of that application that we became aware of the misunderstanding which seemed to exist on the subject. Russia apparently made a communication to Austria, which she certainly did not make to us in similar terms. Your Lordships will find the history of this misunderstanding in the Paper relating to Turkey No. 24, in the despatch of the 14th March. [The noble and learned Lord read extracts from the despatch.]
The next comment of the noble Earl was of a different kind—and I should like to state it as fairly as I can, because it appears to me to open up a subject extremely worthy of your Lordships' careful attention. The noble Earl says it is about nine months since you had a communication from Russia of a general character, containing the terms of peace she would propose—which terms were afterwards extended in the Treaty of San Stefano, and the noble Earl says that we ought then to have informed Russia of the objections we entertained to those terms. Now, what is the fact? In the first place, I think the observation may fairly be made, that it would not have been the wisest thing in the world, before it could be known that Russia would be victorious and in the condition to dictate terms of peace, to enter into a controversy as to what those terms should be. But the fact is, that very shortly after we received that communication, we had a further communication from the Russian Ambassador, in which he stated that he did not wish any opinion to be expressed on those terms until he was officially desired to ask what our opinion was. But I am very anxious that your Lordships should observe the cardinal difference between those terms of peace and the Treaty of San Stefano. As I read the terms, proposed in July last year, they had, almost every one of them, the very ingredient we desire to see in those of San Stefano. Russia is named as the arbiter of every arrangement in the Treaty of San Stefano—whereas, Europe and the Powers were to be the arbiters under the terms of July last year. The whole terms are changed. In July, Bulgaria was to be a vassal Province under the guarantee of Europe; now she is to be a Province under the administration and 805 constitution of Russia. There is the greatest difference between the terms which Russia said at first she would accept and the Treaty of San Stefano.
But that is not all. Immediately following the communication of the original terms, another most important communication was made to Her Majesty's Government. Colonel Wellesley was the military attaché present with the Russian Army; and, when he was coming home, on leave of absence, he was charged with a communication by the Emperor of Russia himself. The Emperor was graciously pleased to give Colonel Wellesley an interview for the purpose of making an important communication which he wished Colonel Wellesley to explain to Her Majesty's Government; and, that there might be no mistake in the matter, it was reduced to writing by Colonel Wellesley, who submitted the Memorandum so prepared to the Emperor, and His Majesty said it was correct. His Majesty repeated what he had said to Lord Augustus Loftus, and then comes this clear and distinct statement—The conditions of peace required by the Emperor are those lately communicated to Lord Derby by Count Schouvaloff, and will remain the same as long as England maintains her position of neutrality. But if England should depart from that neutrality"—(We have not departed from our position of neutrality)—the position would assume a new phase. His Majesty has no ideas of annexation, beyond, perhaps, the territory of Russia lost in 1856 and a certain portion of Asia Minor.And now, my Lords, I beg your Lordships to observe the promise which follows—Europe will be invited to a Conference for the final settlement of the conditions of peace.The conditions of peace! That is, the whole of the conditions of peace. We have the solemn promise of the Emperor that Europe will be invited to a Conference for the final settlement of the conditions of peace. But, I ask, how can those conditions of peace be finally settled by a Conference, if one of the parties to those conditions is to exercise an option either of restricting or not admitting the discussion of any one of the conditions? My Lords, it was because the conditions of peace communicated to us in June were widely different 806 from those in the Treaty of San Stefano, and also because we had the promise of the Emperor that even those conditions were to be finally settled in a Conference of Europe, that it would have been unfitting in us to express, and we did not express, a disapproval of, or an opinion on, those conditions.
The next criticism of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) was one which may be easily disposed of. He said that the Treaty of San Stefano occupied a considerable time in negotiation—the Foreign Office must have known tolerably well the nature of the Treaty, and yet it was not until the Circular of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) that any criticism was expressed by the Government upon it. Now, I believe the Treaty was not given to Her Majesty's Government in an authentic form until last Saturday week, and the Circular of the Secretary of State was issued on the Monday week following—that is, a week was taken by Her Majesty's Government to consider and express an opinion upon the Treaty.
Then, the noble Earl says—"Your Circular criticizes and points out objections, but does not make any counter proposition to replace that to which the objections are taken." My answer to that is, that any proposal of an alternative would have been entirely out of place in the Circular. We wanted to make it quite clear why the Congress is not proceeding, and the argument of the Circular is that the Treaty of San Stefano must not be considered one clause here and another there, but that the Treaty must be looked at as a whole by the Congress. The noble Earl says—"You go too far—your Circular is virtually an attack upon the Treaty of San Stefano. It informs not only the people of this country but the populations of Europe that you intend to demand its sacrifice." Now, I entirely demur to that interpretation being put upon the Circular—nobody who has read it can fairly come to that conclusion with regard to it. If I understand it rightly, nothing is more clear than this—that, although the Circular appeals to the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, it admits the logic of facts; it admits that there must be great changes in the Treaty laws of Europe—it does not in any one line suggest that there are not to be these 807 changes—but it says that those changes must not be the subject of stipulation between two of the signatory Powers, but must be the subject of discussion, and, if possible, of agreement, between the whole of the signatory Powers. The question is not, and the question need not become, a question of war—it is a question whether those great changes are to be made in Europe with a high hand by one Power without the consent of the nations of Europe. It is not a question of England seeking to dictate to the nations of Europe. We believe the interests of England are the interests of Europe. These interests are to have a peace which will be permanent—a peace which will secure the happiness of the nations affected by those arrangements, and we believe that the Treaty of San Stefano cannot secure such a peace. We believe that, if fairly considered by the Powers of Europe, the conditions of the Treaty will be held not to accomplish that end; and it is on that account England has declined to enter into a Congress where she would be unfairly fettered.
§ LORD SELBORNE
said, their Lordships had heard the reasons assigned by the noble Earl who was until recently the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his retirement; and when their Lordships recollected that the noble Earl had been in a position to understand whether the tendency of the course taken by the Government was really in the direction of war or not, the mere fact that the noble Earl had been obliged to sever his connection with the Government was a strong reason why we should all believe that the danger was a real and a serious One. Everybody who was acquainted with his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack knew that his desire must be in favour of peace; but still he had heard nothing from the beginning to the end of the speech just delivered which gave a ground of hope that these measures could have been taken without creating rather than removing the danger in the presence of which we were placed. The noble Earl the Prime Minister claimed the support of the House, on the ground that no Resolution had been proposed in either House of Parliament condemnatory of the course pursued by the Government; but he (Lord Selborne) contended that if we were to bring the present steps 808 and measures of the Government to the test of their past policy, it would be found impossible to reconcile the two—at all events, the arguments hitherto offered with that object were wholly insufficient. The Opposition was not called upon to offer any opinion on the past policy of the Government in a Party sense, because it was professedly a policy of peace and neutrality. Being agreed with Her Majesty's Government in their main policy of peace and neutrality, and also in the desire which they professed, to ameliorate the condition of the Christians in the Turkish Provinces of Europe, it would not have been proper for the Opposition to embarrass the Government as long as they were pursuing a policy of that character. But it appeared to him that the character of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government had now entirely changed. It was much too late for Her Majesty's Government to attempt, as the Prime Minister had done that evening, to fall back upon the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, and to call the reference to those Treaties, in Lord Derby's despatch at the beginning of the war, the "keynote of their policy, and the diapason of their diplomacy." If those Treaties bound Great Britain or the other Powers, under the circumstances of this war, to anything, they bound them to guarantee to the Turks, if necessary, by armed assistance, the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. But Her Majesty's Government, and all the other Powers, had absolutely refused to recognize that obligation, or to fulfil that guarantee. Both before and after the commencement of the war, it was stated, and repeated continually, in and out of Parliament, in communications with the Porte, and also in communications with Russia and every other European Power, almost ad nauseam, that they would leave Turkey to her fate; that they would be neutral in the war, though distinctly foreseeing the dismemberment, not to say destruction, of the Ottoman Empire as its consequence; that they would do nothing for the sake of Turkey, and would limit themselves to watching over British interests. He (Lord Selborne) failed to see how that policy could be reconciled with the policy which Her Majesty's Government now seemed resolved to pursue. If they were to look at the long negotiations that had 809 preceded the Russian Declaration of War, could it be said that Russia was without a justification for the course she had resolved to adopt? We ourselves declared, when Turkey refused—first, the propositions of the Conference, and afterwards the Protocol—that she had put herself in the wrong before all Europe; and that the engagements, which she had refused to fulfil, were engagements on which all the Powers, parties to the Treaties, had a right to insist. The war broke out; and we publicly declared our neutrality. How was it possible to reconcile that fact with the present contention that we were to go to war with Russia on the ground of her non-observance of Treaties which were in force; but on which, at the outset of the war, and even since, up to the recent conjuncture, we had refused to act. The communications that passed between England and Russia in May and June last year seemed to him to add to the gravity of the present situation. In May, Lord Derby wrote to define British interests, and on the 8th of June an answer was received in which Russia declared within what limits she would comply with our request, and what were her views as to the terms of peace, provided her Armies did not cross the Balkans—adding, that if her Armies were obliged to cross the Balkans, the terms would probably be more severe. He did not see that that communication had ever been modified to any material extent. The conditions mentioned in that despatch were the retrocession of Bessarabia, the cession of Batoum, and a part of Armenia not defined, the independence of Roumania, and the autonomy of Bulgaria, &c.—in fact, they corresponded very much with those of the Treaty of San Stefano. Under these circumstances, he was somewhat astonished to hear his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack say that there was nothing in the terms of peace communicated last year that was at all alarming to Her Majesty's Government. At that time the Russian Armies had not even crossed the Danube. If a Treaty of Peace, on those terms, was to be a casus belli now, why not then, when a demonstration on our part might still have saved the Turkish Empire? Good faith, even towards Russia, required that some hint, at least, should be given, in reply to such 810 a communication, of the attitude which we were going to assume. But not a word was spoken in that sense; on the contrary, we still continued, in the communications which followed, to dwell solely on British interests, as before defined, and upon the security of Constantinople. Was it not evident that Her Majesty's Government had since that time changed their policy? There had been no change on the part of Russia; she had said from the first, that if her Armies passed the Balkans, the stringency of her terms might be increased; and she had never refused to go, on equal terms, into a Congress. For his part, he (Lord Selborne) was not convinced by anything he had read in the papers, that Russia at this moment intended, or had ever intended, to refuse a voice to the European Powers in the Congress on any of the points that might reasonably be argued to be of European interest in the Treaty of San Stefano. It was entirely an assumption that Russia intended to recede from the position laid down in the despatch foreshadowing the terms of peace. Neither could he omit to remind their Lordships, that even before that communication of the terms of peace was made, Her Majesty's Government had already received from Mr. Layard a letter in which he expressed his opinion as to the dangers of the war, as to its probable issues, and as to the necessary preponderance which Russia would obtain over Turkey in Europe—and, when we got those terms of peace, what was done? They were sent confidentially to Mr. Layard, who wrote two more despatches, which seemed almost to have inspired the speech of the Prime Minister to-night. Then, it was not too late to have done something; but we adhered to our neutrality, and let the war go on with these results staring us in the face. It was hardly possible that it could have been our policy to look on while Russia was destroying Turkey, intending all the time to turn round upon Russia when she should be weak and exhausted, like—if he might use a homely illustration—one of three boys in the street, who stands by while two others are fighting, and, though he never moves a finger to save his friend, reserves his own strength, without any notice, for an attack upon the conqueror when he is tired. That could hardly be called a magnanimous 811 policy, or one worthy of Great Britain. When he heard the Prime Minister, tonight, sketching the possible advances of Russia, he could not help thinking of the speech of the present Foreign Secretary, about a year ago, in which he had ridiculed the idea of Russia reaching certain points by successive steps, the impossibility of which would be evident if reference were made to large maps.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I was answering a noble Lord (Lord De Mauley), who, in supporting his Motion for the appointment of a British Consul in some city of Central Asia, had made reference to the possibility of a Russian invasion of India. It was in reference to the noble Lord's argument, that I made use of the expression regarding the use of large and small maps.
§ LORD SELBORNE
thought, if he remembered rightly, that the noble Marquess had spoken of the absurdity of a series of moves which might ultimately land us at the Cape of Good Hope; and that, of that series of moves, the Suez Canal and Egypt certainly formed part. That speech of the noble Marquess appeared to his mind to be quite an answer to the Prime Minister's present alarm. It was very important to observe that the communication of Count Schouvaloff, containing the terms which Russia would exact if she were successful, was not met by any declaration on the part of this country to the effect that those terms were dangerous to our interests. When the war was going on, no mention was made of Armenia as a British interest, although Mr. Layard strongly insisted upon it, as opening a road to India, and furnishing a base of operations against our Indian territory; our only anxiety was then to prevent an occupation of Constantinople. And when we were asked by Russia, whether we desired to enlarge the scope of British interests, we did not offer to do so. Even, after the fall of Plevna, when we were asked whether there were any other interests we were concerned about, we only mentioned the Dardanelles. It was, therefore, impossible for the Government, consistently with the course they had followed, to assume an attitude of hostility against Russia merely on account of the character of the Treaty of San Stefano. But, it was said the state of things was 812 altered, not by the making of the Treaty, but by the refusal of Russia to go into the Conference on reasonable terms. He could not see that Russia had done any such thing. We made a demand which was perfectly reasonable, as it was explained; but it would not have been at all reasonable without that explanation. We asked that every Article of the Treaty should be laid before a Congress—Not necessarily for acceptance, but in order that it might be considered what required acceptance or concurrence, and what did not.That seemed to him a perfectly reasonable request, and he should have thought it good policy on the part of Russia to give a simple and absolute assent to that stipulation. In the condition so explained, there was no substantial difference from what Russia was willing to give; but she preferred to do it in her own terms. He was afraid the fact was, that both Governments had assumed an attitude of suspicion and alarm, which had been the real obstacle to a mutual understanding; and Russia, perhaps, imagining that some trap had been set for her, desired to give no engagement except in her own terms; but, the substance of that which the Government asked for, when explained, was assented to by Russia. He was totally unable to discover any practical difference between that stipulation and the assurance which Russia had before given to Austria, and through Austria to all the Powers; and why we were not content with that assurance, he could not conceive. Our own explanation admitted that there might be some things which would not require European concurrence; and Russia distinctly admitted that every part of the Treaty which affected European interests would require such concurrence; that the Congress would have to examine what were the Articles of the Preliminary Treaty which affected the interests of Europe, and that all the points which were found to be of European interest, would be submitted to its deliberations. It was worth notice that the Treaty was called "Preliminary," which clearly implied that the settlement of the final terms of peace was regarded, even by Russia, as requiring the concurrence of Europe. He could not conceive, in spite of the explanation from his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, what 813 was the reason why the Government, having received a sufficient assurance from Russia through Austria, which issued the invitation to the Congress, was not satisfied with the assurance so given. It was admitted that no Power was to be bound by the vote of a majority; and it could not be contended that Russia was to be bound more than any of the other Powers. The other Powers might bring forward for discussion whatever Article of the Treaty they might think affected European interests or their own interests; but Russia reserved, and he thought it was most obviously reasonable that she should reserve, her right to object. He did not see any substantial difference between the position as laid down to Austria and that expressed by Russia to this country. If both sides had been desirous of avoiding the Conference and breaking up the European concert, they could not have taken a course better fitted to have that effect than that which they had taken. It was deeply to be regretted that anything should have happened to prevent the Conference, after the substance had already been conceded to Austria, and even to ourselves, with the exception of the form. Austria was satisfied with the assurance she had received; did Germany, France, or Italy refuse to go into the Conference unless they received a separate assurance such as we had insisted on? What would have been the effect of going into the Conference? If Russia had put her finger on one Article after another of the Treaty, and refused to allow any material Article to be discussed, we should have known who was responsible for breaking up the Conference. There was nothing to give the slightest colour to the notion that Russia would have been so unreasonable as to withdraw any material Article from the discussion of the Conference, except that very extraordinary Correspondence about Roumania and Bessarabia. But, if the alleged conversation did occur, and had not been misunderstood or misreported, still it would not be his own conclusion, that Russia could really have endeavoured to withdraw the question of Bessarabia from the consideration of the Congress, there being no one Article in the Treaty more undeniably of European interest than this was. In the first place, the integrity of Roumania, including that part 814 of Bessarabia, was expressly guaranteed, as a matter of European interest, by the Treaty of 1856; and, in the second place, Russia had not only been at peace with Roumania—she had concluded with her, only last year, a solemn and positive Concession, by which, in return for the right of passage granted to her troops through Roumanian territory, she had herself separately guaranteed the integrity of that territory, without excepting the part of Bessarabia in question. It might be that a tone had been used, for the purpose of obtaining the consent of the Roumanian Government to that part of the Treaty, which he, for his part, could not reconcile, either with generosity or with good policy. If so, it was very much to be regretted that Russia should have endeavoured to put any such unworthy pressure on her Ally; but he could not accept that as a reason for believing that there would be an attempt to withdraw from the Congress either the Article with reference to Bessarabia, or any other question which was really an European one. With reference to the despatch of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), he would only say it was quite possible to display too much ability in a despatch. Its brilliancy might be admired; but if it did harm to the interests of peace, those who composed it would hereafter find in it little cause for satisfaction.Ridenda poemata maloQuam te, conspicuæ divina Philippica famæ.He could not but think that, by condemning in such universal terms a Treaty not essentially differing from what was known many months before, the Circular might produce effects in Russia which it would be difficult for any system of policy to countervail. The despatch itself erred in some at least of its details. For example, it said that the Ruler of Bulgaria was to be chosen by Russia. But the Treaty made his choice subject to approval by the Powers. It made a great deal too much of the mention of Russian Commissioners here, there, and everywhere, which might be absolutely necessary, to fill up blanks in a preliminary Treaty, meant to be immediately operative between Turkey and Russia; but which, on the first opening of a Conference, might be found to offer no obstacle to 815 the admission, on equal terms, of Commissioners from all or any of the other Powers. He took exception, also, to the argument that the effect of giving large autonomous institutions to the Christian Provinces would be to make Russia practically mistress of those countries. It was remarkable that the noble Marquess, writing from Constantinople after the Conference, anticipated that to the arrangements which the Conference had proposed, and which he himself had strongly recommended, similar objections might be made. The noble Marquess said, that though Russia had extended her territories during the last half-century over many tracts, and had brought under her rule many peoples, he had never heard that any of those peoples had, of their own accord, willingly submitted to her. The noble Marquess himself said that these people had no wish to be the slaves or the instruments of Russian ambition, and he thought it required very little observation of the facts to arrive at the same conclusion. And the noble Marquess, apparently, then thought that though some portions of European Turkey might receive some kind of self-government, that would not necessarily throw them into the arms of Russia. It was known, of course, that Roumania would, on all occasions, side with any Power that would obtain independence for her. But now we saw Roumania, so far from being the tool of Russia, stoutly remonstrating because the Emperor desired—very naturally, perhaps—to recover that part of Bessarabia which had been taken from him, and we saw her emissaries going round to all the Courts of Europe protesting against it. The attitude of Greece was not less significant. We might depend on it, that what all these people wanted was self-government and independence—they did not want to remain under the domination of Turkey, nor to fall under the domination of Russia. If we entered into what he could not but regard as a most causeless, wilful, and unjustifiable war, we must take a course which would end in one of two things—either, in retarding the independence and frustrating the hopes of these rising nations, upon whom we must ultimately rely for maintaining the balance of power in the East of Europe, or in our undertaking ourselves to re-organize the Turkish Empire in a manner which could not, without a 816 great sacrifice of our own consistency, and of the stipulations of those Treaties on which we were now professing to take our stand, answer the requirements of Europe, and satisfy the just aspirations of those races.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My noble Friend below me (the Earl of Derby) has expressed so clearly and so ably a very large portion of my own views upon this question, that I am, at all events, dispensed from travelling over the same ground. It is rather for my own comfort and satisfaction that I would wish to make a few remarks on this grave matter. So far as the military preparations of the country are concerned, and even as regards the Reserves, I am not inclined to object to the line Her Majesty's Government have taken. I have always been in favour of a considerable addition to the military and naval armaments of this country, which, in critical times like these, need to be strong; and I may indeed say, in proof of this, that I was long ago in favour of the purchase of two of the iron-clads which Her Majesty's Government have lately bought. My noble Friends on the Treasury bench will bear me out in that. How far indeed the money necessary for an increase of military and naval armaments is now being laid out to the best advantage is another question, and what the object and purpose of the present increase is a different question, which cannot be separated from the course of policy which the Government is adopting, and which needs anxious consideration. With regard to the Circular of the noble Marquess, I admire its ability, and, so far as it is a summary of the criticisms on the Treaty, I agree with a considerable part of it. More than that, I do not concur in all the objections which I have seen raised against it for not putting forward a counter-policy. I see no very serious objection to the reticence of my noble Friend, on one condition—that he has a distinct and sound policy. The criticism which I will make upon the Circular is this—that my noble Friend makes his case too good, that he leaves neither to his opponent nor to himself a road of retreat, that he does not specify particular portions of the Treaty which may be amended by mutual understanding, but objects to the combined effect of all the parts of the Treaty with so much logical force as to amount to a total revision, 817 perhaps a total rejection, of it. That is the construction put on it in other countries. The question is, how far it is wise that Russia should put such an interpretation on it?—how far is it prudent, as a negotiator, to put Russia herself into this great dilemma, by the publication of a Circular-despatch which has too much the ring of an ultimatum about it? I am no partizan of Russia, nor have I any sympathy with her government or her policy; but I ask your Lordships to consider what the position of Russia at this moment is. During the last two centuries there have been 12 to 13 wars between her and Turkey; and there are, therefore, traditional hatreds, animosities, and bitterness between them—there are a people animated by religious enthusiasm, an Army flushed with success, and an Emperor whose personal honour is bound up with the national credit. Is it likely or reasonable that a great Power, and a successful belligerent, be her cause good or bad, will agree to come to a discussion, if you tell her that you require the whole of this Treaty, on which she prides herself, to be torn up? Should we, under similar circumstances, listen to such an invitation? At the time when the German Armies marched into Paris, would they for a moment have accepted such a proposal? And the cases are not so entirely different. Then there is another point. If we go into the Conference—and the speech of my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack appears to hold out some slight encouragement—if we go into the Conference with that despatch we go there with our hand upon our sword. Is that a wise or prudent course? On the other hand, if we do not go into the Conference then that despatch remains the last word spoken, and an angry word. This is the position at home, whilst abroad we have, as I have more than once said, our Fleet in the Turkish waters and the Russian Army near at hand, both straining in the leash, both ready to come into collision—a hazardous condition of affairs. There is one further point with regard to the Conference which I wish to put before the House, as it seems to me that a great deal turns upon it and that a great deal of misconstruction has arisen out of it. There seems to be a confusion in the popular mind as to what the real power of a Conference is. People constantly 818 speak as if a Conference were a kind of court or judicial tribunal, whereas the fact is that a Conference is an entirely free meeting. It has no power of compulsion and no judicial authority whatever is vested in it. Its whole value is a moral one; its weight arises from the circumstance that the opinions of the different Powers collected together are expressed there. It is, I apprehend, a reluctance on the part of Russia to accept any decision of a Conference as judicially binding upon her that has led on her side to the present difficulty; on the other hand, inasmuch as the Conference has no power of enforcing its views, and as we must rely upon the moral weight of European opinion, it seems for the interest of both parties not to allow a matter of form and procedure to stand in the way. But, after all, these questions are but preliminaries, and there is a much larger question which this Message has to-night raised. Are we really at this moment on the threshold of hostilities or not? That is the main question which must force itself on everyone's mind. Such a question is very much influenced by what the feeling in the country is; and much allusion has been made to that feeling to-night. I am quite aware that there is in the country a certain party who are disposed to rush into war. They are the persons who go into war with light hearts and come out with heavy burdens—with them it is useless and unnecessary to reason. There is, however, a much larger class in this country who, I apprehend, are doubtful and perplexed in mind at the present state of affairs, but who are perfectly ready to go to war if either the honour or the interests of the country require it. They have a suspicion that Russia has been playing us false, that England is being placed in a discreditable position, and that the interests of this country are being seriously jeopardized. I would urge them to inquire calmly before they affirm any one of these propositions. As regards Russia, I am bound to say I do not think Russian diplomacy is by any means so skilful as it is sometimes said to be. The recent despatch with regard to Roumania is sufficient evidence on that point. As regards discrediting this country, I think my noble Friend near me has sufficiently answered that statement. Our alliance is courted, 819 and the unquestioned readiness of the country to go to war is ample proof that there is little discredit attaching to our position; whilst, as regards English interests, I wish those who talk so loudly about them would try to descend from generalities and discriminate between those interests which are really British and those which are merely secondary. If we go to war, what conceivable advantage are we to gain by it? Assuming an unbroken chain of successes, assuming that the crowning success—that Constantinople falls into our hands, what are we do with it? If we were to keep it, it would be necessary to create a machinery for the purpose, and this country would have to submit to sacrifices greater than any which have as yet been dreamt of. If we hand Constantinople over to someone else, we should fall back at once on the Conference, and by the nature of the case be compelled to act in concert with Russia, the very Power with which we shall have been engaged. The real difficulty of the case meets us at every turn. We have to deal with a Government which is absolutely dead, and which has no power of being revivified, side by side with younger, living, and more active communities. Here is a difficulty which will always recur, although you may put it off for the moment. In attempting to overcome it you are fighting against history, the course of which, though you may possibly delay, and which, I believe, you may guide, you cannot turn back any more than you can turn back the rivers to their sources. There is one other point to be observed. If this country should, unhappily, be engaged in hostilities, how different are the circumstances from those that existed when we entered into war some 25 years ago. Look at the altered position of Europe. Then, for months before the Crimean War broke out, we had the whole machinery of collective notes and diplomatic pressure applied, not to Turkey, but to Russia. Now, on the contrary, the whole opinion and the diplomatic pressure of Europe have been exercised, not upon Russia, but upon Turkey. The public opinion of Europe is exactly in the opposite direction from what it then was. Then we had France and Sardinia as Allies, whereas now we neither have an Ally, nor are likely to have one. Lastly, it is impossible to 820 blind ourselves to the serious fact that this country is not now unanimous in favour of war as it was 25 years ago, but that we should now go to war with opinions and feelings broadly divided. I can conceive no greater evil and no greater risk to the country than such a state of things. But, possibly, my Lords, you may say that Russia may be humiliated, and that so far the political and military credit of this country may, by a successful war, be greatly raised. But it is a most dangerous policy in public just as much as it is in private, to seek the humiliation of your opponents. I do not make these criticisms because I am afraid of the material results of war. I am satisfied that the resources of this country are very great, and I should not be afraid in another cause and for other reasons of incurring much greater risk than these. At the same time, I look with undisguised dismay to the idea of any action which shall tend to perpetuate and crystallize all those evil traditional animosities which there was reason to hope were dying out, but which are unquestionably the result and legacy of the last war between this country and Russia. It required two generations to eradicate the jealousies and hatreds engendered by the old French War, and France was then as Russia is now, an object of excessive and irrational animosity. Nor do I desire to pass any censure on Her Majesty's Government. I trust they will not abandon an observance of peace. At the same time, I feel bound to say—and this is my last word—that the ground they are treading on seems to me to be very hollow ground, and that the expedients they are adopting are expedients, to say the least of them, that are very hazardous. My Lords, they have taken upon themselves a great responsibility, but it is one which Parliament must accord to the executive Government under such circumstances as the present. It is as heavy a burden of responsibility as can well be laid upon the shoulders of any men—responsibility to the country, responsibility to the Sovereign, and responsibility to the yet higher tribunal of conscience.
said, he differed considerably from his noble Friends with whom he usually acted—he could not for the life of him conceive why the tone of the debate should have been so 821 entirely warlike. For his part, the attitude which his sense of duty compelled him to take up was one of respect for Treaties—which, as he had said on a previous occasion, were the title deeds of nations. From the first he had maintained that we were bound to follow the lines of the Treaties of 1856 and 1871 until we were released from them; and he was glad to find that this line of policy had been adopted by Her Majesty's Government, as the speech of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Beaconsfield) showed, and that it had not been disputed by a single speaker in the course of the debate, with the exception of his noble and learned Friend below him (Lord Selborne). In following out the lines of those Treaties, he believed they were acting in the simplest and most appropriate manner. We defied no one; we attacked no one; we placed ourselves in the attitude of men who thought that a great wrong had been done, and who were ready to remedy it if called upon to do so by the other signatories to the Treaties. He entirely dissented from those who thought that this country had no Allies; and the reason he did so, was that her attitude was based, not on purely national but on large European interests. Austria, for instance, had still greater interests involved in the Eastern Question than we. He also dissented from the argument of the noble and learned Lord below him (Lord Selborne), that the terms of peace laid down last year were substantially the same as those of the Treaty of San Stefano. In the one case, Russia proposed to submit her conditions to the decisions of a European Conference; in the other, she refused. Looking at the map of Russian conquest in Turkey, who could deny that the European settlement effected by the Crimean War was completely overturned? Who could doubt that the new Province of Bulgaria would pass completely under Russian control, and that, by-and-by, the Russian power would be openly proclaimed from the Black Sea to the Ægean? Some people asked, Why should we go to war? Well, he trusted we should not go to war at all, and he saw nothing whatever in this present act of Her Majesty's Government indicating any intention or desire on their part to go to war. But if we did go to war, we should do so not for any single English interest 822 —we should not go to war for any selfish purpose, but with the object of assisting as far as we could the other European Powers to place those nationalities which had been separated from Turkey under the united influence and power of Europe, instead of the exclusive power of Russia. With regard to the action of Her Majesty's Government, he felt bound to say that, in his opinion, their rigid adherence to the principle of neutrality was one of the great causes of the unfortunate position in which we found ourselves placed. If they had occupied the Straits at the time when Russia crossed the Danube, she would, he believed, have been able to exercise a powerful influence in dictating the terms of peace between Russia and Turkey. In thanking Her Majesty, however, as their Lordships had been called upon to do that evening, an opportunity had been afforded them of at once setting their country right in the face of Europe, and showing that, although in some quarters, her neutrality might have been construed to mean cowardice, she never hesitated when the question was put fairly before her to follow the course of truth and justice. If our Government were to enter a Congress, he hoped they would do so with some hope of a pacific solution of the difficulties with which they would have to deal; but, at the present moment, he did not think a Congress was likely to be attended with any satisfactory results. He would, therefore, rather say with Prince Bismarck, Beati possidentes; never, however, for a moment, giving the sanction of England to a hold over the Provinces of Turkey, which she considered to have been unjustly acquired. Let Russia keep those Provinces by force if she would, but let us tell her that there was a point beyond which she must not go—leaving her with her unjust gains to the execration of Europe.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, that no one could have listened to the debate without feeling that the dread issue of peace and war was trembling in the balance. The noble Earl at the head of the Government has advised a warlike measure, and he has introduced it in a corresponding tone. In almost every speech, indeed, which had been delivered by any Member of the Government, the desire to maintain peace 823 was professed; but from the noble Earl at the head of the Government not only was there no profession of that kind, but that, in discussing the substance of the Treaty of San Stefano, there was a distinct appeal to passion and prejudice. The danger was not diminished when their Lordships heard the reasons—half divulged, half concealed—assigned by the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for resigning the Office he lately held. He did not do so, it appeared, merely because of the calling out of the Army and Militia Reserves, but upon grounds which he did not at present think it right to reveal. The House was, therefore, officially or semi-officially informed that it had not the whole case before it, and that the country was deliberately being led, step by step, to a conclusion the nature of which was concealed from Parliament, and which even those—the Ministers who had lately felt it their duty to leave the Cabinet—are not fully in possession of. Now, there was one remarkable feature in the speech of the noble Earl to which he must refer at once, as in the highest degree significant of the spirit and the intention of the Government. He had said that the noble Earl the Prime Minister referred to the Treaty of San Stefano in language which was nothing else than an appeal to passion and prejudice. For what were the terms in which he described it? First of all, be it observed, that the Circular of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State, in so far as it dealt with the Treaty of San Stefano, dealt with it for a specific purpose—namely, as an argument that it should be submitted to a Congress. But the noble Earl at the head of the Government dealt with it apparently with a different view. What was his language? The Treaty of Europe, he said, abrogates Turkey in Europe. Another expression was, that "it established the vassalage of Turkey." Were they, then, to understand that we were to go to war for the purpose of maintaining the independence of Turkey in Europe? Was that the real case of emergency in the present position of affairs? Now the appreciation of emergency depended very much on the state of mind of the person who had to consider the question. If their Lordships were to come to the consideration of it in the state of mind represented 824 by the language of Mr. Layard, or of others who believed that the independence of Turkey was necessary to English interests and to the maintenance of the Empire, then he could understand that a case of emergency might be made good. If such as he had indicated was the object which the Government had in view, the position of affairs was, indeed, one of the most pressing emergency, and it would be necessary to call out not only the Reserves of the Army and Militia, but to embody the Militia at once, and to give a commission to the illustrious Duke at the head of the Army to prepare at least a force of 200,000 men. If the maintenance of the independence of Turkey was the object of the Government, that object he believed to be unattainable—and he rejoiced that such was the case. His own feeling was that the Sovereign of this country and the Empire of India could live and flourish without the Grand Turk. There were many, however, who identified themselves with the opposite sentiment, and he confessed he had felt humiliated when the other night he heard a murmur of relief and delight at the announcement that the Turkish Fleet had not been handed over to Russia. Now, his own belief was that if those six old iron-clads had been delivered to Russia, Admiral Hornby would be able to give a very good account of them, and he felt no particular delight at the fact that Russia had not got that little Fleet to waste future years in idleness. The House might depend upon it that Russia would not waste in future as much time as she had done since 1871 in building a Fleet in the Black Sea. She will in a short time put as powerful a Naval Force there as Turkey now had. No English interest would suffer if the Turkish Empire in Europe was brought to a final end, and that opinion was deliberately expressed by the Duke of Wellington in the height of his power, for he said it was a pity that in 1829 the Russians had not taken Constantinople. He regretted that the noble Earl the Prime Minister had used the language he had used in regard to the Treaty of San Stefano. He began his detailed criticism of the Treaty by saying that "every material stipulation is a departure from the Treaty of 1856." Now he (the Duke of Argyll) must confess that he did not, on reading the 825 Circular of the present Foreign Secretary, attach the grave meaning to it that had been assigned to it in the Press and on the Continent; for he remembered that its author represented England at the Constantinople Conferences, the proposals of which were in principle quite as much a departure from the Treaty of 1856 as were the Articles of the San Stefano Treaty. Those proposals included a foreign occupation of Bulgaria, and, when Belgian soldiers could not be had, the noble Marquess proposed that England should occupy it. Was Russia to be satisfied after the war with terms less severe than those proposed before it? The difference was, those terms were proposed by Europe and these by Russia—a difference which no one regretted more than he did. But whose fault was that? We refused to help her in pressing reforms on the Porte, and could we be surprised at the inevitable consequence of our own act and folly? On the 30th of December, General Ignatieff proposed that the Powers should sign a common Note of the terms they agreed to impose on the Porte; but, when the noble Marquess telegraphed for leave to sign it, the Government refused to commit themselves by granting such permission. That was the conduct which had thrown the whole question of Eastern Europe into the hands of Russia. It was their own faint-heartedness that had done it all, and it was too late to threaten war with Russia to maintain those Treaties intact. He agreed with noble Lords opposite that the exclusive protection by Russia of the Christian subjects of the Porte was open to the gravest and most serious objection; but this was among those very conditions which diplomacy would be sure to reach in a Conference with the Powers. With regard to the technical point on which the Conference had been broken up, he thought the Government had been perfectly right to demand that the whole of the Treaty should be placed before the Congress; but when they asked if she accepted discussion on every part of the Treaty, they really asked her to say that there was no part of the Treaty on which she was not open to negotiation. They had no right to ask Russia to make that declaration. He could not but express great surprise that the Government had not accepted 826 the proposal of Germany of a preliminary Conference to consider what parts of the Treaty should be discussed. His own belief was that a good understanding would have arisen from such a discussion. With regard to the warlike measures, of which they had heard tonight, he must congratulate his noble Friend the noble Marquess on his new discovery that England could do something in bombarding Stamboul. When he (the Duke of Argyll) urged on the Government the duty of insisting that Turkey should adopt the reforms proposed at the Conference, the noble Marquess asked—"What would you have us do? We have only got a Fleet—did the noble Duke propose that we should bombard Stamboul?" Well, the noble Marquess now proposed to bombard Stamboul; but if Government had acted vigorously against Turkey, when she was admitted to be the delinquent of Europe, the position of the Fleet in the waterways of Constantinople would have been an effectual estoppel of the war—Turkey would not have got her Egyptian contingent nor her Asiatic levy, and they would have gained all the objects they proposed at Constantinople, which were sacrificed by their faint-heartedness. He need not repeat the arguments which the noble Earl the late Foreign Secretary had used to-night as to the military difficulty in which they were now placed. They were taking warlike measures when the enemy was not in the gate, but in the fortress. He listened some weeks ago with great interest to the graceful courtesies which passed between his noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon) and the head of the Government. He heard his noble Friend explain the language which he had used to a now celebrated deputation when he said that a repetition of the Crimean War would have been little less than insanity. His noble Friend went on to say that, though he did not apply that language to the Crimean War when it did break out, yet he was bound to say, looking to the present condition of Europe, he failed to see what effect the Treaties that followed it had had. That reminded him of an officer who had been told off to defend some strong place, and who, in consultation with his comrades, came to the conclusion that it was better to evacuate the place than to 827 fight. When they were descending the hill, every foot of which ought to have been a field of battle, he looked back upon the sky line and saw the columns of the enemy filing into the place. Then, like Nelson in one respect, but unlike him in another, he lifted up his glass to his blind eye, and said he failed to see why the engineers erected that strong place at all. But those who made the Treaty of 1856 thought that their strong place would be held by a garrison who would have defended it against any odds. He turned now for a moment to the other Articles of the Treaty of San Stefano, and would refer to the two cessions of territory mentioned in it. With regard to the cession of Bessarabia, he was bound to say that it was an eminently shabby thing to be proposed by the Russian Government. At a moment when the Russian Army was discouraged, repulsed, and almost defeated by the gallant Osman Pasha, the Roumanian Army was undoubtedly a most effective contingent, and the success of the Russian arms at the time was mainly due to the assistance of Roumania. It was a bad return to brave comrades-in-arms to demand from them territory which had been in their possession for many years, and which had been accustomed to some sort of Constitutional government. He hoped that second thoughts, and the magnanimity and good feeling of the Emperor of Russia would induce him to forego that, demand. He understood the personal feeling which had led to the demand. No doubt, in that terrible Crimean War, which brought the proudest head in Europe with sorrow to the grave, the Russian people had to yield up what they now claimed, and they wished to vindicate the memory of their Czar. But, though such feelings were natural, there were other considerations which ought to weigh with them, and this was precisely a matter with respect to which in a Congress Russia was not likely to prevail. But, with regard to Armenia, he was bound to say frankly that, considering the immense sacrifices which Russia had made, the small cession of Armenia which she demanded was much less than she might have been expected to ask for. He denied that any European or English interest was concerned in that cession. His noble Friend based his objection to the Treaty of San Stefano 828 upon what was done in 1871. But the case, which actually arose in 1871, was that Russia, without war, chose to declare that she was no longer bound by the Treaty of 1856. The Declaration of 1871 had no reference to a case like the present. People never said that they desired war. What they desired was that some other Power should give them something which they knew would never be yielded without war. If it were their determination to tear up the Treaty of San Stefano altogether, and to denounce it in the unmeasured language which had been used to night by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, that would be equivalent to telling Russia that, after her immense sacrifice of blood and treasure, we considered every part of the Treaty to be objectionable. Then, he said we would be obliged to go to war, and we would go to war under circumstances of every conceivable difficulty. We would have no Ally in Europe; and one of the immediate results of our conduct would be that the Russians would take possession of Constantinople. Before sitting down, he wished to say that the result of every consideration he could give to this question was that no settlement could be hoped which rested upon maintaining in any degree the independence of the Ottoman Porte. The sooner the Porte was dead and buried, as a European Power, the better. He was not talking of the individual Turk. Well, there was a great difference between the government of the Pashas and the Mahomedan population. He would not deprive any Mahomedan of a single acre he possessed; but, on the contrary, he would protect him from one of the worst governments that ever existed. If we entered into a war with Russia for any of the reasons adduced to-night, and above all, if we entered into a war out of mere spite and hatred, for the purpose of destroying her influence, all he could say was—" The blood be on your heads, not on ours."
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Duke who has just sat down has, of late, delighted to apply the powers of his distinguished eloquence to the interpretation of Treaties, and I cannot help regretting that he does not collect some of those interpretations into a book—for such a gem of International Law assuredly does not exist. The other night 829 he made a speech, the resources and eloquence of which I could not help admiring through all the fallacies by which it was distinguished, in which the thesis he sustained was, that whereas in the Treaty of 1856 Russia had promised to respect the independence and integrity of the Porte, the only party which had broken the Treaty of 1856 was the unfortunate Porte itself. To-night, the noble Duke, after telling us that the Treaty of 1856 was intended to be worked by other men, and that those who prepared it—that is to say, I suppose, Lord Palmerston—would have insisted upon going to war for the purpose of coercing the Turk—a piece of posthumous criticism which, on Lord Palmerston's behalf, I venture to repudiate. The noble Duke now applies himself to the interpretation of the Treaty in the framing of which he had a distinguished share—namely, the Treaty of 1871. In that Treaty the Powers of Europe declare that no one Power has the right to depart from existing Treaties without the leave of the other contracting Powers. One would imagine that Russia had done something of that kind in the Treaty of San Stefano. But it appears that we were entirely wrong. It appears that the only thing the Government of 1871 objected to was one Power doing it pacifically. If a Power went to war and would only violate the homes and properties of the persons with whom it quarrelled, then it was at liberty to violate as many Treaties as it pleased. After that interpretation, coming from so authoritative a source, I am somewhat surprised at the tones of self-gratulation with which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) referred to that achievement of his diplomatic skill. My Lords, the noble Duke is a man of vivid imagination, and the pictures which his imagination produces fix themselves indelibly on his mind. Unfortunately, a year and a-half ago, he was induced to devote his attention to the question of the Turk, and the Turk has become for him what the Jesuit is to some other persons we have known. He sees the Turk in every question. The fate of the Turk is the test to him of whether any policy is right or wrong. The poor Turk is in a bad way. I had hoped, if only from regard for the splendid valour he had shown, and from compassion for his misfortunes, which, whether deserved or not, have undoubtedly been marvellously 830 intense, the Turk, with his merits and demerits, might have been banished from our debates—at least, for a time; certainly, they can have very little influence in the issues which we have now to try. But as the noble Duke has thought fit to refer to him, and has gone at some length into a criticism of the Conference at Constantinople, I must, in my own defence, say a word or two on that subject. I assure the noble Duke that the sentiments at the Conference—and I take the liberty of observing that my sentiments at the Conference represented the sentiments of Her Majesty's Government—and my sentiments now are as strong as any by which I have ever been actuated, and I entirely refuse to acknowledge that in anything to which I have given my consent, or to which I have ever been a party, in regard to the Eastern Question, there is the slightest departure from the sentiments which I have always expressed. But though I desired, and desired intensely, as my Colleagues did, the welfare of the subject Christian populations of the Porte, I was never prepared to allow this proposition—which has passed into an axiom on the other side—that there could be no happiness and no good government for any of those populations unless they were subject to the government of Russia. That is a doctrine which may be urged for or against—I do not propose to enter into it—but I decline to admit, that though we demur to the unlimited extension of Russian influence over populations which are not by religion or race related to Russia, we are, therefore, indifferent to their welfare. Now, as to the Conference at Constantinople. The noble Duke lends the weight of his authority to a suggestion which I have seen elsewhere—that this huge Bulgaria, which is the great blot of the Treaty of San Stefano, derives some authority from the Conference at Constantinople. Well, the Conference of Constantinople agreed, in the first place, to impose nothing upon the Porte. It proposed certain things for the acceptance of the Porte; but it differed from the Treaty of San Stefano in this—that whatever was done was to be done exclusively by the consent of all the signatory Powers. Further than this, the Conference at Constantinople constructed, not one Bulgaria, but two Provinces of Bulgaria. In one of those 831 Provinces the Slav element would have preponderated; in the other the Slav element would have been in a minority; and the mass of the Greek population, as well as the shores of the Euxine and the Ægean, would have been in the hands of that Province in which the Slav element did not preponderate. Again, the Conference took abundant security for the local self-government and the good government of the different populations, but it did not destroy the political or military authority of the Porte—the governors of these Provinces, subject to certain conditions, were still to have been appointed by the Porte, so that those Provinces would still have remained a barrier to invasion from without. Now, all these provisions which were proposed at the Conference at Constantinople, were as far removed as possible from the provisions for this large Bulgaria which form such a serious item in the Treaty of San Stefano. My Lords, the Conference at Constantinople passed away. The Turk, by his extraordinary folly, neglected the chance of safety which the English Government held out to him. Well, my Lords, I will not follow the noble Duke into his reflections upon the way in which England, as he says, might have prevented the late war. He imagines the case of the English Fleet preventing the passage of Turkish troops from the Asiatic to the European side of the Bosphorus, while the Russians march on Constantinople. Well, has the noble Duke's imagination ever carried him further, and enabled him to see what the Russians would have done when they got there? It would have been no worse then than now, no doubt, except to this extent, that we should then have had Russia fresh, instead of Russia weary. In any case, it would have been an enterprize into which England, a party to the Treaty of Paris, could not have entered safely. Besides, at the time to which the noble Duke refers, it is doubtful whether it could have secured the support of one-tenth of the Members of either House of Parliament. Well, the Conference passed away, and at the commencement of the war we thought it necessary to define the conditions of our neutrality, and to lay down certain points by which that neutrality would be compromised if passed. The noble Duke, and several other speakers, seem to hold that those conditions constituted 832 the only things that we were to care about in the whole of South-Eastern Europe and in Western Asia. When the war passed, our neutrality ceased. Neutrality is a state of things which never exists except in war. When neutrality ceased, the conditions on which it had been founded passed away as well. When we agreed upon the conditions of our neutrality, we were not contemplating any such instrument as the Treaty of San Stefano. At that time we had, unexplained and undiminished, an assurance from a high and authoritative quarter that no territorial annexation was intended. When, later, in July, that assurance was qualified by the insertion of Bessarabia and Batoum, we were then assured that all the conditions of peace would be settled in a Conference. It was not necessary for us then to go forward and to determine what we should do when that Conference met. It was enough for us that the Conference was admitted, that these pledges had been given, and that we had adhered to a most loyal and honest performance of the neutrality which we had promised to observe. But we reserved to ourselves the right of having a voice in the final settlement of affairs. The noble Duke has dwelt a good deal upon this—that it is impossible for us to ask Russia to abandon all the results of the war. No such demand has been advanced on our side. What we have said is this—that all the conditions of the peace form a united and connected whole, that we would not consider any unless we were to consider and discuss all of them, and that the withdrawing any one Article from discussion would be to distort the discussion on the whole of the Treaty put together. I will not dwell on the sort of semi-vindication by my noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Selborne) with respect to the demand made by Russia on Roumania. I can only say that the truth of the statement is guaranteed by the Roumanian agent, and that we have no official knowledge, of its being denied by the Russian Chancellor. If we had such knowledge it would be our unpleasant duty to determine each in his own mind to whom the most credit was due—the Russian Chancellor, or the Roumanian agent. I am very much pleased to think that on me, at all events, that duty does not fall. Another most remarkable 833 event this evening was, no doubt, the speech of my noble Friend who preceded me in the Office which I now have the honour to hold (the Earl of Derby). It was the most remarkable speech I ever heard in either House of Parliament, for I never before heard one who was a Cabinet Minister speak so freely of that which passed in the Cabinet. I listened to the speech of my noble Friend with ever-increasing astonishment. I would, however, represent to him, that statements of matters which have passed in Cabinets involve the opinions of others, and must be exceedingly unsatisfactory to those who are without, because no record is made of that which is said in Cabinets. My noble Friend's recollection seems to be very active. I have no right to assume that his memory is worse than mine, nor have I any right to ask anybody to believe him rather than me. I only cite the difference of opinion between us for the purpose of relying on the Constitutional practice that such matters should not be mentioned in public. My Lords, my noble Friend pointed out several measures of the Government to which in the public eye he was an assenting party. He did not, he said, in reality assent to all; one was a compromise, while to another, he was persuaded by some observations which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which appeared to be founded on a mistake. Now, my Lords, am I not defending a great Constitutional principle, when I say that, for all that passes in a Cabinet, each Member of it who does not resign is absolutely and irretrievably responsible, and that he has no right afterwards to say that he agreed in one case to a compromise, while in another he was persuaded by one of his Colleagues. Consider the inconvenience which will arise if such a great Constitutional law is not respected. Supposing all the Members of Cabinets were to rip up the history of their proceedings, and to ask who was responsible for this inaction or that neglect—a question which it might be impossible to answer—what, I should like to know, would be the result? It is, I maintain, only on the principle that absolute responsibility is undertaken by every Member of a Cabinet who, after a decision is arrived at, remains a Member of it, that the joint responsibility of 834 Ministers to Parliament can be upheld, and one of the most essential conditions of Parliamentary responsibility established. I make these observations because my noble Friend placed an interpretation on the Circular which, if it is thought to be a portion of his revelations as a Member of the Cabinet, may do considerable harm. I am bound to protest against such a misrepresentation, and to tell the House the real state of the case. My noble Friend suggested that the arguments employed in the Circular were intended by us at one time to be instructions to our Representative at the Conference. It would be wholly unfit—it would give rise to most serious misapprehension, and would be entirely inconsistent with the position taken up, if we were to admit that particular account of the origin of those arguments to be true. Of course, my noble Friend is as much entitled to affix to them any character he pleases as any other Member of your Lordships' House who speaks entirely outside the Cabinet. But, I am forced to point out that, in the present instance, my noble Friend could not reveal anything which passed within it on this point, because he knew nothing whatever about it. The instructions were not given to me to prepare the Circular till after my noble Friend had left the Cabinet. What, therefore, its intention was, he could only judge, and I am bound to say that the particular interpretation which he attaches to it has no validity whatsoever. My noble Friend spoke of the Circular as "tearing up the Treaty of San Stefano;" and I think my noble Friend the late Colonial Secretary, whose speech was conceived in a very kindly spirit towards the Government, and of whose criticisms I have not the slightest right to complain, appeared to read it in the same sense. I have to thank one of my opponents for a much truer reading. The noble Duke who spoke last (the Duke of Argyll) argued that the one purpose of the Circular was to show that the Treaty must be considered as a whole, and that no part of it could be considered by itself; and the speech of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) sustained the same thesis; and the notion of tearing up the Treaty has as little foundation in his case as in my own. This misconception with respect to the Treaty has pervaded the 835 debate. Another misconception has done so equally, and it is that there is anything warlike in the step we are taking. The noble Lord who spoke last but one (Lord Houghton) seemed to have a clear and sound view upon the subject; but I am afraid it will afflict him to know that anyone agrees with him. Our position is not a warlike position; we are simply taking measures of precaution. Are you prepared to say that you will never take them unless you are resolved on war, or contemplate the certainty of war? No one in this House would maintain so impossible a position. But what must strike the most favourable critic of Russian proceedings is that, during the last few weeks, we have drifted away considerably from Treaty landmarks. What is it that saves all the nations in Europe from the duty of maintaining their military preparations at the highest point of efficiency and from the necessity of being always in a condition of absolute precaution? What is it but the existence of International Law and respect for Treaty rights? When they are disregarded—when International Law loses its force—you revert to an older and a simpler condition of society—the condition where each man depends for his safety upon his own strong right arm. It would be an exaggeration to state that, even in respect of South-East Europe, we have arrived at that condition; but, in proportion as the guarantees of Treaties have been withdrawn, it has been our duty, and it will continue to be the duty of the Government, to take all necessary precautions. These precautions do not involve any settled design of war, still less any menace to any Power in the world. My noble Friend the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used language implying a doubt whether any of the objects called in question by the Treaty of San Stefano would be worth the risk of a war. It is difficult to imagine, on abstract principles, what is worth a war. You must consider the state of public feeling; you must consider the proceedings of which the individual act you complain of forms a part; you must have regard to the character of the Power by whom the act is done; you must have regard to the character of the nations among whom the act is done. At all events, my noble Friend has furnished me with a standard by which I 836 can judge. I remember to have heard him say in this House that we had declared that the occupation of Constantinople would be a casus belli. I do not know precisely under what conditions my noble Friend consented to that view; but, having been that of the Cabinet, it must be taken to be his view, and I will ask any sensible man whether the possession of Constantinople is more threatening to English interests than the possession of the Ægean Sea? Everyone must be aware of the extraordinary difficulty under which a person in my position must speak under a crisis such as this. I hope I have avoided any language which could be construed into the language of menace. I hope I have also avoided gratifying the curiosity of noble Lords opposite as to what it is we intend to do. I feel at the present moment I need only rely upon that word "precaution;" being quite sure that if ever the time should come which should turn precaution into more active measures, the spirit of Englishmen will supply what is wanting and will dissipate all petty cavils into the air. My noble Friend the late Colonial Secretary spoke of a friend who regarded Russia with as much abhorrence as if she were about to take away his books and pictures. I venture to hope that there are things more important in the world than the loss of books and pictures. I venture to hope that the people of this country, in spite of their views of material prosperity, still recognize national sentiments leading to exertions and to self-sacrifices for the sake of which, if the need should arise, they must renounce for the moment the enjoyment of that prosperity itself. How far off that occasion may be it is not for me to say. I earnestly hope—nay, I may say, I have ground for hoping—it is not within the ken of the present generation; but if it be not, depend upon it it will not be because Englishmen are not stiff and determined in the assertion of their legitimate rights and the maintenance of their ancestral honour. Englishmen are moderate, careful to avoid unnecessary offence, slow to come to a dangerous and violent conclusion, and tenacious and resolute when the conclusion has once been arrived at; and such qualities and spirit I hope you will find in the Government of this country, whoever it may be that sit on this bench. 837 We have, undoubtedly, inherited great duties. We are bound to foster the aspirations of the rising races of the South-East of Europe; we are bound to consolidate their nationalities; and in their patriotism, in their love of their own traditional history and past glories, to find a security for future stability and peace. But we have more important interests than all these. We are trustees for the British Empire. We have received that trust with all its strength, all its glory, all its traditions; and the one thing we have to care for is that we pass them untarnished to our successors.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he had listened with great satisfaction to the latter part of the speech of the noble Marquess. He was not by any means a member of the Peace-at-any-price Party, but he was glad to hear the noble Marquess's disclaimer—that his despatch was in effect the "tearing to pieces" the San Stefano Treaty. At the same time, he thought the Government had shown great inconsistency in their conduct with reference to the Eastern Question. They appeared to think that the British Empire was in danger from the preponderance of Russia. The noble Marquess said the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) was alarmed at the bugbear of Turkey; but the Government were alarmed at the bugbear of Russia. They might have gone to war for Turkey—that would have been an intelligible policy. Another, and perhaps the wisest, policy would have been to join Russia in insisting that Turkey should reform her administration—but we did not do so; we proclaimed absolute neutrality, which he thought was a great mistake. Now it seemed that we found it to be our duty to defend Treaty rights, and England alone was to maintain them. But he thought the noble Duke was to a great extent justified—for he did not go with him altogether—in the view which he took of the Treaty of 1871. Russia, no doubt, was not entitled of her own free will to set aside Treaties made with other Powers; but, at the same time, the occurrence of a great war must modify those Treaties. The noble Marquess said that no country in Europe could enjoy happiness if it came under Russian government. Neither his noble Friend nor himself had any desire that those people should come 838 under Russian government; but he did not believe that the granting of autonomy to Bulgaria meant necessarily the extension of Russian government to that Province. If it were not so late, he would refer in proof of that position to the despatches of the noble Marquess, who had stated that there was no instance of any people wishing to come under Russian government. There was the most conspicuous proof of that in the case of Roumania. He would admit the Treaty of San Stefano required modification in some parts; but he regretted that the action of Her Majesty's Government in this matter had been marked by haste and precipitation. There was a real difficulty as to the submission of the whole Treaty to the Congress; but, after all, the divergence was not on the face of it hopeless. The Russians by no means had said that they would withdraw any particular part of the Treaty—they had merely laid it down that they would not pledge themselves to take part in the discussion of any part of the Treaty. He thought this was a matter which might have been settled by a preliminary interview between the Ministers of the different Powers. It would have been an interview "without prejudice," to use a legal phrase. The Ministers would probably have discovered in the course of conversation the points which the Russians were anxious to withdraw from the Congress, and they would have been able to determine whether those points ought to be brought before the Congress. What possible harm could have come of such a preliminary interview? It was a matter of regret that this course was not adopted as an expedient by which the difficulty might have been smoothed away. The late Minister of Foreign Affairs had stated that we were not drifting, but rushing into war, and the noble Earl at the head of the Government had made a speech full of power, eloquence, and fire, and calculated to rouse the passions of the people of this country; but this was a matter which ought to be discussed with calmness and not with passion. The danger was that neither the English nor the Russian people would be actuated by policy, and that they would be driven on by passion. Those who mixed much with men at the present time knew that many persons laid it down as a general 839 proposition that a check must be given to the growing power of Russia. Surely nothing could be more insane than to rush into war for such a purpose as this. No doubt we might be successful—we might do Russia great damage; but Russia could not be reduced from the position of a great Power—she was a great nation, and could not be obliterated. She must always continue to exercise great power and influence. Then, was it not reasonable to endeavour to come to an understanding with her? The war could not be a naval war, and he would ask whether the country had ever gone to war without an Ally? It was extremely inconvenient that they should have at the commencement of the Session declarations of unanimity in the Cabinet, when unanimity to the extent implied did not exist.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
I never in any way conveyed that the Cabinet was unanimous. The words I used were that our policy had never changed—that it had always been the same—namely, conditional neutrality.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, no doubt the noble Earl was correct in what he said, but still an erroneous impression was created, and it would have been better under the circumstances had the noble Earl refrained from referring to the matter at all. The noble Marquess had taken on himself the task of rebuking the late Foreign Secretary for his revelation as to the divergences of the Cabinet. He would suggest to the noble Marquess that, on the one hand, if it was inconvenient to make revelations as to the divergences of the Cabinet, it was also extremely inconvenient to have assertions made in the House about the unanimity of the Cabinet. The noble Marquess spoke very slightingly of the word of one of the principal Ministers of Europe.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If the noble Earl alludes to Prince Gortchakoff, he had always spoken with the greatest possible respect of Prince Gortchakoff.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the noble Marquess had spoken of the divergences of opinion between Prince Gortchakoff and the agent of Roumania. Hypothetical questioning of the assertions said to have been made by the Foreign Minister of one country by 840 the Foreign Minister of another country was not prudent. He was perfectly certain that the noble Marquess did not intend to impute untruthfulness to Prince Gortchakoff in the smallest degree, and he was sure the noble Marquess would be obliged to him for referring to the words he used.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, that nothing was further from his intention than to make any attack on Prince Gortchakoff's honour. He should be very foolish to do so, because he had had a very short experience of the noble Lord.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, with regard to the broad question at issue, he hoped the Government would pause before they involved this country in war, and that they would not embark in war on such a chimerical notion as that a Russian army might march through the Syrian desert to Egypt.
My Lords, the speech of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) to your Lordships' House on resigning Office has given rise to an almost universal feeling of regret and surprise. Instead of following the usual course adopted on such occasions, of observing silence, or of tendering to Parliament the explanations which he considered due to himself, and which would, at the same time, have safeguarded the State interests, foreign and domestic, concerned in his retirement from Office, the noble Earl, in his speech, of which it is difficult to say whether the indiscretion, the breach of confidence, or the inconsistency are the greatest, has, by publishing and making Cabinet information and affairs which are held by all Governments to be perfectly confidential, the subject of Parliamentary debate, compromised those State interests in the most dangerous and critical phase of the Oriental Question that has ever come under the consideration of a British Government. I should be sorry to impute bad intent to my noble Friend. I believe that the very trying state of affairs, his political failures, and the painful feelings which he describes, of entertaining views which he knew were unpopular among the great body of his Friends, have led his better judgment astray. But let that be as it may, the unfavourable result is the same. The noble Earl has done injustice to his country and to an ancient and good Ally, amongst the numerous classes who are 841 not well informed of the true state of affairs, and assisted Russian policy in essential respects—firstly, by his announcement that England has only one Ally, Austria, and that for the reasons he alleges she is a useless one; secondly, by his declaration that—Those who profess admiration for Turkey, those who lament the fall of the Turkish Empire, are out of Court. You might have kept that Empire alive for a time, but you cannot now restore it.My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would be the last person to wish to do so. "England would not allow it, and all Europe would be against it;" thirdly, that the present crisis of Eastern affairs does not justify the calling out of the Reserves. As regards the first point, that Austria is our only Ally, but that in case of a war she would practically be of no use to England, the noble Earl adduces three reasons in support of this opinion—firstly, that Austria is composed of "two independent nations pulling different ways." To this I beg to reply, that Austria and Hungary cannot be called independent, when in many cases they must depend on one another, and when both are under the same Sovereign; that under the present form of government the revolutionary spirit which formerly arrayed Hungary against Austria, has not re-appeared, has died out. The noble Earl's second reason is "the Austrian Army could not be trusted against the Slavs." Everybody in this country will condemn and regret this unwarrantable assertion of the noble Earl, respecting the Austrian Army; conspicuous as it is in history equally for its loyalty and discipline, called in question by the noble Earl, as for its steadfast bravery. Such an opinion evinces as much bad taste as it does ingratitude, coming from the noble Earl, who, speaking on his authority as late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, informs us that, "if we are to seek with success for an Ally on the Continent, Vienna is the quarter to which we must look." Thirdly, as regards the noble Earl's opinion that Austria's financial difficulties stand in the way of her success in the field, the example of Russia having, with as great, if not more embarrassed finances, carried on, at an enormous expense, successful campaigns in different 842 quarters of the globe, with armies of unusual strength and at a great distance from home, is a proof that it is not a valid reason against her carrying on successful military operations. And my noble Friend is not borne out in saying that Austria is our only Ally; for, although France could not give England in case of necessity military aid, English policy has, on the other hand, derived most valuable support from the talented and independent articles in the French Press on the Eastern Question. The English Army never forget the gallant support which they received from their faithful Allies, the French Army, in the Crimea, and they are perfectly aware of the political position of France, which would render it difficult at the present time for her to give England more than moral support. I now come to the noble Earl's declaration that Turkey has fallen, and that her recovery is impossible. This declaration of Turkey's dissolution must be a prediction, as Turkey has not fallen; for the Treaty of San Stefano allows Turkey, with Constantinople, to exist, although so reduced by that Treaty in important territories and influences of every description, and so crushed by indemnities which she cannot possibly pay, that if that Treaty, or any modification of that Treaty, which gives Russia an undue preponderance of power in European Turkey, becomes International Law, Turkey and the Eastern balance of power can only be said to exist, as is shown in Lord Salisbury's admirable Circular to foreign Courts, at Russia's pleasure. But, as the noble Earl has ventured on the hazardous ground of prophecy, and what is still more hazardous, on that of the fall of Turkey, which has been fatal to so many political seers, it is apposite to submit to your Lordships a prophecy of a great authority, no less a one than Voltaire, Peter the Great's intimate friend and biographer. Voltaire, writing so long ago as 1696, says—"The time has now come when Peter the Great will raise himself sur les ruines de la Turquie;" but, so far from this prognostication coming to pass, Voltaire had to announce his own failure as a prophet, and he tells us in 1711, 15 years afterwards, that Peter the Great, instead of raising himself on the ruins of Turkey, had, when invading Turkey, been out-manœuvred by a Turkish Army under the Grand Vizier, 843 his communications cut off, and his position commanded by Turkish artillery from surrounding heights. To escape being made prisoner or destroyed with his Army, Peter the Great had to sign a discreditable Treaty, by which he agreed to restore to the Sultan Azoff and Taganrog, strong places which he had taken as bases of maritime operation against Constantinople. Then, again, a great Russian Sovereign, the Emperor Nicholas, predicted to Sir Hamilton Seymour many years ago, that the Sick Man was dying, and that the time had come to divide his inheritance. But, in consistency with the unvarying object of Russian policy to possess Constantinople, the key of the balance of power, His Imperial Majesty stipulated that whatever part of the inheritance, Egypt, &c., England might acquire, Russia must have Constantinople. It is superfluous to observe that, in a strategic and political sense, Constantinople, with the Bosphorus and Dardanelles positions, is of vastly more importance than Egypt or any other position in Turkey. This prophecy remained unfulfilled for nearly 40 years. The Sick Man, instead of dying, was in possession of a formidable iron-clad fleet in 1876, and for the reasons so unanswerably stated in my noble Friend's despatch of the 1st of May, 1876, and which showed that Russia was much more to blame than Turkey, Russia went to war with Turkey. It is of paramount importance to bear in mind those reasons, to which I shall recur again, which were expressed with all the straightforward logic of Lord Palmerston when describing Russian diplomacy. Well, my Lords, Turkey opposed by sea and by land Russia's invasion of Turkey in Europe and in Armenia with such unusual vigour and naval and military resources as showed that the prophecy of the Emperor Nicholas was as fallacious as that of Voltaire in 1696. She had a formidable iron-clad fleet, which gave her the command in the Black and Mediterranean Seas, whilst Russia could not show a ship of war on either, numerous armies, a corps d'armée, which was under Osman Pasha, universally acknowledged to be the best general on either side in the war. Turkish officers are inferior, but the high military qualities of Turkish soldiers have won for them the admiration of the military 844 world. At first the Turkish Army achieved great successes both in Asia Minor and in Europe, and the brilliant and devoted defence by Osman Pasha of Plevna against the united Russian and Roumanian Armies' repeated attacks entitled his services and those of his heroic troops to be mentioned in the annals of undying military fame. Osman Pasha's total defeat and surrender, with the collapse of the Turkish Army, show how completely nations can recover from military overthrows—from Pavia, when Francis I. said "he had lost everything but honour," to "Jena" and "Sedan;" when the total defeats of the two greatest military Powers of the world caused the prostration of Prussia and France. And the argument that Turkey could also recover from her military disasters is the stronger, if the Aulic Council of War had not in its infatuation insisted on Osman Pasha not carrying out his plan, founded on the sound strategy of retiring to a strong position near Sofia, and his reserves and supplies, drawing the enemy away from them. The Russian Army might not have been able to leave the Balkans. But, independently of abortive predictions as to Turkey's collapse, of her recovery when her state was generally considered to be hopeless, it is of the utmost importance for a statesmanlike consideration of the stability of the Turkish Empire, on which the safety depends of the interests of the general peace, and of the interests and rights of the then leading Powers of Europe in the East, to pass in brief review circumstances and causes which prove that great injustice has been done to the Government of Turkey, and particularly to her administration of her Christian populations by Russia's policy and diplomacy of double purpose—one legitimate and avowed, to sign Treaties and compose despatches pledging Russia's support of the integrity and independence of Turkey, and, at the same time, pursuing sedulously the illegitimate and unavowed object of her policy, which is proved by English and Foreign Office records, by Blue Books, to foment disaffection amongst the Porte's Christian subjects, and especially her co-religionists, with a view of discrediting and upsetting the Sultan's Government, and of paving the way to obtaining 845 possession of European Turkey with the Black Sea, Bosphorus, and Dardanelles, or gain a preponderance of influence and strength which must ultimately transfer all of these elements of the balance of power from the Sultan to the Emperor of Russia. I was Her Majesty's Chargé d' Affaires at Constantinople before the Crimean War during Prince Menschikoff's special mission to the Sultan, when he demanded that the Porte should bind herself by a secret Treaty to cede to Russia Turkish rights which Lord Clarendon said would render the Sultan "a mere vassal of Russia." It was only on my acceding to the Porte's solicitation that I should request the Admiral commanding Her Majesty's Fleet, then at Malta, to make his appearance in Turkish waters that the Turkish Government refused to sign the dangerous Treaty. At the same time, Bulgaria was agitated by an encyclical letter from the Synod of the Greek Church at St. Petersburg to the Clergy of the Bulgarian Christian Churches, calling on them to rise for the sake of their holy religion in favour of the Emperor of Russia. The noble Earl himself stated, in debate in 1876, that the insurrectionary movement of the Christian populations in European Turkey was caused "by domestic intrigue, but still more by foreign intrigue." The Blue Books of 1875–6 show that the Russian Consuls excited the intrigues in Bulgaria, which had such disastrous consequences, and English travellers of well-known names addressed reports of these intrigues to the authorities. Two of these gentlemen travelled with a Russian colonel in uniform, who gave them his name, and boasted of the success of his agitation. It is needless to urge that it is impossible that mutual confidence, the basis of good government, can exist between the Sovereign and the subject when the subject is taught that it is a sin to serve the Mohammedan Sovereign, whom Providence has placed over him, and the Sovereign learns from the subject's disaffection and revolt caused by Russian agency that he has forfeited his subject' loyalty and confidence. No one is more aware than myself of the great defects of Turkish administration, of which corruption is a prominent one, and I abhor the spirit of fanaticism and gross injustice of the laws towards the Christians which disfigured their Statute Book. 846 One of my chief diplomatic duties, like those of all Her Majesty's servants in the East, was to protect the Christian subjects of the Porte from the effects of those laws, and to aid, by my continued representations to my superiors, in their abolition. The great object of Lord Palmerston's Eastern policy was to remove these defects, to civilize Turkish administration, and to erase from the Turkish Statute Book intolerant or fanatical laws which interfered with the civil and religious liberty of the Christians or their welfare. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's efforts to carry out these wise and humane instructions were attended with as much success as can be expected in a country under Oriental government; he even succeeded in forming a school of honest and enlightened Turkish statesmen under Rechid Pasha, the Grand Vizier; and Her Majesty's Consuls in Turkey were, at his suggestion, allowed by the Porte to make representations, with the consideration due to Turkish susceptibilities, to the local Turkish authorities in cases when the Sultan's concessions to the Christians were not carried out. The Christians of Turkey appreciated and experienced all the advantages of Rechid Pasha's humane and tolerant government. And the archives of the Embassy and Consulates in Turkey show how constantly and successfully these representations were made and gratefully acknowledged by the Christian communities; but the revision of certain stipulations of the Treaty of Paris of 1856 by the Treaty of London of 1871 was followed by the fall of British and the rise of Russian influence on its ruin. The so-called wicked—it would be more charitable to call him insane—Sultan Abdul-Aziz came completely under Russian influence, and in the train of the Russian Embassy appeared Turkish bankruptcy, a repudiated British loan, and the populations of European Turkey in arms against the Sultan. It was in this worst phase of Turkish misrule that the Bulgarian outrages occurred, as well as the important change of the Treaty of 1856, that the misrule of Abdul-Aziz, acting under the influence of the Russian Embassy, had given a bad name to Turkey which was heightened by his misrule, having done away with the good effects of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's policy, that an English Party spirit under its impassioned 847 leader, with humanity outraged in Bulgaria for its cry, co-operated with Russian diplomacy in attacking the ancient policy of Great Britain in the East; and, with all the eloquence and bitterness of which his powers of oratory were capable, in denouncing and agitating the country against Turkish rule. How entirely, for the time, he succeeded is well known to your Lordships. This unpatriotic alliance weakened the influence of the Government at a moment when, for the good of the country and in the interest of peace, it should have been the strongest, and strengthened the war Party and dangerous Panslavist and secret societies in Russia. The author of this agitation created such a feeling in favour of Russian policy amongst the ill-informed but influential masses, and amongst the higher classes in considerable degree also, that the Eastern policy of England became discredited. I now come to the Conference, and I beg to submit to your Lordships that the Conference in which the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, who had played so very prominent and interested a part in the subject of their deliberations, sat as a member, and naturally a most influential one, was not suited in any way to judge the Eastern Question—firstly, for the reasons stated so clearly by my noble Friend to-night, on giving his opinion of the attributes of a Conference; and, secondly, because even if it had been of the competency of the Conference, none of its members would have allowed the Porte to adduce proof in extenuation of her misrule, of Russia's complicity in the insurrectionary movement amongst the Christian populations of Turkey. The instructions of my noble Friend of the 30th November, 1876, lay down emphatically that the basis of the deliberations of the Conference was to be the integrity and independence of Turkey, which, I need not say, has always been the basis of English Eastern policy. In this sense it is a disappointment to see that, in the telegraphic despatch from Sir Andrew Buchanan to my noble Friend, he states that the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs had informed him that the plan for the Conference was a Russian plan; and, certainly, to say nothing of the withdrawal of the 16 concessions proposed in the first instance to the Porte, the two that remained bore 848 the stamp of General Ignatieff's conception. Both, whether in a legal or equitable point of view, were infractions of the independence of the Sultan. They took out of his hands duties and appointments of his special competency as a Sovereign, and transferred them to foreign authorities. My noble Friend seems to have been aware of this fact, for more than once he states in his instructions that if a better plan could be found he would accept it. I was present in the House when my noble Friend, in answer to a Question, stated that he had given no answer to the Porte; and it cannot be a matter of surprise that the silence with which my noble Friend received the complaint of the Turkish Government must have added to the mortification, caused by the proceedings of the Conference, and inspired them with the conviction that the complaint stated in the Circular to the Powers was unanswerable. This circumstance, and the proceedings of the Conference, engendered an unfavourable feeling in Turkey towards England; and it was this feeling which caused the unpopularity which my noble Friend said necessitated the appearance at Constantinople of Her Majesty's Fleet, for the purpose of protecting British subjects, So much did the Porte feel aggrieved by the Conference proceedings, that they addressed a complaint, in a circular despatch to the signatory Powers, of the treatment to which Turkey had been subjected by them, implying even that the Powers had not treated her with good faith. I need not point out the great disadvantage of Turkey entering the dangerous category of alienated friends. Amongst all the causes which I have submitted, which contributed to make Turkey and her administration unpopular in and out of England, none came near the effects produced by the Bulgarian outrage agitation, which has exercised a dangerous feeling against our Alliance with Turkey, and the support we give her in order that she may protect our all-important interest in the East—that is, our communications with India, our possession of that country, and our rights in the Mediterranean. I will not enlarge upon the dangerous influence which such a feeling may exercise upon the Government of Turkey, who hold the equipoise of power in the East in their hands, which is a necessity 849 for the support of our rights in the East, as well as those of Austria and France, and, I may add, for the interests of Christianity in the East, the effect of which has been to lessen in many and influential quarters the desire to uphold a Government so universally condemned. It is true that a re-action has taken place in favour of England's former policy in the East; but the anti-Turkish Party in this country, although weakened, are equally active in and out of Parliament in incessantly dwelling on and re-asserting the opinions in the pamphlet on Bulgarian outrages that the inherent vices of the Turks disqualify them for government, especially of Christians, and they endeavoured to strengthen these arguments by pointing to the defeat of the Turkish arms, which must be followed by the fall of Turkey as a nation. I have already shown that history proves that military defeats, however serious, and of the greatest military nations, have not prevented their resuming their former position in the world, and I shall now adduce official facts which prove that Russian cruelties were worse than those committed by Bashi-Bazouks, because committed by Russian regular troops and officers, and that greater intolerance has been displayed by Russia towards her own Christian subjects than Turkey was ever guilty of, certainly in latter times, towards her rayahs. The author of the Bulgarian agitation must have been officially aware that Lord Raglan assembled a court of inquiry to investigate the charges that Russian soldiers, acting under command, had committed a crime which made humanity turn pale and chivalry hang its head by assassinating no less than eight English officers lying helpless and wounded on the field at the battle of Inkerman. Then there is of a recent date the general order of the Russian Commander-in-Chief in Central Asia that men, women and children of a Turcoman tribe were to be put to the sword. The Correspondence of Her Majesty's Embassy and Consuls in Asia, presented to Parliament, record the prosecution by the Russian Government of Russian subjects of the United Greek Roman Catholic Church, which I must think have not been equalled in severity by the conduct of the Turkish Government; and there cannot be a better or more practical proof of this 850 than the fact that the late virtuous head of the Roman Catholic Church openly declared that he would prefer that his congregations should be under Turkish than Russian rule. There are equally as official proofs that the Montenegrins, who are the most favoured people of Russia in the East, are not inferior to Bashi-Bazouks in cruelty. This is a clear refutation of the cry that Turkey's misrule has no parallel; but, my Lords, who can deny that many European and Christian Governments present a parallel? In fact, I may say, where is the Government which is not discredited by atrocities or misrule in some portion of their dominion? I could name Christian countries in which travelling is not so secure by any means as in Turkey, where, except in the districts bordering on robber tribes—Kurds, Arabs, &c.—single travellers may journey in security. I have arrived at my noble Friend's observation, that "the present crisis of Eastern Affairs does not justify the calling out of the Reserves," and to his query—"What are you fighting for?" I should have thought that the noble Earl's despatch of the 1st of May, 1876, and Lord Salisbury's late unanswerable Circular would have rendered this inquiry unnecessary; but, as this is not the case, I venture on a few words which will show the emergency of the political situation. The present threatening military position of Russia, with virtual command of Constantinople and of the Bosphorus, endangers the equipoise of power which protects the safety of British, Austrian, and French interests in the East. This circumstance, together with the antecedents of Russian policy up to the present day, I venture to call "an emergency." But it is apposite to observe that England, Austria, and France entertain no apprehensions of the aggrandizing or ambitious policy of the Porte. A long experience has taught them that the Sultan is a trustworthy tenant of his great trust—that is, the territories and waters under Ottoman rule, of vast strategical, naval and military, commercial and political, importance. It is, my Lords, this safe guardianship of this all-important trust, whose integrity and independence is guaranteed by the Christian Powers, which bears the name of the much-used, but ill-understood, name of the equipoise of power. This is not what my noble 851 Friend says Her Majesty's Government are fighting for, because England is not fighting, is not at war with Russia. England is only taking most justifiable military and naval precaution to protect from impending danger Ottoman territories and waters which she has engaged, with the signatory Powers, to uphold. I have been frequently asked, my Lords, the cause of apprehension of Russian's possession of Constantinople; and the strategical answer is that, if Russia were in possession of Constantinople, she would lose no time in making the Dardanelles stronger than Cronstadt, which one of our best Fleets could not a few years ago approach, much less attack. With plated armour, modern defences, and rifled artillery, efficient land defences are now proved to be able to resist, as a rule, attacks from the sea. She would concentrate a Fleet of iron-clads in the Black Sea, which would remain there in safety, protected by the Dardanelles, till English Fleets—I am speaking of the case of war between England and Russia—have been called away from the Mediterranean to distant seas by the necessities of the service, when she would leave the Dardanelles with a force of iron-clads and transport ships with requisite troops. An iron-clad Fleet without transports, and steaming at the rate of nine knots an hour, would steam from the Dardanelles to the Suez Canal in 70 hours, where hulks would be sunk to block up the canal, a descent made by the troops at a strategical point on the coast, and entrench. I venture to think, my Lords, I have said enough to show the vast importance of the Turkish dominions for the security of the rights and interests of England, Austria, and France, whose policy in the East is as legitimate as it is avowed and honest. Their rights and interests are, it is clear, not the same, as they are geographically different in some respects; but they are perfectly identical as regards their common object—the balance of power—which is the Turkish equipoise for the protection of their different rights and interest. Under all the circumstances that are stated in my speech, it is impossible that I can agree in any way with my noble Friend either as to England's giving up Turkey or the irreconcilable fall of Turkey, cannot sufficiently express my astonishment that my noble Friend should have made so extraordinary a statement, which 852 is in contradiction with all the opinions which he, all the Governments, all the eminent statesmen who have filled the Office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, have hitherto held as incontrovertible, and almost everybody who is animated with patriotism and the desire that England should not lapse from being a leading nation of the world into a second or third-rate Power. The most statesmanlike Circular of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, supported by a united Cabinet which asserts the rights of Treaties with a vigour and a thorough knowledge of the value of the English and European rights which they protect—induces the conviction that the Treaty of San Stefano will be replaced by a Treaty which will maintain the peace of the world, and protect the liberties, independence, and rights of the nations of the European family. These convictions are strengthened by the policy of the present Government, which can alone avert that general conflagration, that chaos, that war, and disunion among the nations of the world which the wisest politicians and statesmen have always foreseen would ensue from the fall of Turkey and the partition or spoliation of its coveted inheritance; and that amongst these calamities they have always apprehended that the Christians scattered and helpless over this vast range of Ottoman rule would be the first victims of Islamism in arms for the defence of her faith and her rule.
said, that he hoped a Congress would meet, and like a Court of Justice, which always had the record before it, would have the Treaty of San Stefano placed on its table. He would—
He found † that at the Congress of Sistovo (1791) every Treaty bearing on the subject was required to be read, and the Plenipotentiary there (Sir Robert Murray Keith) received no instructions from home for five months, and his Excellency was fully trusted by his Government. Indeed, it
- "In its season bring the law,
- That from discussion's lips may fall
- With life that working strongly binds,
- Set in all lights by many minds
- To close the interests of all."** Tennyson's Poem, Love thou thy Land.† Sir Robert Murray Keith's Letters and Correspondence, 1st edition, vol. II., pp. 421–2, published by Colburn, 1849.853 took two months to receive an answer by return of special messenger; but our Representative was equally trusted by Her Majesty and her Government, and answers to questions and instructions might be received in a few hours, and he hoped very much that a durable peace might be the result of its deliberations.
§ Address agreed to, nemine dissentiente.
§ Ordered, That the said address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock A.M., till half past Ten o'clock.