THE DUKE OF ARGYLL,
on rising to call the attention of the House to the consequences which have resulted from the Policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the kingdom of Afghanistan, and to move for Papers; and to move an Address for Copy of any Correspondence found at Cabul between the late Ameer Shere Ali Khan and the Russian Authorities in Turkestan or St. Petersburgh, said: My Lords, it may, perhaps, be in the recollection of the House that when, nine months ago, I brought under the consideration of your Lordships the subject of foreign policy, the noble Earl at the head of the Government refused absolutely to enter upon any part of the Afghan Question. At the time, I must confess, I thought the refusal of the noble Earl was founded upon reasons which were rather formal than substantial; but I am bound to say that now I think the noble Earl was right. It is an immense advantage—an unspeakable advantage—in discussing so large a subject as that of the Afghan policy of the Government, that we should be able to discuss it with some knowledge of its absolute results. We had no such knowledge then. We have something of that knowledge now. I hope, my Lords, I am not drawing too large a draught on the candour of noble Lords opposite, if I ask them, in the first place, to confess, not at all as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of fact, that every evil and every danger that have ever been predicted by the opponents of that policy have actually happened. My Lords, we all know who it is that in recent years has spoken, in words which have been very often quoted, of "that fierce light which beats upon a Throne." I ask you, my Lords, whether there ever was in this world so fierce a light as that which beats upon this Afghan policy of Her Majesty's Government—upon that empty 1022 Throne, upon that ruined Kingdom, upon your own murdered Ambassador, upon those desolated valleys, upon those flaming villages, upon the whole country, given up to tribal war, to a mutinous soldiery, to anarchy and bloodshed? And then, my Lords, look at the future policy of the Government. Some Questions wore put to the Government on the first night of the Session by my noble Friend behind me (Earl Granville), and I am sure I need not ask the House to remember—we must all have a painful recollection of—the hesitating answers that were given to those Questions. It was the desire of the Government—and I believe it is now the sincere desire of the Government—to get out of this policy as cheaply as they can; but both the noble Earl at the head of the Government and the noble Viscount at the head of the India Office (Viscount Cranbrook) were obliged to intimate the grave, perhaps insuperable, difficulties of returning even to the settlement of Afghanistan. The noble Viscount at the head of the India Office told us he was not responsible, and I have no doubt that what he said was perfectly true, for the article which recently appeared was written by Sir Henry Rawlinson; but I think your Lordships will be of opinion that it is a very able article, written by a very distinguished man, possessing immense knowledge of the country, and an ardent and earnest supporter of the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and I entreat those who wish to see what are the embarrassing results of the policy which has been pursued to look at the alternatives put before you by Sir Henry Rawlinson. I do not mean to say that those results are conclusive against the policy of Her Majesty's Government. You have a reply; and I am bound to say that if that reply could be sustained in argument it would be a good one. What I understand you to say is this—that you have been driven into this policy, not by you own will, but by three things mainly. First, by the danger of the advances of Russia in the East; secondly, by the danger which has arisen from the hostility of the late Ameer; and, thirdly, by certain errors which, as you say, were committed by your Predecessors in Office. I think that if those pleas could be sustained they would be a sufficient answer on the part of the Government. I am here, my Lords, to-night—before 1023 I touch upon the present or future, which I hope to do before I sit down—to lay before your Lordships the grounds on which I am prepared to maintain that none of those pleas are good; that there was no danger from Russia, except that which you provoked; that there was no hostility on the part of the Ameer, except the hostility into which you drove him by your violence and injustice; and, lastly, that as regards the alleged errors of your Predecessors in Office, those errors are founded simply upon a broad and palpable, though, I doubt not, an unintentional, mis-statement. We got into this quarrel with Afghanistan in the first place—I do not mean to say that it was the immediate cause of the war—but we got into our quarrel with the Ameer on account of our demand from him of the acceptance of a British Resident in the City of Cabul. Now, I am sure your Lordships will all agree that good faith comes before policy, or rather, I ought to say, that good faith is a part of policy. There can be no good, sound policy anywhere, and especially in dealing with the Native Princes of the East, without the most absolute good faith. I am here, in the first place, to contend that your conduct in endeavouring to force British officers as Residents upon the Ameer was in violation of Treaty and of the solemn promises of former Viceroys. That is a point on which the Government and the supporters of the Government have taken great pains to mystify the people. Not in one document written by the Government, not in one speech uttered by the Government, has a fair and adequate account been given of our Treaties with Afghanistan. It is a very simple matter, and I will not occupy the time of the House by stating the facts at any length. We had only two Treaties with Afghanistan; one made in 1855, the other two years later—in 1857. The first of those Treaties is remarkable on this account—that it was extremely onerous on Afghanistan, and extremely light for us. It bound the Ameer to be "the friend of our friends and the enemy of our enemies;" whereas we undertook no corresponding obligation towards him, and we promised him nothing except this—that we should never interfere in his affairs. It was perfectly well known by everyone at the time what was meant 1024 by the Treaty. What was meant by it was that we should clear out of the country—to use a familiar expression—"bag and baggage," and have no British officer in Afghanistan. That was the well-known meaning at the time; but there was no definition of the Treaty.
I now come to the Treaty which was entered into two years afterwards, and that is the Treaty to which I wish to direct the special attention of your Lordships. That Treaty arose from a temporary occasion, and it is a common confusion of thought to say that a Treaty which arises out of a purely temporary occasion is necessarily in itself temporary. I need not point out to your Lordships the fallacy of that argument. Very trivial circumstances may give rise to a new arrangement, and that new arrangement may contain clauses of permanent obligation. So it was in this case. What happened was this: A war arose in which the Persian Government seized the City of Herat, which at that time was considered to be against the interests of this country, and we determined upon active measures against Persia. For this purpose a considerable sum of money was given to the Ameer of Cabul to enable him to recover Herat, and also to resist any further aggression on the part of the Government of Persia, which was at the time supposed to be, more or less, in secret alliance with Russia. This subsidy was sent to the then Ameer, Dost Mahomed, and it was agreed with him that British officers should go into Afghanistan with the single and sole object of seeing that that subsidy was devoted to the purposes for which it was intended. The utmost jealousy was evinced by Dost Mahomed; and to please and satisfy him the English Government drew up a most stringent clause, forbidding the British officers taking the smallest concern in anything but the outlay of the money advanced by the British Government. That clause—Clause 7—which related to the subsidy said—"Whenever the subsidy shall cease the British officers shall be withdrawn"—not from Cabul, but "from the Ameer's country"—from the whole country. Now, if the 7th clause had stopped there, it would have been enough. I need not say that, as a mere matter of verbal quibble, if British officers had gone away the next 1025 day it would have been no violation of the Treaty; but the matter is made quite clear by the subsequent words—Whenever the subsidy shall cease the British Officers shall be withdrawn from the Amir's country; hut at the pleasure of the British Government a vakeel, not a European officer, shall remain at Cabul on the part of the Government, and one at Peshawur on the part of the Government of Cabul.Now, that was a distinct clause, providing for the future relations between the two Governments, and it was a solemn promise on the part of the British Government, that if the Government required an Agent in Cabul, the Agent should be a native of India, and not a British officer; and I need not say that that was a permanent obligation.
I come now to a matter in which. I have taken a considerable share, and that is the promises given by Lord Mayo in 1869. As your Lordships will recollect, Lord Mayo went out to India just as the Government with which I was connected came into power. He was appointed by the previous Government—that is, by the noble Lords opposite, forming a different Cabinet from the present—almost at the moment I received the Seals of Office. I had no opportunity of seeing Lord Mayo before he left England. I had not the advantage of his friendship, or even of his acquaintance, and I had no opportunity of giving him any verbal instructions on the subject; and the truth is, I should not have given him any instructions with regard to his conduct in dealing with the Ameer. People forget now, after the controversy of the past two years, that at that time there was no difference of opinion whatever between the two sides as to our policy in Afghanistan. If I wished to instruct him about Shere Ali, I would have copied word for word a despatch written by Sir Stafford North-cote a few months before I took the Seals of the India Office. Soon after Lord Mayo arrived in India Shere Ali requested an interview, and it was arranged that a great interview should take place at Umballa. Now, it is important to consider, first of all, what were the demands of Shere Ali, and what were the promises of Lord Mayo. A very important part of one charge which I shall have to make against Her Majesty's Government is founded on the nature of the demands which 1026 Shere Ali made in 1869. Lord Mayo thus writes—The object of the Ameer in coming to Umballa was to supplement if possible the Treaty of 1857 (which he termed one-sided), because he wished us to declare that we would be 'the friend of his friends' and the 'enemy of his enemies,' that we would not acknowledge 'any friend in the whole of Afghanistan save the Ameer and his descendants.' He desired and asked that the British Government should not be the sole judge of when and how future assistance was to be given."—[Afghanistan,No. 1, p. 93.]Lord Mayo goes on to say that "compliance with these desires was impossible." The essence of them is that our guarantee shall be unlimited both as regards his domestic and foreign affairs. What Lord Mayo promised, however, was this—The British Government will view with severe displeasure any attempts on the part of your rivals to disturb your position as Ruler of Cabul and re-kindle civil war, and it will further endeavour, from time to time, by such means as circumstances may require, to strengthen the Government of your Highness, to enable you to exercise with equity and with justice your rightful rule, and to transmit to your descendants all the dignities and honours of which you are the lawful possessor."—[Ibid.p. 90–91.]When this despatch reached the Government at home, we feared there might be some misunderstanding, and I, therefore, wrote back to guard against possible ambiguity, telling Lord Mayo when occasion arose to make the Ameer clearly understand that we should retain in our own hands the power of judging in each case. This drew from Lord Mayo a long despatch, in which he vindicated and explained the whole circumstances, and to that despatch I replied that the Government were completely satisfied by his explanation. It has been said in various ways, and circulated in private conversation, that Lord Mayo was prevented by me from giving the Ameer as much as he desired to give. There is not a shadow of foundation for them. You will find in the public despatch of Lord Mayo he accepted the principles laid down, and he said there was no difference whatever in principle between his views and those of Her Majesty's Government, and that he should act upon them in the future as he had already done in the past. So far as that goes, there was complete agreement; and I cannot help looking back with infinite pleasure on the fact that during the 1027 time Lord Mayo was in India up to his most calamitous death there never was any difference of opinion of the smallest moment, and Lord Mayo acted entirely on principles of which the Government entirely approved. But this was not the only promise given by Lord Mayo to Shere Ali. He also gave some other promises by word of mouth, and you will find these in the despatch of, I think, May, 1869. These were the words—that no European officers should be placed in his cities as Residents; that there should be no European troops, no fixed subsidy, and no dynastic pledges. These were summed up in private letters addressed to me; and among these I find, in one dated June, 1869, Lord Mayo said the only pledges to the Ameer were that we should not interfere in his affairs, that we should support his independence, that we should not force European officers or Residents upon him against his will. I think I have made it plain what was the state of the case at the time of Lord Mayo. I know what is said on this subject. We are told that Lord Mayo was before the deluge, and that Russia has made great advances since his time. The ingenuity of the Government is very great; and, under the influence of Russophobia, it tramples not only over the facts of history, but the facts of geography. I shall quote a few sentences in which it is endeavoured to be made out that this extraordinary Russian advance took place between the time of Lord Mayo and the time of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Northbrook.) In the celebrated despatch of November 19, it is said that the advance of Russia in Central Asia had not up to this period assumed dimensions such as to cause uneasiness to the Indian Government. Russia, it was further said, had advanced her outposts, reducing the distance of 1,000 miles to 400 miles in this time. Now, what I represent to the House is, that there is hardly any truth in this description. The great advances Russia made in Central Asia were all made in the five years between 1864 and 1869. Russia had made the march from the Jaxartes to the Oxus; she had advanced over that immense space. She had planted her standards in the capital of Bokhara, and the whole of Bokhara—not only 400 miles from Cabul, but adjoining it—had been subjected to the Russian power. 1028 She had then possession of Samarcand, and erected that great Principality of Turkestan and placed it in the hands of General Kauffman; and so utterly untrue is it as an historical fact that there was any opinion in favour of Russian aggression that, at the very moment Lord Mayo went to meet Shere Ali at Umballa, Russia was claiming no inconsiderable portion of the territories of the Ameer. She was claiming Badaskhan, lying immediately at the back of the Hindu Rush. There is no truth whatever in the broad distinction sought to be drawn between the time of my noble Friend and the time of Lord Mayo. I now come to the transactions of 1873, in which I had considerable responsibility. Nothing is so flagrant as the account which has been given of them. I will show, first, what were the real facts, and then what has been made of them. Early in 1873 two very important events occurred. A long negotiation, conducted by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Northbrook), in conjunction with the India Office, with the object of securing the territories of the Ameer from Russian domination, had come to a satisfactory conclusion. A disputed question respecting the boundaries of Afghanistan was also settled by the arbitration which was begun in the time of Lord Mayo, known as the Seistan Arbitration. The Viceroy thought it desirable that all these matters should be communicated to the Ameer by a British officer deputed for the purpose; and my noble Friend sent a message to the Ameer proposing to send a British officer to Cabul. Actuated by that ingrained suspicion which we could not get out of the minds of the Afghans, the Ameer thought there would be danger in receiving such an officer, and his reply was—"Thank you, I am much obliged, but I would prefer sending my own officer to meet you at Simla." My noble Friend, mindful of his Treaty obligations, and of the solemn promises of his Predecessor, did not send a British officer to Cabul, and the Ameer was allowed to send his own officer to Simla, where the interviews took place in the months of June and July, 1873. On the 1st of July, in consequence of a communication from my noble Friend, I sent this telegram—Great caution is necessary in assuring Ameer of material assistance which may raise undue 1029 and unfounded expectations. He already shows symptoms of claiming more than we may wish to give."—[Ibid.p. 108.]When I sent that telegram, I had on my mind the demands which the Ameer had previously made upon Lord Mayo. In the course of a very few days my noble Friend found that Shere Ali was really making the same demands he had made upon Lord Mayo in 1869. In a despatch, dated the 30th of July, my noble Friend behind me said—Two points in connection with the promised assurance were then brought forward by the Envoy. He requested, in the first place, that, in the event of any aggression on the Ameer's territories, the British Government would distinctly state that they would consider such aggressor as an enemy."—[Ibid.p. 114.]It is, observe, an unconditional guarantee, exactly what the Ameer asked from Lord Mayo. The next document is of the same order; it shows distinctly what the Ameer wanted—The Envoy asked that a written assurance might he given to him to the effect that if Russia or any State of Turkestan or elsewhere under Russian influence should commit an aggression on the Ameer's territory, or should otherwise annoy the Ameer, the British Government would consider such aggressor as an enemy, and that they would promise to afford to the Ameer promptly such assistance in money and in arms as might be required until the danger should he passed or the invasion repelled. Also that, if the Ameer should he unable to cope single-handed with the invader, the British Government should promptly despatch a force to his assistance by whatever route the Ameer might require the same, the said force to be employed against the invader and to return to British territory when the invasion was repelled. No return for the assistance above-mentioned to be required by the British Government from Afghanistan.So here you have the full expectation of the Ameer. Not only were we to give him an unconditional guarantee against all foreign aggression, but we wore to make a promise that our troops wore to march through his territory by what route he chose, and to march out again the moment they had accomplished his purpose. That was a request it was quite impossible to grant. It was not the only one he made. We have also evidence that he wanted to speak about an unconditional guarantee for the succession of his adopted heir, Abdullah Jan. He had nothing whatever to offer to the British Government in return for these unreasonable requests. My noble Friend wished to re-open the question of 1030 British Residents in a general and friendly manner, in a manner unaccompanied with threats and violence, and that would have been consistent with the Treaty; it would not have been as inconsistent as doing it in a violent manner, and accompanied with threats. It was not in the least inconsistent to ask—"Will you reconsider this matter?" But the Envoy distinctly told my noble Friend—"I have no power to treat with you on that matter, none whatever;" and there was nothing for it but to leave it out of the negotiations. I wish now to read a second telegram I sent to my noble Friend with reference to a communication he proposed to make to the Ameer—Cabinet thinks you should inform Ameer that we do not at all share his alarm, and consider there is no cause for it; hut you may assure him we shall maintain our settled policy in favour of Afghanistan, if he abides by our advice in external affairs."—[Ibid.p. 108.]In consequence of that telegram, my noble Friend gave the following assurance to the Ameer:—It would be the duty of the Ameer to refer the question [of foreign invasion] to the British Government, who would endeavour, &c. In such event, should these endeavours prove fruitless, the British Government are prepared to assure the Ameer that they will afford him assistance in the shape of arms and money, and will also, in case of necessity, aid him with troops.That was the promise given by my noble Friend behind me; it was a promise distinctly in advance of that given by Lord Mayo; it was more clearly worded, and more definite. It is commonly said by the supporters of the Government that we gave him no promise at all. I wish to direct attention to a remarkable document—a telegram from the present Viceroy, at the time the Treaty of Gandamak was under consideration, and one very much like a telegram to me from my noble Friend behind me. On the 7th of April, 1879, the Viceroy telegraphed—If in return for 4th article, which places his foreign relations in our hands, Yakoob Khan asks protection from foreign invasion. A distinct answer will be required."—[Afghan papers,No. 7, 1879.]And on the 13th of April the Secretary of State telegraphed to the Viceroy—If Yakoob faithfully conducts his foreign policy under our direction, we shall be prepared to support him against any foreign aggression 1031 which may result from such conduct with money, arms, and troops, to be employed at our discretion, when and where we think fit."—[Ibid.]This is the answer of the present Government—not one step in advance of the promise I made before. The truth is, the promise given by the present Government was more conditional, more carefully guarded, and loft more loopholes for escape—a great deal more so than the promise made by me. And yet there is no Member of the Government—there is no supporter of the Government now making electioneering speeches—who does not say that we refused the Ameer any promise whatever. [Viscount CRANBROOK: Hear, hear!] The noble Viscount seems to approve that declaration. I lay before the House the facts. Lord Northbrook did give a promise to the Ameer, which in substance was, word for word, the promise we gave in 1873, only it is more wrapt up in verbiage, and left more loopholes for escape. One word with respect to my telegram, of which much has been made, stating that we did not share the Ameer's alarm. I am constantly taunted with having committed a great error in saying that I did not share the Ameer's alarm. I avow, in the presence of this House, that I did not share, and I do not share, the Ameer's alarm. It appears to me to be an undignified policy on the part of England to be perpetually screaming about these advances of Russia. I am not, and I was not, alarmed by these advances; and I should like to know how it was consistent with the communications we had just made to the Ameer that Russia had acknowledged that his territory extended to the Oxus, to tell him at the same time that we were in the greatest possible alarm because Russia had taken Khiva? I wish to direct attention for a moment to the narrative of these transactions which has been given by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook). I wish to make myself quite clear. I have absolute confidence in the intentional fairness of the noble Viscount; I believe him utterly incapable of misrepresenting consciously anything done by his Predecessor in Office; but I have to state to the House that gross misrepresentation was made in these despatches. It was a very unusual thing for a Government, before it produced Papers at all, to publish a comment giving a version of the 1032 transactions of its Predecessors intended to prejudge them and to prejudice the public mind. I have not known such a thing done before. It is usual to present Papers to Parliament, and to leave Parliament to form its own judgment. In this case, 10 days or a fortnight before Parliament met, a despatch was produced containing this passage—The capture of Khiva by the forces of the Czar in the spring of 1873, and the total subordination of that Khanate to Russia, caused Shere Ali considerable alarm, and led him to question the value of the pledges with reference to Afghanistan which had been given by His Imperial Majesty to England, and which had been communicated to His Highness by the British Government. Actuated by his fears on this score, the Ameer sent a special Envoy to Simla in the summer of that year, charged with the duty of expressing them to the Government of India. Finding that the object of the Ameer was to ascertain definitely how far he might rely on the help of the British Government if his territories were threatened by Russia, Lord Northbrook's Government was prepared to assure him that, under certain conditions, the Government of India would assist him to repel unprovoked aggression. But Her Majesty's Government at home did not share His Highness's alarm, and the Viceroy ultimately informed the Ameer that the discussion of the question would be best postponed to a more convenient season.Now, my Lords, if the object of a narrative is to give to persons ignorant of the facts a true impression of them, I say that no man reading that paragraph would have the slightest notion of the facts. It professes to give the object of Shere Ali's mission to the Viceroy. He could not have sent this mission because he was frightened about Khiva, because this was a month before Khiva was taken, and at the moment when General Kauffmann's column was at death's door for the want of water. This Memorandum passes over in silence—apparently intentional silence—all the extravagent demands made by Shere Ali. It professes to give an account of the action of the Home Government; and here it condescends to quote one half of the telegram and suppress the other—a transaction which I have never known before in any public document issued under the authority of the Secretary of State. Lastly, it professes to give an account of the action of the Viceroy; and in this account it omits every fact and statement as to the promise which my noble Friend (the Earl of Northbrook) had given to the Ameer, and which turned 1033 out to be exactly the promises which Her Majesty's Government were now willing to grant. I must say such a document stands alone in the history of these proceedings. I do not attribute it to the noble Viscount opposite. In the first place, I know very well that, in the ordinary way of transacting the business of the India Office, a despatch of that nature would not be drafted by the Secretary of State; but he was in the hands of a clique of Russophobists, and he had not the previous knowledge to enable him to correct the facts. My belief is still the noble Viscount was ignorant of the facts; and every one of your lieutenants only makes the matter worse by ignorance of the facts. The other day a speech was made by a Member of the Government, no less than the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Of the honour of Mr. Bourke I have no doubt—no more than of my own; but what did he say at King's Lynn? He stated broadly that nothing whatever in the nature of a promise had been made to Shere Ali; and only the other day at Liverpool Viscount Sandon, a Member of the Cabinet, stated broadly that nothing of the kind had ever been given to Shere Ali. All this was the result of that misleading despatch of the noble Viscount. Now, my Lords, I have done with all the transactions in connection with which I have any personal responsibility, and I now come to the transactions of the present Government. After 1873,1 have no doubt it is perfectly true that the Ameer was more or less in a sulky and discontented state. He was affected, not so much by the refusal of those extravagant requests, but he was deeply mortified by the result of the Seistan Arbitration. There were other circumstances that made him sulky and dissatisfied. He refused to accept money offered by my noble Friend; and various speculations had been made as to the cause of that refusal. In my own mind, my Lords, there can be no doubt as to the cause. As I have already mentioned to the House, my noble Friend had spoken as directed by the Home Government about re-considering the arrangement, and we may well suppose that the refusal to take money arose from an apprehension that it might revive the notion of sending British officers to Cabul. If he took the money it might involve him in new negotiations. How- 1034 ever that might be, I admit the fact that the Ameer was sulky; and what did the Government do? I was extremely amused by a passage in the speech to which I have referred, which I need not recall to your Lordships, in which it was stated that so much had been done to make amends to this unfortunate Ameer, who had been insulted by the previous Government. The most earnest and sincere endeavours, it was said, had been made to conciliate the Ameer, and had failed. How had the present Government tried to conciliate the Ameer? I will tell you what the Government did. In the first place, they were very nearly a year in Office before they did anything. They came into Office in 1874, and they took no notice of Cabul, or anything connected with it, for a whole year. At last, on the 22nd of January, 1875, they made their first move. Heaven knows why they made it; I do not know, except that they were button-holed by Sir Bartle Frere. What was the first move of the Government to conciliate the Ameer, and make him more friendly than he had been? They issued an order to my noble Friend that he was immediately to send a British Mission to Cabul—a thing the Ameer had, of all others, rejected with horror; and—could it be believed?—they gave this order to the Viceroy without offering a single halfpenny of return to the Ameer. I grant that the despatch of the Government was most temperately worded. Nothing could run more smoothly than the instructions to the Viceroy. There was not one single word about Treaties, promises, or engagements of any kind. It must have been written by one absolutely ignorant of the whole previous history. I can only say that the instruction of the Government seems to me to have been a case of the most astounding rashness and ignorance on the part of the Government. That instruction was given in a Correspondence which lasted altogether 16 months. To whom was the blame attributable? A great part of it was due to the Government at home; and if the whole of it was due to my noble Friend, I suppose no Member of this House who sits opposite would venture to suggest that the Viceroy is in that condition that he is to receive, without a single remonstrance or explanation of his own views, such an 1035 order from the Secretary of State. My noble Friend knew perfectly well that he was bound by Treaties and obligations to the Ameer, and that the traditional policy of the Indian Government for 40 years was absolutely opposed to the step which he was directed to take. He accordingly addressed a remonstrance to the Home Government on the 4th of June, which they took four months to answer. And what was the Government answer? They persisted in their instructions; and here again they offered nothing to the Ameer, but they advised the Indian Government to begin the negotiations with what they themselves called ostensible pretexts—that is to say, to begin the transactions by swerving from the straightforwardness which we had hitherto shown to the Ameer. What was the answer of my noble Friend? He intimated distinctly that he would not be a party to any such transaction, and in his despatch my noble Friend says—The result of our deliberations is that we are convinced that if a Mission is sent to Cabul the most advisable course would be to state frankly and fully to the Ameer the real purpose of it.Now, I ask, is there one Member of this House who does not respond to that opinion of my noble Friend? Promises were made to the Ameer that his territory should remain safe against external attack. Why, that is going back from previous promises; it is a great deal less than Lord Mayo promised, and a great deal less than I promised. That is your conciliatory policy.
And now I come to a further transaction, which I am the more ready to do on account of a cheer lately given by the noble Viscount. Lord Lytton himself says—There is in the Treaty of December nothing whatever to preclude the British Government from pointing out to the Ameer at any time the propriety of receiving a British officer as permanent Resident at Cabul in any fair or friendly manner.I entirely agree with that; but I have already shown that you did not do this fairly, because you began with ostensible pretexts, which the Ameer was sharp enough to see through at once. And, more than that, having begun in a manner not fair, you proceeded, in the second place, in a manner not friendly, but accompanied by the most 1036 violent threats. That is denied by the friends of the Government in their speeches all over the country; but I will proceed to prove that it is so. On the 8th of July Lord Lytton wrote to the Ameer—It will for this reason cause the Viceroy sincere regret if your Highness, by hastily rejecting the hand of friendship now frankly held out to you, should render nugatory the friendly intentions of his Excellency, and oblige him to regard Afghanistan as a State which has voluntarily isolated itself from the alliance and support of the British Government.Thus, in the face of a solemn Treaty, and also in face of repeated promises of one of the noblest of your Viceroys, you break faith with this unfortunate Prince. You tell him that unless he agrees to accept your Envoy, whom you promised not to send, you would cast him adrift and break all your Treaties with him. Is that what you call acting in a fair and friendly manner? But that is not all. In another Paper which passed from Lord Lytton in the course of these negotiations I read—But unless the Ameer agrees to the arrangement indicated in paragraph 4 of this Note, and cordially enters into it, it will not be practically in my power to undertake any obligation on his behalf, or to do anything for his assistance, whatever may be the dangers or difficulties of his future position.Here you have repeated that we shall cast him off. But here is a third repetition of the same thing. Lord Lytton says—But 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 own 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.Now, that is a most extraordinary passage, coming from the Viceroy. For what does it mean? That if the Ameer does not come to a speedy understanding with us we shall come to an understanding with Russia, and we shall do it at his expense. Here, my Lords, is a threat not only of our anger, but almost that we are prepared to hand him over to Russia. Now, I must ask the Government, in their answer to me to-night, to tell me, if they can, what authority the Viceroy had for making that statement? The Viceroy has told us in a published despatch that he went out to India after 1037 personal conference not only with Her Majesty's Government, but with the Russian Ambassador. A most extraordinary statement that for a Viceroy to make. What had he to do with the Russian Ambassador? Was it by the Russian Ambassador he 'was told that Russia would agree to wipe Afghanistan off the map? Am I to assume that there was some understanding between Russia and us in certain circumstances to divide Afghanistan? But what I want to point out is that those words had the effect of showing the Ameer that he had nothing to expect unless he yielded to us, and that he was under some danger from Russia unless he should make up his mind to do what we asked him. Therefore, I say that our demands on the Ameer to receive a British officer were not made in a, fair or a friendly manner, but with the most violent threats and in a manner which was a breach of the Treaty. And we continued to speak in the same tone and with the same threats. The principle laid down by the Government was this—that we were to ask the Ameer to do certain things, and, when he had done so, to bid him open his mouth wider and see what good things would come to him. The great object of the Government was, in the first place, to draw up certain offers to the Ameer which would not give him what he wanted; and in not giving him what he wanted, I must say the Government were perfectly right. No Government would give the Ameer what he wanted. We were perfectly right not to give him an unconditional guarantee. But the second object of the Government was not so right, and that was to persuade the Ameer that we were giving him what he wanted. I am making a serious charge against the Government. I wish to say nothing outside the House which I am not ready to say inside it. And now I wish to lay before the House the ostensible proofs that, as you began, so you continued these deplorable transactions. One of the demands of the Ameer was a dynastic guarantee for his son. Great care was taken by Her Majesty's Government that the promises given should fall short of anything that was in the least unconditional. They say—Her Majesty's Government do not desire to renounce their traditional policy of abstention from all unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. But the frank recogni- 1038 tion of ade factoorder in the succession established by ade factoGovernment to the throne of a foreign State does not, in their opinion, imply or necessitate any intervention in the internal affairs of that State."—[Afghanistan,No 1, 1878, p. 158.]That is to say, you were willing to acknowledge him as ade factoSovereign, and his son as ade factoheir. Perfectly right; but what follows was not so right. I want to show what Lord Lytton was prepared to tell the Ameer; but first let me say that Lord Mayo wrote to me in a published despatch that the Ameer had a special horror of thosede factoguarantees. He said—Had the Viceroy endeavoured to lay down in that letter an abstract principle with regard to thede factorule, it would have been taken as little short of an insult.With regard to dynastic guarantees, Lord Mayo said—I authorize the Agent to tell the Ameer that, if His Highness wishes to make me his friend, I will be a warm and true, a fast and firm, friend to him, doing all that is practically in my power to stand by him in his difficulties, to cordially support him, to strengthen his throne, to establish his dynasty, and to confirm the succession in the person of his son, Sirdar Abdullah Jan."—[Ibid.p. 185.]Now, my Lords, you will observe that these promises all distinctly proceed on the principle of not giving to the Ameer that which he asked. Now I come to the endeavours of Her Majesty's Government to make the Ameer believe that we were giving him all he asked. On the 11th of October, 1876, Lord Lytton addressed this letter to the Ameer—Your Highness will thus be assured by the Agent that I shall be prepared to comply with the wishes which you announced through your Agent at Simla in 1873, and to which you have adhered in more recent communications."—[Ibid.p. 186.]Here is another passage—The conditions on which the Governor General in Council is now prepared to enter into closer and more definite relations with the Government of Afghanistan are in every particular the same as those desired by the Ameer himself on the occasion of his visit to Umballa in 1869, and again in more or less general terms so urged by him on the Government of India through his Minister Syud Noor Mahomed Shah in 1873."—[Ibid.p. 187.]This is quite distinct. But I am sorry to say this was not all. Those were public documents sent to the Ameer through the usual and official channel. Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, had in his camp a gentleman who was a personal friend 1039 of the Ameer, Captain Grey, who was employed to write a letter to him to say that the Viceroy was prepared to give him everything that former Viceroys had given. He further says—In the absence of a Treaty between the two States the Minister at home exercised discretion; but when a Treaty is made everyone will be bound by its terms.My Lords, this is the first time that a distinction is set up between a Treaty obligation and a solemn promise of the Viceroy; and I maintain that if you are to rule India at all you must rule it on the principle that an Englishman's word is as good as his bond. But the Ameer was not deceived by these promises. He knew very well that they were insincere, and that he would not get what he wanted. I will not weary the House with all the subsequent negotiations, but will only read one extract, which is a sufficient comment on the transactions now before your Lordships. The Viceroy wrote a despatch to the Government summing up those transactions, and saying—These concessions which have been sanctioned would not practically commit the Government more than the former renewal of the assurances already given by Lord Mayo in the year 1869.Here you have the Government of India assuring the Ameer that it was prepared to give him everything that former Viceroys had offered, and then writing home that it had offered nothing. I will not trouble the House with a review of the miserable negotiations at Peshawur, though I could justify all I said of them nine months ago. I will only mention three things. First, the Ameer was told that he had misapprehended the demands of the British Government, and then was accused of evading those demands. Next, he was told that the British Government had no desire whatever to press British officers upon him; and, lastly, that it was desired to send those officers not to Cabul, but to other parts of the country. I ask the House what confidence could be placed in those assurances? The Conference was closed by the Viceroy's terminating it abruptly. He knew that a messenger was on his way from the Ameer, conceding everything that the British Government demanded; and in order to prevent the Envoy coming and placing him in an embarrassing position he telegraphed—"Close the Conference 1040 up," and, accordingly, the Conference was closed. I wonder what would be the effect on the Ameer of such conduct as this? I am told all over the country that it was my noble Friend and myself who alienated the Ameer and drove him into the arms of Russia. Will that stand after the transactions I have narrated to the House, and of which I have given an authentic proof? But I am happy to say I have a witness whose authority will not be controverted by the noble Lord opposite. I have the authority of the Viceroy himself. In his despatch, drawn up at the close of the Conferences on May 10, we have these ominous words—Seeing no immediate prospect of further support from the British Government, and fearing, perhaps, his surmise correct, he would naturally become more urgent in his advances to Russia.That is the confession of the Viceroy—that he had closed these negotiations in a manner which he knew would tend to throw the Ameer into the arms of Russia. But there is another passage in that despatch of May 10 which I will read to the House, and it is this—The further course of Cabul politics we cannot foresee, and do not attempt to predict; but we await its natural development with increased confidence in the complete freedom and paramount strength of our own position."—[Afghan Papers,1878, p. 172.]That is, he awaited the natural development of a situation which he himself had confessed was a situation which would throw the Ameer into the arms of Russia. "Was there ever so cynical a confession made by a Viceroy? Was there ever such a confession made by the head of the British Government—that he had contrived a state of things in which the Ameer would be thrown into the hands of Russia, and awaited with confidence the development of the situation? The British Government was in the position of men who, having set traps for some wild animal, retired into the jungle to watch for their prey. Now, that despatch, though dated May 10, 1877, was not produced and laid before Parliament for 18 months. Parliament was left in complete ignorance of the fact that you had withdrawn your Agent from the Ameer; that you had suspended diplomatic relations with him; and that you had done so under circumstances which, according to your own confession, would throw him into the arms of Russia. I 1041 ask, what is the use of putting into the mouth of the Sovereign on that Throne that she meets with gladness her Parliament, and will accept their advice, when you conceal from that Parliament all the facts that would enable them to give her their advice? But you say that the Eastern Question had then risen above the horizon. Do you believe that Russia did not know what was going on in Afghanistan? Russia knew you had quarrelled with the Ameer; and yet the knowledge which the Russian Government had you refused to Parliament and the people. Every attempt has been made since the war broke out to prove that your trap succeeded, and that the Ameer was thrown into the hands of Russia. What do you acknowledge yourselves? It was 14 months before there was any word of the Russian Mission; in fact, a complete separation in point of time between your negotiation s and that Mission. What did the Secretary of State for India himself confess? He wrote in the month of October, 1877, to say that the Ameer was rather friendly in his manner, and the noble Marquess' (the Marquess of Salisbury's) advice was—"Let him alone, he will come right." I believe that was perfectly true. If you had treated him kindly, if you had sent back your Envoy to him, he would have come round. That is the confession on the part of the Government, that up to October, 1877, there were no indications of hostility on the part of the Ameer.
I now come to the last attempt made to prove that the unfortunate Ameer had been treating with Russia. I wish to move for copies of Papers which, it is alleged, have been found at Cabul. In referring to the following paragraph, I must inform those Members of the House who may not be aware of the fact that there is a well-known, though of course an indefinite, connection between the Government of India andThe Pioneernewspaper. When the Government of India wish to make an announcement, they do it through the columns ofThe Pioneer.The other day this paragraph appeared—"The Pioneernow assorts that an immense mass of correspondence has "been found and laid before the Government, including instructions from the Russian Government to its agents in Central Asia, pointing out the course they were to follow with Shore Ali. These papers are said to show that Russian intrigues against Afghan- 1042 istan were active as far back as 1873, and to afford conclusive proof of the falsity of the excuse given by the Russian Mission to Cabul last year.Your Lordships will find that this paragraph has been repeated in every paper in this country that is in the interest of the Government. It has likewise been practically repeated by Sir Henry Rawlinson in the article to which I have referred. I am bound to say that I receive this intimation with very great scepticism. In the first place, I cannot help remarking that this discovery has been made just in the nick of time before a General Election. Next, I observe that the paragraph refers to the year 1873. In the third place, I notice in the Papers just presented to Parliament a most extraordinary despatch from General Roberts. Surely, if there is a man in the world who is likely to have known something about this alleged Correspondence it is General Roberts. Well, General Roberts writes a despatch to the Viceroy, in which he gives his grounds for thinking that the Ameer was thrown into the hands of Russia since 1873; but he does not pretend that there are any Papers. He says that the unfortunate Prince, Yakoob Khan, after his abdication, when he was accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Major Cavagnari, and when he may be said to have had a rope round his neck, told him (General Roberts) that his father had been offended with the British Government since 1873. Your Lordships will judge of the value of a statement made by a man under such circumstances; and I have no doubt that they have no documentary evidence to show. At all events, I challenge the Government to produce this Correspondence. I myself am not wholly without information from India, and it is possible that my information may be as accurate as that of the Government. My information is to the effect that these documents do not in the least support the accusations against the Ameer, and I challenge the Government to produce them. It has been said that they cannot be produced because their production would give offence to Russia. But in these Blue Books several documents which must be most offensive to Russia have been published. I frankly say I shall not believe the account of those documents unless I sec the documents themselves. It is 1043 quite possible that Russia may have been intriguing for a long time, and it is possible that the Ameer may have been in communication with Russia; but I wish to see the evidence, and I am the more confirmed in this wish by the way in which you use documents to which I am able to refer.
Next I pass to the accusation brought against the unfortunate Ameer, Shere Ali, whom you hunted to death, that for many years since 1873 he had been in active and treasonable correspondence with the Russian Government. No one has made this accusation in broader terms than the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In his speech the other day he said that Shere Ali, thrown over by us in 1873, had opened a communication with General Kaufmann, and had ever since been in disloyal communication with the Russian Government. That speech of Mr. Bourke's made me determine to go through every one of the letters between the Ameer and General Kaufmann which have been going on for seven or eight years. It is universally stated on behalf of the Government that that Correspondence, which began in 1870, assumed a now character after the time of my noble Friend. The general result of my examination is this: Between the years 1870 and 1872—the year before the time of my noble Friend—there were in all six letters. The first of them, from General Kaufmann, occasioned great alarm to the Ameer; but Lord Mayo said to him—"Never mind; it is all nonsense; there is no cause of alarm. Do you answer him in civil terms, and no harm will be done whatever." The Ameer took Lord Mayo's counsel, and ever after that the Ameer showed General Kaufmann's letters to our Agent at Cabul, and also his own answers. Between the years 1873 and 1876, when my noble Friend came away, there were eight letters, which is exactly the same proportion as before. I find there is no change whatever in the tone of the Ameer. Not only is there no change for the worse after 1873, but between 1873 and 1876 two of General Kaufmann's letters occasioned to the Ameer the most violent suspicion. On one occasion General Kaufmann had said he wished for the prosperity and success of the country under the protection of His Imperial Majesty and the Queen of 1044 England. The Ameer took mortal offence at this letter, and coming to the Viceroy's Agent, he said—"What can General Kaufmann mean by saying that we are under the protection of Russia?" The Agent told him he did not see that stated in the letter, and accordingly the Ameer sent back a civil reply. This Correspondence contains another letter, which is a very awkward one for the Government to deal with. The last letter of that series was sent in February, 1877, and in that letter General Kaufmann used the expression about the country of Afghanistan being a neighbour of Russia. The Ameer took offence at this account, and asked—"Have we not Bokhara between Afghanistan and Russia?" He was extremely alarmed and jealous, and he did not answer that letter for five or six months. Look, my Lords, at the circumstance which happens. The account of these transactions at Cabul was forwarded to Peshawur on the 9th of September. Now, I have ascertained from the highest authority that the course of posts between Peshawur and Simla is four days. That account of the Ameer and his alarm in regard to Russia must have been in the hands of the Government of India before the 16th of September, the day on which Lord Lytton opened his new accusation against the Ameer of having intrigued with Russia through this Correspondence. My Lords, I confess that when I found out these dates I could not help hearing in my ear that solemn command which for 3,000 years has echoed from the altars of the Church—Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.I pass now to the actual results of your policy. A few months ago the Government were in high spirits, and thought their policy had turned out to be thoroughly successful. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India made a speech on the subject; but let me tell the noble Viscount this—that, granting the military success in overcoming the forces of Afghanistan, that was part of our case and not of his. We always said that the mere conquest of Afghanistan could be effected without serious difficulty, and we said that that made it all the more cowardly for you to attack Afghanistan except in case of absolute necessity. One of the dangers which we had always predicted—or, at least, 1045 which the Ameer had always predicted—was the danger to the life of our Envoy. That, however, was treated with the most supreme contempt. A few days before I left this country for America last year I had a long conversation with Lord Lawrence, and I said to him—"I have always thought this expression of fear as to the life of our Envoy is an ostensible pretext, like the pretext of the British Government." Lord Lawrence answered—"It is put forward to cover other objections; but, at the same time, depend upon it, there is real danger to the life of any Envoy sent to that country." You sent that unfortunate man, Sir Louis Cavagnari, with an inadequate escort—one of the sources of danger which we always foresaw and predicted. He had an escort of only 50 or 60 men, and the result was he was murdered in cold blood, with very little power of resistance. There is not a single Member of the Government who did not deplore deeply that unfortunate catastrophe; but this I must say—Sir Louis Cavagnari was the victim of the wilful and ignorant obstinacy of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Up to three years ago the policy pursued with regard to Afghanistan was the policy, not of Lord Lawrence, but of England, for the previous 40 years. In supporting that policy, we held that, even if you got a Resident at Cabul, he would be useless to you. Read the Cabul diaries of Sir Louis Cavagnari, and you will see that he was virtually a prisoner. You see the atmosphere of suspicion in which he lived, and his utter ignorance of everything that was going on around him until his own fate was sealed. This terrible result you have produced by your determination to believe that a British officer would get you better information than a Mahometan, who was often allowed to be present at the Cabinet Councils of the Ameer. Look at the ignorance of General Roberts as to the condition of the country up to the 11th of December. Neither he nor you had any notion of the storm that was gathering; and yet on the 13th and 14th of that month General Roberts was within an inch of having his whole cantonments carried by the enemy. The object of the policy of Her Majesty's Government was to make of Cabul an independent Kingdom. Do you know 1046 the result of the destruction of the "Kingdom of Cabul?" One result would be to make your Empire conterminous with that of Russia. A distinguished Russian Professor at St. Petersburg says—"Let the two Empires be conterminous, and then England will be under recognisances to keep the peace with us." That is the Russian view of the matter, and that is the result of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The whole of your policy has been founded upon the theory of what is called the "Caspian base of Russian operations," and not on the old base, the Samarcand base of operations, and there is before us an endless prospect of trouble and of war. Now, my Lords, those who support the policy of Her Majesty's Government are always reproaching us by saying—"You tell us the objections to our policy, but you never tell us your own." Well, it is not for me to advise Her Majesty's Government. I do not think the advice I might give would have any effect. I am not about to go into any details of policy. It would be in the highest degree presumptuous in me to do so. I do not know all the facts of this wonderful scrape into which you have got, and into which you have got your country. But I will say a few words, not as to the details of our policy, but as to the frame and temper of mind which is the basis of your policy. In the first place, I ask the Government to believe in the truth of what they say themselves. You, the Government, have told us that you have confidence in the permanent strength of our position in India. That was the language of the Viceroy before the war. Why, then, I ask, have you entered into this unnecessary war? Why, then, do you put your head down to the ground and fancy in alarm that you hear the tread of some tired and thirsty Russian columns? Why do you then lift up your heads, and say—"Good heavens! what are we to do? Here are the Russians advancing on Merv. Let us go on to Candahar, let us send British officers to Cabul, only let us do something," which, according to Lord Melbourne, means "let us do something foolish." I believe in the permanent strength of our position in India, and I will tell you why. We have there an Empire of 150,000,000 people—races which are faithful to us. We have a 1047 maritime position on each side. We can readily pour troops into India—such troops, that is to say, as we have to pour—and we have a railway system which is completed to the Frontier. Well, on the other hand, what is the character of Russia? What is the character of this Central Asian Empire of which you are so jealous and so much afraid? Theirs is a country essentially of a few scattered races, of a few mountain valleys, fertile more or less, separated by hundreds of miles of the most hideous deserts that exist in the world. Why, from the Oxus to Merv the distance is 170 miles, 150 miles of which is sand. Colonel Burnaby tells us, from authentic sources, of the amount of transport required by an Indian Army before it could move in that country. No Army, he says, could traverse that country with less than one baggage animal to two men. Think of the enormous difficulties in the way of an invasion of a country like that! Then there is this further consideration—namely, that we have really no right to a monopoly of Empire in the East. Russia has an Asiatic Empire older than our own. She is by nature an Asiatic Power. We are an Asiatic Power by accident. Russia has a legitimate field of operations in Central Asia. Within my own recollection we have annexed to our Indian Empire upwards of 30,000,000 people—probably six or seven times the entire population of Central Asia from the Caspian to the Wall of China. Russia, in all these places, has legitimate quarrels with the Khanates of Central Asia. What does Sir Henry Rawlinson say in the Blue Book before your Lordships? It will enable your Lordships to say whether it is reasonable to expect that Russia should stand the existence of a Power in Central Asia which renders commerce impossible, and why we should go cap in hand to the Emperor of Russia, and say—"Oh, do, for Heaven's sake, tell us you are not going to Merv." Why should he not go to Merv? Do you hold that the whole of Central Asia should be kept for your sake? What says Sir Henry Rawlinson—If Merv is conquered by Russia, trade will prosper, man stealing will be suppressed, cultivation will be increased, and the condition of the people will be improved.That is to be the dreadful effect of Russia's conquest of Merv, according to 1048 the prediction of the great prophet of Russophobia. What, my Lords, happened the other day? You were told we had got an assurance from the Emperor of Russia that he was not going to Merv; and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs came down and, in a transport of delight, announced the intelligence to the House of Commons. The Emperor, when he heard of this, sent for our Ambassador and said to him—"What I stated was, not that I would not go to Merv, but that I did not intend to go there just now." And then the British Government goes to the Government of Russia and says—"Oh, we hope you are not going to retract what you said." That is a most undignified attitude for the British Government to assume. Well, but we are asked—"What is our policy?" I say it is to revert, as far as your blunders will permit, to the policy pursued 40 years ago. I altogether concur in a statement made by Sir Stafford Northcote that there was no reason why we should be uneasy or jealous at the progress Russia had made in Central Asia, and which was the result of the circumstances in which she found herself placed.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
Just before I went to the India Office. In those sentiments I entirely agree. I have only to thank the House for the extreme indulgence with which it has listened to me. I have undertaken a somewhat difficult and rather laborious task, and there is only one more point to which I wish to refer. With regard to some matters, the Government have complained very bitterly of what they describe as the violent language out-of-doors. Well, I hope that no language has been used by me—I am sure I never intended to do so—at all personal in its character, or inconsistent with personal courtesy or private friendship. But I am bound to say that the whole transactions of this Afghan War are of a character which, in my opinion, justify the severest language which can be used in Party warfare. I believe it is a policy which has originated in weak and unmanly fear. It has been a policy of violence, sometimes approaching deceit. It has been a policy most injurious to the interests of the people of England; and, above all, a policy which has cast a lasting 1049 stain upon the honour of the British Empire.
§ Moved,That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty for Copy of any Correspondence found at Cabul between the late Ameer Shere Ali Khan and the Russian Authorities in Turkestan or St. Petersburg'h.—(The Duke of Argyll.)
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My Lords, it might be supposed from the speech you have just heard that events have never moved during the last 40 years, and that the policy of 40 years ago was that which was suitable in present emergencies, and that men ought to adhere to a certain definite rule which they have laid down for themselves under a particular state of circumstances, even after that state of circumstances has entirely changed. It has always been assumed by the noble Duke, and it seems to be the foundation of the speech he has made, that if it had not been for the present Government none of the events which have taken place would have taken place at all—that' the Eastern Question would have been solved easily by the able Members of the former Government; and that, in fact, everything wrong which had happened had been brought on by the policy of the present Government. That seems to me totally opposed to the facts of the case—as, indeed, the whole history that he has given is opposed to the facts of the ease. It is no disrespect to the noble Duke to say that his reading of events is totally different from mine. The Duke of Somerset, in the discussion in the winter of 1878, said—Are you surprised men take totally different views of events as they occur, when you see how differently history is narrated according to the views of the writer?''Well, I am prepared, as I said in 1878, when the noble Duke was not here, to adhere to the entire substance of that despatch, although I may have been wrong with respect to a certain date in regard to Khiva; but with respect to the special paragraph I adhere entirely to it, because I believe it was an accurate statement of the case. When the noble Duke implied that it was not an accurate statement, he refrained from telling the House that by the side of that paragraph there were references given to Papers which, a few days after, were in every man's hands. His telegrams were referred to specifically; and I say still, 1050 as I said then, I believe it to be a perfectly accurate account of what happened.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
And complete. When I refer to that part of the noble Duke's speech I will show that it is complete. I think that, perhaps, I should consult the convenience of the House by endeavouring to follow, as far as possible, the course which the noble Duke has taken. It is one which, I confess, I was not prepared he should take, because I thought the debate in the winter of 1878 had exhausted these early questions; and I think it a little extraordinary that the noble Duke, because he was not present on that occasion, should, having had an opportunity in the last Session of Parliament, have come forward now and gone into the minutest details, with extracts cut and dried, and brought forward all the questions which were fully debated, aye, and decided against the noble Duke. Upon this occasion, after his long indictment, and after speaking of the Government as having been false in all that they had done, and deceitful and treacherous, the noble Duke contents himself with moving for Papers which he knows nothing about, but about which he pretends to know a great deal. With respect to the Papers for which the noble Duke has moved, let me at once dispose of that part of the question. They will not be produced. The noble Duke has referred toThe Pioneer;but he knows, or ought to know, thatThe Pioneeris not the Government official organ at present; and he knows, or ought to know, that a Press agent was appointed to give to all the papers that which was official information. The noble Duke forgets, or chooses to forget, thatThe Pioneerno longer occupies the place it formerly did. Again, I am to be answerable for what is stated by Sir Henry Rawlinson.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
Then, why are all these things quoted against me? What does the noble Duke endeavour to do? He endeavours to draw from the Government some statements respecting the Papers found at Cabul, when he knows perfectly well that by no single Member of the Government has a word been breathed as to the contents of those Papers, and that they have taken the 1051 utmost pains not to be guilty even of the smallest allusion to anything contained in them, believing that, not assenting to their production, silence in regard to those documents is fairest and best for the interests of the public. Now, the noble Duke, on a former occasion, said that if the Papers were refused he would not press his Motion; therefore, practically, there is no Motion before the House; but the noble Duke has taken your Lordships a long way back in making his statement. He began with the present condition of Afghanistan, which nobody more deeply deplores than I do; but when our policy is founded, as we believe, on justice, right, and advantage to our Empire, it is not because a great calamity may have occurred, or that calamities may occur in the future, that we are to be drawn aside from what we believe to be for the interests of the country. It is true the Envoy—a man of noble character, of whom no one can speak too highly—and those who accompanied him, perished in the discharge of their duty. It is deeply to be regretted; it is a source of great sorrow to those who were obliged to employ him on the service he was so ready to undertake. Are we to be told that because this has happened England must turn aside from her policy? If disaster to an Army or the murder of an Envoy had turned England aside, England would never have attained to the position which she occupies. Not long ago our Envoy in the Naga Hills, with 40 or 50 of his suite, was massacred; but nobody suggested that we should give up the Naga Hills, or no longer employ Residents in that part of the country, because the people were of a treacherous character. The noble Duke says that because what the calls a fierce light has played upon the transactions in Afghanistan England is to swerve from the policy which the Government has adopted, and which, I will tell the noble Duke, it means to pursue. He tells us that we make excuses with respect to Russia, and that those excuses are false. When I heard the noble Duke speak of Russia as a Power not to be weighed in this matter, and then say that if Russia interfered in Afghanistan he would be ready to use force and drive her from it—when I find a Member of a Government which entered into negotiations with Russia again and again with the view of coming to some arrange- 1052 ment with respect to Afghanistan, and non-interference with it, talking of us as going cap in hand to Russia, and being guarantors of a rotten Empire—I must ask what was done by the Treaty of 1871? Did not that guarantee that rotten Empire to which he alluded? Does the noble Duke mean to say the Treaty of 1856 gave no guarantee? I think no one can doubt that the Treaty of 1856 was a guarantee of the integrity and independence of that country; and by the Government of which the noble Duke was a Member, its main stipulations were renewed in 1871. Then, with respect to the noble Duke's references to Shere Ali. He at last admits that after 1873 Shere Ali was sulky. The noble Duke told us that Shere Ali came asking for extreme concessions. I am far from saying that he did not. He asked a great deal more, I have no doubt, than he thought he would get. The noble Duke was then at the head of the India Office. He tells us that Native Envoys are much better than British ones. It appears that his Viceroy (the Earl of Northbrook) thought it worth consideration, and worth while pressing upon the Ameer's Envoy, that we should have British Residents in different towns of Afghanistan. It stands to reason that for the dominant power a Native never could be a better Representative. He could represent you in much; but not in the position of an English Ambassador, who would speak with authority on your behalf. The real point is with respect to the passage the noble Duke read from my despatch. I stated that the Ameer had asked for certain things which the Government of that day had refused; that the Government in India had been prepared to go further than the Government at home; and that, in consequence of a missive from home, they did not go so far. Upon that point I think I shall show what will justify my statement. The noble Duke was not present on a former occasion when I was told he had meant certain things. I cannot contradict any assumed understanding between the noble Duke and his Viceroy. Nor is it necessary to my argument to throw doubt upon their having meant what respectively they have said. I had to look to the Papers, and I confess it appeared to me that, according to them, the statement I made was correct. First of all, there comes the telegram which the 1053 noble Duke read of the 1st of July, 1873, from the Secretary of State to the Viceroy—Your telegram of the 27th June. I do not object to the general sense of the paragraph, which you quote as a communication to Russia from the Foreign Office; hut great caution is necessary in assuring Ameer of material assistance which may raise undue and unfounded expectation. He already shows symptoms of claiming more than we may wish to give."—[Afghanistan,No. 1, p. 108.]That being sent from home, it seemed to me that it put a check on the Viceroy in the first instance, and told him to be very cautious how far he admitted any of those demands for material assistance. On the 24th of July the Viceroy telegraphed to the Secretary of State—Ameer of Cabul alarmed at Russian progress, dissatisfied with general assurances [they were not specific as to material assistance], and anxious to know definitely how far he may rely on our help if invaded. I propose assuring him that if he unreservedly accepts and acts on our advice in all external relations we will help him with money, arms, and troops, if necessary, to expel unprovoked invasion. We to be the judge of the necessity. Answer by telegraph quickly.''—[Ibid.]There was a telegram specifying what they were prepared to do for the Ameer, and it would have been a simple matter to have sent an answer of approval; but what did the Government reply?—India Office, dated 26th July, 1873.Cabinet thinks you should inform Ameer that we do not at all share his alarm, and consider there is no cause for it; but you may assure him we shall maintain our settled policy in favour of Afghanistan, if he abides by our advice in external affairs."—[Ibid.]Material assistance is asked—money, arms, and troops; you reply that you will adhere to your "settled policy in favour of Afghanistan." "Favour," not even and support promised. What follows? There were conversations going on, and the noble Earl who was Viceroy (the Earl of Northbrook) wrote to the Ameer—I have had some conversation with your Envoy on the subject of the policy which the British Government would pursue in the event of an attack upon your Highness' territories. A copy of the record of these conversations is attached to this letter. But the question is, in my opinion, one of such importance, that the discussion of it should be postponed to a more suitable opportunity."—[Ibid.p. 116.]What is the meaning of that, "postponed to a more suitable opportunity," 1054 if a pledge has been given and a promise made? What was the question postponed? To that no reply has ever been given. What did the Ameer make of it? Did he say—"You have given me a promise in these conversations? You have gone beyond the promise of Lord Mayo?" Ear from it. He said—The friendly declaration of your Excellency to the effect that you will maintain towards myself the same policy which was followed by Lord Lawrence and Lord Mayo has been the cause of much gratification to me. My friend! under this circumstance of the case it was not necessary to hold all those conversations with Syud Noor Mahomed Shah at Simla. The understanding arrived at in Umballa is quite sufficient."—[Ibid.p. 119.]I ask anybody reading those documents, without any interpretation from those who wrote or received them, whether I did not give an accurate account of what appeared on the face of the documents—that the Viceroy of India had been prepared to give these assurances to the Ameer, that from home he was checked, and that eventually he said the matter was postponed to another opportunity? At all events, that is my reading of history, and I believe it to be a just and true one. There had not been any forcing of officers on Afghanistan when the Ameer refused them. What did my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) write on this subject?—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 be 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."—[Ibid.p. 224.]It was added that if, on the other hand, he continued to maintain an attitude of isolation and scarcely veiled hostility, the British Government stood unpledged, and would be at liberty to adopt such measures for the protection and permanent regulation of the North-Western Frontier as circumstances and due regard for our interests might dictate. That seems to me to be a perfectly intelligible position. It is assumed that Lord Mayo had come to a settled determination that he would not have European Agents in Afghanistan. I quite admit that his mind was against it, and that, on the 1055 whole, he thought it would not be beneficial. But how long had he been in India at the time? At the time of the Umballa Conferences he had had only a month or two to consider these great questions. He described his policy as an "intermediate policy." Anyone who knew that noble Lord would be perfectly certain that he would not come to a hurried conclusion in a single month as to what his policy ought to be. I have seen in the newspapers a letter Lord Mayo wrote to Sir Henry Rawlinson, which shows that his mind was still open on the subject, and that he had not concluded finally against sending European Agents into Afghanistan. Writing on the 10th of June, 1869, he said generally that he was opposed to sending European politicals, &c, and sceptical as to the propriety of placing a British Resident at Herat; but—I will reserve my opinion until I hear the reasons. I do not believe from what the Ameer said at Umballa that he would offer any opposition to an English Agent being placed at Candahar, Herat, or Balkh, though he would strongly object to the appearance of one at Cabul. But I do not think he wished for it anywhere, fearing the effect it might have on his own subjects.What Colonel Burne, Dr. Bellew, and Captain Grey have written of the conversations in Durbar shows that Lord Mayo had the question in his mind as one open to consideration, one on which he was ready to hear arguments, and that he did not consider himself precluded from doing so by any pledge or statement on the subject. It seems to me clear, from what is recorded of the Conferences, that if the Ameer could have obtained some of the concessions he desired he would have been ready to admit English officers to some of the towns of Afghanistan. The noble Duke interprets the Treaties as precluding us from urging the matter; but I read them differently. It was a question which was clearly open to re-consideration, and the Viceroy of the noble Duke (the Earl of Northbrook) was the person who re-opened it. The proceedings of 1877 were very long; they do not seem to me to be relevant on the present occasion, and they were fully discussed in 1878. What they amount to is this: A proposition was made, in conformity with the wish expressed by my noble Friend then at the head of the India Office (the Marquess of Salisbury), that English agents 1056 should be admitted into Afghanistan. The noble Earl, in the exercise of his right as Viceroy, resisted the proposal as inopportune, while admitting that advantages would be derived from carrying it out, and sent home reasons against it. The noble Duke, who groundlessly accused Lord Lytton of being a wild elephant carrying on a policy regardless of orders from home, praises the resistance offered to the Secretary of State by the noble Earl. The noble Duke says we made pretence of giving more than we really did give by the Treaty; but what is the real state of the case? The Envoy was furnished with copies of the Treaty, with all its conditions set out in full for him to consider and study, and the Ameer was as capable of understanding it as anyone in this House. He was quite awake as to what we offered to him, and he refused it. He knew that the foundation of negotiations was the admission of Residents into the Frontier cities of Afghanistan. He sent to us an Envoy, who passed his whole time in creating delays; and when he died, his Colleague was found to have no instructions and no authority to accept any terms. We are taunted with having then broken off all relations with the Ameer. We should have been wanting in self-respect had we not withdrawn from the negotiations; but we gave him an opportunity of reconsidering his position and of coming to a better mind. No pressure was put upon him; but he was left to himself. What then happened? A Russian Embassy appeared at Cabul, and in my mind we had then but one course to adopt. I must say that on this point we have had one of the most extraordinary publications that ever was penned, and that, too, from the Under Secretary of the noble Duke when he was at the head of Indian affairs. I was greatly amused when the noble Duke was saying that we did not seem to have a policy, and that we did not know how to deal with the difficulties which he said we had created, when I thought of the extraordinary pamphlet of Mr. Grant Duff. That gentleman seems to think that Liberals can do no wrong, and he certainly lives in a Paradise the entrance to which is not gained by wisdom. Mr. Grant Duff says that if the Liberals had been in Office none of these things would have happened. But he adds that if we had heard of the 1057 reception of a Russian Mission at Cabul, we should have said at St. Petersburg—Although this is not a direct breach of your agreement with Lord Clarendon in 1869, yet, under all the circumstances, you must see that it is not in accordance with the spirit of that agreement that you should be at Cabul just at this moment, and we must request you to withdraw.And Mr. Grant Duff most refreshingly adds—Such requests are always complied with by nations which do not mean to go to war.I assume by this that his polite request was to be enforced by war on our part. He then goes on—The next stop would have been to say to the Ameer in the most courteous language—'We have had but to say one word, and the Russian Mission disappears from your capital. Do not you think you had better got back into a good humour,' and very soon he would have been amenable as he was at Umballa.Even Mr. Grant Duff has to go back to the time of Lord Mayo. But this is the policy the noble Duke and his late Under Secretary would substitute for that which we have adopted. I am very reluctant to speak harshly with respect to a great country with which we are on terms of amity; but it cannot be denied that there was a correspondence kept up by Russia with Cabul for the purpose of fostering interest with the Ameer. What was it for? We had been told that Afghanistan was entirely beyond the sphere of Russian influence; but Russian messengers were constantly coming to the Ameer. Even the noble Duke is in favour of "a strong, independent, and friendly Afghanistan;" but we found we wore absolutely shut out, and that a Russian Mission was established in Cabul—that city in which we had been told it was impossible to receive Europeans, and to protect them from the assaults of fanatics. Yet for a long period a Russian Mission was there; the members of it wont freely about the town; were received everywhere with honour; they were loaded with presents, and it was obvious that the Russians were on the best terms with the Ameer. The noble Duke said that there was no need for us to interfere with Russia in Central Asia; and I say, as I did last year, that there was room for both of us in Central Asia, but not room for both in Afghanistan. The noble Duke must know that the Russian Mission was sent there for 1058 real and definite objects. Afghanistan was to be the basis for Russia to attack us. There is no doubt about it. No Russian would deny it. England, whose policy for 40 years had been that Afghanistan should be friendly, strong, and independent, was to find, her influence suddenly threatened or destroyed, the friendship and strength transferred to a hostile Power to which she would probably become dependent. What was our course? We were to stand by and request Russia to withdraw. Afghanistan, which was to be the buffer between us and Russia, had become an, instrument of Russia for our destruction. I do not think that, in the view of Lord Lawrence, the Afghans were ever much to be relied upon. Lord Lawrence expected that in case of invasion of India every Afghan would join in the attack. Was it not a serious matter, then, when a great military Power had put her hand on Afghanistan, which had the command of the Passes in India? The noble Duke said, with justice, we were most reluctant to go to war. We sent a Mission to Shere Ali. It was stopped, not, indeed, with insolent language, for the Afghan commander was a friend of Major Cavagnari; but he had orders to fire upon and repel it by force. The insult to us in the face of India was not less complete because it was not in words. We sent an Ultimatum, giving the Ameer an opportunity to retire from the position he had taken up. That was rejected. No answer came during the time allowed, and when it did come it was of such a character that it could not be received as any answer at all. Then we advanced on Afghanistan. To the great regret of many, we abstained from advancing upon the capital, which was a policy adopted lest we should break up the country. If I am asked whether it is only in the case of a strong and independent Afghanistan that we should have as effective a guarantee for the security of our Indian Empire as before, I will say that may be a matter of argument. When you have a strong man at the head of the State he is generally an ambitious man who wishes to work for himself and not to consider his neighbours. But when you have a weaker class to deal with, a class who may have to rely on you, you may have better means of controlling their foreign relations without interfering with their internal affairs. The noble 1059 Duke spoke as if my noble Friend the other night used language with respect to the former condition of Afghanistan which did not appear to be justified. But your Lordships will remember that it is a very short time since Afghanistan was united. Lord Lawrence, in a Minute dated November 28, 1868, says—The history of the country is a history of anarchy and civil war. The Suddozai brothers were always each other's worst enemies. Ameer Dost Mahomed Khan had the advantage of succeeding to a family which was hated and despised. He was at feud with some of his brothers, with whom he waged war, and whom he expelled the country. He had the utmost difficulty in controlling the others. He barely maintained a semblance of order to the end of his life. Long before his death, everyone had foreseen, he had himself predicted, commotion, conflict, and war to the death between his own sons. Can there really be a hope that we can bind together such discordant elements? Is there any Chief likely to come to the front whom it would be right for us to endeavour to maintain in full power over the country?"—[Ibid.p. 61.]Afghanistan, therefore, is of very recent cohesion, and was brought together by a strong man. Shere Ali, too, fought for his Throne for five or six years before he brought the whole of Afghanistan under his rule; but your Lordships will agree with me that over a great part of Afghanistan he had very little influence; though he was feudal superior he was very little else. Lord Lawrence, in the same Minute, says—It appears to me, also, that it will always be found exceedingly difficult, for any extended period, to maintain a united and strong Government in Afghanistan. The genius of the Chiefs and people, as evinced in the independent Pathan communities of the Border, is evidence to this effect. A Chief may now and then arise, who may for a time unite the different Provinces under one rule; but when he has passed away the tendency again will be to separation. With the single exception of the pressure of a common enemy, and even this circumstance will not always avail, there appear to be no ties to bind the Afghans together."—[Ibid.]With regard to what happened after that terrible catastrophe, which we all so deeply lament, the murder of our Envoy, I am sure there is not one of your Lordships who thinks that any course was open to us but one. Our Army had to retrace its steps and to go back and to take possession of Cabul and the neighbourhood. Yakoob Khan came into our camp and told General Roberts that he desired to abdicate; and after time given for deliberation, as he 1060 persisted, his abdication was accepted. At the best, he had been a helpless witness of the murder of sacred guests; but his conduct might almost be treated as connivance, and such a Ruler could not be a useful friend. "We had possession of Cabul, we were bound to administer it so far as we could, and to see that subordination should be kept up. A Proclamation was issued to that effect; but there has been no desire to repel the Native Sirdars. On the contrary, we invited them to come in and discuss with us the best mode of governing the country. And though it may be necessary that we should put down any Forces that may be brought against us in that part of Afghanistan, it is not impossible, nor even improbable, that we may be able to hand over the country to Sirdars who may be able to hold their own. With regard to the position of the noble Duke and myself, it must be remembered that the noble Duke has had a long time to prepare; and as it is not usual to apprise the enemy of one's movements, I had to wait until I knew what he would say before I could answer. My position was like that of our old Frontier. I could not tell by what Passes my opponent would break out. But one thing I assert—there has been no concealment about our policy, and I venture to say there has been no want of honesty about our policy. The noble Duke complains that the Papers were not published when they ought to have been. But they were published, and Parliament had a long discussion on the subject since the war closed. It is true the noble Duke was absent; but, having taken a great interest in the subject, he has written a book which he tells us nobody has answered. I do not know how many may have read it; but to many a busy man it is a task of no ordinary moment to get through a pamphlet in two bulky volumes—a more lengthened one to reply to it. And when I see the details into which the noble Duke has gone to-night, I feel that if I attempted to reply in equal detail, instead of being about to conclude, I should have gone on till midnight. With regard to some of the points referred to, I will say that we sent the Envoy to Cabul with the consent of Yakoob Khan himself, and the escort sent was considered by Sir Louis Cavagnari as sufficient for the purpose, and it was not considered as one at all likely 1061 to give offence. At first all seemed to go on well. But there were in Cabul disbanded regiments clamouring for their pay, and, no doubt, some persons or other hounded them on to attack the Envoy. I believe if the Ameer could have been aroused from his torpor and induced to take a part himself, as he was bound to do, for those under his protection, that calamity would never have occurred. But as it was, the rising was joined by more and more of the rabble of the town, and a regular siege was laid to the place where these heroic men were. Sir Louis Cavagnari seems to have fallen early, and the others fought bravely. One of them, a gallant young Irishman, more than two or three times endeavoured almost alone to charge the mob from the door of the Embassy, but at last he, too, fell; and I must for a moment pause to say with respect to that young man, having received a great deal of information on the subject, that he had a brilliant career before him; he understood well the business in which he was engaged, and he was not afraid of the consequences which his duty entailed upon him. They were, no doubt, ignorant of what was prepared for them, for up to the very last they had reason to trust the Ameer. Shortly before Sir Louis Cavagnari wrote in one of his letters that he believed that the Ameer would prove a good ally. But the outbreak was a sudden one. As to events tending to make the two Empires of Russia and England conterminous in Asia, it appears to me that we are between two tides, both of which appear to be rolling one towards the other; but if Russia is faithful to that which she has always said—that Afghanistan is outside the sphere of her influence—I see no reason why Afghanistan should not remain between ourselves and her as it has always done. We have taken up a position for the maintenance of our Border in India; we have taken it up irrevocably; and though the provisions of the Treaty of Gandamak may have perished, the principles of the Treaty remain, as has been said in the Speech from the Throne, and by those principles we mean to stand. The noble Duke knows, and no one better, how events control people, and how people are controlled by events. But I think the noble Duke was not justified in the way in which he has spoken of a noble Lord who is Viceroy in India, when 1062 he used such strong language and quoted the Ninth Commandment against him. That noble Lord is absent from this House; before another year has passed he may be here to answer for himself, and I think it would have been far better for the noble Duke to have waited to hear what was to be said before throwing out such an insinuation against a noble Lord who is absent and who is in a position of the greatest difficulty. The noble Duke knows very well that the crisis is of a dangerous and difficult character; but what does he do? He knows very well that the words of a former Secretary of State will ring through. India; and yet he tries to bring into contempt a Governor General, by doing which he really brings into contempt his country. He is, after all, the Representative of his country in India, and I cannot think it becomes the noble Duke, at a time of crisis, to use the strongest language and to impute a want of veracity and downright falsehood to the man who presides over the Indian Empire, an imputation which I am convinced will be found to be quite unjustifiable. In conclusion, I will only say this. We have been forced, for the sake of the protection of India, to take the steps which we have taken. We have violated no Treaty; we have infringed no pledges. We have used no force where it was unnecessary; we have broken no law, custom, Treaty, or pledge. I assent to the noble Duke's aphorism that an Englishman's word is as good as his bond; but I defy him to show me, when he goes through the Papers, that forfeiture of our word has taken place. We are now in this position. We hold the Frontiers of India strongly, and we hold the Passes by our own Forces. We have trusted others and they have failed us. We must become our own porters, and secure our own gates; and we are determined that, whatever may be the course of events, for the protection of our vast Dominion, we will continue to hold the advantages we have obtained.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, when the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) complains that the noble Duke has brought forward this subject to-night, he forgets that Members of the Cabinet have been going about the country making election speeches upon the very topics which he now argues ought not to be revived. I 1063 was somewhat amused when the noble Viscount endeavoured to explain the interpretation placed by him on certain documents which I received when I had the honour to hold the Office of Governor General of India. He apparently thinks that he is far more competent to interpret them than I am myself. I can only say again, and I do say most emphatically, that, having received an answer from the noble Duke, in his official capacity, to a question from me whether J. might give such assurances as I wished to the Ameer of Afghanistan, I gave those assurances. It seems now that the noble Viscount thinks that no assurances were given at all. That is quite a new doctrine, and I must repeat that, having been Governor General of India, and having had a solemn interview with the Minister of Shere Ali, I did give assurances which I meant to be, and considered to be, binding on the British Government. I must add that the interpretation put on that transaction by the noble Viscount is entirely different from that placed upon it by the Government of India. They did not by any means take the view that no promise had been given to Shere Ali; for in their despatch on May 10, 1877, they said—"The British Government were prepared to assure the Ameer that they would afford him assistance in money and arms." That passage entirely contradicts the statement of the noble Viscount, and if I wished for further evidence—for during his speech I began to think that I did not know what I had been doing—-I might turn to the evidence of the Envoy himself, who, at the Peshawur Conference, after explaining the circumstances of the case, said that at the third interview I gave him assurances which were perfectly clear and satisfactory. I regret that the noble Viscount should not candidly admit that his despatch was not accurate, instead of again attempting to defend it. Now, with regard to the criticism of the noble Viscount upon the noble Duke's interpretation of the Treaties with Dost Mahomed Khan, I can only say that I entirely concur in the view taken by the noble Duke, and hold with him that the Treaties were binding, and that they bound us not to use compulsion upon the Ameer for the purpose of sending British officers into Afghanistan. The noble Viscount has said that I desired to have British officers in that 1064 country. Certainly, had it been possible at that time, it would have been very desirable; but the difficulties were such that the Ameer declined to allow them to enter his dominions. My interpretation of the Treaties was, that in those circumstances I thought it would be wrong to use any compulsion upon the Ameer to induce him to receive them. The contention of the noble Duke was that compulsion was employed. Now, what is compulsion, and what is not? Is it compulsion to tell the Ameer that if he does not do what is wanted, the protection of the British Government will be withdrawn? If that is compulsion, that was done. Is it compulsion to withdraw every promise of protection that had been given to the Ameer by former Viceroys in the most solemn terms? If that is compulsion, that also was done. And yet the noble Viscount says that no compulsion has been used towards Shere Ali.
My Lords, it is not my intention to refer further to the causes of the Afghan War of 1878. I have given my reasons for objecting to the policy of Her Majesty's Government which preceded that war, and for thinking that the war itself was unnecessary and impolitic. Subsequent events have confirmed me in the opinions which I then expressed; but I do not wish unnecessarily to revert to transactions in which I was myself personally concerned. Putting aside, then, the War of 1878, I wish to submit to your Lordships' consideration some observations upon the events which have occurred since the death of Shere Ali Khan in February, 1879, and upon the present condition of Afghanistan. I shall only allude to the military operations in order to express my hearty admiration of the gallantry and discipline of the officers and men, British and Native, who have been engaged in them. I feel confident that it will be the earnest desire both of the Government of India and of Her Majesty's Government to treat the troops with liberality in any questions that may arise relating to their pay and allowances; and I hope the report that I have seen is correct, that those Native regiments which have now been continuously employed in Afghanistan for some time will shortly be relieved. I need not dwell upon the reasons which make such reliefs essential in order to maintain the efficiency 1065 and popularity of the Native Army of India. Turning to political events, I do not see what else the Government of India could have done, after the death of Shere Ali Khan, than to enter into negotiations with his son Yakoob, who appears to have been generally recognized in Afghanistan as his successor. The position of Yakoob, however, at that time was very insecure; and as soon as we were satisfied of his sincere desire for peace, and had determined to enter into negotiations with him, it was clearly to our interest to strengthen his authority. I do not think, my Lords, that the measures which were taken by the Government of India, probably under the instructions of Her Majesty's Government, were well calculated to do this. Cessions of Afghan territory were insisted upon from Yakoob, in spite of his almost pathetic appeals to the generosity of, to use his own phrase, the "strong and grand British Government." Any cession of territory is notoriously unpopular in Afghanistan, and the acceptance by Yakoob of our terms in this particular must greatly have weakened his position at Cabul. I know, my Lords, that the territory in question was considered by Her Majesty's Government to be desirable in order to strengthen the North-Western Frontier of India. I think it was right to retain complete control over the Afridi Tribes, so as to secure the command of the Khyber Pass; but this involved no cession of Afghan territory. We have been furnished with no opinions from the Commander-in-Chief or other military authorities in India with regard to the other territorial arrangements of the Treaty of Gandamak. Pending any further reasons which may be forthcoming, those arrangements appear to me either to be of no advantage in themselves, or of no advantage sufficient to counterbalance the serious disadvantage that they weakened our moral and political position in Afghanistan. After the conclusion of the Treaty of Gandamak, I think that the Government of India were ill-advised in sending a British Embassy to Cabul so soon. The arrival of the Embassy, the announcement that Yakoob Khan was about to visit the Provinces of Afghanistan, accompanied by the British Envoy, and that he was to pay his respects to the Viceroy at Calcutta in the winter, were just the very 1066 things which were most likely to rouse the apprehensions of the people of Afghanistan—jealous, as all mountaineers are, of their independence—to strengthen the fanatical party opposed to the British alliance, and to weaken the position of the Ameer. I am satisfied that the wise course would have been not to have insisted upon any cessions of Afghan territory at Gandamak, and, while reserving the right to send British officers as Envoys or Residents into Afghanistan, to have waited until Yakoob had more effectually established his authority in Cabul before using that right. We might with advantage, at the same time, have assisted him with such supplies of money as he might have required. If some such policy as I have indicated had been followed, I believe that a peace as permanent as any that could be made with such a country as Afghanistan might have been concluded in the spring of 1879, and that the events which we all of us now deplore might, in all human probability, have been avoided.
My Lords, I do not desire to dwell upon the fate of the British Embassy at Cabul, save for the purpose of expressing my sense of the loss which the Queen has sustained by the death of Sir Louis Cavagnari, whose high character and great ability are well known; and of the members of the Embassy, all of them men of distinction and high promise. I will add one word in recognition of the gallantry of the Native escort who gave their lives in the unavailing defence of the Residency. Those Native officers and men have added another noble feat to the record of deeds of daring and devotion which form the proud history of the Queen's own Corps of Guides. It is, however, only just to the memory of Shere Ali Khan, the late Ameer of Afghanistan, that I should observe how completely the objection raised by him and his father, Dost Mahomed Khan, to the reception of British Residents in Afghanistan, on the ground that their safety could not be insured against fanatical attacks, has been justified by recent events. The members of the British Embassy at Cabul have been murdered, and there have been frequent fanatical attacks upon British officers and men in Candahar, in one of which Lieutenant Willis, of the Royal Artillery, was killed. The massacre of the Embassy made it necessary to send a British 1067 Army to Cabul in order to punish the guilty persons, for Yakoob Khan was evidently too weak to fulfil this duty. This has been done. Cabul and Candahar have been occupied; and there cannot, at the present time, be less than 50,000 British and Native troops in Afghanistan. Yakoob Khan abdicated on the 12th of October last, and since that time supreme authority in Afghanistan has been exercised by the British Government. The terms of the Proclamation by which this was announced were sent to India by Her Majesty's Government, and promulgated on the 28th of October, and the position has remained unchanged during the four months that have since passed. An announcement was made in the Proclamation that, after consulting with the principal Chiefs of the country, the British Government "would declare its will as to the future permanent arrangements for the good government of the people;" but no such declaration has yet been made. It is clear, from all the news which has recently arrived, that some decided expression of policy is absolutely necessary in order to satisfy the people of Afghanistan, and to guide the actions of the British officers employed there. There have, no doubt, been difficulties in the way of making any such declaration before. But the position of affairs now appears to afford a favourable opportunity. The season of the year prevents active operations in the field. The best opinions, especially that of Sir Gholam Hussein Khan, seem to indicate that it is unlikely that any other combination of equal strength to that which failed last Christmas can be organized against us. Our military position ought by this time to be secure, if only our Forces be not frittered away in small detachments about the country. I, therefore, heard with great satisfaction the announcement made to your Lordships the other night by the Prime Minister that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is "opposed to annexation" and "in favour of the people of Afghanistan being governed by their own Chief or Chiefs." I trust that when the Prime Minister addresses your Lordships tonight he will tell us that this announcement, which has been so distinctly made in this House, will be make known without delay with equal distinctness to the people of Afghanistan. Your Lordships may, perhaps, expect that I should 1068 give some indication of the manner in which, in my opinion, the affairs of Afghanistan can best be settled. I should be glad indeed to assist Her Majesty's Government to the best of my knowledge and ability; but I have not sufficient information to enable me to speak with any confidence upon matters of detail. For reasons of which I am not aware, no official information of any importance upon the political condition of Afghanistan has been communicated to Parliament in the Papers which have been placed upon our Table by Her Majesty's commands. We have no despatches from Sir Donald Stewart, who appears to have managed affairs in Candahar with great ability and good judgment; none from Major St. John, the political officer at Candahar; none from Sir Frederick Roberts, which enter at any length into the political condition of the neighbourhood of Cabul; none from the political officers at Cabul, Jellalabad, or Peshawur; none from the officers employed in the Kurram Valley. Under these circumstances, the only opinions which I can venture to offer must be very short and very general. It appears to me, looking both to military and to political considerations, that it will not be wise to extend the area of our present liabilities in Afghanistan. I look with some anxiety, therefore, to the results which may follow from the despatch of an Afghan Governor in the British interest into Afghan Turkestan, with British money, and protected by Native levies raised in the country. I think to raise any considerable force of such levies would prove a source of embarrassment, and possibly even of danger. I think it would be particularly unwise and detrimental to British interests to extend our liabilities still further by permitting or encouraging Persia to occupy Herat. In the first place, I cannot see by what right the British Government can dispose of Herat. That city does not belong to them. It lies 350 miles from the British Force in Candahar, and has not been conquered by us. I think that it is unlikely that Persia would undertake to obtain possession of Herat without some guarantee on the part of the British Government. It is our interest and our desire, no doubt, to see Persia prosperous, and to maintain the most friendly relations with her; but, to put the matter in the mildest terms, I can see 1069 nothing in the present conditions of Persia which makes it desirable for the British Government to undertake the liabilities which would be involved by such a guarantee. Lastly, my Lords, the suggestion is contrary to the policy which has been steadily pursued by successive British Governments for many years. I do not say that circumstances might not justify a change in that policy; but I desire to point out that it rests upon solid grounds. Moreover, at the present time, the British occupation of Afghanistan is regarded with less hostility at Candahar than elsewhere. I know that the feeling among the Afghans of those parts is very hostile to the Persians, who are of a different religious faith, and who have constantly been at feud with them. I can imagine no rumour which is more likely to set against us Afghans of influence at Candahar and elsewhere than that it is our intention to encourage Persia to occupy Afghan territory. My Lords, if we wish to stand well with the Afghans, and to leave behind us a friendly Afghanistan, so far as recent unfortunate events will admit of it, I feel assured that nothing can be more politic than that the Prime Minister should assure your Lordships to-night, not only, as he did the other day, that no arrangement has actually been made for the occupation of Herat by Persia, but that such a project, if it has ever been entertained, has been definitely abandoned. With regard to Herat, I will only say further that the policy of the British Government, for more than one generation, has been clear and decided—namely, that that city cannot be permitted to come into the possession of Russia. The Russian Government are well aware of this; and it cannot, in my opinion, be too plainly declared. My Lords, I regret that the policy of Her Majesty's Government, adopted contrary to the advice of all those who had any knowledge of Afghanistan, should have had the effect of destroying the condition of that country, which, I believe, was the best for the interests of India. I mean that the whole of Afghanistan should be under the government of a single Ruler. It is probable that, as indicated in one of the despatches of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook), the country may now, for a time at least, become again divided, as it has been before; but, in my judg- 1070 ment, the Afghans are more likely to come to some tolerable settlement of their internal affairs, if left to themselves, than by means of our intervention.
My Lords, the apprehension of danger to India, from the advance of Russia in Central Asia, naturally disposes people in England to approve of any policy which has for its object the defence of the Indian Empire, of which we are all so proud. I will venture to make a few observations to your Lordships upon this subject. Danger to India from Russia may arise, in the first place, from an invasion. That invasion is impossible. I do not know that the reasons showing how groundless such an alarm is can be more pithily put than in the words used by the Prime Minister at the Mansion House in November, 1878. On that occasion, the noble Earl said—The base of operations is so remote, the communications so difficult, and the aspect of the country so forbidding, that we have long arrived at the opinion that the invasion of the Empire by passing the mountains, which form our North-Western Frontier, is one which we need not dread.The experience which we have ourselves gained since that time, of the difficulty of providing transport and supplies for the Force which we have sent into Afghanistan—a small Force compared with the Army which would be required for an invasion of India—should, I think, be sufficient to re-assure anyone who may be doubtful upon this matter. Indeed, such an invasion, although it may be occasionally used as the basis of popular appeals, has never been dwelt upon as a serious contingency by any person of authority who has either spoken or written upon the subject. But, it is said, although an invasion is impossible, we have all heard of Russian intrigues; these are what we fear, and these we must take steps to counteract. Such intrigues, my Lords, must be either within or without British India. I have never heard of any evidence of Russian intrigues in India. Such intrigues, if they should be attempted, will never succeed so long as the people of India are well-governed, and the Native Princes and Chiefs are treated with sympathy and justice. No foreign intrigues need be feared in a country where the people are prosperous and contented. But these intrigues may be outside India, and particularly in Afghanistan. My Lords, in my opinion, no 1071 Russian intrigues are likely to have any effect upon the people of Afghanistan. Those who apprehend this judge from what they have seen of Russian influence in European Turkey; but forget that while, in the one case, there was a population of the same religion and race as the Russians, in the other, the people differ from the Russians in race, religion, and habits. If it be said that Russian intrigues will be, and have been, used, not with the people of Afghanistan, but with the Ruler of the country, I answer that undoubtedly such intrigues may arise—it is impossible to guarantee the good faith and friendliness of all Afghans. The real question is, whether such intrigues are likely to do us any serious injury, and how they can best be met? I read in the Indian papers the other day the story, which it seems from what he has said to-night that the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) believes, of an agreement said to have been made between Shere Ali Khan and some Russian Agent for the invasion of India. Probably, like most other stories, it has no foundation in fact; but I wish to observe that to one who knows anything of the Afghan power such an idea is simply ridiculous. The Regular troops of Afghanistan have never been able to hold their own against our troops in the field, and if they ventured into the plains of India they would be swept away like chaff before the wind. The real strength of the Afghans consists in their irregular levies, which are formidable in their own country, but useless for purposes of attack beyond it. My Lords, it is a popular error which is worth correcting that Afghanistan is our immediate neighbour in the North-West. That is not so. Our neighbours, for the most part, are Tribes either entirely independent of the Ameer of Afghanistan or yielding him only a nominal allegiance. No Russian intrigues are likely to affect those Tribes if they are dealt with firmly and considerately by us. I well remember once having to consult the principal officers of the Punjab on the question whether our North-Western Frontier would be disturbed if the Ameer of Afghanistan were known to be unfriendly; and they told me that they did not think it would make any serious difference in the conduct of the Tribes. The experience of the last four years has shown that they were right. Any interference of Russian officers in Afghanistan would be very 1072 unpopular among the people. The Government of India have assured us that "all the national sentiments and prejudices" of the Afghans were opposed to the intimacy of Shere Ali Khan with Russia in 1878; and, as was the case with him, a Ruler who introduced Russian officers into his country would assuredly endanger the stability of his position. One thing at least, my Lords, is clear—that it would be of no advantage to us that we should invade the country whose Ruler we might suspect of intrigues. To do this would exchange the temporary inconvenience of the faithlessness of an individual for the real evil of the hostility of a nation.
My Lords, I must say a very few words upon the subject of Merv. Six years ago, when I was in India, I was anxious that the Russian Government should be dissuaded, if possible, from advancing to Merv. That they had a just cause of quarrel then with the Turkomans I know, because some Russian prisoners were detained at Merv, whose relief I tried to effect through the good offices of Shere Ali Khan; but whether he succeeded or not I have never heard. My reason for wishing the Russians not to go to Merv was, not that I had any apprehensions of that place, in its present condition and that of the country which surrounds it, becoming a base of operations against India, but because the Turkomans, if driven out of Merv by the Russians, would have taken refuge in Afghanistan, and not improbably have given rise to troubles between Russia and Afghanistan, which I wished to prevent. My Lords, I trust that there is no foundation for the idea that the British Government are disposed, directly or indirectly, to assist the Turkoman Tribes against Russia. We have, in my opinion, no more right to interfere there than the Russians have to interfere with our operations in Afghanistan. But, besides this, I have no hesitation in asserting that to ally ourselves with the Turkomans would be a disgrace to this country. Their principal source of wealth consists in plunder, and slaves, whom they carry off by raids upon their neighbours, especially the Persians, and hand over to the slave merchants who supply the slave bazaars of Central Asia. I know not what the cause of the Russian quarrel with them now is; but this I know—that by means of the extension of Russian power and influence over 1073 what are called the Khanates of Bokhara, Khiva, and Khokand, this inhuman traffic in slaves has been greatly checked, and that after the conquest of Khiva by Russia many thousands of Persian slaves were restored to liberty. Any noble Lord who desires to know more of these Turkomans will find much information in Dr. Bellew's travels in Persia in 1873, to which allusion has already been made by the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll). I feel sure that if the true character and history of the Turkomans were generally known, no one would recommend that they should receive any countenance or protection from this country.
My Lords, the opinion which I have expressed, that there is no danger of a Russian attack upon India, or of any serious result from Russian intrigues with our neighbours, does not imply that I am insensible to the critical position of the relations between England and Russia in Asia at the present moment. "We have advanced from India into Afghanistan. We hear of the assembly of Russian troops in Russian Turkestan. Troubles may arise in Afghan Turkestan, possibly actually, certainly supposed to be, fomented by Russian influences. "Within a few months we shall be so placed that any day the indiscretion of some officer, or the caprice of some Asiatic Chief, may produce a situation in which one of two high-spirited nations may have either to submit to what may appear to be a rebuff and a humiliation, or to appeal to arms. Is it necessary, my Lords, that this should continue? Can no stop be put to a rivalry which is detrimental to the interests of both countries? To anyone who looks beyond the events of the moment, there is something almost appalling in the position of the British and Russian Empires in Asia. These two gigantic forces, which have hitherto moved, each in its own sphere, over the mountains and plains of Asia, diffusing, on the whole, peace and order over countries which were formerly the prey of anarchy and rapine, appear now to be impelled by some fatal attraction to meet in deadly conflict. It is the duty and the privilege of statesmen at the head of affairs to foresee and to avert such calamities. Within the last two years we have been on the verge of war with Russia, and susceptibilities have unavoidably been aroused on both sides. 1074 But the Treaty of Berlin is now a matter of history. Peace is the plain interest of Russia, as it is also the plain interest of England. It is, in my humble opinion, the imperative duty of Her Majesty's Government to lose no time in putting an end, so far as in them lies, to the present condition of affairs, the danger of which I have endeavoured to indicate; and they could have no better instrument for their purpose than Her Majesty's Ambassador at St. Petersburg. The noble Earl the Prime Minister, four years ago, in the House of Commons, used wise and peaceful language with regard to British and Russian interests in Asia. I trust that he will repeat the same sentiments to-night, and give your Lordships some assurance that those sentiments will be, or have already been, accompanied by diplomatic action. Such an announcement would, I am convinced, be greeted by the solid approval of the people of England.
§ LORD HAMMOND
said, if Persia were allowed to possess Herat, the engagements into which Russia had entered with England not to interfere in Afghanistan would no longer avail to prevent her interfering with Herat, for it would then be no longer Afghan territory. Moreover, Herat having become part of Persia, Russia would have a right, under the 10th Article of the Treaty of Turkomanchai of February 21, 1828, to appoint a Cousul or commercial Agent to reside there, with a suite not exceeding 10 persons; and to the exercise of that right England could raise no objection, for we had claimed a similar right of Consular appointments, and exercised it, under the "most favoured nation"—the 9th—clause of our Treaty with Persia, of March 4, 1857. Under our previous Treaty of 1814, we could only have a Consul General at Tabreez, a Consul at Teheran, and an Agent at Bushire. But by our Treaty of 1857, we were enabled to claim the same privileges in regard to Consular appointments that Russia had secured by the Treaty of Turkomanchai, and asserted it by the appointment in 1858 of a Consul at Resht. It appears from the Blue Book respecting Persia issued some years ago that Colonel Sheil, in a despatch dated May 4, 1852, pointedly called the attention of the then Secretary of State, Lord Malmesbury, to the fact that— 1075Herat being annexed to Persia, Russia enjoys the right, from which England is excluded, of placing a Consul in that city.
§ LORD STRATHNAIRN
said, the Opposition speakers exhibited remarkable reticence with respect to the designs of Russia, whose name they hardly mentioned. [The noble Lord was understood to review the historical relations of Russia with Afghanistan and Persia, with the view of showing what the designs of Russia were, and how persistently they were pursued.]
§ LORD NAPIER OF MAGDALA
My Lords, it is not my intention to enter again on the question as to who was the cause of Shere Ali's estrangement; but I was well acquainted with all the official Correspondence on the subject at the time, and I am quite satisfied that we had a sufficient and legitimate cause for going to war with the Ameer. When he received a Russian Ambassador, refused to admit our Embassy, and in other ways evinced hostility, it was quite time to bring him to reason.Ministerial Cheers.] He had raised a large Force of Regular troops, had constructed fortifications, and collected large stores of war materials. Had we remained quiescent, the Russian Embassy would soon have been followed by Russian officers, and a formidable Force might have boon created, which would have been a serious danger to our North-West Frontier in case of our being occupied in any other quarter. I have read an account of a gallant officer in South Africa, who was sent to hold a Pass, and to arrest a certain fugitive Chief. He was strictly ordered not to fire first. Accordingly, he occupied the Pass, and, faithful to his instructions, permitted the enemy to climb the hills on either side, and to take up every position of advantage behind rocks and trees; and, when they could cover the officer and his party, opened fire, and drove them out with the loss of half their number. The position of that officer's party was similar to that which some would have made us hold in India; but the Government of India would not accept it, attacked the danger in good [time, and put an end to it. Regarding the Treaty of Gandamak, I must say that I would have carried the Frontier a great deal farther had I had the direction of it; but I gave the Government credit for extreme moderation, and an earnest desire to establish a friendly Ruler in Afghan- 1076 istan. With regard to the attacks of fanatics, the same thing occurred on our first occupation of the Punjaub; some even broke into the barracks, and killed a few European soldiers before they were themselves destroyed. The same apprehensions of perpetual hostility were then entertained; but matters soon quieted down. There is nothing to cause apprehension of our position in Afghanistan. Cabul is quiet at present, and furnishing plentiful supplies. General Bright is received peaceably in the Lughman Valley, and Candahar is governed by General Stewart to the satisfaction of the people. I trust Her Majesty's Government will not withdraw from Afghanistan until perfect tranquillity has been restored, and until they can be assured of a Ruler who will be a safe and friendly neighbour.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
said, he did not rise to make any reply to the observations of the noble and gallant Officer who had just addressed their Lordships (Lord Napier of Magdala); but as some of his remarks had been cheered by noble Lords opposite, he should await with some curiosity the reply which would be made by Her Majesty's Government to the very wide statements of policy which the noble and gallant Lord's speech had disclosed. There were two omissions in the speech of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook). He did not give any description of the success which had attended the policy of the Government, and he also abstained from giving any indication of the policy which the Government now intended to pursue. He (the Marquess of Ripon) knew very well when they endeavoured to show that, up to the present time, the Government policy had been unsuccessful, their Friends were in the habit of replying that they had had misfortunes, and the noble Earl the Prime Minister, on the opening night of the Session, had also advanced that plea; but it could not be said to afford the Government any excuse, for those misfortunes had all along been predicted by those who had most knowledge and experience in Indian affairs as the necessary result of their Afghan policy. For a long time they had had no distinct statement of what the policy of the Government was. No two Ministers described it alike. Ultimately, however, there were three points on which Her Majesty's Government were generally agreed as the bases 1077 of their policy. The first was to make Afghanistan a strong, independent, and friendly neighbour; the second was to acquire a "scientific Frontier;" and the third was to obtain the right—which was the fixed object of the noble Marquess whose absence they all regretted (the Marquess of Salisbury)—of keeping officers in the various towns and cities of Afghanistan. The Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. E. Stanhope) made a very jubilant speech in the House of Commons on the 14th of August last, in which he said, not that Her Majesty's Government desired, but that they had got, this strong, friendly, and independent Afghanistan. His words were—The policy lately pursued had gained for this country a friendly, an independent, and a strong Afghanistan."—[3Hansard,ccxlix. 1018.]His (the Marquess of Ripon's) answer to that was that instead of those objects being obtained the policy of the Government had made Afghanistan weak with the weakness of anarchy; had made it hostile with all the hostility of a blood-feud burned into the people's hearts by the flames of their desolated villages, and had destroyed its independence by the overthrow of its government, the imprisonment of its Ruler, and the occupation of the country. In confirmation of this, he would quote as an authority Sir Henry Rawlinson, the "veiled prophet," who sat in the India Office, and sent forth his prophecies to the world inThe Nineteenth Century,to be followed afterwards by the acts of Her Majesty's Government, and who had said, on that point, that the disintegration of Afghanistan had scattered to the winds the prospect so long entertained of a strong, friendly, and independent Power on our North-West Frontier. The noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) had said that evening that he was not so sure that a united Afghanistan now was of any use; and he put forward the novel doctrine that it would be better it should be broken up into a number of independent Chieftainships. As to the "scientific Frontier," the noble Earl at the head of the Government had said, even before the Treaty of Gandamak was signed, that that Frontier was obtained, and had described it as invulnerable. But if the Government had got an invulnerable Frontier, why could they 1078 not rest behind it and be satisfied? Scarcely, however, had the words of the noble Earl, in which, on the first night of the Session, he repudiated annexation, reached their ears, when they were informed byThe Timesthat the Government were engaged in negotiations with Persia which seemed to point to an entire reversal of the policy of the last 50 years, and which involved schemes relating to places far beyond the "scientific Frontier." Who were the military authorities who considered the Frontier invulnerable? He listened with the greatest interest to hear what the noble and gallant Lord who spoke from the Cross-Benches (Lord Napier of Magdala) would say, and he observed that the noble and gallant Lord carefully abstained from saying either that he approved the Frontier, or thought it invulnerable. Military men, like General Hamley, speaking from a purely scientific point of view, had condemned the Frontier, and said something quite different ought to have been taken; and even Sir Henry Rawlinson now told us, inThe Nineteenth Century,that it was necessary to occupy both Candahar and Cabul. Thus the "scientific Frontier" still required to be supplemented by successive aggressions upon Afghanistan. Lord Lawrence, that great and illustrious statesman whose loss all England now deplored, had told them, from his experience, that if they sent an Envoy to Cabul he would be kept in ignorance of all that was going on, and would probably be murdered. The Blue Book that had been laid on the Table showed that the gallant Sir Louis Cavagnari was ignorant of the danger up to the last hour, and was, unfortunately, sacrificed to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. One thing he hoped would be the result of our late experience—that the Government would not send gallant men to occupy such posts with inadequate escorts. If the Government wanted to send them, they must send them with Armies. He thought, from all that had happened, he was justified in saying that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had completely broken down; and, if so, he would ask what they were seeking now? The noble Viscount said that there had been no concealment on the part of the Government in these transactions. But if their Lordships carried back their memories to 1877 they would find that Her Majesty's Government re- 1079 sorted to every device to evade and to stifle inquiry. Even during the last year, when the war had broken out, and when the transactions of 1877 had been brought to light, the Government had still been as chary as possible of declarations of policy, and not till after the Treaty of Gandamak had any clear declaration been made. How did matters stand now? His noble Friend the late Governor General of India (the Earl of Northbrook) had expressed his satisfaction on hearing the Prime Minister on the first night of the Session say that the policy of the Government was opposed to annexation; but the statement they had just heard from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India was not so explicit, and he (the Marquess of Ripon), therefore, trusted that before the debate closed they would hear plainly from the Government what were the objects that they still desired to obtain in Afghanistan. He was well aware of the difficulties by which the Government were beset, and the complications in which they were involved; but he believed that they would best overcome those difficulties and escape from those complications if they spoke plainly and 'clearly as to their intentions. He was convinced it would be to the advantage of the Government to declare their policy, and that to do so would be in accordance with constitutional usage. By such candour they might obtain from Parliament, not a blind confidence, but a confidence intelligent and reasoned. The greatest needs of India were tranquillity and economy. The first duty of her Government was to husband her finances, and to promote the simplest elements of the well-being of her people. The condition of the country afforded small scope for showy schemes or feats of high policy. The pressing work to be done was hard, dreary, and unostentatious. But it was vital; and it ought to be the great aim alike of the Government and of Parliament to bring to an end these unhappy complications beyond our Frontier, in order that the whole strength and thought of the Indian Government might be devoted to their true task.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the state of your Lordships' Benches appears to me to indicate something of unreality in this debate, and I am not surprised that such is the case. At an earlier period of the evening, when the House was much fuller than it is 1080 now, the debate introduced by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) took a scope which was more extended than either the period at which we have arrived or the Notice put on the Paper warranted. Just 15 months ago, there was in this House one of the most interesting and lengthened debates we have had for some years. It was commenced by Lord Halifax. During the present debate I watched the course taken by the noble Duke. He commenced at the usual hour of Business, and by the time the clock indicated the hour of 7 he had, in one continuous stream, gone over the whole ground—the history of the old Treaties with Afghanistan, of the Umballa Conferences, the Conference of 1873, the Conference with Sir Lewis Pelly, and the question whether we were or were not at liberty to propose to send a Resident into Afghanistan. He quoted citation after citation, what was said and what was written on that subject; but every one, I believe, of the quotations which the noble Duke used to-night were used in the debate 15 months ago. They were advanced by those who agreed with him, and answered by those who differed from him. The debate was kept up with great vigour. The noble Earl, lately Governor General of India, stated, with the greatest detail, his views on every point raised. I was allowed to reply to those noble Lords, who then advanced the arguments which the noble Duke has advanced to-night. I do not doubt that I did not convince those who differed from me, any more than did their arguments convince me. What I do know is that at the termination of the debate there was a majority against the views of the noble Duke, larger than any majority that I remember in modern years on any great public question. Over 200 voted against the views of the noble Duke, and something more than 60 for them. A debate also on the same question took place in the other House, and there a verdict was given against his views by a majority nearly double that by which the House of Commons usually supports the Government. The noble Duke addresses us with an energy and eloquence which we all admire. He was deficient to-night in neither the one nor the other quality; yet he must have felt for once that his arguments fell flat on the ears of his audience, because the House was conscious that these questions had been settled months and years ago. No doubt, 1081 he has suffered the disadvantage of not being present on the occasion to which I have referred. At that time, I believe, he was in hopeless correspondence with the newspapers. The noble Duke afterwards published two volumes, which enter into the same question. But that is not all. Returning to this country, he re-opened the question on a Motion for Papers, in the spring or summer of last year; and on that occasion he stated in full detail the views he has advanced to-night. This, therefore, is absolutely the fourth time when the views he takes have been more or less elaborately brought before your Lordships' attention. With regard to the debate of 1878, and, indeed, every debate, I may make one observation. It is always an advantage, after a conflict has arisen of opinion and argument, to ascertain, if you can, whether there are any great and cardinal points upon which this conflict shows there is identity or similarity of opinion between the two contending Parties. The result of what occurred in the debate of 1878, I think, showed that there were two points upon which, on both sides of the House, there was, in the main, great similarity of opinion. Both these points have been referred to to-night, and Lord Lawrence expressed his opinion upon them in the course of the debate of 1878. He is one of those who have been accused of inactivity. Now, I never thought that was a just statement with regard to Lord Lawrence. Indeed, I have never heard any person express more strongly than he did the opinion that it was vital to our interests in India to protect Afghanistan from foreign influence and from foreign encroachment. But the question was as to the way in which that should be done; and it was there, and only there, that he differed from those who supported the views of Her Majesty's Government. What was Lord Lawrence's opinion on that subject? He repeated in this House the opinion he had expressed some years before. He had said before that we should endeavour to come to some mutual arrangement with Russia with respect to Afghanistan; but failing such an arrangement, we should give Russia to understand that an advance towards India would "entail on her war in all parts of the world with England." That was Lord Lawrence's opinion, and he re- 1082 peated it in this House in debate. He admitted the correctness of a quotation from one of his letters, to the effect that if Russia got possession of Afghanistan it would be the cause of trouble to us in India, and said he considered that we should do all in our power to avert that state of things, that we should come to an arrangement with Russia; but that if Russia would not enter into such an arrangement with us in regard to Afghanistan, or having done so should violate the understanding, then that "ulterior measures should be taken in England to protect India." Lord Lawrence was not against activity; but he wished that that activity should be in England. Now, we agree with Lord Lawrence in saying that Afghanistan should be protected from foreign influence and from foreign encroachment; but we thought the best way to protect Afghanistan was, not by threatening Russia with war in all parts of the world, but by strengthening our Frontiers in Afghanistan, and thereby giving us at once an influence over Afghanistan, and protection for ourselves, supposing our position was attacked. I maintain—and I believe I shall have the assent of an enormous majority in your Lordships' House when I affirm it—that, of the two policies, that of Lord Lawrence is the more dangerous, and that of the Government the safer. I mention this to show that on that point there was an agreement between the two sides of the House as to the end to be attained, and that the only difference was as to how it should be done. But there is another point on which an agreement, and that a remarkable one, is to be found. It turned out, in the course of the debate, that upon the point of having Residents in Afghanistan the only difference between the Government of India as it stood under the late Governor General and the Government of India as it now is, was a question of time and of circumstance. The noble Earl the late Governor General of India was of opinion that circumstances might occur which would justify us sending a Resident into Afghanistan, and giving her assurances of protection against encroachments from without. The Governor General and his Council were of opinion that if Russia advanced to Mery the time would have come when we must have a Resident at Herat. Well, then, is there not an end to this decla- 1083 mation about immorality and breach of faith on the part of our Government in proposing that there should be a Resident in Afghanistan, when the only question is as to the time the Resident should be sent? It was 7 o'clock before the noble Duke ended his retrospect on these questions, which were all argued and settled in 1878. At 7 o'clock he said he would now come to the subject of his Motion; and I must allow that, after an hour and three-quarters, it was nearly time. He said his object was to call attention to the consequences which had resulted from the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and I listened with great attention to hear what those consequences were. With regard to the consequences, there are three matters which, in my humble judgment, might be referred to. One was the Treaty of Gandamak. That is a consequence, no doubt, of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Another matter was the sending of Sir Louis Cavagnari to Cabul, and his unfortunate fate there; while a third is the war which has since taken place, and the military occupation now going on. These are the consequences which have flowed from the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and what were the observations of the noble Duke about these? He never mentioned the Treaty of Gandamak. He did not criticize it or say it was open to censure, and other noble Lords who have spoken scarcely referred to it at all. Indeed, no speaker to-night has found fault with that Treaty, unless it were the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook), who did me the honour to turn his back upon me during his speech, so that I did not hoar one word he said. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Ripon) said Sir Henry Rawlinson disagreed with the Treaty; but he did not say whether he agreed with Sir Henry Rawlinson in that respect. With regard to Sir Louis Cavagnari, I own I can hardly mention his name without emotion. I do not know whether your Lordships have all read the diary and narrative letters given by Sir Louis Cavagnari as to his residence at Cabul. I confess I never read anything which touched me more, having regard to what was his fate. They were written in the words, simple and unaffected, of an English gentleman and soldier, who went about without nervousness, excitement, or ostentation, 1084 simply doing the business he was sent to do, and endeavouring to bring about the best result he could. That is a happy country which produces such sons, and that country is to be pitied which loses such a son. Our sending an Envoy to Cabul, and not to one of the other places originally intended by the Government, was the work of the Ameer himself. He said—"I should prefer his being at Cabul, because he will be with me and under my protection." I do not agree with those who think the escort was too small. It would have been most unwise to have made it stronger, for the Ameer himself declared that a small escort would give to the Envoy greater safety than would a larger following. This was certainly the case as far as Sir Louis Cavagnari was concerned. It was thought to be the best arrangement that could be made, and I cannot speak without great pain of the circumstances which followed, particularly as far as the Bala Hissar was concerned. It was said that the presence of the Envoy was much disliked by the people of Cabul. I will not say that in the evidence published in the Blue Book there may not be expressions implying that there might be such a feeling; but a perusal of the whole evidence leaves on my mind the impression that there was no unfriendliness on the part of the people, but rather the reverse, as they believed the presence of the Envoy would do them good, and lead to some improvements in the Government. It was not difficult to understand how this melancholy occurrence arose; but it certainly was one which could scarcely be anticipated. It appears that the Ameer, with a licence of speech which men very much in want of money not unfrequently employ, told the troops, who were clamouring for arrears of pay, that they should have the money when the Envoy arrived on the 19th of May, and he repeated it more than once. The regiments did not got paid, and they were very angry, when, unfortunately, one of the officials told them to go to Sir Louis Cavagnari. Then followed the unfortunate occurrence; but it did not, in any way, put a different complexion upon the policy of the Government. What would the noble Lord have done? The Government of this country having met with this outrage at Cabul, would they have sat down quietly and not avenged it? I do 1085 not think so. "What, then, are the consequences and the results of the policy of the Government to which he refers? I was surprised that he contented himself with moving for Papers, instead of putting on record a Resolution which would have been a definite statement of his opinions. It is not the part of a statesman to content himself with moving for Papers; and I think the noble Duke would have found great difficulty in stating what are the consequences of which he complains. The noble Marquess who has just sat down (the Marquess of Ripon) stated that the Government were bound to explain what their policy was. Well, on the first night of the Session the noble Earl who sits beside him (Earl Granville) asked my noble Friend the Prime Minister that question, and my noble Friend stated as clearly as he possibly could that it was impossible to state in the midst of a military occupation like that of Afghanistan what form a settlement would take. The noble Marquess must be well aware that, in such circumstances, it would be equally impossible for any Government to go beyond the statement which was made by my noble Friend. The noble Marquess also said—and it is the only part of his speech of which I complain—that in 1877 Her Majesty's Government resorted to every device to evade a discovery of the policy they meant to pursue. These were very strong words. I think, my Lords, they are hardly words which we are accustomed to hear used with respect to the proceedings and the policy of those who are opposed to us in politics. I know that a similar charge was made by the noble Marquess with respect to two answers made in this House by a noble Marquess, who is, unfortunately, not present to-night. The charge was made more than once in the presence of my noble Friend, and he has more than once answered it; and I, on his behalf and on behalf of the Government, repudiate, and repudiate with some indignation, the statement that the Government have ever resorted to a device to evade a discovery of what their policy really was. Your Lordships will, I think, agree with me that it is scarcely fair to repeat a charge which has been more than once made and more than once repelled. I again have to express my regret that a debate which raises ques- 1086 tions of the highest importance was not founded upon a Motion which would have tested, in a more definite and distinct manner, the opinion of your Lordships' House; but it has not been, and I believe the reason it has not been is to be found in the fact that it would be impossible with any hope of success to introduce such a Motion.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble and learned Earl who has just sat down (Earl Cairns) stated that there was a certain amount of unreality in the debate of this evening. I have very great doubts, my Lords, whether, if that is so, the fault is attributable to this side of the House. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook) condemned the speech of my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll), and said that there was so much of declamation in it that he did not think it worth while answering it. I am not sure that it is according to the self-interest of the noble Viscount to object to declamation; but the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack took a different view, for he said that the speech of my noble Friend was one of great ability, though he complained of its length and the great scope it took. I venture to say that any of your Lordships who heard it, and those who read it to-morrow, will say that the speech of the noble Duke was singularly void of declamation, and that it was full of the most interesting matter, that it was closely argued, and gave its authorities, chapter and verse, as it went along from the Papers laid by Her Majesty's Government before Parliament. The noble and learned Earl complains that my noble Friend began with early matter, and spoke of large majorities in this House. Well, entirely putting aside the question whether in politics there is any such thing as ares judicata,I venture to suggest that events have since occurred which are calculated to modify the opinions of the majorities of which the noble and learned Earl spoke, and which, no doubt, Her Majesty's Government obtained on those occasions. But, be this as it may, is it the noble Duke who is to blame in this matter? Minister after Minister during this great speaking autumn have introduced things from the beginning, and made statements to prejudice the policy of their Predecessors and to defend themselves. The noble Viscount avoided 1087 answering the serious charges which were based upon his own celebrated despatch, and of having committed a most flagrant breach as regarded the Treaty by which we were bound to Shere Ali. He spoke—and, in doing so, I was still more surprised to find that he was followed by the noble and learned Earl—of that as a thing of indifference, and he quoted Treaties to show that parties to Treaties mutually agreed to modify those Treaties. But, my Lords, is that in the slightest degree a defence to the charge, that one of the most powerful nations on the earth, dealing with a weak neighbour, used threats of the strongest kind to force him to agree to a change which he was most anxious to repudiate? The noble Viscount could not give an answer as to the pledges given by Viceroys on the subject. Those pledges were undoubted. The noble Duke admitted the commentaries of Lord Canning, which were strongly confirmatory of the statements of the noble Duke. I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that no Viceroy up to the time of Lord Lytton thought it a desirable thing that an Envoy should be sent to Cabul without the cordial assent and concurrence of the Ameer. Lord Canning was one of those who went further, for he thought that even with such cordial assent and concurrence it would be a most unwise and impolitic measure for the Indian Government to adopt. Nobody believes more in the entire honour of the noble Viscount than I do; but I must say I did hear with astonishment, after the discussion which has taken place and the passages quoted from the Blue Book, the statement which he made, that, in his opinion, the despatch did give a fair account of the circumstances, and that he still adhered to every word of it. At any rate, he did not take pains to answer what the noble Duke had said; but then the noble Viscount fell back on trying to make the late Government to blame, and he gave an account of what passed between the Home Government and the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook). He had already heard from the noble Earl his version of the matter; he ought to know that his own Viceroy gave the same version of it; and I hardly think it was worth his while to repeat a statement so entirely disproved. Then the noble Viscount has rather denied that any threat- 1088 ening language was used towards the Ameer. I cannot conceive how there can be any doubt that the language of Lord Lytton was most threatening; and I well remember how it was commented on as such at the time. Some time ago I pointed out the extraordinary speech addressed to the Envoy, who was charged to repeat it to the Ameer. It was full of threats from beginning to end, and not only were these threats made, but they were carried out by the rupture of diplomatic relations. The noble and learned Earl objected very much to the noble Duke going into all this matter, and then he made an extraordinary charge against the Opposition speakers that they did not say a word about the Gandamak Treaty. The noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) addressed himself largely to that subject, and when he informed the noble and learned Earl of the fact, the latter said—"I could not hear him; he turned his back on me." That is a position, I fear, we frequently take with regard, to the noble and learned Earl, not out of any want of respect to him, but for certain private reasons of our own. But at one period of my noble Friend's speech the noble and learned Earl was reclining after dinner in another part of the House, and the noble Viscount opposite left the House while my noble Friend was addressing it. The noble Viscount boasted that, not having time, he had never read the book about Afghanistan by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll). I can assure him it is not a formidable work. It is in large type, and there is only half a volume upon Afghanistan. I dare say if the noble Viscount and his Friends read it they would not like it; and they would find in it much with which they could not agree; but I cannot help thinking that there is matter in that book which even the Secretary of State for India might make himself master of with advantage. But, passing that by, I must say, when a person like my noble Friend (the Earl of Northbrook), speaking on recent knowledge possessed on the subject of India, addresses a thoughtful speech to your Lordships, it would be worth while for the Secretary of State for India to condescend to hear what he had got to say. One of the great complaints against Her Majesty's Government is that they have disregarded the advice which they might 1089 have got. My noble Friend has had much to say upon the subject of the Treaty of Gandamak, and he has thrown great doubt upon the "scientific Frontier." Allusion has been made to the different versions of the objects of the war; and though I am aware that the noble Earl at the head of the Government has denied that he said that the object was to obtain a "scientific Frontier," he, in a subsequent speech to that denial, boasted that this object of their policy had been achieved. Then, the noble Viscount has said that Her Majesty's Government mean to pursue their policy to the end; but I confess, notwithstanding what we have heard from him and the noble and learned Earl opposite, I do not yet know what that policy is, though that may be very stupid on my part. What makes it difficult to arrive at this knowledge is that the Members of the Government contradict each other every month. The noble Viscount congratulated the House on having successfully broken Afghanistan into small parts.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
That is not quite what I said. I thought it was a very arguable question as to whether it would not be better to have Afghanistan divided, than as a whole.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I thought the noble Viscount decided in favour of a divided Afghanistan. However that may be, subsequent to the most unfortunate murder of that gallant hero, Sir Louis Cavagnari, two Ministers—I think three—had declared that it was still their object to have a strong, friendly, independent Afghanistan. How they are to have that with Afghanistan broken into pieces I do not know. They began by weakening Yakoob Khan's position by demanding territorial concessions from him. Another point which my noble Friend raised was the sending of an Afghan Governor, with money and with Native levies, to Afghan Turkestan; and I certainly should like to hear some explanation of the wisdom of that policy which the noble and learned Earl has defended—the sending of Cavagnari with so small an escort that it was impossible that it could defend itself and protect him. The noble and learned Earl said the attack could not have been anticipated. He gave an ingenious description of how things might have been, which your Lordships could not give an opinion upon; but the event which happened was always declared to be a cer- 1090 tainty by Dost Mahomed, by Shere Ali, by Lord Lawrence, and by every experienced Anglo-Indian; and I am surprised that the noble and learned Earl should assert that it could not have been anticipated. The noble and learned Earl, as he always does, took exception to the terms of the Motion. I have never known any formal Motion by the Opposition which has not met with severe criticism as to its form. The noble Duke calls attention to the consequences which have resulted from the policy of the Government. Do your Lordships realize what the consequences have been? Can you look at it from all points—at the murders, at the military engagements, at the entire anarchy which prevails, at the hatred you have excited in the population—and not see and, reflect upon those consequences? And here I note another Ministerial contradiction. The First Lord of the Treasury told us, a few days ago, it was a mistake to suppose that we had excited the hatred of the population; but the Secretary of State for India to-night candidly admits the truth of that charge. The Government admit that the difficulties of the position are enormous; and those difficulties are certainly the consequences of the policy they have adopted. The noble and learned Earl objected to the Motion for Papers. The noble Duke stated that if they were refused on the ground of the public advantage he would not press for them; and if he had done so after such a statement it would have been impossible for me to have supported him, for I would never press such a Motion after the Government had made that assertion. On the other hand, we must be allowed to make our own conjectures as to the reason. I have exhausted to myself the different reasons which the Government can have. One reason might be that the Papers would not bear out the charges made against the late Government. I can hardly think they would have been deterred from presenting Papers because they would have been fatal to the arguments we have advanced. The reason suggested by the noble Duke is probable and reasonable, and is that the Government do not wish to excite needless irritation in Russia, or, it may be, in this country against Russia. I am not, however, quite sure that that reason is consistent with the language held by Members of the Government and their supporters, notably in a speech delivered at 1091 Manchester by the noble Marquess who is absent, and the language of which was not calculated to produce a favourable effect in Russia. No doubt, it is statesmanlike in international affairs not to excite irritation. Yet I do not understand this position from the Papers they have produced. In the Central Asian Papers there is a letter which appears to me not to be likely to suit Russia. It speaks of the Afghans showing us the cold shoulder, under the erroneous supposition that we have been using the influence of the Sultan to keep the Afghans on our side. It says that Russia made promises to succour the Ameer which she did not carry out, and that Russia urged the Ameer to proceed in a course of deceit and deception towards us. I cannot help thinking some of us, two years ago, might have said—"How un-English! How Russian!" I am afraid we are now debarred from saying it, when we have cynically published to the whole world that we gave instructions to our own Viceroy to act with deceit towards the Ameer. My noble Friend (the Earl of Northbrook), who was, unfortunately, listened to only by one Cabinet Minister, gave his opinion with regard to the method of dealing with the present state of things in a singularly calm and moderate tone. He suggested the course he thought Her Majesty's Government might adopt. I do not expect—indeed, it is not to be expected—the Government would follow the advice of a political rival, although it would have been well if they had formerly paid attention to the advice of persons in that position. But they will remember that my noble Friend expresses not only his own opinions, but also the opinions of others, some of the most experienced in Indian affairs both in India and in this country. I would further remind them that if they will follow the general tenor of that advice it will be absolutely consistent with principles which, since the present Administration was formed, were laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), who, in writing instructions to the Viceroy with regard to the temporary occupation of Quetta, told him he must be well aware that the Government authorized no question of territorial conquest on the North-West Frontier, and no advance of that sort would have any advantage which would 1092 not be counteracted by the enormous political and financial difficulties which would attend any advance from our Frontier at that time. The noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack appealed to us to say whether, after the murder of Cavagnari, we could have abstained from doing anything? I say, No. Being placed in the difficulty which you created, and one having those fatal consequences, it was necessary we should take some steps. Whether we were wise in taking them, not to leave the country as soon as possible before fresh complications arose, is, to use the noble Viscount's phrase, a most arguable question. But I do think Her Majesty's Government should give a little more earnest than has already been given that their policy is to withdraw from Afghanistan, not as soon as it is perfectly tranquillized—to use the phrase of the noble and gallant Baron, a state of things for which we may have to wait for some centuries—but as soon as we have put down the large masses of troops now in hostile array against us. It would really be very satisfactory to the country if Her Majesty's Government would give some more definite information of their policy on this subject.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl (Earl Granville) that we should be scrupulous always in treating affairs of State, and especially Parliamentary affairs, asres judicatæ.It was quite open to the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll), if he thought this House had arrived at an unsound conclusion on a matter of paramount importance a year ago, to again ask the opinion of your Lordships on the merits of the ease. But that is exactly what the noble Duke does not do. Admitting that in a House of Parliament ares judicatamust not be too freely accepted, we have a right to expect that those who urge that plea should again ask the opinion of the House on the merits of the case; whereas the noble Duke has not even brought forward a Resolution which can in any way be interpreted as one challenging the opinion of your Lordships' House. The noble Duke has studied the subject, and in stating it, has dealt in much detail, and, in addition to his talents and ardent eloquence, he has the immense advantage of having written a book—and a most able work it is—on 1093 the subject. That work unfortunately appeared at a moment when it did not necessarily, from the state of affairs then existing, command that attention from the public which it might otherwise have done. I believe it may have been that unfortunate Treaty of Gandamak which satisfied the country; and your Lordships did not, therefore, pay that attention to the noble Duke's work which it deserved, and the merits of which your Lordships have become familiar with in this House. We have all read of, and some of us have probably suffered from, theSpretæ injuria formæbut, my Lords, theSpreti injuria librimay be a grievance not less stimulating, and may lead to interminable debates. Certainly it is a remarkable circumstance that in the present state of this country and of this question, the noble Duke and noble Lords opposite holding such extreme opinions upon it, not mitigated or modified by any doubt whatever, but convinced that the Government of the country are following a policy of a most pernicious character, dangerous to the State, and, it may be, fatal to the Empire; yet we never hear of their serious objections, except in a form which evades challenging the opinion of the House, and does not give that guidance to the country which one would suppose statesmen influenced by such strong convictions would seek the opportunity of disseminating. My Lords, the noble Duke has spoken from a mind which is trained upon this subject. It is, therefore, difficult to meet one whose speech is a mass of details, who has every extract written and ticketed, and who can at all times refer to the most minute circumstances. The noble Duke threw the decalogue at the head of my noble Friend the Governor General of India (Lord Lytton), and described some important document—I hope not the Queen's Speech—as "twaddle." But one must ask—What is the real question at issue? That is what the country is looking to. The real question cannot be decided by this criticism of telegrams. It is a clear conception of what really is at issue that alone ought to guide us in this matter. Well, my Lords, you know that some three years ago or more—most unexpectedly and most undesired by those who were advising the Crown—what is called the Eastern Question revived. It is unnecessary to recall to your Lordships' recol- 1094 ection all the incidents of that period. It is well known there was a moment when the relations between Russia and Great Britain were of the most delicate character; when, indeed, there were those, certainly in Russia, who looked on war not only as impending, but as inevitable. Well, in these circumstances, Russia naturally—and I do not blame her—looked to a point where she thought she might embarrass the power of England, and weaken the influence and authority which England was exercising. She looked to Central Asia—the influence of Central Asia on India—to effect that great object. Well, we had to consider what course we ought to pursue in these circumstances. The question of the Northwestern Frontier of India was no new question. It has not grown up in these few years, as one would suppose from some speeches in this House. It is one which has long occupied the attention and consideration of all Indian statesmen, and, I think I may also add, of all those statesmen in England who aspire at all to the responsibility of the conduct of our affairs. In this state of things we had to decide what was the best step to counteract the efforts Russia was then making; for though war had not been declared, her movements had commenced in Central Asia, and the struggle had commenced which was to decide for ever which Power should possess the great gates of India. One would imagine, listening to the noble Duke—at least a stranger might—for we are accustomed to his expositions, but a stranger charmed by his eloquence, carried away by the fervour of his phrase, and overwhelmed with the multiplicity of his details—a stranger might listen to him to-night and never form the slightest idea that the real question at issue was whether England should possess the gates of her own great Empire in India, and whether the time had not arrived when we could no longer delay that the problem should be solved, and in a manner as it has been solved by Her Majesty's Government. Then, the noble Earl who spoke last (Earl Granville), and others who preceded him, appealed to me for a definition of the policy of the Government in this matter. One would think that the Government had never expressed an opinion on the subject. If there be a public question upon which the Govern- 1095 ment has expressed an opinion more distinct or definite than upon the North-Western Frontier of our Indian Empire, I am at a loss to know what it is. Why, the noble Earl himself said, the first day of the Session, that I had given a description of our policy which, to the candid minds of noble Lords opposite, seemed then quite satisfactory. How long is it since the first day of the Session? The first day of the Session was in this month; and here, before February is passed, I am indicted and inveighed against and condemned because I have not given another description of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. From our declared policy we have not swerved for a moment. We resolved that the time had come when this country should acquire the complete command and possession of the gates of our Indian Empire. Having come to that resolution, we took the most effective steps to accomplish our purpose. That purpose was accomplished and achieved with complete success. We obtained the gates of our Indian Empire; they are in our possession now; and I trust the hour will never arrive when they will not be in the possession of this country. Why, as my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack reminded the House, all the objections and all the suggestions on this subject made by the noble Earl opposite and his Friends are but mere accidents of the vast question which is really at stake. Nothing which has occurred—though many things have occurred which we did not contemplate, and which we deplore—nothing has occurred which would for a moment induce us to modify our policy. Nothing has occurred which would induce us in any way to change our policy. Nor has anything happened—though much has happened, I admit, that one remembers with deep regret and heartfelt pain—nothing has happened which, so far as our conduct and policy are concerned, ought in the slightest degree to influence us. The noble Earl in his speech referred to the unfortunate, the terribly unfortunate, death of Cavagnari and his gallant companions. Well, if we could have contemplated that such an incident could have occurred, could we for a moment have admitted that that possible occurrence was an argument against the accomplishment of that policy, which we deemed of first-rate importance, and which your Lordships 1096 also agreed and the country decided to be of first-rate importance? What has happened, I want to know, which should induce us in any way to deviate from a policy so distinct as that which we always urged, and which, on the first day of the Session, even received the approbation of the noble Earl opposite and his Friends? My Lords, I am quite at a loss to follow the arguments which the noble Earl has urged against our general policy. It appears to me that, from the very first, we have acted with entire consistency in this affair—a consistency which could only arise from a clear conception of the object we had to accomplish. That object has been accomplished. Then the noble Marquess who preceded the noble Earl (the Marquess of Ripon) addressed Her Majesty's Government in a tone of condescending commiseration. He said—"We are perfectly aware of the difficulties you have to encounter and the infinite complications in which you are involved." No doubt there are difficulties which must attend the attainment of all great ends. Beyond them, we know of no other; and as for the complications, what complications do you mean? We have attained our object. We are in military command of the country; we have most of its strong places in our possession. "But," says the noble Earl, "if you have attained your object, why not leave the country?" I differ, however, from the noble Earl. We cannot leave the country now, because it would, indeed, be a stain upon our honour if we left the country in a state of turbulence and confusion. But that state of turbulence and confusion does not originate from our general policy or from the accomplishment of the great ends we have achieved. It has originated from circumstances which no human foresight could guard against, and the consequences must be met by temper and decision, but certainly not by withdrawing. This is not a moment in which England in that part of the world should show diminished determination. Although your Lordships, unfortunately, have no opportunity of expressing your opinion on this occasion, I think we have a right to conclude that the feeling and the convictions of your Lordships' House upon this subject are the same as when, more than a year ago, you recorded your verdict by an overwhelming majority. I am ready 1097 to admit that a change of circumstances may also induce a change of opinion, and you ought to enjoy the privilege of recording it afresh in the most complete degree, and with the utmost conviction. But until there is evidence of a change of opinion in this House much stronger than we have yet witnessed, let me at least believe that the Peers of England are still determined to uphold, not only the Empire, but the honour of the country. Let me believe that they will not sanction our withdrawal from Afghanistan, because we have accomplished our particular purpose, leaving the population of that country in a state of comparative anarchy, according to the description given by the noble Earl and his Friends; but I do not join in these descriptions of Afghanistan. I believe there are considerable portions of Afghanistan in a state of absolute peace and great prosperity. The district of Candahar alone is one that might make noble Lords hesitate before they accept these opinions so rashly enunciated as to the disorganized state of the country. It is—I will not say a corner—but a remote district of the country, and a crowd of turbulent and unpaid soldiery, that have brought about these great misfortunes; but, my Lords, you must not be distracted from the pursuance of a great national policy by accidents of this kind and temporary circumstances, which you may rest assured will disappear. Be firm, be resolute, and be determined. Let men know that while you are ready to be just you are resolved to be obeyed, and all these difficulties and complications will disappear at once.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he wished to make one remark in reply—that the doctrine of the inutility of valleys as military Frontiers, if the movements of the enemy on the other side were unknown, would ultimately load to the adoption of the line of the Oxus as a scientific Frontier.
§ LORD NAPIER OF MAGDALA
explained that the North-Western Frontier of India was not open to that objection.
§ Motion (by leave of the House)withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Twelve o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.