HL Deb 27 June 1879 vol 247 cc811-30

, in rising to call attention to the present condition of the Armenian people, in reference to the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, and to move an Address, said, that 12 months had nearly elapsed since a discussion had arisen on the subject in that House—a discussion which was introduced by his noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury), whose name had, throughout the whole of his life, been associated with every principle of humanity and consideration for others. It was a discussion which excited a good deal of attention, and provoked from all sides of the House an expression of sympathy with the Armenian population in the circumstances in which they were placed. The Armenians, whether regarded as a nation or a race, were fully entitled to great sympathy indeed, for they possessed an intelligence which was far beyond the average, and had, in spite of numberless difficulties, developed themselves in education and general knowledge, and had shown a power of acting for themselves. Among the Eastern populations they deserved to rank next to, if they were not exactly on the same level with, the Greeks and Jews. When their case was brought before their Lordships on the occasion to which he referred, his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs expressed his cordial sympathy with those people, and his full determination to do everything in his power to assist them in the Congress that was then approaching. It would be well, perhaps, before proceeding further, that he should recall to their Lordships' attention the facts in connection with the subject of the past year. He wished, in the first place, to say that any observations which he might make would have reference to the Armenians, so far as he could dis- tinguish them in Asia Minor, and not in Europe; and, in the next place, that he had no desire to state anything of a needlessly controversial character, knowing, as he did, that the opinions of their Lordships were divided on some points. The first point he desired to call attention to was an Article in the Treaty of San Stefano, concluded between Russia and the Porte. He referred to the 16th Article of that Treaty, which provided that, as the evacuation by the Russian troops of territory occupied by them in Armenia which was to be restored to Turkey might give rise to conflicts and complications detrimental to good relations, the Porte engaged to carry into effect, without further delay, the improvements and reforms that were demanded by local requirements in the Provinces inhabited by the Armenians, and should agree to afford them protection against the Circassians and Kurds. The next point to which he desired to direct attention was the fact that, as he had already stated, the greatest sympathy with the Armenians was expressed in the previous discussion in their Lordships' House, and that, in a subsequent despatch, the Foreign Secretary, after having joined in that expression of sympathy, gave an additional assurance in the matter. The next step was the assembling of the Congress at Berlin; and their Lordships would find that the case of the Armenians occupied the attention of the Congress on no less than three separate occasions, when the same sympathy was expressed for them as had been expressed by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his despatches. The result was the insertion in the Treaty of Berlin of the Article which had led to his giving the Notice which appeared on the Paper in his name. That Article was a very important one. It guaranteed, in the first place, that there should be such reforms for the Armenians as were demanded by local requirements; and, secondly, that those reforms should be introduced immediately. It also provided that the guarantee should apply to the Armenians all over the Turkish Empire in all the Provinces inhabited by Armenians—it guaranteed their security and protection against the Circassians and Kurds; and, lastly, it was guaranteed that the Porte should periodically make known the steps which it had taken to carry out these reforms to the Powers, who would superintend their application. It would be observed that there was a great difference between the Article and that which had been agreed to between Russia and Turkey and inserted in the Treaty of San Stefano. In accordance with the Article in the Treaty of San Stefano, the Armenians in whose case the reforms were to be carried out were confined geographically to Armenia proper; while, according to the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, they were to be extended, not to Armenians living in any one particular district or direction, but wherever they might be all over the Empire. That, he thought, was a fair and reasonable construction of the two Articles. Their Lordships would also see that, by the 61st Article of the Treaty, there was a double duty laid down—first, that the Porte should make the reforms; and, secondly, that the superintending Powers should insist on their application. This duty of insisting on these reforms being carried out applied not merely to this country, but to all the superintending Powers. If any one of the superintending Powers failed to look after the execution of the guarantee, the obligation and right to do so in the case of the others would in no degree be removed. In other words, if we failed to carry out our part of the transaction, the right of Russia, would, unquestionably, still exist. But Her Majesty's Government had, over and above that, entered into a special Convention with Turkey, which had three objects. If Russia should hereafter encroach on Turkish territory in Asia, we undertook to protect her; that, in consideration of that undertaking on our part, Turkey should undertake to carry out reforms for the benefit of her Christian populations in Asia, among which the Armenians were clearly included; while the power was also claimed for this country, in a despatch of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated 8th of August, to "insist," as it was said, on the reforms being made. The bond was sealed by the cession to us of the Island of Cyprus. Such, then, was the groundwork for what he had to say on the subject, and the facts, so far as they were known last year. He would now proceed to consider how the pledges to which he had referred had been redeemed by those who were parties to them—pledges which were based, first, on an European Treaty; secondly, on a special Treaty with the country; and which, thirdly, had been cemented by assurances given on both sides—by Her Majesty's Government on the one side, and by the Turkish Government on the other. What was the state of the Armenian population now, as compared with what it was when those pledges were given? What progress had been made in the direction of the promised reforms? His noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had very clearly stated, in the despatch which he had just mentioned, the causes of the sufferings of the Armenian subjects of Turkey; and Earl Russell had, some 10 or 12 years ago, written a despatch which contained similar advice on the subject. Those sufferings might be referred to three heads; the police, the judiciary, and the fiscal system. Their Lordships knew what police in Asia Minor meant. There were either no police at all, or they were the agents of corruption, extortion, and oppression. The men who were employed as police received bribes in lieu of wages; and the natural consequences followed that criminals were allowed to escape from justice by the payment of bribes, and that innocent men were left to languish in prison unless they did the same thing. Nothing, he might add, could be more forcibly described than the shocking state of the prisons had been by Sir Henry Layard. Recruits were forced into the Army, and were permitted to go back to their homes only on the payment of money. A curious and instructive case was stated by a writer in a periodical who had a perfect knowledge of the subject, of a certain police officer in the Turkish service, whose salary was £100 a-year, but who, at the end of 14 years' service, found himself able to retire with a capital of £50,000. All knew that professional witnesses were to be had upon the payment of money. The system of false evidence carried on in Turkish Courts was so classified and graduated that aged men with white beards commanded a considerably higher rate of payment than young and less experienced men. Christian evidence was not received. He was quite aware that Codes had, in past years, been drawn up, and numerous proclamations issued, all affirming the principle that Christian evidence should not be excluded from the Turkish Courts; but still, as a matter of fact, the law was over and over again disregarded, and in some places entirely set aside. The fiscal system was a cause of unmitigated oppression, exaction, tyranny, and extortion. There were cases where the valuation of land was so flagrantly unequal, as between Mahomedan and Christian, that where a property had been divided, the portion assigned to the former was assessed at 500 piastres, that of the latter was assessed at 5,000 piastres. As regarded the police, the Turkish Government had represented that they had no money to pay it. With reference to Judges, they ultimately suggested the appointment of Inspectors; but he doubted whether a single Inspector had been appointed. With respect to the fiscal system, they said it was impossible hastily to make the changes desired, and they must be made with deliberation. For his part, he feared these reforms would be postponed until the Greek Kalends. His noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his reply, accepted the plea of delay on the part of the Turkish Government. That was the first attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to secure the reforms which Turkey had pledged herself to carry out, and which Her Majesty's Government had pledged themselves to insist upon. He had always maintained that it was impossible to get Turkey to carry out these reforms, and he was all the more satisfied of that as time went on. With regard to the Armenians in Asia Minor, he had a document, no doubt well known at the Foreign Office, which contained a list of the miseries, exactions, and oppressions which had been inflicted upon that people between the months of November last and January. So far as it went, it was an official document; it was drawn up by the Armenian Patriarch —and he begged their Lordships to remember that the Armenian Patriarch' had an official position and was recognized by the Porte. He would not weary their Lordships by going much into detail; but there were a few cases described in the document in question to which ho would refer. As to the people in the district of Moush, their condition was stated to be worse since the war—villages destroyed, convents sacked—ono convent sacked four times with all the usual horrors—every sort-of oppression by Kurds, by police, and by all officials, sale of justice, and crushing taxation. As to Bitlis, in numberless villages the Kurds had carried off the grain and cattle, wounding and outraging and sometimes killing the Armenian peasants. In Divrig, the Armenians were ill-treated, insulted, and wounded. In Zeitoum, the people were crushed with taxes, the chief inhabitants were summoned to discuss grievances and then thrown into prison. In Van, the Armenian quarter was set on fire, and 50,000 Armenians were preparing to emigrate to Russia and Persia. It had been asserted, on evidence which he believed to be correct, that the taxes levied in one district nearest to our now acquisition southwards had increased since the period before the war from 25,000 piastres to 580,000. That was in the district of Saitchar. Some 200 Armenians seemed to have threatened opposition, and they were taken with arms in their possession, and committed to prison, where about 16 died. The remainder were released through the protest and representations of Mr. Mallet, who was acting for our Ambassador to the Turkish Government. A Commission was sent, and the first thing it did was to deprive these people of their arms, and leave them in the hands of their oppressors. Another cause of oppression was this. As their Lordships knew, the Turkish Exchequer, in its almost bankrupt state, had issued a great deal of paper money. A largo portion of this money found its way into the hands of the Armenians, who were small traders and the bankers of the East; and it did seem to him a most flagrant act on the part of the Turkish Government to issue this paper money, and then refuse the payment of taxes in this money. A short time since the Armenian Patriarch resigned his office in despair. He was told that the resignation was not accepted by the Turkish Government. He then appointed a Vicar to act for him; but the Vicar, lie believed, had never been recognized. The Armenian Patriarch, therefore, was in a state of suspended animation. The Turkish Government, as usual, issued a Commission; but the Patriarch objected to it, because there was not a single Armenian or Christian upon it. It appeared that during the last month or so there were Commissions being issued everywhere; but on those Commissions Turks alone were appointed, or Christians of so inferior a grade that they exercised no influence. These Commissions, so far as good purposes were concerned, were useless. They were ridiculed in the country, and they acted as blinds for positive oppression. He understood that the Patriarch had protested, not merely to the Porte, but to all the Powers which were parties to the Treaty of Berlin. If that protest was in the hands of his noble Friend, he hoped it would be included in the Papers to be produced. What were the wishes of the Armenian people? Were they unreasonable? They had over and over again disclaimed, through their organs and representatives, any desire for political independence. Their claims were claims in regard to which the humblest man in England would think he was deeply wronged if the slightest doubt was thrown upon them. A denial of those claims in this country would turn men's blood into fire. The claims of the Armenians were for equality in the eyes of the law—equality in conscience, in religion, and in taxation; and they demanded protection from systematic plunder and oppression. They asked for security for their property, for the lives of men, and the honour of women. Lastly, they urged—and here they had the concurrence of his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary—very strongly the appointment of Christian Governors. There could be no real redress until Christian Governors were appointed, and until they obtained the presence of Europeans in the different civil and military organizations, such as the police, judicial and other systems, whether they acted as Inspectors, Judges, Officers, or Consuls. Only then could they obtain that tranquillity which was desired. Lord Clarendon and Lord Russell had written in the same strain on the subject. At the end of the Crimean War, Lord Clarendon, writing to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, said— Her Majesty's Government know by experience the utter inutility of appealing on such matters to the Porte; but the Turkish Government should be made aware that if this systematic misgovernment and persecution of Christians, and violations of engagements continue, it will be impossible to arrest the pro- gress of the opinion which is now manifesting itself that Mahomedan rule is incompatible with Civilization and humanity, and can no longer be endured. That was the language of one of the coolest and wisest Foreign Secretaries they had had for many years. Four years afterwards, Lord John Russell wrote in a similar strain to Sir Henry Bulwer, and on the 8th of August, 1878, Lord Salisbury wrote to Sir Henry Layard— The immediate necessity of Asiatic Turkey is for the simplest form of order and good government; for such security from rapine, whether lawless or legal, that industry may flourish, and population may Cease to decline. With this object in view, it appears to Her Majesty's Government that the subjects which most urgently require attention are the maintenance of order, the administration of justice, and the collection of the revenue. That which existed in 1856, in 1860, in 1872, 1874, and 1878, exists now—with only this addition—that our Government had given warnings in more solemn language—that the national policy had been pledged to see that the warnings given were obeyed. In conclusion, he came to this disagreeable question—What was the net result, after one year's experience of the 1st Article of the Treaty of Berlin? He would not say that it was simply a case of large promise and scant performance. In the present state of the population, there was a painful contrast between the Armenians on the Turkish side of the border and the Armenians on the Russian side. On the one side there was a debasing and grinding system, and on the Russian side, at all events, there was a sense of contentment. He thought this a dangerous state of things. He was afraid there was little feeling of gratitude to this country, either on the part of the Christian or the Mahomedan population of whom he had been speaking—on the part of the Christians, because they saw no performance of our promises, and on the part of the Mahomedans, because of our constant but ineffectual interference. The late Lord Aberdeen had said that it was only by actual and irresistible pressure that the Turkish Government would ever attempt to make reforms, and this still held good. He moved for the production of the Correspondence to which his Notice referred.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for Correspondence respecting the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, in respect of the Armenian people.—(The Earl of Carnarvon.)


said, that the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin was a reproduction of the concluding stipulation of the 16th Article of the Treaty of San Stefano; but the latter contained important words which were omitted in the former Treaty, and which limited the obligations of the 16th Article to the Province of Erzeroum or Armenia; while the Article of the Treaty of Berlin extended the Guarantee of the Powers, and the protection to be given, to all Provinces where there was an Armenian population. Now, in point of fact, there was no nation that could be called the Armenian nation. Armenia ceased to be a nation in 1393. But, though the nation no longer existed, there still existed an Armenian race, and Armenians dwelt in every part and city of the Turkish dominions in Asia Minor; and, therefore, the Treaty of Berlin gave to Russia and all the Powers a right to interfere in all parts of Asiatic Turkey. In dealing with the question of the Armenians, they must consider the 1st Article of the Treaty of the 4th June, 1878. The Government, in a despatch of August 8, pointed out certain specific reforms, and in a despatch of December it accepted as generally satisfactory the assurance received from the Porto in reply; and he would ask the noble Marquess whether those assurances had been carried into effect by the Porte? Much might be done by establishing an effective gendarmerie, and by modifications in the system of tithe-farming, by which present evils should be corrected, without driving those who had to pay the tithes into the hands of the usurers. It seemed to him that the establishment of a roving judicial inspectorate, as recommended by the Porte, was preferable to the appointment of foreign Judges, and that the system which had been adopted in India, in regard to the expenses for the entertainment of public officers, would be beneficial in Asia Minor. But, after all, it seemed to him that however anxious they might be for the introduction of reforms by the Porte, they must not be unreasonable, and expect that they could be generally and immediately put into execution. It was not easy, after the existence of evils of long standing in any country, to remove them altogether and at once. It was suggested by the Porte that, at first, any reforms should be applied to a limited area; and that was well worthy of consideration, as any new system must be tentative in the first instance, and might require alteration. Such alteration could be made more easily within a limited area; and when the new system was found to work well it could be applied to the whole country. He wished to ask the noble Marquess whether he could lay before the House the Treaty concluded between Turkey and Russia within the last few months? It might be inexpedient to lay before them the comments by the Government or by the Ambassador; but it would be a great convenience to the public to know what the clauses of the Treaty were, especially as regarded those which bore on the pecuniary interests of individuals in this country.


My Lords, in all that was said by my noble Friend, when expressing his sympathy with the sufferings of the Armenian people, or, indeed, the sufferings of any of those who inhabit the Turkish Provinces of Asia Minor—in all that he said in indignation against the Government which undoubtedly prevails there, I certainly should not have found anything to differ from. But, while expressing my concurrence with his compassionate views, and with the interest which he very naturally takes in a people whose present qualities and whose past history entitles them to sympathy, I must demur to the political complexion which ho seemed to me to give to the subject. To judge from his tone—to judge from the way in which he flung these various abuses at the head of Her Majesty's Government, one would have fancied that he was talking of some place which was under the dominion of the Crown; that he was speaking of Ireland, or of India, or of some other place for whose good government the Ministers of Great Britain are responsible. It is undoubtedly true that on two occasions we have made efforts, by means of formal stipulations, to obtain for the inhabitants of Asia Minor a greater share of the blessings of tranquillity, of good government, and of prosperity; and we have given to those stipulations on the part of the Porte all the formality that we were able to give. But I entirely deny the doctrine that because we made those efforts, and because we were successful—whatever that success may have been worth—we are to be treated as responsible for every case of abuse and misgovernment which the correspondents of my noble Friend may have been able to produce to him. My noble Friend complained, as if it were our fault, that the Turkish Government had issued paper money; he complained that tithe-farming still existed; he complained that sufficient salaries were not given to the Judges and other judicial functionaries; and he complained—I think, somewhat inconsistently—of the severity of the taxation out of which all increased payments must come. He complained that Commissions were not sent, and he complained that they were sent; and that on those Commissions we had not taken care that the persons appointed were of the rank that the Armenian Patriarch would desire. I entirely repudiate all these responsibilites. We have done our best by the stipulations that we were able to obtain. We have done precisely what was done by the Ministry which was in Office at the time of the Crimean War. We have inserted in our Treaty terms and engagements which, in the short interval that has elapsed, we have endeavoured by diplomatic pressure to make a reality. How far the Ministry that succeeded to Office after the Crimean War are justified in taking the same credit to themselves is a matter into which it might not be pleasant to inquire. What I wish to insist upon, my Lords, is this—that even if the reform of all these abuses were possible—even if it were possible to make any substantial and palpable impression upon them within the brief time that has elapsed—there is no special responsibility upon Her Majesty's Government to see to them, certainly, as far as the Armenian people are concerned. All the Powers of Europe equally signed the 61st Article of the Berlin Treaty, and reserved to themselves an equal right to receive from the Porte an account of what was being done. The truth is that there was evidently lying at the bottom of my noble Friend's complaints the idea that we have incurred a responsibility on a very different ground. The idea that we could incur responsibility, because we had obtained certain stipulations, is in itself absurd. But what my noble Friend meant, when he said that we had attempted the impossible—what he meant, when he referred to the condition of the Russian Armenians over the border, was this—that we have taken an active part in a policy of which the object is to rescue those countries from the domination of Russia; and what he would imply is, that the domination of Russia is infinitely preferable to that under which they are now.


said, he had never used words to that effect.


I certainly understood my noble Friend to say that there was contentment over the border, although I am not aware of any proof of that statement having been brought forward. Whether there is contentment in different parts of the Russian Empire is, perhaps, a matter which it might not be convenient for me to discuss. But while I repudiate the obligations to which I have referred, and maintain that the utmost that we can do is to urge upon every suitable opportunity, with all the energy we can, that the promises which the Porte has given should be fulfilled, I still think that hard measure is dealt out to the Porte, when the expectation is entertained that a sudden reform of all these evils can be effected. Why, what was the nature of the evils which my noble Friend dwelt upon? One matter upon which he was most eloquent was the perjured character of the witnesses who appear in the Law Courts. By what possible contrivance—I will not say by what diplomacy—could the most despotic, the most earnest Government which could possibly be imagined at Constantinople, bring any effective cure to such an evil as that? And when this is brought forward as though it were a special inheritance of the Turkish Government, and as though there existed no other part of the world where witnesses may be hired at pleasure in order to testify to anything which the parties may desire to have proved, I hardly think my noble Friend has followed with sufficient care the contemporary history of some of the Eastern Dependencies of the British Crown. I have heard similar complaints in regard to various parts of India. How far they are true I will not venture to say; but that such a reproach has been constantly levelled at witnesses in parts of India, as well as in Turkey, your Lordships are perfectly aware. It is one of those things which it is entirely out of the power of any Government or diplomacy to cure, and I think the reference to it in the speech of my noble Friend was out of place. Well, then, my noble Friend dwelt a good deal upon the oppression which the Turks—not, the Turkish Government, but the Turkish Mahomedan population—were prone to exorcise upon their Christain fellow-subjects. It is a melancholy truth that this should be so; but is it a thing which any Government can cure, much more that any diplomacy can cure? These things are certainly the evil inheritance of centuries—they are the traditions of the people, and are rooted in their hearts; and if they are to be cured, assuredly it is not by a cure that can come from politicians or diplomatists. In all the consideration that one can give to the difficult question of reforms in Turkey, one hack quotation comes up constantly to the mind— "Quid leges sine moribus?" It is perfectly useless to multiply Codes or diplomatic promises, if you expect that by them you can alter the nature or the temper of a people. But, my Lords, my noble Friend also alluded—I thought with great bitterness —to the maintenance of the tithe-farming system in Turkey. Well, we all know that the system is a great abuse; but we also know that it has been repeatedly denounced. Are the Turks the only people who maintain the system to which so much objection has been taken? Modern Greece, which has been free for 50 years, has not yet been able to abolish the system of tithe-farming. When it fell to my lot to consider the changes which should be introduced in the government of Cyprus, I was, like other persons, trained in Indian traditions, in favour of trying the Indian system, and Sir Garnet Wolseley made great efforts of persuasion in that direction; but I found our course met by the protests of persons who knew the country well. We found that there was great danger in an inelastic system of settlement, owing to the changeableness of the Eastern climate—where there is drought one year and plenty the next. We were in this difficulty; we must either put the settlement far too low to meet the just claims upon the revenue in years of plenty, or so high as to be oppressive in years of drought. I do not say, however, that my noble Friend has not brought forward very forcible reasons for the abolition of the system in question. I believe it ought to be abolished; but this I say, its abolition must be attended with very great difficulty. It cannot be effected by the stroke of the pen, or in a single year. There is one reform which, as I have stated over and over again in your Lordships' House, ought to be introduced, and that is the creation of a strong force of gendarmerie for the maintenance of order, for the protection, not for the oppression, of the people. That, I believe, lies at the root of every reform in the Turkish Empire. With reference to the imputations of bribery which have been so freely made, I believe they refer much more to the past than to the present. I do not deny that these things exist; but I believe that of late public opinion, contact with Europe, and the dread of exposure, have had a salutary effect upon Turkey, as they have in every other part of the world. What really is the great evil at the present time is the utter disorganization of society in many parts of Asia Minor, owing to the want of sufficient force to restrain the predatory habits of the nomadic tribes—and that fact ought to be borne in mind. It has been pointed out that the Porte has not kept all its promises; and that is true; and it is a fact which will justify us in employing every diplomatic opportunity in our power with a view to having those promises carried into effect. But the Porte has one simple answer, which in every part of the world has been always held to be conclusive—it cannot spend money which it has not got to spend. Where there is no money, not only Kings, but diplomatists, lose their rights. When that happy time conies that political pressure can have its due effect—when the wounds of a cruel war are healed—when Armies can be disbanded and expenditure rednced—when men can be enabled to go back to their fields, and produce again those crops from which only, after all, the Treasury can be supplied—when the blessings of peace shall have taken the place of the horrors of war—then the period will have arrived when the reforms which we all desire to see carried out can be introduced. You tell us that it ought to be done sooner. I tell you that a war, so terribly disastrous as the late war has been to Turkey, must be succeeded by a time of disorganization, of weakness, of inability to carry out reforms—of evils, which are not peculiar to Asia Minor. I remember reading lately, in reference to Asia Minor, an article in which it was said that there was a famine in many parts of the Empire, but that the real famine was a famine of men. Men were drawn from all parts of the Empire to defend its frontiers; and, surely, no one can blame the Turkish Government for having had recourse to such a measnre—no one can be surprised that a considerable time must elapse before those terrible wounds are closed. I have, my Lords, insisted on those circumstances, in order to bring before you the injustice of expecting from a prostrate, half-ruined, distracted Empire such as Turkey is at the close of a war in which she has been so terribly defeated—the injustice of expecting from her, in her circumstances, the activity which it would be a good deal to require of a Christian and civilized country in the height of its prosperity. I do not at all allude to them for the purpose of insinuating that we should not be eager to do our utmost to get rid of misgovernment, or that our earnestness in pressing upon the Porte the necessity of reforms should be at all abated. My noble Friend has mentioned one case which shows that our diplomacy has not been altogether idle. He mentioned the case of Zeitoum, in which great efforts have been made to remedy the evils that are going on. With respect to Armenia itself there has been a Commission issued, and it is sitting to inquire into the reforms to be introduced. It is composed of statesmen not inferior to the average of the statesmen of the Turkish Empire—but it does not go fast; nothing Turkish I ever knew did go fast; and that is one of the qualities of the people which I am afraid no politics and no diplomacy will change. But the Commission has been issued, and is proceeding to do its work. My noble Friend has said that there is no Christian upon it; but he is wrong in that, as there is one Christian on it—an Armenian—and I do not believe that these Commissioners are in any way inferior to the average run of the statesmen from whom they have been chosen. We have taken some precautions—of course, they have not begun to bear fruit yet—to enable our pressure to act upon the Turkish Government with more effect. We have improved machinery; our Consular staff in Asia Minor has been considerably increased, and we shall be able to bring to the knowledge of the Turkish Government abuses that exist and of which it is not fully aware, and so help to bring about a more rapid and effectual remedy. I only wish to add this—that, while in all our endeavours to obtain those reforms we uphold, and shall continue to uphold, the Sovereignty of the Sultan as the centre and symbol of the only authority that exists or can exist in the Turkish Empire, I must, on the other hand, say that we have always found in the present Sultan a most earnest desire to wipe out those abuses which are a reproach to his Government—a desire which, as far as I can judge from the study of written documents, I believe to be absolutely and genuinely sincere; and that such a belief is also entertained by Sir Henry Layard is well known to your Lordships. I can only, my Lords, conclude as I began. I repudiate any responsibility for the acts of the Turkish Government. It is the Turkish Government, not the English, which is bound to introduce reforms. But, while I repudiate that responsibility on the ground of any written stipulations, I do not repudiate the higher responsibilty which comes from the. consideration of policy and duty. We feel the duty earnestly; I believe we have acted up to it steadily; I believe we shall do our utmost to act up to it in the future, and do all that diplomacy can to abate the existing evils and to produce those salutary changes by which alone the Turkish Empire can be maintained.


said, the noble Marquess repudiated all responsibility for the acts of Turkey in Asia Minor. This seemed a most remarkable doctrine, when they considered the Treaty of Berlin and the Convention with Turkey. As he understood, the object of the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) in bringing forward this Motion was to show that, to a considerable extent, England had become responsible for the good government of Asia Minor; while the noble Marquess limited their responsibility to diplomatic action, and said they had done their best to obtain the performance of the promises made by the Porte.


I said it would be no use to apply diplomatic action in the hope of curing what was inherent in the nature of the people.


had been much surprised at the contrast between the speech they had just heard from the noble Marquess and his vigorous despatch of the 8th of August last year, which embodied a most comprehensive scheme of reform for the Christian subjects of the Porte. Now, what were our responsibilities towards Armenia? The Armenians had a distinct claim upon this country in two distinct documents —the Treaty of Berlin and the Convention with Turkey — we had made ourselves responsible for the good government of Armenia. The expressions used in the Treaty of Berlin were that— The Porte agreed to carry out without delay the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the Provinces inhabited by the Armenians; and it gave a guarantee for their security against the incursions of the Kurds and. the Circassians; and it further promised " periodically to make known the steps taken to secure those results" to the Powers signing the Treaty. He would like to ask the noble Marquess the definition of two terms; what did the words " without delay " mean? A year had passed since the signature of the Treaty; but were we to wait for another year or so, or to look forward to a still more distant future, when the finances of the Porte were in a satisfactory condition, before any attempt was made on the part of the Porte to redeem its promises? Then, again, he desired to know the meaning of the word " periodically;" and, whether, in accordance with its undertaking, the Porte had given the noble Marquess any account of its efforts in the direction of reform, and, if not, whether any of the Powers had taken action in consequence of the abandonment of those efforts. In common with other Powers, we had taken responsibility on ourselves, and, so far, there was a fairly exact parallel between the existing Go- vernment and that which succeeded the signature of the Treaty of Paris; but the celebrated Anglo-Turkish Convention, on which the noble Marquess's speech had thrown so much cold water, made it impossible to trace a further resemblance. We were solely responsible, according to that document, of which the words were as explicit as possible. The fact was, the Government had taken a responsibility upon themselves which they now found it impossible to carry out. What view did the noble Marquess take of the Treaty and Convention? Were they merely formalities? Now, there were four points to which the noble Marquess had called the attention of the Porte—and the first of those was the importance of a well-officered gendarmerie. The Porte, however, had replied that there was no money available for the purpose—an answer not likely to raise unduly the hopes of the population of Asia Minor. Next, the noble Marquess had urged the desirability of creating Central Tribunals, under the direction of European lawyers; and had been answered that such a change would interfere with the Sovereign rights of the Porte, and that, moreover, no Europeans understood the Turkish vernacular. The third recommendation of the noble Marquess was that the collection of the revenue should be reformed, and that the system of tithe should be abolished. To this demand a simple Non possumus had been returned. The despatch concluded with the admirable advice that the tenure of office by the Governors should be for a fixed period, and during good behaviour; and the Porte thereupon enlarged on the difficulty, not to say the impossibility, of finding competent and upright functionaries. It came to this, then—that when the noble Marquess insisted on four cardinal points of reform, the Porte merely replied that it had neither money nor upright functionaries; and that at present was the sole result, as far as Armenia was concerned, of the Treaty of Berlin and the Anglo-Turkish Convention. It seemed to him that the responsibilities we had undertaken were very grave, and that we had accepted them under a miscalculation of the means at our disposal; but, at least, they were solid and still existing engagements. It was surely not too much for the noble Earl, all the circumstances considered, to ask for evidence of the desire of the Porte to fulfil its promises. The fact was that, after all the promises that had been made, after all they had heard about " peace with honour," the whole arrangement had turned out no better than a sheet of waste paper.


My Lords, the noble Earl the Prime Minister told us last week, with some pathos, as an excuse for your Lordships' House not meeting before 4 o'clock, that some difficulty had more than once been experienced in getting his younger followers to take a sufficient interest in such a question even as the Zulu War. My Lords, it is not the custom to follow a speaker on your own side of the House; but I must rise to express my surprise that a speech so deserving of an answer as that of my noble Friend who has just sat down should be allowed to pass unnoticed by noble Lords opposite. At the same time, I can quite understand the unwillingness of the Members and supporters of Her Majesty's Government to discuss the question which has been raised to-day. However great may have been the success claimed for the Turkish Convention when it was made public, I am afraid that after a year's reflection noble Lords on the other side do not care to discuss or defend the policy of that Convention. I cannot help feeling that the case of the noble Marquess with respect to this question is one of very great difficulty. The other day he candidly admitted that reforms in Asiatic Turkey could not be carried out without money, and that there was no money to be had. To-day he has told us in Latin, what we have all been constantly insisting on in English, that reforms are not compatible with the character and habits of the Turk. But, may I ask, were these facts perfectly unknown when the Convention was made—when we took upon ourselves these formidable engagements? Ought we not to have known when we undertook them that it would not be in our power to see them carried out? Were not Her Majesty's Government perfectly aware that Turkey had just passed through an exhausting war, and that she was in a state of utter bankruptcy? Under these circumstances, it is scarcely conceivable that they should within the past 12 months have come to view the governing capacity of the Turk in an altogether new light from that in which they viewed it when they undertook these engagements. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he last spoke on this subject, took a hopeful view of the condition of Asia Minor, owing to what he considered the extraordinary success which Her Majesty's Government had achieved in the matter of reforms in Eygpt. Well, when we are in possession of the Egyptian Papers which have been promised us we shall be able to judge whether the success of Her Majesty's Government in Eygpt has been as great as the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeems to imagine. But I entirely agree with him in thinking that there is a great deal of connection between this Turkish Convention and the progress of affairs in Eygpt. I will not here stop to discuss the acquisition of Cyprus, which I, for one, have always held, and still hold, to be neither a politic nor a creditable act. Nor will I comment upon the joint action of this country with France in regard to the affairs of Eygpt further than to say that, in my opinion, it would be very unwise in our statesmen to sacrifice in the slightest degree the perfect independence of this country. What I wish to observe is that if Her Majesty's Government have been able— whether following France and Germany, or being followed by them—to bring such pressure to bear upon the Sultan as to make him dismiss the Khedive for not having carried out reforms which the Sultan himself has entirely neglected in his own dominions, surely some similar concert of European Powers might force the Turks, say, to appoint Christian Governors in Armenia, to abstain from carrying off every shilling of tribute from the country, and if they would not defend the inhabitants of Armenia from the attacks of the Kurds, at all events, to allow these inhabitants to take some measures for defending themselves. I am perfectly certain that if Her Majesty's Government were to take energetic measures in that direction, in concert with other European Powers, they would to a great extent mitigate, if not altogether abolish, the horrors which have been described by the noble Earl who introduced the subject, and which have been so freely acknowledged by the noble Marquess.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.