§ The QUEEN'S SPEECH reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
THE EARL OF RAVENSWORTH
, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, said: My Lords, on rising for the first time to address your Lordships I must claim your indulgence, I am afraid for some time, on two grounds—upon general grounds, my Lords, and upon special grounds; because, though I cannot allege entire inexperience in public business or in debate, having served a considerable apprenticeship in "another place," I cannot disguise from myself that within this Chamber popular passion and prejudice have no influence. My Lords, to woo and to win the popular ear is not the ambition of many of your Lordships; but that fact does not render the task of addressing you for the first time any easier. It is, therefore, on general grounds that I claim your indulgence, and there are special grounds likewise upon which I shall claim it.
This is a special summons to Parliament, and it has met for a special purpose. The subject which you have to discuss is one of no ordinary importance; and in attempting to address your Lordships upon it I cannot but consider for a moment the circumstances that have occurred. I see before me statesmen of profound and lengthened experience; I see before me old and skilled diplomatists; I see Secretaries and ex-Secretaries and ex-Viceroys of India; and I see, likewise, military men of the highest and most exalted rank, and profound in the science and the arts 6 and strategy of war. To render my task more than ordinarily difficult, I feel that the atmosphere of the House of Lords, though essentially calm and judicial, is, at the same time, a critical one. My Lords, exactly 10 years ago an eminent Indian statesman wrote thus from Calcutta, as Viceroy, to the then Secretary of State for India. He said—No man can doubt that the approach of Russia towards the North-Western Frontier of India may involve us in great difficulties.My Lords, the Viceroy who wrote this was Sir John Lawrence, and the Secretary of State for India was the Duke of Argyll; and I venture, my Lords, to allude to these plain words, because I think they are fitting words to open the discussion of the subject which you are about to deal with. They were prophetic words then, my Lords, and they have come true now; they are the "keynote" of this debate.
Now, my Lords, I trust that in discussing this matter we shall not blink this question, because it is a question upon which we should not speak with bated breath; and I think—in fact, I firmly believe—that a plain outspoken Parliamentary debate upon the question of Central Asia will do more than anything else to effect that which every statesman and lover of his country ought to desire—namely, to bring about an understanding between Russia and England upon that question. I venture to think, my Lords, that plain speaking will do more to accomplish that end than the whispers of Cabinets, the words of Generals, or the wiles of diplomacy. My Lords, the Frontier policy—or rather the policy that should guide us with respect to the Frontier of our North-Western Provinces in India—is a question that has occupied and taxed the energies of our greatest statesmen, and for years almost has appeared to baffle their efforts at solution. I should like to remind your Lordships that there has existed for a long time two distinct schools of policy on that subject; and they are, if I may use the expression for the sake of argument, what I may term the backward school and the forward school of Indian politicians. To give some idea of the bent of mind of the backward school, I would draw your Lordships' attention to of event of some importance 7 as far back as the year 1857, when an eminent Indian statesman proposed the abandonment of Peshawur and the cession of it and a portion of the neighbouring district to Dost Mahomed. I do not allude to that matter now by way of criticism, for that is unnecessary; but I may mention, in passing, that this rather remarkable proposal was stoutly combatted at the time by Sir Sidney Cotton, and that great and good man, Colonel Edwards, afterwards Sir Herbert Edwards, and the Viceroy of that day, Lord Canning, rejected the proposal. I allude to this as an indication of the length to which the disciples of the backward school have been, and may be now, prepared to go. My Lords, when doctors differ the patient suffers, and in this case the patient is the Indian Empire. I think he would be a bold statesman who would get up and attempt, looking at the intrigues and conspiracies, the insurrections, the mischief, and the danger that might result to our Indian Empire from delay, to recommend that we should wait until these two schools had settled their differences. I venture to think, my Lords, that the time for argument has passed—that the time for action has arrived.
Now, my Lords, to speak plainly. Her Majesty's Gracious Speech has informed us that we are at war in Afghanistan, and I venture to call your Lordships' attention to that little word "in," for I am rejoiced that we are not at war with Afghanistan—we are at war with the Ameer, but not with his subjects; and if we can trust the Manifesto which has been issued by the Government of India it is not a war of ambition—it is not a war of aggression, it is not a war of annexation—but it is a war for the support of the honour of the Crown, the dignity of the nation, and the safety of our Indian Empire. Now, my Lords, very serious accusations have been largely and liberally levelled at Her Majesty's Ministers for some time past. They have been accused of having entered into this war recklessly, hastily, and without justification, and even, my Lords, wickedly, for I have seen the word wickedly used, and by a noble Lord who I did not expect would use such an expression. My Lords, these are grave charges. They are more than charges—they are impeachments—and if they be just and true, I think it is time that the High 8 Court of Parliament should ascertain, by careful examination, whether they; are true or not. My Lords, I am here tonight charged with the duty of opening the case for the defence against these charges, and I must ask your Lordships' indulgence once again while I do so.
In the first place, allow me to refer to my own position for one moment. I can assure your Lordships, with all sincerity, that I would not have allowed myself to be placed in this prominent position if I did not entertain the firm conviction and belief that Her Majesty's Government were justified in the course that they have taken, and I go beyond that and say that there was no other course which in honour they could have pursued. Now, my Lords, in order to make good the position that I have ventured to take, I must begin by asking your Lordships' permission to review and give a brief history of the past position of affairs, and to make a short retrospect of our relations with Shere Ali. First of all, my Lords, it is my duty to remind you that so far back as 1855 a Treaty was concluded between the old East India Company and the father of the present Ameer, Dost Mahomed. It was short and simple, and in its terms it was a Treaty of friendship and amity. It was a Treaty that bound both signatories to respect the integrity of each other's territories; but it is to the third portion of that Treaty to which I particularly wish to refer. It bound the Ameer to be the friend of our friends and the enemy of our enemies; but there was no such obligation on our part, and it is clear that the Ameer always considered the Treaty as a one-sided instrument. Moreover, my Lords, Lord Canning himself has so described that Treaty, and it is important to bear that fact in mind. In 1856 an important engagement was entered into between the Government of India and the old Ameer, which had reference mainly to the war with Persia, then going on, and there were certain engagements as to a subsidy, which I shall have to allude to by-and-bye. In 1863 Dost Mahomed died, and the Ameer—Shere Ali—notified the event to our Government in a very proper and respectful manner. He informed the Indian Government of the death of his father; but it so happened from some reason or other, of which I 9 am not aware, that for six months after that important communication was received no notice whatever was taken of it, and I think your Lordships will agree with me that that was a very unfortunate start to make with a man of the peculiar temper of the Ameer. If Shere Ali had been an angel on earth—and certainly I believe he is far from that—he must have felt very much annoyed at such a delay. Then broke out the civil war, in which at first Shere Ali was successful, his brothers, Mahomed Ufzul Khan, Azim Khan, and a son of Ufzul, Abdul Rahman Khan, being in arms against him. In 1865 he gained a very considerable victory over his elder brother and against his nephew, the son of Ufzul Khan; and that victory appears to have been gained in a very gallant manner, but not without a severe loss to the Ameer, because he lost his favourite son, who was shot in the battle by his own uncle. I do not allude to this as a great political event, but as a very great event in the life of the Ameer, and it appears, from the testimony of writers of the time, that it had a very great effect on the mind of the Ameer. It is even uncertain whether that effect has entirely disappeared at the present time. Moreover, my Lords, I might remind you that the sorrow which was caused by that event has been re-opened very lately by the death of Abdoolla Jan, the youngest and favourite son of Shere Ali. In 1864 the war went on. Soon after his brother gained so great an advantage over him that Shere Ali was almost forced into banishment, and he fled to Herat with a few followers. Then came a curious portion of the history of our relations with Afghanistan. Ufzul Khan ascended the Throne of Cabul, and Shere Ali remained in possession of Herat, and at that time the Viceroy of India wrote a letter to the actual Ameer, who had located himself at Cabul, while the other dethroned Ameer was at Herat. It began by saying—I am very sorry for the Ameer; he is a very old friend of mine, and I never had any occasion of quarrel against him. I am sorry for his degradation;but it goes on to say—I am delighted to congratulate you (Afzul) on the victory you have gained, and I have no doubt that you will be my friend.10 There were at that time not one, but two Rulers of Afghanistan—one at Cabul and one at Herat—and the letter concluded by recognizing both. Now, that letter recognized a principle against which Shere Ali had a great objection, and that was, the recognition of a de facto Ruler. Shere Ali has always said—"If you recognize a de facto Ruler, the effect of it will be to encourage everyone who is opposed to me to rise up against me, and if he succeeds in getting upon the Throne, you will immediately recognize him." What Shere Ali wanted was the adoption of another principle. He wanted, the de jure principle, and he wanted us to recognize his absolute right to the Throne, and he said—"I not only want you to recognize my right to the Throne, but my son's right to the succession. I want him recognized as the heir to the Throne de jure." Now, Ufzul having shortly afterwards died, then came Shere Ali's famous victory, in 1867, in Candahar, which led to his re-entering Cabul in 1868. After that I find a letter written by the Ameer to the Viceroy, and there appeared to be a curious strain of irony running through it. It was to this effect—"Here I am at last; thank God for it; but no thanks to you." It is evidently in an ironical spirit that the Ameer wrote that letter. Now, I may remind your Lordships that the subsidy of six lacs of rupees which had been formerly given to the Ameer was allowed to go on, and there was also a valuable annual present of arms. I now come to a part of the narrative to which I refer with very great pain, and I am sure that your Lordships will share with me in the sorrow with which I mention the name of the Viceroy—my late dear and lamented Friend, Lord Mayo. He arranged matters with Shere Ali at a meeting at Umballa, and for some considerable time our relations with the Ameer became comparatively friendly—they were peaceable, at least, and so far they were satisfactory—and the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who I regret to see is not in his place, in an interesting letter which he has lately written, has paid a noble and graceful tribute to the late Lord Mayo, to the effect that the influence which we obtained at that time over the mind of Shere Ali was owing to his exertions, his manly 'presence, his genial, open- 11 hearted countenance, and his transparent sincerity of character. My Lords, Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthum; and while I mention that our relations with Shere Ali at that time became more satisfactory than at any other time, it is no disparagement to the noble Lord the late Viceroy (Lord Northbrook) to say that during his tenure of office he did not get on quite so well with the Ameer. I merely mention that as a fact. There is no doubt of the abilities of my noble Friend as an administrator under trying difficulties; but, at the same time, I feel bound, to state the circumstances. Some very curious things came out upon the occasion of the Conference at Umballa. At that time we had an insight into the mind of the Ameer. He was very sore then upon one or two points. He was sore at the premature recognition of his brother Azim, and he made various observations upon the one-sided character of the Treaty of 1855; he wanted the succession recognized of the son whom he had chosen to succeed him. He did not get all that he wanted upon that occasion; but he obtained something. In point of fact he got a great deal, because Lord Mayo promised him that the British Government would view with displeasure any attempt to disturb the Ameer, and he presented him with two batteries of artillery, and a considerable stand of arms; and no doubt the Ameer and Lord Mayo left the Conference in a very good humour one with the other. The Ameer wrote a very striking letter afterwards, in which he said—I strongly hope that the British Government will always do good and be kind to me, and keep me under its protection."—Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 91.]That was what the Ameer wanted; but it was what he never could get. There were many other matters discussed upon the occasion, and among them the presence of British officers in Afghanistan, and I think that there was very good reason at that time to hope that the Ameer would have consented to the presence of British officers at Herat, Candahar, and Balkh; but he certainly would not have consented to the presence of British Residents at Cabul, because he said it might embarrass him with his subjects: I do certainly think that 12 he would have given his consent to the presence of Residents in the other towns that I have mentioned. Her Majesty's Government, however, at the time, did not altogether approve of what had been done at the Conference, and they insisted upon certain conditions being inserted—certain reservations and certain provisions being made.
I pass now from that point, and come down to the year 1873, and it is an important epoch in the history of our relations. We found the Ameer still friendly, but, at the same time, he was less attentive to our representations than he had shown himself before. Now, what had occurred in the interval? Very great events had occurred. What had been styled the bugbear of the Indian Government—namely, the Russian advance—had become a stern reality. The Russian troops had advanced through Central Asia; Russia had made her influence paramount at Samarcand and in Bokhara; she was now upon the Oxus, and Khiva had been annexed. That caused very great alarm, and the annexation of Khiva especially shook, I hope not for ever, the confidence of England in Russian promises. The Ameer was alarmed, and he wrote to us that he should be glad to have a Conference with the Viceroy. The Conference was held at Simla. Now, my Lords, I must call your attention for one moment to the circumstances in which the Ameer found himself placed, and I think the best way to do so is to refer to two telegrams that passed between the Viceroy and the Secretary of State. The Viceroy telegraphed on the 24th of July, 1873, to the Secretary of State for India, as follows:—Ameer of Cabul alarmed at Russian progress, dissatisfied with general assurance, and anxious to know definitely how far he may rely on our help if invaded. I propose assuring him that if he unreservedly accepts and acts on our advice in all external relations we will help him with money, arms, and troops, if necessary, to expel unprovoked invasion. We to be the judge of the necessity."—[Ibid. p. 108.]The reply of the Secretary of State to that telegram, on the 26th of July, was as follows:—Cabinet thinks you should inform Ameer that we do not at all share his alarm, and consider there is no cause for it: but you may assure him we shall maintain our settled policy in favour of Afghanistan, if he abides by our advice in external affairs."—[Ibid.]13 Now, there are two or three very important considerations with reference to those telegrams. The continuance of the subsidy was one of the topics of consideration between the Ameer and the Viceroy, and the record of the conversations is certainly very puzzling reading. In the first instance, we were to negotiate in the event of invasion; but if the negotiations failed, we were to take another course, and if hostilities broke out we undertook to give the Ameer material assistance. But if the granting of the subsidy was to continue, it was to continue not only upon the condition of the Ameer's conduct towards the British Government, but upon the manner in which he treated his own subjects. Now, the withdrawal of the subsidy on such a ground would be a very difficult and delicate operation. It appears to me that it would be a very difficult thing, indeed, to treat with a Sovereign when you have deprived yourselves of the opportunity of obtaining the information that is necessary to enable a proper opinion to be formed. We have no British officers in Afghanistan, and therefore no person on whom we can fairly rely for obtaining such information; and it was not the policy of the then Government to place Residents in the Frontier towns, so that we could ascertain from them what was going on in the country, and the general treatment by the Ameer of his subjects. There is another point which had reference to the continuance of the subsidy. The assistance of our troops was to depend upon the implicit acceptance by the Ameer of our advice in all the external relations of his country. Then what becomes of the independence of the Ameer, which was another stringent principle insisted on, if at that time we were to be absolute judges of his foreign policy? Now I go on, and I may mention, in passing, that a careful record of these conversations was kept and sent to the Ameer, accompanied by a letter from the Viceroy telling him that Her Majesty's Government was bound by their substance; and I can quite understand, having read the despatches, that the Ameer was puzzled when he read the Correspondence, and I can quite imagine that he should have said when he got up from the perusal of them—"I don't understand these Englishmen. I don't know what they mean to do or 14 what they don't mean to do; but one thing seems clear, and that is that they are not friendly to me, and I will have nothing more to do with them." If he did not say that, that was the spirit in which he seems to have acted. Now, the next thing which I wish to allude to is the Conference which took place in 1877 at Peshawur. That was intended to be a friendly Conference, and Sir Lewis Pelly was empowered to make many important concessions. At that Conference a great deal was said on the part of the Ameer with reference to the necessity of recognising the succession of his younger son, on which he had set his mind; but, after all, the Conference was an abortive one. The Afghan Envoy was ill almost all the time the proceedings were going on, and he died before the Conference ought to have ended. But I think it is the true solution of the failure to say that it was too late; that the Ameer had made up his mind as to who should be his friend, and had made choice of Russia, and not of us. Then, or shortly after, confidential communications with Cabul took place from Tashkend. And long before these Papers were produced to us, we have the evidence of an independent witness upon the subject. That witness is M. Vambéry, the traveller, and he tells us that on the 13th of August of this year—which was the very day that the Treaty of Berlin was signed—a Russian Mission started from Tashkend, and a Russian General remained five weeks at Cabul, and was treated with every consideration, in fact received with open arms. Then it was that we resolved to send a friendly Mission to Cabul, and informed the Ameer of our intention, telling him that it was sent with a friendly object. We were, however, stopped and looked upon as intruders, and your Lordships will remember the reception it met with at the entrance of the Khyber Pass, and you will also remember the words that were addressed by the Afghan Sirdar to our Envoy—"If it were not for my personal friendship for you I should have fired upon you, and if you go farther I shall do so." Now, my Lords, I have concluded this long, and I am afraid tedious, review of our relations with the Ameer, and I come to the inference that I wish to draw from that retrospect. The inference I draw is, I think, the true one, 15 and I assure your Lordships that I have no wish to treat the subject in a narrow Party spirit; but I want to get at the truth, and the truth is simply this—that the Ameer never was a friend to England in our acceptation of the term, and we were never friends to the Ameer in his acceptation of the term. The cold and neutral tinted policy which we had too long pursued in India had no attraction for the Ameer; he wanted brighter colours and a warmer tone. He sought for them at Simla, but he found them in Turkestan.
My Lords, statesmen must, as school children must, submit to be judged by results. If a certain policy proves a failure we are not to be debarred from condemning it by such high-sounding terms as "benevolent neutrality," or "non-intervention," or "non-interference." My Lords, non-interference is an excellent rule in private life, so long as nobody shows a disposition to interfere with you; but if another man is interfering with your business you must interfere with him. Caution is a very desirable thing; but over-caution leads a man into quite as great straits, as rashness and over-caution is apt to be regarded by semi-civilized communities and Sovereigns as timidity. We all know, if we know anything of human nature, that nobody cares for a timid man. My Lords, I would ask, with the greatest possible respect, but, at the same time, with the greatest possible confidence, whether any noble Lord who sits on the opposite benches will get up and say that after the insult which was offered to our Envoy any English Cabinet could have stood motionless, and tamely submitted to that insult? Knowing that Russian influence was dominant in Afghanistan; feeling, as every English Cabinet must feel, that it was responsible for the honour of the Crown, the dignity of the nation, the tranquillity of the Frontier, and the tranquillity of a country numbering 200,000,000 of inhabitants within its Frontiers, will any noble Lord get up and say that an English Cabinet could, under such circumstances, have tamely submitted to that insult? If there is one man in this House so hardy and so bold as to say that, I would venture to tell him that he must settle his account with his countrymen—he must be responsible to them for such advice.
16 Now, my Lords, I have done, or nearly done. Since the outbreak of hostilities in Afghanistan our noble soldiers and our gallant and instructed officers have done what English soldiers have ever done—their duty. It is too early to speak of results. I am not going to attempt to foretel what will be the issue of the present war. The matter is in the hands of Providence, and we must abide the result with hope and confidence. It has been said that we have failed to make a friend of the Ameer, and, before quitting the subject, I would remark that he does not appear to have been able to make very good friends of his feudatory clans.
There is another paragraph in the Most Gracious Speech of Her Majesty upon which I wish to say one or two words. Her Majesty says—I have every reason to believe that the arrangements for the pacification of Europe, made by the Treaty of Berlin, will be successfully carried into effect.That statement will, I think, be regarded by the country with great satisfaction, because it implies the sanctity of Treaties. I hope the time is far distant when the sanctity of Treaties will cease to be recognized. Treaties are, my Lords, the title deeds of Empires; they are the guarantees of the independence, liberty, and safety of smaller and weaker States; which in turn may be regarded as neutral zones, marked out by the negotiations of diplomatists and statesmen, and established as barriers againt the encroachments of the greater and more powerful States. Of all countries, England is the last that ought lightly to regard Treaty obligations. I believe that in insisting on a firm adherence to the stipulations in the Articles of the Treaty of Berlin, England will receive the support of Europe. At any rate, England is bound to regard the obligations of Treaties even more than any other State that could be named, because it has always been our boast that an Englishman's word is his bond.
I wish to allude for a moment to one subject which is not mentioned in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech. Having been connected for many years with, large mining, manufacturing, and agricultural districts, and with the commerce of the country, I wish to ask your Lordships' permission to express—as I do 17 from the bottom of my heart—my sympathy for the thousands, I fear I must say the millions, of my fellow-countrymen who are suffering hardship, privation, and misery from the depression in the chief industries of the country. In the expression of that sympathy I am sure every noble Lord who hears me will heartily join. Probably the reason why the subject is not referred to in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech is, that the Government felt that unless they could afford relief, it would be better not to introduce the subject; besides which they may have felt that, under the circumstances, it would be wise to concentrate the attention of Parliament on the special topic of the war in Afghanistan. I may add that I should not have ventured to make this allusion to it, had I not felt that I might possibly pour a drop of comfort even among the disheartened millions of whom I have spoken. My Lords, there may be a ray of light amid the deepest gloom. A ray of light has not appeared on our horizon yet; but one has appeared on the horizon of a distant and a friendly State. The President of the United States, in his Message the other day, told his countrymen that he saw symptoms of improvement of returning prosperity, and of a revival of trade; and. I believe that when a revival of trade occurs in America, it will not be long before it reaches our own shores. Our American friends have proved very good prophets in the prediction of atmospheric changes; and I hope the President's prophecy will prove equally well founded.
And now, my Lords, it only remains for me to thank you—as I do from the bottom of my heart—for the large measure of indulgence and kind attention which you have accorded to me, and to apologize for the length, and to many noble Lords the tedium, of the remarks which I have made. I now move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne, as follows:—MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.18We humbly thank Your Majesty for the gracious expression of your regret that Your Majesty has found it necessary to call for our attendance at an unusual, and, as Your Majesty is pleased to say, probably at an inconvenient time.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the hostility manifested towards Your Majesty's Indian Government by the Ameer of Afghanistan, and the manner in which he has repulsed Your Majesty's friendly Mission, has left Your Majesty no alternative but to make a peremptory demand for redress.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that in consequence of this demand having been disregarded, Your Majesty has directed an expedition to be sent into his territory, and has taken the earliest opportunity of calling us together, and making to us the communication required by Law.We thank Your Majesty for directing that Papers on the subject shall be laid before us.We rejoice to learn that Your Majesty receives from all Foreign Powers assurances of their friendly feelings, and that Your Majesty has every reason to believe that the arrangements for the pacification of Europe, made by the Treaty of Berlin, will be successfully carried into effect.We humbly assure Your Majesty that after full deliberation upon the matters which have led Your Majesty to anticipate our usual time of meeting, we shall be prepared to give our careful consideration to such measures for the public benefit as Your Majesty may hereafter direct to be submitted to us.We humbly assure Your Majesty that our best care shall be devoted to the maintenance of the great interests of Your Majesty's Empire, and we unite with Your Majesty in praying that the blessing of the Almighty may attend our counsels.
In rising to second the Address, which has just been moved by my noble Friend (the Earl of Ravensworth) in answer to Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech, I wish, in the first place, briefly to refer to some of the events which took place during the late war between Russia and Turkey, and to those events which immediately preceded the signature of the Treaty of Berlin; because it appears to me that in order rightly to appreciate the circumstances which have led to the declaration of war with Afghanistan, it is essen- 19 tial to bear in mind the occurrences which have recently taken place in Europe as well as in Asia.
I think it will be conceded on all sides that the task which Her Majesty's Government have had before them in carrying out the foreign policy of the country has been lately one of unexampled difficulty and danger; and that they have carried that policy out with honour to themselves and satisfaction to the country, I think has been sufficiently proved by the reception which the First Minister of the Crown and the Foreign Secretary received on their return from the Berlin Congress, and also by the overwhelming majority with which the other House of Parliament pronounced a decision in their favour. My Lords, the difficulties which they have had to encounter have proceeded, in a great measure, from the aggressive policy which has been pursued by Russia, and by the threatening attitude which that country has on more than one occasion assumed towards England, and also from the pledges and assurances which have been given by her, and which, like the proverbial pie-crust, seem to have been made only to be broken. My Lords, the astounding revelations of diplomatic un-scrupulousness and intrigue which are contained in the volume which has just been issued upon affairs in Central Asia have shown that Her Majesty's Government have not without sufficient cause pursued the course they have done with regard to Afghanistan. But, my Lords, the difficulties which they have had to encounter have not only proceeded from without. They have also, in great measure, proceeded from within. I allude especially to the agitation which took place in this country before and during the late war. I think it cannot be doubted that those agitations had a most injurious effect, and that they made it exceedingly difficult for Her Majesty's Government to act with that decision and promptitude which they otherwise would nave used. My Lords, these internal difficulties and agitations undoubtedly had a most injurious effect during the late war. They produced an effect upon Russia which made her imagine that she had nothing to do but to go on with her conquests, without taking into consideration the possibility of England's interference, and led her to pursue her victorious course up to the very walls of Constantinople. 20 But, nevertheless, all this time Her Majesty's Government were keeping a watchful eye upon the interests of this country. They were only waiting until the time arrived to intervene, and when it did arrive they interfered with so much effect that the Treaty of San Stefano, which completely abrogated Turkish power in Europe, was submitted to the assembled Powers of Europe at the Congress of Berlin, and the result was the conclusion of the Treaty of Berlin. By that Treaty, Turkey was re-established as an European Power; and I think it will be a source of immense gratification to everyone in this country to hear the announcement which Her Majesty has made in Her most gracious Speech, that she has every reason to believe that this Treaty will be faithfully carried out.
My Lords, while these affairs were going on in Europe, Russia was not idle in Asia. She had for years been pursuing a policy of interference, pressing on her arms in every quarter, and annexing first one country and then another; and, my Lords, at the very time that the Treaty of Berlin was signed she was intriguing with the Ameer of Afghanistan, in order that she might, in the event of war breaking out between her and England, send an army into his dominions for the purpose of making a descent on India. I would recommend those who read the Papers upon the Afghan Question to judge of the intentions of Russia. But, my Lords, I must draw your attention to one special incident recorded in the Central Asian Papers. I allude to the publication of the letters from General Kaufmann to the Ameer. The publication of those letters, following as they did the categorical denial of their existence, given first by Prince Gortchakoff, and subsequently by General Kaufmann himself, form a curious and interesting commentary on the repeated assurances given by Russian statesmen, and even by the Emperor himself, that Afghanistan lay outside the sphere of Russian action.
My Lords, I shall endeavour, as shortly and as briefly as I can, to touch on the subject of Afghanistan. It has been so fully dealt with by my noble Friend that I shall not attempt to go over the ground again; but, in the first place, I wish to say, that after carefully perusing the Papers which have been placed in our hands, it appears to me that the 21 despatch of the Secretary of State for India is most fully justified upon examination of those Papers. It appears to me that no inference is drawn in that despatch which is not borne out by the Papers. The whole matter may, I think, be stated in two simple questions—first of all, have we been fair in our dealings with the Ameer throughout? and, secondly, are we justified now in declaring war against him? I think the first question must be answered in the negative, and the last in the affirmative. It appears to me that if instead of pursuing that course of masterly inactivity and timidity which marked our dealings with Afghanistan in the early part of the Ameer's reign, we had come boldly forward and told him that we would recognize him as the de jure as well as the de facto Ruler of Afghanistan, and if, guarding ourselves against interfering in his domestic affairs, we had promised to assist him in defending himself against foreign enemies, he would still have been our staunch ally. But it is a remarkable fact that Lord Mayo appears to have been the only Viceroy who really inspired confidence in Shere Ali. He certainly established an immense influence over him, and especially at the time of the Umballa Conference. But it is also remarkable that after the Umballa Conference a letter was written by the then Secretary of State for India (the Duke of Argyll) to Lord Mayo, disapproving in a certain measure of what he had done there. My Lords, the fact is that we have always been unwilling to take any risk upon ourselves. We have asked from the Ameer everything, and on our part we have been unwilling to grant anything in return. But the same error appears on our part in our dealings with the Ameer in 1873. That year was a very remarkable one, though I will not dwell on it on account of my noble Friend having so fully called attention to it; but I may say that there is no doubt that that year was the turning point in our negotiations with Shere Ali. He had become alarmed at the rapid advance of Russia in Central Asia, and at the taking of Khiva, and appealed to us for more explicit assurances of our protection; but the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook, was not authorised by the Home Government to give these promises. Again, after the Conference 22 between the Viceroy and Shere Ali's Envoy at Simla the same difficulty arose. The Viceroy was not able, on account of the orders which he had received from England, to give Shere Ali those assurances which he sought. This was the state of affairs when the present Government came into Office; and the first thing which Lord Salisbury did was to write to Lord Northbrook, the then Viceroy, stating what scanty information was being received from Afghanistan, and suggesting that a British Agent should be established at Herat and Candahar. Now, my Lords, it will probably be in your recollection that Shere Ali had assented to this proposition before; but what was the answer which the Viceroy sent? He sent an answer saying that he and his Council considered that the policy which had been previously pursued was much better than that suggested by the Secretary of State. A short time after that the Secretary of State again writes, saying that if it was injudicious to send a British Agent, he suggested, under the circumstances, that the best thing to do was to send a British Mission. This, again, was declined by the Indian Government; and it was not until Lord Lytton came into office that a real attempt was made to establish a British Mission, and to find out whether Shere Ali was willing to give the necessary consent. And, my Lords, Lord Lytton, when he went out, was instructed to offer the assistance which Shere Ali had before appealed for in vain. But it was too late. The mischief had been done, and it was impossible to undo it. Things remained in this way until July and August of this very year, when a notice came to say that a Russian Mission was at that moment in Cabul; and the Viceroy telegraphed home to know whether the matter was to be treated as an Imperial question, or one which concerned the Indian Government. Having been told that it was to be dealt with in the latter capacity, he informed the Ameer that a British Mission would be sent immediately to Cabul, and with what result is well known to your Lordships. It was impossible for the Government to put up with such an open insult; and I have no hesitation in saying Her Majesty's Government had no other course open to them than that which they 23 have taken. There may be people who will say "Perish India," and would rather sacrifice their own country than sacrifice their particular views as to our relations with the Ameer; but I believe the people who are of that way of thinking are very few: and I am sure that your Lordships and the bulk of the people of England will tolerate no interference with our Empire, but will sacrifice blood and treasure to maintain it, and will be prepared to say "England's friends are our friends, and England's enemies are our enemies." I beg to second the Address. [See p. 17.]
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, it has been my lot not unfrequently during the existence of the present Government, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, to express the great pleasure I have felt at the ability with which the Address to Her Majesty in answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech have been moved and seconded in this House by young Peers. The noble Lord who has just seconded the Address (Lord Inchiquin) we have often had the pleasure of hearing before; and with regard to my noble Friend who moved it, he is an old soldier in debate whom we gladly welcome, though coming from another regiment. I hope that neither of my noble Friends, nor any of your Lordships, will think I am wanting in courtesy to those noble Lords, or that I do not consider the topics with which they have dealt of the greatest importance and gravity, if I do not follow them in detail in the statements they have made, and which I shall avoid doing for the reasons I shall shortly give. I observe, though I do not complain of it, that neither of the noble Lords has followed the usual practice of adverting to each of the points mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. "With regard to home matters there is, indeed, very little to be said—for there are only two points in it. The first is the reference to the inevitable, and, I am afraid, the annually increasing Estimates; and there is also an announcement of certain anonymous Bills to be introduced into Parliament after a suitable Recess. I own that after the experience I have had of the announcement of Bills in Queen's Speeches in the last two years and the results, I am able to wait with indifference till February next to know the names of the new friends or the old friends with new 24 faces, as the case may be. The noble Earl who moved the Address appeared to me to hit a very serious blot, which had struck me on reading the Queen's Speech. We all know the warm and active sympathy which Her Majesty evinces when any calamity happens to any class, or even to individuals, among her subjects; and I do think it is somewhat strange that Her Majesty's Ministers should entirely omit to insert a single word of sympathy on the part of Her Majesty with the great distress which indubitably exists among the trading, the manufacturing, and the agricultural classes of this country. The noble Earl spoke with great feeling, as becomes his great knowledge of this subject; and I am happy to agree with him in the hopes of improvement which he expressed as to the future. No doubt the depression has arisen mainly from causes with which Her Majesty's Government have nothing to do. First, there was the inflation of a few years ago, against the dangers of which the Leader of the late Government so eloquently warned the public. Then there was the commercial disturbance caused by the Russo-Turkish War. I do not know how far it can be said that Her Majesty's Government had nothing to do with that, for the Prime Minister told us last year that if the Government had taken a course they did not take that war might have been prevented, while others think there was a different course which might have had the same effect. Her Majesty's Government have nothing to do with bad harvests, nor with the folly of the enormous loans to insolvent States, enabling them for a short period to buy the produce of our labour. My firm belief at this moment is that these causes are diminished, if not removed, and that the one thing wanted is confidence. With confidence there would be a return of gradually increasing prosperity; but how far Her Majesty's Government, by their acts, are contributing to restore that confidence it is not for me to say. It is quite clear that a Government which describes every diplomatic move as a diplomatic triumph; which announces—with perfect truth—that this country is able from year to year to sustain the strains of war without being exhausted; which startles the country with great responsibilities for which it is utterly unprepared, even if 25 it follows a policy that may be wise—may be popular—it does not contribute to bring about the sort of confidence which is essential to the prosperity of trade and manufactures. I do not complain of the Speech being short; but there are some very singular omissions to which I must allude. While a most serious war is raging in our dominion of South Africa, and we are despatching troops thither, it does seem to me that in a communication from Her Majesty to Her Parliament there should be some reference to the state of affairs in that important Colony. There is, indeed, an allusion to the Treaty of Berlin—a very satisfactory allusion it is; and I am ready to admit with great pleasure that if Her Majesty's Government, in concert with the other European Powers, have, by judicious diplomatic measures, contributed in any degree to induce Russia and Turkey to execute all their engagements under that Treaty, not excluding any, they will have done a very great and important work. I am very glad, indeed, Her Majesty's Government are able to inform us that they think those two countries will execute the Treaty, and that it will work satisfactorily, though of this I require more information to be convinced. But there is another matter which affects this country much more vitally than the Treaty of Berlin, and that is the Anglo-Turkish Convention; we are not quite sure how that is being carried out. That came upon us all with a surprise. As the result of that Convention we found ourselves in possession of Cyprus, and loaded with immense responsibilities—the government of Asia Minor and the Protectorate of Turkey. My Lords, we who dared last year to criticize the value of Cyprus were stigmatized as unpatriotic. I admit that many people thought that it was a great success at the moment and for a particular purpose. I am told—though I do not know whether it is true—that a great Continental statesman, who has constantly recommended annexation to this country, when he heard of it said—"It will succeed; it will be popular in England; they will call it progress, but it is acquisition." My Lords, we have heard a great deal of Russian aggression of late; but I find in these Papers a Governor General declaring of India that we fear no aggression and desire 26 no acquisition; and the late Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Derby) said that the strength of this country consisted in this—that we feared nobody and wanted nothing. It appeared to me to be a proud and true assertion. I am afraid that these former truths can hardly now be maintained. I rather gather that the acquisition of Cyprus, even apart from the mode in which it was made, is not now considered of such high value by those who made it as it was at first. I judge this from the different manner in which they defend it. One Minister states that it is to be considered a model school of good government for the Turks. I very much doubt whether many Pashas will be sent to Cyprus to study our administration more than they have been sent to Malta, to England, or to the Ionian Islands. The Prime Minister has spoken of Cyprus as "a place of arms;" but before it becomes so I am afraid many improvements will have to be carried out and much expense incurred. It is, indeed, a little out of the way; but by the time it is fortified, harbours provided, and the pestilential climate rendered salubrious, I trust it may turn out to be of some use. But then it seems there is some further consolation in store for us. A right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Gloucester) has spoken of our possession of Cyprus as a providential dispensation that would promote the spread of the Christian religion. Nobody would be more delighted than I should be if such an object could be attained; but I confess I do not quite understand how that brilliant and gallant soldier Sir Garnet Wolseley, administering Mahommedan law in that Island, will promote in any very sensible degree the advancement of the Christian religion. I hope the Government will succeed in their endeavours to introduce better government into Asia Minor; but I am disappointed that they did not think it worth while to mention the subject in the Royal Speech.
I now, my Lords, come to the subject to which both the noble Earl and the noble Lord so properly devoted their attention. No doubt your Lordships have a perfectly Constitutional right to move an Amendment to the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne; but, my Lords, it is a right which for the last 20 years has not been exercised. It is a right the exercise of which states- 27 men have always deemed it well to avoid if possible, it being desirable, out of respect to the Sovereign, that in our Address to the Throne we should be as unanimous as possible. An Amendment is all the more unnecessary when an Address does not commit the House, and we have simply to thank Her Majesty for the information we have received. There is another reason, my Lords, why I think an Amendment on this occasion is almost impossible, with due regard for the convenience of Peers. Parliament has been summoned very suddenly; but the Papers bearing upon the causes of that summons have been delivered to us only a very few days ago, and we have had no time to study them in detail. I think the House will expect some explanation why the Central Asia Papers, which were promised before the close of last Session, have been withheld from your Lordships and the country till the beginning of this week. With regard to the Afghan Papers, they consist of so large a mass that some considerable time must be required to master them—I venture to say that the great majority of your Lordships here present have not had the time requisite to master their details. I therefore at once wish to state that it is not my intention to move any Amendment to the Address; but I beg it to be clearly understood that I think there are matters of the very greatest importance with which we have to deal, and that it will be impossible for this House not fully to discuss the whole subject, and to express an opinion upon it. Speaking of what has been achieved in the field, I must say it is to me a source of very great pleasure to hear of the brilliant dash and courage of our troops which have led them on to success. Whatever may be the cause, or in whatever part of the world, our troops never fail, whether on land or sea; and the fact of their success will enable us, so far as the Opposition is concerned, all the more thoroughly to discuss and debate the policy of the Government, which the noble Lord who seconded the Address stated turned on two points—first, whether the conduct of the English Government had been just to the Ameer; and, secondly, whether the war itself was just. I agree with him in thinking the first question must be answered in 28 the negative, and I should have thought that the two questions were somewhat connected. This, my Lords, is the great question which has called Parliament together. I had no great anxiety about the meeting of Parliament. I felt perfectly certain it would be called together. Not that it makes any great difference to Parliament whether it meets now or in February, so far as it may exercise any influence after the mischief has been done—after a war has already commenced. Once you cut the jugular vein, it does not much matter whether you send for the surgeon at once or a week afterwards. There are great Constitutional questions connected with it. No one denies the absolute Prerogative of the Crown to declare war and make peace; but there are questions connected with every Prerogative of the Crown, with regard to the discretion and the extent to which it is used; and it is perfectly clear to me, that if year after year you take the country and Parliament perfectly by surprise and throw on them the responsibility of measures, without the means of forming a judgment having been afforded, you do weaken the foundations on which the principle of Prerogative rests, and you may do a great deal of mischief thereby. I do not wish to enter into the Constitutional question—it rather belongs to the whole merits of the case, on which I do not wish to dwell to-night. But there is this peculiarity in the case—there has been a great change of policy on this most important matter. During the last three years, not only has Parliament not been taken into confidence on the subject, but Parliament has actually been led to take a wrong view of what was the policy of the Cabinet. During that period had Parliament any reason to suppose that the policy of the Government with regard to Afghanistan was different from that of all the Secretaries of State, and of all Governors General from the time of Lord Dalhousie to the time when the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) took the Seals of the India Office? It is not my habit to trouble your Lordships by reading long extracts from Blue Books; but I must trouble your Lordships with a few. In the first place, what were the general principles held by the Conservative Party upon this subject nine years ago, when they were in power? Sir Stafford 29 Northcote, when at the India Office, said in the House of Commons, on the 9th of July, 1869—Looking at it from an Indian point of view, this debate had been eminently satisfactory, both in the opinions that had been expressed and the opinions that had not been expressed. There had been no advocacy of a policy of annexation, of a policy of extending the British dominions, or of a policy of advancing in order to meet Russia midway between our Frontier and hers. The general feeling evidently was in favour of the policy of keeping within our own Frontiers—of developing the internal defences, extending the existing railways, and improving the harbour of Kurrachee, rather than attempting to go into the country of Afghanistan. In addition to the other reasons which might be stated against such a proceeding as the latter, there was the danger of creating suspicion in the minds of the natives. He believed the hon. Member for Gravesend had given expression to the feelings of Englishmen of all parties, when he said that we ought to keep free from the imbroglio of Afghan policy. There was a general feeling that we ought not to repeat the mistakes we made in 1840; that we ought to keep ourselves entirely free from entangling alliances. What we should do was to maintain friendly relations with the natives on our borders, to desire the existence of a good Government in Afghanistan. It was a misapprehension to suppose that we wanted to erect Cabul into a bulwark against Russia."—[3 Hansard, cxcvii. 1578–9.]No doubt Sir Stafford Northcote fairly represented the opinions of the Government on that occasion. I will not quote the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), speaking in behalf of the noble Marquess in 1874, but he certainly gave no indication of any change of policy. But in 1877 there arose considerable disquietude on this subject among those conversant with India, and on June 11 of that year the noble Marquess said—I can assure the noble Lord that any danger of a Russian inroad on the Frontier of British India is not quite so far advanced as he seems to imagine. The nearest point on the Caspian at which supplies could be gathered by Russia is over a thousand miles from our Indian Frontier. The consideration of the danger to which the noble Lord refers may possibly interest a future generation of statesmen; but that calamity is not of such imminence as to render necessary the Motion by which the noble Lord seeks to avert it. I will not dwell longer on the geographical circumstances, except to protest against the statement of the noble Lord that the Empire of British India knows no bounds. My Lords, the bounds of that Empire are very minutely marked out, especially on the North-Western side. Whatever the Empire of Russia may be, there is no doubt whatever as to what the Frontier of British India is. It is perfectly well known. I cannot help thinking that in discussions of this kind 30 a great deal of misapprehension arises from the popular use of maps on a small scale. As with such maps you are able to put a thumb on India and a finger on Russia, some persons at once think that the political situation is alarming, and that India must be looked to. If the noble Lord would use a larger map—say one on the scale of the Ordnance Map of England—he would find that the distance between Russia and British India is not to be measured by the finger and thumb, but by a rule. There are between them deserts and mountainous chains measured by thousands of miles, and these are serious obstacles to any advance by Russia, however well planned such an advance might be."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 1564–5.]Do such sentiments appear to be those of a Minister who was making a great change in the Indian policy, out of fear of Russia? Not very long after that the Duke of Argyll put a Question to the noble Marquess. I may say, in passing, that the Duke of Argyll greatly regrets that an important question like this, in which he takes so much interest, should be discussed when he is unable from ill-health to be present. Lord Salisbury answered—With respect to the information asked for by the noble Duke, I can hardly give him much positive knowledge; but I think I can give him some negative information. He has derived from the sources open to him the following statement, as I understood him:—that we had tried to force an Envoy upon the Ameer at Cabul; that we had selected for that purpose Sir Lewis Pelly, whose vigour of mind and action might possibly inspire apprehension in the Councils of a Native Prince; that we had supported this demand by a large assemblage of troops on the North-Western Frontier; and that we were preparing boats upon the Indus. Now, we have not tried to force an Envoy upon the Ameer at Cabul; we have not suggested Sir Lewis Pelly as an Envoy to Cabul; the troops were assembled on the North-Western Frontier without the slightest reference to any such demand; and with regard to the boats on the Indus, I never heard of them until to-day."—[Ibid. 1835.]With regard to sending Envoys, the noble Marquess stated that he referred to Candahar and Herat, and not to Cabul; but in the Papers it is distinctly shown that it was announced to the Ameer that it was intended to send Sir Lewis Pelly to Cabul. The Papers say nothing about the massing of troops on the Frontier, and I do not know from the Papers what was the reason for which they were sent. Then the noble Marquess continued—Our relations with the Ameer of Cabul have undergone no material change since last year. I do not believe that he is worse dis- 31 posed towards us than hitherto, or that his feelings are in any way more embittered towards the British Government."—[Ibid.]My Lords, I shall listen with great anxiety to the explanation of the noble Marquess; but I must ask, after all that had happened, how was it possible to say that our relations with the Ameer had undergone no material change, and that the feelings of the Ameer were not more embittered towards the British Government? Well, my Lords, a despatch from Lord Lytton was sent on the 20th of February, 1876; the next Paper to it is the answer, on the 10th of May—not the 10th of May, 1876, but the 10th of May, 1877. Now, I really want to know what passed all this time. Are we really to believe that during these 14 months, when such important transactions were going on, not a single communication passed between the Secretary of State and the Viceroy of India? That seems almost impossible; but if there were a number of such despatches, I presume that they will be produced. Or are we to understand that the system of Correspondence known as "private and personal communications," and which, when attempted in the Foreign Office, exploded in the Warner police case, was adopted during that period? As I said before, I shall listen with anxiety to the explanation of the noble Marquess, how it was that during all that time there were no communications between the two Governments? But, however long that despatch of Lord Lytton was in coming, it must have been in the hands of the noble Marquess a week or a fortnight before the day when he gave the reply to which I have referred; and how, then, was it possible to say that there was no change in the position when at the time we had broken off all diplomatic relations with the Ameer, and we gave him to understand that he was not to entertain any hope of help against Russia? The noble Marquess having given this explanation, what happened? The noble Lord (Lord Lawrence), a former Governor General of India, whom I have always found the most courteous of men, did not acquiesce. He said that—So far as Central Asia was concerned, there was nothing to be desired beyond the statement of the noble Marquess to the House, coupled with that made 'elsewhere' on the previous Monday; but, with regard to our policy on the 32 North-West Frontier and our relations with Cabul, he feared that something more had occurred than had yet been heard of. It seemed unlikely that all the doubts, forebodings, and suggestions which had appeared in the Indian papers should have so little basis as contended for in the explanations of the noble Marquess. It was clear from the Indian papers, and he included those which supported the action of the Indian Government, that something of very considerable importance had occurred to cause agitation on the North-West Frontier of India."—[Ibid. 1836.]What did my noble Friend (the Earl of Northbrook) say? He said—It is with great satisfaction, therefore, that I have heard the assurance of the noble Marquess that the policy I have referred to Her Majesty's Government will continue to pursue. I am satisfied that he has given us that assurance in perfect good faith, and that we may trust him to resist any attempt to put it aside."—[Ibid. 1843.]I may add, with regard to this point, that it was through the advice of my noble Friend (the Earl of Northbrook), and through his influence upon us, that we entirely gave up the idea of taking Parliamentary action on this subject.
Now, I come to another question, to which I have been invited by the noble Lord who seconded the Address—I do not pretend, however, that I should not have referred to it even if the noble Lord had not done so. The noble Lord says that, in the despatch of the 18th of November, the Secretary of State for India gave a perfectly correct statement of all that had happened. Now, my Lords, I must say that a certain portion of the despatch of the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) conveyed the most erroneous impression possible of what had occurred. When a subject interests the public they resort to every device to get easy information upon it; they fly to the newspapers, to abstracts, digests, &c. to get at the matter without great labour. Very few men are gluttons of Blue Books. Now, I do not blame the noble Viscount in the slightest degree for writing and publishing the despatch—I think he was perfectly right in taking an opportunity of stating his own case. But in producing such a statement, which he knew would be read by hundreds of thousands who would never dream of reading two pages of a Blue Book, surely it was incumbent on him to use special care and accuracy in respect of everything? I do not undervalue the difficulty of making a précis 33 of such a multitude of Papers, and this is very able, very clear, and very interesting; but what did the noble Viscount do? He gave a short historical sketch of what had happened with regard to this question in previous stages and under different Governors General. I am not aware that any fault can be found with that part of the despatch. My noble Friend behind me (Lord Lawrence) will correct me if I am wrong; but I think the description of his policy was perfectly fair and accurate. But when the noble Viscount came to deal with the policy of the late Government the case was very different. The ninth paragraph of the despatch contains the part to which I refer, and I will read it to your Lordships. Paragraph 9 says—Finding that the object of the Ameer was to ascertain definitely how far he might rely on the help of the British Government if his territories were threatened by Russia, Lord Northbrook's Government was prepared to assure him that, under certain conditions, the Government of India would assist him to repel unprovoked aggression. But Her Majesty's Government at home did not share His Highness's apprehension, and the Viceroy ultimately informed the Ameer that the discussion of the question would be best postponed to a more convenient season."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 262.]Now, I venture to appeal to your Lordships—and I found my appeal on what has appeared in the public Press and on the comments generally made—and to these I must add the reproaches addressed to me by political Friends—I put it to your Lordships whether that paragraph was not likely to lead to the erroneous impression that Lord North-brook desired to make an engagement somewhat similar to that which the Ameer desired, but before doing so he referred home for permission; that he got instructions, which were opposed to his proposal; that, therefore, he did not give the assurances which he wished to give, and that he postponed the discussion to a more convenient season? I appeal to your Lordships, whether Liberal or Conservative, who have read the despatch, whether that description is correct? But the truth is exactly the reverse. My noble Friend did not propose to give what the Ameer desired; but he wrote home for permission to give an assurance which he thought sufficient. Those instructions were not of a dissenting character to 34 withhold any assurances which he desired to give, but of an assenting character to the assurances which he desired to give; and those assurances he accordingly gave. He did not postpone anything owing to instructions, but spontaneously, in consequence of the Envoy not being ready to negotiate on one point. I state the case as it is, leaving it to the noble Viscount to make an explanation. There is one point with which I think the noble Viscount has not dealt sufficiently, and that is the result of the interview between Sir Lewis Pelly and the Ameer's Representative in 1876. The result of this interview is described in these words—Although the Ameer had been informed in writing, both of the concessions which the British Government was ready to grant to him and the conditions attached to them, and although, at the same time, it was signified to him that it would be of no avail for him to send his Envoy to Peshawur unless His Highness were prepared to agree to those conditions as the bases of the proposed Treaty, it became apparent in the course of the Conference that the Minister had received no specific authority to accept them. As, moreover, the language and conduct of Shere Ali, which had so long been dubious, became openly inimical, you judiciously took advantage of the sudden death of His Highness's Envoy to discontinue negotiations, the bases of which had been practically rejected."—[Ibid. p. 264.]This does not, however, convey all that may be found in the other Papers. There is an extract from a cipher telegram, dated the 30th of March, 1877, from the Viceroy at Calcutta to Sir Lewis Pelly at Peshawur. The Viceroy says—Close Conference immediately, on ground that basis on which we agreed to negotiate has not been acknowledged by Ameer; that, Mir Akhor not being authorized to negotiate on that basis, nor you on any other, Conference is terminated ipso facto; and that you will leave Peshawur on a stated day. The date of it you will fix yourself, but it should be as early as conveniently possible, in order to show we are in earnest and avoid further entanglement. Let your language to Mir Akhor be most friendly. If, in the meanwhile, new Envoys or messengers arrive to continue negotiation you will tell them that your powers are terminated. On closing Conference, write to Ameer friendly letter notifying the fact. I entirely approve your letter to Ameer."—[Ibid. p. 222.]Now, my Lords, what is the description given by Lord Lytton himself in his long and able despatch of the 10th of May? His Lordship says— 35Apparently the Ameer, whose object was still to gain time, was much surprised and embarrassed by this stop. At the moment when Sir Lewis Pelly was closing the Conference, His Highness was sending to the Mir Akhor instructions to prolong it by every means in his power; a fresh Envoy was already on the way from Cabul to Peshawar; and it was reported that this Envoy had authority to accept eventually all the conditions of the British Government. The Viceroy was aware of these facts when he instructed our Envoy to close the Conference. But it appeared to his Excellency that liabilities which the British Government might properly have contracted on behalf of the present Ameer of Cabul, if that Prince had shown any eagerness to deserve and reciprocate its friendship, could not be advantageously, or even safely, accepted in face of the situation revealed by Sir Lewis Pelly's energetic investigations. Under these circumstances, the prolongation of the Peshawur Conference could only lead to embarrassments and entanglements best avoided by the timely termination of it."—[Ibid. pp. 170–71.]I think that is a most important fact, and I am not arguing now whether Lord Lytton was right or wrong—I am not arguing the merits of the case in the slightest degree; but I do think that the description in the despatch of November 18 does not fully set forth these important facts. And here I wish to give noble Lords a caution as to the epithets used by the noble Viscount in describing the conduct of Lord Lytton. Lord Lytton has gained all his experience in life in diplomatic circles, and has had no experience of administrative business either in Parliamentary, official, or commercial life; but I must say he sometimes seems to do business in a rather peculiar manner. Now, there is one very curious Paper. I have known all the Viceroys of India for a very long time, and I cannot imagine one of them—Lord Dalhousie, Lord Canning, Lord Elgin, Lord Mayo, or the noble Earl and Baron now in the House—sitting down, as Lord Lytton appears to have done, with a shorthand writer at his back, making a magniloquent speech, interspersed with metaphors of a more or less Oriental character, to his own Envoy, and desiring that Envoy to deliver faithfully that speech, which had taken half or three quarters of an hour in delivery, to the Ameer when he returned to him. The special qualities on which the noble Viscount complimented Lord Lytton are his discretion, consideration, and the conciliation with which he treated the Ameer. Now just let us look at this. As regards his discretion, let us take a 36 few sentences. We find Lord Lytton saying—The moment we cease to regard Afghanistan as a friendly and firmly allied State, what is there to prevent us from providing for the security of our Frontier by an understanding with Russia, which might have the effect of wiping Afghanistan out of the map altogether? If the Ameer does not desire to come to a speedy understanding with us, Russia does; and she desires it at his expense."—[Ibid. p. 183.]Now, I am perfectly ignorant as to whether there is a foundation or not for that declaration of Lord Lytton. I do not know whether the noble Viscount opposite thought it necessary to enter into negotiations with Count Schouvaloff in regard to the partition of Afghanistan. But if it is true, what do you think of Lord Lytton, who was selected from diplomacy of all professions, making such a declaration as this to the Ameer? The Viceroy tells the Ameer that Russia has negotiated with us. Is not that the greatest inducement you can offer to the Ameer to place himself also in communication with Russia? I must, therefore, caution your Lordships against believing in the absolute discretion of Lord Lytton. Then Lord Lytton is praised for the moderation of his monitions to the Ameer. Well—it appears that—The Viceroy then said that, if the Ameer remained our friend, this military power could be spread round him as a ring of iron, and, if he became our enemy, it could break him as a reed."—[Ibid.]A very pleasant alternative indeed! Placing the Ameer in such a position as this reminds me of the alternative suggested by the historic mottoes of the Colonna and Orsini families, one of which I unworthily possess—"You can break, but you cannot bend me," the other being—"You can bend me, but you cannot break me." I do not see how this can be described as great consideration. Then it is said Lord Lytton is so conciliatory. Well, in a subsequent sentence we find Lord Lytton, speaking of the Ameer, saying—This is the man who pretends to hold the balance between England and Russia independent of either! His position is rather that of an earthen pipkin between two iron pots."—[Ibid.]That is not the language of conciliation. There is an omission in the Papers to which I wish to call the attention of the noble Viscount, I refer to the omission 37 of four very important letters, as to which the noble Viscount will no doubt give an explanation, as it was stated that their terms were unusually harsh and had produced a most pernicious effect. The noble Viscount says he never received them. But it is an extraordinary thing that he did not remark the omission of such important documents, which caused the Ameer to describe them as making it impossible for him to accept the proposal. Then, again, I think we should have had the Report of our Envoy the Nawab Gholam Hussein Khan, on his return to Simla, which does not appear in the Papers. My Lords, I said just now that I could not go into the merits of the question, though I think the noble Lords opposite were quite right in doing so. As it is our intention, when the noble Viscount (Viscount Halifax) brings forward his Resolution, to raise the question, I think it is more becoming on the present occasion to abstain. One reproach is frequently addressed to those who belong to the Opposition. We were placed in a very difficult position last year; and one of the complaints made against us was—"You attack the Government, but you do not state your own policy." Now, I entirely deny that anybody has a right to demand—and it would be easy to quote Sir Robert Peel or the present Prime Minister on this subject—an explanation of our policy. I, therefore, deny that I can be called upon to state exactly what I should have done after each false step that has been taken. It often happens in private life that a man comes to you and says—"I have got into a difficulty; what am I to do now?" The answer is—"If you had come to me only a week ago, I think I could have given you very fair advice; but after what you have written and done and said, it is impossible for me to do more than tell you what I think is the least of two evils." If your Lordships would think it worth while to know generally what my policy is, I can state it in a very few words. My policy with regard to the North-Western Frontier of India is the same as that which has been the policy of all the greatest authorities and the most experienced men in India up to the time when the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) took the Seals of the India Office. That is enough to say as to our general policy. If you say all 38 that is Jassecl—we have changed all that, and we are now in a very different position—I can only say at this moment that my policy—and I think I should have the concurrence of my Friends in this—would be that, however strong our opinion may be of the injustice of the conduct of the Government towards the Ameer; however disastrous and unnecessary may have been the bringing about of this war; however much we are convinced that you have effectually played into the hands of our great rival in the East, yet at this moment, the emergency having been created, I would use every effort to induce your Lordships—who, I am sure, need no such persuasion—to co-operate in the strongest manner with the other House of Parliament in mating the most ample provision for the sake of the brave and gallant troops with whom we sympathize so entirely. I would go further, and I would press on the Government the consideration whether they really have taken all the precautions that are required—because we could not be certain of the success they would meet with—whether they have sent them sufficient reinforcements, with all the requisites which should be furnished to them. I would also urge the Government to be perfectly frank and open with Parliament, and to tell us the amount of money they require, and the manner in which it is to be raised. I would especially advise them to guard against fallacious Estimates, such as those which were at first produced, and afterwards doubled or nearly trebled, in the case of the Abyssinian War. I would have them explain how far they would leave saddled on the people of India, and how far on the people of this country, the cost of a war which they themselves declare not to be an Indian, but an Imperial one.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My Lords, I am deeply indebted to the noble Earl (Earl Granville) for giving me an opportunity, which I might not otherwise have had, of saying what I wish to say in reference to this despatch of the 18th of November. I take upon myself the whole and entire responsibility of that despatch, and I neither apologize for nor retract a single sentence of it. The noble Earl has adopted a different tone from that which has been held out-of-doors. I sat with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to me in the other House of Parliament for 20 years, and 39 on no occasion have I known my conduct to be impugned for honesty and integrity. But now, one of those right hon. Gentlemen, in the coarsest invective, has charged me with falsehood, and another has, with more poisonous insinuations, held me up as guilty of that offence. If I have committed the offence which they allege in publishing that despatch—if in writing that despatch I have wantonly or deliberately prejudiced the public mind against a former Ministry without truth and without reason, and with the knowledge that it was false—then I would admit the justice of all the attacks which have been made upon me. But, my Lords, the question is, not whether I have arrived at a right or a wrong conclusion, but whether I took such fair and reasonable means as I was bound to do in arriving at the conclusions stated in that despatch—whether I put down that which would fairly arise in one's mind from an examination of the Papers before me? And in a few moments I think I can prove to your Lordships that what I said in Paragraph 9 is true. I do not deny that what the noble Earl affirms may be the true reading; but I do say that to an outsider reading these Papers the conclusion which I came to is the only legitimate and fair conclusion at which an honest and impartial mind can arrive. That is a fair and open statement, and I propose to vindicate myself upon it. Why did I publish that despatch? For this reason. I am not going now to discuss the question of policy. One noble Lord, an ex-Viceroy of India, has gone about the country spreading his opinions in respect of this matter in letters and speeches, and a noble Earl, another ex-Governor General, has lately spoken upon it at a meeting at Winchester. I make no complaint of that. A right hon. Gentleman, a Member of the other House and a man of the greatest possible influence, has also made a speech, in which he declared the state of things which existed when his Ministry was in Office. Every sort of imputation and insinuation have been directed against the conduct of Her Majesty's Government; and I thought it was only fair that a simple and true historical statement of the case should be given to the public. In preparing that document I sought to conceal nothing on the part of my own Government, and I said nothing offensive—or nothing that 40 was intended to be offensive—against the Government of my Predecessors. I only desired to give a simple, plain, and honest statement, and one which would be justified by the Papers, the production of which was to follow it in a very few days. And when people impute to you that you are a knave, they might at least give you the credit for not being a fool also; for one would hardly give in the margin of a despatch that was false the references to the Papers which would so soon convict it of falsehood. That is an imputation, therefore, which corrects itself. With respect to what has taken place in this House, I have no complaint to make. The noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook), in a letter addressed to the newspapers, says that I have come to an incorrect conclusion. An incorrect conclusion is one thing; a wilfully false representation is quite another. The noble Earl had a right to speak, and was, I suppose, speaking, of his own policy, and his interpretation of his instructions. All I attempted to do, in my despatch, was to present the version which I thought the Papers would justify. What I wrote had reference to events in 1873, when he was Viceroy; and, first, I would call attention to a despatch which he sent home on the 27th June, 1873. That despatch he sent home with a view of calling the attention, as he said (paragraph 18), of the Government of Russia to what he thought was our policy in Afghanistan. That part of the case has not been spoken of, but it is most material to my view of the case. That paragraph was to this effect—Although we have abstained from entering into any Treaty engagement to support the Ameer by British troops, in the event of Afghanistan being attacked from without, yet the complete independence of Afghanistan is so important to the interests of British India that the Government of India could not look upon an attack upon Afghanistan with indifference. So long as the Ameer continues, as he has hitherto done, to act in accordance with our advice in his relations with his neighbours, he would naturally look for material assistance from us; and circumstances might occur under which we should consider it incumbent upon us to recommend Her Majesty's Government to render him such assistance."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 107.]Lord Northbrook wished his despatch, with that passage, to be communicated to Russia; and he says—"I propose to inform Cabul Envoy of sense of this paragraph." That was his proposition—that when the Cabul Envoy came 41 to Simla he would inform him of the intentions of the Government. That despatch was sent home by the Viceroy to the Secretary of State in London, and he got an answer from the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), whose absence I deplore, because he has written a letter to which I would much rather refer in his presence than in his absence. It is a great disadvantage to me that I am not face to face with him, for he would, I am sure, argue the point fairly. The Secretary of State telegraphed to the Viceroy thus—Your telegram of the 27th June. I do not object to the general sense of the paragraph, which you quote as a communication to Russia from the Foreign Office, but great caution is necessary in assuring Ameer of material assistance which may raise undue and unfounded expectation. He already shows symptoms of claiming more than we may wish to give."—[Ibid. p. 108.]That was sent on the 1st of July, 1873. Now, what happened? That despatch was sent to the Foreign Office with the view of being communicated to the Russian Government. Was it communicated to the Russian Government? The Duke of Argyll said he did not object to that; but that he did object to statements being made on the subject to the Ameer's Envoy without great caution. In estimating what the opinion of Her Majesty's Government was as to what was to be communicated to the Ameer, it is material that we should see what the Foreign Office said on the subject—because that would indicate what their intentions were about the material assistance which was to be given to the Ameer. Well, the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary (Earl Granville), writing on the 25th of August, 1873, said—I am to request that you will state to the Duke of Argyll that Lord Granville would not think it desirable to communicate with the Russian Government, as suggested by the Indian Government, a copy of the former despatch (June 30, 1873), and so convey to it indirectly an intimation that any aggression by it on Afghanistan would be resisted by Great Britain with force of arms."—[Central Asia, No. 1, p. 206.]And the noble Earl added that this had reference to present propriety in not indicating a desire to modify our policy with regard to Central Asia, and with respect to Afghanistan in particular. But when I am judging of what the Government of that day meant and intended to do, I must look to the whole 42 of their proceedings. That was in August, after the telegram was received. Thus the Government, which, according to the noble Earl, had sanctioned conditional and material assistance being given to the Ameer, now said that it would not communicate to the Russian Government a copy of the former despatch (of June 30, 1873), and so convey to it indirectly an intimation that any aggression by it on Afghanistan would be resisted by Great Britain by force of arms. If the noble Earl means to put it that he would not submit that communication to Russia, on the ground that Russia would take it as an intimation of an offensive character, all that I can say is that Russia had been informed again and again that we could not view these things with indifference—in fact, the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary had already told the Government of that country that we could not view the question of an advance on Merv with indifference. My view of the transaction was that, in August, 1873, the Government had not come to any determination as to the circumstances in which they could give material assistance in men, arms, and money to the Ameer of Afghanistan. Now, my Lords, I will go a little further. What is the telegram of the noble Duke, which, it is said, has been misrepresented in this despatch? The telegram from the Viceroy to the noble Duke is dated July 24, 1873, and it is to this effect—Ameer of Cabul alarmed at Russian progress, dissatisfied with general assurance, and anxious to know definitely how far he may rely on our help if invaded. I propose assuring him that if he unreservedly accepts and acts on our advice in all external relations we will help him with money, arms, and troops, if necessary, to expel unprovoked invasion. We to be the judge of the necessity. Answer by telegraph quickly."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 108.]The Viceroy of India either knew the "settled policy" of his Government at homo at the time or he did not. If he knew that it was the settled policy of his Government to give material assistance to the Ameer on certain conditions, why did he send this telegram to the noble Duke asking for a speedy answer? He had received one answer, telling him he must exercise great discretion in the matter—he had had a conversation with the Envoy, and had said that it was probable that, under certain circumstances, assistance would be given. 43 Now to that telegram, asking for further assurances and for help in money and arms, what was the answer? The reply of the noble Duke was this—Cabinet thinks you should inform Ameer that we do not at all share his alarm, and consider there is no cause for it; but you may assure him we shall maintain our settled policy in favour of Afghanistan, if he abides by our advice in external affairs."—[Ibid.]"Our settled policy in favour of Afghanistan!" Where is it to be found? I cannot find it. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) has complained that during a certain period of late date no despatches appear to have passed between the Home and the Indian Governments; but I think your Lordships will view with astonishment the fact that during the whole of the time that the Duke of Argyll was Secretary of State for India, and the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) was Viceroy, not a single despatch on this subject sent by the noble Duke to the noble Earl the Viceroy can be found, and that the only indication of the policy of the Duke of Argyll on the matter is to be found in the telegram now before us. That, my Lords, is something startling—and yet the noble Duke is amazed and indignant that I should have misrepresented him. The only other document in which the noble Duke refers to Afghanistan is his letter to Lord Mayo, and that merely deals with questions connected with the internal affairs of that country, without in any way touching upon its external relations with other nations. There is certainly no despatch from the noble Duke which indicates any "settled policy" with regard to furnishing material assistance in men, arms, and money to the Ameer. There is no despatch—and it is a remarkable thing that though there is this despatch of the Viceroy, of June 13, there is no despatch of the noble Duke acknowledging it. Going a little further, let us see what really did pass between the noble Earl and the Envoy of the Ameer. In page 112 of the Papers it will be found that the Viceroy observed—That if in the event of any aggression from without, British influence were invoked and failed by negotiation to effect a satisfactory settlement, it was probable that the British Government would in that case afford the Ruler of Afghanistan material assistance in repelling an invader. Such assistance would, of course, be conditional on the Ameer following the advice of the British Government, and having himself abstained from aggression."—[Ibid. 112.]44 That was the statement in the first conversation, which was subsequent to the first telegram. Then we come to the second conversation, which occurred after the receipt of the noble Duke's telegram. It appears from the Papers—That his Excellency proceeded to say that Lord Mayo had assured the Ameer that any representation he might make would 'always be treated with consideration and respect,' and his Excellency was quite prepared to maintain the policy of Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo, and to entertain in a similar spirit the request now preferred."—[Ibid. 113.]Now, Lord Mayo had never done anything with regard to the external affairs of the country, and Lord Lawrence had, so far as I know, given no promise with regard to material assistance to the Ameer. Then there is the further point as to what the noble Earl said to the Envoy. On page 114, in reply to the Envoy, who was pressing for definite promises of assistance, it appears that—His Excellency the Viceroy replied that the British Government did not share the Ameer's apprehensions, but that as already mentioned in the previous conversation, it would be the duty of the Ameer, in case of any actual or threatened aggression, to refer the question to the British Government, who would endeavour by negotiation and by every means in their power to settle the matter and avert hostilities. It was not intended, by insisting on such previous reference to the British Government, to restrict or interfere with the power of the Ameer as an independent Ruler to take such steps as might be necessary to repel any aggression on his territories; but such reference was a preliminary and essential condition of the British Government assisting him. In such event, should those endeavours of the British Government to bring about an amicable settlement prove fruitless, the British Government are prepared to assure the Ameer that they will afford him assistance in the shape of arms and money, and will also in case of necessity aid him with troops. The British Government holds itself perfectly free to decide as to the occasion when such assistance should be rendered, and also as to its nature and extent: moreover, the assistance will be conditional upon the Ameer himself abstaining from aggression, and on his unreserved acceptance of the advice of the British Government in regard to his external relations."—[Ibid. 114.]Well, my Lords, if it seemed probable to the Ameer in the former conversation that he was to get the assistance of the British Government, I think that when he heard all the guarding and cautioning that were laid down in the second conversation he would have considered it very problematical whether he was to get any assistance at all. It will be observed that there is not a word 45 in that second conversation about our "settled policy." I can only say that I think the inference I have drawn from the language of the noble Lord a perfectly just one. On the 6th of September, 1873, he writes to the Ameer—I have had some conversation with your Envoy on the subject of the policy which the British Government would pursue in the event of an attack on your Highness's territories. A copy of the record of these conversations is attached to this letter. But the question is in my opinion one of such importance that the discussion of it should be postponed to a more suitable opportunity."—[Ibid. 816.]Thus nothing was done except in the way of conversation—nothing definitely settled. Nothing is said in that letter about promises or assurances; and, therefore, nothing having been done, nothing settled, nothing complete, I consider that the inference which I drew was a just and legitimate one, and that I fairly expressed it in the ninth paragraph of the despatch. The Government said in a telegram that they did not agree with the alarms of the Viceroy about the Ameer. If they had, the telegram would have been direct in its answer, instead of being general terms, such as "your proposals approved" would have been used; and this view of the telegram is supported by the letter of the Viceroy, who said that he would give no assurances, and that the whole question would be postponed for future consideration. I do not pretend to be infallible; I may be mistaken: but I consider that the view which I took was a perfectly legitimate view. There was a statement made by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) in the debate which took place in June, 1877, and I gather from what he then said, as I gathered from these Papers, that he was in favour of a policy of masterly inactivity; that they were desirous of being on friendly terms with the Ameer; but that they should not bind themselves by any obligations to him beyond being generally friendly, and giving him assistance in arms and money in order to consolidate his strength. The noble Duke said—The policy of the last three Viceroys of India towards that country had been one of watchfulness and friendly support. We do not wish to tangle ourselves in any permanent arrangements towards that Sovereign.'—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 1831.]I look to the Papers, and the deduction 46 I draw from them is, I think, a fair and just conclusion, and is borne out by that observation of the noble Duke. My only object in this discussion has been to vindicate myself from the charge of unfairness. I can say most sincerely that when I was told that paragraph 9 had been found fault with, I searched in every direction to see what the ground of complaint was; and it was not till I read some of the violent speeches made that I at all imagined what it was I was supposed to have mis-stated. I have given you my reasons for coming to the conclusion I did; and I say most distinctly that if I had to re-write that paragraph with the same Papers before me, I should re-write it in the terms I originally adopted. I have already said that I accept the noble Earl's statement of the understanding which he put upon the noble Duke's telegram. With regard to the Commissioner's letters to which allusion has been made, I have only to say that they were not letters addressed to the Ameer personally, but to Gholam Hussein and the Mustaufi, and that they have now been placed on the Table with certain other Papers. It is complained that Parliament has never been informed of these things; but I would point out that none of these Papers relating to Afghanistan previous to 1874—and they were very important—were put before Parliament by our Predecessors. Nothing was said about them. That, however, is a question of policy, and I do not mean to go into it. The Viceroy's speeches form another subject into which I need not now enter. They were delivered at a time when I was not Secretary of State for India; and my present object, as I have already said, is only to vindicate myself, not to go into questions of policy. I think it will be an evil day for this country if one Party begins to make personal charges against the Gentlemen sitting opposite them; and it will not tend to the friendly intercourse which I have had with those who have been opposed to me. In becoming a Member of a Government succeeding another, I cannot call to mind that in one instance—though I may have differed from the policy of my Predecessors—I have ever imputed to them anything wilfully wrong in their action. In the present case I contend that I have full justification for the language I have used, and upon that 47 point I have given evidence which, from my point of view, appears conclusive. If I have arrived at an incorrect conclusion with regard to the policy of the noble Lord opposite, I maintain that it was a fair and reasonable conclusion, and one which might have been taken by any one conscientiously studying the question.
, who rose with Lord Northbrook and was very imperfectly heard, was understood to say that he was sorry to interfere with his noble Friend, who was no doubt anxious to vindicate his own conduct as Viceroy of India; but he thought there was a question of far higher national importance than that as to the comparative merits and faults of different Ministries and Governors General of India, which could best be discussed on this occasion, and to which it was high time to come. The question to which he adverted was whether Ministers, in omitting to advise Her Majesty to consult Parliament when they considered it necessary to order preparations to be made for entering upon hostilities with the Ameer, had acted as they ought to have done? The question seemed to him one of such importance that it was his intention to raise it formally by an Amendment on the Address. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) had said that to move an Amendment on the Address was an inconvenient course; but with that he (Earl Grey) was not disposed to agree. There were questions which could only properly be brought under discussion by an Amendment on the Address. The old Parliamentary practice of moving Amendments on the Address was a right and proper practice; and it was invariably followed in the best periods of our Parliamentary history, and, it ought not to be abandoned. At the same time, he agreed that the whole question of the justice and policy of this war might, perhaps, be best discussed on the Motion of which the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India had given Notice, and he would not, therefore, enter into it at present. The question to which he wished to call their Lordships' attention was this—Was it right that this country should be involved in a terrible war—for it was a terrible war they had now in hand—without an opportunity having been afforded to Parliament of expressing an opinion 48 upon its justice or expediency? He was quite aware that it was the Prerogative of the Crown to declare war; and he was strongly of opinion that that power was properly placed in the hands of the Sovereign. He believed that detriment to the national interest would result if a large discretionary power was not intrusted to the Executive Government. At the same time, although it was the Prerogative of the Crown to declare war, it had, formerly at least, been held to be equally the duty of the Ministers of the Crown not to exercise that great Prerogative without giving Parliament the earliest information on the subject, and without calling for the opinion of Parliament and asking its approval of the course they had decided to take. He could point out many instances in which that rule had been acted upon; indeed, he could not recollect any instance in the best times of our Parliamentary history when a different course had been followed. The practice—as he believed the invariable practice—had been that when the servants of the Crown found that a necessity for war was about to arise they advised the Sovereign, by formal Message, to announce that to Parliament, and to ask for its support. Thus, when the great Revolutionary War broke out, Mr. Pitt did not wait for the commencement of hostilities in order to communicate with Parliament. On the contrary, on the 23rd of January, 1793, a Message from the Crown was sent to the House of Commons in reference to the relations between England and France, and recommending Parliament that provision might be made for an augmentation of the Forces; and it was not until a fortnight after that war had actually began that Mr. Pitt brought down another Message saying that war had been declared by France against England. In like manner, after the Peace of Amiens, when the relations between this country and France were again embarrassed, a Message was brought down on the 8th of March stating that danger of war rendered desirable an increase of the Forces, and it was not until the 16th of May that a further announcement was made. Those two instances would prove to their Lordships that when this country was involved in danger of war, the announcement to Parliament was not deferred until the 49 war had begun; but when the danger became serious, it was at once made known to Parliament, and the support of Parliament requested. And the advantage of that practice was also illustrated by two cases in which no war actually followed after Messages from the Crown to announce its probability, and in which the sending of those Messages contributed much to avert the threatened danger. In 1790 great indignation was excited in this country by the seizure by Spain of two British ships in Nootka Sound, and on the 5th of May Parliament was informed by a Message from the Crown that no satisfaction had been made or offered by Spain for this outrage, andHis Majesty has judged it indispensably necessary to give orders for making such preparations as may put it in His Majesty's power to act with vigour."—[Parl. History, vol. 28, p. 765.]This appeal was promptly and unanimously answered; and the Spanish Government, influenced probably by the determination of the country and the Legislature to support its Government, gave way, and war was avoided. In the following year the British Government was disposed to interfere between Russia and Turkey, in order to obtain better terms than Russia was inclined to grant, and a Message was sent to Parliament asking for a grant of money to increase our Naval Force to enforce our mediation. But that proposal was met with strong opposition in Parliament and the country. The Government carried the Vote it had proposed, and Resolutions which were moved against its intended measures were rejected, but by majorities so small, in comparison with those that Mr. Pitt was usually supported by, that, although the Naval Force was for a short time augmented, it was speedily reduced, and it was not used in the manner the Government originally intended, and the policy of the Government was very considerably modified, so much so, that when the subject was referred to in the following Session Lord Hawkesbury said it had been clear that the opinion of the country had been against war with Russia, and Ministers were not ashamed of deferring to it. These two cases showed completely the great importance of Parliament being 50 informed in due time of what was intended. In the one case, the support of Parliament induced Spain to give way, and to abandon an untenable position; and in the other, such a manifestation of opinion was produced that so powerful a Minister as Mr. Pitt thought it proper and necessary to yield to the opinion of the country; so that in both instances the practice of making a timely communication to Parliament had been the means of saving the nation from the calamity of war. Nothing could more clearly support the principle for which he contended—that Parliament ought not to be committed to a war without timely information, so that it might judge of the necessity and justice of the war. He maintained that when war was imminent the announcement to Parliament should not be deferred until hostilities had actually commenced; but that, when danger became so serious as to make warlike preparations necessary, it should be made known, and the support of the Legislature invited. Parliament ought not to be led into a war without timely information, so that, if its judgment should be against hostilities, it might have an opportunity of interfering; and he felt so strongly on this subject—believing the old Constitutional principle for which he contended to be so important, and holding that the departure from it, in the present instance, had been accompanied with so much injury to the country—that it was his intention now to move, as he did in a similar case in 1857, an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. His Amendment was to insert after the first paragraph the following words:—("We beg humbly to express to your Majesty our sorrow that the great calamity should have occurred of a war with the Ameer of Afghanistan, and we feel it to be our duty very respectfully to express to your Majesty our regret that as soon as your Majesty's servants were satisfied that war had become so probable as to impose upon them the necessity of ordering costly preparations for it to be commenced, they did not advise your Majesty to summon Parliament to meet with the least possible delay, in order that due provision might be made for the expense to be incurred, and that an opportunity might be offered to Parliament, before the war was begun, of considering the grounds on which it was to be undertaken, and of forming a judgment as to its justice and necessity.")That Amendment was, he thought, couched in moderate and respectful 51 terms; at the same time, it might be of service in upholding what he believed to be a great Constitutional principle. He asserted the right of Parliament to be consulted upon a matter of this kind, and especially to express an opinion upon the objects of a war. He agreed that they must now postpone a discussion of the policy and justice of the war; but though he could not then state his reasons for so doing, he would not shrink from taking this earliest opportunity of expressing his strong opinion that the war in which they were now engaged was flagrantly unjust, and as impolitic as it was unjust—so impolitic that even if its success were complete the consequences might be only less disastrous and injurious to the country than defeat. For what would happen—what would be the result of success? It must, however successful it might prove, cause an expense which, in the present state of the finances, both of England and of India, would be most inconvenient; and, at the same time, it would have the effect of totally alienating Afghanistan from us, and making its population our bitter enemies, driving them to throw themselves into the arms of that very great Power of whom we were so much afraid—Russia. That was not his own opinion only; it was the opinion entertained and publicly expressed by men of far greater knowledge, whose opinions and judgment were entitled to far greater weight than his own. It was the opinion entertained by a very large number of people in this country; and though you might prove it to be wrong, he maintained that before we were involved in a war of this kind Parliament ought to have had an opportunity of discussing the question. Nor would it have been difficult to afford Parliament that opportunity. It appeared, from the Papers before the House, that as early as the end of September, or the beginning of October, measures for collecting troops and other measures of a preparatory nature were actually in progress. This, therefore, was the time when, according to the practice of former times and the conduct pursued by Governments in earlier periods, what was going on ought to have been made known to Parliament, and Parliament ought to have been enabled to pronounce its judgment. If every Cabinet, no matter of what Party it might be com- 52 posed, were to be entitled, without the slightest previous warning or intimation, to enter on a war which might extend indefinitely, as this war might extend, from hostilities with the Ameer to hostilities with Russia, then there was virtually an end of anything like a free Constitution. In regard to the present war, Parliament and the country had been kept entirely in the dark; and not only that, but they had been expressly assured that there was no change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government which was likely to involve us in such a war. So late as 1877 a positive assurance was given by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) that there was no such change intended; although it was now perfectly clear from the Papers on the Table that already a great change had actually taken place. Whereas formerly the Ameer of Afghanistan had been assured that he would not be pressed to receive a British Agent, that course was ultimately pressed upon him in such a manner as to lead to the war now going on. Looking at the practice of former times and Governments, he maintained that the course adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers in the present instance was a fatal departure from that practice, and that the country ought not to have been involved in an unjust and impolitic war in a secret and clandestine manner; but that proper notice ought to have been given of what was taking place, so that Parliament might have had an opportunity of discussing the matter. Entertaining that feeling so strongly, he felt it his duty to submit his Amendment, as expressing his strong disapproval of, and protest against, the course which had been adopted by Her Majesty's Government.
Amendment moved, to insert after the first paragraph—
("We beg humbly to express to your Majesty our sorrow that the great calamity should have occurred of a war with the Ameer of Afghanistan, and we feel it to be our duty very respectfully to express to your Majesty our regret that as soon as your Majesty's servants were satisfied that war had become so probable as to impose upon them the necessity of ordering costly preparations for it to be commenced, they did not advise your Majesty to summon Parliament to meet with the least possible delay, in order that due provision might be made for the expense to be incurred, and that an opportunity might be offered to Parliament, before the war was begun,
of considering the grounds on which it was to be undertaken, and of forming a judgment as to its justice and necessity.")—(The Earl Grey.)
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
My Lords, I cannot approve the noble Earl's Amendment. It appears to me that the propositions laid down in that Amendment interfere with the Prerogative of the Crown and diminish the responsibility of Ministers. The noble Earl has mentioned several precedents. He quoted the case of 1793; but in that case we did not declare war. The war was declared on the opposite side of the Channel: that precedent, therefore, was inapplicable. In the case of the Abyssinian War there was a debate in the House of Commons, and on that occasion Mr. Gladstone stated that it was the right course—that it was the duty of Ministers to take the responsibility of declaring war upon themselves, coming to Parliament afterwards. I shall not go into the personal question to-night. It would take some time; but surely nobody can suppose that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India would intentionally mis-state the case. He has tried to do what, no doubt, is very difficult—to draw-up a précis of the opinion of the opposite party—and he only failed where all historians have failed. Going into details, it would not be difficult to show that every history is untrue in some respects; and, for my own part, I do not know any history that is perfectly true. But I come to the more serious question—the question of this war. I cannot agree with the speech of my noble Friend below me (Earl Grey). He says it is an unjust war—not only an unjust, but an impolitic war—a war which, whatever its result, you will be worse off at the end of than you are now; but, on the other hand, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) said he would go on with it, and although it was contrary to justice and to policy, and likely to be profitless, nevertheless, he would urge the country to give every assistance to carry it through. There seems to me, my Lords, a very serious contradiction there. If I thought a war both unjust and impolitic, I would do what I could to prevent it. As to Russian aggression, I remember in 1873 my noble Friend, representing Mr. Gladstone's Government, stated that Russia coming to Khiva was to be looked upon with great concern, not only on account of England, but on account of 54 India. But surely if Russia reached Cabul, there would be still more danger. And what did the late and the present Government say? Both the former and the present Government had agreed that Russia could not be allowed to have a preponderating influence in Afghanistan. Will you, my Lords, allow it? If you will, then say so. There was a neutral zone; but that is gone. What, then, are you asked to do? You must make some other provision. I confess, my Lords, much as I regret it, this war appears to me to be unavoidable. I do not see how the Government could take any other course than that they have taken. I say so with deep feeling, because I well remember the disasters and the deplorable mismanagement that occurred in 1838. My Lords, then we were united; now, I am sorry to say, there has been formed what is called "an Afghan Committee," who are anxious to encourage the Ameer and the enemies of the Queen. I think it a misfortune that any such Committee should have been formed; and I deeply deplore that a noble Lord who has been Governor General, and who is peculiarly acquainted with that country (Lord Lawrence), should have thought fit, no doubt conscientiously, to put himself at the head of that Committee. I regret it, because that noble Lord was an ornament to India, and is an ornament to your Lordships' House. In speaking thus I do not mean to pledge myself that all the measures taken from 1873 to the present time were judicious in all respects. Far from it. But the great question of all is, What are we to do? I, for one, give my cordial assent to the policy of the Government, because I do not see what else they could do. It is not speeches that are wanted, but action; and I hope that vigorous action on their part will bring the war to a successful issue.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, after the small personal details to which we have had to listen this evening, your Lordships must have listened with pleasure to the courageous and patriotic speech which we have just heard. I wish it may produce the same effect upon others who share the general political opinions of the Speaker, but who have not been able to imitate hid patriotism. But, my Lords, that speech makes me the more regret that I am 55 compelled, on personal grounds, to pursue another course. I deeply feel the wretchedness of the small personal details which I am obliged, out of deference to others, to bring before your Lordships, but I have no other alternative. I have often noticed the singular skill of the Leader of the Opposition and noble Lords on the other side. Perhaps some might have thought that when the fallacies employed were being exposed by my noble Friend (Viscount Cranbrook) the noble Earl opposite would have felt discomfited; but I traced no sense of discomfiture upon his countenance. He is too well satisfied with the result of the stratagem to which recourse has been had. The noble Earl's policy is to draw aside the attention of the country from the broad issues before it, and, if possible, to conceal the fact that his favourite, his most attached, political Friends have been taking the side of the enemies of their country. That is a matter upon which the traditions of the Party to which he belongs naturally make him sensitive. The noble Earl has shown singular judgment and astuteness at this, perhaps the most important, political juncture which this country has witnessed in this generation, in turning your debates almost entirely upon questions of small personal attack. I admit, however, that though the imputations which he had to make were not of a very pleasant nature, he put them in words to which no exception can be taken. I do not wish to detain your Lordships on this personal matter; but the accusation which the noble Earl made against me was substantially this—that being questioned by the Duke of Argyll I misled the House as to the real state of the case. The noble Earl quoted my words in justification of that charge. He began by saying that my words would indicate what the nature of the Duke of Argyll's Question had been. I regret that he did not quote the actual Question of the Duke of Argyll. When a legal opinion is produced, it is usual to give the question on which the legal opinion was founded. When the dictum of a Judge is quoted it is a matter of ordinary practice to ask what was the precise nature of the case to which the dictum refers. Words taken by themselves are often misleading, instead of giving information. As I understand the charge 56 of the noble Earl, it is that at a time when I knew that Sir Lewis Pelly had been commissioned to go to Cabul I denied that any Envoy had been sent to Cabul at all. Now, my Lords, it is necessary to read the Question of the Duke of Argyll to which I replied. What he said is spread over a speech of considerable length—I will not read many passages, but I will select some of them. They go to show that what the Duke of Argyll was asked was as to whether it was true that I had forced on the Ameer of Cabul a Resident at his Court. The Duke of Argyll said—No doubt it would be very convenient to nave a Resident at Cabul, if you could get a man for the place, and that he was received with cordiality; but it was notorious for a long time past that the present Ameer had set his face against having such an officer in his Court. …. Rumour said that the Government of India had determined upon a change of policy, and had resolved to insist on the Ameer having a resident British Envoy at his Court."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 1830.]Well, my Lords, the noble Earl said, parenthetically in the course of his remarks, that I should not attempt to explain the statement by observing that what we had deliberately attempted to do was to attempt to induce the Ameer to receive resident Envoys at other places besides Cabul. I dare say when the noble Earl made that observation, he thought it was unimportant whether the Ameer received an Envoy at Cabul or Herat. But the difference is essential. Her Majesty's Government had been impressed with the opinion that to ask the Ameer to receive an Envoy at Cabul would be not only idle, but unwise, because of the turbulent and revengeful character of the population, which would render the residence of the Envoy dangerous. Moreover, there is no doubt that a Resident at Cabul would have such powers of interfering in the internal government of Afghanistan, and of overshadowing the dignity of the Prince himself, that such a proposal would have very naturally raised objections in the mind of the Ameer—objections which it was the desire of Her Majesty's Government to avoid raising. We did not want to interfere in the internal government of Afghanistan or to overshadow the authority of the Ameer. What we wanted was to have officers on the Frontier, who might see something of what was going on within them and 57 beyond them. I need hardly explain to the House why we should wish to know what was going on in Afghanistan. It is sufficient to say that the year before Khiva had been occupied—without going further I am sure the House will understand why we desired to know what was going on in Turkestan and in the Ameer's territories, without having any intention whatever of interfering in the internal government of Afghanistan or overshadowing the Ameer in his own Court. I dwell upon this point to show that the difference between asking for an Agent at Herat and at Cabul is immense. It was a distinction upon which the Ameer insisted all along. We have a curious account in Lord Lytton's letters in 1877, derived from officers who saw the Ameer at Umballa. A considerable number of them represented that they knew from personal knowledge that while the Ameer was willing to admit an Agent at Herat, or on his Frontiers, he would not admit one at Cabul. We were exceedingly careful to avoid making this particular demand to which the Ameer was certain to object. My first instructions to Lord Northbrook were, that he should take measures for obtaining the assent of the Ameer to the establishment of a British Envoy at Herat; but I did not suggest any similar step with regard to Cabul. Lord Lytton, when he came to propose the terms on which the negotiations should be conducted, was careful to make a similar distinction. He says, in Article 5 of the Treaty, he proposed that for the protection of the Afghan Frontier British Agents should reside at Herat, and at such other places as might be agreed upon by the contracting Powers; but further on the Treaty says, that unless and until it is otherwise agreed, a Native Agent only should reside at Cabul. With this understanding I think your Lordships will see that my reply to the Duke of Argyll was absolutely correct. I had first to inform him that I could not give him any positive knowledge. The circumstances at the time were difficult and critical in the extreme. Russia was in arms; great irritation prevailed; no one knew whether the war would not spread much further than its original area; and whatever the policy of Her Majesty's Government might be, and whatever duties it might 58 be called upon to perform, this, at least, was our duty—not to bias in any way the policy of the country, nor to add to its difficulties and dangers by any imprudent language of our own. It was, therefore, our duty not to say much of that which I say now, and which is said in the Papers before the House. Consequently, I told the Duke of Argyll that I could not give him much positive information, but that I could give him some negative information. The negative information was this—that we had not tried to force an Envoy on the Ameer at Cabul, and that we had not suggested Sir Lewis Pelly as an Envoy at Cabul. Now, I want to know why the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) insinuates that I said anything contrary to the most perfect truth in the reply I made to the Duke of Argyll. The noble Earl who sits on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) talked of my having stated that there had been no change of policy as regards Afghanistan. I must charitably suppose that the noble Earl spoke without having taken the trouble to read the speech to which he referred. There is no such statement in that speech. The noble Earl remarked that I said that our relations with the Ameer had undergone no material change since last year, and that the Ameer's feelings towards the British Government were not more embittered than they had been. Now, if I had said that his feelings were not more embittered towards us than they had been when Lord Mayo met him at Umballa, there might be a considerable doubt as to the accuracy of that statement. His feelings are undoubtedly a matter of some mystery; but I have little doubt that they have gone on deteriorating progressively against us from the time when Sir John Lawrence came to the unfortunate resolution not to take what has been called the honest double-dealing policy with regard to the candidates for the Throne of Afghanistan. I have no doubt they became worse and worse. There was a slight improvement, however, during the Viceroyalty of Lord Mayo; but during the Viceroyalty of Lord Northbrook there were several circumstances which caused them to become worse and worse. There was that unfortunate arbitration at Seistan, with which the Ameer was profoundly dissatisfied; and which only added one to the list of those arbitrations which have not 59 precisely produced that perfect good feeling which the devisers of the system hoped for. Then there was an act which reflects great credit on Lord Northbrook, who was then Viceroy, but which much displeased the Ameer. That was Lord Northbrook's interposition to save the son of the Ameer, Yakoob Khan, from suffering the worst results of one of the most atrocious acts of perfidy which even an Afghan Ruler ever committed. What I desired to express, and what was a distinct and a true answer to all the questions of the Duke of Argyll, was, that the policy which led to the Conference of Peshawur had not made any unfavourable difference in the dispositions of the Ameer—his feelings were already as hostile to us as they could well be. I can only go to the official documents. The noble Earl says—what is perfectly true—that I received the despatch of Lord Lytton about a week before I made that answer in the House. Well, what are we take as proof of the Ameer's relations towards us? I will first take the Ameer's own account. I find this in Lord Lytton's despatch—So completely had the whole movement collapsed before we closed the Conference at Peshawur, that the first step taken by the Ameer, immediately after that event, was to send messengers to the authorities and population of Candahar, informing them that the jehad project was abandoned, requesting them to do all in their power to allay the religious excitement he had till then been endeavouring to arouse, and adding that his relations with the British Government were eminently satisfactory."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 171.]With that statement in my hands, I could not say in this House that our relations with the Ameer were unsatisfactory. Lord Lytton, in the meanwhile, said—We see no reason to anticipate any act of aggression on the part of the present Ameer;and he added—Our relations with him are still such as we commonly maintain with the Chiefs of neighbouring and friendly countries."—[Ibid.]That is exactly the position which it was the ambition of Lord Lawrence, and, subsequently, of Lord Northbrook, to maintain. What was my own official estimate some three months later of the state of things? I said we had been engaged in negotiations, the object of which was not to maintain our 60 relations with the Ameer unchanged, but to make them more friendly than they had been. He refused our advances, and when I spoke in the House I knew that those advances had been refused. My statement, therefore, was in all its parts strictly in accordance with the facts. We have now before us not the original Address, but an Amendment to it; and the noble Earl has based his Amendment on statements implying that the Prerogative of the Crown has been used to encroach on the privileges of Parliament. It is saying, in a more distinct form, what was again and again intimated by the noble Earl who opened on that side, and what has been stated by Mr. Gladstone at Greenwich. It is the charge included in that curious phrase "personal government," of which we have heard so much of late. I always believed—and every one else believed—that when this phrase was constantly reiterated it meant some return to the days of Charles I., and some overthrow of the Constitution established in 1688. But now it appears from Mr. Gladstone that he never meant that. He says the phrase is awkward perhaps, but it is one to which they are well accustomed, and that it applies, not to Her Majesty, but to Her Majesty's Ministers. Well, personal government of some kind you must have. Somebody must do the work of government. If it is not done by the responsible Ministers, it must be done by the permanent officials; or, if not done by the latter, it must be done by the Chief Clerks—and if not by the Chief Clerks by the Assistant Clerks. I suppose that what the noble Earl who has moved this Amendment really referred to is the idea that it is the duty of the Crown, before it exercises the Prerogative of making peace or war, to consult Parliament. Great efforts have been made to persuade the country that we have done something essentially un-Constitutional in what we have done in this respect. The assertion has been repeated again and again without proof, till—as such assertions get to be accepted by sheer repetition—there are some people who believe it. I think there are some people who believe that in concluding the Anglo-Turkish Convention without the knowledge of Parliament we did something without precedent. But some ingenious person in the House of Commons, to try 61 the matter, moved for a Return of all the Treaties which were laid on the Table of the House before they were ratified, and not one could be produced. The truth is, that some of the most important and most recent engagements in our history have been concluded by the Ministers of the Crown without any reference to, or knowledge of, Parliament. I will only state two, and they will be sufficient. Few more important things have been done in our generation than the sacrifice of that right of search for which our forefathers fought. I do not say whether it was right or wrong; I only say that few more important things have been done. Yet that was done—the Declaration of Paris was accepted and signed—without any intimation to Parliament of what was going to be done; and so complete was the absence of any official form about it, that I believe that now no records can be discovered of the instructions given for signing it or of the object with which it was concluded. Again, take the Tripartite Treaty of 1856, which bound us to fight for every inch of Turkish soil if we were challenged to do so either by France or Austria. It was a Treaty most large in its engagements, and most precise in its language. That is in the same condition. No intimation was given to Parliament before it was signed, and you find no record of the motives which induced the Ministers to conclude it. In fact, you will hardly find any Treaty of an important political character which was not concluded under similar conditions as far as the ignorance of Parliament was concerned. Well, the case is the same with regard to declarations of war. I have in my hand a long list of successive declarations of war since 1815, and I am unable to discover that any considerable number of them—I doubt whether any of them except the Crimean War—was communicated to Parliament before it was undertaken. Allow me to give three or four recent precedents to the House—I mean precedents within the lifetime of Lord Palmerston, who was not a Tory, and who was a very considerable authority on Constitutional practice. The Afghan War was declared by Lord Auckland in October, 1838, with the consent and the full authority of the Home Government; and the first time it was communicated to Parliament was in the Queen's 62 Speech on the 5th of February, 1839. Then there is the war in Syria—a very considerable and important operation. On the 15th of July, 1840, while Parliament was still sitting, the Government concluded a Treaty with the other three Powers, to the exclusion of Franco, without either consulting Parliament beforehand or informing them of it afterwards. The result of that Treaty was the military operations in the Levant which took place in the winter, and Parliament was not called together until January, 1841, when the whole thing was over. Take, again, the case of the Persian War—a case as nearly on all fours with the present one as can be. Persia, like Afghanistan, is an Oriental country, and about equal to it in power, and the interests that were concerned were in the same manner partly European and partly Asiatic. But the Persian War was determined on by the Government at home during the Recess of 1856–7; the assembling of Parliament was not hastened in the least degree, and Parliament was informed of the war for the first time in 1857. I think the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey) protested against it then as he does now, and there were protests of the same kind made in the other House; and what was Lord Palmerston's reply? He said that in the case of an expedition against Persia—a remote country, and one not likely to entail on us any considerable efforts—considering that in the ordinary course Parliament would speedily assemble, to call it specially together under those circumstanees would only be a burlesque on our Constitutional forms.
was understood to say, that Lord Palmerston admitted the principle that Parliament ought to be informed as soon as possible when war was to be made; but contended that the Persian War had been one of so little importance that to summon Parliament specially at an inconvenient season on account of its occurrence would have been a burlesque.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is perfectly true that he said that whenever this country becomes involved with one of the great Powers of Europe or with the United States of America—not before, but when we become so involved—it is the duty of the Government to call Parliament together and ask it for the 63 means of carrying the struggle on. But in the case of a collision with such a Power as Afghanistan—a remote country, and one which is not likely to entail upon us any considerable efforts—it would be, according to Lord Palmerston's words, only a burlesque of Constitutional forms to call Parliament together when it was commenced. Therefore, the criticism of Lord Palmerston—if he were here—would be, not that we have exaggerated the Prerogative of the Crown or disparaged the privileges of Parliament, but that in our excessive tenderness for Parliament, and to avoid the slightest appearance of treating it with disrespect, we are actually burlesquing Constitutional forms. There is another case—that of the Abyssinian War. On July 25, 1867, the then Foreign Secretary declared to Parliament that the Government had not decided on sending an expeditionary force. In the following August an expeditionary force against King Theodore was decided on; but the fact was not communicated to Parliament until the Prorogation, when there was no opportunity of debate; and the intention of going to war was never communicated to Parliament until the war was entirely over. The Expedition left Bombay in September, and the fact was not officially communicated to Parliament until the Queen's Speech of the 19th November. I am not here to deny that you will find on these occasions men of the type of the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey) who then raised objections. It is very probable that that was so; but what I say is, that in all those instances, whatever the objections were, be they small or large, they did not represent the dominant feeling of Parliament; that Parliament is in the last resort the supreme determiner of its own privileges; and that Parliament has always admitted precisely that use of the Prerogative—or rather a much more extensive use than that which we have had recourse to on the present occasion. There is only one other remark that I will venture to make. It is on a matter of a personal character, in reply to some observations which have been made on the personal characteristics of Lord Lytton. I heard with regret the observations made by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville). I admit that it is the Prerogative and the duty of Parliament to scrutinize 64 and, if necessary, condemn the action of the servants of the Crown. On the other hand, every generous mind will feel that men in situations of extreme responsibility, and who have the greatest difficulties to contend with, ought not at the same time to have the painful feeling that they are being treated ungenerously. If the noble Earl had been content merely to condemn the measures which have been taken by Lord Lytton, of course the answer was ready—those measures were either before or afterwards approved by his official superiors, and on them the whole Parliamentary responsibility must fall. But when the noble Earl goes so far as to ridicule him because, as the noble Earl puts it, he made a speech in the presence of his own Envoy, and employed a shorthand writer to take it down—or, as I should rather put it, he followed the usual course after such an interview and corrected the Memorandum of what had been said during its progress—I think the noble Earl trespasses beyond the line which ought to be observed in criticising absent public servants. I can only say that on our part we cannot accept, in the slightest degree, the shadow of the censure which has proceeded from the noble Earl. We have the greatest cause to be indebted to Lord Lytton for the devotion with which he has given himself to the great task that he has undertaken, and for the high qualities that he has displayed. I do not know what Lord Lytton's precise nationality is; but he has combined the imagination of a poet with the shrewdness of a Scotchman. He has a singular combination of qualities. The remarkable eloquence which he shows in all his speeches and despatches might give you the impression that he was a man whose gifts were purely those of imagination, if you had not followed him through the details of his official career and been enabled to satisfy yourself that in industry, caution, and sound, hard discretion he has not been exceeded by any Viceroy who has preceded him.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships on this occasion because it appears to me that I am called upon to give evidence on two points, on both of which I am obliged to give it against Her Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook), in an- 65 swering the speech of my noble Friend behind me, gave, as far as I could follow him, a very able account of my actions and of the motives that actuated me in dealing with the Ameer when I was Viceroy of India. It appears to me, however, with all due deference to the noble Viscount, that I am the only person who can state to your Lordships and to the country exactly what I did when I was Governor General of India. The question at issue between us is a very simple one. I have never made any charge against the noble Viscount of having endeavoured wilfully to misrepresent my conduct in this matter; but I am bound to say that the words used by the noble Viscount in his despatch of the 18th of November last, give the people of this country an entirely inaccurate impression of what really happened at the time. That inaccurate impression has not only been expressed in the daily organs of the Press, but it has also been expressed tonight by the noble Lord the Seconder of the Address. In paragraphs 8 and 9 of the noble Viscount's despatch, he says that—Shere Ali, actuated by his fears on this score, sent a special Envoy to Simla in the summer of that year (1873), charged with the duty of expressing them to the Government of India.And in paragraph 9, he says—Finding that the object of the Ameer was to ascertain definitely how far he might rely on the help of the British Government if his territories were threatened by Russia, Lord Northbrook's Government was prepared to assure him that, under certain conditions, the Government of India would assist him to repel unprovoked aggression. But Her Majesty's Government at home did not share his Highness's apprehension, and the Viceroy ultimately informed the Ameer that the discussion of the question would be best postponed to a more convenient season."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 262.]No person who reads those paragraphs could come to any other conclusion than that I wished to give certain assurances to the Ameer which I was prevented from giving by the Home Government, and that I was therefore compelled to tell the Ameer that the discussion of the matter had better be postponed to a future time; and from another paragraph of the noble Viscount's despatch it has been naturally inferred that H or Majesty's present Government in 1876 gave assurances to the Ameer 66 which Her Majesty's late Government in 1873 had refused to give him. As regards the first part of the question, I am, as I said before, the only person who can give evidence with respect to it. The fact is, that having asked to be allowed to give to the Ameer certain assurances, and having received a reply by telegraph from the Home Government in answer to my inquiry, I felt that their telegram justified me in giving the Ameer the precise assurances I desired to give him, and which I actually did give him through his Prime Minister, an authenticated copy of those assurances being forwarded to him personally. So far, therefore, from the despatch of the noble Viscount giving an accurate impression of what occurred, it gives an impression totally at variance with the facts of the case. As the noble Viscount has gone into this question at such length, and as the Duke of Argyll is unable to be in his place to-night to explain his own conduct, I asked him to allow me to make use of any private letters relating to this subject which might have passed between us; and, with his permission, I will read to the House a paragraph from a private letter I wrote to him two days after I received his telegram permitting me to give the assurance I desired to give to the Ameer, and before I had the interview with his Prime Minister. The words I used in the letter I wrote to the Duke of Argyll were these—"Your telegram of the 26th will enable me to give him sufficiently distinct assurances." This letter, therefore, entirely boars out my impression of what occurred at that time. While I entirely acquit the noble Viscount of any deliberate intention to misrepresent the matter, I cannot help thinking that it is extremely unfortunate that he did not take more pains to master the facts of the case. If he had taken common pains to do so, he would never have allowed the paragraphs in his despatch to which I have referred to stand. The noble Viscount would have found my view of the case supported by the despatch of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), of the 28th of February, 1876, who, in page 158 of the Papers, in referring to this question, says—In the year 1873, Lord Northbrook gave to the Envoy of the Ameer the personal assurance 67 that, in the event of any aggression upon the territories of His Highness which the British Government had failed to avert by negotiation, that Government would be prepared 'to assure the Ameer that they will afford him assistance in the shape of arms and money, and will also, in case of necessity, assist him with troops.'
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
I will do so if the noble Viscount wishes me to do so. The despatch goes on—The terms of this declaration, however, although sufficient to justify reproaches on the part of Shere Ali if, in the contingency to which it referred, he should be left unsupported by the British Government, were unfortunately too ambiguous to secure confidence or inspire gratitude on the part of His Highness. The Ameer, in fact, appears to have remained under a resentful impression that his Envoy had been trifled with, and his attitude towards the Government of India has ever since been characterized by ambiguity and reserve.That is an argument to which I will advert immediately. At present I am dealing merely with the facts of the case; and I think that if the noble Viscount had consulted these Papers carefully he never would have introduced these paragraphs into his despatch. If anyone will read the 12th paragraph of Lord Lytton's despatch of the 10th of May, 1877, in page 162, it will be seen that the account of the noble Viscount does not accurately state the case. There is also the statement in the Conferences between the Prime Minister of the Ameer and Sir Lewis Pelly, which gives a completely accurate account of the transactions of 1873. The Prime Minister says that the assurances at his first interview were not sufficient, but that afterwards further assurances were given; and if the noble Viscount desires any further evidence, there is the language of Lord Lytton in his letter of the 15th of March, 1877, to the Prime Minister, in which the assurances I had given in 1873 were withdrawn; all notice of which has been omitted by the noble Viscount. Therefore, I say that even from the Papers themselves the noble Viscount ought to have formed a more accurate judgment of the transaction, and have avoided writing a paragraph which has led to such misapprehension on the part of the public. But that is not all. The noble Viscount has now upon his Council three distinguished 68 statesmen who were Members of my Council in 1873, or afterwards—Sir Henry Norman, Sir Barron Ellis, and Sir William Muir—all of whom were cognizant of these transactions; and yet will it be believed that the noble Viscount has not taken the common precaution of asking them whether he was right in his facts before publishing those paragraphs, and that the first thing that they knew about his despatch was seeing it in the newspapers? If he had taken that precaution, the noble Viscount would not have found himself in the difficult position in which he is now placed. Exception has also been taken by the noble Earl behind me (Earl Granville) to the 16th paragraph of the despatch, which refers to the close of the Sir Lewis Pelly's negotiations, and I cannot look upon the explanation of the noble Viscount as to the accuracy of that paragragh as satisfactory. In the 18th paragraph, moreover, the noble Viscount describes the position of the Government after the close of the negotiations as one of "vigilant reserve." The real position was that on the 15th of March, 1877, the Viceroy had informed the Ameer that all the assurances of protection he had received from Lord Lawrence, Lord Mayo, and myself, were repudiated, and that the only engagement by which the British Government were bound was the Treaty of 1855, under which no assurance of protection was given him. I do not think anyone would draw any such inference as this from the account given in the despatch of these transactions. Giving the noble Viscount every credit for a desire not to misrepresent the facts of the case in his despatch, I must say that anyone who reads his conclusions and then carefully examines the Papers will be very much surprised. There is another point in the noble Viscount's speech to which I must allude, although it is one on which I have no personal knowledge. The noble Viscount in his despatch leaves it to be inferred that Her Majesty's present Government have given to the Ameer, or rather offered to the Ameer, the assurances which His Highness required from me and which I was not able to give him. The noble Viscount spoke in a condemnatory sense of the safeguards and cautions attached to the assurances offered to Shere Ali in 1873.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
I must deny having expressed the sentiment which, the noble Earl imputes to me.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
Then, I wish the noble Viscount would not use language which is liable to misconstruction. His words about "vague" assurances certainly seemed to imply that those assurances were not of a kind which ought to have been given at the time. Now, I wish to point out to your Lordships that the offers made to the Ameer by Her Majesty's present Government were guarded far more strictly than chose of the Government of 1873. These Papers contain the draft Treaty which Sir Lewis Pelly was authorised to conclude with the Ameer. My assurances to the Ameer in 1873 were that the British Government, under certain circumstances, would afford him assistance in the shape of arms and money and also, in case of necessity, assist him with troops. The safeguards were these—that he should abstain from aggression and should unreservedly accept the advice of the British Government in regard to his external relations. Now, turning to the draft Treaty which Sir Lewis Pelly was authorized to conclude with the Ameer, which is given at page 190 of the Papers, what do I find? There is an assurance of protection, no doubt, in the second Article; but it is qualified in the third and fourth Articles in precisely the same way as the assurance of protection offered to the Ameer by the Government of 1873. The qualification is that His Highness should "refrain from all provocation of aggression on or interference with the States and territories beyond his present Frontier," and that "he should conduct his relations with Foreign States in harmony with the policy of the British Government." It appears that the Viceroy was not quite satisfied with these conditions; and on looking to the aide mémoire "for subsidiary secret and explanatory agreement," at page 191, you will find that it was understood, in regard to Article 2, that the Ameer should "bind himself to abstain from discussion of political, international, or State matters with, any Foreign Government," communicating unreservedly to the British Government all communications on such subjects received by him. I wish to show that if there is any distinction between the terms offered to the Ameer by the Viceroy under in- 70 structions from the Home Government, and the terms which were proposed in 1873, the terms proposed by Her Majesty's present Government were more strict than those offered in 1873. I have thought it right to mention this, because there is great misapprehension on the subject. It has been said in several of the newspapers, and notably by The Pall Mall Gazette, that the conduct of the late Government towards Shere Ali was the whole cause of the present war. Shere Ali, said The Pall Mall Gazette, wanted to throw himself into the arms of England, and made a proposal which Lord Northbrook was willing to accept, but which Mr. Gladstone's Government declined; and out of that proposal has grown the Afghan War. Knowing the truth of this matter, as I do, I cannot, in common fairness and justice to the Government under which I was then serving, refrain from explaining what the real facts of the case are; and I venture to say I should have taken the same course if these circumstances had occurred when the Party opposite was in Office, and while I was serving under the Earl of Beaconsfield. I think the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has very much underrated the importance of the observations of the noble Earl beside me (Earl Granville) upon the debate which occurred in this House on the 15th of June last year. I do not think anything which amounts to concealing from your Lordships facts which are known by Ministers can be considered to be a "small personal question unworthy of discussion." It so happened that I took very great interest in the debate in question, and the account which the noble Marquess has given of it is not one which I feel disposed to accept. My noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) certainly did put some Questions on particular points to the noble Marquess; but he did not confine his speech to that. If he had done so, I might have accepted the explanation now given by the noble Marquess. My noble Friend discussed the policy pursued by successive Viceroys towards Afghanistan, remarking that the views of the last three Viceroys were that we should maintain an amicable and watchful attitude towards the Ameer, without entangling ourselves in permanent engagements. There can be only one interpretation of what occurred. The 71 Duke of Argyll wished to receive, not only an answer to a particular Question, but a general assurance from the noble Marquess that he had not departed from the line of policy indicated. I remember hearing the noble Marquess state that affairs maintained a peaceful aspect, and that there was "no reason for any apprehension of any change of policy or disturbance in our Indian Empire." But the noble Marquess, in now quoting that passage, omitted to quote the words "in our Indian Empire." I assert on my own authority, having been personally in the House and having listened with the greatest care to what fell from the noble Marquess, that I believed and accepted those words to mean that there had been no material change in our relations with Afghanistan. That is not all, because I addressed your Lordships, and I gave the noble Marquess an opportunity, of which he might have taken advantage, of explaining the misconception under which I laboured, and of stating to your Lordships precisely the state of affairs as they existed at that time. As the matter is important, I must trouble your Lordships with the few words I used on that occasion. I said—The policy we have pursued with regard to the Ameer has been to show him that we desired to assist him with our advice whenever he requires it, and not to press upon him the presence of British officers in his territories, unless he really desires that they should go there, and will give them a welcome.I said—That if that policy is deliberately adhered to now, as it has been for many years. … whatever suspicions may be entertained by the Ameer … will disappear, and that the Ameer will soon see that his suspicions have no foundation, and will look upon us … as his best friends, and as those to whom, in certain circumstances, he will have to apply for assistance.I added—It is with great satisfaction, therefore, that I have heard the assurance of the noble Marquess that the policy I have referred to Her Majesty's Government will continue to pursue."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiv. 1843.]I therefore stated in the presence of your Lordships the interpretation I put on the words of the noble Marquess; and I further said—I am satisfied that he has given us that assurance in perfect good faith, and that we may trust him to resist any attempt to put it aside.If it had not have been for that assurance, as I understood it, most un- 72 doubtedly I should have brought the question before your Lordships. I will not say what the effect of the debate might have been; but, at any rate, before the war had been entered into, this House and the country would have known what the policy of the Government was, and would have been able to express an opinion as to whether that policy was right or wrong, and whether we were to drift into the war in which we are now engaged. As I have said before, this is not simply a personal question. In dealing with distant countries great confidence must be placed in Her Majesty's Government, and great discretion must be used by those who differ from them. On such questions a Minister is required to be more careful than in dealing even with European questions. I have said what the assurances given were, and I have now to state what were the circumstances at the time they were given. So far from Her Majesty's Government not having desired to enter into any definitive Treaty engagement, an endeavour had been made to negotiate a Treaty with the Ameer; and so far from there having been no change in our relations with the Ameer, on the 15th of March, 1877, the assurances that had been given to the Ameer—of protection in the event of attack or of internal disturbance—by Lord Lawrence, Lord Mayo, and myself, had been withdrawn under the instructions of the British Government, any expectation of support from us had been repudiated, and he had been told that we were under no engagement except that of the Treaty of 1855, under which there was no obligation on our part except to refrain from interference, and to leave the Ameer entirely to himself. I was perfectly astounded by the condition of things revealed by the despatch addressed to the noble Marquess by the Viceroy on the 10th of May, 1877, which must have been in the hands of the noble Marquess at the time he gave the assurances in the House of Lords in June, 1877, of which I have spoken. It is with deep regret I am obliged to say this: it would not be right, the Question having been put, and the answer having been given, if I did not give my deliberate testimony that the statement then made by the noble Marquess gave me a completely incorrect impression of what 73 the real facts of the case were. I am not going now to enter into the general policy of the war; but I must say I do not think the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Somerset) was quite fair in his remarks about the noble Lord a late Governor General (Lord Lawrence) for having joined the Afghan Committee. If my noble Friend had done such a thing in the sense of supporting the Afghans against the British Government, no language would be too strong to be used in the circumstances. But as matters stand, I am surprised at the noble Duke's condemnation of my noble Friend. He has an opinion that the war is right. Very good; but my noble Friend thinks it is unjust and impolitic—an opinion in which I myself am very much disposed to concur with him. The noble Duke says that my noble Friend is not patriotic; but he would appear not to be patriotic, simply because he differs from the noble Duke, and expresses the earnest opinions which he holds. Few men in this country have given such proofs as my noble Friend has done of patriotism, of vigour, of honour, and of a desire at any risk to maintain the British Empire in India; and yet, because he does not happen to agree with the noble Duke, he is to be spoken of in such terms. It is repugnant to all my feelings of justice and to every sentiment of propriety that a man of such distinguished services should be so spoken of in this House. My noble Friend has a perfect right to express his opinions on the causes of this war, and to say whether he thinks it just or unjust. It is fortunate that we have men like him in the country, who know something of our former relations with Afghanistan, and who can correct statements which have been made, and despatches which have been published, by the knowledge which they possess. One thing more. With regard to the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), I hope it will not be pressed to a division. Unfortunately, this discussion has assumed a somewhat personal character. Nobody more regrets that circumstance than I do; but from that very fact, if the Amendment were to be pressed, your Lordships would be asked to vote upon a proposition which you have not yet had an opportunity of fully and completely discussing. At the same time, I 74 must confess that I concur entirely with that part of the argument of the noble Earl which rests upon the Act of 1858. I hold that it is not right for any Administration carrying on war outside India to apply the Revenues of that country towards the expense of such war with-out the previous consent of Parliament. In this case there was plenty of time before the declaration of war for the Government to have summoned Parliament and explained their policy; therefore, that would have been a proper and a Constitutional course, because there can be no doubt that the Prerogative of the Crown is limited by Act of Parliament, and, although it is the Prerogative of the Crown to declare war, at the same time the clauses of the Act of 1858 prescribe the course that should be followed under the circumstances. It has been a matter of extreme regret to me to be placed to some extent in collision with the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount opposite. I have endeavoured since I returned from India to abstain from making unnecessarily any observations on Indian affairs. I can say with perfect sincerity that, both in and out of Parliament, I have endeavoured to look at Indian affairs entirely apart from Party politics; and I should not hesitate for a moment to express my opinion as strongly with regard to anything done by those on my own side of the House as with regard, to the conduct of noble Lords opposite.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
Although, my Lords, I cannot support the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, I still agree with him that there are occasions when Amendments to the Address are desirable, expedient, and politic. I think I may speak with some authority on the subject, for probably I am the only Member of this House who has, in his time, moved an Amendment to the Address—with what success I care not to recollect—but, at the same time, a fooling of duty, such as that which has animated the noble Earl, actuated me, and I am quite prepared to say that, under similar circumstances, I should deem it my duty to take a similar course. What, then, was the state in which we found ourselves some 25 years ago, advocating a cause with deep and warm convictions, but one which, perhaps, was not supported by a majority of the House, to which we appealed, or 75 the nation? The Recess had passed. We had all of us made a good manyspeeches—in which, probably, we had used language not much more measured than we have lately become accustomed to; many of us had written letters—though not so many, perhaps, as some individuals have done in more modern times; and, under these circumstances, being also—if I may recall the circumstance without offence—members of a society of great activity and organization—more active certainly than the Afghan Committee—having agitated the country for a considerable time by the sincere expression of our opinion, we did think that when Parliament met we were bound to take the opinion of that great Assembly on the question which we had so long described as of the highest importance and of the most urgent interest. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) has taken that step to-day; but the noble Earl (Earl Granville), in his recognized position of Leader of the Opposition in this House, has taken an entirely different course. He has declared that to-night we are not to enter into the question of policy which so deeply interests the country, and which, if we are to judge from the speeches, organization, and conduct of noble Lords opposite and their friends in the country, so deeply excites and agitates them. We are not to-night to enter into the merits of that policy, but confine ourselves to what the noble Earl who last spoke (the Earl of Northbrook) so admirably described as descending into the personalities of the question. But, although the Leader of the Opposition told us that we were not to-night to enter upon the question of policy, he still felt it consistent with his duty to denounce the war into which we have entered as an unjust and impolitic war. He has still felt it consistent with his duty to hold up to depreciation and ridicule the Viceroy of the Queen, who is at this moment incurring the greatest responsibility, and on the devotion of whose intelligence more, perhaps, depends than on that of any other individual in the country. He has even felt it consistent with his views to intimate that Her Majesty's Ministers are, at this moment, neglecting their highest duty, and that they are not supporting those gallant men whose heroic exploits have just reached us, and that we have not 76 reinforced them as was required. This, my Lords, is a strange vein to indulge in when we are asked not to enter upon the merits of this question. If that insinuation against the Government be founded on fact, we should be unworthy of the seats we hold. Is it to be said that those soldiers, who have given so good an account of the enemy, have not been adequately supported? Is the country to be informed on the first opportunity that they are hardly equal to the exertions they have been called upon to make? Not more complimentary to the troops than to Her Majesty's Government. I cannot but feel that the country tomorrow will be greatly disappointed in reading this debate. To-morrow the country will not be considering what one ex-Minister may have written, or what a present Minister may have quoted. It may, under ordinary circumstances, be a legitimate mode of passing our time that we should compare notes on such subjects, and if any misrepresentations have been made as to the conduct or expression of individuals our utmost efforts on both sides should be given to rectify them; but is it right that hour after hour should be wasted, at a time when the country wants our opinion on one of the greatest issues ever submitted to the consideration of Parliament, in order to ascertain whether Secretary This misquoted the despatch of Governor General That? Hours have been passed in a discussion leading to such a mystification that, excepting the principal actors in the scene, I defy any human being to understand what the whole controversy is about. To whatever monstrous proportions you may exaggerate this discussion, it is nothing after all but an official squabble; while the real issue is the most important that can be presented for our consideration. See the unjust effect produced upon the House—By this singular process of debating, we are not to discuss to-night the policy to discuss which Parliament has been summoned. But though we are not to discuss it, the Leader of the Opposition has given his opinion on the great issue. He tells you we are engaged in an unjust and impolitic war. But what is this? It is mere assumption. If the war is unjust and impolitic, prove it. Bring forward your reasons and your arguments. Assail our policy, and give us the proofs on which your opinions are 77 founded. Do this and we will meet you, and the House and the country will decide. That is the legitimate and Constitutional manner which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) has adopted in moving his Amendment. But to-night we have been for hours listening in the House of Lords whilst a number of influential men have risen and denounced as unjust and impolitic what they refrain from attacking openly and frankly. It would be vain at this hour to enter into such a discussion. The noble Earl opposite has, with consummate dexterity, prevented any expression of opinion by Parliament on this all-engrossing subject to-night. It is postponed to some day when there may be a long and adjourned debate; instead of now animating the spirit of the country, and explaining why they are called upon to make great sacrifices and encouraging that patriotic spirit which has been sneered at, But which I trust there are some in this House who appreciate. A week may yet elapse, at a time very critical to this country, before the opinion of Parliament can be taken. I cannot refrain from expressing my entire disapprobation of this course of proceeding. I admit its dexterity; but I think that there are times when Parliamentary manœuvring, a very happy quality when great interests are not at stake, may be misplaced. There are one or two points on which I should not have touched on this occasion, but for some remarks which the noble Earl called upon me to notice. He has a habit, when I do not notice every remark he makes, most amiably to remind me of it, and I must notice what he tells us about the Treaty of Berlin. The noble Earl, who has already decided, without discussion, the question of this war, expresses great doubts about the statement in the gracious Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty has every reason to believe the Treaty of Berlin will be successfully carried into effect; and he asks us, like a counsel cross-examining a doubtful witness—"But is this the real opinion of the Ministry?" If it had not been, is it to be supposed that we should have recommended Her Majesty to use such language, and ourselves have come down to support such a Speech from the Throne? Why, my Lords, in that case our conduct would have been not only infamous, but absurd. I may, in fact, say that it would have 78 been akin to what has been charged against my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cranbrook), of garbling in a despatch an epitome of important State Papers which he knew would necessarily be made known within 48 hours of the publication of his own despatch. My Lords, the language which Her Majesty has been advised to use in the gracious Speech from the Throne has been entirely warranted by circumstances. We do look upon the Berlin Treaty as certain to be carried completely and successfully into effect. But the noble Earl says—"It is not merely the Treaty of Berlin. There are other Treaties; there is the Convention with Turkey. Why not insert a paragraph in the Queen's Speech to inform Parliament what is being done to effect the reform of the Ottoman Empire?" Why, the Treaty of Berlin, like other Treaties, provides a certain specified time during which its arrangements may be properly carried into effect, and a moiety of the period has not yet elapsed. Probably of all the arrangements connected with the Treaty of Berlin, the arrangements with respect to Turkey are the most important. But the noble Earl is under a great error in supposing that nothing has been done. Unceasing labour has been bestowed upon the subject; and nothing but the great ability of those who fortunately are in the employment of Her Majesty abroad, their perseverance, and untiring devotion to their task could have effected the considerable results already accomplished. My Lords, I look forward to the Convention respecting Turkey and Cyprus as one likely to prove most advantageous, not merely for this country, but for the world in general; I look forward with confidence to the regeneration of Asia Minor. When the noble Earl turns round and ridicules the occupation of Cyprus and the objects for which we undertook that occupation, I will tell him that it is not easy in language to describe the advantages of that position; and when the noble Earl assumes that the Island is wanting in many qualities which were announced, and that its acquisition is a blunder, I can assure him that the conditions for which we agreed to occupy that Island have been entirely fulfilled. I repeat without the slightest fear, after commu- 79 nication with my Colleagues who have recently visited it, that it will be, as I have formerly said, most important as "a place of arms," as affording a capacious harbour for our Navy, and unlimited convenience for the quartering of Her Majesty's Forces. It has entirely fulfilled our expectations, and I believe will soon be recognized as one of the most important and influential positions under the dominion of Her Majesty. My Lords, I regret very much that there has been n feeling among certain of your Lordships that there has been an omission in the gracious Speech from the Throne, inasmuch as there was no allusion to the prevalent distress in the country consequent on the badness of trade. That was through no inadvertence, no neglect. Noble Lords opposite will, I am sure, agree with me in one thing—that there are no persons so interested in the prosperity of the country as Her Majesty's Ministers, whoever they may be. But it is a questionable course to allude publicly to the distress of the country when it is not peculiar to the country itself; when you are not yourselves prepared with any remedial measures; and when, if you express your real opinions, you may give rise to hopes and miscalculations which afterwards may be disappointed and defeated, and which you must deplore. That is the reason that has governed us in this case. What is the real state of affairs at present? The distress in this country is great; but there are circumstances which alleviate it in the low price of provisions. Still, that distress cannot be denied; and yet it must be borne in mind that it is a commercial distress, which is shared by every other country. It has been occasioned by the same causes which occasion the distress of other countries. Her Majesty's Government are not prepared—I do not suppose any Government would be prepared—with any measures which would attempt to alleviate the extensive distress which now prevails. But if we are pressed upon the subject, it is, I trust, justifiable, though I speak with the utmost diffidence, to say that the opinion of Her Majesty's Government is that the worst part of the distress has been experienced. We believe, from all that reaches us, that there are indications, not in this country only but in other countries, of a re-action. We believe 80 that not only in this country, but in other countries where the industry peculiarly affects our own, where the course of commerce exercises a particular influence on the industry of England, there are symptoms of amelioration and general amendment which must in time—and perhaps sooner than the country is prepared for—bring about those advantageous results which, after periods of suffering, we have before experienced. But in a Speech from the Throne addressed to Parliament assembled for a specific purpose, upon which the attention of Parliament ought to be concentrated, it did not appear to us advisable to introduce the subject, though we hope that before the year is passed we shall every day find ourselves in a better position with respect to the employment of the people, the employment of capital, and the enterprize of individuals. I will not dwell on the words of the President of the United States, though words from such an authority and such a quarter cannot be treated with too much consideration. But the enterprize of America generally precedes that of Europe, as the industry of England precedes that of the rest of Europe; and I look forward with confidence that the industry and enterprize of America will be productive of beneficial results upon this country. I should not like to sit down without thanking the noble Earl who moved the Address for the speech which he made this evening. I am sure the House listened to it with much interest. It would well have preceded a debate which, unfortunately, we are not to have. But it will be a satisfaction to my noble Friend to remember that it has been his lot, which is not the lot of all of us, to have in his time addressed both Houses, and to have succeeded in interesting both. I do not wonder at the interest which has been shown in the affairs of India by my noble Friend who seconded the Address. I believe there is no portion of Her Majesty's subjects who have profited more by our Indian Empire than the Irish; and, what is more, our Indian Empire is, perhaps, more indebted to them for the great talent and energy which they have shown in its administration than any portion of Her Majesty's subjects. Well, my Lords, in conclusion, we are told that on Monday we are to deal with this great question which now excites public attention, and 81 that we are to come to a decision upon it. We have received intelligence to-day which no man, on whatever side he sits, can read without pride and admiration. Whatever may be the results of that brilliant victory—and I should hope that the result will be speedy and satisfactory—there can be but one opinion among us as to the admirable qualities by which that victory has been accomplished. Her Majesty's Ministers, my Lords, have another sort of encounter hanging over us. I know not what may be its result. The decision may differ from what might be calculated upon in ordinary times. Whatever that result may be individually, I am prepared to meet it, as, I am sure, are my Colleagues. Whatever the result, it will be, I hope, equal to the occasion. That the House of Lords will decide that they will maintain the Empire, and that they will not in any way sanction that policy which mistakes timidity for wisdom;—that is what I most earnestly hope, and that is what I believe the people of England expect.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, may I be permitted to reply very briefly to some of the criticisms which have boon made? The noble Duke has complained of my being illogical in condemning a war which I consider unjust, unnecessary, and impolitic, and yet being ready to vote the Supplies for it. He is quite right—it is illogical; but when once our soldiers are before the enemy, and the honour of the country is engaged, however illogical it may be, I will not consont to deprive our army of the necessary support, however desirous I may be that the war should be brought to a speedy termination, honourable to ourselves, and just to the foe. The noble Duke complains that a disapprobation of the war will encourage the Ameer. But Parliament has been do-barred from any previous knowledge of the policy which has caused this war; and now when it has broken out, if we may not discuss this policy, lest it should encourage a semi-barbarian on the other side of the world, there cannot be much use in calling Parliament together at all. But if I am willing to kiss the rod of an old political and personal friend like the noble Duke, I am not prepared to do the same for the rod of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury). It is much too full of buds. The noble 82 Marquess has read me a severe lecture for indulging in personalities. I admit that there is no greater authority in either House of Parliament than the noble Marquess on the subject of personalities; but as the House has been misled on a most important measure and policy which has boon maturing for two years, I think it is not mere personality to ask for some explanation of what has occurred. The noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield), who is himself not wanting in authority on a question of Parliamentary manœuvring, has given me a severe lecture for the manœuvring I have done to-day. Well, I have only made a complaint which I thought I was entitled to make, and asked certain questions which have not been answered. I had consulted the convenience of the House in not beginning a skirmishing discussion on the merits of a question which must be thoroughly discussed, and on which the House will be asked to give an opinion on the early opportunity which has been promised by the noble Viscount. In conclusion, I appeal to my noble Friend on the cross benches to withdraw the Amendment, which cannot be disconnected entirely from the general subject which is to be discussed on Monday.
said, he would not press his Amendment to a division; but he wished the Question to be put.
§ Question put, Whether the said words shall be there inserted? Resolved in the negative.
§ Then the original Motion was agreed to.
§ Ordered that the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.