§ *LORD STANMORE rose to put to his noble Friend at the head of the Government the Questions of which he had given notice. The first of these Questions was whether the conditions understood to have been agreed to by the Turkish Government with respect to the surrender of Zeitoun have been observed; and whether the Representatives at Constantinople of the Six Great Powers have, in concert, remonstrated with the Porte on the violation of those conditions. One of those conditions was the appointment of a Christian Governor at Zeitoun. It was not a condition to which he himself attached much practical importance, for, of course, they might appoint a Governor Christian in name, who might make himself the instrument of oppression and tyranny; and they might appoint a Moslem Governor, who might be a just and upright man, and who would administer better justice than the other. Still, the promise having been made, no doubt the promise should be kept, and he rejoiced to perceive that there was again a prospect, even in such a matter as that, of concerted action at Constantinople. Might it lead to much more! But that was not the only one of the conditions said to have been broken, and it was said that the conditions as to disarmament and the arrangements which were to be made under the control of the Consuls for the security of the refugees who were already in Zeitoun had been on more than one occasion shamefully violated. His second Question was whether Her Majesty's Government had any objection to present to Parliament the Report of Mr. Fitzmaurice on the recent massacres at Urfa and in its neighbourhood. There was too much reason to believe that those massacres exceeded in atrocity and the number of persons who suffered in them the first reports, and it was said that the report of Mr. Fitzmaurice confirmed those fears and even went beyond them. If so, the 864 subject was certainly deserving of attention. His third Question was whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government had been directed to the large number of forcible conversions to Mohammedanism, which were, on good authority, alleged to have taken place at Kharput and Diarbekir, and in the adjacent districts. This was a matter in which this country had always shown great anxiety, and it was with pride and satisfaction he recollected that one of the first, one of the most outspoken, and one of the most effective remonstrances made against this particularly odious form of persecution was to be found in a Dispatch written by his father (Lord Aberdeen) more than 50 years ago. He held in his hand a printed letter in which it was stated that in Kharput alone there had been 15,000 of those forcible conversions in the last few months, and that in the provinces around the number was no less than 40,000. The name of the author of that letter for obvious reasons had not been published, but he knew it, and he could assure their Lordships that were he at liberty to disclose it, they would recognise in it the name of a man whose character, position, and long familiarity with the country entitled any assertion made by him to the utmost respect. This was a very serious allegation and one which not only Her Majesty's Government but all Christian Governments were interested in seeing redressed. He was afraid it was too true that at the present moment one might traverse the continent of Europe from Cadiz to Archangel without finding anybody who cared much about the Armenian question, and so long as this was the case, forcible intervention was impossible, but there was one thing the Government might do and ought to do, and that was to attempt to educate the public opinion of the Governments of Europe and of the people of Europe with regard to the question, and this it might do by publishing to the world the reports which it received from its accredited and responsible representatives. It was not the first time that Powers had shown an inclination to resist the force of public opinion; but in the end it had been too strong for them. He could not believe that, if these representations were made over and over again to foreign Governments, it would be possible for 865 them, for very shame's sake, to hold out long. As to the delay of Russia, its unwillingness to act in like manner had once more been overcome, and at the present moment, in the midst of the pomp of his coronation, the young Emperor would be reminded in the most solemn, manner, and at one of the most marked moments of his life, of the duties and obligations on a Christian Sovereign; and he (Lord Stanmore) could not believe that the Emperor would long turn a deaf ear to the cry of the Christians who called to him from Armenia, or oppose the efforts of those Governments who were already disposed to act. On the contrary, he trusted that in the end he would join heartily with them. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
I shall venture to confine myself to answering the questions which my noble Friend has asked. I will not follow him into the very thorny discussion as to the possibility or the best means of influencing the opinions of the Governments and peoples of Europe. It is obviously a matter upon which we have not sufficient freedom of discussion to arrive at any very satisfactory conclusion. In answer to the first Question I have to say that an announcement having appeared in the Turkish newspapers on April 1st that a Mussulman had been appointed Governor of Zeitoun, Her Majesty's Ambassador and the French and Russian Ambassadors at Constantinople at once protested against the appointment as a distinct breach of the assurances given by the Porte, and expressed the hope that it would be cancelled. On April 19th a further representation, in which the Ambassadors of all the six Powers joined, was addressed to the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs. No reply has yet been received from the Turkish Government, and Sir P. Currie reported by telegraph that it was proposed that the Ambassadors should shortly meet and consider what steps should be taken in support of the representation. The answer to the second Question is that Mr. Fitzmaurice' s Report will, of course, be given. I am not sure whether it ought to be given at present in a separate form, but there is no objection to giving it. In answer to the third Question, as my noble Friend must know from the Blue-books, the attention of Her 866 Majesty's Government has been called for some time back to the question of forced conversion of Armenians by Mussulmans. It is one of the questions we pressed most earnestly on the attention of our allies, and especially upon the Russian Government. It is naturally one of the questions which moves the feelings of the population of this country, and I think it is more likely to move the feelings of the other countries than any other of the terrible details which have come from those districts. I can only say that the question is still being agitated and discussed by the Powers at Constantinople, and the Ambassadors are doing all they can to prevent the forced conversions or the threats of punishment for reconversion against which the noble Lord so justly protested. But perhaps of all forms of abuse of power, or expression of racial and creed hatred, this is the one which is most difficult to reach, the most difficult to prevent, and the most difficult to punish, because you are always confronted with the assertion of the person who has been said to be forcibly converted that his conversion is real, and you have obviously no means of disproving that statement.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I think it probable that my noble Friend at the head of the Government has exercised a very wise discretion in not entering further into the questions which have been put to him. It is quite obvious that in the present condition of Europe, in the political conditions of the Cabinets of Europe, and in our own political condition in all parts of the world, this is not a favourable moment for entering into a full or adequate discussion of what I shall call, not the Armenian, but the Turkish Question. ["Hear, hear!"] But I cannot allow these questions to be put without expressing my entire concurrence with the opinion of my noble Friend, that what we want is more light, more authentic information, upon what has been the course of conduct of the Turkish Government. I will not pretend to conceal my conviction that every document which can be produced by my noble Friend will only add further evidence of the incurable bad faith and the abominable cruelty of the Ottoman Power. The very fact of such a question being put, and the very fact of my noble Friend's consenting to produce 867 these papers does at least indicate our assent to the principle that we have a right to inquire into the internal affairs of Turkey, and to keep a watch over the conduct of its Government. Many of your Lordships will ask yourselves whether there can be any doubt on this point. After all the blood and treasure that we have spent in the defence of Turkey, after all the oceans of ink which we have spent in diplomacy at a later period in defending Turkey against her old hereditary enemy, is it possible that any human being can doubt for a moment our right, and that of other Powers, to hold a watchful eye over the conduct of the Turkish Government, which, I do not hesitate to say, owes its existence even as the shadow of an independent Power to our persistent and continuous protection during the last half century? And yet I cannot help drawing the attention of the House to a most extraordinary document which appears in "Turkey, No. 2." It is an account given by my noble Friend at the head of the Government of a Memorandum by Prince Lobanoff, the Russian Chancellor, on this very question of the right to interfere at all in the conduct of Turkish internal affairs. I confess that I never read a public document with more astonishment. It is dated January 29th, 1896, and these are the words used by the noble Marquess:—The effect of Prince Lobanoff's reply was clear. The Russian Government refused to sanction any course of conduct which might lead to European interference with the internal affairs of Turkey.That sentence took my breath away. The whole of the previous correspondence with Russia, the whole of the previous action of Russia and of ourselves has universally assumed our right to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey. With respect to Turkey, we have been concerned with nothing else during the last half century; and Prince Lobanoff expresses the matured opinion of the Russian Government that neither we nor any other Power have any right to interfere. The statement is beaten in its extraordinary character by the argument used in the Memorandum, which says:—Interference is distinctly forbidden by Article 9 of the Treaty of Paris and, by implication, by Article 72 of the Treaty of Berlin.868 I have heard Prince Lobanoff described as a man of great genius. He must be a man of great genius if he can make out that proposition. I am the only survivor—for not even Mr. Gladstone is alongside me in that matter—of those who drew up the Treaty of 1856. Mr. Gladstone was responsible for the Crimean war, but not for the peace; he had left the Government. He gave it his general blessing with some astute observations which I now find were true. But not one of us in Lord Palmerston's Cabinet who drew up that Treaty ever' intended to admit the principle that we had no right of interference in the internal affairs of Turkey. And if you read Article 9 closely—adopting the principle of the noble Marquess, that Treaties are to be construed strictly according to their words, and not according to the wishes of enthusiastic persons—you will see that it was agreed that Turkey should communicate to the Powers a promise to give certain privileges to her subjects, and the communication was to become a part of the Treaty' of Paris. That article was inserted to show that the communication was not to be quoted against us as proving that we did not intend to interfere in Turkish affairs. To say that Article 9 proves that, is a gross misrepresentation of the Treaty of 1856. But the Memorandum is a still more gross misrepresentation of the Treaty of Berlin. Prince Lobanoff says that "by implication" the Treaty of Berlin confirms the Treaty of Paris. I assert the absolute contrary. The Treaty of Berlin was a total departure. I have a high opinion of the Treaty of Berlin, which was at the time a subject of bitter controversy, in which I am not sure that I did not gain. But, looking back, I admit that it was a great advance for the civilised world. And why? Because it was substantially the Treaty of San Stefano. It was that Treaty slightly altered; modified in some respects for the better, and in other respects for the worse. But the Treaty made this great advance on the Treaty of 1856, that it claimed on the part of Europe a right of perpetual interference with the affairs of Turkey; and the whole of the Treaty from beginning to end was nothing but one long series of 869 articles interfering with that independence. Therefore the pretence put forward by Prince Lobanoff in this Memorandum is one that cannot be sustained. I observed at first with some surprise that my noble Friend has taken no notice whatever of that extraordinary doctrine. But I am inclined to think now that on the whole my noble Friend was right. Perhaps he thinks it too absurd to be argued with. There was one clause put into the Berlin Treaty—I think it was suggested by my noble Friend—which gives us a direct right of interference, in the internal affairs of Turkey, and especially of Armenia. The Treaty of San Stefano had provided that Russia should have the right of interference over the Armenians, and it especially bound Turkey to take care that the Armenians did not suffer from the Kurds or the Circassians. The British Plenipotentiaries, Lord Beaconsfield and my noble Friend, wished, and very wisely wished, to make it more binding on Europe and on us, and they accordingly added the words that the steps to be taken by Turkey for the purpose of defending the Armenians from the Kurds and the Circassians should be taken subject to the sanction of Europe, and should be superintended by Europe. That gave us a direct intervention. On behalf of my colleagues who are dead, on behalf of many who are now alive, and on behalf of England as a whole, I must assert that we have for 50 years persistently exercised the right of interference in the internal affairs of Turkey. We have been prevented from doing so in this particular case by a conjunction of circumstances which amounted to a checkmate on our proceedings. The Government were embarrassed by the action of their predecessors in office. Secondly, we were embarrassed and checkmated by the geographical position of the country in which the massacres took place; and, thirdly, we were embarrassed—fatally embarrassed—by the conduct of Russia. I do not pretend to understand what has been the reason for the conduct of Russia in putting an absolute negative upon all active interference to save the Armenian population. I have heard it ascribed to various motives—to the trifling motive, for instance, of occupation in the pomps of a 870 new coronation. It has been attributed by Prince Lobanoff himself to the personal repugnance of the new Emperor to the putting of serious pressure on the Sultan of Turkey. The present Emperor of Russia is a man of the highest personal character; and I have no doubt that if it had been properly brought home to him what the result of this conduct would be, he would have been more repugnant at the continual butcheries of thousands of men, women, and children, which he could have stopped. It has been attributed also to the fact that we have other fish to fry, other difficulties to contend with in other parts of the world, and that the whole of the funds of Russia are devoted to the furtherance of her great railway schemes in Asia. But, whatever the cause, it has been a great defeat to Europe and a great disgrace to all of us, in so far as we have been remiss in putting into force those rights which we do undoubtedly possess under European Treaties which are now the laws of the world. My Lords, I take this opportunity to apologise for having put on the Paper a Notice in regard to this question which I have not been able to fulfil. The explanation is a very simple one. It is that I was taken ill immediately afterwards, and I was convinced that to deal adequately with the subject was far beyond my powers. I daresay it saved your Lordships from a wearying speech, and myself from a dangerous exhaustion. But I shall take the earliest opportunity of pointing out to the public in some other form the views I entertain on this subject. Meantime I admit that we are in a position in which we cannot do anything effectively to remedy the state of things except this—that we can, to quote my noble Friend's words "educate the public mind." Depend upon it that, though at present we are hampered by our controversies in South Africa, and perhaps lesser still by our difficulty in the forests of Venezuela, the Turkish and Armenian Question will arise again; and it is well that the heart and mind of the people of this country should be thoroughly posted in the nature of that Government which we have been so long supporting in the pretence that it was the English interest to do so. [Cheers.]
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not rise to say one word upon the main question, because I think that in matters of foreign politics it is best to deal with answers exactly fitted to those questions. I rise for a different purpose. But I must, in the first place, express the great pleasure which I know we all feel at the restoration to our midst of the noble Duke after his serious illness. [Cheers.] It was a pleasure to hear him this evening—[hear, hear!"]—though we on these Benches do not agree with all that he said. My object in rising is to ask what has become of the third Armenian Blue-book. It was delivered to the Press on Monday; it was canvassed by the Press pretty generally on Tuesday; but we have not yet been honoured by a sight of its contents. I do not know whom to ask. It is not the Usher of the Black Rod—[laughter]—it is not the Lord Great Chamberlain—[laughter]—and so I throw myself on the mercy of the noble Marquess and ask him. [Renewed laughter.]
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
It is a question which, when sitting in the place of the noble Earl, I have often asked myself, and I have never been able to find out what authority governs the printing of the Papers of both Houses of Parliament. [Laughter.] It would appear to be a most inscrutable authority, and it is given to producing the most unreasonable and unintelligible delays. [Laughter.] I can only say that I will apply what pressure I can. I do not know whether my exhortation will be of use. [Laughter.] I am not aware that I have any power of exercising more material influence in insisting that the noble Earl shall get his Blue-book, but I will do my best to secure that he has that pleasure at the earliest possible moment. [Laughter.]
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I believe it has been issued, for it has been promised to be sent to me by to-night's post.
§ House adjourned at Twenty minutes before Seven o'clock, to Monday next, a Quarter before Eleven o'clock.