§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My Lords, I very much regret that it should have fallen to my lot, as Minister for India, to be the person whose duty it is to bring before the House of Lords the question of war in that part of Her Majesty's Dominions. I occupied for some years the office of Minister for War; but I am happy to say that while filling that office it was my good fortune to be a Minister of Peace, though during the whole of that time the Department with which I was connected was occupied in making preparations for war, in case war should be necessary; and I believe that the best way of preventing war is to put a bold face on the matter—to say what you mean and do what you have said. My Lords, the Motion I have to make is in these terms—That Her Majesty having directed a military expedition of Her forces charged upon Indian revenues to be despatched against the Ameer of Afghanistan, this House consents that the revenues of India shall be applied to defray the expenses of the military operations which may be carried on beyond the external frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions.My Lords, in 1858 a short Act (the Government of India Act) was passed, with the view of putting a check, to a certain extent, on the powers of the Indian Government, but in a different way from the way suggested by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), who moved the Amendment to the Address. The noble Earl assumed that it was essential when the subject of war was under discussion that the Cabinet should be entirely precluded from going to war until a preliminary notification of its intention to do so had been given to Parliament. I am not now going to argue whether or not in other kinds of war there is or should be such a principle; but I do say that by the Act of 1858 Parliament sanctioned the principle that Her Majesty's Government may make war in India without any previous notification to Parliament. Nay—that Act provides that the Government may do so if within three months after they have done so should Parliament be sitting, or within one month after the next assembling of Parliament, should Parliament not be 220 sitting at the time, the Government announces the fact to both Houses. That is provided by one clause. Another clause provides for the obtaining of that consent of Parliament to the application of the Revenues of India which my Motion asks this House to accede to. Now, my Lords, in reading a statute the proper rule to be observed is to read it as a whole; and I think that, taking the former clause, under which if Parliament should not be sitting the Government is not bound to acquaint it with the declaration of war for three months after it meets—and the Government might wait a number of months without advising the Queen to call it together—I think, taking that clause in conjunction with Clause 55, it is clearly contemplated that power is given to the Home Government to declare war without previous communication of its intention to Parliament, and it follows, of necessity, that the application to Parliament in respect of funds must be made subsequently. The declaration of war cannot precede the communication, for, otherwise, such notice would be given of our intention as might preclude the war from being efficaciously undertaken. The fact is, then, as stated the other night by my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury), we are taking Parliament into our confidence with greater rapidity than is required by the Act of Parliament. We called Parliament together as soon as there was a certainty of the war. Up to the 20th of November there was not that certainty; we were up to that date unaware of what would be the reply of the Ameer to our Ultimatum; but when the circumstances occurred with which your Lordships are familiar, and there was no longer any uncertainty that our Frontier must be passed, we resolved to call Parliament together. You cannot, however, in such a case wait and stay your hand until you have had the opportunity of consulting with Parliament. And I think I may now say that the acting with such promptitude as the Government did, tended materially to the success of the operations which have already been executed.
Now, my Lords, as to the question of the use of the Indian Revenue, I do not know that much need be said. If the House consents to the Revenues of India being applied to defray the expense of these operations, it will not follow from 221 such consent that Parliament would be prevented from contributing to the cost of those operations; but I am bound to say, after looking very carefully into the financial condition of India and the circumstances of this war, I believe it will not be necessary—at least in the initial steps—to call on the Revenues of England. I am in possession of facts which, I think, will convince your Lordships that, without unduly pressing on the Revenues of India, there will be no necessity to call on the English Revenue—at least, during the present financial year. It was announced by my hon. Friend (Mr. Stanhope), in "another place," that, including the £1,500,000 of new taxation for famine insurance, the surplus of Indian Revenue was estimated to amount to £2,156,000. The Revenue has actually exceeded the Estimate. In opium alone the increase is £1,245,000. But some of the charges have been increased, reducing the estimated surplus to £1,800,000. Looking into the different calculations made on the subject, the supposition of the Indian Government is that during the present financial year the cost of the military operations will not exceed £1,100,000 or £1,200,000. Take it at £1,250,000, and there would remain then a substantial surplus of about £550,000 after the payment of the charges for the Expedition. If it should be necessary, in answer to any remarks on the subject, I will go into this question again; but for the present I shall pass from it, as the Amendment of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Halifax) is not addressed to this particular branch, but to the general question. I shall pass, then, at once to political matters.
My Lords, for at least half-a-century great interest has been felt in Afghanistan by those who have devoted any attention to Indian affairs. It has been considered as one of the entrances to India from the North-West; its relations towards Great Britain have always throughout that period been regarded as very important to the Imperial interests of England—it has been considered that without proper relations between British India and Afghanistan our Frontier could not be regarded as secure. This has never been a question of Party politics. The opinion to which I have just referred has not been that of any 222 one Government or another; but an opinion expressed by all statesmen of every Party. Everyone will admit that statesmen of all Parties have agreed in the necessity of a strong Afghanistan on friendly terms with this country. And so long as we could trust the Rulers of Afghanistan, and so long as they were true to us, we were content. We desired nothing else and nothing more. I do not think I should wisely occupy the time of your Lordships by going back to the time of Dost Mahomed; but, in fact, Afghan policy was very much affected by what took place in the war with that Ruler. I may make one remark in reference to occurrences in Afghanistan which at the time of those occurrences painfully affected the mind of this country, and of which unpleasant memories still remain. I may say that the sufferings sustained by our troops in the war to which I am referring did not happen because this country was too weak to maintain her rights and unable to vindicate her position in Afghanistan by the sword; but we were unfortunate. We were unfortunate in our political negotiators; we were unfortunate in our generals. The commonest precautions were neglected; and from those miserable complications and neglect, and not from any want of valour in the field, resulted those disasters which we all regret. But, my Lords, those occurrences did not permanently affect our relations with Dost Mahomed. Being our pensioner, and being well affected towards us, when he returned to Afghanistan he was not influenced by any hostile feelings towards England; but circumstances obliged him to maintain an appearance of "sullen reserve." He had to consider not only himself, but his country; and he felt obliged to maintain that attitude until he saw that his people had forgotten what they had suffered in the war. He then became a firm Ally of the British Government. He felt our power, our position, and resources, and he had learnt that what we promised we would assuredly undertake, and in 1855 he entered into that Treaty which is so well known to your Lordships. As showing how implicit was his trust in the British Government, it is remarkable that while he by that Treaty bound himself to regard "our friends as his friends and our enemies as his enemies," there is no reciprocal declaration from us that we 223 will regard his enemies as our enemies and his friends as our friends.
And here, with respect to the Papers in which this Treaty has been printed, I wish, in answer to charges which have been made as to these Papers, to say that no such Papers were promised or asked for last Session. In reply to a Question put in the other House, the Papers relating to Central Asia were promised by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but these Indian Papers never were promised; but as soon as we saw that the complications between this country and Afghanistan were likely to become serious, and it was clear that official information would be required, we saw that those Papers would be important, and I gave directions that they should be prepared with all possible speed. I am satisfied that effect was given to those directions. I will add that though there remain unprinted some Papers which some persons may wish to see, nothing whatever has been kept back; and I believe there are in the Papers on your Lordships' Table everything necessary not only for explaining the question, but for enabling anybody who has been concerned fully to explain his own conduct, should he think it necessary to do so.
My Lords, the next Treaty to which it is necessary to allude is that of 1857. It was essentially a temporary measure, and I need not treat it further than to observe that in connection with it there again arises proof that when we are at war with any of our Western neighbours the importance of Afghanistan comes into peculiar prominence. We were at war with Persia when that Treaty was made, and it became necessary to secure Dost Mahomed as our Ally—and that was done. When Dost Mahomed died in 1863, and Shere Ali as his successor ascended the Throne, he notified his accession to the Viceroy of that day. But during six months Shere Ali waited in vain for an acknowledgment of that announcement. I am not blaming anyone for that. In consequence of the illness of Lord Elgin there may have been delay—in consequence of the death of Lord Elgin there may have been still further delay; but, as a matter of fact, six months elapsed after Shere Ali announced his accession before he received any communication from the 224 Indian Government. I think we must admit that that circumstance was, at least, unfortunate. It must have rankled in the mind of a man of the Ameer's peculiar temperament, and the feeling to which it gave rise was perhaps intensified by events which followed. Struggles and complications followed. There were wars between Shere Ali and members of his family at the time, and one succeeded another in different parts of the country. At that time the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lawrence) was at the head of British affairs in India; he pursued a policy of recognizing de facto Governments of Afghanistan, and not only of Afghanistan as a whole, but of parts of Afghanistan. The noble Lord, though one of those who maintained the necessity, in the Imperial interests, of a strong and friendly Afghanistan, signalized his Viceroyalty by recognizing de facto Governments in the several parts of that country. So matters went on until 1868. When Shere Ali, though partially unsuccessful, retained a preeminence at Herat, the noble Lord recognized him as the de facto Ruler of Herat; while he, at the same time, recognized as de facto Ruler of Cabul and Candahar Ameer Mahomed Ufzul Khan, his brother, to whom he wrote a letter congratulating him on his successes over Shere Ali. It was not until the latter was again on the Throne of Cabul, and seemed to be permanently seated there, that the noble Lord wrote to him offering him that assistance which would have been so useful to him when he was struggling for that Throne. As I have said, a strong and friendly Afghanistan had been the object of all British Governments; but I ask your Lordships whether it is a likely plan of conciliating the Ruler of a strong and friendly Government to acknowledge the persons who succeed in establishing themselves in different parts of his dominions immediately upon receipt of their letters, but not to acknowledge the Ruler himself until he had been six months firmly seated upon his Throne, and no longer needed our assistance? So thought Shere Ali; but he was prudent in his generation. He accepted the acknowledgment of the Viceroy. Why? Because the first thing which he, or any person who aspired to the rule of Afghanistan, wished to obtain was the acknowledgment and recognition of the British Government, 225 That recognition gave the title of the Ruler of Afghanistan a validity which he could not otherwise obtain for it. That was the position of the Ameer just before the noble Lord left India; and Shere Ali, though he felt sore, and was much vexed at what had been done in respect of his brother, proposed to meet the noble Lord and to enter into a Treaty with him. But the noble Lord refused to enter into any Treaty engagement with him. He would give him what he had so much recommended for many years—"present assistance," for the purpose of consolidating and strengthening his Throne. Shere Ali was engaged in trying to establish his dynasty, and wished that our Government should recognize the successor of his choice. The noble Lord conveyed to him that so long as he was content to maintain friendly relations with Her Majesty's Government so long might he rely on our assistance and friendship. No doubt that was valuable; but it was not what the Ameer wanted; he desired to secure the succession of his family, but not to enter upon the general question of foreign relations. But the noble Lord was succeeded by my noble Friend Lord Mayo; and let me for a moment turn to something which occurred, and which has reference to that policy which has been before alluded to. There was at this time no question of Party feeling or Party politics; but there was a very general impression among all at the time to which I have now come that it would be very undesirable to enter into any Treaty binding ourselves in any way to the Ameer in the future, and that policy was supported by many who held very different views on other public questions. But in 1867 there was a paper written by Sir Henry Bawlinson treating of Russian advances in Central Asia, and which everyone will admit to be a paper of great ability, and almost prophetic in its character. In that paper the writer called attention to the4 measures which, in his judgment, were necessary for maintaining for England a dominant position in Afghanistan. The proposition that England should have such a position has, I think, remained unchallenged, although it has been made the subject of much writing, and the paper to which I allude has been reviewed in a great many other papers. One says—"We must use diplomatic measures;" 226 another says—"We must use conciliatory measures;" but all look forward to a state of things when we must forbid any further advance, if it should be attempted; and not a few were prepared, to use the words of the noble Lord near me (Lord Lawrence), if a certain line is passed, we must be prepared for war with Russia in all parts of the world. But when Lord Mayo arrived in India questions with regard to the Ameer's foreign relations did not arise. The question uppermost in the mind of the Ameer was that of his dynasty. This appears from despatches sent home by Lord Mayo, and by the despatch of the Duke of Argyll, in which fault was at first found with what Lord Mayo had done. But that was not the ease outside the Conference which took place between the Ameer and Lord Mayo. You find by the Papers that outside the Conference conversations passed on various subjects, and at that time the Ameer would have raised no difficulty to the residence of British officers in certain parts of Afghanistan, excepting Cabul. These things are, I repeat, to be gathered from what took place outside the Conference. In the latter the Ameer was concerned about his dynasty. The noble Lord who preceded Lord Mayo had urged the Home Government of that day, in strong language, to lay down a course of action, and to get rid of these questions which were constantly arising. My Lords, I look in vain among the Papers for any instructions to Lord Mayo on those points. The noble Lord (Lord Lawrence), who had taken his seat in this House, spoke on the 19th of April, 1869. He and the Duke of Argyll, the Secretary of State for India, addressed the House on that occasion, and the noble Duke said—I think it would be an extremely dangerous thing to govern by telegraph, or even to reply in Parliament upon telegraphs; but I have every reason to believe that Lord Mayo has consistently pursued the same policy of nonintervention and of the avoidance of entangling engagements, which was pursued by my noble Friend the late Governor General of India (Lord Lawrence). So far as my own instructions to Lord Mayo are concerned, they certainly have been to avoid all entangling engagements for the future with Afghanistan, and to maintain the British Government and the Government of India perfectly free in regard to that and other conterminous States."—[3 Hansard, cxcv. 1087.]Then Lord Lawrence, in reference to the Ameer's proposal to enter into a 227 Treaty as his father had done, and to maintain friendly relations, said—I thereupon, wrote to the Ameer and told him what were my views—that I was willing to help him still further in a moderate way; that I could not hind myself by any Treaty which would involve obligations on the part of Her Majesty's Government to assist him."—[Ibid. 1094.]Those distinct statements show that the policy of the noble Duke and the noble Lord was one of distrust and isolation, of independence of Afghanistan in respect of any entangling engagements. Lord Mayo had instructions not to enter into any entangling engagements for the future; but Lord Mayo obtained, by his frank and genial intercourse and character, an extraordinary influence with the Ameer. He wrote in the most friendly manner to the Ameer:—and it is a remarkable thing that though through the whole period of his administration Lord Mayo gave but one rather vague promise in writing, Shere Ali appeared to regard the simple promise of Lord Mayo as stronger than the more solemn engagements of the Government offered to him at a subsequent time—indeed, he evidently considers that what has been subsequently done tended to vitiate and weaken Lord Mayo's promises. Evidently the Ameer believed in Lord Mayo's sincerity; and, no doubt, a man like my noble Friend was such a one as would have impressed one with the erratic, but still, to some extent, chivalric mind of Shere Ali. Lord Mayo wrote him a letter asking him to be reconciled to his son; and that letter was received without displeasure—a circumstance which, I think, was owing to its tone and the manner in which it was worded. With the lamented death of Lord Mayo a great change occurred. My Lords, I cannot but think that in the not taking advantage of what might then have been done a great opportunity was lost. During the period that had elapsed great progress had been effected by the colossal power which is overshadowing Asia. Advances were made by that Power to the Ruler of Afghanistan, and he was impressed with those occurrences more than were those who ruled British India. He saw his neighbours disappearing one after the other, and he concluded that the time had arrived when he must put his own house in order, and 228 prepare for any emergencies that might arise. The letter written by the Ameer in 1873 opened the way to a complete understanding. Now, it appears that in 1873 the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) requested Shere Ali to receive a British Enjoy at Cabul. That was a very important step. The Ameer did not refuse to receive the Envoy; but he desired that they should first come to an understanding as to the objects of the Mission and the questions to be discussed, and he proposed to send an Envoy to Simla to hold a Conference with the Viceroy. This was accepted; and on the 12th of July, 1873, the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) held his first Conference with the Cabul Envoy, Syud Noor Mahomed Shah. The Ameer then wanted much; but in his view he got nothing, and, in my opinion, a great opportunity was then lost. In alluding to what then occurred I will do so without personal references. I am quite content to take those occurrences as they stand on the Papers, or even to take them as the noble Earl himself wishes them to be accepted. When, the other night, I entered into a consideration of them, as recorded, I did so in vindication of myself from attacks which, I venture to think, went somewhat further than they ought to have done; but I submit that we have had enough of personal squabbles—the events with which we are engaged are too great to allow any place for personalities. Well, then, as it appears on the Papers, I say that in 1873, when Shere Ali pointed out the danger which had arisen from Russian advances, the time had come for a change in our policy towards Afghanistan; the time had come when we were bound to say that we would protect the Ameer, and protect him for the safety and security of the Empire. What had occurred? From his rocky heights he watched the irresistible tide advancing, submerging Kingdom after Kingdom and filling every valley, and approaching his own dominion. He asked you to aid him to set up a sea-wall to keep out the enemy, and you gave him—what? You first of all gave him incredulity, and then promises of assistance so vague, so ambiguous, so obscure, that Syud Noor Mahomed said, in 1877, that neither in writing nor in speech did Lord Northbrook inform him what help he might 229 hope to obtain. But the time had come when Mrs. Partington, with her diplomatic mop, could no longer keep out the tide, and when verbal promises here and there were ineffectual. There was the inevitable pressure. The waters were getting higher every year. Shere Ali saw what India did not see—that the danger which was approaching was inevitable, and that the time had come when we ought to have stretched out our hands and helped him. He wanted you to say you would not only help him under certain contingencies, but that an unprovoked aggressor on his dominions should be your enemy. But you would not say it. He asked you practically that you should engage yourselves to resist unprovoked aggression by Russia. You declined. Syud Noor Mahomed Shah said that whatever specific assurances Russia might give, the people of Afghanistan could place no confidence in them, and would never rest satisfied unless they were assured of the aid of the British Government. The Ameer said—My anxiety which I feel on account of the Russians will never he removed unless the British Government adorns the Afghan Government with great assistance in money and ammunitions of war for the troops, and unless great aid is given for the construction of strong forts throughout the northern Afghan border. And, further, if an emergency arises for the Afghan Government to oppose the Russians, such opposition cannot take place without the co-operation of the disciplined troops of the British Government.Again, he said—Should the British Government intentionally overlook this matter with a view to temporizing for a few days, it is their own affair, but I will represent my circumstances in a clear form in detail without time-serving hesitation."—[Afghanistan, No 1, pp. 110–111.]My Lords, the Ameer represented his views through an influential Minister at great length to the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) at their interviews; but he only got the same indefinite promise, and he took it for what it was worth. It did not conciliate Shere Ali, who considered it weaker than the promises of Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo. He considered that they did not in any degree tend to secure to him the assistance he wanted. Whoever may be to blame for it—and I do not now say that anyone was to blame for it—from that time the Ameer distrusted England, and began to look somewhere else. We 230 have several proofs of the change in his mind. Take that letter, in which he ironically speaks of his delight at the arrival of that time when there is no danger of the peace being broken, and therefore no necessity for precautions against such an occurrence. We have it on the authority of the noble Earl himself that the Ameer took no notice of the request made of him in respect to British officers, though he was quite ready to accede to that proposal in 1873. He did not let Mr. Forsyth pass through the country, and he did not communicate to the Viceroy his choice of a successor till that choice had been made. As the noble Earl admitted, his language was unsatisfactory, his letters not civil. In 1874, when he had imprisoned his son, against whom even in his latest letter he has expressed such inveterate hostility, he complained of the conduct of this country in interfering between him and his son. His complaint is not so much, however, of the interference, but of the manner in which it was effected. I admit that for the Ameer to have promised his son a safe conduct, and then to have seized him and cast him into prison, was a dastardly and a wicked thing; but what the noble Earl did was not that which Lord Mayo did in reference to the Ameer's son—address him in a private letter. The noble Earl directed our Native Vakeel to go to Shere Ali and read the message to him in his presence. Pride and haughtiness are characteristics of Shere Ali; and one can imagine that to such an Eastern Ruler there could not have been a more disagreeable thing than to have a lecture read to him on that subject, and that, too, without any previous inquiry as to whether anything had occurred to change the circumstances under which a guarantee of safe conduct had been given to his son. That the affair has rankled in his breast is clear from the last communication of his which has just reached this country. We do not know with accuracy, since the time that written message was sent to the Ameer, how many friendly letters have passed between Russian generals and Shere Ali. Some of what passed since then we may know; but I believe we do not know all. After these events, negotiations began to be conducted on a different footing; and whereas we knew everything before that time, we begun to 231 know very little after. There is another thing on which the Ameer has laid great stress—the fact that a present and complimentary message was sent direct to the Chief of Wakhan by the noble Earl without having been sent through him as Suzerain over that Khan. Well, in 1874 the present Government came into office; and, my Lords, about the policy of the present Government there is no concealment in these Papers. They fully and freely state the truth, and there is no question about what that policy is. In 1875, after a year's experience, my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) complains of the scantiness of information on what was passing in Afghanistan in the hands of the Indian Government; and no one can read the Native Envoy's news letters without arriving at the same conclusion as my noble Friend. In January, 1875, after a year's reading of these precious Papers, which did give us all that we could get about Afghanistan, my noble Friend, dissatisfied with the imperfect ideas which could be formed on such materials, wrote to the Viceroy that it was desirable we should have a resident British officer, not, my Lords, at Cabul, but at Herat, who should furnish us with fuller information, especially of what was passing near the Frontier. I should have thought that nothing could be more advantageous to the Ameer as well as to ourselves. The time had come when Europeans were acquiring power and influence in those parts, and it was essential that the movements of Europeans should be watched by Europeans. The duty of watching them is one which Asiatics are incapable of performing. It is essential that the duty should be performed by civilized Europeans. I shall read on this subject the opinion of one who is capable of forming a judgment on the point. Sir Bartle Frere says—I judge them only from the abstracts of their correspondence, which are, I conclude, weeded of much extraneous and trifling matter before they are printed and sent home; but even in the shape in which these abstracts reach us, I find a vast portion of durbar gossip in proportion to the important items of intelligence, &c. I find no scale of proportion by which to estimate the relative value and probability of the important and unimportant, the undoubted, the doubtful, and the mere hearsay; … still less do I find any discriminating description of persons such as may assist the Viceroy and his advisers in judging of men and events. A man in the 232 Ameer's position knows well that he can trust almost any English officer who comes to him as a representative of the English Government.Well, the noble Earl as Viceroy, in the exercise of his discretion, did not think the time had arrived when the demand for the admission into Afghanistan of such officers should be made. The question was one of time, of degree, of how long we ought to wait, for he said that if the Russians were at Merv the time would have come. The noble Earl thought that the Russians had not approached near enough to cause any danger. If they had been at Merv—that is, within 12 marches of Herat—I have no doubt that the noble Earl would have thought it a good thing to have a British officer there—in time, perhaps, to receive them. Herat is called the key of India. Without going so far as to adopt that phrase, it is a place which must exercise a considerable influence in Central Asian affairs. But the noble Earl apparently wished to follow his own way, and the time passed. My Lords, there is such a thing in politics as "Too late." British officers might have been received into Afghanistan before the Conference in 1873—after the Conference it was "too late." My Lords, I am astonished at the way this matter is argued out-of-doors. I hope that here, at least, it will not be argued as it has been argued elsewhere. I hope it will not be argued as if we were dealing with the state of things which existed 10 years ago—as if within the last 10 years nothing had taken place—as if the world had stood still. Events are crowding upon each other in Europe and Asia; and to speak of the policy of 1868 as the policy of 1878 would be what, if it were not for those who do argue so, I should describe as childish. Again, the noble Earl was appealed to by my noble Friend, but he did not think the time had come; which shows me, begging the noble Earl's pardon, that he had not realized the state of Afghanistan, and the condition which surrounded it.
Well, the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) left in 1876, and the present Viceroy (Lord Lytton) succeeded him. The Instructions with which he set out are contained in these Papers. I venture to say this for him, since so many accusations on the point have been 233 made—that the steps taken by Lord Lytton have been taken in strict accordance with the Instructions given to him. The Government accept the responsibility of those Instructions. They do not desire to throw on Lord Lytton the burden of sins that do not belong to him. The Government are here to answer for themselves; and they say that the policy which he was instructed to carry out was a just, right, and true policy for the interests of Afghanistan, the interests of India, and the interests of the Empire; and when Lord Lytton was thwarted in carrying it out, it was not from any fault on his part. It was, I regret to believe, because the opportunity had passed. It was "too late." My Lords, it was a most unfortunate thing that it was too late; because I must say for myself—and I know I can say it for my Colleagues and for the noble Viceroy—that anything more repugnant to our feelings than to be obliged to coerce Afghanistan, instead of being able to enter into intimate and friendly relations with her, cannot be imagined. I cannot help saying that he would be a madman who, if he were able to keep a united and friendly Afghanistan in union with him, would do anything to break up the strength and force which that state of things would place at his disposal. That was not our intention, nor is there a sign of it to be found in the Papers—and when our policy was rejected by the Ameer, hew as told that we regretted that rejection. Well, in May, 1876, Lord Lytton applied to the Ameer to receive a Mission for the purpose of consultation—a friendly Mission to announce Lord Lytton's accession to the Viceroyalty, and to announce that Her Majesty had assumed the title of Empress of India; and, further, to invite the Ameer to attend the great celebration on the 1st of January on that subject. A fitter subject for such a friendly Mission cannot possibly be conceived. It was opportune, too, as it would have given Lord Lytton the means of ascertaining what was going on in Afghanistan; what the feelings of he Ameer really were towards us; and of communicating to him what our feelings were towards him, and of assuring him in friendly Conference that some better understanding could be arrived at. The Mission was rejected. Why was it rejected? There had been no- 234 thing in the conduct of Lord Lytton to cause the Ameer apprehension. He had taken no step to weaken the friendly feeling which had before existed between the Ameer and the Indian Government. No preliminaries to the reception of that Mission were demanded. Some have said that our occupation of Quetta displeased the Ameer, but it had not taken place; and as to Khelat generally there was only what had been done—and rightly done—by the noble Earl (the Earl of North-brook), with a view to get Beloochistan into something like good order. The Ameer now tells us, in his letter of the 19th November, that it is customary to receive friendly Missions as a matter of course. Yet he rejected this one, and why? Because there was rankling in his mind all that had taken place in 1873, and to which I have referred, and he said so. He was written to again by the Commissioner at Peshawur as to the folly of such a course, and he then suggested that he should send to the Viceroy our own Native Envoy in order that he should state what was the real condition of things in Cabul. My Lords, I cannot conceive anything more conciliatory than Lord Lytton's reception of that message—of which it might be said that it was not very complimentary that the Ameer, who had refused to receive our Mission, should suggest that he should send our own Envoy to confer with the Viceroy. But Lord Lytton did not object; he concurred in the suggestion in the most conciliatory manner. My Lords, the noble Earl the other night complained of the language of Lord Lytton; but that language was used to his own confidential officer—it was spoken in confidence, and was only an expression of his own feelings. Well, our Native Envoy came down. He was one of those capable gentlemen who were relied on for information; but it was found very difficult to squeeze information out of him. It could only be obtained by degrees. It was manifest, however, from more than one piece of evidence, that nothing had been sent by him from Cabul but what the Ameer wished; that the Native Envoys were obliged to show what they were about to send; that they were under duress—in point of fact, one of these Agents says, in effect, that he spoke with the voice of the Ameer, and 235 not with his own. But, at any rate, the grievances alleged by the Vakeel sent from Cabul were all prior to the arrival of Lord Lytton in India. Finally, it was agreed that the Prime Minister of the Ameer should come and confer with the Indian Government, and he came; but nothing could be more unfortunate than the state of mind in which that unfortunate man approached the carrying out of his mission. He trembled at the probable result to himself. This, however, he said not to the Viceroy, but to an intimate friend of his, Dr. Bellew —"The Ameer now has a deep-rooted mistrust of the good faith and sincerity of the British Government, and he has many reasons for this mistrust. The Ameer himself has written of his aversion and apprehension." He, therefore, anticipated that there was very little chance of any satisfactory conclusion being arrived at. Accordingly the Conference brought about no satisfactory conclusion, and it came to an end through the death of the Envoy. An attack has been made upon Lord Lytton for closing it, when he knew that another Envoy was coming. His action was approved of by my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) on the grounds on which it took place. In the first place, the Ameer's Minister had never expressed his assent to that which Lord Lytton laid down as the essential condition to the very beginning of the Conference; and Sir Lewis Pelly said to the Envoy—The acceptance of the principle that British Officers may reside in Afghanistan is absolutely necessary as a preliminary to the commencement of negotiations."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 196.]It was, indeed, supposed to have been accepted when the Envoy was deputed to meet Sir Lewis Pelly. But throughout those long debates and discussions he continually evaded giving any promise on the subject. Although he did not actually say it, he used language that what was required was not possible; that everything was against it; and that he would be in danger of his life if he agreed to it. Therefore, my Lords, the very basis of the negotiation was at an end; for after the death of the Minister his colleague, the Mir Akhor, admitted that he had no instructions and no power to go on with it. I say, without hesita- 236 tion, that it would have involved the dignity of this country; it would have involved the dignity of the Government of India, if the Viceroy had not at once put an end to that Mission.
But you will remember, my Lords, that it was still open to the Ameer to make any proposal he thought fit, and my noble Friend near me referred to that fact. Writing to the Viceroy, in reference to the Peshawur Conference, he said—In the event, therefore, of the Ameer, within a reasonable time, spontaneously manifesting a desire to come to a friendly understanding with your Excellency on the basis of the terms lately offered to, but declined by, him, his advances should not be rejected."—[Ibid. p. 224.]And added words to the effect that if he will not approach us, if he rejects our approaches, then he must be responsible for that which he will bring down upon his own head. My Lords, I say that the transaction on the part of Lord Lytton is defensible from beginning to end. It was straightforward. There was no concealment about it—no device to conceal his intention. He told the Ameer what he would do and what he would not do. He said—"I must be supported by Political Officers of my own on the Afghan Frontier, who will tell me what is going on. 'That there might be no mistake Lord Lytton told the Ameer the terms on which he was prepared to assist him—to acknowledge his dynasty, to be the friend of his friends and the enemy of his enemies. The noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) has said that his terms were as large as those in which Lord Lytton made a part of his promises as to assistance in case of attack. But a Treaty does not consist of one clause, but of many which went far beyond the noble Earl's suggestion; but anyone who would indicate to an Afghan Ruler that he would be responsible for his foreign policy without having a voice in that policy would undertake a grave responsibility; and therefore Lord Lytton took means to provide that that policy should be in harmony with his own. The consequence would otherwise have been that you would have pledged your honour to a Potentate who did not understand the limits and conditions imposed upon him, and the time would come when he would be in distress, and you could not, without in his eyes forfeiture of your 237 honour, fail to assist him; for by dallying about promises which he considered you had made, he might well have cause to conclude that you did not mean to comply with them. So things remained at the close of the Conference, and for a certain period there was no intercourse between Lord Lytton and the Ameer. There was no hostility on our part. Lord Lytton merely said to the Ameer—"What is offered you is as much to your advantage as ours; we press nothing on you; you are left to yourself." Now, my Lords, what happened? The Ameer did not remain by himself. He began more frequently to hold communication with Russia. He began to send, himself, I think, emissaries. Moreover, during the period of the negotiations he was actually attempting to incite the tribes against us—that is to say, he was actually engaged in hostile operations against us. Well, we pardoned him. "We will leave him," we said, "till he is in a better frame of mind." But, instead of getting into a better frame of mind, what did he do? He waited till a time when hostilities appeared probable between this country and Russia, and then he, who had made it an excuse for not receiving a Mission from us, that he should be compelled, in such case, to receive a Russian Mission, received a Russian Envoy with ostentatious pomp and ceremony. The Duke of Argyll, in his published letter, says he had reason to believe the Ameer had received the Russian Mission with reluctance. I am bound to say we have received no official information to that effect. Private letters which I have seen, and Russian newspapers, tend to show, on the contrary, that the Russian General was treated with actually embarrassing ceremony—more like a King than an Envoy. He was received with Royal salutes and attended by what was really an army, and everything was done by Shere Ali to show the general that he was most welcome. It has been set forth in the Russian papers, as from correspondents who were present, that his reception was of a magnificent character. So far, therefore, from this Russian Mission being forced on the Ameer, the Russian Envoy was accepted and entertained to the best of the Ameer's ability. Well, my Lords, I do not hesitate to say that if the Indian Government had said that that con- 238 duct on the part of the Ameer was a distinct declaration of hostility against us, she would have been perfectly justified. The Ameer had all along been aware of Russia's pledge not to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan was without the scope and sphere of Russian influence. Yet, knowing this, he refused our Mission without any reason, except, perhaps, this—in order that a Russian Mission might come. The noble Duke in his letter says he is one of those who would never allow Afghanistan to be subordinate to Russia. No; there may be room for Russia and England in Central Asia; but I say distinctly there is not room for England and Russia in Afghanistan. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) who, when a Russian Mission is actually at Cabul, can anticipate the lapse of 50 or 100 years before the question of danger to India can arise is, indeed, a consistent disciple of masterly inactivity. Were we to blind ourselves to facts, as he does, we might hear when it was "too late" the warning cry—"The Philistines be upon you; "and although we might, in our giant struggles, then bring ruin upon others, we should also bring it certainly upon ourselves. The Russian Mission having been received at Cabul, the Viceroy sent a message to the Ameer demanding the admission of a friendly Mission, coupling with it a letter of condolence couched in the most proper terms on the death of his Highness's son and heir, Abdoollah Jan. My Lords, there is in the East no greater insult than to delay an answer to a letter of condolence. But it was long before that letter was answered; and to the Native mind in India the delay was an insult of a character which would in itself have justified hostilities. ["Oh, oh!"] I say in the Native mind of India. I do not mean to say it would have justified hostilities from the European point of view, nor was it so regarded by us. Anybody who has been connected with India, even so short a time as I have been, knows how differently from ourselves the Eastern mind views transactions of this kind. Well, my Lords, we demanded the admission of a friendly Mission; we insisted upon it; and we have been told that this was an outrage to the Ameer. It so happens, however, that this is not the first time Viceroys have 239 listed upon demands on the Ameer. The noble Earl himself on one occasion—the Mission to the Chief of Wakhan—thought proper to insist upon the admission of his Envoy through Afghanistan. A great deal has been said in this country about the "independence" of Afghanistan; but the word on English lips as applied to Afghanistan is absurd and misleading. Afghanistan has constantly been asking our protection. The noble Earl himself has admitted that it is impossible to interpret neutrality in a strict sense in relation to Afghanistan. And how did he view the question of "insistence" when it arose? He writes—When we had reason to suppose that Shere Ali intended to demur to our reasonable request, that our Envoy should pass through Afghanistan with a communication from us to the Meer of Wakhan, we insisted upon compliance with our wishes. We should adopt the same course again under similar circumstances."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 135.]To "insist" means, if necessary, to resort to force of arms, and this is what the noble Earl who has been held up as the advocate of masterly inactivity was on the occasion referred to prepared, I presume, to do in the event of a passage being denied to the British Envoy through the Ameer's dominions. The step we have taken is, therefore, not so very different from that which the noble Earl opposite—that great advocate of masterly inactivity—was himself prepared to take in similar circumstances. We asked for the admission of a friendly Mission. It was refused, and refused by force of arms and with threats. Sir Neville Chamberlain, of all men, was the least disposed to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan. "No man"—to use his own words—"was more desirous than I to preserve peace and secure friendly relations." Yet what does he add? That it was plainly the Ameer's intention to drive them into a corner, and that they had either to obey all his behests or to stand upon their own rights. Nothing could have been more distinctly humiliating to the dignity of the British Crown and nation. "But for the tact displayed by Major Cavagnari at one period of the interview," writes Sir Neville Chamberlain, "even the lives of the British officers and of their small escort would have been endangered," and "the Mission failed because of the 240 Ameer's indifference to any indignity imposed by him on the British Government, while he himself would not tolerate anything which could be strained to bear even the appearance of a slight to his kingly privileges."
My Lords, we now come to the time when everyone in India thought an actual declaration of war necessary. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government at home, though they thought it would be justifiable, felt so keenly the importance of the occasion that they resolved to make one last attempt to bring the Ameer to a proper frame of mind and show him where his true interests lay. The Ultimatum was accordingly sent. Having arrived at this point it was no longer for us to talk of unknown and unascertained friendly relations. It was absolutely essential that we should inform the Ameer of the minimum we should insist upon. That minimum was, first an apology for the repulse of the Mission. The noble Lord opposite (LordLawrence), in one of his letters to the newspapers, said that no doubt Shere Ali would, have made us an apology if we had consented to withdraw the Mission. But, my Lords, that would not have been an apology by him, but by us. We required an apology from the Ameer for having stopped by force of arms a friendly Mission. The Mission was not accompanied by an armed force. So careful, indeed, was Lord Lytton to avoid the appearance of a movement pf troops when proposing the Mission, that he even held back the change of reliefs. The Mission was escorted by a force of little over 200 men, which was not so many as the Ameer had himself brought to the Conference at Umballa. Such a body of men could not have threatened the integrity or independence of Afghanistan; it was no more than sufficient as a protection for our Envoy. Accompanying the Mission were Native gentlemen, to show the Ameer that India practically was represented by us, and that it was not merely a British Mission, but that we came with the assent of those in whom we take so deep an interest in India. And, my Lords, let me here say, by the way, if any one imputes unfriendliness to the Native Princes of India, let him look at what these Princes have offered us. They have offered to be at our side in the campaign; and shame ought to 241 cause a blush to rise to the cheek of any man who imputes disloyalty to them at such a time and on such an occasion. Why should the Afghan Representative, who was a soldier, and bound to have obeyed orders, have said that but for his friendship for Major Cavagnari, he would have fired on the Mission? Why should he have had such orders? Your Lordships may suppose that the Mission was at the time in Afghanistan, but that is an absolute delusion—Ali Musjid does not belong to the Ameer—it belongs to the Kyberee tribes, the Afredees and others; and therefore the Mission had not entered the Ameer's territory when this hostile action was threatened against us. The Mission, as it was directed, immediately withdrew, and the Viceroy was informed of its withdrawal. When we are spoken of as making an unnecessary war, it must be remembered that there was something more involved than our own honour as affected by the affront we had received; we had pledged our word to the Kyberee tribes that if they gave us a safe conduct to Ali Musjid we would hold ourselves responsible for their safety; and it appears that the house of a Chief had already been burnt. The Kyberees called upon us to fulfil our pledges, and even if they had not, it was our duty to take such steps that they should not be placed in danger. Therefore, when you talk of the non necessity for war, we say that it became necessary on account of our obligations to them, as I think it was also necessary on account of the affront which had been offered to ourselves. The Ultimatum is sent, and the 20th of November is fixed upon as the date before which the Ameer's reply must be received. The term allowed left eight or nine clear days to the Ameer to prepare his reply before despatching his messenger. No reply came by the 21st, and, of course, the troops had by that time advanced to the Frontier to fulfil the duties imposed upon them. How they have fulfilled them has been admirably described by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) on a former occasion; but I should ill discharge my duty as Secretary of State for India if I did not add my tribute to that which has been already paid by saying that praise is well merited by those who have achieved such great results with such small loss of life and with such moderate means. We might 242 have sent large armies and have been involved in extravagant expenditure; but the officers made only such demands as they thought necessary for the purpose. India has had all our resources placed at her disposal; but she has been content with what she had; and Indian soldiers have added another laurel to the Crown which Indian soldiers have so well supported.
My Lords, since these events a long letter has come from the Ameer; something has been said by anonymous slanderers that the Government were in possession of this letter before Parliament met on Thursday last. My Lords, that is an absolute fabrication. It is stated, and reasoned upon, as if it were an ascertained and known fact; and I think it is only my duty to give that absolute denial. The Government had received notice that a letter had been addressed to Major Cavagnari, and was waiting for him—that the messenger was waiting for him to give it to him; and, as it will be remembered, we had announced in the Papers that we had heard of it, and therefore there was not the least concealment on our part. The telegraphic summary was received on the Thursday night; it was deciphered by about 1 o'clock on Friday morning; and it was delivered to me early that morning with an intimation that the full text would follow rapidly afterwards. Therefore, we determined—and I think justifiably—that we would wait for the full text before publishing anything, and the full text arrived yesterday. It was a very long business to decipher it; I did not receive it until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon; and I lost no time in making arrangements for its being in your Lordships' hands and in the newspapers this morning. I think this is a complete answer to the fictions circulated in order to discredit the Government.
My Lords, that letter is no answer to the Ultimatum. If it had come on the 20th of November, according to the instructions which my Colleagues and I had given to the Viceroy the troops must have advanced. It is an evasive reply; it makes no apology; it does not give any undertaking with respect to the Kyberees; it says nothing with regard to admitting a permanent Mission; it is in character such a letter 243 as would not be sent by one friendly authority to another. We read these things too much with European eyes; but this must be read by Eastern eyes, because it is only in that way we can discern the real meaning which underlies these apparently friendly expressions. We have arrived at this point; and I say the time has gone by for "masterly inactivity." The time has gone by for verbal engagements; the time has come for distinct, definite, perfect understandings, whether it be with those West of Afghanistan, or with Afghanistan itself. I wish—as everyone would—to speak with respect of one of the great countries which forms part of the concert of the nations of Europe; I would not say anything that would be offensive or disrespectful to that country or its Government. It has been driven on by events I dare say, and by necessity, to effect larger seizures of Asiatic territory than it originally contemplated; and with its advances it has continued to give us assurances, solemn pledges reiterated again and again, and not even denied now; and it has admitted that this particular Russian Mission was sent to Cabul because of the apprehension of war between us. Be it so; it proves this—that the weak point in our armour was considered to be Afghanistan; it proves that they thought if they could turn our watch-dog, the Ameer, into a bloodhound against us, it would be a great advantage to them—and, therefore, my Lords, I say that if you have a faithless porter at your door you must dispose of him, and take the charge of your door from him. We are driven to this step.
My Lords, it is no light matter that will make any man carry the country into a war; but, my Lords, our honour, our safety, and our interests alike impelled us to this course. We have been driven to it step by step; and the day has come when there can be no paltering with our duty. I admit that within these Eastern nations you may be compelled from time to time to make further advances than those that were originally contemplated. Be it so, but let us now enter into some conditions about which there can be no mistake; let us say distinctly that in Afghanistan we must be paramount and supreme; that in Afghanistan, holding the doors of India, we must either have a friendly 244 porter or we must take the keys ourselves. The objects of this war, then, are those of justice and security. It is a just war, because we are not bound to wait attacks until an enemy shall come upon us in force at his own time; when we see what is coming upon us we have the right to make preparations and act so as to avert it. Such is our course, my Lords; and I am sorry that an Amendment should be moved on this occasion by my noble Friend. He has on all occasions said that he has endeavoured to avoid giving a Party aspect to Indian questions, and when India becomes a Parliamentary question in that sense the day of our Empire will be drawing rapidly to a close. You must have a despotic Government in India; you must make the Executive Government responsible for India. I am far from saying that Parliament shall not exercise its right to speak of what we have done; I am not complaining of it. I only say I deeply regret that in the midst of a war it should be thought that any occasion had arisen for it. I ask you—our opponents—what you would have done if you had known that a Russian Mission had been received with honour at Cabul? Would you have asked the Ameer to let you send a friendly Mission to explain what the relations between him and you ought to be; or would you have submitted, with the retiring modesty which a noble Lord exhibited on a former occasion, when he wished the banner of England to retire behind the Indus? That is not the way in which India was won, or the way in which India is to be held. My Lords, India was looking on. The people saw us at the gates of Afghanistan demanding admittance; they saw us repulsed; what would be, what was, the effect on the Indian mind and Indian feelings? That is a matter of some importance to us who have to govern the country. They thought that we were hesitating too long, and that we were afraid; that there was something behind Afghanistan we durst not meet. This was in their minds, and if we had retired they would have been justified in supposing that such fears were entertained. We call upon you, as we call upon the country, to support us in the policy we have adopted for the honour, safety, and welfare of Her Majesty and Her Dominions. The noble Viscount concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ Moved to resolve, That Her Majesty having directed a military expedition of Her forces charged upon Indian revenues to be despatched against the Ameer of Afghanistan, this House consents that the revenues of India shall be applied to defray the expenses of the military operations which may be carried on beyond the external frontiers of Her Majesty's Indian Possessions.—(The Viscount Cranbrook.)
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
*: I am anxious, at the outset of the observations which I shall address to your Lordships, to express my satisfaction that the debate of Thursday last will have cleared off all questions of a personal or Party character, and I am glad to hear from my noble Friend who has just sat down his wish to avoid anything of the kind. He has only done me justice in saying that I have always disclaimed the introduction of any Party views into Indian questions; and although he is inclined to attribute a Party view to the proceeding of this evening, I can assure him that I have been influenced by no such feeling. The question of the Frontier policy of India is one of such importance, and the recent change in that policy may lead to such serious consequences, that it is above all Party considerations. I agree with my noble Friend that it is of the greatest importance to us that a strong friendly Government should be established in Afghanistan, and that we should have a paramount influence at Cabul; but there is a serious difference between us as to the course of conduct on our part by which that result can best be attained. My noble Friend commenced his review of past transactions from the Afghan War of 1839, which I well remember, as well as himself. It originated in an apprehension of the danger to our Indian Empire which might result from the possible consequences of the presence of two Russian officers at Cabul. We undertook to set up a Ruler there on whose friendship we could depend. It was a great mistake, for which we paid dearly in the greatest disaster which ever befell our arms in India. The only permanent result of the war was an intense hatred of the British name, and jealousy and fear of the British power in the mind of every inhabitant of Afghanistan. From that time forward the object of every Viceroy of India, up to the time of the present Viceroy, and supported by every Indian Minister, has been to en- 246 deavour to remove all such feeling from the minds of the Afghans, to conciliate their Rulers, and to make them our firm and steadfast friends; and the result has been that for 35 years peace and a fairly good understanding have been preserved. Soon after the time, however, when the noble Lord now Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs assumed charge of the India Office, directions were given to my noble Friend (Lord Northbrook), then Viceroy of India, to raise what has always been a burning question in Afghanistan, and to press on the Ameer of Cabul the residence of British officers in that country. My noble Friend remonstrated, and during his Viceroyalty nothing was done. In 1876, however, Lord Lytton proceeded to India to carry out a new Frontier policy. It would be easy to show that this was so, if it were needful; but we have a statement to that effect in words of his own in a despatch of March, 1877, which will be found in the Khelat Papers. Lord Lytton says in that despatch—The present Viceroy, having had the advantage before leaving England of personal communication with your Lordship on the general subject of our Frontier relations, was strongly impressed by the importance of endeavouring to deal with them simultaneously, as indivisible parts of a single Imperial question, mainly dependent for its solution on the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government.The Frontier policy of the Indian Government was no longer, it seems, to be a policy for the interests of India, but was to depend on the general foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. This new line of policy was initiated by Lord Lytton, and it has resulted in war. The old line of policy gave us 35 years of peace; 30 months of the new has plunged us into war. Surely, my Lords, such a change of policy and such results are well worthy of the consideration of Parliament; and I may be justified in bringing them to your Lordships' attention without being supposed to be actuated by Party motives. We are now at war. Why are we at war? I will take £in succession our alleged causes of complaint against the Ameer, none of which—indeed, not all of which together—seem to me to afford any sufficient justification of our invasion of his territory. I have said, my Lords, that the question of the residence of British officers in Afghanistan has been a 247 burning question with the Afghans, not with the Ruler only, but with the Chiefs and the people, for years. My noble Friend has alluded to the Treaty of 1857, concluded between Dost Mahomed and my noble Friend, then Sir John Lawrence. At that time Dost Mahomed had agreed to receive a British officer even at Cabul; but on going back to his camp and meeting his Chiefs, they were so violently opposed to it that he was compelled to retract his consent, and my noble Friend was satisfied with his reasons. But, with the consent of the Ameer and his Chiefs, British officers were allowed to reside temporarily at other places. Amongst others, the present Sir Herbert Lumsden resided for a time at Candahar. Now, he went there with the full consent of the Afghan Rulers; he went there to dispense money provided by us for the pay of the Afghan troops—and how were the British officers treated? In a Minute of Sir John Lawrence's, some time afterwards, he says—Our officers were all this time in a most precarious position—scarcely for a day were their lives safe. Under plea of taking care of them, from their first arrival they were surrounded by spies, and could not move a stone's throw from their house without an escort, who watched and denounced any man who might speak to them. At last matters got so had that they were glad to leave Candahar. General Lumsden, who was at the head of this Mission, more than once assured me, after his return, that he had better means of gaining information on Afghan and Central Asian affairs at Peshawur.If such was the position of British officers when residing with the full consent of the Afghans, what would it be if they were forced, on an unwilling people? We learn, too, that the objection is not that of the Ameer alone, but is as fully entertained by his Chiefs and people; and that it is unjust now to hold Shere Ali as solely responsible for refusing assent to the residence of British officers in Afghanistan. At the time of the Umballa Conference with Lord Mayo the question was again discussed, and Lord Mayo again acquiesced in the objections stated by Shere Ali. So the matter remained till the receipt by Lord Northbrook of Lord Salisbury's despatches in 1875, to press the question on the Ameer. On the receipt of those directions Lord North-brook assembled the Frontier officers, who from their knowledge of the dispo- 248 sitions and feelings of the Afghans had the best means of forming an opinion. They unanimously agreed that it would be most unwise to press the question on the Ameer. Lord Northbrook brought the question before his Council, and with their unanimous concurrence remonstrated against Lord Salisbury's directions. There are two paragraphs of this despatch which state so clearly the objections to the course enjoined by Lord Salisbury, that I will take the liberty of reading them to your Lordships. Lord Northbrook says—It is in the highest degree improbable that the Ameer will yield a hearty consent to the location of British Officers in Afghanistan which the Mission is intended to accomplish; and to place our Officers on the Ameer's Frontier without his hearty consent would, in our opinion, be a most impolitic and dangerous movement. Setting aside the consideration of the personal risk to which under such circumstances the Agents would be exposed and the serious political consequences that would ensue from their being insulted or attacked, their position would be entirely useless. They would be dependent for their information on untrustworthy sources. They would be surrounded by spies under the pretext of guarding them or administering to their wants. Persons approaching or visiting them would be watched and removed; and though nothing might be done ostensibly which could be complained of as an actual breach of friendship, the Agents would be checked on every hand, and would soon find their position both humiliating and useless. Such was the experience of Major Todd at Herat in 1839 when his supplies of money failed. Such was the experience of Colonel Lumsden when he went to Candahar in 1857 as the dispenser of a magnificent subsidy. A condition of things like this could not exist for any length of time without leading to altered relations and possibly even in the long run to a rupture with Afghanistan, and thereby defeating the object which Her Majesty's Government have in view."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 166.]This was the last act of Lord North-brook's Government; and so the matter rested. Up to that time an uniform course had been pursued of not pressing the residence of British officers in Afghanistan. Not that it was not a measure desirable in itself, but that it would be useless without the consent of the Ameer, and ought not to be pressed upon an unwilling Afghan Government. My noble Friend opposite has taken great pains to prove that the alienation of the Ameer is owing to various steps taken by Lord Northbrook. I venture to think that there is no sufficient reason for such an opinion; and in confirmation of this view I will read an extract from 249 a letter of Sir Henry Norman's, which has just appeared in the public papers. Sir Henry Norman is an Indian officer with a great knowledge of Indian affairs, both military and political. He served in the Mutiny and on the Frontier, and he closed his career in India as Member of the Governor General's Council, and is now a Member of the Council of India. He says—My opinion was, and is, that up to the time of Lord Northbrook's departure the Ameer had no feeling of hostility to us, though he was somewhat out of temper, and was disquieted by writings which more or less pointed at measures distasteful to him. Any real resentment he may have subsequently shown is entirely due, according to my belief, to measures taken from April, 1876, to the present time.Such, my Lords, was the state of matters at the close of what I venture to call the conciliatory policy. Lord Lytton took a different tone, and we are now witnessing the results. On his arrival he despatched a Native officer to Cabul to propose to Shere Ali to receive a Mission at Cabul, which the Ameer declined; and after some correspondence and communications which the noble Lord opposite has partly stated, and to which it is unnecessary to refer further, the Native Agent of the Indian Government who resides at Cabul, met the Viceroy at Simla, to communicate to him the views of the Ameer and to receive those of the Viceroy, in order that they might be communicated to the Ameer. This meeting took place in October, 1876. I must say, my Lords, that the tone adopted towards the Ameer was such as must have been intolerable to a Ruler who considered himself entitled to be treated as an independent Prince. The assent of the Ameer to the residence of British officers in Afghanistan was declared to be a preliminary sine quâ non to any further negotiations; and I now quote the Viceroy's own words to the Agent, as reported in the official account. The Viceroy regretted the view which the Ameer took of his own position, and went on to say—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."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 183.]250 And a little further that—If the Ameer became our enemy we could break him as a reed."—[Ibid.]There are other expressions still more insulting which were quoted by my noble Friend (Earl Granville) on Thursday night, but which I will not repeat. This was on the 10th of October. My noble Friend opposite (Viscount Cranbrook) talks of this as a sort of confidential conversation between the Viceroy and the Agent. It was nothing of the sort. At a subsequent interview three days later, on the 13th of October, the Viceroy said to the Agent that—He had treated the Vakeel confidentially, and had stated, without reserve, all that he had in his mind. He had no doubt that the Vakeel would convey this faithfully to the Ameer."—[Ibid. p. 185.]We do not, of course, know how much of this conversation the Agent did really communicate to the Ameer; but, at all events, he sent his Minister, Syud Noor Mahomed, to meet Sir Lewis Pelly at Peshawur. At this Conference it was again declared that the Ameer's consent to the residence of British officers in Afghanistan was a preliminary sine quâ non to all further proceeding. It seems as if at one time the Ameer was not indisposed to give a reluctant assent, yielding to necessity and pleading his helplessness, but the old hereditary Afghan feeling was too strong, and it is touching to read the appeals of the Envoy. One of our officers at Peshawur was a Dr. Bellew, who had been associated with Syud Noor Mahomed in the Seistan arbitration, and was his personal friend. He was a medical man also, and it would appear that the Syud was almost on his death-bed. He appealed to Dr. Bellew as his friend on the 28th of January, 1877, in the following terms:—He (the Ameer) is now convinced that to allow British officers to reside in his country will be to relinquish his own authority, and the lasting disgrace thus brought on the Afghan people will be attached to his name, and he would sooner perish than submit to this."—[Ibid. p. 195.]Again, on the 7th of February, he said to Dr. Bellew—'You must not impose upon us a burden which we cannot bear, and if you overload us the responsibility rests with you."—[Ibid. p. 202.]Dr. Bellew interposed here, and asked 251 the Cabul Envoy what the burden was which he alluded to?He at once replied, 'The residence of British officers on the Frontier of Afghanistan.'"—[Ibid.]And on the 12th of February, at an interview with Sir Lewis Pelly, he said—In the first place, the people of Afghanistan have a dread of this proposal, and it is firmly fixed in their minds, and deeply rooted in their hearts, that, if Englishmen or other Europeans once set foot in their country, it will sooner or later pass out of their hands."—[Ibid. p. 208.]It was all in vain; there was no relaxation on the part of the Indian Government, and it was ultimately declared that all promises and assurances of support and assistance were withdrawn; that the Treaty of 1855, of the adequacy of which the Ameer had frequently complained, was the only engagement between India and Afghanistan; and, further, that the Viceroy would take steps for the rectification of the North-West Frontier without reference to the Ameer. The Cabul Envoy died at Peshawur; and though Lord Lytton knew that his successor was on his way, and that it was reported that the Ameer was prepared to concede everything, he directed Sir Lewis Pelly to close the Conference and to leave Peshawur. An insulting letter was written by Sir Lewis Pelly—which I believe may be taken as being, in fact, from the Viceroy to the Ameer, in which occurs a most extraordinary passage, which I can only understand as a piece of bitter irony. Your Lordships will remember how the residence of British officers had been pressed; and I think your Lordships will be as much surprised as I was at reading the following sentence in that letter:—The proposal of this arrangement was regarded by the British Government as a great concession; and that the British Government will most assuredly not allow its officers to undertake duties on behalf of Afghanistan involving a residence in any part of that country, unless their presence there is specially invited and cordially welcomed by the Ruler of it, whoever he may he, and their personal safety and comfort solemnly guaranteed by the same authority."—[Ibid. p. 216.]So ended the Conference at Peshawur. The Native Agent who represented the Government of India was subsequently recalled from Cabul, and all the accustomed and ordinary means of diplomatic intercourse with the Ameer were closed. 252 I come now to the rectification of the North-West Frontier referred to in the later communications to the Ameer. It is not explained in the Papers; but it received an explanation in the speech at the Mansion House of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government. He stated that it was requisite to obtain a scientific Frontier, and that the unsatisfactory character of the existing Frontier had been a source of anxiety to former Viceroys. I am sure that the noble Lord would not make such a statement unless he believed that he had good authority for it; but I confess that I am at a loss to imagine what such authority can be. Our present Frontier is what was the Frontier of the Sikh Kingdom under Runjeet Sing; and when in the time of Lord Dalhousie we annexed the Sikh dominions, the Sikh Frontier against Afghanistan became ours. This, of course, was the ease under Lord Dalhousie. Now, I was in constant and confidential communication with Lord Dalhousie, with his successor, Lord Canning, with Lord Elgin, and with my noble Friend near me (Lord Lawrence), four successive Viceroys, and from none of them did I ever hear a word upon the subject. I have never heard that any anxiety was expressed by Lord Mayo, and my noble Friend (Lord Northbrook) has never expressed any. Unless, therefore, the noble Lord opposite has some authority for his statement of which I, at least, have never heard, I must be permitted to believe that no such anxiety has been felt or expressed by any Viceroy since our Frontier has been what it is. I come now to the military authority in favour of advancing our North-West Frontier. The only one given in these Afghanistan Papers is the opinion of Lord Napier of Magdala. It was not his original opinion. He had recorded an opinion in the opposite sense. But, my Lords, on looking carefully at this opinion now given, it seems to refer almost entirely to the Frontier of Scinde and the occupation of Quetta; and I am inclined to think that his previous recorded opinion referred to the same question, when a proposal from Bombay on this matter was submitted to the Government of India, but not concurred in by them. But in 1867 this whole question was formally brought before the Government of India, in the time of 253 Lord Lawrence, and Minutes against any extension of the Frontier were recorded by himself, Sir Henry Norman, Sir Henry Durand, Sir George 'Yule, and Sir William Mansfield, then Commander-in-Chief in India, three of them being experienced military men. In addition to these authorities we have recently seen the opinions against any extension of the Frontier entertained by Sir Herbert Edwardes, whose military talent and intimate knowledge of the Frontier no one can doubt; of General Sir John Adye, a Queen's officer of high character, and who himself served on the Frontier in the Umbeylah campaign; and I find, somewhat to my surprise, that Sir Henry Green, one of the foremost advocates of the extension of the Frontier of Scinde, is opposed to the extension of that portion of the Frontier which borders on Afghanistan. With this preponderance of military opinion, so far as we have the means of knowing, against any extension of the Northwestern Frontier, it seems now, however, that, regardless of the rights of the Ameer, we are prepared to take possession of part of his territory. It appears to me that any annexation of territory in Europe which has been condemned by universal public opinion—that of the Frontier of the Rhine, the taking possession of Sleswick, or any other such proceeding—may be equally justified. But, indeed, the case is worse against us in this proceeding in India; for by the Treaty of 1855, which we acknowledge still to be in force, we are bound to respect the territories of the Ameer. We have repeatedly given the assurance that we wanted nothing from Afghanistan; even in the last proceedings we declared that we should take nothing over which the Ameer had jurisdiction; and if, in spite of all these engagements and assurances, we commit such an act of unjustifiable and unprincipled spoliation, what becomes of our character for good faith, on which our position in India so essentially depends? My noble Friend opposite, indeed, asserts that Ali Musjid is not in Afghan territory. Whose officer commanded, whose troops garrisoned Ali Musjid? Shere Ali's. And when occupied, as my noble Friend said, by the Khyberees, it has been only at times, and then under the authority of the Ameer of Cabul. Who occupy the northern side of the Pass? The 254 Momunds; and when a British officer was murdered by some of them a few years ago, to whom did we apply for redress?—to Shere Ali. Surely that is recognizing his jurisdiction. Whose troops are we fighting in the Koorum Valley? Those of Shere Ali. The inhabitants of that valley are undoubtedly subjects of the Ameer. The intermediate tribes—Afreedees and others—do not pay much obedience even to their own Chiefs; but their allegiance is due, such as it is, to the Chiefs of Cabul, whose dominions, till the conquest of the Sikhs, extended to the Indus and beyond it. I cannot suppose for a moment that the Afghans, or indeed any persons in India, will consider our annexation of territory beyond our North-West Frontier as anything but an encroachment on Afghanistan. I will now advert to the complaint made of the presence of Russian Agents, and of the reception of a Russian Mission at Cabul. In former years it has been the custom for letters to be exchanged between the Russian officers in Turkestan and the Ameer. It was constantly done in Lord Mayo's time, and Lord North-brook's. Sometimes the Indian Government was consulted as to what answers should be sent from Cabul, sometimes they were not; but no objection was ever entertained to this Correspondence, and on one occasion, if I remember rightly, Lord Mayo expressed his approbation of it. It would seem, however, as if, latterly, the arrival of persons claiming to be Russian Agents had been more frequent, and their presence at Cabul more constant than heretofore. We must, however, be cautious in placing too much confidence in these reports. Not only the Russian Government, but the officers in Turkestan have denied having sent such Agents; and in such an atmosphere of intrigue and deceit as surrounds an Eastern Court it is impossible to be sure of the truth, which, indeed, we shall probably never know. The Ameer's Envoy stated at Peshawur that at that time their presence had been a source of embarrassment to the Ameer. In 1878, however, a formal Mission was undoubtedly sent from Turkestan to Cabul; and perhaps we might have had reason to complain that this was a breach of the engagements of Russia, and of her assurance that she considered Afghan- 255 istan as beyond the sphere of her influence. But had we not given Russia some justification for her course? I will only allude to what appeared in an Indian newspaper, supposed often to represent the views of the Government there, in which it was said thatIt was now no longer a secret that if war had broken out between England and Russia we should not have remained on the defensive in India.At any rate, it is undeniable that we brought Indian troops to the Mediterranean, with the view of taking part in the struggle with Russia if war, as at one time seemed not improbable, had broken out. Was it unnatural that the Russians should take measures with a view to finding employment for the Indian troops at home? The Mission did not leave Turkestan till there had been ample time for orders to be transmitted by telegram from St. Petersburg for its departure after the arrival of the Indian troops in Egypt. The Indian troops arrived, I think, before the middle of April, and the Mission did not leave Samarcand till the 10th of June. Explanations have been asked for from the Russian Government, which has stated that the Mission was despatched under circumstances which happily no longer exist, and it appears by the Central Asian Papers that Lord Salisbury is satisfied with their explanations. But this cause of complaint, whatever it may be as to the Russians, does not apply to the Ameer. He had not entered, into any such engagements. And how did we stand with him at the time when their Mission was received? I have already stated that long before this we had withdrawn our promises of support, broken off all intercourse with the Ameer, and withdrawn our Agent from Cabul. There was, besides, another circumstance which we know weighed heavily on his mind—the occupation of Quetta. In 1875, Sir Henry Rawlinson, a Member of the Indian Council, had written a Memorandum on Afghan and Russian affairs, in which he advocated the occupation of Herat and Candahar—leaving him in undivided authority only over Cabul and the Northern and Eastern portions of Afghanistan, and the first step to this occupation was to be the taking possession of Quetta. Lord Salisbury thought it necessary to 256 state, in one of his despatches to Lord Lytton, that English newspapers and books on Indian affairs were rapidly translated and forwarded for the information of the Ameer, and it is well known that the Ameer had seen the translation of Sir Henry Rawlinson's book. Now, was it not most natural that the Ameer should consider this occupation of Quetta as the practical commencement of the scheme which would deprive him of about one-third of the best part of his dominions? Lord Northbrook had refused to occupy Quetta. One of the earliest steps, however, of Lord Lytton, coming out fresh from England, and who might, therefore, fairly be supposed to be imbued with the notions of the India Office in England, was to direct the occupation of Quetta; and in November, 1876, an Engineer officer was employed in laying out sites for barracks and public buildings, and it was actually occupied by troops before the meeting with Sir Lewis Pelly at Peshawur. Is it very surprising that after the language held, and the conduct of the Indian Government to him at the close of Sir Lewis Pelly's Conference, and with the threatening of this apparent danger to his territories, which was paraded and magnified by the Indian Press, that the Ameer should not have turned a deaf ear to the Russian Envoy? Is there no excuse for a man whom we had so treated? I do not propose to say a word further as to the justice or fairness of our conduct, or of the war. I am anxious only to deal with considerations affecting India; and I ask, would it not have been more politic and wiser on our part to have endeavoured, even then, to re-establish friendly relations with the Ameer than to throw him into the arms of Russia? If Russia is so hostile and so formidable to us in Asia; if it is necessary to take such precautions to guard against the danger of her action against us; can there be greater insanity on our part than to alienate the Power which would be our best Ally against her? What could Russia, for her own interest, wish more than that we should engage ourselves in hostilities with the Afghans, and waste our strength and resources in a struggle from which military honour would be the only gain? How truly applicable to such conduct on our part is the line of the Latin poet— 257Hoc Ithacus velit et magno mercentur Atridæ.Sir Neville Chamberlain's Mission, as to the reception of which at Cabul no answer had been received, was, as might have been expected, stopped at the mouth of the Pass, but without any insult, as was stated by the noble Lord who moved the Address. An Ultimatum in no very courteous terms was sent to the Ameer, and before any answer was received, with what I should term precipitate haste our troops entered Afghanistan. Conciliation has ceased. Coercion has begun. Where will it end? We have had military success, as was sure to be the case. I have never entertained the least doubt of our being able to go where we chose—to drive Shere Ali from Cabul, to occupy Candahar and Herat; but, my Lords, when we have obtained the military success, wherever and whenever we may stop, our real difficulty begins. I approach with some hesitation what may be called a military question, and so in part it is; but it is also a political and a financial question. Our present Frontier in the plain being deemed insufficient, we are to go into the hills, and amongst them to occupy some line as a "scientific" Frontier. Now, my Lords, I can understand if we were dealing with a single line of mountains—such as the Pyrenees or the Balkans—that by occupying the Passes in such a chain we might obtain what military men would call a scientific Frontier. But there is no such single range beyond our present Frontier. The country is described by a most competent military authority as a vast tract of mountains of the most rugged and desolate character, sometimes attaining the height of 10,000 feet, running down in successive ridges from the great mass of the Hindoo Koosh, intersected by narrow valleys and defiles, with difficult Passes between them, and across which it is impossible to lay down a clear and definite line of Frontier. To whatever line we choose to advance, we must occupy and govern the country behind it. If our posts and the escorts which bring up their supplies—all of which must come from the rear—are weak, they will be liable to be cut off. If they are strong, the expense will be very considerable. If our posts are in the valleys in order to command the water and such roads as are there, they will be overlooked from the surrounding 258 heights, and if on the hill sides, the supply of water may be deficient and the communications will be difficult. All this was experienced in the operations at the Umbeylah Pass in 1863; and, indeed, the experience of that operation is a warning against engaging in this mountain warfare. It was at that time desirable to punish a band of plunderers known as the Sitana fanatics, who had established themselves at no great distance from our border. A force was despatched for this purpose, and in order to reach them it had to pass through some territory belonging to the Bonairs. We had no hostility to them, and they were told so; but, nevertheless, they, and the neighbouring tribes, rose in force as soon as we had entered their district, and held us in check for a considerable time in the Pass. At last, fortunately for us, they assembled in force in the valley, and we attacked and defeated them. So little real hostility was there, that they actually aided us in the object of our expedition; but so inveterate was their feeling against the foot of the foreigner on their soil that, as we retired, they destroyed the traces of the route by which we had advanced. If such was the feeling against us for our temporary presence, what will it be if we advance for the purpose of permanent occupation? The country surrounding the Khyber Pass is inhabited by the Afreedees and other tribes, numbering about 100,000 men, of the fiercest, most intractable, and semi-barbarous of the Afghans. They live in a constant state of feud. Robbery and murder are of daily occurrence. How will you punish such crimes, which you cannot permit in the districts which you govern? The guilty persons will escape into the next valley, will be aided by its inhabitants, and there will be frequent incursions of these people, who are admirably fitted for mountain warfare, and being bigoted Mahomedans will be animated by an intense fanatical hatred of the infidel foreigner who seeks to reduce them to obedience, to law and order. You will be compelled to advance from valley to valley, much in the same way as I understand is now going on in the hills on your North-East Frontier against tribes much less formidable than the Afghans. Now, my Lords, assuming that, even in spite of our annexation of part of his territory, friendly relations 259 have been established at first with the Ameer, such proceedings as these will render it impossible for him to maintain relations of friendship, or to avoid supporting the tribes whom you attack. The national feeling of his people and their religious fanaticism will force him to do so. You will be brought into collision at Cabul. What may be the result cannot be predicted; but whatever it may be, anarchy, a puppet Ruler supported by us, or actual annexation, will equally involve us in further difficulty, and we shall be again compelled to go forward. I do not see that amongst all the advocates of advancing our Frontier anyone has even suggested where we can stop; and depend upon it that if we once commence advancing into Afghanistan, instead of taking the first ridge, we shall never stop till we have taken the last, which looks down upon the plains of Balkh and the Oxus. But this is an occupation of Afghanistan, the folly of which Sir Charles Napier said only equalled that of attempting to conquer it. Against whom do we require a scientific Frontier? Not against the Afghans; against them our present Frontier has sufficed for the last 28 years. Bands of plunderers are the only persons who have crossed in hostile form. It is not against Afghans, but against Russians that a scientific Frontier can be needed. But nobody expects the Russians to advance for the purpose of assailing India by Cabul and the Khyber. Look to Sir Henry Rawlinson's book, who certainly understands the subject. He tells you that it is upon Herat that they must advance, and I believe that all military men agree in this opinion. In order to meet their possible advance, he proposes to erect a great fortress at Herat, a second at Candahar, with a line of forts and fortified posts at Quetta and elsewhere, in order to maintain the communications along a line of 800 miles, from the Indus to Herat. In this view he is corroborated by a great military authority, General Hamley. If on military grounds this be necessary, then here arises the important question of finance. Herat will have to be defended, not against Persian or Afghan attacks, but against the forces and military skill of the Russians. It must, so near the Frontier, be made a second Metz. I do not presume to say what the first cost of 260 constructing such a fortress, of that at Candahar and of those at the other posts, will be, but it cannot be less than £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. As regards the permanent defence of the country, an estimate was made in the time of Sir John Lawrence's Government. The minimum number of men required was put at 30,000, of whom one-third were to be Europeans, and the annual cost was taken at between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. But it was supposed that the necessary force would in all probability be, not 30,000 but 50,000 men, and no allowance was made for keeping down a hostile population, or for the Civil Government of the country. Whatever the whole force required for all these purposes may be it must be in addition to what there is now in India, where there is not a man too much. It would be a low estimate to put the annual sum required for all this at less than from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. Now, my Lords, little or nothing is to be obtained in Afghanistan. It is a country which, as Dost Mahomed expressed it, produces only men and stones. The whole expense must be defrayed from other sources. It is impossible to impose such a charge upon the Revenues of India. In spite of the favourable account which my noble Friend opposite gave of the amount of the opium duty this year, the Revenue of India, one year with another, barely covers the expenditure. Some of the Revenue is precarious. The expense of the Civil Administration is steadily and inevitably increasing, and nobody has suggested how much additional taxation can be imposed on India. If such expense is to be incurred it must fall upon the taxpayers of this country; and that is a prospect which may well make the boldest statesman pause. Her Majesty's Government may ask me what I would do. Fortunately, as I think, the winter months render a pause in our military operations inevitable. I would endeavour during this interval to revert to the policy of conciliation. We have done much of which the Ameer has, I think, good reason to complain; but Dost Mahomed had more, when we had deposed and driven him into exile. Nevertheless, Sir Herbert Edwardes and Sir John Lawrence so far conciliated him that he became our fast friend; and during our worst necessity during the 261 Mutiny, in spite of the urgency of his Chiefs, he allowed no Afghan to cross the Frontier to our detriment. Call such policy by what name you please—backward policy, or masterly inactivity—it has succeeded in preserving peace and a good understanding with the Afghans. We ought to abandon all notion of permanent occupation beyond our present Frontier; we ought to satisfy the Afghans that we covet no portion of their territory. We ought, if communications are opened—as I hope they may be—endeavour to conciliate them. We should be patient, forgiving, and generous, and require nothing but what is absolutely necessary for the honour of the country. We have, in truth, no cause of quarrel with the Afghans but what we have made ourselves. There is no difficulty as to our Frontier. It is not so on their Northern Frontier, where they are almost coterminous with the Russians, or with States under Russian influence. Bokhara and Balkh are in near proximity; and looking to what has been the progress of Russian advance, it is more than probable that ere long some cause of difficulty or cause of quarrel will occur on this Frontier, and on the occurrence of which the Afghans will naturally look to us for assistance. That is the relative position in which we ought to stand with Afghanistan, not offending their national feelings; respecting their independence; always ready to afford them friendly aid. Such a state of things I hope and trust may be established; and with the Afghans our friends, though we may not have a scientific Frontier, nevertheless, with a friendly and warlike population holding an almost inaccessible country, and the British power behind them, we shall have an unassailable bulwark to our Indian Empire. The noble Viscount concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word ("House") to the end of the motion for the purpose of inserting ("whilst ready to consent to providing the means necessary for bringing the war in which we are unhappily engaged to a safe and honourable conclusion, regrets the conduct pursued by the Government which has unnecessarily engaged this country in the contest.")—(The Viscount Halifax.)
§ LORD LAWRENCE
*: My Lords, the noble Earl who moved the Address to 262 Her Majesty on the evening of the 5th (the Earl of Ravensworth) took occasion to quote a sentence from one of my letters, written some years ago when I was Governor General, to the effect that if the Russians got possession of Afghanistan it would be the cause of much trouble to us in India. I quite admit that this quotation may be correct, for in a despatch of the 3rd of September, 1867, I expressed the same view. I considered then that we should do all in our power to avert such a condition of things, and I urged on Her Majesty's Government that some understanding should be at once come to with Russia on this matter. I think, now, if Russia will not enter into satisfactory arrangements with us about Afghanistan, or, having made them, allow her officers in Central Asia to violate them, that ulterior measures should be taken in England to protect India. But, though I entertain these views, I hold—and firmly hold—that it would be an unwise policy for us to go beyond our present boundary on the North-West Frontier of India, and thus to anticipate the attacks of Russia. The policy which England for the last few years has adopted towards Russia is of a very doubtful character. We distrust her—we are continually questioning her as to her intentions and movements—and then profess ourselves satisfied with her explanations. For instance, in the Correspondence recently published regarding affairs in Central Asia, we accept all she says as to the circumstances which have led her to make the recent diversion in Afghanistan; and while we do this, and resume friendly relations with her, we wage war with the Afghans because they received a Russian Mission; and further are about to rectify our Frontiers in the hope of strengthening ourselves against Russian advances. This is not a very magnanimous policy, and I doubt it adding to either our strength or prestige in India. I will not say very much about the policy which we have pursued towards Afghanistan since the war of 1842, except that, after punishing its people for their treachery, our endeavour has uniformly been to make amends to them for our first invasion of their country. The noble Earl taxed me in severe terms—which, however, I view with indifference—on account of my successive recognitions in 1864 of Shere 263 Ali and his brothers. I confess that I did this; and cannot help thinking that if the noble Earl had been in my place, and had possessed a knowledge of Afghanistan, in all probability he would have acted as I did. For many years the state of things in Cabul had been one of constant change and struggles for the Throne, one Chief ousting another, as their respective parties gained supremacy. Ameer Dost Mahomed was himself a usurper of the Throne he sat on; and we at one time drove him from it in favour of a de jure King, and afterwards re-instated him, to the general satisfaction of the Chiefs and people. On his death, Ameer Shere Ali, his son, who had previously been appointed heir-apparent, succeeded his father, and would probably have retained possession of the Kingdom if he had only acted prudently; he, however, was not the rightful heir, either by Mahomedan law or by custom of the country, and his brothers were among his bitterest enemies. Sirdar Afzul Khan raised the standard of revolt in Balkh; Sirdar Azim Khan intrigued in Cabul; and a third brother attacked him from Candahar; it was, in fact, an internecine struggle between the members of one family. Why, then, should we interfere to uphold Shere Ali against his elder brothers? On what principle were we to pronounce that Shere Ali was the de jure Ruler of Cabul? Had we maintained his cause, and upheld him on the Throne, we might have found that we were helping a man whom neither the Chiefs nor people of the country desired to rule over them. I affirm, then, that the policy then pursued of dealing only with the de facto Ruler of the day was the right one. When, however, Shere Ali had subdued his enemies and recovered his power, and was willing to renew friendly relations with ns, I judged that the time had come when we could with safety afford him aid; and my opinion was fully concurred in by the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Northcote. I promised the Ameer, therefore, a considerable sum of money—part of which was given him at once, and the remainder in Lord Mayo's time; I also presented him with a number of arms, to which Lord Mayo added, including in his gift 12 guns. The interview with the Ameer which I had arranged previous to my departure 264 from India was carried out by Lord Mayo in right Royal fashion. But it is an entire mistake to suppose that the Ameer consented at the Umballa interview to receive British officers either in Cabul or in other parts of his country, or that we desired that he should do so. The evidence of Mr. Seton-Karr, who was Foreign Secretary of the Government of India in 1869, is conclusive on this point. I was very glad to find among my papers a letter of his, written on the 5th of April, 1869, in which, with the approval of Lord Mayo, he gave me information on this point, which confirms fully his recent statement. What the Ameer really wanted was a Treaty of Reciprocity, whereby the friends and enemies of the one country should be deemed the friends and enemies of the other, and that this Treaty should be made with him and his own family. Lord Mayo refused both of these requests; but gave him strong assurances that in case of foreign invasion, if we were satisfied that the Ameer had not acted aggressively beyond his Frontier, he might rest assured of help in time of need. Lord Mayo likewise pledged himself that we would never send British officers to reside in his country—a point which we shall see was of the utmost significance to the Afghans. Shere Ali returned to Afghanistan expressing himself on every occasion as highly pleased with his reception at Umballa. In 1872 Lord Northbrook became Viceroy of India, and shortly afterwards Ameer Shere Ali sent his Minister, Syud Nur Mahomed Khan, to pay his respects and make certain representations to him. These consisted in the Ameer's desire for a reciprocal Treaty (as in Lord Mayo's time), and for the formal recognition of his son, Abdoolla Jan, as heir-apparent. Lord Northbrook, of course, did not accede to these requests, but gave him similar promises to those of Lord Mayo; the only addition to them being that troops were more specifically mentioned than before. This subject has excited especial interest, because it has been supposed that the Secretary of State for India, the Duke of Argyll, had not responded to the Viceroy on this point; but it is clear that this was not the case, for the Viceroy acted on his construction of the Secretary of State's telegram, which he understood as giving him the sanction for which he 265 had asked. It may be said that from the time of Lord Ellen borough, in 1843, down to April, 1876, a period of 33 years (when Lord Northbrook returned to England), an uniform policy of peace and conciliation had been acted on with regard to Afghanistan. When any unreasonable demands were made they were firmly and quietly refused; on the other hand, if we wished to introduce changes which the Afghans objected to, our wishes were never pressed on them: and this policy was approved of by the Home Government. It is worthy of note that the two points, one of a personal Treaty with the Ameer of the day and his heirs, and the other of a reciprocal Treaty, have been, from 1855 to the time Lord Northbrook left India, subjects of the greatest interest to the different Ameers of Cabul. Sirdar Hyder Ali, in 1855, desired that the Treaty should be made with his father, Dost Mahomed, and himself as heir-apparent individually, and not as Rulers of Afghanistan; we did not comply with this, or the other request; explaining that our Treaties were simply to be made with the Rulers of Cabul, as such; and that in the matter of reciprocity, we could only give full assurance of help in time of need, did we approve of the Ameer's conduct. In one instance, to which I will now allude, the Home Government did not agree with Lord Northbrook. In 1875 the British Government desired to make a material change in the policy hitherto adopted towards the Rulers of Cabul. They desired the Viceroy to press upon Ameer. Shere Ali the reception of a Mission at Cabul as a temporary measure, with the view of urging him to agree to British officers being placed at different parts of his dominion, such as Balkh, Herat, and Candahar, and eventually, if possible, at Cabul. This change of policy was more than once pressed on the Viceroy—who, however, firmly resisted. He stated in one of his despatches that all the officers of standing and experience in the Punjab, and elsewhere, were of his opinion, and that no dissentient voice had been raised in his Council. When, however, Lord Northbrook gave up the Viceroyalty, instructions still more definite to the same purport were again issued; and several letters appear to have been sent to the Ameer which produced great irritation on his mind. It is known that 266 three of the Governor General's Council—Sir William Muir, Sir Henry Norman, and Sir Arthur Hobhouse—strongly deprecated both the now Instructions and the way in which they were carried out; but, on the retirement from the Council of these gentlemen, no obstacle then remained to the pressure of this measure on the Ameer. Shere Ali was next asked to attend the Durbar on the 1st of January, 1877; but the invitation was declined—which is not surprising if it be borne in mind that he was an independent Ruler, and that his presence at the Durbar might have been construed as an admission of dependence; moreover, he could be ill-spared from his duties in his own country. Later on, the Ameer was requested by the Viceroy to receive Sir Lewis Pelly at Cabul for a short time, to explain the views and wishes of his Excellency; he declined this also, but, after some hesitation, agreed to send down his confidential Minister, Syud Nur Mahomed, to meet Sir Lewis Pelly at Peshawur. The Syud was labouring under a severe form of disease, and came by slow stages from Cabul. On his arrival at Peshawur he was courteously received by Sir Lewis Pelly and Dr. Bellew. His first interview with the latter officer was of a very pathetic character. The Syud deplored the nature of the Viceroy's wishes, and concluded by saying—"Matters have now come to a crisis, and the situation is a grave one. This is a last opportunity for a settlement, and God only knows the future." Sir Lewis Pelly had received instructions to insist on the principle that British officers might be placed in Afghanistan, except, in the first instance, at Cabul; indeed, this condition was to be the basis of the Conference, and without its acceptance no other point was even to be discussed. The Syud entreated, again and again, that the matter might be postponed until later in the proceedings; but Sir Lewis Polly was inexorable, and the Conference consisted of a consideration of this single subject. The Syud, among other questions, was asked why the Ameer had refused a temporary Mission, and what were the misapprehensions which had led him to such a step? He evaded an answer as long as he could; but at last alluded to the settlement of the Seistan boundary, Lord Northbrook's intervention, on. be- 267 half of Yakoob Khan, and other minor points. But it is evident from a perusal of the proceedings that the Envoy was on the defensive, and had no real desire to prefer any other complaint than the one under discussion—namely, the reception of British officers in Afghanistan, in which, the Syud said, the Ameer, the Chiefs, and the people were all of one mind, and were all in the highest degree alarmed at the idea of its being forced on them. Every other consideration appears to have been merged in this one anxiety, and to the last moment of the last day of the Conference the Syud refused to admit that the Ameer would ever accept such a measure. The Conference was obliged to end on account of Syud Nur Mahomed's illness; but a letter was sent him by Sir Lewis Pelly (under the Viceroy's directions) still demanding an answer on this point. But no answer was ever sent, for the Syud died without giving any consent to this cardinal condition. On the news of the Envoy's death the Viceroy directed that the Conference should be terminated, though it appeared that the Ameer was about to send down a second Envoy, who was authorized to submit to all the conditions demanded by the Viceroy, including the reception of the officers. The Native Agent who had represented the British Government at Cabul, and had accompanied the Envoy to Peshawur, was not allowed to return to Afghanistan, and the Viceroy sent no one to take his place; and so it came to pass that all diplomatic communications with the Ameer ceased, and the Government of India received no reliable information, but had to depend on the news picked up in the bazaars of Peshawur and elsewhere. But to return briefly to the Conference, the proceedings of which ought to be read, in order to realize fully the genuine feeling of alarm and apprehension that was expressed by the Syud in deprecating the sending of officers into his country. And another circumstance worthy of note is, that in these discussions the Envoy expressed himself as thoroughly satisfied with the manner in which Afghanistan had been treated in the days of Lord Northbrook, Lord Mayo, and myself. He seems to have looked back to the time when we governed India as one of assurance and security to the Ameer of Cabul. I would observe here, that the unsuccessful re- 268 suit of the Mission to Candahar in 1857 was one of the reasons which led me to conclude that the time had not arrived for the Afghan Government to be required to accept our policy in this matter. Ameer Dost Mahomed had absolutely objected to receive British officers at Cabul; and though when relieved from this anxiety he had with seeming willingness agreed to their residence for a time at Candahar, yet they were not received with the consideration that ought to have been shown them. The officers chosen were Colonel H. Lumsden (Sir H. Lumsden), Lieutenant P. Lumsden (now Adjutant-General), and Dr. H. W. Bellow; none better, in every way, were to be found on the Frontier. I cannot trace in the Correspondence communications of any kind between the Ameer and Viceroy from March, 1877, to July, 1878. We may, therefore, reasonably conclude that it was during this period that the Ameer turned to Russia for help, and that those communications took place with her which led to negotiations with the Turkestan authorities, and finally to the Mission to Cabul. In July, 1878, the Ameer was called upon by the Viceroy to receive Sir Neville Chamberlain's Mission, and before an answer could arrive its advance guard was sent on to Ali Musjid, where it met with the rebuff which is one of the reasons of the present war. Telegrams of an exciting nature, describing the conduct of the Ameer's officer at Ali Musjid as violent and insulting, were sent to England, and are still officially uncontradicted. They contributed much to the anger of the people of England against the Ameer. On referring to the Afghan Correspondence two different versions of the mode in which the Mir Akhor received our Mission on the 21st of September will be found. Major Cavagnari, the head of the party, says distinctly, that though told he would be resisted by force if he proceeded, he was treated courteously from first to last. Colonel Jenkins states, however, that the Mir Akhor said that but for former friendship he would have fired on the party. As Major Cavagnari was the principal officer, we are justified in taking his account in preference to that of Colonel Jenkins. But be this as it may, the difference is not of much importance; for if the Mir Akhor believed that our 269 Mission was about to force its way through the Pass, it was only natural that he should intimate that he was prepared to resist. Bearing in mind the rough character of the Afghans, the action of this officer at its worst was no more than a rebuff, which, for want of common prudence, our people had brought on themselves. We now come to the Ameer's answer to the Viceroy's letters, which constitutes the gravamen of the charge against him. It is very difficult in the absence of a copy of the exact expressions used by the Ameer in the original Persian to estimate fairly the importance to be placed on its contents; and this difficulty is increased, as we have neither of the four letters of the harshness of which the Ameer complains. However, taking the translation as it stands in the Correspondence, I declare as my deliberate opinion that the words therein used do not amount to an insult. The Ameer was clearly angry, and under great apprehensions when he wrote. His answer is evasive, and to a certain extent, perhaps, defiant; but as little so as could be expected consistently with a resolution to resist receiving the Mission. He also complains of discourteous and inconsiderate treatment on the part of the British Government; and it would be well for us not to forget the provocations which in many instances he had received from us, if we wish to judge justly in this matter. The so-called affront from the Ameer was certainly not one that deserved to be wiped out in blood. I see in the Correspondence in August of this year that the Governor General telegraphed that "the safety of India depended" on our establishing a preponderating influence in Afghanistan, and to that end would insist on the reception of British officers into that country; and, this condition being accepted by the Secretary of State for India, we have been plunged into the present war. It is my firm and unbiassed opinion that the war now raging in Afghanistan is a most unjust one, and that its political consequences will be exceedingly damaging to us. We have already been victorious in the fight; but in the minds of most educated Natives in India the war will be considered—and considered rightly—as an oppressive and high-handed proceeding. It is vain for us to say that the war is with the Ameer and not with his people; 270 they will be one in their desire to resist our aggression. All the good results of the policy of more than 30 years have been cast to the winds, and the suspicions and enmity of the Afghan nation have been revived with four-fold intensity. Thus have we played the game of Russia; for rest assured that, if the day should ever come when Afghan influence would be of any value, it will to a certainty be thrown in the balance against us, and we shall have nothing to blame for such results except our own folly and injustice. Now as to our present action. In my opinion, the war ought to be brought to as speedy a conclusion as can with honour be done—the victorious party in a conquest has never any real difficulty in treating with the vanquished. I would exact nothing from the Afghans. I would take no territory from them on any pretext whatever. I would arrange that bygones should be bygones. I would place no British officer in their territory. If they were willing to make a friendly and reasonable Treaty with us I would meet their wishes (still, of course, adhering to the old principles of refusing to bind ourselves absolutely to defend and protect them). I would give them the strongest assurances, provided we were satisfied with their conduct, of help in case of foreign invasion. I would agree, on the same conditions, to give them periodical grants of money—not as a regular subsidy; for by keeping the power of giving or withholding in our own hands our hold over them becomes stronger. The Ameer is very poor; his revenues are small, and the legitimate expenses of maintaining his Government are very considerable. He has never had sufficient means at his command to pay his troops, whose allowances are scanty and always some months in arrear. I have said that I would take no territory from the Afghans; neither would I extend our North-West Frontier over what are called the independent Border Tribes; in every respect we are much better without them than with them. If we annex any of them—more especially those of the Pathan race—we shall sooner or later be forced to subjugate them, disarm them, and keep them down. This would necessitate a considerable addition to our Native Army, and, for political reasons, to our European force also; the consequent increase of expenditure would be a great drain on 271 our resources. We might with advantage give some of these tribes moderate retaining fees, and employ more of them than at present as levies on the border; we might establish posts of small size in suitable positions in the Khyber Pass, to be held by them. Should a day of invasion ever come, we shall have ample time to make such preparations with them as circumstances may suggest, and having respected their independence, and treated them kindly but firmly, we should have some reason for calculating on their assistance. They would, with a few English and Native officers to look after them (not to drill them), make good guerilla troops wherewith to annoy the flanks and rear of an invading enemy. With the consent of these tribes, field-works might then be constructed within the mountains, our own forces would be ready in the plains and valleys east of the Passes, and would be near their true base, the sea-coast of Scinde, and would be able to concentrate rapidly at any point by means of our lateral communications. We could keep a considerable portion of our European troops in the adjacent hills in the rear, or in the most healthy parts of the plains, until they were wanted; and then, when the enemy appeared, we should be able to array against him an army, European and Native, fresh and well-found, which would prove irresistible. Now, as regards the present Motion. Of course, in the first instance, the Revenues of India must defray the expenditure; but England alone ought to bear all the costs of the war, as a matter of justice. Unless this be done the general feeling in India will be one of indignation and despair—particularly if additional taxation is laid on an already burdened people. If we borrow the money we shall add indefinitely to the financial difficulties of India, and when troublous times come shall be proportionately over weighted. One word, before I sit down, as to another point. What is the cause of the mystery and secrecy with which everything of importance to India is carried on, both by the Government there and by the Secretary of State for India in England? In 1877 the Duke of Argyll and other noble Lords endeavoured, in this House, to find out if there was any important change in the policy towards Afghanistan. An answer in the negative was given to all our in- 272 quiries. We now know, as we then surmised, that the policy which has since brought on the war was being vigorously pursued. The Correspondence also recently published is not compiled in an impartial spirit, for there are many omissions which, were they filled up, would show strong reasons against the course pursued by the Government; for instance, not a word is said of three dissentient opinions in the Governor General's Council to the present policy. Those omissions have led to much of the public anxiety, and ought to be at once remedied. Again, the mode in which affairs are at present conducted in the India Office requires immediate reform. Criticisms which Councillors desire to make are not allowed to appear—it is always too soon or too late. If they are eventually published, the time has passed in [which they might have done good. Whilst maintaining the authority of the Secretary of State, the Councillors should have perfect freedom to make known their opinions; and the people of England would then have some chance of benefiting by their knowledge and experience, and of seeing for themselves in some degree how matters were going on in India. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, in order to disparage the weight of my opinion on the present war, has alluded to a proposal made by me in the Mutiny, to give up the Peshawur Valley and retire across the Indus; and no doubt the noble Earl, in moving the Address to Her Majesty's Speech, on the 5th instant, had the same object in view when he made a similar allusion. I have hitherto been unwilling to refer to what actually occurred in 1857, because to do so satisfactorily would have necessitated my bringing to light the state of things which induced me to entertain this idea. I will only point out now that the proposal was prospective and conditional, subject to a state of things which might have occurred, and which was likely to occur. If ever openly and fairly challenged, I shall be prepared to show grounds for the line on which I then intended to act. Sir Herbert Edwardes concluded, by mistake, that I had decided to abandon Peshawur at once; but this was not the case; I, in the first instance, only wished that preparations should be made, by the withdrawal of the English women and children to a place of se- 273 curity—cis-Indus; so that, should the necessity arise which I had anticipated, our soldiers might be free and untrammelled. In 1858, after all danger from the effects of the Mutiny had passed from the Punjab, I discussed this question with Sir Herbert Edwardes and Sir Neville Chamberlain, when the latter officer expressed an opinion that, under the circumstances in which I had proposed to act, he thought I had resolved advisedly; that had the force before Delhi been compelled to give up the siege and fall back, we could not have continued to hold Peshawur. My views may not have been correct, and Sir Herbert Edwardes's may have been the right judgment; but while he only knew how we stood at Peshawur, I was behind the scenes and knew also the state of things at Delhi. Sir Neville Chamberlain had this advantage also; for he had barely left Peshawur a month or six weeks when I made the suggestion now under consideration to Sir Herbert Edwardes—and he was subsequently Adjutant General of the troops before Delhi. Whatever may be the views of impartial men on this subject, on knowing all the circumstances which in 1857 beset our position in the North-West of India, it was solely the desire of economising our English troops, and thus to enable them to be used in the most effective way in stemming the tide of misfortune which surrounded us, that led me to advocate the abandonment of Peshawur; and as for those who use the resolution I then formed with the object of damaging my reputation, I can only regard their conduct with feelings strongly akin to contempt.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I do not intend to follow the noble Lord (Lord Lawrence), who has so extensive and so practical a knowledge of the question of Afghanistan in all its phases, nor the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, nor the Secretary of State for India, in the able and exhaustive accounts which, from their respective points of view, they have given of the question now before us. I rise not very willingly, and I shall not trouble your Lordships long; but having been concerned in some of the earlier stages of these transactions, and standing in the unfortunate position of finding myself unable, on the one hand, to support the Resolution of the Government, and, on the other 274 hand, unable to agree with a large part of the arguments adduced by a majority of those who oppose it—believing, as I do, that the policy of the Government in 1876 was sound and defensible, but that the proceedings in 1878 are not such as this House ought to support—standing in that isolated and unfortunate position, I do not feel it consistent with my duty to give a silent and unexplained vote. The Secretary of State for India commenced by taking credit, on behalf of the Government of which he is a Member, for having called Parliament together at the earliest convenient date. He had a perfect right to do so; and that, probably, is the only part of these transactions on which the opinion of your Lordships will be unanimous. I think, however, it is impossible not to feel that there is something unreal and unsatisfactory in the state of things with which we have to deal. We are discussing—and we know we are discussing—an issue over which we have no real or practical influence. When a war is begun, to withhold Supplies which are necessary to carry it on, and thereby to expose a British Army in the field to disaster and defeat, is a course outside the limits of what is allowable or possible. We are, therefore, placed in this position—we are bound to support in action a policy which in opinion we may wholly disapprove. The other evening the noble Duke who sits on the Opposition benches (the Duke of Somerset) made a sarcastic comment on the speech of a noble Earl then sitting below him (Earl Granville), because that noble Earl, while disapproving the general policy of the war, yet expressed a hope that nothing would be left undone to press it to a conclusion. Well, that is the sort of language which a great many others of us are holding. It is an inconsistency if you will; but an inconsistency which is forced upon us by the peculiar position in which Parliament is placed. And, my Lords, it is not only to the case of a war that this practical helplessness of Parliament extends. Take the case of a concluded Treaty. If the Government has pledged the faith of the nation to this, that, or the other—no matter how imprudently—we are asked, how is it possible for us to repudiate an obligation undertaken in the face of Europe? My Lords, let me say, in passing, that 275 any remarks I may make on this subject are not meant by way of censure upon the Government. They have acted simply in accordance with many precedents. I do not contend that the Government have exceeded Constitutional limits, nor do I even affirm that they have strained them; but I do hold that a country professing to be self-governed, and which supposes at least that it manages its own affairs, is in a very peculiar position when twice in the same year Parliament—once in July and again in December—is called upon to consider decisions of national importance—decisions which may affect the future of the country for many years—those decisions having been taken on the responsibility of the Executive Government without a possibility of any Parliamentary opinion—or, indeed, any opinion at all—being previously expressed upon them—thus rendering all criticism merely retrospective and historical in its character. Most of us believe that before long the nation is to be consulted as to the policy it will sanction. When that time arrives there will be a question to be asked and answered—a question quite apart from Party politics—Can a country be said to be really self-governed which may at any moment find itself engaged in a European or an Asiatic war—not necessarily a defensive war—or which may be committed to some engagement, inevitably involving war in the future; the decision in each case having been taken without anyone knowing anything of it outside the small number of persons who constitute the Cabinet of the day? I do not think it is any answer to say—"You have Ministerial responsibility." What does Ministerial responsibility mean? We all know it means that if a majority of the electors disapprove what has been done, the Government is changed, and the power will pass from one set of men to another. But that result is not a remedy. It does not get us out of the quarrel in which we have been involved, nor does it disengage us from the obligations which we may have hastily and rashly incurred. This question, my Lords, is one upon which I will say no more, but which I think you will find become more and more prominent. My Lords, there has been a great deal of controversy, and much has been said and written 276 by members of the two political Parties, as to which Administration must bear the responsibility of having originally alienated the Ameer from us. My Lords, I have examined the Papers; I have read most of what has been written on this subject: and the only conclusion to which I can come is, that it would be utterly impossible, and that even if it were possible it would be utterly useless, to try to single out any one special and exclusive cause for that feeling of jealousy and distrust on his part with which we have undoubtedly to deal. I believe the mischief may be traced back in its origin to a cause for which no one now living is responsible—to the first Afghan War. Everybody now admits that war to have been a folly, and there are a good many who think it a crime. To us it is now mere matter of history—it has almost faded from our memories. But we cannot expect that it shall have equally passed from the recollection of those who suffered from it. The Afghan Rulers and the Afghan people probably know very little of any change of opinion which may have taken place here. What they do know is this—that in the memory of living men their country was invaded by a British Army without cause or provocation; that it was occupied for a considerable time; and that when at last evacuated, its evacuation was accompanied by severities not usual in English war. It seems to me, therefore, that if we were in the position of the Afghan Chief, or of those about him, we should be disposed to look with considerable suspicion and distrust on the proceedings of neighbours who had these antecedents. It may be argued, no doubt, that in 1855 the quarrel was made up and a Treaty signed between the Indian and the Afghan Governments, which was in force up to the late declaration of war. But on looking at that Treaty the other day, it struck me—as it struck the noble Earl who moved the Address the other night—that it was not altogether a satisfactory Treaty to one of the parties concerned. The Treaty consists of three Articles. The first is a declaration of perpetual peace and friendship. The second is a declaration that we will respect the Ameer's territories, and not interfere therein. The third gives the same pledge on behalf of the Ameer, with the important addition that he 277 agrees to be the friend of our friends and the enemy of our enemies. That amounted to an alliance offensive and defensive with us on the part of the Ameer, while we on our part incurred no corresponding obligation. I know that a few years later it was modified, as the Secretary of State for India said, for a temporary purpose; but this Treaty at least helps to explain why the present Ameer, who succeeded to those obligations, should have assumed towards us that very peculiar tone which is observable in his correspondence—the tone, not exactly of a friend, nor exactly of an enemy, but of a man who feels himself ill-used and has a grievance. I will not go through the history of our past relations with the Ameer. As far as I can judge, the root of the misunderstanding between us and him appears to have been this—that while we offered him occasional help in money and arms and promised him a certain support in his difficulties, the kind of support which he has asked us for, and at various times has endeavoured to obtain, was such as with our ideas of responsibility it would have been impossible for any English Ministry to give. He wanted a pledge that his dynasty should be supported by us against all rivals. The Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cranbrook), in referring to that subject to-night, seemed to treat that claim of the Ameer as not altogether unreasonable, and to contend that he had some cause of complaint against us, because we only recognised him as de facto Ruler of a part of his country, and also recognized another Prince who held certain other districts. My answer is, that the Ameer appears to have required from us that which would necessarily have involved our continual interference in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan, and possibly the employment of British troops to put down insurrection against him. The granting of his request would have led to the exercise of constant control over his acts; because if we were to be bound to give him support, we must have taken care that he did not abuse his power. No concession of that sort could, therefore, reasonably have been made. No doubt other questions had their influence—such as the Seistan arbitration and some minor matters—which it is not worth while to mention; but I think that to which I have ad- 278 verted was the principal grievance of the Ameer, and the one which raised the strongest feeling of resentment in his mind. Well, in 1873 came the Russian advance on Khiva. The Ameer was naturally alarmed, and a long series of communications passed between him and the Indian Government. What I understand the Ameer to have then wanted from us was an unconditional guarantee of protection from external attack, he making no stipulation in return. The British Government was willing to give him assurances of protection if he was attacked without provocation, such protection to be conditional on his placing himself in our hands. The difference between what was asked for and what was promised appears to have mainly, if not entirely, turned on the conditions upon which the protection should be afforded; and I am bound to say, from a study of these Papers, that I do not draw the conclusion that there is a very marked difference in the attitude of the Ameer to the British Government, before and after these transactions. He is represented to have been jealous, suspicious, and mistrustful after what took place in 1873; but it appears to me that he was jealous, suspicious, and mistrustful before that date, and that there is no apparent change in that respect. Well, in 1874 the present Government came into Office. I am not careful to argue the question of how far, and how soon, they diverged from the policy of their Predecessors. I do not think the divergence was very marked in the first year, because I myself had, early in that year, to state the views of the Cabinet on the subject; and I did so after consultation with the then Secretary of State for India. What I said is on record; and I do not see in it any marked difference from the recorded opinions of the India Office in the preceding year. No doubt, later on, steps of a different kind were taken. But is it necessary to assume, as a matter of course, that either the policy that prevailed before 1873, or the policy that prevailed after that date, must necessarily have been erroneous because they may have differed? My Lords, I do not take that view. I say that you must allow for the lapse of time and for the change of circumstances. You must admit that the establishment and consolidation of Russian power in Cen- 279 tral Asia introduce a new element into the question. It may have been wise and right—I believe it was—to have taken precautions after that event, which before its occurrence would have been premature, and possibly mischievous. What were the steps then taken? One of them—the occupation of Quetta—was recommended by various considerations of local security; it violated no right of the Afghan Government; and we had a Treaty right to take it, although it may, no doubt, have tended—and I am afraid it did tend—to increase the irritation and the jealousy of the Ameer. That was no sufficient reason for not taking it; but the feeling is intelligible, and I think its existence, and the cause of it, ought to have been borne in mind when we dealt with him as we have done in the last few months. Then came the attempt to place Agents at Herat and Candahar. My Lords, whatever the result may have been, I am bound to say that in that attempt, so long as nothing more was done to press it than the making of friendly representations, I see nothing that, in principle, was open to objection. It was, and is, eminently desirable that we should know what is passing in Afghanistan. The geographical position of that country, the conditional protection which we had promised, and which, whether we had promised it or not, we could not help giving, in case of foreign attack;—the very fact of the suspicion and distrust with which we were met, were all reasons to make it desirable to render our relations with the Ameer more close and intimate. I think, therefore, the Government was quite right in making the attempt. But, obviously, it was one which had to be made cautiously and temperately. Every Asiatic Prince knows how an English Resident, once stationed in his dominions, is apt to acquire influence, and sooner or later to become his virtual master. Moreover, an Agent who is imposed by force on a Prince who is unwilling to receive him is in a position essentially and thoroughly false. He may be treated with all the outward marks of courtesy and respect, and yet he may be allowed to see and know little of what goes on, and without a word said or a thing done on which a quarrel can be fixed, he may be shown, in a hundred ways, that he is neither wanted nor trusted. I hold, there- 280 fore, two things to be proved. First of all, that in the circumstances of 1874 it was desirable to establish English Agents in Afghanistan if it could be done by friendly means; and, next, that if it were done by other than friendly pressure—by force, or by pressure equivalent to force—it would fail in the very object which we had in view. In 1876 I held office, and, though not personally cognizant of the details of Indian Frontier diplomacy—for other matters pressed heavily at that date—I, of course, accept fully the responsibility for what was done. I do not think that the Instructions then given to the Indian Government conflict with anything that I have put before your Lordships, or tended to bring about the war in which we are now engaged. The negotiations which were attempted failed and the result was reported home, and the Secretary of State commented on them in due course. The despatch appears in the Blue Book. The substance of it is, that the negotiations showed that the Ameer now knew clearly what we wanted, and might be left to reflect for a time on the knowledge he had acquired, and that it was not desirable to put pressure on him in a hostile sense. The despatch of October 4, 1877, says—The independence of Afghanistan is a matter of importance to the British Government, and, as an essential part of arrangements for its protection, Her Majesty's Government would still he glad to station Agents upon whom they could rely at Herat and Candahar. In the event, therefore, of the Ameer, within a reasonable time, spontaneously manifesting a desire to come to a friendly understanding with your Excellency on the basis of the terms lately offered to, but declined by him, his advances should not be rejected. If, on the other hand, he continues to maintain an attitude of isolation and scarcely veiled hostility, the British Government stands unpledged to any obligations, and, in any contingencies which may arise in Afghanistan, will be at liberty to adopt such measures for the protection and permanent tranquillity of the North-West Frontier of Her Majesty's Indian dominions as the circumstances of the moment may render expedient, without regard to the wishes of the Ameer Shere Ali or the interests of his dynasty."—[Afghanistan, No. 1, p. 224.]No doubt, the last sentence is open to various constructions; but, taking the despatch as a whole, I think there is nothing in it to which anyone can reasonably object. It appears to be a fair view of the situation temperately stated; and I believe that if subsequent 281 despatches had been conceived in a similar spirit we should not now find ourselves in our present position. What was the situation, then, at the end of 1877? We were on terms of coldness and estrangement from the Ameer, but not of actual hostility. He distrusted us. He was afraid of us. He thought he had reason to complain of some things we had done and of other things we had not done; but, my Lords, there is nothing to show that he loved Russia any better than he loved us. It was not in the nature of the case that he should. Considering what had happened in Khiva and Bokhara, it is simply impossible to believe that he really wished well to the Russian cause, or desired the success of the Russian armies. Well, then, at last, when a Russian Mission went to Cabul, why did he receive it? Surely the answer is plain—he did not dare to do anything else. We must remember that he was the head of a feeble State, scarcely master of his own dominions; that he was constantly liable to be held responsible for the actions of tribes over whom he had little control—that he felt himself placed between two aggressive military Empires—for we have been aggressive in India. He was not upon friendly terms with us; he knew that he had offended us; and he probably thought that if he offended Russia as well, he would have made two enemies instead of one. And so—very unwisely as the result has shown, quite unjustifiably considering the agreement by which he had bound himself to us, but still in circumstances, of very strong pressure and very great temptation—he took this unfortunate step of receiving the Russian Envoy. Well, my Lords, what, in the circumstances, ought we to have done? I do not contend for a moment that we ought to have allowed the attitude taken by the Ameer to be permanently maintained; but to hold him primarily responsible for what had passed I think was a very harsh mode of dealing with him. No doubt, he had broken his agreement with us. But had no one else broken an agreement with us? Had Russia held to the undertaking she had given? Has not Russia pledged herself, again and again, not to interfere in Afghanistan? And what was the language we held to her? It was courteous; it was friendly. It was a remonstrance, no doubt; 282 but a remonstrance framed in the most amicable terms, expressing a hope that the Mission to Cabul would be at once withdrawn, but making no grievance of its having been sent. I am not here, my Lords, to find fault with either the substance or the style of that document. I think the Government were right in holding the language they did. But we all know that the question which has arisen is the result of the strained relations which existed between the two Governments during the present year. In this country military men freely speculated upon the possibility of our attacking the Asiatic possessions of Russia from India; and I have no doubt Russians speculated equally on the possibility of at least disturbing our Indian Empire by an expedition sent from the North. If such a war had broken out the combatants must have passed through the dominions of the Ameer. The Mission was, therefore, a preparation for war; it was a counter-move to our despatch of Indian troops to Malta. But when the questions which arose were settled at Berlin, the object of the Mission to Cabul ceased; and, in the circumstances, I think the Government were quite justified in simply requesting its withdrawal, and not making a grievance of its having been sent. But what I cannot understand is, why the two parties concerned in this transaction are to be dealt with in so entirely opposite a spirit. Surely, if an offence had been committed against us, Russia was the greater offender of the two; and if reasons of prudence and policy, against which I have not a word to say—which, on the contrary, I altogether uphold—made us determine to condone the offence on the part of Russia, I ask whether simple justice ought not to have led us to deal in a like manner with the party who was immeasurably the less guilty of the two? But we turn round upon the Ameer, saying—"You are in our power; whatever Russia may have done, we cannot reach her—but we can deal with you, and you must pay the penalty for both." Well, my Lords, on the Russian part of the question I shall not say another word—the answer of the Russian Government is vague enough—but when we are told by them that their Mission was of a "provisional" nature, and was one of simple courtesy, I presume we are to 283 read the word "provisional" as "merely temporary," and that we may take it, if not as a pledge, at least as an intimation, that in a very short time the Mission will he removed. But look, my Lords, at the position of the Ameer. I do not myself think that there is any great advantage in forcing a Resident upon a Prince unwilling to receive him, however desirable it may be that he should receive him even in his own interest. But if we thought otherwise, look how entirely the matter was in our own hands. We had a claim upon him such as we never had before. We could now say—"You have received a Mission from Russia; in justice and fairness you cannot do less for us." Suppose, my Lords, that we had held that language and given him time to consider it. The Ameer is no fool. He may be irritable and suspicious; but no one who reads the letters of his which are interspersed in the Correspondence will say that he is not a capable and able man. He knows quite well that he cannot fight the British Empire by himself; and if he had received a warning couched in proper terms, is it likely he would have resisted? Probably he would, in the first instance, have consulted his Russian friends. He would have gone to them and said—"A demand has been made upon me. I am threatened with war if I refuse compliance. Do you mean to stand by me or not?" We know perfectly well the answer they must have given—certainly they did not intend to fight for the Ameer, and they must have told him so. Then, disappointed in the hope of foreign help, which he undoubtedly entertained, and knowing perfectly well his own weakness—knowing, too, that by his own act he had placed himself in a false position—is it credible that he would have resisted? Would he not, on the contrary, have embraced the opportunity for effecting a reconciliation, if freely and frankly offered? Of course, I may be told that the Russian Agent would have given advice in the contrary sense to what the Ameer supposed, and so have encouraged him to persevere. I do not believe it; and I will tell your Lordships why. It cannot be imagined that Russia would have promised to stand by the Ameer, and then when the occasion arose have deserted him. Nothing could be more disastrous to the 284 influence of Russia than such a course. And, therefore, I say that she would not have given such advice. She would not have urged the Ameer to resist if she did not mean to support him. She would, on the contrary, have advised him to give way, making the best terms he could. But instead of friendly overtures being sent, what happened? The Viceroy telegraphed on the 2nd of August that "the present situation required immediate correction;" that he proposes to insist on the reception of a British Mission; that the Ameer would probably welcome it—if he believed that after all that had passed, it says more for his poetical imagination, of which we heard the other night, than for the shrewdness with which he has also been credited—and he adds, what is more likely, that the Ameer was well aware that we were in a position to enforce our demands. The Government, in reply, approve of his insisting on the reception; but they appear to have left all details to the Viceroy. And here comes the extraordinary part of the transaction. Anybody would expect, if merely as a matter of form and courtesy, that when this question of receiving a British Mission had been for years in dispute, even if it was meant ultimately, and in case of need, to enforce the demand, at least that notice would have been given of the intention sufficient to admit of correspondence on the subject; so that the Ameer, while yielding, in reality, to pressure, should at least seem to exercise his option as the Sovereign of a free State. But the Viceroy gives him no such notice. He appears bent, not merely on forcing the Mission on the Ameer, but on making all India see that he did so force it. He does not leave him the semblance of an option. He selects his Envoy—a very distinguished officer—surrounds him with an escort of 250 men, makes the fact public to all the world, and sends him to the Frontier to demand admission at once. What is, then, the situation of the Ameer? If he admits him, he makes it plain to his own people that he is yielding to coercion. If he refuses, it is war. Surely it might have occurred to the Viceroy that a high-spirited Chief—the head of a warlike race—could not afford to be humiliated, and might prefer to die fighting. If the object were to pick a quarrel—which I 285 do not impute—then, and only then, the measures taken were well suited for their purpose. We have heard it said in this House by the Secretary of State, and it has been said out-of-doors—and I think the worst enemies and severest critics of the British Empire in India have never said anything so disparaging—that we could not afford to give a little time for reflection and re-consideration to a Prince who had put himself in the wrong. We, the rulers of the great Empire of India, could not afford to give an Afghan Potentate a little time for consideration, lest the people of India should jump to the conclusion that we were actuated by fear of his military power! I do not contend that this is a war undertaken on our part wholly without provocation. I do not for a moment deny that the Ameer has deprived himself, by his own acts, of the sympathy which we might otherwise have entertained for a Prince in his position. But it is a war which, if there had been any real wish at Simla to avoid it, might have been avoided. You might have had your Mission received at Cabul, and you might have had "peace with honour." But in that case there would have been no chance of what is believed in some quarters to be so desirable—the rectification of an inconvenient Frontier. I hope that that question is not at the bottom of a good deal of these transactions. It is a very old saying—and one which applies to Governments as well as individuals—that when they adopt confiscation as a means of punishment they are very apt to end by punishing as a means of confiscation. But even from the point of view of an advanced or rectified Frontier, I doubt the expediency of this war. It will be very easy for us to overrun and conquer Afghanistan; but what is to come next? To make the Ameer refrain from intriguing with Russia or putting himself under Russian influence is a perfectly fair and reasonable object; but are we likely to secure the confidence and friendship of the Ameer by a march upon Cabul? Probably, if we could ascertain the real feeling of the Ameer we should find it to be one of very impartial dislike, both of the Russians and of us. Now, if we are to establish ourselves at Jellalabad, as has been suggested, while the Russians are hundreds of miles away, 286 it needs no great acuteness to see that we, being nearer, shall be the more cordially detested of the two. That is on the supposition that it is intended to leave the Ameer his independence, together with the greater part of his territory. The net result of the war in that case would be that we should be a little more feared and a good deal more disliked than hitherto. If, on the other hand, Afghanistan is to be subdued as well as overrun—and recollect it is not always in your power to stop the war at the precise moment you please, because despair does not reason, and men often fight on when there is no hope of ultimate success—the undertaking will be one of a very serious character. There is not a more difficult country in the world than Afghanistan. It is a complicated mass of mountain ranges, inhabited by warlike tribes constantly at feud with one another, but always ready to unite against a foreign enemy. They do not care for or value peace. They are quite willing to tolerate anarchy, but they will not endure servitude. That we can hold Afghanistan I do not doubt; but the question is, whether we should not hold it at an expenditure of money which, if otherwise applied, would secure to us the goodwill of every Afghan Chief for many years to come? I have only one word to add on the financial aspect of the question. I must confess I heard with some surprise the statement of the Secretary of State for India as to the cost of the campaign. Of course, I speak with respect, and with every wish to accept as conclusive the estimate formed by those most competent to give it; but I remember—and the Secretary of State for India must remember—our last experience of a little war. The cost of the Abyssinian War, it was hoped, would be £2,000,000 or £3,000,000; but it turned out to be not much less than £9,000,000. I hope the same will not be the case now; but if the anticipations of the Government with regard to the present campaign are realized, it will be the cheapest campaign ever undertaken. In connection with this subject I must say I look with some alarm on the present and prospective condition of the finances of India. In my opinion, the danger to our Empire comes from that quarter much more than from any foreign intrigue or threat of invasion. Look at the state 287 of things in that respect. You have there a population of 200,000,000 of people, all except a very few of whom are practically trying the experiment on how little food it is possible to keep body and soul together. The great bulk of the people consume nothing but necessaries, and it is on these necessaries that new taxation must fall, because there is nothing else to tax. The Revenue is far from having the elasticity which belongs to our home Revenue in normal times. You have a standing increase of Debt—I do not say from year to year, but from 10 years to 10 years; you have had an enormous increase of expenditure during the 20 years that have elapsed since the East India Company was done away with; you have a people on whom you do not know how to lay fresh burdens to any considerable extent. And, my Lords, this is not all. The Secretary of State for India referred with peculiar satisfaction to the flourishing condition of one part of the Revenue—that derived from opium. Now, that is exactly the most precarious of the whole. Once let the Chinese people take to growing their own opium, or let the Chinese Government make an earnest attempt to put down its importation—public opinion certainly would not allow us to make a second opium war—and by the cessation of that one branch of Revenue there would be at once £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 struck off the Indian Revenue—a loss which could not be replaced, and which would lead not merely to embarrassment, but to insolvency. My Lords, I do not ask you to accept the, it may be rather despondent, views I hold on that point. I only ask you to remember that the financial position of India is grave. If we are to encounter danger, I believe there is less to be apprehended from beyond our Frontier than from the discontent which would ensue upon a greatly enhanced taxation. The burden is already heavy; and what would happen should any unfortunate combination of circumstances require it to be increased? But that is a matter I only touch in passing. On the question before us I have come to the conclusion which I have endeavoured to express. I see nothing to condemn in the policy of 1876—on the contrary, I should have been ready to defend it were defence from me neces- 288 sary. But with the Russian Mission matters took a new turn. I repeat it; I do not contend that there has been no provocation; but I cannot but believe that the Viceroy and his advisers have precipitated a war which, by a little more patience and forbearance, might have been avoided. And if I am to express my opinion upon the matter in a word I would say that, in my judgment, this war on which we have entered is unnecessary, and that, being unnecessary, it cannot be either wise or just.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, he could not agree with the noble Earl who had just spoken (the Earl of Derby) that their vote could not possibly have any effect on the policy of the Government, for the Amendment must be viewed in connection with a Motion which was made in the other House, and he could not look upon the two as anything but an attempt to displace the Ministry. He had been in Parliament, in one House or the other, for 40 years, and he had known many attacks made by the Opposition on existing Governments; but he did not remember one occasion on which the usual arrangements for the consultation of the Party had led to the proposing of such a Resolution as this Amendment. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment did not care to call his Party together; but it seemed that a few noble Lords must have met in a closet and settled on the Amendment. For what did the Resolution imply? It spoke of bringing the war in which we were engaged to "a safe and honourable conclusion;" and what he complained of was that the opponents of the Government went with one voice to the country and came to this House with another. They excited the country by saying that the war was contrary to all the precepts of morality and all the principles of religion; and yet they came to this House and talked of bringing it to "a safe and honourable conclusion." Of course, the Government wish for nothing else but to bring it to a safe and honourable conclusion; they did not want the assistance of the Opposition to do that. As to the question on which so much discussion had been raised—Who caused the war? the Opposition referred to the taking of Quetta and to the domineering style of Lord Lytton to the 289 Ameer, as having been the causes of the war. But that morning they had seen the Ameer's own opinions, and it was that some of our Viceroys had entered into a family quarrel, and had given him some advice and lectured him about his conduct towards his son, Yakoob Khan, who was heir-apparent and a very promising youth. He had murdered with his own hand one or two people, including the Commander-in-Chief, and he was the terror of the country. The Ameer had induced him to visit Cabul, and then, in true Afghan style, took hold of his promising relation, and kept him prisoner at Cabul; and then his followers became indignant, and made a great disturbance in the country. Complaint had been made of the manner in which he condemned the conduct of the noble Lord (Lord Lawrence) in reference to the agitation in this country. He did not wish to have used a discourteous word, for he appreciated the great services of that noble Lord; and, looking at the report of his speech next day, he could not find that he had used a word which should have given offence. He praised the noble Lord for his former conduct in reference to his administration of Indian affairs; but he regretted the course his noble Friend had taken in reference to the affairs of Afghanistan. He felt that he had as much right to express condemnation as to express approbation. Then they were told that the present Government had caused all this disturbance in the minds of the Ameer and his people. The Afghan Papers did not justify that assertion. Those Papers showed that in 1875, in 1873, and before that, the Ameer was only looking to see where he could make the best bargain. He said he must be supported on one side or the other; he wanted to be supported by us or by Russia; he was determined to get some support, for he could not stand alone; and, in the meantime, Russia had advanced to Khiva. What was the good of saying that the Government had departed from the policy of former Viceroys? Circumstances had altered, and we must adapt our policy to those altered circumstances. It was clear enough from the Papers that, when we brought the Indian troops to Malta, Russia regarded that as a menace, and moved towards Cabul and Merv as a counter menace; and that had opened the eyes 290 of the country to the dangers by which we were threatened. The question was how that danger was to be met? He was aware, from having heard the Frontier question discussed 40 years ago, that it was one surrounded with enormous difficulties. We must have a safe Frontier. It was of no use saying it would cost a great deal of money. No doubt it would; but was not India worth it? Could India be constantly threatened? We had a duty to its people, and that duty was to protect them. These wide dominions were obtained very often by stratagem and violence; we had to compensate the people of India for former wrong; and the best way was to give them tranquillity and peace. We had done that to a great extent, and he believed we had governed the country to its great advantage. We relieved them in their famines; we continually prevented war within their borders; and we had a further duty, which was to protect them against war from without their border. For these reasons he could not support the Amendment, which did no credit to the noble Lord who had moved it.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I shall only detain the House a few minutes. The question on which we have to vote divides itself into two parts, one being the financial, the other the general policy which has resulted in this war. Of finance I will say no more than to express my hearty concurrence in every word that fell from my noble Friend on the cross-benches (the Earl of Derby). The general policy is the real question on which the vote will be taken; and I do not disguise from myself that this vote takes the form of a condemnation of the policy pursued by the Government of which I have been a Member. I hope your Lordships will believe that I am extremely reluctant to join in a vote condemning the policy of those with whom only a year ago I acted as a Colleague, and that I would most gladly, if it were possible, avoid the necessity; but it is not possible. At the same time, as it seems to me, under the circumstances, to be unnecessary and painful to discuss in full the details which lead to such a conclusion, I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I venture for once to give the conclusions at which I have arrived without stating the reasons by which I am quite ready to jus- 291 tify them. They are conclusions which have been arrived at as the result of much thought. I cannot, then, in the first place, reconcile this war with any notions or ideas of justice. Adopting the distinction between the policy pursued before 1876 and afterwards, I think the policy which led to the war was erroneous, and that the policy which is the object of that war is unsound, dangerous, and delusive. I believe the expense will be very much larger than the present estimate. I doubt very much what is said about the rectification of Frontier, when I find military authorities differing so largely about it. I hate the word rectification; it seems to me to savour of some of the worst traditions of the worst periods of the French Empire—it is a word borrowed from an evil school; it is a word which has been too often used to conceal wrong and robbery, and that system of stratagem and violence which, to my astonishment, my noble Friend opposite (the Duke of Somerset) just now seemed to eulogize, and against which I, for one, must with my whole strength protest. If wrong and robbery had been the foundation of our Indian Empire, I should look back with shame instead of pride upon those who founded it. To sum up, then, my principal objections to the policy which has been pursued—first, I think the morality and character of the country has been lowered by the recent transactions; and next, with regard to India, for the policy which has so long been adopted by successive Governors General, and which has already borne no insignificant fruit, you have substituted one which is sown with the seeds of hatred, distrust, and future foreign difficulties. It has taken the lifetime of a generation to' efface from the Native mind the recollections of the former Afghan War—these transactions will inevitably revive them. And what is the policy you have substituted? I admit it is a showy, an ambitious, and, to many people, an attractive policy; but I believe it has neither substance nor reality, and sooner or later—probably soon rather than late—it must issue in disappointment and failure. It is at variance with the promises originally given to the Ameer; it is at variance with the patient, and conciliatory, and consistent policy which Lord Mayo pursued; and the only compensating 292 merit I can discover in it is that it is an open—I think a cynical exhibition of power, which for a time may have, if successful, an effect on the wavering dispositions and doubtful allegiance of Native Governments. But even this is very uncertain. I have but one word more to say. I can, if I rightly caught his meaning, accept the view of my noble Friend the noble Earl who sits on the cross-benches (the Earl of Derby) with regard to Ministerial responsibility. I, like him, was a Member of the Government at the time these despatches were written, and I would be the last to shirk my fair share of responsibility. But I will say this—that, assuming every one of the despatches to be sound, right, and reasonable, I can see nothing in the Correspondence, as far as I remember, which constitutes a just and legitimate cause of war. Certainly, when the Ameer was urged to establish a British Agency in Afghanistan, the Government never contemplated that that demand was to be enforced at the point of the sword. In that lies the whole difference—between representing, and even urging upon the Ameer what was desirable, and in forcing it at the point of the bayonet. Such being the case, though I can honestly and unfeignedly say that I never gave a vote with more reluctance, I shall vote for the Amendment of the noble Viscount. It is very likely I shall be in a minority—perhaps a small minority; but to anyone who knows the history of this country that is not a very serious trial. There is nothing in it which need dismay any man. It is far more important, when one feels the honour and morality of the country at stake—whether the numbers be few or many—irrespective of Party discipline, that we should be content to record our opinion, in the face of an adverse Parliament, it may be also of an adverse Party—I am not prepared as yet to say in the face of an adverse country.
LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK
said, he was very glad to hear the account which had been given by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cranbrook) with reference to the surplus of £2,500,000 on the present Indian financial year. The estimated expenditure of the war was about £1,200,000, so that there would still remain a substantial surplus. He 293 thought, however, after a period of so much distress in India, that surplus ought to have been devoted to those works of national improvement of which that country stood so much in need. After the admirable spirit which India had recently displayed, the Government ought to have shown more generosity than charging the whole expenditure of the war on the Indian Exchequer. He hoped the Government would reconsider this matter. What India desired was to co-operate with England certainly, the whole burden should not be thrown on India. He approved very much of the able and logical speech of the noble Earl who spoke from the cross-bench (Earl Grey). He contended that although Afghanistan had given some provocation, the main quarrel lay with Russia, and it was to Russia we should address our principal remonstrance. He also said, if the Ameer of Afghanistan had given us a certain amount of provocation, we had acted with undue precipitation, and that if we had given him more time for reflection the quarrel might have been pacifically adjusted. No doubt we had some reason for complaint against Russia—especially at an earlier period in the transaction; but, considering the relations that then existed between England and Russia, and the strong probability of a war between the two countries, he could not say that the sending by Russia of a Mission to Cabul could be found much fault with. Russia did only what we should have done in similar circumstances. Besides, from the first Russia cut off almost all grounds of expostulation or remonstrance on our part, for on the 2nd of July the Russian Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs denied absolutely that any Mission had been sent by his Government to Cabul, or that there was any intention on the part of the Russian Government or of the Governor of Turkestan to send a Mission. The Russian Government could, therefore, always say that the Mission had been sent by the Governor of Turkestan without their knowledge. Further, the Mission was now represented to be simply one of courtesy and compliment. In these circumstances, it was not possible to address any serious remonstrances to the Russian Government. What did our Government do on a similar occasion? In 1840 the Government of Egypt, instigated by 294 France, placed the dominions of the Sultan in serious jeopardy. Lord Palmerston, with the greatest secrecy, formed a coalition of the European Powers against France; but did he lead them against France? Not at all. He brought them to bear against Egypt, and by a judicious employment of their forces they expelled the Egyptian army from Syria, and destroyed the policy of France by which Egypt had been set in motion. The refusal to receive a British Resident at Cabul, or the reception of a Russian Mission there, were not the grounds of this war. The grounds were that when a Russian Mission had been received at Cabul with distinguished honour, the Ameer, though repeatedly requested, obstinately refused to receive a similar Mission from us with the same honour. That refusal practically amounted to an act of menace and hostility to Her Majesty's Government. It was always difficult in this country to justify a war not of defence but of policy; but a war might be justified on grounds of policy, and this was such a war. If we had shrunk from action on this occasion we might in a year or two have been placed in a position where we should have to incur far greater expense and suffering. But though the Government had just cause of war, he held that the circumstances were such that, having shown ourselves to be perfectly in earnest and absolutely powerful for the objects we had in view, we ought to take the first opportunity of granting favourable terms to the Ameer. And now a word as to the general question of policy. He found that the successive Governors General aimed at the same policy, though differing as to the means by which that policy was to be executed. The policy on which they were agreed was the maintenance in Afghanistan of a strong and independent Government, having aims consistent with our policy. But one party said that was to be secured by a general system of negotiations and assurances to the effect that the Ameer was to be assisted with money and arms, and, in cases of extreme necessity, with troops. By others it was argued that those assurances ought to be put into the form of a definite Treaty. The advocates of the general system of assurances admitted that, in certain circumstances, it would be desirable to sign a Treaty. The only advantage he had ever heard alleged in 295 favour of general assurances as compared with Treaties was, that under the former system we avoided the danger of entangling ourselves in distinct and onerous obligations with Afghanistan which it might at some future period be inconvenient to fulfil. He maintained, however, that this advantage was a great deal more apparent than real; for under the system of assurances the Representatives of Her Majesty in India had made arrangements defining the boundaries of Afghanistan and engaging to defend those boundaries, in certain circumstances, by force of arms. Could it be said that after doing this the Government had remained really free, and had incurred no serious or binding obligations? On the contrary, he ventured to say that even if no Treaty should ever be signed, this country was bound, in honour, and in equity by the obligations it had successively undertaken; and that the only liberty it had retained for itself under this system was to violate its engagements and to retire from its obligations with disgrace. In his opinion we had, under this system of assurances, practically incurred the obligation of preserving, in certain circumstances, the integrity of Afghanistan, and of interfering in the internal affairs of that State. We had said that we wanted a strong and an united Afghanistan in which we should have exclusive authority, and in which the influence of Russia should have no exercise. How could this object be attained if we suffered the present State of Afghanistan, which we had created and defined, to go to pieces? The policy pursued by his noble Friend (Lord Lawrence), the Viceroy who preceded Lord Mayo, by Lord Mayo himself, and by Lord Northbrook, virtually established obligations towards Afghanistan from which this country could not escape. The Russians were a great people, with the consciousness of a great past and a greater future, and their Sovereign was by nature in the highest degree humane, liberal, and sincere. But the Russian Government was moved forward on the back of national sympathies and national aspirations. With a Government and a country so constituted we had every reason to maintain relations of amity and alliance. But in order to realize that result it was necessary that our Government should employ judicious means and expedients; and the best means and expedients which they 296 could employ were an absolute plainness and a perfect frankness, so that there might exist no doubt or uncertainty as to our relations with the various States with which we were brought into contact. With regard to Central Asia, the experience of the past proved that that effect could not be produced by vague and indefinite assurances and declarations, but only by formal Treaty and guarantee. Another reason why it was requisite to make a binding Treaty with Afghanistan was that such a course would impart an element of permanency and consistency to the policy of this country. There was a danger, incidental to our Parliamentary Constitution, of a fluctuating or uncertain character attaching to our foreign relations, and, therefore, it was extremely desirable to fix the nature of those foreign relations by formal Treaties. Such a Treaty, in reference to Afghanistan especially, would have a tranquillizing effect upon India. In alluding to a certain Memorandum dictated by Lord Lytton, Earl Granville had characterized the Viceroy's language as very imprudent. If that language had really teen intended to be communicated to the Ameer, that reproach might have been directed against it with some reason. But it was not distinctly proved in the Correspondence before their Lordships that the Viceroy's language was meant to be communicated to the Ameer. It was merely used in confidence by Lord Lytton to a British Agent, who was only to convey the general sense of it to the Ameer; and there was no reason why the Native Agent should communicate to the Ameer any particular illustration or expression then employed by his Excellency. Another reproach had been cast upon the Viceroy by Earl Granville. The Viceroy was stated to have said that in certain contingencies we could efface Afghanistan from the map of the world and partition it between two great Powers; and it was complained by the noble Earl that no evidence that any intimation to that effect had ever been conveyed to Russia appeared in the Papers on their Lordships' Table. But the fact that the Russian and the English Governments had formally created the theory that an independent Afghanistan should be maintained between the two countries was believed, although the theory was not universally accepted. But if their Lord- 297 ships would read the conversation which took place between Her Majesty's Chargé d' Affaires at St. Petersburg and the Russian Foreign Secretary on the 23rd of June, 1875, and a second held in the following month, they would find the matter alluded to as to which reference, it was said, was made by the Viceroy, and that the idea of a partition of Afghanistan existed, at all events, in some Russian minds. With reference to the defence of our Indian Empire, it could, no doubt, be defended from our present Frontier; but, on the whole, the policy of Her Majesty's Government would furnish a Frontier which was accredited by the highest authorities and had been recommended by the great Emperor Akbar 300 years ago.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
said, that the question had been argued, on the part of the Government, as though the policy they had adopted was the only one they could have pursued. But he could not agree in that position. As to the charge of want of patriotism, which had been preferred against the opponents of the Government on this question, it would fall very lightly upon those who felt they were acting in this matter from honest conviction. A severance of Party ties was a matter which no one of ordinary sensitiveness could view with indifference; and it was also very natural that one should be inclined to abstain from any hostile act towards the Administration with a war on their hands. But the present question was not one on which they could be guided by inclination. It involved great political principles; and he was convinced their Lordships would feel it incumbent to vote upon it according to their convictions, without respect to considerations of political convenience. It might appear that some apology was required from one who, without any special qualification, took part in the present debate; but he trusted that the importance of the question would absolve him from the charge of temerity. Some of the distinguished Members of their Lordships' House had been the Colleagues of a Minister whose words were listened to with attention, and whose name he had the honour of bearing; and he could not but think that if that Minister had lived to the present day he would not have failed to endorse the views now expressed by his former Colleagues and supporters.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
maintained that the merits of the policy pursued by the late Viceroy of India and his Predecessors had not been sufficiently appreciated by the present Government, and that the arguments of the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) in the debate of Thursday evening had not been refuted. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, who opened the debate, had sought to cast the responsibility of the present state of affairs upon the late Government; and he had said that the assistance proffered to the Ameer by the late Viceroy was hedged about by so many conditions as to make the promise amount to little or nothing. But if their Lordships would look at the Correspondence before Parliament they would see that the offers of the present Viceroy (Lord Lytton) were equally hedged about by conditions and limitations. Looking at what had transpired in the Conferences with the Ameer, it must be admitted that we had placed him in a very false position. We had told him first that if he would not come into our views, Russia would come to an arrangement with us; then we had entered into prolonged negotiations with him; and, finally, we had broken them off. No wonder the Ameer had felt that he was in a corner; that we were not serious in our professions to him; and that it was his interest to come to an understanding with Russia in order to protect himself. It really seemed as if our object had been to get him into a corner. We had gone a very strange way about promoting that which was said to have been "at all times the object of our policy," the statement of which was in curious contrast with the results our action had produced.
§ EARL GREY moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
said, he saw no objection to the adjournment of the debate; but he thought it would be for the convenience of their Lordships to meet to-morrow at 4 o'clock, instead of the usual hour.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Further debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock, till To-morrow, Four o'clock.