§ *LORD STANMOR rose to move:— "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to the Speech from the Throne." After craving their Lordships' indulgence the noble Lord said: I am confident, my Lords, that the first paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which will have attracted universal attention, and commanded universal sympathy, is that in which the Queen informs us of the sorrow which has befallen Her Royal House. [Cheers.] I have no doubt that the, subject will be touched on later in the Debate by my noble Friend, Who sits below me, in words far more felicitous I ban any I could use. I will not anticipate those observations. I will merely say this, for it is a remark which I think deserves notice, that, sincere as is our sympathy for the widowed Princess, and sincere, as is our regret for the loss of the Prince her husband, it is rather to the sorrow of the Queen that the feeling of the whole nation is turned. ["Hear, hear!"] And it must, be consolatory to Her Majesty to know that her sorrows are her people's sorrows, and her joys theirs, by reason of that feeling of well-nigh filial attachment to her. ["Hear, hear!"] But while the death of Prince Henry of Battenberg, in the prime of life and while engaged in the service of his adopted country, has cast a shade over what would otherwise be feelings of exultation at the rapid and bloodless success of the campaign in Ashanti, it must not be allowed to divert our attention either from the skill with which the expedition was planned or the promptitude and vigour with which it was executed. To those who were engaged in it the thanks of this country are due, and by this House I am sure will be readily accorded. The next 10 point which will have excited your Lordships' attention in Her Majesty s Gracious Speech is the unusual number and the unusual importance of the paragraphs relating to events which have taken place beyond the, limits of Great Britain. I remember in the last Session of the last Parliament that my noble Friend below me (the Marquess of Salisbury) uttered some very weighty words with regard to the increased danger and risk which, in these days of rapid communication and universal publication, attends ill-considered and intemperate speeches with regard to foreign affairs. There is at least one paragraph in the Speech to which that warning emphatically applies. I mean the paragraph relating to recent events in the Transvaal Republic. The events which are connected with that rash and lamentable adventure which has of late so largely filled the public mind will undergo the ordeal of judicial investigation, and it is manifestly undesirable that anything should be said, either in this House or elsewhere, which may in any way appear to prejudge the decision of that tribunal. But even if that were not the case, I think that the imperfect state of our information with regard to the events which have taken place would in itself be quite enough to preclude discussion on the present occasion. Moreover, we know from the Despatch published the other day in the newspapers, that negotiations are now going on between this Government and the President of the Transvaal Republic. Those negotiations on the part, of this country have been entrusted to strong hands; and the moderation and the good judgment displayed by the President of the Transvaal Republic and the conciliatory spirit which he has indicated, offer a good augury for the success of the negotiations. ["Hear, hear!"] The next topic to which I refer is that, first mentioned in the Speech. It is one on which the same reticence need not be observed. The Agreement between this country and France with regard to the neutralisation of a great part of the kingdom of Siam is now completed, and is, therefore, open and subject to criticism, nor can it now be affected by what is said of it. It may seem to some paradoxical, but I confess that I for one view that Agreement with 11 great satisfaction for the very reason that it affords nothing like a brilliant triumph to either of the parties to it. The complement of triumph is humiliation, and where humiliation exists there is usually soreness and disappointment; and if the party humiliated be a great State, the consequences may be decidedly mischievous. Triumph is a legitimate thing very of ten, where you have overcome wrong and established right; but in the case of negotiations conducted on an equal footing between two parties who are equally convinced of their rights, and who are acting in perfectly good faith, I am not at all sure that the solid advantage is always on the side of the party which has gained a triumph. I think this Agreement ought to be regarded as satisfactory by all those who do not misunderstand it. But it has been misrepresented, and therefore, I suppose, has been misunderstood. It is said that what this Agreement does is virtually to partition Siam; that we have put the king, in what remains of his dominions, under the tutelage of two great Powers, and that they have taken the remnant to themselves. Nothing could be more inaccurate or unjust. The provinces of Siam which are not referred to in this Agreement stand exactly on the same footing now as they did before the Agreement. Should any interest, British or French, be affected in those provinces, either to the east or the west of the centre of Siam, there is nothing to prevent those interests being safeguarded and looked after exactly as before. What, has been done is this. That whereas before this Agreement the whole of the kingdom of Siam was in the same condition as these exterior provinces are now, the central and most important provinces of Siam have now been guaranteed in their neutrality. Neither France nor England can, without the consent of the other, move an armed force into that territory, and the two Powers are prepared to prevent any third Power from doing that which they themselves refrain from. That arrange is a great advantage to the two great Powers concerned. It relieves them from many misgivings, it sets at rest many suspicions, and it prevents much misunderstanding. It is an advantage to Siam, because it leaves that country free to employ its whole resources on its own development, instead 12 of in useless military defences which, in case of need, would probably serve it in very bad stead. It is a service to the whole world in settling questions which might give rise to unpleasant discussions in the future. It is true that Mongsin has been given up, and I admit as fully as any noble Lord who mourns the loss of that possession, that to recede from territory once gained is, in Oriental countries, always attended with some risk. But if ever the risk in retrocession were reduced to a minimum it is in this case. Mongsin is not a populous and extensive province; it is a triangle of earth not larger than one of the smallest of English counties, with a population of less than 2,000, and with a reputation, even in that unhealthy region, of possessing an especially deadly climate. The exchange of a land frontier for a fixed and evident river boundary is an absolute gain; and, at all events, the price paid is well worth paying for the satisfaction of effecting an Agreement which sets at rest so many matters of dispute. The next subject which I approach is, perhaps, less easy to deal with. I mean the difficulties which have arisen with regard to the frontier between the Republic of Venezuela and the Colony of British Guiana. I think that, speaking generally and with some exceptions, the Despatches which have been published on this subject have received a general approval from the public and the press. The only objection of any importance, which has been raised in some quarters, is this: It is asked, why should the Government have excluded from a reference to arbitration any part of the territory claimed by Venezuela? We are asked why, if our case is so good, and if we are certain it must prevail, do we object to put it before an impartial arbitrator. The contention is plausible, but neither sound nor convincing. We are rhetorically told that it is not worth while to imperil the grave interests of the nation for a mere strip of marsh and forest. I should like to clear away the ridiculous misstatement that what Venezuela claims is a mere strip of marsh. Setting aside altogether that part of our claim which is situated to the westward of the Schomburgk line, in regard to which we have expressed our full willingness to submit to arbitration, the claim of Venezuela is to more than two-thirds of the whole 13 colony of British Guiana. Of the 100,000 square miles included in the colony of British Guiana, Venezuela claims 80,000. That cannot by any stretch of rhetoric be called a mere strip of swamp and forest. There are, therefore, grave reasons which well may make Her Majesty's Government hesitate to put the whole claim made by Venezuela into arbitration. The left bank of the Essequibo river, which is claimed by Venezuela, was for a hundred miles up from its mouth settled by the Dutch before we ourselves took the colony. The remains of Dutch forts are to be seen on the various rivers flowing into the Essequibo, and on the site of one of them the chief penal colony of British Guiana has been for at least 50 years established. These are our undoubted possessions, and we cannot well put them into arbitration. Before a country submits to arbitration it must admit that there is some subject of dispute, but in this case it is impossible to suppose that, as regards the extreme Venezuelan claim, any real subject of dispute arises. The extreme claim of Venezuela could only be compared to a claim—if such an absurdity could be imagined—that we should refer to arbitration whether the Channel Islands, which once were part of the Duchy of Normandy, did not belong to the French Republic, because the. Duchy of Normandy forms part of that Republic. But there is another reason against submitting the whole claim of Venezuela to arbitration. All arbitration, even the best, involves an element of uncertainty, and we have no right to expose the interests of British subjects in British Guiana, who have long held their possessions under our rule to the chance of being handed over to the tender mercies of a South American Republic which has been no less truly than wittily described as "a dictatorship tempered by revolution." Perhaps remarks made in this House or the other House of Parliament in reference to Venezuelan government or revolution may be resented on the other side of the Atlantic, and as what is said in the Senate of the United States may meet with more respect, I would refer to the speech of Senator Walcott, published in The Times of Friday, for a candid opinion of Venezuelan government. There is one other reason against arbit 14 tration I think a mistake is made by some people as to the difference between mediation and arbitration. The duty of a mediator is to arrange a dispute he is asked to settle in the best way he can. The duty of an arbitrator is to pronounce as a judge upon a case laid before him. The case which Venezuela asks to be laid before an arbitrator is the whole territory involved; and I apprehend that if the arbitrator, in despair of being able to pronounce which party is right, was to advise the adoption of a line which appeared to him to be a just and fair boundary, he would be told by Venezuela that he had no right to say what the boundary ought to be; that his duty was to say what the boundary is. That may seem to many too fine a distinction to be applicable to practical affairs. But it is nothing of the kind. The case has actually happened. There was a dispute long ago between the United States and. this country as to the proper boundary between the United States and Canada—what was called the North-East Boundary Question. That dispute was referred to the arbitration of the King of the Netherlands; and the King of the Netherlands in despair, as he well might, of finding a boundary made by treaty, laid down a line which he thought was a reasonable boundary, and said to the parties—"There is your boundary." What did the United States do in that case? They said to the King of the Netherlands— You have gone beyond your powers; you have not decided the question laid before you; we will have nothing to do with the boundary you have struck, and we go back to our original claim. Is there anything more likely that Venezuela would follow so highly respectable an example and repudiate anything decided by the arbitrator that was not in favour of its own claim? But while we say that the extreme claim of the Republic of Venezuela is inadmissible, I do not read the Dispatches of the noble Marquess as in any way precluding a reasonable settlement of the difficulty that has arisen, or even as saying that we are resolved not to give up of our own free will any of our territory within the Schomburgk line, as to which we say that our rights are incontestable, and cannot be submitted to arbitration. But, though I have no information on the subject any more than the people in the 15 street, if Venezuela were to give up its extreme, and, I must say, absurd claim, as we do not wish to press our extreme claim, which includes country Venezuelan by settlement and Spanish by language, I imagine there would be no difficulty in finding by negotiations a reasonable settlement of the question. And now, my Lords, if I have required your indulgence before, I need it far more now in dealing with the last topic of Foreign Affairs upon which I shall touch. It is a painful subject and an important subject, and one upon which I feel, as many Englishmen feel, exceedingly strong conviction. I refer, my Lords, to the situation in Armenia. So long as that question remains in its present unsettled condition, so long will there be very grave dangers attending it. Of late important events which have occurred in other places have distracted public attention in some degree from It. It has been said, with some exaggeration no doubt, but still with some truth, that Englishmen can only think of one foreign subject at a time, and no doubt the number of subjects that have crowded upon their attention lately have, perhaps, diverted some of the attention that was previously fixed upon Armenia. But that fact does not make the state of things there less important or less intolerable. The winter is not less severe; the misery of the homeless and the plundered is not less keen, the brutality of Turkish officials is not diminished because attention is now less directed to that unhappy country. There is one sentence, and one sentence only in the Speech from the Throne in regard to the intolerable state of affairs in Armenia which gives me pleasure, and that is the statement that the reforms started by the late Government and pressed forward by the present Government have been accepted by the Sultan. I for one, however, have no great faith in the value of that mere acceptance, and I do not think the noble Marquess below me (Marquess of Salisbury) has much more. Still, much good may be done if the Concert of Europe, which had been formed for the purpose of obtaining them, sees that those reforms are carried out effectually. That Concert it has been, it is, and I have no doubt it will be the object of Her Majesty's Government to maintain and to secure; and, unless it can be secured, 16 I look upon the condition of the whole of those countries as hopeless under Turkish rule. It has been, it is, and it will be a curse and a blight upon every country in which it exists; but nevertheless, I hold the policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued to be thoroughly and entirely sound. It is the Concert of the European Powers only which will enable anything effectual to be done to redress the miserable condition of these provinces. There have been murmurs in this country to the effect that the Government have been inert, and that more should have been done to press reforms upon the Turkish Government. It is an easy luxury for those who are not in office, who have never been in office, and who are never likely to be, to indulge in the cheap luxury of criticism; but Governments have to act; and what is it they would wish Her Majesty s Government to have done? Some have said," Land forces at Scanderoon and send them into Armenia." I admit, if this could have been done without the risk of opposition from other Powers, if it could have been done even with their tacit consent, and we could safely have denuded our country of most of its troops, and locked them upon the mountains of Armenia, it might have been effectual; but, had we reason, to anticipate anything of that kind? I fear we had every reason to anticipate the reverse; and I do not think any noble Lord opposite would advocate such a course. Again, it has been said, "Let us send our fleet to Constantinople and so force the Sultan to comply with our demands. There again the same difficuly meets us; what if the Turkish fleet be not the only one we meet in the sea of Marmora? and I do not think any noble Lord will suggest that course. A third course has been suggested, more moderate in appearance but really not very different, and it is that we should seize the Customs of Smyrna and hold them as a material guarantee. But, what if the other Powers of Europe refused to recognise our right to do that, and refused to allow their merchant ships to pay dues to the authorities we put there? What would be done then? We should be reduced to a confession of impotence or forced into new hostilities. I do not think any noble Lord will, recommend that. Only 17 one other course has been suggested, and it is hardly worth mentioning; it is said that we should show our displeasure with the Sultan by recalling our Ambassador from Constantinople; a more futile and mischievous course could not be imagined, for the effect of it would be to show that we were powerless, and that we had given up the hope of effecting any improvement while unchecked scope would be given to every kind of hostile intrigue. The Concert of Europe has effected almost everything that has been done with success in the East. It effected the liberation of Greece; and in that case, as in this, the public conscience of England was aroused long before any active step could be taken. The Government then, as now, said it could not act except in concert with Europe. If ever there was a time when the English Government could have acted alone it must have been in the ten years following the Battle of Waterloo. If there was anyone who sympathised with the Greek cause it was Mr. Canning; yet, he told the Greek delegates that he could not act without the Concert of other Powers; when that was obtained the Protocol of St. Petersburg developed into the Treaty of London, and though every Power concerned afterwards wished at one time or another to escape from its provisions they were loyally observed and secured their object. Impatience in waiting for the Concert of Europe more than any other cause involved us in the Crimean War. After the massacres at Damascus, the Concert of Europe gave better government to the Lebanon. It is to the Concert of Europe we must look now, for without it we cannot do anything. Of late years we have often seen what has been called the dawn of a new era in Turkey; there have been half-a-dozen since the hatti humayon of 1856, which professed to give privileges to the Christians. But all these eras have been much alike. There was no diminution of oppression and corruption; in all there have been misgovernment and massacre; indeed massacre is in the East—not in Turkey only—regarded as one of the instruments of Government, and a very effective instrument it sometimes is. There are plenty of quiet and silent nooks in the provinces of Turkey which once were busy and populous. There have been all manner of small massacres; 18 the larger massacres have generally been followed by fortunate results. It was the massacre of Chios brought about Greek independence; the massacres of Bulgaria deprived the Porte of several provinces. What will the massacres in Armenia effect? I trust the Government will not cease to press for that Concert of Europe, which, if it does not succeed in introducing all the reforms we desire, may establish a better Government, like that of the Lebanon. With regard to domestic matters, having trespassed on the attention of the House so long, I will only venture to say I am glad to see among the promised measures one relating to Employers' Liability. From the other measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech we may form a good idea of the policy and intentions of the Government. I conclude by moving an humble Address to Her Majesty.
THE EARL OF ROSSLYN,
who wore the uniform of the Fife Light Horse, in seconding the Address, said:— It is with the greatest diffidence that I rise to address your Lordships' House, and to second the Address so ably moved in reply to Her Most Gracious Majesty's Speech from the Throne. But I feel convinced that in what appears a some what, difficult though important duty the indulgence which has ever been accorded to the members of your Lordships' House will not be withheld from me on this occasion. My Lords, before applying myself to the text of the Queen's Speech, I would first and foremost, add my tribute of humble yet most sincere sympathy to that of the noble Lords who has just spoken, and which I know is reciprocated by every Member of your Lordships' House, with Her Majesty and Princess Beatrice, who have been plunged into such terrible grief by the death of Prince Henry of Batten-berg; and further, I would, on your behalf, assure Her Majesty that the sad bereavement the Royal Family have sustained has only added another link to the already long chain which binds Her Majesty's subjects throughout the world in that loyalty and devoted sympathy which only a national joy or a national calamity, such as the present one, can fully bring to the surface. Not only do we share the grief of the Royal Family, but we mourn the loss of a brave and upright man, a man sans peur et sans reproche, who, 19 when opportunity offered itself, was prepared to lay down his life on behalf of his Queen and country. My Lords, the love for our Royal Family has ever burnt fiercely in our country's breast, and the noble example of patriotism exhibited by the dead Prince will, I do not hesitate to say, enhance that feeling, and I trust prove a source of consolation to those who mourn a devoted relative and a nation's friend. My Lords, reverting to the text of the Speech, in which the position of Foreign Affairs holds so prominent a place, I will not detain your Lordships' House on this question beyond venturing to think that the troubles which have recently arisen throughout the world, and in which this country has been chiefly involved, have been due partly to misconception, partly to a system of weak government in Turkey, and partly to causes which no Government could have prevented. To misconception I attribute the threatened trouble with the United States, and I feel sure, now that the first impulse of excitement has cooled down, we may look to a calm and friendly settlement of the difficulty. To a system of weak Government in Turkey must be attributed the recent terrible massacres in Armenia, and it would be futile to suggest that Her Majesty's successive Governments have shown weakness in not dealing peremptorily with the question, notwithstanding the Treaty of San Stefano and the Convention of Cyprus. So long as there was unity of action among the foreign Powers, so long as the Sultan was willing to cooperate in our suggestions, so long was there a possibility of an end to the atrocities; but when nothing less than the serious risk of a European war stared us in the face, a war which would have proved more heinous than any district insurrection could possibly have warranted, England had but one course to pursue, and that course I consider has been pursued with that dignity which has ever characterised the noble Marquess when at the head of Foreign Affairs. And as regards the disturbances in the Transvaal, I assert that no Government could have foreseen or prevented them, no Colonial Secretary of State have acted with greater decisiveness of judgment than has Mr. Chamberlain. International law was violated and a friendly 20 country invaded in order, forsooth, to enforce a better system of internal government which no Englishman is compelled to live under against his wish, however severe it may have been. My Lords, in leaving this subject I would fain think the magnanimity shown by President Kruger is well worthy of our thanks and our cordial recognition. Nor will anybody deny that good has probably arisen out of evil, for amidst all our threatening dangers, dangers threatening not only the peace of Europe but of the world, we have received messages of sympathy, expressions of good will and testimony of devotion to the mother country, not only from all political parties in Great Britain but from all our dependencies, from all our colonies throughout the world. We have been shown that, notwithstanding their several internal difficulties, they are one and all prepared to join hands with us in mutual reciprocation, and in one bond of love and good fellow-ship against our enemies. But we should remember that the very greatness of a nation such as ours is may in itself become the source of envy and hostility on the part of others, and strong though we may be, in view of all that has recently occurred, we should devote ourselves still further to Imperial Defence, to protect not only our country but our possessions, to protect not only these but our commercial interests. We must continue to carry out the defensive programme of our predecessors, and, without defying the world, safeguard our interests; and I feel sure that the question of Naval supremacy, to which I am now alluding, will not fall on ears deaf to so important a policy, but on the ears of men who will cast aside all party feeling in their determination to sustain the honour and the safety of the greatest country in the world. No considerations, whether of politics or finance, should be permitted to influence the maintenance of our fleet. Above all such considerations the importance of sea-power reigns supreme. Not only should the strength in battleships be effectively superior in equipment, in speed, in manœuvring, and in their sailors to that of the combined fleets of any two, perhaps of any three of the greatest naval Powers, and so be co-ordinately increased, but the numbers of cruisers to protect our commerce 21 must bear a higher ratio than at present to the enormous and scattered trade they have to guard, a trade at once so vital to the Empire that its demoralisation would lead to its downfall. The aggregate Naval expenditure of the whole British Empire in 1894 was about 17½ millions sterling, to protect a mercantile fleet of over 13½ million tons and a seaborne commerce exceeding 954 millions. Russia spends five millions for the protection of a mercantile fleet of 500,000 tons and a commerce of less than 70 millions in value. Germany was about the same as Russia, but France spent 11 millions for the protection of a mercantile marine of one million tons and a seaborne commerce whose value was 295 millions. So it is shown that, though our seaborne commerce is far greater than that of France, Germany, and Russia combined, yet our insurance is insignificant when compared with the insurance of the other three countries. My Lords, Parliament will again be, asked to vote a large sum for the increase and improvement of our naval armament, and from all I can gather such a vote will meet with no opposition. We have the satisfaction of knowing that the noble Earl the late First Lord of the Admiralty was one of the first to support and adopt a programme of naval improvement; we have had the testimony of our present First Lord that he has succeeded to an already well-organised department, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we can equip and man a flying squadron in a very short space of time. Finally, there is the consideration, I may say the ever-pressing question, of men. None can deny that at the present moment we have more ships than we can man, more engines in those ships than we have engineers to drive and firemen to stoke; but I believe Her Majesty's Government have ample proof that men will be forthcoming when necessary, that we shall also be able to draw from our commercial fleet able-bodied seamen qualified and capable of representing Her Majesty's Navy. It is quite possible that the advisability of increasing the training ships will be manifested, but we may rest assured, I feel certain, that we shall not have to resort to a maritime conscription any more than we have to recruit our Army by compulsory enlistment. The advantages of 22 our naval supremacy are too well known in your Lordships' House to dilate on them; suffice it to say that no thought will ever be paid to those who suggest a withdrawul of our sea power from the Mediterranean—the absolute key to all our possessions. Where should we be without the approaches to the Suez Canal? Where without a fleet to guard the straits of Gibraltar? Where without a sufficient naval force to act as the first line of Malta's defence? We do not anticipate war—far be it from us—but we cannot disarm; we have been forewarned, we must in consequence be forearmed. My Lords, though we look with pride upon our present naval armaments, it is in the preparation for war that we have the best guarantee of peace. And now, my Lords, I am led to a subject concerning our internal, though to a certain extent, our external affairs. I allude to the depression in our greatest, of industries—agriculture. We have just passed through a period of triennial chaos, a period of promises and vows unfulfilled, a period of disquiet, a period of unrest. We have practically as a country been made to waste three years in trying to force upon the people measures distasteful to the majority, measures not in keeping with the traditions of this great country; we have been asked to spoliate venerable institutions, and destroy ancient constitutions; we have been asked to separate the systems of government in parts of the British Isles; we have been asked to do more than oven the late Government now says it could have done. I do not intend to touch upon what is passed, I intend to look forward to the future. The one great cry has been for the past fifteen or twenty years, "What can be done to alleviate agricultural distress?" Government after Government has promised assistance, some have assisted slightly, others have more than failed; but the time has come when our lands must not be allowed to go out of cultivation, our labourers to continue to drift into the already overcrowded cities and towns without every effort that is possible being made to avert these results of depression. I think I may fairly claim that among all the legislative problems set to any Government the one for relief of agriculture is perhaps the most difficult. The Duke of Richmond's 23 Commission of 1881 failed to stem the ebbing tide. The Commission appointed by the late Government has not yet issued its report, and from the information it is possible to derive from the hitherto published Blue Books of the present Commission the situation may be summarised as follows:—Since the date when the Duke of Richmond's Commission reported in 1881, agricultural depression has continued, and steadily increased. With few, if any, exceptions, no part of Great Britain has been free from it. In many districts it is most acute, while in others, and they are rapidly increasing, the condition is one of absolute ruin, and the land has gone, and is still going, out of cultivation altogether. The effect of this disaster is felt by all classes connected with land, the owner, the occupier, and the labourer as well, for where the plough is standing idle, where the farmer has been driven to abandon a profitless, nay, a ruinous undertaking, by the further cultivation of arable land, thereto the labourers are driven by hundreds to the towns and overworked cities. My Lords, if I search for the cause of all this trouble, the answer is unanimous from every witness who has been examined by that Commission—First, that it is the heavy fall in the prices of agricultural produce, which with little, if any, intervals has been steadily progressing now for many years; and secondly, that unless something can be done to stop this downward tendency in prices, and to turn the tide again in the opposite direction there is no hope or possibility of any real or permanent improvement in the future. My Lords, if I should sewn to exaggerate I will quote two witnesses in ray support. The first shall be Mr. Hunter Pringle, dealing especially with the effect of this calamity on the interests of labourers. He says:—It is my plain duty, and I do not shrink from it, to advise the Commissioners that if prices do not at once make a very great improvement the country may be prepared to see thousands of acres of good corn growing land thrown into grass, and thousands of farm labourers cast into poverty and idleness.Again he says:—I speak nothing but the opinion of Bedford, Huntingdon, and Northampton, when I say that although the consequences of this long continued depression must tell severely on the rent rolls, 24 and complete the ruination of scores of tenants, it is upon the employment of labour the deepest impression will presently be made.The second witness, that noted agriculturist, Mr. Clare Read, acting upon a deputation to the First Lord of the Treasury, so lately as Thursday last, declared his opinion to be that—Although genial and fruitful seasons should return, yet, unless there was a substantial rise in the price of cereals, he was sure that agriculture was doomed. They had not only to contend against a one-sided free trade, but the prices they obtained were unnatural and artificial. A large portion of the wheat introduced into this country came from countries which had a depreciated currency. He believed that Argentina, India and other silver-using countries could undersell wheat against the whole world, and yet, in consequence of the exchange, leave themselves with a substantial profit.My Lords, I am afraid then, gloomy as it may be, that this is a true, and only a too true, description of the agricultural situation of to-day. And the question that the country and Parliament and the people have to face is this: "How is this great national calamity to be met?" If all these witnesses are right, if it be true indeed that the cause of all this ruin and disaster to so many classes is the fall in prices, will Parliament, will the country, will the Government have the courage and resolution to face it? Will they consent to reconsider, in the light of this national disaster, the cherished traditions which have found favour in this country now for at least two generations; or, are we to sit still and be content to suffer the greatest of all our English industries to perish? My Lords, I know of only two proposals by which it is suggested that this evil can be effectually dealt with—one is protection, the other is reform of the currency. I read with pleasure the speech delivered by the Leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Balfour, and although he made it clear that he was only speaking for himself on the latter point on Thursday last, I frankly own my sympathies are with both of these proposals. But it would be presumptuous in me to urge my views upon these subjects in your Lordships' House upon this occasion. Moreover, I recognise that they are changes of such gravity and importance that the boldest among us may pause before recommending them, until we have before us the 25 report and recommendations of the Commission which has been specially appointed to enquire into the causes and the remedies in Agricultural Depression. But if it be considered impracticable at present in do anything to arrest the fall in prices, Parliament can at least do something to lessen the burden of taxation, of which many of us think the land bears more than its fair share. I am not aware whether your Lordships have noticed the evidence which was recently given by Sir Alfred Milner before the Royal Commission now sitting on Agriculture on this subject; but it seems to me to be very striking. A summary of his evidence was published in The Times some weeks ago, and, in my judgment, it strongly supports the contention, which I submit with all deference to your Lordships, that land at the present time is unfairly taxed, as compared with other properties, and is justly entitled to relief. Secondly, I think everything that is possible should be done to encourage the breeding and production of stock in Great Britain. Cereal cultivation at a profit in vast districts of the country has become impossible, as we have seen, at present prices. As a matter of fact, you will find, from the information in the possession of the Board of Agriculture, that the area devoted to wheat cultivation in the United Kingdom in 1895 was less by the enormous amount of 500,000 acres than it was in 1894; and more and more of the land every year is being turned to grass. It becomes more necessary, therefore, that every precaution should be taken against the importation of foreign diseases, which have inflicted such incalculable losses on agriculturists in former years. Much has been accomplished in this direction already. Certain measures for this purpose were recommended by the Duke of Richmond's Commission in 1881, and have since then been carried out with the greatest benefit to the agricultural community. I observe that the noble Duke, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission which is now sitting, made further recommendations on this subject, and, fortified by his high authority, I do not hesitate to urge that the slaughter of all foreign cattle should be made obligatory by law in future at the port of debarkation. Thirdly, the incidence of railway 26 rates for agricultural produce has constantly caused friction, but it is indeed satisfactory to see that two or three of the great railways, whose lines traverse some of the most distressed counties, are now doing their utmost to assist their customers, and I earnestly trust that we may see voluntary arrangements, not necessitating legislation, arrived at by railway companies and farmers whereby the co-operation of the latter in making up larger consignments may facilitate the efforts of the former, and so our home producers may be helped to compete on more equal terms with their foreign rivals. There is another matter which has been the subject of a great deal of complaint among agriculturists— and that is the working of the Agricultural Holdings Act, which was passed in 1884. It is not so much against the principle of the Act, as its provisions, not against the administration of the Act, that complaints are made. It is urged that the procedure for obtaining compensation is too complicated and expensive, and a general desire is expressed that it should be simplified as far as possible and made less costly in the future. It is not suggested that it could be in any way a remedy for agricultural depression, but I believe your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that the demand which is made upon this subject by many tenant-farmers is a reasonable demand, and that it is desirable that the Act should be amended in this direction, and if in addition to this, provision could be made by which the State should advance loans to landowners for the improvement of their estates, on cheaper terms that it can be obtained by owners generally, situated as they are at present. I believe that any such proposal would be received with general satisfaction. If a system of light railways be carried out, I for one venture to hope that a moderate expenditure from the Treasury will do something, by improving their means of transport, to encourage and assist the farmer in his present arduous undertaking. My Lords, I have spoken on this subject I am afraid at too great length, but I speak from my heart as a landowner who, in a short life, has seen changes and depressions of alarming magnitude, and I may be excused if I have tried to point out at too great length how much may be done by a 27 readjustment of the rates, and by placing the home producer and foreign importer on at least an equal footing. If I omit reference to several of the measures in Her Majesty's Speech, it is not because I have failed to notice them, but because I feel I have already prolonged my speech beyond the customary limit of time, but I would draw your Lordships' attention to a Bill for the restriction of the immigration of pauper aliens—a wise and protective measure in itself—and one which I believe has answered very well in the United States. Our country has already too many paupers of its own nationality to support, without being burdened by the pauper aliens of foreign, countries. Humanity must bow to common sense—and charity must, as the proverb says, begin at home. That there are innumerable difficulties to contend with in such a measure cannot be gainsaid, for we have to face the question of definition. What is a pauper alien? An able-bodied foreigner, anxious for work and likely to got employment who lands here with half-a-crown in his pocket? Or a man and wife with a young Family and five pounds in his pocket? I leave it to your Lordships to satisfy your minds on this point. Then we have to face the difficulty of who is to decide this question of pauperism. Are we to leave it in the hands of inspectors with sole powers? Or is there to be a Court of Appeal? Further, at what ports are these regulations to be observed? Are there to be inspectors along our whole seaboard, or only at our large shipping ports? My Lords, I have no doubt the noble Marquess, who presented this Bill to your Lordships' House last Session, has made ample provision for these emergencies, and there is no doubt one great advantage to be derived from such legislation will be that of preventing the reduction of wages below what is so often alluded to as "a living wage" by the competition of pauper aliens, who are only too thankful to obtain work at any price to the detriment of those of our countrymen who have not only themselves to support but also in many cases large families. And last, but by no means least, my Lords, I would touch upon the measure in course of preparation for the avoidance and settlement of trade disputes—a proposal which in 28 itself spells Peace. That our recent trade disputes have been of such magnitude as to be deplorable, that they should have been the cause of enormous losses throughout the country not only to employer but employed, is in itself a sufficient reason for the introduction of such a Bill. We have found that the good offices of the late Prime Minister, and latterly of a noble Lord who sits on the Government Benches, have been of the greatest service in such emergencies, and though I deplore any State interference between Capital and Labour, between man and master, between employer and employed, I am not blind to the fact that such interference has lately had the most satisfactory results. I am inclined personally to believe that conciliation is best effected by suavity of manner, courtesy of bearing and genial intercourse between those at enmity, and I for one have had a practical experience of the benefits to be derived from the presence of our great friendly and benevolent societies. A question of some magnitude arose, which appeared likely at no distant date to culminate in serious warfare between workmen and employer, but by the opportune though unexpected meeting between myself as an official of Fife Freemasonry with the leader of the opposite side, in a Masonic Lodge, where the enemy's leader acted as Master, I was able not only to extend the olive branch of peace and to come to a satisfactory and peaceful settlement, but also to foster the hope that such an arrangement had been come to whereby my workmen and myself might live in amity for ever. If I have spoken at too great length, if I have wearied your Lordships by my want of eloquence, I may at any rate claim that the importance and magnitude of Her Majesty's Speech demanded a special notice from the mover and seconder, and in seconding the address I beg to thank your Lordships for the great indulgence you have accorded me and hope I may be spared to many years of useful life in this great constitution, of which I have the honour to be an hereditary member.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I cannot but be struck, my Lords, by a daring disregard of precedent on the present occasion which I could only anticipate from a Tory Government. It has been 29 always, I have understood, in this House, the practice to give the moving and seconding of the Address to some young orator who shall deliver his maiden speech on that occasion. I, when I sat opposite, was not able, for material reasons which will easily occur to your Lordships, to carry out that excellent tradition. [Laughter.] But the noble Marquess has no such excuse, and, without offering any disrespect to the noble Lord who moved the Address, I think the duty might have been assigned to some one who had more of a halo, if I may so express myself, of political virginity than the noble Lord. It certainly is not his maiden speech to-night, for if I can trust my memory so far, the occasion for which that effort was prepared was in advocacy of the Home Rule Bill of Mr. Gladstone in 1893, and though, owing to the pressure of circumstances, that speech was not delivered, and although under that untoward silence the noble Lord was compelled to confine his advocacy of that measure to a direct vote in its favour, we have been frequently favoured with his opinions in this House since then, and we on this side must always regard him with a tender and sentimental interest as being the last Peer who, I think, was bequeathed to us on the nomination of Mr. Gladstone. ["Hear, hear!"] My Lords, I pass to a more agreeable example of versatility in the seconder of the Address. We have all heard him with the greatest pleasure. ["Hear, hear!"] He has expressed, without any want of courage, original views on the great problems of his time, and has done so with a grace and ability worthy of the brilliant traditions and talents of his family. I am sure that all of us, on whatever side of the House we sit, will share in the wish of his peroration that he may be spared for many years to enjoy the amenities and participate in the duties of this Chamber. ["Hear, hear!"] There is one topic which both the mover and seconder placed very justly in the forefront of their remarks. It would be very unfitting in one in my position and very remote from my heart if I were not also to give the first place in what I have to say to the great calamity and bereavement which have befallen her Majesty the Queen and her youngest daughter. Prince Henry of Battenberg was, perhaps, 30 not so well known as some of the Princes of the Royal House, but to those who knew him his genial and generous bearing and the last act of his life—that gallant chivalry which determined him to identify himself with his adopted country in the field and in warfare—will always leave behind them an imperishable memory dear to those who were his friends. ["Hear, hear!"] My Lords, I would not intrude an ungracious consideration on such an occasion; but one cannot help being reminded in this melancholy catastrophe of the death of the French Prince Imperial in the Cape 16 or 17 years ago. It must have occurred to us all that these deaths had been incurred not uselessly—because no gallant life is ever lost uselessly—but in some degree without the urgent necessity which drives regular soldiers to the field; and I do hope it will be a warning to all successive Governments that they ought to weigh carefully the circumstances of each volunteer, however illustriously placed he may be, before they incur the risk and the responsibility of placing them in the field. My Lords, I turn for a moment to the less important part of the gracious Speech which relates to the domestic topics. The Bills that are proposed are not, I think, much less numerous than that ample list with which we were so frequently taunted for bringing forward. Some of them, indeed, are derelicts, old friends of our own. There is an Employers' Liability Bill, a Scotch Public Health Bill—that is a very old friend—and there are others to which I could allude. But there are two or three new features as to which it may be well that I should say something. In the first place there is the condition of Agriculture. The remark in the gracious Speech on the state of Agriculture is unhappily too trite and familiar to all your Lordships who are connected with land. We have all bewailed and sympathised with that condition, but we have not been able to find a remedy. How to find a remedy when the causes are so obvious and irremediable it is not easy to see. The world has grown smaller; the means of transport have become more direct; the products of great virgin tracts of land cultivated by cheap labour are brought within the markets of Great Britain to which they 31 were unknown formerly; and last, but not least, climatic influences, against which it is vain to contend, have also been against the British farmer and landowner. Well, I will not anticipate the remedies which we are taught and encouraged to expect. I do not know whether the Seconder of the Address was inspired when he mentioned them this evening. He mentioned the favourite remedy of the First Lord of the Treasury, which that right hon. Gentleman, as First Lord of the Treasury, finds himself precluded from applying— I mean Bimetallism. [Laughter.] He also mentioned that other remedy, which was the favourite one of Mr. Chaplin until he abandoned it in favour of Bimetallism—I mean the remedy of protection. I do not know whether the noble Lord spoke under inspiration, but I rather doubt it. [Laughter.] There is another paragraph devoted to a subject of which we have heard much in the Recess—I mean the subject of Voluntary Schools. I will not anticipate what the measures of the Government may be on that, subject, but I derive a certain confidence respecting them from the fact that the Department from which they will issue is under the calm, cool, and sensible control of the President of the Council. The President of the Council has given in the past many pledges to fortune in respect of the treatment of Voluntary Schools, and though I should be the last to maintain that pledges given in the past have any direct influence on the policy of the Government in the present, still I am inclined to hope something from the noble Duke, for he repeated some of those pledges at Birmingham not long ago. I am also encouraged by his temperament. I will not notice the speeches delivered in the Recess except to this extent—that the noble Duke has been used as a universal refrigerator. [Laughter.] Wherever there has been any bud or blossom of hope springing up after the previous sowing of promises which went on throughout the General Election, when that bud or blossom has seemed for a moment to approach the condition of fruit, the noble Duke's icy cold spray has been turned on, and no political plant with which I am acquainted has survived that mortifying process. [Laughter.] As far as we are concerned, the conditions which we attach to any 32 scheme such as is likely to be laid before us—and though we cannot enforce them largely by vote we certainly shall enforce them by voice—are that there shall be no lowering of the standard of education, no interference with Board Schools as at present constituted, and that where public funds are to be given to Voluntary Schools the element of efficient popular control shall be introduced. There are two other domestic topics in the Speech which I would notice in passing. I do not know what the remedy for distressed agriculture is in England but I see that the remedy in Ireland is a Board of Agriculture. Now, without disparagement to my noble Friend, Lord Burghclere, whom we are all glad to see among us—["hear, hear!"]—I cannot flatter myself that the Board of Agriculture has been very successful in arresting agricultural depression in England, and I do hope that when the noble Marquess rises he will give us more light on this subject and as to the emergency that has arisen for a Board of Agriculture in Ireland. Then there is a very important question, the question of the water supply of London. That is to be dealt with. Whether it will be dealt with according to the wishes of the County Council or according to the wishes of Her Majesty's Government and the potent influences inside the Government, of course we can only surmise. [Laughter.] There is one point with which the Seconder of the Address dealt as to which we should like much more copious information. There is rather a brutal paragraph in the Queen's Speech, if I may use such an epithet as "brutal," in conjunction with that gracious Speech. I use it only in connection with one substantive—it is the "importation" of aliens. [Laughter.] I remember very well that when the noble Marquess, in Opposition, was impelled to legislate on this subject, he delivered a speech which will long dwell in the memory of those who heard it. The speech was divided under two heads. The first related to what he would now, in the recklessness of power [laughter] call "the importation of destitute aliens"; and the second, the most important part, related to what he said was absolutely necessary to the good Government of the country—namely, the power of dealing with political refugees, who are also aliens, a 33 power which he claimed on behalf of a Government in which he had no confidence, and which, therefore, he ought more surely to assign to a Government in which, presumably, he has a good deal. Perhaps the noble Marquess will tell us why he now limits his measure to destitution, and not to political refugees, because it would be an explanation of a course which he adopted when in Opposition and which gave some embarrassment to the Government of the day. My Lords, I come now to the most important part of the Speech—the portion relating to Foreign Affairs. I do not know if the first paragraph of the gracious Speech is one which is framed according to the usual order of things. To my mind and apprehension there is something new and something cold about the tone of it. I think we have been accustomed to hear that "Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue friendly," but the phrase is now worded, "I continue to receive from other Powers assurances of friendly sentiments." When you take that in conjunction with the exigencies of the increased expenditure to which allusion is made in the Speech, and the extension and improvement of the naval defences of the Empire, as to which we have had some light of late, I confess I regard the tone of the Speech as somewhat ominous in respect of our foreign relations. When we begin with Foreign Affairs the question arises where we are to begin. It was that difficulty which I think occurred to the noble Mover of the Address, a difficulty which was only paralleled by the difficulty which he seemed to experience in coming to an end. [Laughter.] Well, we had the programme, the manifesto of this Government, delivered, not by the noble Marquess opposite himself, but by his authoritative representative in the House of Commons at a very early period of last Recess. Mr. George Curzon, in October, made a speech which I am sorry to have to quote now, because you know it so well. I quote, however, only one portion of it. He said:—Foreign Powers felt they could not, rely upon the late Government, because they knew it could not rely upon itself. But when Lord Salisbury spoke the world knew that Great Britain Was behind him and that his policy was not the mere phantom of a moment, but that it would be in 34 accordance with the sustained tradition of a succession of years. Already in many parts of the world we had evidence of the salutary change. When matters having dragged along under one Government, found a speedy solution under another, when crises impending under one Government disappeared when another entered office, the irresistible conclusion was that a different impression had been formed abroad of the calibre of the new Government.Well, certainly, a very different impression has been produced by the new Government, but whether the state of affairs during the closing months of last year and the opening months of this year has been more peaceful or more creditable to those who represent us in foreign affairs than that which existed under the late Government I will leave your lordships to judge. But the remarks of which I complain from Mr. Curzon are not those of anticipation, but those which he proceeded to deliver. He said:—This was not, an isolated occurrence. He had visited a good many Courts and capitals of the world, and he could only say he had never been to a Court or capital where there was not greater respect felt for England under a Conservative then under a Liberal Government.Well, of course a Liberal Minister has not the same opportunities of mingling in the Courts of the world as a person of Mr. Curzon's position. [Laughter.] Therefore I will not answer for what may be the state of feeling in the Courts and capitals of the world. I hurry on to his concluding sentences:—He had never set foot in any Consulate, Ministry, Embassy, or Legation in which there was not rejoicing over Conservative and lamentations over Radical victories.My Lords, I say at once that that statement is not true. ["Hear, hear!"] I state it without the slightest hesitation, because it imputes to a great branch of the Civil Service conduct which would be wholly unworthy of that service—["Hear, hear!"]—a sympathy with either political Party in the discharge of their duties as a permanent part of the administration of the country. I confess it was with horror that I read from the second chief of the Foreign Office remarks of this kind, which might convey to those who know less of the Diplomatic Service than I do the grave imputation which was apparently present 35 to his own mind. I pass from that subject with the remark that I do not know whether shouts of joy arose over the latest appointment to the Legation at Peking, but if those shouts of joy have arisen they certainly have not reached my ears. [Laughter.] I come now to the question of Ashanti. I do not know if there was anything in the position of the late Government which would exactly justify the war against Ashanti, though it was quite true that our relations with that kingdom were becoming strained. I do hope that the information which impelled an actual expedition, which, though not meeting with resistance, involved so calamitous a loss of life, will be placed before your Lordships without great delay. I pass now to the agreement with Siam. The Mover told us that the agreement with Siam filled him with unqualified satisfaction. I cannot help wondering, with all respect to him, whether it would have filled him with the same unqualified satisfaction if it had been concluded by my noble Friend.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I accept his assurance. I know that he has an impartial mind. [Laughter.] I do not know whether I am to accept the assurance of the noble Lord as to what his attitude would have been, but I must say that it is not such an arrangement as might have been anticipated from the speeches of the present Party in power when they were in Opposition. We have given up a great deal by that arrangement, and what quid pro quo we have received for it we shall hear, no doubt, from the noble Marquess when he speaks; but we have not been informed as yet. We have given up the principle of the buffer State. We have given up Mongsin, and the noble Lord the Mover of the Address thinks little of it. But Mongsin has been occupied by a British force, and when there was the question of the evacuation of Chitral we were told, I think by the First Lord of the Treasury, that the first principle of this Government was that where a British soldier had once been there he must always remain. Thirdly, we have given up the British dominions on the other side of the Mekong river. Fourthly, we have taken the Mekong as our boundary between France and ourselves, in 36 direct disregard of the advice of the principal local authority on that matter. If I might again quote Mr. Curzon, whose defence of this arrangement I shall go to the gallery of the other House to hear, I mast state that I remember, when we were in office, he attached a special value to the retention of the dominions on the other side of the Mekong. I am not going to make any remarks on the inferences which I draw from the language of the Treaty. I would rather have it explained by the noble Marquess; but whatever inferences I may draw from its natural language, I cannot express, for fear any argument should be built upon them in the French Chamber in the discussion that is soon to take place there. But I must honestly say that I think we have a right to some explanation from the Government as to what are the advantages in exchange for which they have given up the four very valuable points to which I have referred. But, tacked on to Siam, were a couple of other quarters of the globe. There is a Commission with regard to our territories on the banks of the Niger. If that Commission does its work well, I for one have no criticism to offer; and, lastly, Tunis is brought in in connection with that strange arrangement. Our treaty with Tunis is, so far as I can understand the language of the instrument, to be put an end to and to be negotiated afresh—a very important concession as bearing on the interests of Italy as well as ourselves, and one on which I hope we shall have some explanation from the noble Marquess. I pass on to the Transvaal. If we may judge by the length of the paragraph given to the Transvaal, that episode is, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, much the most important part of the Speech. Five paragraphs are given to the Transvaal; one jejune paragraph is given to Armenia. I suppose I must begin, though I am very late in the day, what I have to say on the Transvaal by laying a chaplet, a meagre tardy chap let I fear, on the opulent shrine of the Colonial Secretary. [Laughter.] I do it, though late in the day, and I do it, I confess, with some little reluctance, not from any ungenerous motive, but because the excessive eulogy which has been, heaped on the Colonial Secretary 37 conveys a grave imputation on the statesmanship of this country. [Cheers.] He did his duty, and he did it promptly. ["Hear, hear!"] But to read the long columns of eulogy devoted ungrudgingly, so far as I am concerned, to the services of the Colonial Secretary since that event took place, any distinguished foreigner would receive the impression that no British Minister had ever done his duty promptly before. [Laughter.] Now I will lay a wreath, which is perhaps more needed, on the shrine of Sir Hercules Robinson. I am glad to see in the Dispatch published in the newspapers the other day, that due justice was done to Sir Hercules Robinson, to whom, I think, the Government themselves are inclined to attribute no mean part of the success which they have achieved. [Cheers.] It is the more generous of the Colonial Secretary to have produced this tribute to Sir Hercules Robinson, because I recollect that when his appointment was made by the late Government there was no more bitter critic or opponent of that appointment than the Colonial Secretary. It is unnecessary to discuss the raid which took place under the auspices of Dr. Jameson, because that raid will form the subject of judicial inquiry; and I will merely pass from it with the observation that it seemed, in its inception and in its carrying out, more worthy of the reign of Elizabeth, more suited to the days of Elizabeth, than to the days of Her Gracious Majesty. The Government, in my opinion, were right as promptly as possible to reprobate and disown in the severest terms what could not but be regarded as a filibustering excursion. They did so for a long time amid the marked incredulity of some foreign powers; but I am inclined to think, if they did desire so to dissociate themselves, it was a little unfortunate that shortly after it took place they should have taken occasion, in their official organ, through their official poet [laughter], to print and publish and circulate a glowing eulogium of that enterprise. I take this opportunity to say that I have always considered the Laureateship to be an obsolete office; I am now inclined to consider that it is also a dangerous one. [Laughter.] Whatever the result of that raid may have been, and whatever the result of 38 the Inquiry into it may be, Her Majesty's Government cannot disregard the grievances with which it was intended to deal. Indeed, they have already gone so far, in the person of the Prime Minister, as to compare the Uitlanders to those cherished Ulstermen on whom they have been accustomed to heap so much eulogy in former days. I think there is a more solid guarantee for the redress of the grievances of the Uitlanders in that able Dispatch which, I suppose, after careful consideration by the Cabinet, has been sent to the newspapers—[laughter]—and the policy of it, I suppose, has been discussed already with President Kruger; for I do not suppose the Government could be capable of anything so maladroit as to let President Kruger know the nature of their proposals from the columns of a newspaper, or their invitation to him through the same non-confidential source. [Laughter and cheers.] In that Dispatch there are three prominent points. There is the eulogy of Sir Hercules Robinson, to which I have referred; there is the invitation to President Kruger, who, we are told, is disposed to accept it, and there is the very remarkable proposal of Home Rule for the Rand, coining from the source which it does, and after the very open denunciation of the doctrine which has just been produced by the Prime Minister. [Cheers.] I do not know whether President Kruger will listen to the invitation of Mr. Secretary Chamberlain or to the more sepulchral warnings of the Prime Minister against the principle—[laughter]; but I should be curious to know, if that distinguished man comes to England, what the exact nature of the meeting will be between the Prime Minister, the Colonial Secretary, and President Kruger on this subject. [Laughter.] There is one very regrettable consequence that seems to be involved in this Transvaal business. If we judge of the tone, of the Press abroad, the note of our relations with Germany has been sensibly impaired. It is said—I do not know with what truth—we have no direct authority at present—that Germany wished to land troops in Delagoa Bay with the purpose of marching them to the Transvaal. I do not mention that in order to ask whether it be true or not; because in time, no doubt, we shall know whether 39 it is true or not; but what I do understand to be true is this, that on some such overture being made it was unhesitatingly repelled by Portugal; and what I want to call attention to is this, that in my humble judgment, the rejection of that overture by Portugal was due to the policy of Her Majesty's late advisers; and in the condition we found our relations with Portugal, and in the condition they were left by the noble Marquess after his ultimatums and rather aggressive policy towards that ancient ally of Great Britain, I doubt whether that result would have been the same. There is one other circumstance I mention in connection with the Transvaal. I offer my humble condolence to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the speeches of the Colonial Secretary. The Colonial Secretary boasts that he takes a manly, an upright, an outspoken view of the power and the responsibilities of our Empire. Let him do that as much as he chooses, but do not let him indulge in mischievous and puerile reflections destined to irritate needlessly the susceptibilities of other Powers. What, I ask in the name of all policy and public spirit, is the advantage of telling Germany that the Colony of Queensland is three times as great in area as she is? [Cheers.] Is that the oil which the trusted advisers of Her Majesty pour on the delicate subject of the relations with Germany at a critical moment? It would have been open to Germany to retort with perfect truth that Venezuela, with which we have a difficulty, has an area at least five times as great as that of the United Kingdom. [Laughter.] I am glad to say she has refrained from any such tu quoque; but I hope, however proud a Colonial Minister may be of the great Empire attached to these islands over which he is called upon to preside, he will not indulge in those thoughtless reflections again. [Cheers.] I now come to the subject of Venezuela. There are one or two circumstances to be noticed before I come to the very gratifying announcement which I notice in the Speech. The subject of Venezuela is very far from being a new one. We have all of us tried our hands at Venezuela; some of us have tried very hard to arrive, during our term of office, at some understanding with that somewhat troublesome State. ["Hear, hear!"] 40 But there has been one great difficulty hitherto in dealing with Venezuela, and that is—I wish to avoid anything that may be disrespectful, and I hope I shall be more successful in doing so than the noble Lord who moved the Address—that the Government of Venezuela has not in past times been such as to command the unlimited confidence of her Majesty's Government. I know nothing of the Government of Venezuela at this moment; it may be completely changed, but when I was chiefly concerned with this affair in 1886 the Government of Venezuela was not such that we cared to hand over to the chances of arbitration, which have not always been uniformly favourable to this country, some 40,000 subjects of Her Majesty who had settled in districts which we firmly believed and still believe to be part of the British Empire. [Ministerial cheers.] My Lords, during the past year, two circumstances, one regrettable, one very much the reverse, have brought Venezuela out of the phase of those long-standing questions which are apt to haunt some public officials for half a century or more. The first was the reported sending—I do not know if it is true or not—of Maxim guns to British Guiana. If we were rightly informed, British Guiana did not want the Maxim guns, still less did she want to pay for them, but the sending of those guns caused an impression throughout the United States, where some newspapers are ready occasionally to foster such impressions, that her Majesty's Government in their difficulty with Venezuela were inclined to resort to force rather than to more peaceful methods for a settlement. That is the unsatisfactory incident. The satisfactory incident is the intervention of the United States in this matter. The intervention of the United States introduces into this controversy the important element of a solid and substantial Government, which, in effect, offers a guarantee for the permanence and the reception of any settlement that may be arrived at. Now, it seems to me quite obvious that that view is sound, and that the United States, after the part she has taken in this controversy, could not remain an indifferent spectator if Venezuela, as we have often feared, was not likely to abide by any peaceful settlement which might be arrived at. I welcome, therefore, the mingling of the 41 United States in this business, but I welcome much more the announcement of her Majesty's gracious Speech. What are the words of her Majesty's gracious Speech?The Government of the United States have expressed a wish to co-operate in terminating differences.I take that as an announcement that some negotiation is going on between her Majesty's Government and that of the United States, indirect, it may be, but none the less probably fruitful for that it leads to some hope of getting rid of these most troublesome questions. I think so. I feel sure of it; because I am certain that her Majesty would not have been made to use that language simply with reference to the Message of President Cleveland. Something must have occurred since the Message of President Cleveland. Something is evidently going on, or has gone on, and I for one will not be unduly optimistic in hoping that Her Majesty's Government may have some announcement to make about it even this very evening. I rejoice at this, because both parties had got into an impasse. On the one side the noble Marquess had refused arbitration except under limitations which Venezuela could not accept; and on the other side, the language of President Cleveland's Message, it must be admitted, was not calculated to produce any concession on our part of a direct or tangible kind. We, therefore, as diplomacy, had to extricate the two representative executive officials of the two countries from a position of such extreme difficulty that it did not appear they could be extricated, either of themselves or by themselves, without some loss of dignity. And, my Lords, although there are many obvious diplomatic methods by which this might have been effected, I at any rate was not able to perceive that any of them were being approached. It is, therefore, with unfeigned joy that I welcome the assurance in the gracious Speech. Out of most evil there comes a certain amount of good, and we may at any rate welcome two things as the outcome of this difficulty with the United States. The first is the unbounded expression of the loyalty of Canada [cheers], which would have been the colony most affected had our 42 difficulty with the United States reached an acute stage; and in the second place, I at any rate welcome heartily, and in the most ungrudging spirit of delight, the movement that has set in, in a serious spirit, on both sides of the Atlantic for some form of permanent machinery of arbitration which shall enable either nation, in regard to questions which can be so referred without loss of dignity or impairment of its sovereign rights, to refer to that method of terminating our difficulties. I now come to the last topic of which I shall speak, and it is a tragic topic. I cannot but compare the glowing paragraphs which are set forth in other parts of the gracious Speech with the curt and cold paragraph which deals with Armenia. My Lords, I hope that on that subject also we shall receive more copious information before the Session is very much advanced. At present we know little, except that massacre and rape and robbery have run almost uncontrolled in some of what Lord Beaconsfield used to call "the fairest regions of the world" throughout the greater part of the Recess; and in that time of discouragement to all who are interested in the fate of Christianity and the future of the populations of the East, we have had nothing to live upon but the words of the Prime Minister. My Lords, what were those words? He has delivered four remarkable speeches on this subject. The first speech was in this House in August last, when we listened to a declaration so grave, that I venture to say it has hardly a parallel in the history of this country, except when it has been followed up by war. I venture to say that no one who heard the noble Lord's remarks about the character of the dominions of the Sultan of Turkey can have failed to believe that those words were in the nature of a menace which would soon be followed up by action. Well, we waited for that action till the month of November, and then, at the Guildhall, we were treated to a speech before which the followers and newspapers of the noble Lord fell down in ecstasy, because it contained language, I think, if possible, more menacing than the previous speech, and assured us—of which we stood sadly in need—that the Concert of Europe was practically complete. Then it was followed up almost 43 immediately after, not by action, indeed, but by another speech, this time at Brighton, and there the Prime Minister took the unusual course of reading a communication that he had received from the Sultan of Turkey himself, which he treated, if I may so speak, with cold derision, but which contained an invitation to the noble Marquess to follow up his former speech with another speech which would be more agreeable to the Sultan—an invitation with which the noble Marquess has since complied. My Lords, during these speeches every friend of Armenia and the suffering Armenians themselves looked up with hope and with belief to her Majesty's Government and the action that they were presumably about to take. But when we came to the action that was being really taken, when we endeavoured to trace the course of the negotiations which were to regulate the internal affairs of Asia Minor and save a population from the grossest cruelty and wickedest massacres in record, all that we could find was that her Majesty's Government, in concert, presumably, with the rest of Europe, were maintaining that Concert unimpaired by negotiating—for what? For autonomy for Armenia? For some guarantee that Armenia should not be harried and plundered? For the dispatch of some mission to see that the reforms which had been promised were being carried out? No; for none of these superfluous things, but for the supply of an additional dispatch-boat for the service of her Majesty's Embassy at the Porte. That negotiation, which was promising on the day it appeared, when it was supported by the unimpaired Concert of Europe, was in the first place futile The noble Marquess sent up his dispatch-boat, but in a spirit of edifying humility, in the spirit of a Christian Statesman, not unworthy of the representative of a great Christian Power, he withdrew that dispatch-boat on finding that it was not acceptable to his Majesty the Sultan. Now, that is the diplomatic history, so far as the public know it, of the transactions relative to Armenia under the auspices of her Majesty's Government. I do not doubt that those noble Lords who sit over there (pointing to the Benches behind Ministers) and who have graciously overflowed over here to fill our sparse Benches—I do not doubt that 44 they feel a pride in the proceedings of the Government, a chastened and subdued pride, but still a pride in the position of the Government, at whose approach, in the language of the Under Foreign Secretary, every foreign difficulty subsided as if by magic. [A laugh.] I confess I do not share that pride, but I do feel the most unbounded and the most legitimate pride in the proceedings and the attitude of what has been called her Majesty's Opposition. When the stress on Christian England at the narrative of these horrors was so great that in the stricken silence which prevailed it seemed as if you could almost hear the beating of the nation's heart—when a thrill went through this country I think unparalleled since the time of the atrocities that were committed in Bulgaria, it was easy, it was tempting, if not for the leaders of the Party, at any rate for the rank and file, to utilise so obvious and so glorious an opportunity of denouncing this spirited, this omnipotent, this great Government. We remained quiet. We remained silent, and we remained silent for this simple reason—that we would not by a word or gesture of ours diminish or impair in the slightest degree the voice of Great Britain when, as we believed, she was demanding justice and mercy for the suffering populations of the East. [Cheers.] We also clung to the hope that, if we abstained from criticism, these brave words would be followed by brave deeds; and I, at any rate, always remained under the impression that if Her Majesty's Government had not been able to do more, it was because they had to choose between the alternatives of redressing the wrongs of Armenia and facing a European war. We remained under that belief till the speech which was delivered to the Tory Nonconformists by the noble Marquess the other day. The speech was worthy of the occasion and of the audience. Let us recall what were the genesis and the circumstances of that speech. At Brighton the noble Marquess, as I have narrated, had read a message from the Sultan inviting the noble Marquess to correct his speeches, so offensive to the Sultan, by a speech more agreeable to that potentate. The noble Marquess derided that request, and I certainly did not expect that he would so readily comply with it. But we now 45 understand that the speech he delivered on that occasion has been—and I am not surprised to hear it—highly agreeable to his Imperial Majesty, and that, while previous speeches of the noble Marquess have been forbidden introduction into Turkey, this later speech has been circulated broadcast. [Laughter.] Whatever action we might have anticipated from the language of the noble Marquess, we would never have expected so ready, encouraging, and generous a compliance with the request of the Sultan. There are three deductions which we must draw from that remarkable speech. In the first place we must come to the melancholy conclusion that the noble Marquess is forced to abandon the cause of the Armenians—that, having set his hand to the plough, having made the speeches that we wot of, he has been compelled to turn back. The second inference which we are obliged to draw is this—that when the noble Marquess said, and said I have no doubt with perfect accuracy, that the Concert of Europe was complete, the inference which we drew from that statement was incorrect; and, while we hoped and believed that the Concert of Europe was directed under the inspiration of the Prime Minister for putting compulsion on the Sultan, it was in reality a Concert directed under the inspiration of the Sultan for putting constraint upon the Prime Minister. [Cheers.] And the third and most amazing deduction which we can make from that speech is this—that we were informed that Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty and the Cyprus Convention, on which we have been accustomed hitherto to base our surest hopes for the enfranchisement of the Christian populations of the East, were after all a delusion and a snare. The noble Marquess said that these were not compulsory stipulations. They were merely optional promises.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I will take that word, for it is quite enough. It is always wearisome reading extracts, and I will not do the noble Marquess the bad turn of reading his speeches to 46 him as he often reads mine to me. But if there was no promise or guarantee it is enough to make some of us open our eyes. ["Hear, hear!"] The chief work of the noble Marquess at Berlin—if we may trust the protocols of the Conference there—was to raise his voice on behalf of a guarantee for the Christian populations under the dominion of the Sultan. What was the very origin of the Conference at Berlin, but that we took over the obligations of the Treaty of San Stefano, which were, though obnoxious to us, efficient for the purpose for which they were designed—namely, that of protecting the Armenians from spoliation and plunder. We took over those obligations to ourselves and placed them in the hands of the Great Powers, as being a surer guarantee than the mere agency of Russia could provide. What more did we do? We made a separate convention with the Sultan which implied two principles on both sides—that we would defend the dominions of the Sultan in Asia Minor, if he on his part stipulated, as he did stipulate, to introduce good government into those provinces. I do not think that any of us who were present can have forgotten the sultry afternoon in July, 1878, when the noble Marquess and his colleague came down to a House unparalleled in crowd and brilliancy to deliver an account of their stewardship. We all remember the emphasis which they then laid upon the efforts they had made to procure good government in the East. At the continual banquets in which the noble Marquess and his colleague lived the next few weeks we had these assurances constantly repeated. I remember one of the expressions of Lord Beaconsfield, in which he stated that the main effect of the operations at Berlin would be that peace and order and good government would be seen in those regions of Asia Minor to which those angelic visitants had been hitherto too much strangers. And on another occasion he drew a contrast between the promises given by the Sultan at the Treaty of Paris for the better government of those provinces and the stipulations which he had included—a contrast, I need not say, very much to the advantage of the latter. Those, he said contained a distinct stipulation on behalf of the Sultan which he could not 47 break, and which involved also our rights and privileges of interference. Some of the perorations of that day went a great deal further than those of the noble Marquess and the noble Earl. I remember Lord Harrowby promising that by the time the policy of Her Majesty's Government had reached its ripe fruition, the steam plough would be doing its beneficent work in Asia Minor. The Kurd is the steam-plough in Asia Minor at the present moment ["Hear, hear!"]; and as far as we can judge at the present there is not one vestige left, in the speech of the noble Marquess to the Nonconformists who assembled round him the other day, of all the promises and of all the policy relating to the Christians of Asia Minor, which the noble Marquess and the Earl of Beaconsfield brought back from Berlin. ["Hear, hear!"] We know what the result of that was. We know that it was "Peace with honour." We remember that there were a series of ovations such as have never before occurred in the annals of Great Britain in honour of the distinguished statesmen who brought back to us security for the Christian peoples of the East. Skip eighteen years, and what becomes of that policy? We are now face to face with the declaration of the noble Marquess that it is open to the Sultan apparently to make the promises and to keep the promises or to disregard the promises as he may like; "and," says the noble Marquess,If the Sultan does not keep his promises, what means have we to force him? We are a naval and not a military Power. We cannot plant a fleet in the centre of Asia Minor.No one said you could. But if this is so, if your means are so inadequate, why did you make the convention to protect those frontiers, why did you take the solemn and separate responsibility of the Cyprus Convention for the condition of the suffering Christians in the East? [Cheers.] We are now to understand that your means are not equal to it. Was it that your means in 1878 were greater than they are now? You know that they are now twice as great, and you are proposing to increase them incalculably. Why did not you explain to us in 1878, that these stipulations on which we foolishly laid so much stress 48 and in which we placed so much faith, were nothing but a delusion and a snare? ["Hear, hear!"] The bubble is burst. By a strange irony of fortune it devolves on the noble Marquess, who partly blew that bubble then, to prick that bubble to-day. [Cheers.] I do not envy the noble Marquess his position. This is where we stand as the result of "Peace with honour"—in an elaborate impotence, elaborately declared. [Hear, hear!"] I do not know what have been the obstacles that have reduced us to this humiliating position. I cannot believe, and there are millions and millions of my fellow-countrymen who cannot believe, that all has been done that might have been done. We do not live in an age of crusades. The inspiration and perhaps the faith which impelled embattled Christendom to rescue the Cross from the dominion of the Crescent are not present in these days. But between the chivalrous exaltation and the position of apathy, and, I will add, of degradation, in which we now find in reference to the Christian populations of the Sultan there is a wide abyss. I cannot but believe that between these two extremest points some middle course might have been found, and that we might have been spared a page in our history to which we shall never look back without compunction—the humiliation of seeing these Christians whom we were pledged to protect, massacred and plundered and harried under the sublime gaze and countenance of the European Concert, complete in itself, and directed by one of the authors of the Treaty of Berlin. [Cheers.]
§ THE PRIME MINISTER (The MARQUESS of SALISBURY),
who was received with loud cheers, said: My first duty is to thank my two noble Friends, who have moved and seconded this Address, for the manner in which they have dealt with the topics of the Speech. It was to me a great satisfaction to receive the support of my noble Friend Lord Stanmore, because his recollection and his experience went back to the commencement of all these troubles and to the opening of the Crimean war, with which our later relation with the Eastern question began, and from which all our difficulties flowed. I was glad to hear from him that he appreciated, as 49 I was sure he would do, that no sympathy with the sorrows of our Christian fellow-countrymen in the East would justify us in facing troubles, calamities, and slaughters compared to which the Crimean war, that he can well remember, would be a trifle. ["Hear, hear!"] My Lords, I cannot pass to the subjects of the Speech without echoing the graceful and eloquent words which have been uttered both by my noble Friends behind me and the noble Earl opposite in reference to the Prince—the volunteer Prince whose fate we have to deplore. The noble Lord seemed, while doing full justice to the lofty and amiable character of the Prince, to throw some blame upon the Government that had allowed him for so inadequate a cause to throw so valuable a life away. I do not know whether we were to blame or not. It would have been a very strong measure to have interfered with an absolute prohibition. The Prince himself was most earnest and anxious to go, and many were the resistances which it may well be believed he had to overbear before his expedition was undertaken. But he felt it to be a sort of reproach to himself to live in comparative inactivity in this busy community, and not to show by some act and some sacrifice the devotion which he felt to his Sovereign and to the country by which he had been so heartily adopted. It was a noble aspiration on his part; and, terrible as we have felt the calamity in which it issued, I cannot blame myself that that aspiration was not repelled by us. It was fated that his desire to show his devotion to his country and, it may be, to win some distinction in her service was baffled by events. But still the sacrifice has not been in vain. ["Hear, hear!"] The example of great unselfishness and renunciation speaks to millions of hearts; and the model he has held up will, I hope, influence English character for long, and in any case which has justified that high esteem, and will justify through long years that remembrance and that high esteem which the noble Earl opposite justly said has been felt for him by all who knew him, and most deeply by those who loved him best, and which has drawn forth an affecting and, if we may use the word, gratifying tribute of sympathy and admiration from the country whose adopted son he had become. 50 ["Hear, hear!"] My Lords, the comments of the noble Lord were almost confined, so far as they had body or solidity in them, to the Foreign Office paragraphs of the Speech. I shall not attempt to follow him in his challenge of Mr. Chamberlain. It struck me as rather odd that that was not reserved for another place, where, perhaps, it might have been more fully and adequately met. But I observe that the noble Lord dealt in the early part of his speech mostly with the Foreign Office, as it was represented by the speeches of my right hon. friend Mr. Curzon. I think it is very possible that in the other House my speeches are being thrown at this moment in Mr. Curzon's face: and I would suggest as an alteration, for the purposes of convenience, that it would be better to quote the speeches of a man in the House in which he sits. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] I could not reduce to any tangible form the indictment which the noble Lord evidently desired to bring against Mr. Chamberlain. One objection, as I understood, was that he invited Mr. Kruger to this country and first let him know of that invitation through the columns of a newspaper.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
I suppose that means that he did. [Laughter.] As a matter of fact, of course, Mr. Kruger was made acquainted with the desire of Her Majesty's Government a considerable time before it was alluded to in the newspapers. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not know what Mr. Kruger's intentions are—I do not think any of us do; but there certainly has been no action shown towards him at all inconsistent with the very profound respect and appreciation which recent events, apart from all differences of opinion, have caused us to feel for that distinguished potentate. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not remember any other portion of the noble Lord's criticism on the Transvaal which it is necessary for me to deal with. I cannot, of course, clear Mr. Chamberlain from the imputation that he has been very much praised in the newspapers. [Laughter.] But I do not see how, unless we suppressed the newspapers, we could prevent that unfortunate occurrence. [Laughter.] Of course, if we knew it affected the 51 feelings of the noble Lord so severely, we might have tried to induce them to dilute and diminish their appreciation. [Laughter.] But when I come to the Foreign Office matters, on which the noble Lord was more distinct, the first I must deal with is the Treaty of Siam. The noble Lord had told us we had sacrificed some very important things. Amongst others, he made out two bits of territory we had sacrificed instead of one. I think that is a geographical error on his part. There has been nothing given up but this minute portion of Mongsin, which in past times paid tribute to Burma, Siam, and China, and which therefore the French Government claimed as confidently as we. Of course we held that they were absolutely wrong.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
We will wait until we get to maps. [Laughter.] But when the noble Lord tells me that the treaty has been concluded in defiance of the wishes of the local authorities, I can only say it has been concluded in entire accordance with the recommendations and wishes of the Government of India. It was the wishes and recommendations of the Government of India that largely induced us to conclude this treaty. The danger I wish to guard against—and I hope I can do so without, indiscretion—is, I think, very obvious. However anxious the French Government may be to remain, at peace, however laudable their conduct may be, there was always a possibility, and more than a possibility, that in their relations with Siam causes of difference would arise, and if those causes of difference had matured in the conflict, and the danger had arisen of the disappearance of the kingdom of Siam, a very formidable question would have been placed before this country. I should not have thought that the noble Lord, after his experience of the difficulties attaching to the Siamese negotiations, would have been inclined to treat with contempt that apprehension which it was legitimate to fee1 with respect to the future of that kingdom. At all events whatever those apprehensions were, in my judgment they were much more serious than they appear to have been in the mind of the 52 noble Lord. Whatever those apprehensions were, they are now at an end, because, by the agreement of the two Powers most interested in the matter, the integral and essential portion, and the most prosperous and fruitful portion, of the Siam kingdom is protected against all possibility of attack. I believe that has removed all chance of serious difference in the future with a great European Power, and in the present state of the world I do not think that it is otherwise than a matter of congratulation. Of course I am quite ready to admit, with my noble Friend behind me, that the treaty is not one in regard to which either Power can at all in any way triumph over the other. On the contrary, I think it is a treaty which both Powers have a right to rejoice in, because it will reserve to each all the rights and privileges to which they have any claim, and at the same time add additional security to their possession and harmonious existence in the future. ["Hear, hear!"] My Lords, the next point with which the noble Lord dealt was the question of Venezuela. I concur with him that from some points of view the mixture of the United States in this matter may conduce to results which will be satisfactory to us more rapidly than if the United States had not interfered. ["Hear, hear!"] I do think the bringing in of the Monroe doctrine was, controversially, quite unnecessary for the United States. Considering the position of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, it was no more unnatural that the United States should take an interest in it than that we should feel an interest in Holland and Belgium. And from that point of view I think the negotiations may very well go on. I do not like to go far into the question the noble Lord has asked as to the state of the negotiations between the two countries; it is quite obvious that that is a question on which it is not desirable to dilate; but I have derived an increasing belief during the last few weeks that we shall—it may be, indeed, after long negotiation—find some settlement of the question which we shall think satisfactory, and that all danger of any conflict between two nations who have so many causes for wishing to be at peace will be entirely removed. [Cheers.] At the same time, 53 I must not induce the House to think that we have as yet arrived at any agreement. The difficulty, I think, really lies upon the question of arbitration. The United States attach a more unrestricted value to that mode of adjusting a controversy than has hitherto been done in this country. The noble Lord himself stated, with great point and justice, that any proposal which, at the will of an arbitrator, might hand 40,000 British subjects over to the Republic of Venezuela could not be accepted in this country. But I believe that means may be found by the combination of negotiation and arbitration to bring matters which are not really very recondite or difficult to a settlement. The great obstacle in the way of a settlement has been the extravagant claims which Venezuela put forward when it treated the whole country as far as the Essequibo as being country liable to be claimed, and its conduct, which was not in accordance with that usually pursued among nations, when, because it could not obtain the precise arrangement which it desired, it broke off relations with us ten years ago. But for that conduct on the part of Venezuela I believe the difficulty would have been solved long ago. I quite appreciate the observation made by the noble Lord to the effect that the development of the desire to use arbitration in international disputes on both sides of the water is a matter to be looked upon with satisfaction. ["Hear, hear!"] The unrestricted use of arbitration, of arbitration not restricted as to the subject-matter and as to conditions, is what I believe it is impossible two nations can adopt; but between the extreme position of those who imagine everything can be subjected to arbitration and the former practice, which, perhaps, used arbitration too little, I fully believe a middle term may be found which will effectually diminish the chance of conflict or difference of opinion between two nations. [Cheers.] Now, as to Armenia, the noble Lord gave us a very warm and spirited denunciation, and if it had rested upon the slightest basis of fact it would have been a formidable attack. But the noble Lord read into treaties provisions which they do not contain, and he attributed to me threats and menaces which I have never uttered. I only ask that the treaties into which we 54 have entered and the speeches we have made may be construed according to the ordinary laws applied to the English language; we wish them to be interpreted as any other documents in business would be. I will defy you to find in any treaty we have signed a promise to go to war with the Sultan unless he governs his territories better; I defy you to find a single statement which will bear that interpretation; I defy you to find in any speech of mine any threat that England herself would go to war with the Sultan unless he governed better. I have read over again the speeches to which the noble Lord referred. He speaks of menaces and threats, and so forth. There were warnings of what would happen if the Sultan disregarded the opinion of Europe. If you give a warning of a danger you do not say that that danger will happen within two months or within six months. I am not so good a prophet as that I can tell precisely when the warning I have uttered with respect to the Sultan will be fulfilled. I am perfectly prepared to utter again, and now from my present standpoint, all I have said in the speeches the noble Lord referred to. I do think the Sultan is running very great danger if he places himself in that position that the principal cause of his Empire being sustained is fear of the consequences that may happen if that Empire disappears. He is not covered by the common right of Europe in the way that other nations are; and if the opinion of the European Powers was altered by the events which take place under his government, nothing could save his Empire from destruction. I never said, and I do not say now, that that will happen immediately. I am inclined to think the European Powers will put off such a catastrophe as far as they can; but I am sure that, if the system of government which has gone on during the last few years is indefinitely continued, the catastrophe cannot be indefinitely delayed. When the noble Lord taunts us with not having asked for autonomy for Armenia, when he taunts us with not having imitated the chivalrous sentiments of old, what was he doing in May last, when, it was his business to take notice of these things and to make propositions to the Porte? Did he propose autonomy for Armenia? 55 Did he propose any external guarantee for securing that the reforms asked for should be carried out? Did he give a hint of the application of force and of going to war with the Sultan if the demands of England were not conceded? My complaint of the policy of the noble Lord is that in May last, when he demanded reforms, in conjunction with France and Russia, he took no pains whatever to ascertain how far France and Russia were prepared to go.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
If you did, your course is more inexplicable still. I ventured at Bradford to warn the Government that, if they raised this question without the power of immediately settling it by force they were running enormous risk of raising the of passions of creed and race, they were running the risk of putting it into the mind of the Turkish populace that if they could only get rid of these Christians we should have peace. The reforms were asked for as the noble Lord said he knew how far France and Russia were prepared to go; and, therefore, the reforms for a long time were not granted. The discussion went on for five months, and during that time the bitter feelings of the dominant race—so easily excited in every dominant race, and especially so in the case of Mahomedans—were excited; they felt that their supremacy was about to be overthrown, and that those whom they had governed were about to govern them; that feeling grew and strengthened, and resulted in the frightful tragedies which we have witnessed and deplore. But do not compare the question of reforms with the question of suppressing the civil war that broke out. These reforms were good reforms, but I do not think they were of very great importance, because similar reforms have been granted in Crete during the last 15 years and have produced no result. Still, as far as they went, they were good reforms, and it was desirable they should be carried out; but it was ridiculous to suppose they would suppress a civil war of their own force. Nothing could suppress a 56 civil war, as I said before and I repeat, except a military occupation—a military occupation it was not in the power of England to carry out. When the noble Lord reads the papers to-morrow he will at once see that the other Powers of Europe were by no means inclined either to encourrge or to help or to tolerate a military occupation on our part. Russia has stated, in the clearest terms, that the Emperor objects and has the strongest repugnance to the use of force on the part of Russia, and an equally strong repugnance to the use of force on the part of any other Power. In order, therefore, to satisfy the demands of the noble Lord we should have had, in the first instance, to undertake a military occupation without the military power of doing so. In the second place, we should have had to push that military occupation against some 300,000 Turkish soldiers. In the third place, we should have had to meet the danger, I do not wish to define more closely, involved in the disapproval of the European Powers, The noble Lord speaks lightly of a war with the Sultan in these matters. He imagines that because we took an engagement from the Sultan, under the Cyprus Convention, that he would introduce reforms, and that because, under the Berlin Treaty, we agreed with the European Powers that we would preserve a surveillance over the reforms—he imagines that an engagement of that kind can pledge us to a desperate war in which the Christians would probably have been massacred, the Ottoman dominion would certainly have been swept away, and Europe would have been plunged in a calamitous war. Undertakings made by nations are more gravely meditated than that; they are not to be inferred by the casual interpretation of words which will not bear the meaning put upon them, but on which a meaning has been imposed by partisan or enthusiastic commentators. It is not the meaning the treaties contain if you examine them as you would examine any other business document—and no statesman has ever threatened that England would incur such a danger or was bound to do it for the cause she had undertaken. My Lords, I entirely repudiate the idea that we have abandoned the Armenians, or that the conduct of Europe will be no advantage 57 to the Christians of the Turkish Empire. Such a doctrine implies that nothing but cannon and sword can have any effect, that the pressure of influence and the use of persuasion are weapons which have disappeared from the armoury of mankind. Nothing else, in my belief, but the use of such weapons was contemplated by the 61st Article of the Treaty of Berlin, and it is certainly true that the Powers of Europe, even those most inclined to physical interference, have by no means abandoned the hope that by pressure of every kind the good government of Asia Minor may be obtained. They have expressed quite recently that hope in the very clearest terms. They entertain the belief—I do not subscribe to it—that if time is given to the Sultan this improvement will be the result. I hope it may, but I will not venture to prophecy. Things have, I think, considerably improved during the last four weeks on what they were before. But depend upon it, however slow that process may be, however disappointing from time to time, it is the only process by which the object you have in view can be obtained. It is idle to threaten when you know you cannot perform. It is idle to threaten the use of warlike means when they cannot be applied. But we may be certain that if you will once remove from the eyes of the great Powers the threat you are now pursuing, and abstain from recommending a policy which will bring a cataclysm of war on Europe, that they, on their part, will give you their utmost assistance in obtaining by less bellicose means the improvement of the administration of law and justice, and the maintenance of peace and security which is what the Christians need. The great obstacle with which we have had to contend has been the belief the European Powers have entertained, in consequence of what has been said, in this country, that the destruction of the Ottoman Empire was our object. None have been willing to look without great apprehension upon that result. I hope we may induce the friends of the Armenians to consider more carefully the relations of the means they use to the end they have in view and to believe that every effort will be used by the representatives of the Great Powers, without the stimulus of violent denunciation and abuse in this country, 58 and that the more such modes of controversy are abstained from the more steady will be the effort, the more likely the success, in the result, for the agents of the Powers, who are striving with as much earnestness as any here to restore peace and security to the dominions of the Sultan, to restore the well-being and welfare of the Christians, and by doing so to erect in the reform of the Ottoman Empire a bulwark against the dangers which they foresee from any destruction of present arrangements. My Lords, it is right we should try in this country to adopt one of two proceedings. Do not talk of one method and only practice the other. If the two Houses of Parliament, representing this country, have the belief that they can stake the whole of their military forces and force their way into the Black Sea, past all the obstacles that exist, and occupy the Sultan's dominions and produce an autonomous Armenia, or forcibly destroy the Kurds, or restore by any other magician's wand the peace and security which in other nations only grows up through long generations as the result of constant effort—if you believe that, for Heaven's sake do it; but if you cannot, abstain from stimulating the passions which you cannot curb, and from alarming the allies by whose assistance any good results alone can be obtained. [Cheers.]
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
gave notice that at an early date, after their Lordships had had an opportunity of reading the papers on the subject, he would direct the attention of the House to the nature and extent of our national obligations with respect to Turkey, and venture on some recommendations as to the course which we ought to pursue in consequence. But before sitting down he wished to express his surprise at some of the remarks of his noble Friend Lord Kimberley. His noble Friend described in strong language the horrors perpetrated by the Turks, but said that during these horrors they had nothing to fall hack upon except the words of the Prime Minister. The noble Earl forgot that it was 17 months since these troubles began, and that the conduct of the British Government for 11 of these months was under Lord Rosebery and only the last seven under the present Prime Minister. While these horrors were going on why did not 59 Lord Rosebery express his feelings about them? He did not recollect a single speech of the noble Earl in which he tried to rouse the feelings of his country as to the atrocities in Armenia. The noble Earl had been eloquent about the beating heart of England. He doubted whether the noble Earl was a highly emotional Statesman, and whether his heart beat quick and impulsively on hearing of outrages in distant parts of the globe. For Lord Kimberley he had not only the highest personal regard but respect for his abilities and knowledge, but he denied that he, either, was an emotional Statesman. It was now more than thirty years since he (the Duke of Argyll) brought this subject before the House of Lords, and he well remembered standing absolutely alone when he advocated the doctrine the noble Lord was now eloquent about—that England, owing to her transactions as well as treaties, was responsible to a large ex tent for the good government of the Turkish Empire. Lord Kimberley then opposed him, but he rejoiced to find him now moving in line with him. He had read the Blue-book which gave an account of the atrocities in Armenia down to the close of the late Government, and he was astonished at the coldness of feeling that ran through the noble Earl's Dispatches relating to them. What was more, the noble Earl seemed to have been very careless as to securing that Concert of Europe which was an essential weapon in our hands. In December, 1894, the Russian Minister communicated to him that the Russian Government were anxious to know what, when the Commission had reported, was to be done. He could find no answer on behalf of the late Government to that intimation, and, as far as he could find, the late Government did nothing to bring Russia into line or give Russia the assurance with respect to our ultimate objects in the East which the noble Marquess had referred to, and which ought to be given if we were to expect the hearty Concert of Europe. The noble Earl could tell him if he was mistaken in his reading of the Blue-book, and he should be glad to hear it. His strong impression was that a distinct unofficial intimation was given 60 that they wished to come to an understanding about remedying these evils in the East, but the Government did nothing. With regard to the plan of reform, which he believed was to a large extent drawn up by his noble Friend or in concert with other Powers, it struck him as all very good but absolutely unworkable. If they had to deal with a Government that was thoroughly honest and desired to work with them it would be a different matter; but, knowing what the Government of Turkey was, to propose such a scheme as that as a remedy for these evils seemed to him quite futile. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government had very properly referred with gratification to the loyal support given him by the Mover of the Address, which support he was glad to have, as the noble Lord was intimate with the transactions of 1856. That was very true, and he had no doubt his noble Friend, being a son of Lord Aberdeen and in his entire confidence, knew as much as a man could of these transactions. He (the Duke of Argyll) happened to be the only Member of that Government now alive in that House. He took a great interest in the whole question, and had kept alive his acquaintance with it, and he desired in a short time to bring the whole of the question as it stood before their Lordships. He wished to explain that it was his object, so far as he could, to blame nobody. There had been a great many persons, Powers, and influences concerned in bringing them into their present positions. It had not been the course of conduct of one Government or another. His noble Friend had said something which he did not think he entirely intended. Referring to the events of 1854, he had said that those were the transactions out of which all the troubles had proceeded. He could not think that that was meant which the expression would convey, because of course their present troubles proceeded from the badness of the Turkish Government. He should put on the paper a notice to this effect:—On an early day to call attention to the nature and extent of our national obligations towards the Christian subjects of the Sultan of Turkey as arising out of the course and policy of 61 successive Governments of the Queen in European transactions from 1854 to the present time.
§ Address agreed to nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.