HL Deb 28 January 1878 vol 237 cc508-27

in rising to call attention to the further Papers respecting the affairs of Turkey, said: My Lords, it may be thought, in reference to the Notice I have given, that a Motion ought to have been added to it. I will certainly conclude with one, so as at least to give the debate a greater regularity. There was obvious difficulty in putting it beforehand on the Paper, in the midst of the varying events by which each day has been characterized. A Motion suitable on Friday might not be appropriate on Monday, with such rapid scenes, and none could be put down during the interval. One could hardly tell for what a Motion should provide, or engage other men— without much reservation on their part —to support it. But no one feels more strongly than myself that your Lordships ought not at a time like this to meet only with a view to listening and speaking. If an important Vote is taken in the other House of Parliament, the opinion of your Lordships might do something to enhance; if none arises, something to replace its influence in Europe.

My Lords, in so harassing a juncture the House would not be much inclined to dwell upon Blue Books, although they cannot be entirely lost sight of. The first, and most voluminous, may be passed over very quickly, as it is chiefly a mirror of reciprocal atrocities during the war, and of the weakness to which the British Embassy at Constantinople is unavoidably reduced, when it continues to advise, after Great Britain has ceased to act as a defending Power towards the object of its counsels. There is only one despatch in the second I am anxious to refer to, as it throws a vivid light on much which is engaging us. It is the admission of Prince Gortchakoff, in page 13, that Russia aims at such a peace as can only be obtained by the further progress of her arms and the prolonged inaction of this country. It is the clearest intimation of what nearly everyone feels—that the aggression 'will be only cheeked by the obstruction which it meets with. Hope could not be more wild, credulity more fatuous, than the belief that Russia will arrest herself before Great Britain has assumed a different attitude towards her. To-night, however, she may do so. On the prospect of that event—in common, I believe, with a large majority on both sides of the House—I venture to congratulate the Government.

My Lords, the most important topic to consider at this moment would appear to be the terms of peace, which have been shadowed as an argument against preparatory measures on our part. It is true that we have no official knowledge on the subject. It is true that geographical and military details may be wanting. I refer merely to the accounts which are the most recent, the most generally credited, and that because the manner in which these propositions—exact or not—are viewed, may deeply influence opinion in the country. As far as we yet know, the Vassal Principalities which have iniquitously waged a war against their Suzerain will be rewarded for their treason at the dictation of the Empire which used to plume itself on being the scourge of revolution, and, as it were, the constable of Europe. They would thus be brought to absolute dependence upon Russia, as the only prop of their factitious nationality. Their newly-gotten right to go to war with one another—a necessary incident of freedom—they would owe to a State which in the world has always been the patron of tranquillity and order. According to the sketch, the influence which Russia is to claim on both sides of the Balkans really places Constantinople at her mercy. There is no occasion to demand—although apparently she does— the power to bombard it by control over the Dardanelles. In one point of view, too much forgotten at this moment, the encroachments traced in Asia are even more momentous. If European Turkey is held by the Sublime Porte on the most precarious of tenures, in spite of Treaties and in spite of prepossessions, the interest of Europe must suggest the birth of some new Power to guard the Bosphorus against disastrous usurpation. That such a Power should exist, if only in conception, it is essential that his Asiatic Provinces should not be wrested from the Sultan. But the privation of Batoum and Kars, of which we hear, effaces their security. Some minds—I offer no opinion on their project—are fond of speculating on the hope of a Byzantine Empire. The Patriarch of the Greek Church might very possibly agree with them. The late Duke of Wellington, in 1828 or 1829, gave a kind of sanction to this view in a contingency which struck him, although perhaps he did not mean it to be handed to posterity. The cession of Batoum and Kars, with other sacrifices mentioned in Armenia, would be fatal to the hope of what at all events is rather difficult to execute. If men wish the Sublime Porte to be no longer European, they cannot authorize encroachments which render it impossible in Asia. Last of all, the indemnity to be exacted annihilates the hope of the ill-used, the exasperated bondholder, who is thought in no small degree to rule our Eastern policy at present.

My Lords, at this stage one cannot help reflecting on the habitual language of the Government last Session, when urged to act as far as possible, without hostilities, upon the Treaties which engage us. They said that when the war closed would be the moment to step in with [overmastering authority and limit the demands of the belligerents. They seemed to think that, without sacrifice, or risk, or toil, they might achieve the ends for which those means are generally lavished. In vain it was insisted that diplomacy would hardly give an instance of advantages so cheaply bought, so pleasingly appropriated. In vain it was insisted that for political success political exertion was desirable. They admitted that historical examples might go the other way; but they contended on general and abstract grounds—as it occurred to me, far too general and abstract—that the Power which has not wasted its strength in a campaign may dictate to the two belligerents, whose treasure is reduced, whose armies are exhausted. It did not appear to them that a victorious belligerent is not entirely exhausted—that he is likely to be far beyond the operation of their counsel—that he may treat with scorn the views which they present to him. It is not, however, for the purpose of attack that I recall their calculations, but rather with a view to show that their decision in the other House was no unnecessary proof of their consistency and rectitude.

My Lords, a Russian occupation of Constantinople has been so frequently discussed that it is worth while to say a word or two upon it. I pass over the indignity to which it would expose our country and our Sovereign, who used to be, who ought to be, the guardians of that capital. It might lead to carnage the most fearful, from the diversity of races which is found there and the hatred to which the foreign elements would be exposed. In all time it would degrade the British Embassy, while to the Russian it must secure — however brief—still more unlimited control than that which did exist before, and brought such terrible calamities upon the Empire it demoralized. But it is far more serious to recollect that we have not the slightest guarantee for such an occupation being of temporary character. Should it be permanent, as neither the Crown nor Parliament have any ground for acquiescing in it, it must involve Great Britain in hostilities with Russia, which all reflecting men are anxious to prevent, until our duty to the world compels us to resort to them. The measures necessary to avert an occupation are very different from the measures necessary to dislodge it. The measures to avert it would not involve departure from neutrality—the only point demanded even by the kind of partial agitation which is thought to cheek the action of the Government.

My Lords, that proposition bears so much upon the moment, that I am bound, perhaps, to shew it has not lightly been advanced. It was, indeed, insisted on by a deputation which approached the noble Earl the Secretary of State during the autumn, and it has never been replied to. It is a question of public law, on which the best authority lays down, that when a State is bound by Treaty to give support to an Ally who is in danger, it is consistent with neutrality to grant it.


Can you mention the authority?


Vattel, book 3, chapter 7, section 105. The House has heard of Vattel so repeatedly of late, that with a view to save them from fatigue, I was inclined to hurry over that part of the subject. Should it, however, be the pleasure of the noble Earl the former Secretary of State and of your Lordships, I should not at all refuse to dwell upon it. But it is not only the authority of public law—the dictum of Vattel, which may direct us on the subject. In 1853, in a long series of communications to the Government of which he was a Member, and which are published now, Lord Palmerston exhibited this principle. War going on between Russia and the Porte, Great Britain still adhering to the position of a neutral, Lord Palmerston was urgent for two measures—the suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and the movement of the British Fleet up to the Bosphorus. But the argument is not obliged to rest entirely upon Vattel and Lord Palmerston. The same principle has been applied on several occasions in our history. In the time of Henry VII., according to his best historian, Lord Bacon, the King resolved to give support to the Duke of Brittany, then an independent Prince, upon the ground of an alliance, while his neutrality towards France, the invading Power, continued as it had done. But to step at once to modern times, when in 1827, the Government of that day sent out, in virtue of engagements their well-known expedition for the defence of Portugal, whom Spain was undermining, no casus belli was afforded to that country, and no hostilities were threatened. The essence of the new Treaty to uphold Belgium in 1870, superadded to the former guarantee of 1839, if I have understood it, was that Great Britain should restrict herself to that task without becoming involved in further operations of the war, without entirely departing from her function as a neutral. These instances, however, are not at all required in order to maintain that Great Britain may do quite as much as Lord Palmerston advised in 1853, without giving any Power a title to hostilities.

Of course it is well known to all of us, that the Russian Party, which within a year has been established in this country, when they insist upon neutrality, really wish to bar the measures of precaution by which the Czar may be arrested in his progress to the destruction of the Treaties which are binding on us. My Lords, the answer is, that the Russian Party cannot be permitted to dictate to a State, of which they are alike indifferent to the faith, the honour, and the interest. The Russian Party are, unfortunately, open to a long variety of charges, but very few of them are quite sufficient, to dispose of their authority at present. They have not attempted to fulfil the first condition of being listened to. It is obvious that the first condition upon which they could demand adherents, was ability to show that the foreign policy of Russia, as it was known in the time of Catherine II., as it betrayed itself in 1853, as it burst out in 1870, had lost the qualities by which it formerly excited vigilance among us. But they have not attempted to establish any variation in its character. They have connived at all the startling proofs of its identity which followed one another from the Crimean War to 1871, and from that time down to this moment. They begin, therefore, by proclaiming their incredible fatuity. In the next place, they have never listened to, or recognized, or tried to controvert the argument, although in many forms it has been urged upon them—that the welfare of the races subject to the Porte—the races they have patronized—depends on British influence they have done their utmost to destroy, and not on British nullity, they have now succeeded in creating on the Bosphorus. Beyond that, they have done their worst to check Ottoman reform, by blackening the Constitution which was founded to produce it, and thus have leagued themselves with all the darkest elements by which the Sultan is habitually prompted to overthrow the freedom he has sanctioned. Last of all, the Russian Party have endeavoured to deceive the public by asserting upon every occasion that those who do not follow them are advocates of war, when it has been repeatedly demonstrated they advocate the measures by which eventual war alone can be averted. My Lords, on this point, although it may arise from ignorance and passion, to which they are particularly liable, the Russian Party nave been led to absolute mendacity. One thing, however, should be admitted in their favour—-they are not unworthy of the feet at which they sit, or of the school in which they have been disciplined.

My Lords, I have observed, although not in this country, that when political events have gone beyond a certain line of gravity and tension, speeches of any length are felt as inappropriate, although before that line is reached they may be welcome. It was the case in France in 1870. During the eventful weeks of August the Assemblies, still at Paris, listened with increased susceptibility. After the catastrophe of Sedan no voice was heard, although, apparently, there never was a greater scope for exposition and remonstrance. There is a strong impression—out-of-doors, at least—that on the Eastern Question our Sedan is consummated. Although I do not share it, one is bound to consult the taste of those who may be under its ascendancy. As regards the Motion which I promised, it would, I think, enable this House to double the advantage of the precautionary measure which the other House of Parliament is being invited to consider. Should that appear to be its tendency, no technical objection, at such a time, can well prevent your Lordships from adopting it. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Eesolution— Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House neutrality, whether conditional or absolute, in no way prohibits Her Majesty's Government from adopting such measures as are necessary to conform to the Treaties of 1856, and to guard Constantinople against an hostile occupation.—(The Lord Stratheden and Campbell.)


My Lords, I think the few remarks I have to make may be addressed to the House more conveniently before the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whom I am glad to see present, replies to the speech of the noble Lord who has just moved his Resolution. The noble Lord gave Notice merely that he would call attention to the further Papers Nos. 1 and 2 which were laid on the Table at the opening of the Session. Your Lordships have attentively listened to the speech of the noble Lord, and you will agree with me that he hardly alluded to those Papers in the course of his observations. The noble Lord entered into the larger question. I am not surprised that he has done so, and I do not complain of the course he has taken; but having made those observations, he concluded with a Resolution of which, as far as I am aware, he had given no Notice whatever. With regard to the general question, perhaps it is not necessary for me to say much. I think it would be better for me to leave the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to declare his acquiescence in, or his dissent from, a doctrine, which rather startled me at first, quoted upon the great authority of Vattel, although the noble Lord did not give the words of that authority —namely, that if we assisted Turkey at this moment against Russia we should not be breaking our neutrality. I say I leave the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to dispose of that assertion if he pleases to do so. But there was one remark which the noble Lord made in regard to a matter of fact to which, as a Member of the late Government, I think I ought more particularly to allude. He said that our circumstances at the present time are the same as those which existed when Her Majesty's late Government made the Treaty with regard to Belgium during the Franco-German War. My Lords, there was not the slightest profession of neutrality in that Treaty. It certainly involved great risk, and it certainly had great success; but that Treaty was not one of neutrality. It stipulated that if Germany invaded Belgium, this country would go to war against Germany with France, and if France invaded Belgium, we would join Germany in going to war against France. With regard to those recent Papers on the Eastern Question, I am not surprised that the noble Lord who preceded me left them almost entirely alone, because they afford singularly little material for making a speech or forming observations upon. The thing which struck me most in reading them was the persistent determination of Turkey to assume that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary had said things which he had not said, and not only things which he had not said, but things which he had contradicted over and over again. As for No. 1, it is the most horrible reading I have ever attempted to go through; and as for No. 2, the sins in it are not sins of commission, but of omission. I do not remember great transactions, interesting to the whole of Europe, in respect of which Parliament has been left so completely in the dark as we have been in respect of those negotiations and of the policy of other nations, in reference to what has been going on between Russia and Turkey. When I said something on this point the other night, the noble Earl the First Lord of the Treasury made an observation in which there was some force. He said that there was an increasing objec- tion on the part of other Governments to the publication of their diplomatic documents. But this is no new objection. Those nations have always entertained the same objection to our readiness to publish despatches. It may be remembered that the form of Government in other parts of Europe is different from ours in respect to diplomatic affairs. But the objection is not one to the publication of Blue Books generally. I absolutely and positively deny that it is so. The objection is to the publication of Papers of a confidential nature, or Papers containing observations which might prove insulting or injurious either to Sovereigns or individual statesmen. I cannot see how there can be any objection to putting Parliament in possession of full and complete knowledge of the policy being pursued by our own Government on a question of this kind, and of the opinion of foreign Governments on that policy. I merely draw the attention of the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to that matter, and I have nothing more to say on it. But I should be very sorry to sit down without expressing the satisfaction with which I, and I am sure all your Lordships, observe the convalescence which enables the noble Earl to be present. I must say there are other reasons which make me rejoice to see him on that bench. The other day it was confidently stated and believed that Lord Carnarvon's was not the only resignation, but that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had resigned the office which he holds. I put a Question on the subject to the noble Earl at the head of the Government. He did not contradict the rumour; but, in his usual genial way, he answered that it was a high, useful, and ancient privilege that when a Minister of the Crown resigned office, that Minister should himself be the first to announce his resignation to Parliament. That may be; but I think it will be found that this privilege has sometimes been "more honoured in the breach than in the observance." If I remember rightly, when some few years ago the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon), and General Peel resigned office in a Government, the late Earl of Derby was the first to announce it in the House of Lords, and Mr. Disraeli was the first to announce it in the House of Commons. But with that I do not quarrel, nor do I quarrel with the valuable privilege itself. I have not the slighest right to ask the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) for any explanation of what has passed; but, considering the great uneasiness which has been felt in the public mind on this subject, and the announcements which have been made almost, I may say, in a peculiar way with regard to it, I leave it to him whether, having in view the immense importance which at a moment like this, the country attaches to the position of Foreign Secretary, he will not think it consistent with his duty to give the House some explanation of the circumstances in which the rumour of his resignation got abroad?


said, that on two occasions last year he characterized the policy of the Government as wise and moderate; but he could not now say he thought that they had acted consistently throughout. Last May they agreed to a principle of conditional neutrality. The time had now arrived when they should ask what the strict terms of such neutrality meant. First, it was considered that our conditional neutrality would come to an end when the Russians were advancing on Adrianople; but we now heard of their marching to Gallipoli, and before long they might be throwing up earthworks at the mouth of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. It would not surprise a large portion of the people of this country if some day we found the British flag blocked out from the Dardanelles, and in the event of such a contingency their Lordships and the country had a right to hear more specifically what our conditional neutrality actually meant. The country had heard of more blood being shed in this war than in all the Bulgarian atrocities. The Russian Government had for the last 300 years pursued a policy of aggression, tyranny, and treachery'—treachery and aggression, so far as other nations were concerned, and tyranny within her own Empire. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth she annexed Livonia, Lithuania, and Mycenæ and had she not more recently annexed, in the most traitorous manner, the Kingdom of Poland? The action of this "Christian Power" had been far from that which we had in youth been taught to practice—"peace on earth, goodwill towards men." In their aggressive marches Russian Armies carried the Cross before them; but were the aggression, tyranny, and treachery of Russia in keeping with the teaching of Christianity? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had said that contractors, the aristocracy, and the Army were interested in a war. He rejected with scorn the imputation that the Army was interested in a war. He only knew of two or three families which had gained pecuniarily by wars in which their relatives were engaged as British officers. But we must never forget what the true character of Russia and Russian policy was. "We had heard a good deal about the Christianity of Russia, but what was the Christianity of Russia in the annexation of Poland and in her conduct with reference to the Caucasus? What was it in the Crimea when they fired on the funeral parties? It was a sad truth, but he believed it was a truth—at any rate it was a truth sustained by past history from the days of Queen Elizabeth—-that the duplicity of the Russian character was too well known to require dwelling upon. With regard to Turkey, he did not believe that it was the intention or wish of this country to stand up for that country; but he believed it to be the wish of the great mass even of the Liberal party in this country that fair play should be shown, and that an independent country should exist on the borders of the Dardanelles. That independence, however, would soon cease unless we came to an understanding as to the meaning of those two words "conditional neutrality," and he did not think the country would be satisfied unless that explanation was given.


said, he did not think that there had been sufficient acknowledgment of the strenuous and arduous efforts of the British Government at the outset to preserve the peace of Europe — efforts which unhappily had failed in their object. As tending to that result, he regretted that the unfortunate action of the late Government in surrendering one of the most important clauses of the Treaty of 1856 had proved a direct encouragement to Russia to make further encroachments. She received a check in the Crimean War, and he wished that we had maintained a similar attitude towards her now. What was the object of the Crimean War? It was a most sagacious and wise undertaking, and resulted in the destruction of a great naval arsenal, which was only erected for the purpose of aggression and for the supply of a powerful aggressive Meet. He quite admitted that he should regret to see a new Crimean War, and it had been termed an insane policy which led to that war; but he was convinced that it was a still more insane policy which led to the surrender of all that we had acquired by that war at the expense of so much blood and treasure. Lord Odo Russell had contended that even without an Ally we should resist the abrogation of the Black Sea Treaty; but, unfortunately, Lord Odo Russell was not supported. The agitation respecting the Bulgarian Atrocities which was led by the late Prime Minister was to a great extent the cause of the mischief which had arisen, was the very thing Russia was waiting for, and as soon as it arose there was at once a marked change in her policy. It was a wise course, in his opinion, for the Government to join in the Conference at Constantinople; but no sooner did that Conference fail than the mobilization of the Armies of Russia took place. Then within a few days, because Turkey did not at once agree to the terms sought to be imposed upon her, war was declared without any further time being given for negotiations. No doubt, it was said, if Turkey had agreed to the terms and disarmed, war would have been avoided; but was it likely when Russia had her Armies on the frontiers that Turkey would disarm? Turkey having failed to comply with the wishes of the European Powers, it was not possible at that time to join in the defence of Turkish independence. With regard to the present situation, he believed that there would be great danger in the permanent acquisition by Russia of a large amount of territory in Armenia. The proposed payment of a large indemnity by Turkey implied in itself, in the present condition of Turkey, acquisition of territory, Turkey not being in a position to pay any large sum. Any large acquisition of territory by Russia in Armenia was not only undesirable, but might prove dangerous to the interests of England; because it would give Russia dominating influence in Asia Minor and the Euphrates Valley, which was the shortest route to India. With regard to Constantinople, he trusted that if Bulgaria was to obtain autonomy it would not extend south of the Balkans, as that, he believed, would prove a source of danger to Constantinople. It was necessary for the security of Constantinople that Turkey should have a certain area of territory there, and should also have power over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. That was the most serious question for this country. By the opening of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to the Russian Fleet Constantinople would be as much under the domination of Russia as if it were actually a part of that Empire. The object of Russia in regard to the Straits —seeing that she had no territory on the shores of the Mediterranean to protect—was one of aggression and not of mere commerce, and the opening of them to Russia would oblige us to keep an enormous Fleet in the Mediterranean if we wished to maintain the integrity and independence of this country and the liberties of Europe. He believed that the people of England would be prepared to make any sacrifice which might be demanded of them to maintain the integrity and the interests of England and the independence and liberties of Europe.


after a short pause, rose and said: My Lords, I have waited to see whether any other Member of your Lordships' House wished to address you; but, as that does not appear to be the case, I shall make some very brief comments upon the speech and Resolution of my noble Friend (Lord Campbell), and some of the speeches of the noble Lords which have followed his. I do not think it would be either necessary or desirable that I should follow one by one the remarks which have been made on the various subjects which have been mentioned in the course of the interesting, but somewhat discursive, conversation which we have heard. The noble and gallant Lord (Lord Dorchester) who has addressed you, spoke in the character of a representative of the British Army—a character, to which I have no doubt, he is perfectly entitled—and he asked what were the conditions of our neutrality, at the same time intimating that that neutrality has turned out to be not conditional but unconditional. Now, my answer to that is very simple. At the outbreak of the present unfortunate war we addressed a despatch to the Powers which we laid on the Table of your Lordships' House, in which we stated the conditions of British neutrality-conditions which I will venture to say were laid down with greater precision and fullness of detail than has been usual on any former occasion of the kind. From the principles laid down in that despatch in May last we have not varied, and we do not intend to depart from them now. I come now to the few remarks made by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), to whom I must offer my best thanks for the personal courtesy of the expressions with which he commenced his speech. The observations of the noble Earl bore upon three points. He spoke of the apparent determination of the Turkish Government to ascribe to us intentions which we have repeatedly disclaimed, and though he did not proceed to draw what seemed to me to be the natural inference from his words, I gather from what he said that he thought there was something strange and unexplained in the manner in which the Porte persisted in hoping for military assistance from us. If the noble Earl entertains the suspicion that our formal assurances to the Porte of neutrality were in any manner counteracted by unofficial encouragement, or by hopes held out in a private manner, I can offer, in respect of such a suspicion, the most absolute assurance that it is unfounded. We have never held but one language from the beginning of the war up to the present time; and I am certain that no one connected with the British Embassy or the British Government has been or could be guilty of what, in the circumstances, would be the crime of encouraging brave men to persevere in a hopeless struggle by holding out to them fallacious expectations. The second point on which my noble Friend touched was the comparative paucity of the Papers laid upon the Table of the House. Now, my Lords, it is an invariable subject of criticism either that the Papers laid before us are so voluminous that it is difficult to get at their more material points, or that they are so few that they do not afford the information which is looked for. But, my Lords, when my noble Friend complains of the absence of information as to the conduct of Foreign Powers, I would point out this, not merely that under any circumstances we are precluded from laying on the Table Papers which are communicated to us confidentially by foreign Powers, but also that, although the last few months have been fraught with great and important events, they have been months comparatively barren, so far as actual negotiations are concerned. It is obvious that in the earlier stages of the war no reasonable prospect existed of interposing which would have had any beneficial effect. It was not till within the last few weeks that any course could have been proposed or suggested by any of the neutral Powers which would have had the slightest chance of being acceptable at once to Russia and the Porto. So universally was that felt in Europe that, although I believe most of the Powers were earnestly desirous of seeing the war brought to a close, they abstained, as we have abstained, from making attempts which they believed would be hopeless and which would only lead to increased complication. Before I leave the subject, I may, however, add that some additional Papers are in preparation, and will be laid on the Table without delay. Now, my Lords, I come to another matter on which my noble Friend has thought fit to comment in a very pointed manner, and I am not surprised that, under the circumstances, he should have called attention to it. My noble Friend asks me whether I am willing to give any explanation of the transactions of the last few days, as respects my own personal relations with the Cabinet, of which I am a Member. My Lords, the only explanation which I have to give is so short and of so simple a character, that if I had not been invited by my noble Friend to give it, I should not have thought it necessary to have troubled your Lordships with it. An important step, my Lords, was decided upon — decided upon, no doubt, after anxious and earnest consideration—by the Cabinet, in the policy of which I did not concur as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I should have been responsible for it in a peculiar degree, and had that step been taken and the course adopted by the Cabinet been criticized in your Lordships' House, as it was certain to be, it would have been my duty, from the position I held, to undertake its defence, and I do not think that in a matter of grave national importance any man is j ustified in coming forward to defend a measure which he does not in his conscience approve. My Lords, under these circumstances I had only one alternative, and I adopted it reluctantly, but from a conviction of its necessity. But, my Lords, it is a matter of daily experience in public affairs that the most perplexing emergencies often result in the most unexpected solutions, and it so happened that —before many hours had passed from the time that the step I have referred to, was agreed upon-—the circumstances of the case had entirely altered; and, under the altered conditions, my Colleagues thought—and they did so quite consistently with their formerly expressed opinions—that, the circumstances having so altered, they were no longer bound to take the step to which I have alluded. The cause of difference between us, therefore, disappeared of itself, and, that being the case, I had no hesitation and no difficulty in withdrawing the tender of my resignation. My Lords, I am not afraid of being accused at the present time of being actuated by an undue desire to retain the office I have the honour to hold; but I do not think that a time of difficulty and anxiety is one at which any man holding such a position is justified in running away from it, unless under a conviction that it is his imperative duty to do so. My Lords, I now turn to a far larger and more important question—namely, that involved in the Resolution which the noble Lord who opened the discussion put before your Lordships. I think your Lordships will not be disposed to adopt that Resolution. In the first place, it is one of a purely abstract character, and, oven if it were adopted, would not in any way tend to attain the object which I presume my noble Friend has at heart, as it would in no manner pledge the country or the Government to the course he thinks it desirable to take. The noble Lord asks you to say that neutrality, whether conditional or absolute, in no way prohibits Her Majesty's Government from adopting such measures as are necessary to conform to the Treaties of 1856, and to guard Constantinople against an hostile occupation. Now whether that view be true or not, the noble Lord says nothing in his Resolution as to the policy or expediency of taking the course he recommends. The view may be a perfectly true one—I do not think it is —and yet the Resolution, oven if passed, be inoperative. Neutrality may not prevent us from doing something which upon other grounds it may be exceedingly undesirable for us to do; and what measure we could have taken within the last 12 months to enforce and give effect to the Treaties of 1856 short of going to war, I confess I cannot understand. If the noble Lord thinks that we ought to have gone to war to enforce those Treaties, that is a definite and intelligible view, and it is a view which the noble Lord has consistently maintained.


My Lords, at no time and in no discussion have I ever maintained that we should go to war for that purpose.


Well, if my noble Friend does not mean that we should have gone to war, I cannot quite see what he does moan. The noble Lord is, of course, the best judge of his own opinions, and I will only say that if any man thinks we ought to have gone to war to maintain the Treaties of 1856 that is an intelligible and defensible view of the case; but it is not the view of Her Majesty's Government or of the great majority of the public. I will not, therefore, waste your Lordships' time in defending a course which, as far as I am aware, has met with all but universal acceptance. But when the noble Lord says we might occupy Constantinople—for to guard it against hostile occupation is, in fact, to occupy it—and do that without any violation of neutrality, it is possible the noble Lord may be technically right according to rules he has found in books on International Law; but you must look at the matter as the mass of men would regard it. When war is going on and a hostile army is approaching the capital of one of the belligerents, if a third party steps in and says—"No, you must not go to the capital; we will interfere if you do," that is a course which, whether right or wrong, would, in the general acceptance of language, be regarded as incompatible with an attitude of neutrality. If seven years ago the Government of this country had done what some persons advised—namely, declared that if the German Armies advanced upon Paris we should interfere, it is quite clear that we should, by taking that attitude, have made ourselves parties to the war. Is there any difference in the present case? I need not do more than say that the precedent of Belgium mentioned by the noble Lord is not at all a case in point. The question then raised was not that of occupying the territory of a belligerent. It was neutral territory that was concerned, and the Government of this country said that if that territory was violated by cither party we should take part against the Power which was guilty of that violation. That precedent, therefore, does not bear on present events. I pass over much that my noble Friend has said as to the encroachments of Russia and the necessity of stopping her, the plans which are alleged to have existed, and the language which he says we ought to have used at a certain point of the struggle. I remember perfectly well the discussion to which my noble Friend refers. It was one raised by himself, and my noble Friend used the argument that if a Power does not interfere in the early stages of a war it is deprived of the power of interfering effectually at a later stage. I re-member commenting on that observation, and I prefaced what I said with the remark that I referred to it in a merely speculative manner. I said if the matter was to be argued, it might be held that interference was never more effectual than when one or other of the belligerents was exhausted by the contest; but I never stated that it was our intention to interfere in that or in any other manner. I could not do so without contradicting in the most flagrant manner the language which my Colleagues had held in their despatches defining the conditions of our neutrality. I shall not trouble your Lordships with further observations. I do not think that it would be desirable I should follow my noble Friend in discussing the conditions, or, rather, the bases of peace; because we are very imperfectly informed of what those conditions are. I have seen a summary, a brief summary, but I have not had officially communicated to me the full text of the terms in question, and the abstract which I have seen, and which will shortly be in your Lordships' hands, is so brief, and, from its brevity, necessarily so obscure in many respects, that it would be impossible to discuss it, even if at the present stage of matters it were desirable to do so. There will, no doubt, be many opportunities for your Lordships to express your views on the conditions of peace, and all I need say for the present is that, although we have not in any manner interfered, nor do we think it our duty to interfere, to prevent the Turkish Government from accepting those bases, while we can give them no help or hope of help which would justify us in interposing in any manner, we have, at the same time, stated—and a similar statement has been made by other Powers— that with regard to those matters of European concern which will be involved in the conditions of peace we claim for this country—as other countries will undoubtedly claim for themselves—the right to have a voice in the final settlement.


said, he trusted nothing that passed in that House would interfere with the establishment of a sound and solid peace. It ought not to do so, as no reports of the proceedings were authentic till reported in Hansard's Debates. He hoped the Turks would remain at Constantinople, and continue to be a vital Power in Europe. He could not vote for the Motion of the noble Lord, because this country should, in his opinion, take its stand on the Treaty of 1856, and we did not know how far the other two parties to the Tripartite Treaty wore prepared to support it.


in reply, said, that, although the House was no longer full the course of the debate imposed on him the necessity of making a few remarks in answer. As regarded the Treaty of 1870 for the maintenance of Belgium, he at once accepted the noble Earl who had framed it (Earl Granville) as its legitimate interpreter, although he (Lord Campbell) had been disposed to interpret it in a different manner. But the loss of that example—which in fact was wholly unrequired—would not all affect the proposition as to the title of a neutral to give support to an Ally. He was bound to return to his noble and gallant Friend below (Lord Dorchester) his cordial thanks for the speech he had delivered. "Whether or not his noble and gallant Friend was an exponent of the Army, he had faithfully reflected a large mass of Liberal opinion on the present war, which in that House had seldom found an adequate expression. As to the noble Earl the Secretary of State, the public would learn with little satisfaction the grounds on which he had withdrawn his resignation. They would be led to think that the greatest variance existed between the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary of State, and that the latter was the only obstacle to the advance of the Fleet where it had been previously directed. That the noble Earl the Secretary of State should charge him (Lord Campbell) with promoting war between Russia and Great Britain was indeed astonishing, unless his memory had been impaired. On every occasion he (Lord Campbell) had disclaimed such a tendency. He had contended always that war could only be averted by preparatory measures, as the decisive reason for adopting them. The same view had been presented—he hoped with some degree of accuracy—to the noble Earl in a prepared paper by a deputation to the Foreign Office in November. The noble Earl had not attempted an argument against the Resolution beyond the fact that it was not sufficiently explicit, and did not recommend in terms the line of action it declared to be consistent with neutrality. Would any man on earth, at least would any man in Europe doubt as to the encouragement it gave to the line of action which it sanctioned. Except in Parliament an objection of this kind would never be resorted to. If the Government declined to accede to the Motion it was impossible to carry it. He should not withdraw, but he left it to others to consider in what manner it might be least injuriously dealt with, as regarded effect beyond the limits of the House.


moved the Previous Question.

Previous Question put, "Whether the said Question shall be now put?"Resolved in the Negative.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.