HL Deb 15 March 1880 vol 251 cc973-1007

in rising to call attention to the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the Eastern Question since the autumn of 1874; and to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Copy of the letter from the late Ameer of Afghanistan to the Sultan, dated 19th January 1878, said: The House will readily suppose that I should not be inclined to go on at such an hour with such a Motion unless the days of this Parliament were numbered. When I postponed it, on the ground that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State was absent, the Government had not announced a step of so much political and military skill as that of withdrawing from a Brighton field-day under the cover of a General Election—a cover which, to the amazement of the House, we hear to-day is utterly inadequate. The noble Marquess, it is known to me, will not return before the Dissolution, and I have no option as to going on without him. For two reasons, such a course is unobjectionable, although, perhaps, it is unusual. I shall advert mainly to transactions with which the noble Marquess was not connected by his present Office. His vindication of the Government on foreign policy is in our hands already. It was given at Manchester with much elaboration; no doubt, with much effect. It appeared in the morning journals of October 18th. It was not unworthy of himself, and little could be added to it. But there is something far more grave to be encountered. It is thrown out by various supporters of the Government that we are not entitled to look back on the transactions which have all flowed from the autumn of 1874, with a view to ascertain their merit or demerit. Why not? You cannot criticize a Government upon the future; you cannot on the pending; it is only on the past they are assailable; Is this not the time? It is the very time. If last Session the attempt had happened, the Government might have replied that until the Russian occupation was disposed of any general discussion of the kind was calculated to impede their labours to abridge it. My Lords, a great drama closed together with the Russian occupation, and now admits of being reflected on. But the electors must review the foreign policy of the last five years in order to arrive at a judicial verdict on the conduct of the Government. Can it be said that the very question to be in a few weeks determined by the people is inappropriate and obsolete in Parliament already? Such language among friends of the Government would seem at first to be the paradox of terror and the sophistry of conscience. But the noble Earl the Prime Minister renounces it. With the impatience of a practised gladiator, he has complained from time to time that accusation was too fragmentary; that no Member of the Opposition would bring his policy under a general review; and even that no adverse Resolution was submitted to your Lordships. Now, as to an adverse Resolution, it seemed a doubtful thing whether an Opposition in an avowed minority should offer them. It was only done here on foreign policy in 1850 and 1864 by a Party whose majority was certain. But the Motion I propose is for a document which must be utterly obnoxious to the Government; which stigmatizes in the gravest terms their conduct on the Eastern Question; which brings before you the late Ameer in an attitude of protest verging upon scorn as regards the mode in which their infidelity to Treaties had estranged him from Great Britain. It might, therefore, well suggest resistance to the Government. At least, it ought not to be adopted till it is first shown that their policy upon the whole of these transactions is far, indeed, from irreproachable.

The only title I can urge to the indulgence of the House is that I began to follow the vicissitudes of the present Eastern Question two Sessions before they occupied the general attention, and continued to pursue them during one, at least, when others hardly did so. The first proposition I am anxious to uphold is that the Government were responsible, in a great degree, for the War between Russia and the Porte, which began in April, 1877. If I do not thoroughly establish it, it will only be because the desire to economize the patience of the House forces me to hurry over and mix up the facts, which, more distinctly traced and separately handled, would be sure to warrant the conclusion I have pointed to. Now, the union of Austria, Germany, and Russia, in a sense hostile to the Ottoman Empire, has been attested by the noble Earl, at that time Secretary of State, who often sits on the Cross Benches. It may fairly be contended that a vigilant diplomacy would have succeeded in averting it. When, however, it appeared in the Identic Note of the three Powers announcing their intention to negotiate Commercial Treaties with the Vassal Principalities against the wishes of the Sultan, dated October 20, 1874, it was possible, at least, to check or counterbalance it. It might have been counterbalanced by some display among the Western Powers. It might have been checked by a particular and strong appeal to Austria, which Great Britain—if only from the Treaty of April 15, 1856—had every title to resort to. Nothing was attempted. Instead of being detached from the new and ill-omened alliance, Austria was induced to take the lead in negotiating with the Vassal Principalities; to leave Russia and Germany Behind her in paving the way for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The Herzegovinian insurrection, which rapidly succeeded, seemed, therefore, if not to be occasioned by her wishes, at least to start under her auspices. The discontented elements within the territory of the Sultan were thus enabled, in some degree, to look on Austria as a standard-bearer. Nor can it be disputed that during the autumn of 1875, by means of General Rodich, the Viceroy of Dalmatia, considerable aid was given indirectly to the Herzegovinian movement. In the spring of 1876 a great opportunity of influencing Germany to restore the peace of European Turkey was abandoned. The Berlin Memorandum, the Servian War, and other troubles followed. At the Conference of December in Constantinople, which, perhaps, it was desirable to enter by acceding to the scheme of General Ignatieff, we lost all grasp over the Sublime Porte, as regards the decisions it might ultimately come to, and gave Russia a considerable pretext for hostilities. When I condemn the scheme of General Ignatieff, I remind the House that the Ottoman despatch of January 25, 1877, which canvassed it exhaustively, which has long been in our hands, which I have brought down with me this evening, had no reply from either Russia or Great Britain. In this manner war became very difficult to guard against. The unsuccessful Conference for a time threw the British Embassy into abeyance, and withdrew it altogether, so that the Sultan was left alone to contend with any diplomatic propositions Russia might address to him. His liability to error, of course, was very much increased. But during the months of February and March, 1877, it was not too late to bring the restraining voice of Berlin to bear in some degree upon the counsels of St. Petersburg. It was not too late to declare in this, or in the other House of Parliament, such general adherence to the Treaties of 1856 as might have led the Czar to pause before resolving to forget them. It was not too late to take advantage of the new latitude established in the Articles of 1871, and send the British Fleet into the Dardanelles before war commenced, to exercise a guiding and admonitory influence on both the possible belligerents. It was not too late to despatch a special Mission to St. Petersburg—far more required than that which had just left Constantinople—to uphold the Czar himself, who, as it is now revealed, was struggling against the warlike counsels which enveloped him. If it be true—as most probably the Government will urge—that within Great Britain many forces lured him to invasion, the class of measures I have pointed to was far more binding, far more indispensable than otherwise it would have been. As all such precautions were omitted, and some of them repelled, it cannot be denied that the Government had great responsibility for the decision to cross the Pruth which ultimately followed, which led to the disquietude of Europe, and brought this country face to face with the alternative of either hazard or dishonour. Some noble Lords, perhaps, are scattered in the House who look with more indulgence on the decision of the Czar from certain grounds with which it is endeavoured to associate it. The answer to them—which I can only glance at—is that the Russian movement on Constantinople began before the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, before Ottoman dominion was established, before Russia could affect to represent the Cross, or to encroach upon the Crescent, when she directed Armies towards the Bosphorus. Whatever view these noble Lords may entertain, the avowed object of the Government was to avert the war to the last moment. They did not share in any such interpretation. They recognized its danger and they proclaimed its illegality.

The period which now begins is far less intricate and tedious than that which I have passed over. However fraught with tragical events, it need not occupy the House for many minutes. The policy of the Government is summed up in the despatch of May 1, the despatch of May 6, the Proclamation of neutrality, and the inaction which succeeded them. The latter is the point which requires attention at this moment. If it was open to the Government to despatch the Fleet to Constantinople before war began, it was still more admissible when the rupture was precipitated. Among the practical advantages of such a measure would have been to restore the power of the British Embassy injuriously paralyzed, and thus to rescue the Sublime Porte from many errors and corruptions which weighed upon it in the struggle; to lay the ground for mediation, possibly to close the war before Plevna had been taken. It was the course which Lord Palmerston insisted on, in nearly the same circumstances, in 1853, when no Treaties called for its adoption. At the time in question, it was the course which Treaties made imperatively binding. In point of fact, it was a cheap and prudent method of adhering to them, although not wholly unaccompanied by risk, and, therefore, not entirely destitute of merit. It was no departure from neutrality; and, therefore, the Proclamation—undignified, uncalled for, as it may justly be considered—did nothing to preclude it. When the Fleet did advance, in the midst of circumstances which I am approaching, the Proclamation of neutrality continued. It was no more a bar in May than the succeeding January, although in either month it was an error. The Session and the autumn passed away. Remonstrances arose. Constantinople was endangered. Popular opinion was excited. In the beginning of 1878, debates were frequent in the Legislature. On the 26th of January, the Fleet ascended to the Dardanelles, with the concurrence of the Sultan. It was withdrawn by a telegram. In the opinion of those who watched these critical events upon the spot, its withdrawal led the Russian Armies to San Stefano, and paralyzed the efforts by which they might have been arrested. On February 9 the Fleet advanced a second time, on this occasion in defiance of the Porte, whoso confidence in British sympathy and British support had been inevitably lessened. If the Fleet withdrew to bring the hostile Army to their gates, there was little reason to assume that it came back under the sway of irreproachable benevolence. In this manner the House is led to see that the Treaty of San Stefano, which followed, is the immediate offspring of the Government, although, no doubt, they did their utmost to reduce it.

On the 28th of March the Secretary of State announced his resignation. A new era was anticipated. On the 1st of April such hopes became more sanguine from a much admired despatch, which it was judicious to issue on that day, which ought to have appeared before 2 in the afternoon, or whatever hour is supposed to check the period of licensed jocularity; so little did it ultimately sway the action of the Government. We are now in the season of preparatory measures for the Congress. I censure none of them, and do not even think with those who, on grounds of scrupulous legality, objected to the despatch of Indian troops to Malta. It seems a cumbrous and fantastic method of Imperial defence. But such cumbrous and fantastic methods are imposed upon a State, which keeps 300,000 men locked up at home, for an heroic struggle with an obsolete invader. The Convention with the Sultan appears difficult to reconcile with loyalty to European Powers, and tends to inconveniences which I may afterwards allude to. But the concession to Russia before a Congress was approached deserves more serious reflection, however little we may view the noble Marquess the Secretary of State as being exclusively its author. We may dismiss altogether the scandal with which the name of Mr. Marvin was associated. We may forget the mode in which, as a noble Earl now absent from his place remarked to us the true intention of Great Britain flashed on an astonished Europe from the depths of the police court. We may excuse the contradictory instructions to Lord Odo Russell as a departure from routine, or rather a relapse to virtue, "a longing lingering look behind," in those who painfully renounced it. But the fact, to be as far as possible divested of its incidents and measured by itself, is collusion with the Power which the rest of Europe had determined on restraining. In 1856 there was no mysterious concurrence between Russia and Great Britain. There was none with France in 1815. There is nothing of the kind on record, as far as I know, in the Congresses of history. The course pursued in 1877 of abnegating Treaties, no doubt, was fertile of embarrassment. But still the situation did not call for this irregular concession. In spite of her successes Russia was endangered. The Roumanian Army was opposed to her. The Ottoman retreat, through the exertion of General Baker, had been successfully and brilliantly conducted. The Black Sea, by public law, was open to our cruisers. National opinion had risen to a flood against the Russian progress in Great Britain. These circumstances did much to favour our diplomacy. They did much to favour the more legitimate proceeding of uniting the Powers which arrayed themselves against the Treaty of San Stefano in such a protest as was calculated to extort the limitation they were anxious for. However, in June the Plenipotentiaries arrived at Berlin. The Government can only claim a general acquittal of the past, if the Treaty of Berlin deserves all the eulogies which they—much more than their own friends—for many months have prodigally lavished on it.

As regards the Treaty of Berlin, there is an unfortunate impression—unfortunate for those who have to touch upon it—that the subject is exhausted. Men forget that every important Treaty has taken years before it was elucidated. The Treaty of Utrecht continued to engage dispute during the lifetime of Lord Boling broke. The Treaties of 1815 were being perpetually canvassed in the days of Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston. As to those of 1856, during the last few years we have been constantly debating on them. Only the other day the whole House was thrown into perplexity as to whether one of them is valid. My conviction is that, so far from being exhausted, the Treaty of Berlin has never yet been placed in its true light before the Legislature or the country. In deference, however, to the feeling which exists—whether or not it is well founded—I pass over and blot out a whole series of objections habitually present to me. Not a word shall this House hear from me of Batoum, Bessarabia, Greece, or even, in this connection, of the Ottoman Assemblies. I hurry on to these two propositions, hoping to maintain them. The Treaty of Berlin has much impaired the prospect of upholding Ottoman authority upon the Bosphorus. At the same time, the materials of replacing it by some untried and well-imagined combination have been dissipated and abandoned.

If the Treaties of 1856 were no restraint on Russian movement to Constantinople the Treaty of Berlin has no pretension to contain it. The pretexts of aggression which arose in 1877 are not exceptional and fugitive, but may recur at any moment. But foreign interference to defend the Sultan is no more to be depended on in the future than in the late emergency it was attainable. His power to defend himself is manifestly weakened, as he is no longer sheltered by the Danube, by the fortresses, or even by the Balkans, as he used to be. It is calculated that, in military force, he loses over 50,000 men, in Revenue about £5,000,000 sterling, by the territorial arrangements which have happened. Not long ago the Prince of Servia made war upon him, instigated from a distance. At any future time the Prince of Bulgaria may have the same encouragement to act in the same manner. He has a motive which the former Vassals were exempt from. He will always be impelled—not, perhaps, by his own mind, but by the circles which surround him—to aspire to equality with the position granted recently to those who rule in Servia, Montenegro, and Roumania. A much larger population might now be moved upon Constantinople than was formerly available. It is true—as the noble Marquess the Secretary of State is never tired of impressing upon us—that Austria is at Novi Bazar. But she is not under any obligation to advance beyond it. She is not bound by a Convention. She is not subsidized by this country or by Europe to defend Constantinople. The diplomatists in this House will hardly reprimand me for observing that the more they know, the more they meditate on Austria, the more they see her policy to be incalcu- lable. But if anything could be predicted with regard to her from study of the past it is unvarying reluctance to go to war with Russia, even for objects she appreciates, even for objects she considers as her own. In this way a situation has arisen which forces on reluctant thinkers, on reluctant politicians, the question how far Ottoman authority may be replaced upon the Bosphorus, with a view to guard the limitation against Russia which the Crimean War was meant to save and to immortalize.

Now, my Lords, the point to be submitted has nothing difficult about it. It may require knowledge of the Eastern Question to arrive at the conclusion; but it requires little to form a judgment of its accuracy. Whatever novel system is devised must absorb the population both of Servia and Roumania, or else be utterly unequal to the object of creating it. Whether Greece is to adopt Constantinople instead of Athens as a centre, whether Bulgaria is to recover something like its former nationality, whether you look to a regenerated Austria or a developed Hungary for the solution of the difficulty, it must agglomerate both Servia and Roumania, or else be wholly insufficient as a barrier against the numbers and against the power to be resisted. The existence of the two as independent States—if it endures—is fatal to the purpose we are contemplating.

No sort of ground existed for producing it. Had it been desirable for Europe, in 1856 it would have happened. But it was not desirable for Europe, and, therefore, sedulously guarded against. Had it been necessary for the races which vassal Princes used to govern, to be under reigning Princes, we should long ago have heard of it. The Servian Mission of 1863 would have impressed it carefully upon us. The project of an independent Servia and Roumania was never mooted till the Congress of Berlin. It was opposed to the whole line the Government itself upheld a few years back in 1875. To multiply small States incapable of self-defence is utterly opposed to the direction of the world and to the tenor of its history. If we wanted new States the Austrian Empire could furnish them. If we wanted new States there is a Poland to reflect upon. To guard against aggression those which now exist is found to be too difficult a labour. In our quarter of the globe at least—it may be different in America—a new State is a new element of bloodshed and confusion. Such is the general idea which ought to limit their creation. But here a special object of commanding magnitude and paramount importance should have wholly interdicted it. By this gigantic error new discord is insured. When that discord overthrows the crumbling residue of Ottoman supremacy, the possibility which did exist, of otherwise withstanding Russian arms, is nearly evanescent. On the whole—however deeply we admire the industry of the negotiators—the Treaty of Berlin is fatal to the Porte itself, and obstructive in a high degree to all the efforts for replacing it, which must have taxed even at the very best the genius and sagacity of Europe.

It is now essential to remark a moment on the Paper which I move for, and which has certainly attained to some publicity already. It first appeared in the spring of 1878, and was reprinted in the European Press when Afghan troubles began to occupy us in the autumn. The Mémorial Diplomatique guaranteed its authenticity, which has not, however, been disputed. What it tends to bring out is the link between the Eastern policy I have adverted to, and the appearance of a Russian Mission at Cabul. Whatever opinion may be formed as to the necessity of the Afghan War, the appearance of a Russian Mission at Cabul, in defiance of the Heidelberg Convention, so much blended with the fame of the late Lord Clarendon, was a reproach and a calamity. In that letter the Ameer explained that the unchecked advance of Russia on Constantinople had estranged him from Great Britain. In about six months he gave effect to his conclusion.

Let no one think that I am going into the Afghan Question. Not long ago the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) in some degree exhausted it. Without concurring in all he uttered, with so much force and so much volubility, had he divided, I should have given an unhesitating vote in favour of his Motion. The only mode of thinking I am anxious to encounter is a most inaccurate and yet a most prevailing one in general society. It is that the Afghan War is a set-off to the deficiencies—in some degree avowed—on what by long familiar use among diplomatists is termed the Eastern Question. On the ground of the Afghan War it is attempted to weave crowns, and even more than crowns, for the First Minister by the very persons who were on the verge of tumult because, in 1877, complete inaction against Russia was persisted in. But it was not an Afghan war such persons were demanding. Now, oven if we think the Russian Mission to Cabul could only be disposed of by the conflict it elicited; even if we grant the theory of the scientific Frontier; even if we forget the reckless Embassy together with its miserable consequences; even if the war should end in new security to India, it can do nothing to atone for losses nor to recover influence in Europe. The same remark applies exactly to the campaign in Africa, even if, judged alone, it would admit of being defended. So as regards Cyprus. Even if you hold its doubtful and contingent tenure to be useful as a means of guarding Egypt—the only praise it can extort—so far from being an expiation of inconstancy to Treaties and the Porte, it rather tends to aggravate and to enhance it. These subsequent transactions are the asylum of the Government; and now they ought to be dislodged from it. It is like a second picture placed obtrusively in front of that which we desire to judge, on purpose to conceal it. It is like the effort to redeem a play which has not terminated fortunately by an irrelevant explosion of artillery and fireworks. If anyone engages to stand upon a rope and falls, he cannot claim approval because, instead of going back to his task, he executes a series of highly interesting dances. This complicated after-piece may, and does, impose upon Great Britain for the moment. But we must look elsewhere for the criterion of its advantage. Does it impose upon the Continent of Europe? Does it secure augmented influence at Paris, at Vienna, Berlin, or St. Petersburg? Does it give us any better locus standi to prevent a rupture between Germany and France whenever such a rupture is impending? Would these auxiliary transactions inspire Sweden, Portugal, or Belgium, who look to Great Britain as a defending Power, with any greater confidence than they would otherwise indulge? To recover influence in Europe, when something has de- stroyed it, at least a momentary firmness in regard to European Powers is essential. But none has been displayed. When Russia stepped over the Heidelburg Convention our diplomatic intercourse continued with her; while the Ameer, who had not violated any Treaty, who acted under the control of overruling force, was destined to absorb the whole of our resentment.

Whatever weakness or deficiency or error are connected with the period of 1877 are, therefore, unatoned for and uncancelled. No doubt, some pretexts have been offered to extenuate them, as it is seen that they will not admit of open vindication. It is not unusual to throw the whole responsibility on the former Secretary of State (the Earl of Derby). The noble Earl the Prime Minister, however, can never possibly resort to such a shelter. He can never be inclined to dispute—even if others do so—that each decision upon foreign policy involves the sanction of the person by whom the Cabinet is guided. It has been often said that the Opposition paralyzed the Government. The Opposition were always a minority in both Houses of Parliament. How could they dictate to the Government? Besides, the Opposition were divided on the Eastern Question. A Government, at least, is quite as much at liberty to follow the group which it approves, as that from which it differs. Again, in their preparatory measures, after the resignation of Lord Derby, the Government were not controlled by any section of the Opposition which discountenanced them. Why, therefore, could they not resist the section—if there was one—which frowned upon the measure of advancing the British Fleet into the Dardanelles at the beginning of the war instead of at the end of it? They would reply, perhaps, that national opinion had undergone a transformation. It is true, my Lords, that national opinion had matured itself. But it is untrue that in April, 1877, national opinion would have checked a step so moderate and limited, as well as so imperative in faith and requisite in policy, as that to which I have alluded. The complete inaction of the Government was at once the theme of systematic protest among the most important journals of the country. It called into existence, during the autumn, a number of irregular societies, resolved to put an end to it. It brought on besides, and independently, a formidable movement in the open air which could not be resisted. You cannot urge that national opinion had demanded the course which, in a few months, it overwhelmed and reprimanded by its violence. You cannot satisfy the House that it was a dangerous outrage upon public sentiment to advance the Fleet in May, June, or July, if you like, even November; when, in the succeeding January, to advance it was the only course by which tumult could be quelled, by which mobs could be dispersed, by which security and peace could be restored to the Metropolis.

One further question only can present itself which there is any duty to reply to. It maybe demanded—granting there was error in 1877, which subsequent transactions are incompetent to expiate, and current pretexts to defend-—has it resulted in any actual inconvenience? In Europe the inconvenience is manifest. The triumph of aggression, the collapse of Treaties, always render ware more probable than otherwise it would be. How was peace secured for 40 years in 1815? By the repression of the Power which, in that age, was the disturbing one. The converse will present itself. But I hold the scene of actual inconvenience to be much more Constantinople. Our position at Constantinople is most disastrous and anomalous at present. By the new Convention we are forced to aim at Ottoman reforms in Asia Minor. It is only as a defending Power, it has been repeatedly established, we have any title to exact them. But in 1877 we proved that we are not a defending Power. In 1877 we proved that engagements to offer even the slightest form of material assistance to the Sultan are illusory. The new Convention has no greater promise of validity than that which did belong to the old Treaties. The Sublime Porte inevitably reason in this manner—"We are not subsidized in order to reform; we are not coerced in order to reform; and by reform we get at no security whatever for ulterior protection. Why, then, should we carry it beyond our own idea of justice and expediency?" But, my Lords, they have another answer even more conclusive to any exhortation the Ambassador thinks proper to address to them. They may reply, that they organized political Assemblies; that Sir Henry Layard himself attested their reality and efficacy in his despatches to the Foreign Office; that they sat before the war began; that they were sitting when it finished; that the first measure of the Russian Armies at San Stefano required their dispersion; that the Congress of Berlin might, by a single Article, have easily revived them; that it failed to do so; that the European Powers collectively interred the reforming agency which Russia had individually disposed of. "If you want reforms in Asia Minor," they naturally say, "you had better re-establish our Assemblies. We do not wish to prove their superfluity, or vindicate the conduct which destroyed them." By such language the Ambassador is silenced; and yet he must persist, to some extent, in measures which provoke it. It ought here to be remarked that in a number of debates it was repeatedly insisted on that if the Treaties of 1856 were wholly overlooked the power to interfere and improve in Ottoman dominion would afterwards escape us altogether. If the position at Constantinople is certainly embarrassing, and possibly humiliating, it is not unwarned or unenlightened that the Government have entered it.

The present is not one of the occasions when anyone at all conversant with the subject ought to insist on an Eastern danger which he realizes; or urge the country to the path of duty from the slumber of indifference; or recommend a course of action to a Government whose hesitation and disunion have been too openly revealed to us. During the last five years, however, such occasions have been frequent. They are alone sufficient to condemn the policy which leads to them. In this House Ministers are rich in Parliamentary and even oratorical ability. Great as it may be, it will not enable them to disprove a large share of responsibility for the unhappy war of 1877. They will never show that in May, June, or July of that year the British Fleet might not have been despatched into the Bosphorus to the incalculable benefit of Europe. They will not be able either to repudiate the parentage of the usurping Treaty, which they afterwards contended with, as I hold, unsuccessfully. The transactions are voluminous and intricate. They are beyond the range, perhaps, of industry to grasp, or utterance to mention them. But yet their history may be given in a sentence. It is the record of wisdom faintly and imperfectly adhered to, of duty openly and systematically violated, of reparation eagerly but ineffectually grasped at. By submitting it, in outline, to this House to-night—although with many chasms and various deficiencies—I shall have, at least, attempted to perform a timely service to the Opposition and the country. The noble Lord then moved for the letter of the Ameer to the Sultan, dated January 19, 1878.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Copy of the letter from the late Ameer of Afghanistan to the Sultan, dated 19th January 1878."—(The Lord Campbell.)


said, that when his noble and lamented Relative was about to retire he particularly disliked the tune of "The Camp bells are coming;" and it having been said by the noble Lord, doubly a Peer, that he would have voted with the noble Head of his Clan as to Afghanistan, the noble Pair would have assailed the Government from opposite sides—for, while the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) attacked the Government because they would not extirpate the Turks, the noble Lord (Lord Campbell) attacked them with equal vigour because they would not preserve them. He (Lord Denman) thought that each of those noble Lords should recollect the words of Horace— Est brevitate opus ut currat sententia, neu se Impediat verbis lassas Onerantibus aures. He congratulated those noble Lords who, unlike himself, had heard the whole of the noble Lord's speech.


It is impossible, my Lords, not to feel that, from his point of view, the noble Lord who brought forward the subject has a strong case against the Government. During the last few years he has not, in my opinion, been sufficiently alive to the evils of misgovernment by the Turkish Empire, or to the claims of its Christian subjects upon our sympathies; and he has not seen as clearly as I fancy I do the advantages of acting in concert with Europe, and the disadvantages of isolated action on our part in this Eastern Question. But he concentrated his view upon the necessity of checking Russia in different parts of the world, and of supporting, with a view to our interests, the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire. He, therefore, with perfect consistency, applauded all the declarations and promises made by Her Majesty's Government in agreement with his own principles, and with equal consistency he now deplores how completely the performance of the Government has failed to keep pace with their professions. When the noble Lord's Notice first stood on the Minutes it was not my intention to take part in the debate, and the noble Lord was aware of the fact. But I will now ask leave to say a few words on the question which he has raised, and on other matters incidental to that question. One of the circumstances to which I wish to allude is that the present Parliament, already unduly prolonged, is now about to be suddenly closed. A Cabinet Minister, a few days before the opening of Parliament, had announced to us, as an agreeable surprise, that this, the last Session of the present Parliament, was to be a Session of real work. Her Majesty's Government in the Queen's Gracious Speech announced certain measures, and promised others of equal importance. In the House of Commons Her Majesty's Government obtained the concurrence of the Opposition and the ready assent of the House to certain Resolutions which they thought it desirable to adopt in order to facilitate the legislative Business in the other House. Excepting for the disturbance raised by a Bill the object of which is excellent, but which, for want of common care as to its provisions, is universally condemned and may be fatal to the reform so much required, there is hardly a ripple on the stream of Parliamentary work. In the midst of this calm the stormy petrels appeared. The noble Earl, in a few words and with no reasons, announced, the Dissolution of Parliament. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a similar announcement in "another place;" but some reasons were given, but still reasons which appeared to me not in the slightest degree to justify the Dissolution of Parliament, or at least which would not have equally justified it last autumn. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was in order to pass the Irish Relief Bills; but if the Dissolution had come in the autumn Parliament would have met at the usual time, and the Irish Bills would have been passed as soon as they have been now. There is no possible reason why, if it is right to dissolve Parliament now, it was not right to do so at a time which would not have interfered with the annual Parliamentary Business of the country. But, my Lords, be this as it may, so far from crying over spilt milk, I am rejoiced at the announcement that the present unsatisfactory state of things is drawing to an end, and that an appeal is to be made to the sense—I hope the good sense—of the people of this country. My Lords, on the next day, last Tuesday, there appeared a letter from the First Lord of the Treasury to the Viceroy of Ireland. I will not describe that letter, as it has been described this evening in the land debate, as an electioneering squib; but its form is a little unusual. I do not, however, complain of that. One hook is nearly as good as another upon which to hang a declaration of principles. My complaint is of another kind. It relates to the absence from that declaration of any principles of a tangible character. Literary critics have fallen foul of the language and the grammar; but I have no pretence to be a literary critic. My only object, if I write or speak, is to convey my meaning as clearly as I can to others. I am not convinced by the united authority of Prince Talleyrand, Dr. South, and Cardinal de Retz, that language was given to man to conceal his thoughts. And if I find that a singularly brilliant writer, a great master of English, puts together words which are understood neither by friends or opponents, I conclude that it is not that he cannot, but that he does not, wish to explain his meaning. A first-rate judge, speaking of this Manifesto, said— You must not look at this design as if it were a picture intended to be hung on the eye line. It is a bit of stage painting, intended to be looked at from an immense distance and to produce a general effect, utterly irrespective of correct drawing or accurate details. Now, my Lords, what is the general effect intended? It appears to me that it is something of this sort—that the Government mean for the future to soar above the details of home reforms and social progress; that, with regard to Ireland, they not only desire to excite a firm desire to keep united the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but that they think it convenient for election purposes to excite the popular feeling against that country, and to convey an impression that the Oppositon are indifferent to the union of the two Islands; that the same difference of opinion exists between themselves and ourselves as to our relations with India and with the Colonies, and that as to the influence of England in Europe, this is the exclusive monopoly of the present Government, which has been used in the past, and which will be used in the future, with a splendid success perfectly unattainable by any other Party in the State. As this is the first opportunity of touching upon the remarkable Manifesto of the noble Earl, it is tempting to touch upon the home policy—or rather, the no-home-policy—of Her Majesty's Government. It is especially tempting to say something upon the attempt, and the utter failure, to fix upon the Opposition any desire for the separation of Ireland from Great Britain. But I will refrain.


Hear, hear!


I am glad to hear that cheer from the noble Earl; and I repeat, that I resist the temptation to speak on those subjects.


I thought the Motion related to the Eastern Question?


To that I am coming. Now, my Lords, with regard to foreign affairs, the first thing that strikes one is the singular declaration that Her Majesty's Government have maintained peace. Where have they maintained peace? In Europe? No. In Africa? No. In Asia? No. They have not maintained it even in South America; but with that they have had little to do. In Europe there has been a war, a war which, as was believed by us at the time, might have been prevented by a policy of united pressure by the whole of Europe to compel the carrying out of the Treaty promises—a war which the Prime Minister once told us could have been prevented if his strong Government had done that which they did not do. But that a long and bloody war took place, and that at an enormous cost of human life and suffering, is a matter of fact, which seems perfectly inconsistent with the repeated boast that Her Majesty's Government secured the peace of Europe. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is much more cautious in his address. He says that, although we could not prevent war, we stopped its extension to other countries. But I want to know who were the other countries who wanted to fight and were prevented by Her Majety's Government from doing so? That is a point on which I am ignorant. It is quite true we did not go to war ourselves. I am very glad, indeed, we did not. We avoided that war by conceding nearly every position which the Government, unfortunately, announced, two years ago, would be injurious if abandoned. The noble Earl, in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, talks not only of the influence, but of the ascendancy, of this country over the Councils of Europe. Where is this ascendancy shown? At Constantinople? With the Slavs? With the Greeks? Is it over France and Egypt? Is it in Vienna and Berlin? When Lord Salisbury announced at Manchester, with exceeding glory, the tidings of an understanding between Austria and Germany, he informed the astonished Manchester people at the, same time that he had no information of what that understanding was. This appears to me very like the ascendancy of the Premier. Though there has been ascendancy, the noble Earl says it is now arrested. It would be interesting to know whether it has only been arrested during the last month, week, or ten days, or much earlier, and what is the nature of its influence? Influence is a good thing, and ascendancy is a better, if really exercised to defend ourselves from injury, and to promote peace, justice, and liberty among others. But can anything be less statesmanlike, less judicious, more certain to destroy our just influence, than to make these idle and public boasts of ascendancy? The noble Earl's ability, his courage, his experience, must give him great influence in his Cabinet. Would it increase his influence to boast in public of his ascendancy over those of whom he is the admitted Chief? Does he, then, think that to flaunt his boast in the face of the rival countries of Europe, jealous of their own position, and, unfortunately, submitting to the burdens of millions of men to maintain it, is a plan to strengthen the influence of England in the slightest degree? I cannot conceive such a thought being not considered either offensive or ridiculous by some of those great military Powers, unless they looked upon it as being a matter of merely insular concern, arguing that, as long as England consented to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them, they would not mind such election periods as those in this letter. But still more serious questions remain. The noble Earl, in his letter, most distinctly intimates that we are in the most critical period of foreign affairs, and he further says that it is only by the Government of England—with him and his Colleagues in the management of affairs—that that critical state of affairs can be dealt with. And it is at this critical time that he slightly diminishes not only the Army, but the Navy Estimates. But the extraordinary thing is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is absolutely ignorant of this critical state of things. In his address he tells us that we are nearly at the end of our European troubles, and proposes to devote himself to questions of a homely character. It is a serious matter that Parliament and the country should be kept so much out of the confidence of Her Majesty's Government as to foreign affairs; but it really becomes a most grave question if the leading Members of the Cabinet are equally deprived of that information. Pessimism in politics is not good. Optimism, within certain limits, is of great advantage. It encourages self-confidence, and the confidence of others. It is a quality the possession of which I do not deny to the present Government. They take, as is natural to high-spirited men, a very favourable view of all that they do, and are not reticent in communicating that opinion to others. It is a most singular circumstance that the South African War, which the Government claimed the merit of endeavouring to prevent, they now speak of as having led to the most happy results. In India we had a North-West Frontier, which the great majority of Anglo-Indian civilians and soldiers thought excellent. It had the great advantage of the mountainous Kingdom of Afghanistan, consolidated under Dost Mahomed and Shere Ali, as a buffer between ourselves and Russia, and with this advantage—that Afghanistan was not conterminous with Russia, or even with India, being separated by tracts of country occupied by inde- pendent Tribes, easily kept in order by a few Native regiments. All this has been changed. Her Majesty's Government are delighted to have got the gates of India, being, I suppose, those narrow passages mentioned in the Gundamuck Treaty. But we do not know whether any further gates are required for Cabul, Herat, the Hindoo Koosh, and other places. All we know is, that in one of the gates already possessed the key is rusting in the keyhole; we have had 7,000 or 8,000 troops shut up there during the whole of last autumn. Lord Lawrence, Lord Northbrook, and others, equally entitled to speak with authority on this subject, have pointed out that the whole difficulty of our position in Afghanistan was, that while nothing was easier than to get there, it was quite another thing to get out. But, moreover, I find an extract of the Viceroy in Council, dated July 7th, last year. He there said— We had serious cause to appprehend that, if we temporarily occupied Cabul, we might, by thus precipitating the downfall of Shere All, irretrievably shake to pieces all the independent materials of government in Afghanistan, bequeathing to Shere Ali's successor no stable basis of authority, and placing ourselves in a position from which we could not afterwards retire without surrendering to anarchy and civil conflict a State which it was our object to strengthen and consolidate in the manner most conducive to peaceable and friendly relations. This is the state in which we find ourselves now. And yet all the language of the Ministers is rose-coloured on the subject. Some promise immediate tranquillity and prosperity to Afghanistan; and the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook) actually worked himself up to tell us the other day that it was a question whether Afghanistan broken up was not better than the "strong and independent" Afghanistan which the Government, like all their Predecessors, considered essential to our interests. With regard to Turkey, the noble Earl has been the greatest optimist of all. I have not heard any opinion from him of late; but he was the last to declare his unchanged belief in the independence and vitality of the Turkish Empire. I have admired the cheery tone with which, at annual civic feasts, he has announced the eternal character of his Administration. But a change has at last arisen. In his letter to the Viceroy, he acknowledges that even his Cabinet is human, and may finally be disposed of by the process of popular election. I am not going to make any rash prophecies as to the result of the coming Election. All I can say is that I have not the slightest doubt the result of that Election will be disadvantageous to Her Majesty's Government. But, supposing they return with the same majority, or even a diminished majority, I feel it is a serious consideration how perfectly uncontrolled they will be in directing the foreign affairs of this country. I believe them to be honourable men, striving, according to their views, to act for the advantage of the country. But I dissent from their views. I dissent from their way of dealing with our foreign policy, and complain of their not achieving the results which they profess to have achieved. But what I more especially complain of is, that they do not let the country take a share in the conduct of its foreign affairs, which I believe is the right and claim of every free country at the present day. If, on the contrary, we are successful at the Election, I can only feel that whatever Government may be in power, that Government will be most anxious to maintain the unity of this Empire, to support the dignity and honour of the Crown, and to protect this country from injury and insult from whatever quarter it may come.


There is very great difficulty in following the speeches of the noble Lord who introduced this Motion. His style of rhetoric is very peculiar. It is framed upon a series of assumptions and, as we all willingly acknowledge, his acquaintance with the countries of which he speaks; and he has made himself, much to his honour and credit, master of the diplomatic details of the last few years; this combination gives a plausibility to his assumptions, for which there is really not the slightest foundation. His arguments are sound enough, if the assumptions could only be proved. The arguments and deductions of the noble Lord are always illustrated by a certain degree of local colouring, which of course, recommends them to the consideration of the House, who feel that they are addressed by an individual who, with personal experience, combines study of the subject, and that they are listening to a noble Lord eminently qualified to address them on such topics. The noble Lord says—"You had a great opportunity in 1876, and you lost it." What was the opportunity? The noble Lord never told us. Throughout his speech, which was not a short one, he dwelt upon the opportunity which was lost; but he never told us what the opportunity was. "Then," said the noble Lord, "after 1876 you had another opportunity." Here, I must say, he did condescend to give us some details for our guidance. "You ought," he said, "to have sent an Embassy to St. Petersburgh and not to Constantinople; everything would then have been settled to the satisfaction of Europe." But here, again, is an assumption of the noble Lord. I suppose that we who are responsible for the conduct of public affairs, or any Gentlemen in our situation, would not have carried them on without some communication with St. Petersburgh. The noble Lord assumes that during the two years that elapsed before the war commenced not the slightest communication had taken place between St. Petersburgh and the Court of St. James's. Then the noble Lord says—"I make a summary of these six years, and that summary is this—You have deprived Turkey of all present authority on the Bosphorus, and you have impaired her to an extent which must inevitably lead to her entirely losing her position there." Well, that is the opinion of the noble Lord; but it is not the general opinion. It is not the opinion of persons—of statesmen, I will say—in several countries upon that subject. They have differed upon points in the settlement of Europe, and compromises necessarily have been made, and arrangements have been agreed to, without which no ultimate consent or decision could have been arrived at; but, if there was one point on which all were agreed, it was that command should be given to Turkey over the Bosphorus, and arrangements should be made with reference to that position which would render it most probable—unless there was a total want of energy and power—that Constantinople would remain in the hands either of the Sultan or of some Power whose position there would not menace the independence of Europe. Now, I say, in answer to the noble Lord at once, that I entirely deny his summary; and if the consequence of his studies has only been that he should call upon the House to listen to a speech of an hour and a quarter in order to vindicate what he calls the summary of his convictions and researches, then I say one weaker, less founded, less true, less trustworthy was never brought before the consideration of your Lordships' House. Then there is another peculiarity about the oratory of the noble Lord. The noble Lord will not be offended by my noticing it, since he is the founder of a school, although that school does not yet exist. The noble Lord has given us so many specimens of this kind of diplomatic rhetoric during this Session, that I think it is necessary that some justice should be done to its peculiarities and its beauties. The noble Lord goes on arguing—forgetting, and thinking the House will also forget—that there is one great distinction between the noble Lord and all on this side of the House, and, I believe, with a sole exception, with all noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord is a man of war. He says—"You should have done this, you lost a great opportunity; you should have done that;" but all the things we ought to have done would have been acts of war; and our duty, as an English Ministry, was to save the country from being involved in war, and, if possible, to prevent war in any part of Europe. The noble Lord, of course, disapproves of the manner in which we managed affairs, because the noble Lord and ourselves were driving at an end perfectly different and contrary to each other. The noble Lord, from beginning to end, has only one idea for the settlement of the Eastern Question. It is from the beginning war, and in the middle war, and in the end war. The object of Her Majesty's Ministers, as I doubt not it would have been the object of our rivals, if they had sat on these benches, was to save this country from war, and, if possible, other countries also. Well, this great speech this evening, which has led to so much instructive and unexpected oratory, is founded on a Motion which ought not to be forgotten. This speech is made because the noble Lord is in possession of a letter from Shere Ali to the Sultan, stirring up the Sultan to make war against England, and to enter into an alliance with that Power which, of all Powers, is the one he should most avoid allying himself to; it descants on the great advantages of his alliance with Russia. The noble Lord's Motion is that, on the part of the Government, we should produce this letter. We have no official knowledge of it; we have it only in the form in which the noble Lord has it, through its having been printed in the newspapers. The letter in question is, without doubt, a forgery, and the noble Lord has made it the foundation of a great debate in your Lordships' House, which has elicited some important revelations from the noble Earl opposite with reference to the politics and position of his Party. He has made them on a letter which is apocryphal and spurious. Now, the history of this letter of Shere Ali, your Lordships may rely upon it, is something in this way—It appeared in a Turkish paper, and was communicated to that paper by a European. When it appeared in the Turkish newspaper, it was, of course, copied into other papers, and a considerable controversy was occasioned by it. A communication was, in consequence, made to the Turkish Government, and the authenticity of the letter was immediately denied. The Sultan himself personally declared that it was perfectly apocryphral; and, therefore, no copy came into our possession, nor did we hear anything further about it. I must say this—that the Russian newspapers—at least, some of them, though copying the letter, treated it in a spirit of very judicious criticism. The Golos of the 15th of July said— This correspondence, which is undoubtedly false, has made a strong impression upon the Mahomedan population in India. It was reprinted in all the leading Indian newspapers, and gave rise to endless rumours in all the bazaars. I think if your Lordships were to read the letter—and probably you did read it some time ago—you would see immediately that it was written by a European. It is too epigrammatic for an Oriental; and the whole tone is evidently that of some experienced journalist, who used a small Turkish newspaper which no longer exists, published at Constantinople, and distinguished for its hostility to England. This letter, disclaimed by the Sultan, and by him personally denounced as utterly apocryphal, is the foundation for the debate of to-night. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) has taken fair advantage of this discussion to make some amiable remarks on the state of public affairs; and the noble Earl has taken the letter which I addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as his chief text. I think he ought to have assisted the noble Lord who produced the Oriental letter, and have made a speech which would have been more germane to the matter in hand. I do not collect from the noble Earl that his objections are of a very substantial or serious character. The first objection is, that we have advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament. I can conceive some familiar friend complaining that we had advised Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament; but I am surprised that the noble Earl, the head of a powerful Party, who for the last six months have been denouncing Her Majesty's Government because they did not dissolve Parliament—and some of whom have used language of the strongest invective against us, and who have laboured to impress upon the nation that it was nothing but our fear of the indignation of our fellow-citizens that prevented us from doing so—I say I am surprised that the noble Earl should have found that fault with us. I will make great admissions to the noble Earl. I will admit that there is hardly a higher function to exercise, or a more responsible duty to fulfil, than to advise your Sovereign to dissolve Parliament in any circumstances, except when the absolute lapse of time renders it the duty of a Ministry to do so. I look upon it as an act which involves the highest responsibility on the part of the Ministry who advise it; and if I did not feel certain that the noble Earl opposite and many of his Friends, whose great station in the country and whose distinguished talents we all acknowledge and honour, were merely speaking in a spirit of mockery, I should be alarmed when I read, as I do read, that some of these distinguished persons have absolutely insinuated that Parliament has been dissolved because there was some Water Bill in the House of Commons. If I believed that the}' sincerely entertained that view, I should feel that there was great danger for the country. But, as I know they are men well experienced in public affairs, and have well weighed the responsibility of the Ministerial conduct in making such advice as the Dissolution of Parliament to the Sovereign, I pass that over, and I am quite convinced that the noble Earl will allow me to notice his remarks on the broad ground upon which they ought to be noticed. To advise a Dissolution is an act which involves great responsibility; and we have considered it in all its bearings. Nothing but a sense of duty—of overwhelmingduty—induced us to take that step; and no other justification of our act, I should think, was necessary, especially as we are now appealing to our country. The noble Earl touched, I think, upon some domestic subjects which I ought to have noticed; but as the debate is on foreign affairs, I may, perhaps, be excused from referring to them.


I referred to Ireland.


I have already troubled your Lordships to-night with remarks upon Ireland, and I will not touch upon that subject again. I will rather come to that point in the noble Earl's speech in which he questioned my right to describe what my views were as to the position of this and other nations—as to the relations existing between this and other countries—and the degree of danger or security that might arise from them. He questioned my right, and I must assert that right in a manner which cannot be mistaken. I do not understand what the noble Earl means by perpetually impressing us with the necessity of publishing to the nation every single thing connected with our foreign affairs, as if we were to take every opportunity of shuffling off the responsibility which it is our duty as Ministers to encounter and to sincerely feel. My Lords, there is not an expression in the letter to which so much reference has been made which was not well weighed and sincerely felt. I believe the state of affairs is critical; and when I look at the condition of Europe; when I observe those mighty hosts in battle array; when I find increased armaments proposed, recommended, and agreed to with facility—if there were no other causes, these alone would make me impress upon my countrymen that this is not a time when vigilance can be neglected, and when resolution can be Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought. The noble Lord followed up those remarks. The noble Lord seemed to complain very much of my using the word "ascendency," and talked of my "boasting of the ascendency which Her Majesty's Government now possesses in Europe." I said nothing of the kind. I laid it down, as I do lay it down here sincerely, that England ought to possess an influence, not to say an ascendency, in the Councils of Europe. I laid that down; but I did not say that we possess an ascendency. I said that the principle I have just enunciated should form the basis of a policy which a wise Minister would pursue, and which he ought to endeavour to attain. There are causes why England does not possess that degree of influence and ascendency in the Councils of Europe which I should desire her to possess. These causes are the conduct, not of the noble Earl, who has always conducted himself as a statesman should; but the conduct of those deeply connected in public life with the noble Earl, who have held language which has impressed the Courts of Europe, and the nations of Europe, with the idea that there is a want of sympathy between the existing Government and their countrymen; and that if one of those trials should occur which demand the utmost development of national energy, and the utmost display of national spirit, the Government would appeal to their countrymen in vain. My Lords, there is a great difference between the word "ascendency" and the word "supremacy." The word ascendency is one which involves important moral attributes, and is not a word of offence, but one which will always be accepted in a liberal and generous spirit. I maintain that the policy of England should be directed at preserving her ascendency. I maintain that unless we take our place in the Councils of Europe in a becoming manner, the peace of the world will be endangered. I maintain that the best security for possessing general peace lies in increasing and upholding the influence of this country. Why, the two systems have been tried! The opposite system has been tried by the Ministry of which the noble Earl was one of the ablest Members, and what was the result? If we have had to encounter troubles, if we have had to meet great difficulties, if we have found affairs in Asia and in Europe complicated and confused, why, they were the consequence, I will say, of the policy of those who preceded us. That policy we have not followed. Our policy we have fairly put before the country, and its verdict will soon be given. If it is our fortune to remain upon these benches, the policy we ourselves have pursued will be pursued again; but if the noble Earl and his Friends are destined to occupy our positions, I promise the noble Earl that if the honour and the interest of England are ever concerned when he is Minister, his Government will be supported by the Tory Party.


said, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield) had made an accusation against the late Government which he did not remember to have heard made before—namely, that they left the relations of this country with foreign Powers in such a condition that the difficulties and dangers surrounding the present Government were largely caused by their conduct. Unless his memory deceived him, he had heard the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) the Foreign Minister serving under the noble Earl opposite, declare that when he succeeded to power the opinions of this country had never been received with more respect. What, then, became of the extraordinary statement which the noble Earl had had the audacity to make? Could anyone who was not to be led away by magniloquent phrases believe that the state of Europe, when the present Government acceded to Office, could have been brought about by the conduct of the late Government? Why, it was notorious that the condition of Europe had been largely brought about by the great war between Germany and France, which upset all the previous relations of the Continent, and from which dated the disturbance which had continued up to the present time. Since the disturbance caused by that war, peace had always been more or less insecure. He quite agreed with the noble Earl in what he had said about the critical state of Europe. He agreed with him that ever since that disturbance there had been much more danger of war than before. The noble Earl's letter was as inconsistent with that statement of his own Foreign Secretary as the speech which he had just made was inconsistent with the letter. He said in that letter that the Government had, up till then, been able to secure the peace of Europe; and further on he said, that the peace of Europe rested upon the influence, not to say the ascendency, of this country in the Councils of Europe. The noble Earl now said that, owing to circumstances which were to be deplored, this country had not all the influence that it ought to have. Then, what became of the argument of the noble Earl that the peace of Europe rested on England having a dominant influence in the Councils of Europe? The noble Earl knew that England had not now, and had not for many years had, any such dominant influence in Europe; and it was not to our interest that this country should endeavour to obtain dominant influence in the Councils of Europe. He (the Earl of Kimberley) hoped this country would always have a just influence in Europe; but as regarded ascendency, he believed that to be a chimera; and if it was not a chimera, it could only be bought by an expenditure of blood and treasure which this country could not lightly undertake. What the Liberal Party asserted was, that Her Majesty's Government had not secured the results which they ought to have secured. They said the result of the action of Her Majesty's Government was to leave Turkey dismembered; that, far from insuring peace, they adopted a course which must lead to war; that if they had interfered at a timely moment, they might have averted war. It was always comparatively easy to excite the passions of a high-minded people such as the people of England by appealing to national honour and national interests; but he ventured to think that such a proceeding was scarcely worthy of statesmen who were responsible for the government of the country. It was a far nobler duty to moderate these passions, which were generally not the highest which actuated mankind.


said, that the noble Earl who had just sat down had included among his observations the remark that he was not aware whether he spoke the views of anyone else on his own side of the House. In saying that, he had expressed the difference which existed between a Liberal and a Conservative Government. His noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Beaconsfield) had not been exactly represented when he was credited with saying that our relations with foreign Powers were in the slightest degree wanting in the due respect which one nation owed to another; but when the time had come for the voice of England to speak in Europe, the present Government had found that we could not speak with due effect. The reason of this was that there existed on the Continent—and the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) knew very well that this had been alleged by some of the most prominent men on the Continent—a belief that England did not intend to take any real part in the affairs of Europe. When the Government had been called upon to give their adhesion to the Berlin Memorandum, the noble Earl (Earl Granville), with that English sense which he could not divest himself of, had felt with the Government that they were right in declining to accede to it. Then had come the great agitation conducted in this country by a man of the greatest possible ability, in which again the inference was held out to Europe that England was not at one, and that her foreign policy was not to be depended upon. The noble Earl had spoken about exciting the passions of Englishmen on the subject of their relations with foreign countries; there was, however, an opposite change—namely, to excite those passions in another direction, by an appeal to their humanity, and by an exaggeration of events which were most lamentable in themselves, but which received even an undue importance from that exaggeration. The noble Earl told their Lordships he did not like the electioneering remarks of his (Viscount Cranbrook's) noble Friend in that House. He (Viscount Cranbrook) ventured to say, with great respect to the noble Earl opposite who led the Liberal Party with so much effect, he could not conceive for what object he made the speech he made to-night, except as a Manifesto on the part of the Liberal Party. If the noble Raid had spoken on behalf of the whole of the Liberal Party, no doubt, his Manifesto would have been received as a valuable representative utterance; but he did not, as a matter of fact, speak for the whole Party. The Party was broken up into shreds, and its voice was disunited to a degree which must make it weak in the Councils of Europe. The Conservatives, on the other hand, had spoken with one voice, and unequivocally, and they had taken that position throughout, which they would continue to adopt if they were left upon those Benches. They spoke still with that unanimity with which the Conservative Party had throughout spoken on this question. Great objec- tion had been made to the word "ascendency." There was the ascendency of violence, and the ascendency of moral power. England had a power of her own. It might be that she had not the great armaments which existed on the Continent; but she could, as was well known, make her power felt in every direction. There was no State in Europe which, if England were really in earnest, would not value an alliance with her, and feel the importance of every word she spoke. He himself would certainly never have anticipated taking part in the discussion of that evening; but they had been invited to this electioneering contest, and, as he was now debarred from taking any part in it outside, he must thank the noble Earl for enabling him to say in that place that the Party he (Viscount Cranbrook) represented had the honour and interests of England at heart, and were prepared to maintain them in a way in which the noble Earl's Party could not, because it was divided against itself, and was therefore, one of those Parties that could not stand.


ventured to say that the sentiments which were expressed by his noble Friend at the conclusion of his speech were sentiments that were shared by the Liberal Party. The noble Viscount who had just sat down admitted that when Her Majesty's Government came into Office they were not acquainted with that great want of influence in the Councils of Europe from which England had suffered during the time they were in Office. He had the statement of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) that at the time when the present Government entered on Office, our relations with all foreign countries were on a satisfactory and honourable footing. As to the occurrences in Bulgaria, it had always been the custom of Her Majesty's Government and their supporters in the country to assert that the strong feelings which those occurrences aroused in this country were the result of Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet; but the fact was that the Earl of Derby's despatch, denouncing those outrages in the strongest terms, was written before that pamphlet. There was no doubt that Her Majesty's Government was suffering from a want of influence in many parts of the Continent and in many foreign countries. He would instance Turkey. The po- licy of Her Majesty's Government had been a policy intended, in the main, to be friendly to Turkey. They had heard much of the integrity and independence of Turkey. Bat now the state of things was such—the influence of this country had fallen so low—that Ministers in that country, whose removal had been demanded, were not removed, but promoted and even decorated. Reforms had been promised in Asia Minor; but, after an interval of 21 months, they had not even been begun. The obligations undertaken by the Anglo-Turkish Convention had never been fulfilled. The noble Earl at the head of the Government, in a letter which had been much alluded to in the course of the evening, described the present state of Europe as being very critical. That phrase had been repeated that evening. From that their Lordships were desired to understand that unless power was again placed in the hands of Her Majesty's present Government, there would arise a general war in Europe, and that the peace of the world would be disturbed. It was, however, a curious fact, if the state of the world was so critical and dangerous, that Her Majesty's Government in the present year should have proposed no inconsiderable reduction in the Army and Navy Estimates. That course was certainly unjustifiable if taken in connection with the statements which had been made in their Lordships' House. Nothing could be more dangerous than a blustering policy unsupported by force. If Her Majesty's Government believed that the condition of the world was alarming, they were bound not to reduce armaments, but largely to increase them.


said, he rose to reply to some remarks of the noble Marquess who had just sat down, and that he did not purpose to go into the question of Asiatic reforms. That question could only be discussed properly on a full and calm review of all the Papers bearing on it. The noble Marquess had stated that when Her Majesty's Government came into Office they found the relations of the country with foreign Powers satisfactory. It was not, however, till years afterwards that the time arrived when Her Majesty's Government found it necessary to make the voice of England heard. It was then that they found that, both by the traditions of the Government which had gone before and from the language which had been held from time to time by Members of that Government, the influence of this country was becoming weakened. The noble Marquess had said that the noble Earl the Prime Minister had stated that Her Majesty's Government were suffering from a want of influence on the Continent. But he wished to be allowed to state to their Lordships what was really the fact. What his noble Friend meant was perfectly plain and distinct; and it was this—that at the Dissolution of Parliament in this country, when those who were interested in politics were stating in their Addresses and speeches that the opinion of the country disapproved of the policy of the Government, that that was a course which tended to impair the influence of England. In that sense, and in that sense alone, his noble Friend had spoken of the arrest of the influence of this country on the affairs of Europe.


said, that the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack had stated that Her Majesty's present Government had found the influence of this country weakened abroad by the proceedings of their Predecessors. That was diametrically opposite to what had been stated by his Colleague, the former Foreign Secretary; who said, not merely in the formal manner usual in Queen's Speeches, that they found the relations of this country with Foreign Powers satisfactory, but that there never was a time at which the influence of this country stood higher. It seemed, however, that Her Majesty's present Government had in view some line of policy in which they found themselves thwarted, either by the effect of the previous policy, or of the active opposition, of their Predecessors. He should like to know exactly what that line of policy was. Was it simply war for Turkey against the liberties of her subject-races? Now, the one happy result of that miserable war was that the rights of those suffering races were established; and he, for one, rejoiced that what had taken place would prevent those races from being further down-trodden as they had been in former times. When the Bulgarian atrocities occurred, and a thrill of horror ran through the country, his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), who was then the Foreign Secretary, fully shared those sentiments. If, then, it were meant that Her Majesty's Go- vernment were less moved by those sentiments of humanity and compassion and had a policy opposed to the liberation of those subject-races, he, for one, rejoiced and counted it a most happy thing that they had not been able to carry out that course of policy.


called attention to the fact that a few days after the present Government was formed, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), in his place, mentioned that he heard various reports about the waning influence of England. He found that was not the case, for at no time was the advice of this country more sought for or more effectual than at that time.


said, that, as the authenticity of the letter had been disputed, it was open to him to withdraw his Motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.