HL Deb 19 June 1884 vol 289 cc785-7

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he can give any information with regard to the present position of affairs in Morocco, and the relations now existing between that country and France; also, whether any Papers and Correspondence can be laid upon the Table of the House? The noble Earl said, that the reports which had reached them relative to the state of affairs in Morocco and the recent action of France could not but cause very grave apprehensions. He wished in no way to sound a note of alarm, as what was stated in that House might sometimes produce a greater effect than was intended, but there were occasions when silence became a fault. He thought that what had taken place was sufficient reason for his asking the noble Earl the Questions on the Paper. He fully recognized the Constitutional principle that the Foreign Policy of this country was in the hands of Her Majesty's Government — that by them Treaties might be made or annulled, and war even declared, without consulting Parliament. He would only say that Constitutional powers might sometimes be pressed too far, and they were not without instances of that in recent times which had involved the country in serious foreign complications. He might be told by the noble Earl opposite that a perfect understanding existed between France and Morocco. It might be so; but he wished to ask whether it was not true that a proposition had been made to rectify the frontier between Algeria and Morocco by extending the territory of France to the River Mulaya, thereby making a very considerable addition to Algeria; and whether the French Minister at Morocco, M. Ordega, had not recently admitted to French protection and the privileges of a French subject an influential religious leader, the Sherif of Wazan, who sympathized with the discontented portion of the population in opposition to the Emperor; and whether the French Minister had not received several deputations of Chiefs of Tribes soliciting his protection? As showing in some measure the view taken of the present position of affairs in the country, he would read a passage from a newspaper published at Tangier, The Réveil du MarocWe are not able to pronounce at present in a definitive manner upon the real bearing of these facts; we may, nevertheless, affirm that the sympathies of Mussulmans for France become more and more keen; the populations, discontented with the administration of their Governors, rally round the Sherif of Wazan, and a movement is caused in Morocco which may lead to an unforeseen result. Neither did it seem that all this was disallowed in France. The Journal des Débats said— This is why France desires above everything that a revolution may not take place to disturb the progress of her pacific and civilizing policy in the countries bordering upon her great African Colony. It sounded very plausible to talk of civilizing and pacific progress, though he confessed he had some doubts of the advantages of European civilization in Oriental countries; but that was the very justification offered for the invasion of Tunis. It was repeatedly stated by the then French Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire, and repeatedly affirmed by the noble Earl opposite, that there was no intention of annexation or permanent occupation on the part of France with regard to Tunis; but what had happened? Why, the French were permanently established there, and everything was under French rule. The Capitulations had been abolished, and British subjects, some 12,000 or more in number, were handed over to the jurisdiction of the French Courts. It was impossible to overlook these facts. He hoped that the noble Earl would be able to explain what had taken place. His own apprehensions were that the same thing now beginning in Morocco would go on as in Tunis. These were no longer diplomatic secrets, as they had been made known and published in Italy, and the French movements were closely watched by Spain. Though he did not wish to sound a note of alarm, he thought he had not exaggerated the facts of the case, which, indeed, were patent to all, and could not remain unnoticed.


My Lords, I have no doubt that a considerable feeling of anxiety and excitement has been produced in Morocco and also in Spain and in Italy by the reports with regard to the threatening intentions of the French with respect to Morocco. Complaint is also made by the Sultan of Morocco with regard to the French taking the Sherif of Wazan under their protection. I have no official information in regard to what the noble Earl said about other Sherifs seeking the protection of the French, or as to the manner in which any such advances have been received by the French. But I have received, both from Lord Lyons and M. Waddington, the most formal assurances on the part of the French Government that there is no truth whatever in the reports regarding any aggressive intentions on their part, or any wish either to annex or to protect, or cause trouble in any other way in Morocco. They desire the maintenance of the status quo, and the only negotiations passing now between France and Morocco are negotiations with regard to certain affairs in the interior. These assurances are exactly in accord with those which I had previously received from M. Barthelemy de St. Hiliare, M. Gambetta, and afterwards from M. de Freycinet. I have reason to know that these assurances have also been given in the most formal manner to Italy and Spain. We have communicated with our Minister at Morocco, directing him to communicate the assurances in question to the Sultan of Morocco.