HL Deb 13 March 1903 vol 119 cc706-23

My Lords, in rising to call attention to the correspondence recently presented to Parliament respecting the affairs of South-Eastern Europe, I cannot help feeling some slight surprise that this duty has not been undertaken by someone in a more responsible position than myself, and I presume that the explanation of this abstention is due to the altered view with which we regard affairs in European Turkey at the present moment, and also to the recognition—the tardy recognition—of the fact that we now realise that the execution of the Treaty of Berlin does not depend upon this country only. The contents of the Blue-book in question have a painful resemblance to many publications of a similar nature with regard to Turkey, with which we are all familiar, but there is this difference, that, whereas in recent years our attention has been called to cases which have arisen from the oppression of one particular race by the Turkish Government, in the present instance the question is complicated by the presence of various nationalities in the provinces which are somewhat vaguely and comprehensively known as Macedonia. There are various races—there is the governing race, the Turks themselves; there are the Bulgarians, the Servians, the Greeks, and finally the semi-barbarous and fanatical Albanians, over whom the Porte appears unable to exercise much control; and I might add that the question is rendered more difficult by the fact that these races entertain for each other a detestation almost as great as that with which they regard the ruling power.

The three Christian nationalities—the Bulgarians, the Servians, and the Greeks—have, ever since the Treaty of Berlin, looked upon what is known as Macedonia as their natural heritage when the Turkish Empire is finally, if ever, broken up, and with this view each of these races has maintained a political propaganda of its own. In this competition, however, two of the competitors have of recent years weakened considerably. The Servians have ceased to be serious competitors; the competition of the Greeks has been greatly enfeebled in consequence of the war which they so foolishly provoked a few years ago, and the field is now really in possession of the more numerous, more powerful, and, I might add, more unscrupulous race—viz., the Bulgarians. Trouble in the spring in Macedonia has been prophesied for many years—trouble being a euphemistic expression for outrage, murder, and atrocities. The formula has usually run in this way: "When the snows melt in Macedonia there will be trouble in that country," and I do not think that anyone who is unacquainted with the Balkan Provinces realises how importantly climatic conditions affect the safety of life and property there. I remember years ago a Bulgarian statesman informing me that with the first indication of spring, when the leaves began to appear, he used to lay hands on everybody who showed signs of vice, and despatch them to remote parts of the country, and that when the leaves disappeared these men were let out again. In consequence, people who travelled in the autumn months did so, in the view of the Bulgarian Government, at their own risk, "because," he said, "when the trees are bare people can see what is going on; they can see brigands and robbers approaching, and are not entitled to any special protection from the Government, but must look after themselves."

Rumours of disorders occurring in the spring in Macedonia have every year increased in intensity. The present Blue-book goes back to the last days of December, 1900, and opens with the despatch which I think is a clue to the whole question, do not stand here as an apologist for Turkish rule. I have seen something of it; enough, at all events, to realise that it is a most undesirable Government, and that no progressive race can be expected to live contentedly under it. But, at the same time, I think that any impartial person who has read this Blue-book must have come to the conclusion that the responsibility for the present lamentable state of things in Macedonia is not solely that of the Turkish Government. For my own part, I have no hesitation in saying that the greater part of the responsibility for the events which are-now occurring in Macedonia is due to the action of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Committees. First of all, I should like to explain that the object of these committees is not the amelioration of the-condition of the inhabitants of the country, but to bring about a state of things which will result in the interference of European Powers and eventually in these Provinces becoming either autonomous or being taken possession of by other countries; the methods by which this propaganda is carried on are so detestable, in my opinion, that it is almost impossible to speak of them with moderation.

The methods of these revolutionary committees are, shortly speaking, brigandage, blackmail, extortion, robbery, and murder. Now, if these crimes were perpetrated solely at the expense of the Turkish Government or the Mussulman inhabitants there would be some palliation for their commission, but they are committed equally upon Christians; blackmailing and extortion, and even murder, are not confined to Turkish territory, but are carried on in other countries, although it is true that up to the present moment the revolutionary committees have not had the audacity to murder the subjects of any of the great Powers, for the purpose of extorting; money from them. In Macedonia itself these committees work in armed bands, which are organised in Bulgaria, which I retreat to Bulgaria when they are too severely pressed, and which, as long as they are unmolested, perpetrate every conceivable outrage. As I have said, the deliberate object of these proceedings is to get the Turkish Government to commit a massacre on a large scale, involving the murder of numbers of perfectly innocent people, with the view of bringing about European intervention, and, in my opinion, these callous proceedings are as repulsive as the blind and brutal ferocity of the semi-barbarous Turks themselves.

This is a thing which has been going on for years, though, I admit, not on the present scale, and the scandalous part of the business is that the Bulgarian Government have really never taken any effective steps to stop the proceedings of the revolutionary committees. There really has been very little mystery about these proceedings. Some years ago I was in the Bulgarian capital, and I remember that at that period bands used to be formed, almost as picnic or sporting parties are formed in more civilised parts of the world, to embark on filibustering expeditions in Macedonia. They used to go out to kill as many Turks as they could conveniently despatch, and retire when the time came to Bulgaria, and, so little concealment was there about it, that I remember one of these bands being deliberately photographed before they started, and if the noble Marquess would like to see it I could show him a copy of the photograph. This thing has been going on for years. It is perfectly true that the Bulgarian Government occasionally takes the opportunity of dissociating itself from and repudiating the action of these committees, but the fact remains that the committees arc organised in Bulgaria; that their headquarters are in the capital of that country; that their incendiary literature is published there; that their public meetings are held there; that they are frequently led by retired officers in the Bulgarian Army; that they are armed with Government rifles; and that in some instances they wear Bulgarian uniforms. Occasionally the Bulgarian Government is driven by remonstrances from out-side to take action, but somehow or other the ringleaders when arrested invariably escape. Under these circumstances I think, without being a pro-Turk, I am justified in saying that the Turkish Government has been subjected to almost intolerable provocation.

On this particular point I do not base my statement on the complaints of the Turkish Government—I know, by experience, that whether the Turkish Government speaks the truth or not, not the slightest attention is likely to be paid to their complaint—but on independent testimony which will be found in the Blue-book. The Blue-book opens in the last days of the year 1900 with a complaint from the Greek Government with regard to the procedure of these bands; and in January, 1901, the French Ambassador made a similar complaint to the noble Marquess. In the following month the Sultan was urged by the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople to take measures to suppress the Bulgarian committees. In the same month Count Lamsdorff complained that the Committees had degenerated into anarchical propaganda whose chief aim was to extort money by intimidation; and later on the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople stated that the Turks only acted in legitimate defence, and that the revolutionary committees were responsible for the existing state of things. Later in the year, at the instigation of the revolutionary committees, Miss Stone, the American missionary, was captured, and a large accession was by this means obtained to the funds of the committees. In 1902 the complaints from independent sources continued, and in the early part of that year negotiations upon the condition of Macedonia began to appear. In February last year our Ambassador at Vienna wrote or telegraphed to the noble Marquess stating that the Austrian Government were getting perturbed about the state of things, and that he had been assured by the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs that a "loyal exchange of views"—which implies extremely leisurely proceedings—was going on between the Austrian and the Russian Governments. Then the Austrian Ambassador in London complained of the proceedings, and asked the noble Marquess what he thought ought to be done and the noble Marquess, with, if I may say so, great good sense, replied that it was a matter which more concerned Austria than other countries, and that whatever scheme Austria proposed he thought His Majesty's Government would be prepared to support. All this time the Greek Government and others were complaining of the intolerable condition to which the action of the Bulgarian Committees had brought Macedonia.

In the autumn of last year a fresh impetus was given to the agitation by the Shipka celebrations, and later in the year the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople called the attention of the Sultan to the state of Macedonia, and offered to draw up a memorandum of reforms. The Sultan appears to have objected, and to have replied that he had himself prepared a scheme of reforms. He produced his scheme, and it was at once apparent that it was useless, because it contained no provision for securing the regular payment of any of the officials. In January of this year the noble Marquess, feeling that things were approaching a climax, wrote to our Ambassador at Constantinople that the condition of the population in this portion of the Turkish Empire had become intolerable. Meanwhile, the Russian and Austrian Governments were continuing to loyally exchange views, and they at last produced a scheme of reforms, to the principle of which the noble Marquess immediately assented, reserving to himself the right to suggest modifications if necessary. This scheme, which was presented to the Sultan and immediately accepted, is of an extremely simple and, I might say, obvious nature, and, without flattering the noble Marquess, I think I could undertake to say that he and one of his subordinates, say the British Ambassador at Constantinople, could have produced an equally good scheme in half-an-hour.

The scheme merely amounts to this—that there shall be an Inspector-General appointed who is to be maintained for a fixed period of years, that the Valis, or principal Governors, are to be made to obey him, that foreign experts are to reorganise the gendarmerie, that there is to be an amnesty for political prisoners, and, finally, that the revenue of the three vilayets—Salonica, Monastir, and Üskiib, is to be spent, in the first place, for the benefit of these provinces. This modest scheme was immediately accepted by the Sultan, who, in addition, announced his intention of introducing similar reforms into other provinces, and this extreme readiness on the part of the Sultan appears, not unnaturally, to have excited a certain amount of misgiving. As I have said, this is an extremely simple scheme. It can hardly be dignified by the name of a reform; but, modest as it is, it fulfils all the requirements of the situation. Although it may seem an absurd thing to say, reforms, as the term is generally understood, are not what are required in Turkey, and, indeed, are impossible. What is wanted in that country is efficient administration, and I understand that is the line taken by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It must occur to everybody that it was strange that so small a scheme should not have been produced last year, and thus have saved the lives of many innocent people and much bloodshed.

But what we have to consider is the future, and the important point is whether the scheme, is going to be allowed a fair chance. If it is, it is possible that it will lead to a tolerable state of things, and more than that cannot be expected. But it will be impossible for the scheme to work so long as the revolutionary committees are allowed to continue. They certainly will not accept it, and will do their best to defeat it, and it appears to me that the only chance of dealing successfully with the getting rid of these revolutionary committees is to deal directly with the Bulgarian Government. I am quite aware of the difficulties which that Government have to face in attempting to get rid of the committees. In the first place nearly everybody in Bulgaria sympathises with them. There are a very large number of Macedonians, not only in Bulgaria, but in Government employment. A large number of the officials also are Macedonians, and we must not forget this fact, that by the Treaty of San Stefano nearly all the territory, the condition of which we are considering at the present moment, was allotted to Bulgaria, and ever since that day it has been looked upon as a kind of Bulgaria Irredenta, and it always will be the object of the Bulgarian Government to try and recover the territory which was allotted to them by the Treaty of San Stefano. I recognise the difficulty which the Bulgarian Government have to face, but at the same time the interests of peace are considerably more important, and, personally, I see no reason why the aspirations of Bulgaria should form a menace to the peace of Europe.

I hope, therefore, to hear from the noble Marquess the statement that the signatory Powers are prepared to exercise whatever pressure may be necessary, at all risks, to insist upon the Bulgarian Government doing their best to secure that the peace shall be maintained. We are told that danger is passed, that Austria and Russia are determined on a solution of the difficulty, and that therefore peace will be kept. I do not wish to appear as a prophet of evil, but I cannot help seeing in the present situation an ominous resemblance to that which existed in 1877. The Turks were then attempting to suppress insurrection in the European provinces. At that period we were told, and, I believe, truly told, that the Emperor of Russia and the Russian Government were not desirous of war, but the condition of their co-religionists in Turkey so acted on the Slav population that the Emperor of Russia of that day was driven to war, and the Russo-Turkish war was the result. It is conceivable that such may be the case again, and if the Turks retaliate by massacre on a severe scale it will be impossible to restrain the active sympathy of Slavs in the other countries of Europe, and the experience of 1877 may be repeated. In these circumstances, and as I do not think we are justified in taking a too optimistic view of the situation, I think that a statement from the noble Marquess would be appropriate at the present moment; and, whilst I apologise to your Lordships for the length of my observations, I hardly think it necessary to apologise for having called attention to a question which is really of great European importance.


My Lords, I hope I may be permitted to put a simple supplementary inquiry to the noble Marquess. We have just listened to what has been to me a very instructive and interesting speech, but, at the same time, it has not relieved me of the feeling which has induced me to address an inquiry to the noble Marquess. Like many other persons I too have read the Blue-book containing the recent correspondence respecting the affairs of South-Eastern Europe, but I do not profess fully to understand what is meant by many of the phrases in the diplomatic correspondence. I am not accustomed to the language of diplomacy, but I do not think it requires any great amount of imagination, as one reads between the lines, to realise that the condition of Macedonia must be intolerable to those who live in it. In order to better understand the state of affairs in that country I turn from the Blue-book to what I might venture to call a "Red-book." I refer to an article entitled "The Reign of Terror in Macedonia," which appears in the Contemporary Review of the present month, signed by a well-known Englishman to whom we have owed some similar descriptions in the past, and which, so far as I know, have always been authenticated, and therefore I feel that his description deserves possibly no less serious attention than the diplomatic correspondence in the Blue-book. I would venture to call the noble Marquess's attention to one or two parts of this article. I will confine myself to citing the evidence of two witnesses, and in doing so I will start from Communication No. 337, on page 206 of the Blue-book. That is a letter from Mr. Elliot to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated December 12th last, stating that Madame Bakhmeteff, an American lady, the wife of the Russian Agent at Sofia, had started on a relief expedition, and it is admitted at the end of the letter that up to November 6th no particular harm seems to have been done, but that after that time the Turkish troops got out of hand. This lady appears to have taken with her on her beneficent mission a member of the Russian Embassy and two Russian nurses. The Blue-book does not tell us anything as to what she found, but Mr. Dillon, in the article to which I have referred, quotes her own memorandum, which states that she found no less than 961 refugees, besides learning of some hundreds who had sought refuge in another district. From one district alone—Razlog—no less than 1,500 able-bodied men had been driven, and this, as far as I can gather, is a loyal and well-conducted district, and one which is free from those malignant influences to which the noble Lord referred. In this district this lady found that there were fourteen churches with twenty-two priests; of the latter, eight escaped to Bulgaria, one was killed, one arrested, and the fate of the remainder is unknown. According to her statement the churches were defiled and destroyed by the Turks, and a considerable number of the remaining peasants are said to have perished on the way over the mountains. The article proceeds— Over one-third, therefore, of the male population of the best-behaved district of Macedonia has been thus forced to flee the country. Dr. Dillon naturally asks— Have the Powers who exhorted the Christians to keep the peace and await the coming reforms reflected on the fate in store for those who act on that advice? Madame Bakhmeteff travelled about in this district bringing succour to the fugitives, and the writer of the article in the Contemporary Review has her authority for saying that two priests of the villages of Oranoff and Padesh were tortured in a manner which suggests the story of St. Lawrence's death; they were not exactly laid on gridirons, but they were hung over a fire and burned with red-hot irons. Madame Bakhmeteff goes on to say— The horror of the situation is intensified by the fact that large numbers of fugitives have been driven back by the Turks into the interior southwards towards Seres, where their horrible sufferings, and their miserable end will be hidden from all who might give them help or pity. Dr. Dillon's article asserts that the Great Powers are not ignorant of these facts; that details far more harrowing are in their possession; that the representatives of Great Britain, Austria, and Italy called at the Russian Embassy and took copious extracts from this lady's memoranda, which they forwarded to their respective Governments, and that Tsar Nicholas, on hearing the facts at once sent 10,000 roubles for those fugitives who had escaped with their lives into Bulgaria.

That is a part of the Report of one witness. I will now quote from another witness, Mr. Westman, the Russian Vice-Consul at Philippopolis, who, in order to verify the incredible statements of many of the fugitives, crossed over into Macedonia, and the startling results his investigation were sent to the Foreign Office in St. Petersburg. I hardly like to trouble your Lordships with quotations from his evidence, but he speaks of The Lord Bishop of Hereford.

a belt of territory thirty versts broad, running parallel to the frontier, as typifying the abomination of desolation. The churches, he says, had been defiled, and the villages partly burned to the ground, while the inhabitants had fled no one knows whither. In the interior of the country, Mr. Westman repeated that the situation is said to be equally bad, but he had no means of verifying this statement. He beheld quite enough, however, to perceive that the era of reforms is being inaugurated in a very incongruous fashion. Mr. Westman declares that he saw women who had run away to save their honour and their lives, and were huddled together in mountain fastnesses where the snow lay several feet deep, and the wretched creatures were in an almost naked state. Forty of these women, he adds, were about to become mothers. He met tiny, bright-eyed little girls with disfigured faces fitfully crying, fitfully quivering in every limb, with manifest signs of having been terribly outraged. Of the persons he saw, several were mutilated or disfigured, and the livid welts, the open wounds, the horrible marks of the red-hot pincers with which they had been tortured, were, he states, witnessed by all. He adds— It was especially heart-rending to bee mothers covered with scanty rags which could not shield from the bitter cold the helpless babes who were slowly dying at their milkless breasts. I venture to put this evidence side by side with the diplomatic evidence contained in the Blue-book, and to ask the noble Marquess. Can nothing be done? In reading the Blue-book no one can fail to recognise with thankfulness and pride as Englishmen the tone of the noble Marquess's correspondence; but to plain people like myself all over the country the question is constantly recurring, Can nothing be done to stop this in the neighbourhood of ancient Greece, in the heart of Europe? I have nothing to say for the revolutionary committees in Bulgaria to which the noble Lord who has just spoken referred. He is inclined apparently to throw the bulk of the responsibility on these committees. If the account which the noble Lord has given is correct their behaviour is atrocious; but, human nature being what it is, what can be expected so long as you allow the state of things in Macedonia to remain what it is? So long as you have misgovernment and atrocity and infamy such as described in Dr. Dillon's article, you may depend upon having revolutionary committees. I would venture to quote a word of Dr. Dillon's as to that. He says, very truly, that Turkey is in an almost impossible position. Of her own motion she can hardly cure these things, so that we must not, I think, throw the ultimate responsibility even on the Sultan of Turkey. That is how it strikes a plain man. Turning to Bulgaria, I venture to think that many of your Lordships will concur with Dr. Dillon when he says:— Bulgaria, despite the asseverations and the really correct attitude of the Premier, M. Daneff, cannot remain an onlooker while people of her own flesh and blood are being tortured, violated, murdered. As a line of political conduct this attitude would bi dangerous; in ethics, it would be less defensible still. But, whatever it might be in theory, in practice it is impossible. I think it will be agreed that the really responsible persons are the great Powers of Europe. They, if they choose, can alter this state of things, and the responsibility, therefore, unless I am mistaken in my conception of the matter must rest upon them. I am sure there is not a single noble Lord in this House who does not feel that this state things is a shame and a disgrace—it is a disgrace to every anointed and crowned Emperor and King in Christian Europe, and to every Government and Minister who supports the policy. I venture to think I may say that without being charged with exaggeration, and if the noble Marquess, following out the spirit which we know moves him in the matter, is able to do anything to bring about an improved situation in that unhappy country, he will have added great lustre to his own name and to the name of the country he serves. A long time since some of us had hoped that the policy which was once described by one of the greatest Englishmen as the "bag and baggage policy" might be carried into effect. We were young, some of us, in those days; and now we are old, and things are now apparently as bad as ever; but still we pray that statesmen may arise in the different countries of Europe who will, for very shame, say that the cup has run over, and that the time has come for taking whatever steps may be necessary to put an end to a condition of things so discreditable to Christian Europe. I beg to ask the noble Marquess if he can give us any hope that this better state of affairs will be realised in the near future.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has raised this question has called the attention of your Lordships to a question which for many years past has added greatly to our pre-occupations, and which during the last few months has given us cause for the most acute anxiety. His Majesty's Government cannot be indifferent to the condition of things which he has described, and which has been referred to by the right rev. Prelate who has just spoken. This country has treaty rights, and, indeed, treaty obligations, which forbid her to look with an indifferent eye upon the events which have happened lately in the Balkan peninsula; and, quite without reference to those treaty obligations, we have to bear in mind that a conflagration in that part of Europe is likely to have far-reaching results, and to produce international difficulties of the most grave and momentous character. And, apart from such considerations as these, there certainly must arise in the breast of every one of us a feeling of deep commiseration for the unhappy populations which, year after year, have suffered owing to the lamentable condition, social and political, of the country which they inhabit. My Lords, the noble Lord who spoke first laid the greater blame on the Bulgarians and their committees. The right rev. Prelate, on the contrary, is disposed to regard the Turkish Government as mainly culpable. I trust we shall not regard these questions merely as questions between Christians and Mussulmans. There are Mussulmans who suffer as much from the condition of what is commonly spoken of as Macedonia as any of the Christian inhabitants of those regions.

With regard to the noble Lord's indictment of the Bulgarian Committees, I entirely agree with him in thinking that to a certain extent these regrettable events have been due to their mischievous activity. But that activity would not have produced the results which have actually followed if the soil had not been prepared by the long-standing misgovornmont and maladministration of the Turkish Government. The noble Lord dwelt with force upon the close connection between Bulgaria and Macedonia. That connection cannot be left out of account. I believe I am right in saying that about one-half of the officials in Bulgaria are persons of Macedonian origin, and that of the officers in the Bulgarian army about one-third are persons of Macedonian origin. It is, of course, impossible for these people to regard with indifference the misgovernment and maltreatment of those who are their fellow-countrymen, and who happen to live on the Turkish side of the frontier. It is satisfactory to know that lately there has been evidence to show that the Bulgarian Government has realised the seriousness of the risk likely to result from the action of these committees, and has taken measures to discourage the agitation which they have produced. His Majesty's Government, as the noble Lord is aware, have constantly, through their Agent at Sofia, made representations to the Bulgarian Government upon this subject, and impressed on them in the most earnest manner the duty of keeping these insurrectionary movements in check.

Then the right rev. Prelate referred to the incidents which took place in the district of Razlog: and he supplemented the information with regard to those incidents which is contained in the Blue-book, by much ampler and more vivid and painful descriptions gathered from an article which has lately appeared in one of the monthly reviews in this country. I do not think the right rev. Prelate can complain of us for having attempted to slur over these Razlog occurrences in the Blue-book we have presented to Parliament. He has himself referred to the fact that these outrages were reported to us by Mr. Elliot in the month of December.: Mr. Elliot, and it is greatly to his credit, at once set to work to collect from the American missionaries, who had exceptional opportunities of acquainting themselves with the facts of the case, all the information which was procurable,

The Marquee of Lansdowne.

and a fortnight later he forwarded to us the reports which he had received.

On 30th December, His Majesty's Government addressed a despatch by telegraph to Sir Nicholas O'Conor, and desired him to call the attention of the Porte in the strongest manner to the gravity of these occurrences. Sir Nicholas O'Conor was desired to impress on the Porte that— If excesses of this kind are permitted the results could not fail to be disastrous to the interests of Turkey, and that it appears desirable that prompt measures of precaution should be taken, Sir Nicholas O'Conor had already of his own motion made very earnest representations to the Porte on the subject of these Razlog outrages, and when he received the telegram of which I have just spoken he repeated his remonstrances in no less strong terms. That despatch was received on 6th January,, and the last paper in this Blue-book is dated 9th January. Therefore, obviously no information of a later date could have been placed in the Blue-book. But I am able to tell the right rev. Prelate that Mr. Elliot has been instructed to verify these reports as far as possible, and they have been sent by him for comparison with other reports from different sources which have reached our Consul-General at Salonika. The result of these investigations is at this moment being laid before His Majesty's. Government. I shall, I hope, in a few days present further Papers, and I shall consider whether it is possible to include amongst them any documents giving further information upon this subject.

But I desire at this stage to tell your Lordships that while, so far as I can gather, there is no doubt that a number of these poor people were driven out of their homes in circumstances of great hardship, there is reason to doubt whether the accounts of the outrages themselves, of the abominable tortures and injuries inflicted on some of them, are not very greatly exaggerated. That has been, I think, our experience in the case of all former epidemics of this kind. There is generally a foundation of fact, but too often the published accounts are designedly and deliberately magnified.

Then, my Lords, the noble Lord referred to the fact that of late two of the, European Powers have been specially interesting themselves in the question of Macedonian reform. The two Powers—Austria - Hungary and Russia did so with the knowledge and acquiescence of the other Powers. I think I may say of them, as I may say of His Majesty's Government, that we felt that those two Powers, owing to their proximity to the regions in which those disorders were imminent, and owing to the exceptional facilities they possess for putting direct pressure upon Bulgaria, on the one side and Turkey on the other, that these two Powers were in a position of special advantage for dealing with the question; and we therefore readily acquiesced in their doing so. The result of this action has been the production, somewhat tardily I agree, of the scheme of reforms which is described in the Papers before your Lordships. We do not regard that scheme of reforms as being in any sense a complete or perfect scheme. Indeed, I do not suppose the framers of the scheme themselves would for a moment contend that it could be so described; but it certainly contains many useful provisions; and it will have the effect of bringing some relief to the intolerable tension which has been created in the Balkan Peninsula. I confess that for myself I am not disposed to complain of the scheme merely on account of the comparative modesty of the proposals embodied in it. Our experience has shown us the futility of great and ambitious schemes of reforms. What we want is not so much ambitious schemes of reforms on paper as honesty on the part of those who make these professions of a desire to improve matters and the ability to fulfil the expectations which are held out. I believe it is well known that the existing code of law which obtains in Turkey is a very admirable code. It was drafted by European jurists of repute on the basis of well-known European codes; but the difficulty has always been that the men are not there to give effect to the legislative provisions, and that seems to me the difficulty which we have to foresee in the future. The attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the scheme has not differed from that of other Powers signatory to the Treaty of Berlin. We recognised that above all things delay was dangerous at such a moment; we had no cut-and-dried scheme of our own to offer to Turkey or to the Powers as an alternative to this scheme; we recognised in this scheme many useful and hopeful provisions. And in these circumstances it seemed to us that no course was open to us except to accept the scheme in principle—but, of course., reserving to ourselves the right of suggesting hereafter any modifications which experience might show to be necessary, should the original scheme disappoint the anticipations of its framers. We shall watch its operation closely. We have already given instructions that our Consuls, who have throughout these events kept us fully supplied with information, are from time to time to report as to the progress of these measures; and I can assure the right rev. Prelate that, so far as our opportunities permit, we shall spare no pains to secure the execution of those reforms, which are certainly good as faras they go. But it is useless to disguise from ourselves that there are many difficulties in the way, and that no reforms, be they extensive or moderate in their scope, are likely to succeed unless you are met with great self-restraint on the part of these suffering populations, unless you can count upon greater energy and a much more just appreciation of the gravity of the situation on the part of the Porte, and unless the attitude of the great Powers is one of single-hearted disinterestedness towards the whole question. I earnestly trust that those conditions may be found present in this case, and that this project may prove beneficial in itself, and also that it may be the foundation of still more far-reaching and important measures of amelioration,


My Lords, I do not rise to criticise in any way the I speech of the noble Marquess, or the conduct of these negotiations as shown in the papers laid before Parliament. The noble Marquess has, I think, shown that he is perfectly aware of all the difficulties in this case. He has spoken of the injustice done to these populations, and I think he is fully aware of the misgovernment of the Porte. I think it right to impress on the Government that the people in this country have a deep and strong feeling on this subject. They sympathise very deeply with the suffering populations under the rule of Turkey, not only in Macedonia, but in other parts of the Turkish dominions. The noble Marquess has very forcibly illustrated the position of the Bulgarian Government. It would be beyond what could justly be expected of humanity if the Macedonians in Bulgaria were not very much moved when they know that over the border their fellow-countrymen are being so grievously oppressed. The right rev. Prelate represented, I think very truly, the general feeling in this country, although I cannot go quite as far as he did in regard to the responsibility of the Sultan, because I cannot help thinking that the Sultan has the great and chief responsibility for all these acts of misgovernment, which are such a danger to the peace of Europe, and which he could remedy with a stroke of the pen. At the same time, a great responsibility does rest upon the great Powers to see that the remedies applied by the Sultan are effective. The noble Lord who raised the question rightly said that this evil has been simmering for years; and I wish that diplomacy had shown more activity and foresight in taking earlier steps to remedy a slate of things which is a danger not only to the provinces themselves, but to the whole of Europe. So far as I follow the noble Marquess in his despatches and his speech, he seems quite alive to the difficulties and responsibilities of the position, and I sincerely hope that he will lose no opportunity, in conjunction with other Powers, of seeing that the Sultan carries out the reforms he has undertaken, and if they arc not satisfactory, that still more effective measures will be pressed for.